Of Ambition, Belonging, Clarity, Direction, Encouragement and Fear

Looking back at a life changing year – Part Two


Life changing moments may come in conversations, experiences or reflection.

Sport has the ability of impacting the psyche of followers, or in some cases the collective conscience of a nation. The well chronicled tale of Nelson Mandela fostering unity in South Africa with the Rugby World Cup in 1995 is as remarkable a story as may be told. For the millennials in a cricket crazy India, Sachin Tendulkar was a man who impacted my generation by showing us not just the will to win, but to dominate and raise the bar. In this commercial, Adidas captured the mood of an entire nation when Tendulkar took the field in national colours.


Most summer afternoons, I found myself at Jetée de la Compagnie, swimming in the lake and having a few drinks with mates from school. The death of Chester Bennington soured the mood.

A day later, I was at the Paléo Festival in Nyon. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were the headline act. Fifty thousand people sang with them as they used the stage to comment on bringing people together instead of dividing them. Through rain and mud, the voices sang in support of a connected and accepting world, including their popular song on Donald Trump. A lifting moment after Chester’s death and amidst all the negative sentiment of hardening borders and creeping mistrust all around us.


Sports and music aren’t just entertainment, they are a reflection of the times we live in; being platforms for commentary on social and political developments.

Prof. Anand Narasimhan, in the last Leadership session, mentioned, “You as a group are, at a subconscious level, aware of the mortality of the group, and therefore, a lot of your actions in the last weeks will be driven by sheer weight of this realisation.”

With passing years, I need to take the opportunity to fully appreciate the significance of aspects that touch my life, not taking it for granted. The leadership journey and the days at the monastery in Oropa helped me gain clarity on facing up to the mortality of moments, experiences, time together and life in general and makes me conscious of living the experience and not staring at it through the screen of my smart phone.

“Give me reason, To fill this hole
Connect the space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies
Across this new divide”
-New Divide, (2009)


“The fact that you are all here, means you all need help” – Prof. Nuno Fernandes

An extremely humbling statement to hear early in the year. Yes, we all did need help – amongst other aspects, most importantly, at being better versions of ourselves. We needed help with giving direction to our ambition. The initiation was a hard process, suddenly, I was not in control anymore – couldn’t be late for class, couldn’t decide when and where I wanted to work, and couldn’t choose the people I wanted to work with. There were no answers served on a platter, but there was an opportunity to know myself better, know the ones around me better and make sense of so many things happening around me – recognising the behavioural data and making conscious choices, not just be driven subconsciously by circumstances.

Ambition without direction is meaningless. It is a case of unrealised potential; built up energy with no way to channel it. Being in the intense IMD MBA pulls you into a bubble, and this bubble creates a mini universe of its own. Whether it was the inspirational speakers, my raised self-awareness, the Discovery Expeditions, or Navigating the Future conference – opportunities for learning and discovering were aplenty. Make no mistake, learning isn’t always a positive experience, just like life isn’t. It is usually the outcome that makes the learning process, albeit painful sometimes, worth it. Diversity isn’t just a nice statistic, it is the reality of learning how different individuals are, and how these differences provide perspectives but also generate friction. Within this protected universe, we witnessed a plethora of situations:

  • Jokes that led to laughter vs those that led to arguments.
  • Meaningful conversations that led to deep friendships vs ones that lacked spark.
  • Using information to share vs using information to manipulate.
  • Teaching styles that were liked vs others who would have preferred something different.
  • Teams that got along well vs others that laboured through the process.
  • Ultra-social/party-goers vs those who maxed out time on cases and assignments.
  • Ones who owned up responsibility vs some who were eager lay blame elsewhere.


This year-long bubble provided enough opportunity to test, choose and move forward with who we want to be, and who we did not want to be.

“I don’t know why I instigate
And say what I don’t mean
I don’t know how we got this way
I know it’s not alright
I’m breaking the habit, tonight”
-Breaking the Habit (2003)