Boardroom spirituality is all about values and common sense: Gopika Kapoor

Gopika Kapoor is the author of bestselling books titled Spiritual Parenting, Spiritual Pregnancy and Spiritual Relationships.  She was awarded the Young FICCI Ladies Organization (YFLO) Woman Achievers Award for exemplary writing in 2013. Kapoor also works with Ummeed Child Development centre, an ONGO working with children Gopika Kapoorwith developmental disabilities.  In this interview, withe domain-b correspondent Swetha Amit, she talks to domain-b'about her new book Spiritual Success: wisdom for the boardroom and beyond, co authored with her husband Mohit and their ideas about spirituality and the need to develop an attitude of sharing knowledge with the world.

How and when did your tryst with writing begin?
I have been writing ever since I was in school, when  I used to write for the students magazine. I also contributed to the College publications such as the College newspaper and magazine. After graduating in English literature, I did a course in journalism from Xavier's Institute of Communications. Post this, I began to work for The Times of India in Mumbai. So writing that way, has always been a part of my life. Like every journalist, I too wanted to write a book and that's how my tryst as an author commenced.

All your books have been linked to a spiritual quotient. What does spirituality mean according to you?
Spirituality is an attitude with which you live your life. It's about having a sense of gratitude for everything that you have. It also focuses on living in the present and not fretting about the past or future. It is the ability to recognise that everybody doesn't have the same ideas, principles, and beliefs and yet respecting them for that. Basically it's an attitude of live and let live.

So spirituality is nothing really fancy, erudite or difficult. It is basic common sense. People make it out to be complicated because they want it to be exclusive and inaccessible.  In all the books I have written, I have tried to make it relatable by using simple language so that it can be read by everyone and have a universal appeal. 

Your recent book talks about spiritual success. How would you define 'success'?
I think the definition of success is different for different people.  According to me, it lies in the ability to perform any task thoroughly with your undivided attention and complete focus. Most importantly it is the ability to enjoy the task you are doing irrespective of the result.  That is one thing. The other thing is the concept which I had learnt a few years ago - about the ability to blend the various aspects of our lives. 

Our life is basically composed of several aspects which includes family, spouse, work, community, friends and self, which many people tend to neglect.  So when all these aspects are aligned like a bar graph, then you have had a successful day.  Sometimes, one aspect may be neglected due to the other. For instance if I am partying a lot, I am neglecting my body by abusing it with fried food and alcohol, then I would not say I have had a successful day since I am neglecting the self or the spirit.  I believe that there has to be a balance in life.  That according to me is success.

You have used the term 'Healthy Ego' in your book, which is essential for success.  How does one attain this and not let the negative aspect of ego take over?
When we talk about the ego, we talk about the 'I' factor. For instance I can say 'I' have written the book or 'I' have done this. So the 'I' is basically the ego.  Instead if I were truly without ego, I would say the book has been written and I was the medium through which it was written.

Unfortunately, most of us are very far away from this and require constant work to reach this state of getting rid of the ego.  There are numerous cases where, as people start to achieve more, the 'I' takes over after a point in time. So it all becomes about what 'I' did and the 'I' factor never leaves the conversation. The concept of a healthy ego is that it is okay to have an ego as long as the ego is not taking over you and you have a control over it.

Many people seem to find immense pride stating how busy they are. Do you think they equate success to being busy and thereby find self-gratification in this?
Yes they do. Sadly, there is this myth about being busy where people believe that they are somebody very important when they say they are busy. I think efficient people are those who do their work quietly instead of walking around and telling people how busy they are. There are also instances where people don't respond to other people's phone calls or messages. In such cases you will find the ego playing a pivotal role. It's like 'I am too busy to talk to you' or 'I am so busy and important that I don't have time to talk to you'. There is this new term for such behaviour which is called 'posturing'. It means putting on this act of being very busy and important.

book cover of spiritual successHow do you think one can incorporate spirituality in their workplace where stress levels are usually at its peak?
I have given a lot of examples related to this in my book. One quick way to incorporate spirituality in your work life is to just dwell in the present. For instance if you are doing some particular work, make sure you keep your mind where your hands are.

This basically means, that if your hands are engaged in typing out a report, don't let your mind wander and start worrying about the meeting you have the next day.  I think that would be one way to avoid stress. The key is to focus on the present rather than worrying about the past or future. This way, you also end up enjoying what you are doing a lot more. 

You have mentioned about how people should be abundant and share their knowledge selflessly. However there are instances where many use this wealth of information to move ahead and leave us behind. How does one still retain faith in humanity and refrain from feeling bitter?
I strongly believe that there is enough for everybody and more whether it is money or work opportunity. So if you have this sense of abundance, it will automatically expand your whole world view.  Everybody tends to face setbacks in life and it's impossible to have a life, which is only smooth sailing.  So if you have been taken for a ride or cheated upon, the first thing you to do is stop holding grudges and live in the present. To get yourself out of this mess, you need to plan your next course of action and move on.

Most importantly, you have to act which is what Krishna emphasises in the Gita. You can't keep getting crippled by your past. You cannot of course be gullible and naïve by leaving an envelope of your trade secrets on to your competitor's table.  But you need not lose faith in humanity completely. People tend to feel bad about such petty things as they let their emotions get the better of them. Emotions again comes back to the concept of ego which I talked about earlier. So the key factor here is for people to let go of their ego, which again as I said is a difficult task.

You have talked bout taking a classic example of Prahlad Kakkar as to how a mentor despite sharing knowledge and his wisdom remain secure in his position. What does it take to remain secure?
I had met Prahlad about 10 years ago.  He was on the top of things but had always been a bit of a maverick. He was extremely secure in his work. I think if you are secure in the work you do and as long as you are confident of your talent and knowledge without being egoistical about it, then that will give you enough security to share your wealth of information.  I think knowledge is something that needs to be shared. More the skills and knowledge available, the better it is for the world.

I have talked about the concept of abundance in my book where I have emphasised that there is enough out there for everybody. So there is no reason for people to hold on. It's like holding on to 50 paise, when there are lakhs of rupees out there. Sadly there seems to be a petty mind-set that has developed among people today. Many are not willing to share any kind of information with others, be it recipes, their designers' contact details or even their children's grades. People need to realise that there is a huge wealth of information out there and when you know there is enough out there, it doesn't matter what kind of information you share.

Lastly, what are your future plans?
I have always wanted to write fiction. So maybe my next book will be something in the fiction genre. I have not thought about what it will revolve around. So I will have to think about some ideas and work on it.

Excerpt from Spiritual Success: wisdom for the boardroom and beyond

Whether it's your professor, first boss, a senior colleague, a supervisor or even someone who is not related to your workplace but whose advice and guidance you trust and rely on, there's no doubt about the fact that a mentor can enhance our professional and personal lives, and be a source of inspiration and a guiding force in our work and career path.

According to Eric Parsloe of the Oxford School of coaching and mentoring, 'Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.

True mentoring goes beyond just answering occasional questions or providing help in an informal setting. Rather, it is an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue and guidance to help the mentee achieve her/his full potential.

In today's information age, most of what we need to know (and much more) is available at the click of a button. All we need is to type it into a search engine, and bingo! You've found your answer. However, a mentor can provide us what the world's best search engine cannot: human and real life experience. Traditionally, mentors are viewed as those who are senior to us in age, with years of wisdom and experience to help us navigate through the challenges and crossroads of our working life. However, in the age of IT whiz kids and Young Turks, senior professionals in their fifties and sixties are looking towards their younger colleagues to help them get updated on the latest trends, technology and information. Younger or older, without a mentor we may not become half of who we are today.

Companies today have mentoring programmes that put people together, but having the right mentor in your life is a bit like getting the perfect life partner.

Mentors have tremendous intangible value, which is very difficult to measure since wisdom in itself is so subjective and experiential. While most people rate money and designation over learning when they first start their career, those who look at the long run value the human element that comes from having a mentor or guide. It is no wonder that companies are spending so much time, money and resources on mentoring programmes for their people.

There has been a positive shift by corporates in dealing with people as people and not just as 'human resources', with some companies doing away with the archaic term 'Human Resources Manager' and replacing it with the more contemporary 'Chief People Officer.'

Like with the circle of life where one generation gives way to the next, once you have achieved a certain level of success, it is equally important to repay your debt to the universe and provide mentorship to others who need it. Like the concept of 'paying it forward', which involves one individual doing something for another, and encouraging them to carry on the chain by doing good deed for someone else in turn, you too can practise this by mentoring those whom you think need help and guidance.

Once you are certain that you want to share your skills, knowledge and expertise, you can start looking for people to mentor. Here's how:

  • Identify a few people in your organization especially those who look in need of guidance. It also helps to be open and approachable, and start talking with more people within your organization and industry-this sends the message that you are available for mentoring.
  • Set the tone for the relationship. While mentoring is more professional and career-based, it sometimes spills over into personal lives as well. It is important to mark the boundaries that you are comfortable with and which you want to set with your mentee.
  • Anticipate that at some point in time your mentee may take you for granted; do not take it personally. Instead think of it as a seva, which we discussed earlier, and set yourself up to not expect from the relationship. If you get anything from it, consider it a bonus.

Many years ago, I (Gopika) had the opportunity to interview the maverick adman Prahlad Kakkar. Far from his image as a publicity hungry, flirtatious old man, I found him polite, highly intelligent and extremely protective towards his employees, most of whom were below the age of thirty.

Prahlad had a lot of young people coming to work with him every year. But after a few years with his company, they would leave to set up their own small agencies. Rather than giving them a hard time, Prahlad would mentor them that his protégé's were now out to make it on their own.

This younger bunch would have to make pitches to clients, but now Prahlad was their competitor as he would be pitching to the same clients. Didn't he feel threatened, I asked him. Not at all, he laughed, because these kids had trained with him and knew all his best moves, all his tricks, so if he wanted to outwit them and win the campaign, he would be forced to raise the bar and do better.

As a result with more and more kids 'graduating' from his company, he said with a benevolent smile, the entire industry's bar would be raised every year.

This I feel is true mentorship-sharing all that you know, being totally secure about your knowledge, experience and position, and then working even harder to better yourself.