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Life lessons from my heroes

September 06, 2013 12:58 IST

Life lessons from my heroes

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Prakash Iyer

Heroes don’t have to be famous people. What you learn from them and how they inspire you is what matters.

Heroes can lift us in moments of depression and give us hope.

Heroes blaze a trail which tells us that if we did similar things, we could achieve our dreams too.

Our heroes can change over time; that is probably an indication of our own changing situations in life.

And yes, don’t expect your heroes to be perfect. You will be disappointed and might put off heroes forever -- which would be a pity!

A question I often get asked is who my hero was. I have had several heroes in my life and I thought it might be useful to share some of those stories. So here goes…

One of my earliest heroes in life was my father. Now that’s probably true for many of us!

As a little kid, I was hugely inspired by the things he did. A self-made man, he left home, a village in Kerala, to come to Mumbai to make a living, went on to study engineering, and forged a successful career.

He even mastered the Hindi language enough to be able to teach it. Incredible!

I got my first lessons in writing and speaking from him. I also got my first lessons in people management -- as a six- year-old kid.

Here are two simple lessons I haven’t forgotten:

Lesson one: Always call the driver by his name. So it was always Nathubhaiyya -- not ‘driver’!

Lesson two: Carry your own school bag!

The author Prakash Iyer is MD, Executive Coach, Kimberley Clark-Lever.

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Photographs: Stephen Marchetti/Creative Commons
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As a cricket-crazy kid in school, I got a new hero when Sunil Gavaskar burst on the scene.

He was short, opened the innings, and took on the fastest bowlers in the world without a helmet.

He was also articulate, and wrote a fabulous book!

In an interview at that time, Gavaskar said how he used his height (or lack of it) to his advantage -- it helped him avoid the bouncers!

And he talked of how playing cricket in the balcony of his little Mumbai home taught him to hit the ball straight -- in the ‘V’.

For me they were huge lessons.

Lesson one: Make the most of what you have.

Lessons two: Don’t complain about what you may have missed out on!



Photographs: Robert Cianflone/Allsport/Getty Images
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Prakash Iyer

And then came the angry young man.

Amitabh Bachchan was a hero not just because he managed to beat up all the bad guys even while ensuring he was the son every mother wished she had!

Lessons: For me, the Amitabh story was all about having the courage to give up a steady job to chase your dreams, about being rejected, seeing repeated failure (and even being turned down by All India Radio because they felt he didn’t have a great voice!) And through it all, fighting, persevering, and never, ever giving up.

A huge influence at work was one of my early bosses -- Suman Sinha!

He taught me that a leader at work was like an alchemist.

Lesson one: Just as an alchemist turns metal to gold, a true leader turns men and women into managers.

Lessons two: He taught me the importance of values, integrity, and doing the right thing -- at all times.


Photographs: Courtesy Yash Raj Films
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Prakash Iyer

There have been several other heroes too.

Rahul Dravid, the ultimate team man.

Steve Jobs.

And my driver Karunan, who shared pearls of wisdom from his own life (sample this: Early in your career, what you learn is more important than what you earn. And don’t worry about which car you are driving. Focus on being a good driver!).

Karunan is good reminder that heroes are everywhere.

They don’t have to be famous people! And the important bit is not who the hero is, but what you learn from him and how he inspires you.

Who is your hero? In case you don’t have a hero, find one. Today!


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