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I recently met a friend of mine after ages. Since we last met, both of us had moved on to different planes…with he having moved up a couple of notches. I was (am) very happy for him. And because I am a firm believer in Karma – I believe he deserves the success. So I was excited to meet him and congratulate on his success. But on meeting him, excitement turned to disappointment.

This friend of mine, lets call him Jack, is quite the superstar. He is very intelligent and supremely sharp. He has this uncanny ability to waltz into a complex situation, and emerge with a creative solution. This earned him a solid reputation in his organization and he moved up the corporate ladder quickly. In a world full of huge egos, he gained the respect of his peers, trust of his seniors and the admiration of his subordinates. He was a fair leader and for all the latent super-stardom, was extremely down to earth and carried no air around him. He was not overtly social, but never got into unnecessary conflicts – always being civil. But what is his biggest strength was to work silently and patiently towards a distant objective and plan ten steps ahead like a Grandmaster. He is like a stealth bomber, staying invisible under the radar and achieving his objectives – no matter what. Such people do well in a quasi-meritocracy – and sure enough he did.

His most recent jump, was his greatest coup of all. He deftly turned failures into successes, negatives into positives and moved into a position of higher power and higher responsibility – at a speed that astounded most. But when I heard about this elevation – I was just pleasantly surprised, as one is when one’s flight lands 10 mins before time. It was about that time when I started hearing tales of how Jack had changed. It was no longer very easy to like him anymore. Common friends started saying things like, “It has gotten into his head…”. I refused to believe it. Success always has its detractors.

Then I met him. I immediately detected an alteration in attitude and altitude. And my subsequent conversations confirmed that there indeed had been a change. He was in a different league now. Probably in a league where he was no longer concerned whether people liked him or not. But most of all – I felt a distance. A distance one feels in a relationship when the other person starts living in his/her head. It left me a bit disillusioned. A bit unhappy.

As they say, it gets lonelier near the top. It doesn’t have to be like that. I think it becomes more important to become more open towards others, as others can benefit from your experience and your success. I think that respect for a “position” does not come from the nomenclature assigned to that position but from the fact that one is able to help more, spread more good, more knowledge and give back more to one’s ecosystem.

In my experience, I have often observed (from a level much lower of course) that people view success as a right, and forget to be humble about it. I have found myself falling into that trap as well. It is so easy to get used to “above” the rest. Some people start jealously guarding their seat of power, wrongly adopting force as a strategy to manifest that power. Or rather, they work towards creating an aura of power, to ensure that it sustains. Some people think that it is necessary to show power to have it. (Dubya anyone?) I think, what that does is that it perpetrates a “self-created” illusion. One that is conveniently created to protect and to preserve the power. And that it does, until it all comes crashing down. Because, that is way of the universe. Well, I hope this doesn’t happen to Jack – because I still quite like the real him – but it would be easy for him to head that way.

Greatness and power lies in sharing. More importantly, success lies in learning. The old adage – the more you give, the more you get – really works here. I am an avid reader of the Dalai Lama – and he talks about how he learns from every person he meets, no matter how young or how old. He says that over time he has learnt to speak less and listen more. And this from a humble Nobel Laureate who provides hope and spiritual happiness to millions.

There is so much I don’t know, there is so much I can’t do. How can I be “great”? How can I have the right to “order around” other people – when all I know is subject to change? How can I expect that what I think, is correct…and is the single truth to be followed by all those under me… when the truth is still unfolding every moment, in front of my eyes?

I really admire Jack, for his talent and for his beautiful mind. There is no measurable parameter of success that he cannot achieve in his life. I just hope he doesn’t lose sight of his true self and isolate himself. I hope he shares his success, his learning.

I hope he continues to listen and to learn.

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