Friday, April 12, 2013

LEARNING FROM MY MISTAKES - Praise in Public but Admonish in Private

Part 1

Praise in Public but Admonish in Private

This happened in the 1980s, 27 years ago, when we lived in the beautiful verdant campus of the erstwhile IAT (now called DIAT Deemed University) in the hills of Girinagar overlooking the serene cool blue waters of Khadakwasla Lake near Pune, with the mighty Sinhagad Fort towering above as a sentinel .

We lived in a typical MES accommodation – ground plus one storey with garages in between, four houses in a block.

Each house had a separate overhead water tank on top of the building and separate servant quarters behind the block .

We lived on the ground floor, and our neighbours who lived on the top floor above us were a young couple with a small kid.

Once there was along weekend – four days off – two days Diwali holidays followed by Saturday and Sunday.

Our neighbours, who lived above us, decided to spend the long weekend in Mumbai with their relatives.

In contrast, a sizeable number of relatives had decided to visit us to celebrate Diwali and spend the weekend in the picturesque surroundings on Girinagar and do some sightseeing and trekking, climb up the Sinhagad Fort and picnic at the Panshet and Varasgaon Dams and stroll on the “beach” on the Khadakvasla lakeside.

The whole gang of relatives arrived early in the morning on the first day of Diwali.

We were enjoying ourselves, the children bursting crackers, and my wife got down to making preparations for a festival feast for all of us and we were looking forward to a delicious sumptuous lunch.

Suddenly, my wife came out and told me that the taps had run dry and she said that water was not coming anywhere in the house.

This was surprising, since there was an abundance of water in Girinagar and we had never faced any water problem.

I rang up the pump house who confirmed that they had duly pumped water for three hours in the morning as per schedule and there was no reason for a water shortage. 

They suggested that I have a look at my water tank on the roof and if there was any plumbing or piping problem they would send someone to rectify the fault.

I climbed up on the roof and was aghast to see that my water tank was bone dry. The lid had been taken off and the walls of the water tank had been freshly painted.

My neighbour’s water tank was full of water.

I came down and started enquiring when my servant told me that she had seen our neighbour’s servant on the roof early in the morning.

I called the neighbour’s servant.

He said that before leaving for Mumbai, my neighbour had given him instructions to shut the inlet valve, drain the water tank, clean it up, dry it, and then apply a coat of paint, let it dry for two days, and then open the valve so that the water tank would be full by the time they came back.

He was contrite and admitted that, by mistake, he had emptied and painted my water tank instead of my neighbour’s water tank.

He had mistakenly assumed that my water tank was my neighbour’s water tank. That is why he had drained out all the water, closed the inlet valve, dried the water tank, and then cleaned and painted it.

My neighbour’s servant profusely apologized and said he was sorry.

But I was furious.

Because of this man’s stupidity we were going to have a water problem when there were so many guests in the house.

I lost my temper and started shouting angrily at the man, giving him a severe tongue-lashing as the man shivered in fright.

Then, I suddenly noticed his small son watching the proceedings.

The young boy trembled with fear.

The small boy had an expression of dread written all over his innocent face as he watched his father being publicly scolded and humiliated.

I could not bear to see this heart-rending expression on the young boy’s face so I stopped my invective tirade, told the man to go away, and went into my room to cool off. 

That day I made a decision.

I resolved that I would never admonish anyone in front of their children or shout at anybody in front of their family.

Parents are heroes to their children and the worst thing you can do is to humiliate parents in front of their children.

Similarly, it can be very demoralizing for a manager, or any employee, to be reprimanded by the boss in front of his juniors and subordinates.

I was in a profession where being “goody-goody” and “soft spoken” did not work in all cases.

Occasionally you had to shout at people and reprimand them in order to get the desired results.

But I ensured that whenever I gave a tongue-lashing to someone, I did so in private, by calling him aside separately to give him a dressing down.

Also, I tried my best to criticize the action and to ensure that I did not insult the person by making derogatory personal remarks about him.

I scrupulously tried my best to follow the dictum:

Praise in Public but Admonish in Private”.

I did lose my temper and yell at people in public sometimes.

But I immediately made amends by apologizing on the spot or at the earliest opportunity.

We all make mistakes.

But the trick lies in:

1. Realizing your mistake when you commit one
2. To learn from your mistake
3. To take corrective action
4. To make sure you do not repeat the same mistake again.

Experience enables you to recognize a mistake.

As Cicero said:

Any man can make a mistake, but only a fool will continue in repeating it

Mistakes are your best teachers.

Mistakes are lessons of wisdom.

And as James Joyce said:

Mistakes are the portals of discovery

I have made a lot of mistakes in my life.

I have tried my best to learn from my mistakes.

I endeavoured to ensure that I do not repeat them.

In some cases I have succeeded, in some it is still an ongoing process.

As Tryon Edwards put it:

Some of best lessons we ever learn, we learn from our mistakes and failures. 

The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future.

I will end with a quote by Wang Yang-Ming:

The sages do not consider that making no mistake is a blessing. 

They believe rather that the great virtue of man lies in his ability to correct his mistakes and to continually make a new man of himself …

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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1 comment:

RAN IN JAN said...

thanks for the post sir, It was a good lesson.