To me, a rose is more than a flower. It is a morsel of joy wrapped in a moment. It can be an accomplishment achieved, or a milestone crossed. It can be a challenge we have dreamed of completing. It can be an opportunity to present our best game. It can be new learning we seek and value. It can be a gift from those around us, a catalyst of positive feelings such as love, curiosity, excitement, enthusiasm, hope, serenity, satisfaction, gratitude, admiration, pride, amusement, a pleasant surprise, confidence, inspiration and awe.
There is a story in Indian mythology from thousands of years ago, of a guru who wanted to give his students a lesson on focus. He lodged a wooden bird on a high branch of a leafy tree and asked each of his students to step forward with their bows and arrows to take aim, but not release their arrows unless he told them to. One by one, his students stepped up, drew their bows and took aim. To each, the guru asked what the student saw at that moment. Some said they saw the bird, the leaves, the branches, the tree, and the sky peering through the leaves. Others saw various subsets of those things. It was Arjun, the guru’s best student, who gave the answer the guru was looking for. I see only the eye of the bird, said Arjun. That answer earned him permission to release the arrow and successfully hit exactly what he saw. The story goes on to describe the jealousy and inspiration drawn from Arjun’s demonstration by fellow students and the pride felt by the guru. But the story does not elaborate on what Arjun did next.
Did he unwrap the rose? Did he allow his eyes to now absorb the scene he had earlier clipped away in favor of focus? Did he acknowledge the blue sky peering at him through the green leaves? Did he feel the gentle breeze that made the leaves dance? Did he bask in the accolades he had just received? Did he feel the inspiration flowing from him to his fellow students? Did he feel their admiration flowing towards him? Did he soak in that moment? Did he smell its fragrance? Did he savor it?
In my experience, people have difficulty savoring such moments. Sometimes it is simply discomfort with feeling a good feeling. We may think it is inappropriate to indulge in self-gratification. We may feel we did not deserve the intensity of the accolades and admiration that is coming our way. Perhaps we think it is a bad omen to feel “too” good about something. Sometimes we just don’t want to waste time rejoicing when we can be productively looking for the eye of the next challenge.
Our careers take different routes and no two are the same. Yet, it is safe to say that on the paths we take on our unique journeys, roses are plentiful and waiting to be discovered. It is important for us to stop, admire, and smell them. They are markers that give us confidence that we are not lost. They help us dream bigger dreams. They build motivation, excitement and fortitude to tackle the challenges further down the road. They bring a needed balance to our lives. They become a part of our hopes and dreams.
If you are a leader, it is your responsibility to point out the roses to your team along the way. It is your responsibility to encourage them to stop with you to smell the roses before they move on. It motivates the team to seek roses that have a special fragrance for the whole team, and not just for the individuals on the team. It helps the team’s resilience in the thorny parts of their journey.
The photo accompanying this blog is a retirement gift from my colleague Sanjay Panditji who, like me, retired from Intel as a vice president. He helped me shape and develop the Intel Custom Foundry organization. Sanjay presented me with these two roses to acknowledge my interest in hunting for roses for my team. I have smelled these roses and thanked him abundantly for them.
At this time of the year, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to you my readers, for being with me on my journey. Thank you.
Welcome to 2016. I wish it to be the best year of your lives. Now, unwrap it and just smell this rose.