Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita #30 – Motivation

Chapter 2 Verse 49

दूरेण ह्यवरं कर्म बुद्धियोगाद्धनञ्जय |
बुद्धौ शरणमन्विच्छ कृपणा: फलहेतव: || 49||

dūreṇa hy-avaraṁ karma buddhi-yogād dhanañjaya
buddhau śharaṇam anvichchha kṛipaṇāḥ phala-hetavaḥ

dūreṇa(discrad) from far away; hicertainly; avaraminferior; karmareward-seeking actions; buddhi-yogātwith the intellect established in Divine knowledge; dhanañjayaArjun; buddhaudivine knowledge and insight; śharaṇamrefuge; anvichchhaseek; kṛipaṇāḥmiserly; phala-hetavaḥthose seeking fruits of their work

Translation – Seek refuge in divine knowledge and insight, O Arjun, and discard reward-seeking actions that are certainly inferior to works performed with the intellect established in Divine knowledge. Miserly are those who seek to enjoy the fruits of their works.

The link to the page is – https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/49

My interpretation –

Exactly ten years ago, today, my father had his cerebral haemorrhage and within four months he was gone…. I was thinking about him as always and I thought about his work life. My father started working at the age of 14,  to support his family and his own education. After completing his education, he joined the Military Engineering Services. He never changed jobs and retired from MES. His work ethic was simple – work was worship for him. He never thought of his work as a burden and he infact enjoyed working. My father-in-law similarly started working at the age of 14 to support his family and his own education. Then he joined railways but left it to become a teacher as he felt that was his calling in life. My father-in-law went to his school even on the day he died. I have never seen him stressed out or not enjoying his work. He loved being a teacher.

Both my father and father-in-law were great role models for Krishnan and I. The first lesson we learnt was to respect the work we did and to do it to the best of our ability. Lord Krishna speaks of the intention behind your action in this shloka. He says work is its own reward, and those with insight work that way. My father never cared whether the power outage was in a sentry’s house or the station commander’s house – he was focussed on restoring power. My father-in-law never cared if the student paid the fees or not – for him, teaching that kid and making him/her understand the concepts was more important.

Unfortunately today our motivations are very different …. we pursue positions, promotions and the quick buck rather than focussing on doing the work to the best of our ability. Every organization is dealing with high levels of attrition and disengaged employees. Managers struggle to engage their team members because they aren’t able to tap into the source of their motivation. Those who made the magnificent temples in South India or the painters of the Ajanta caves were not motivated by the rewards that they would get at the end of their effort. For them the work was its own reward.

What is your motivation? Figure that out and see if you are delivering to your level of satisfaction, if not, raise the bar.

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