Climbing the ladder

This past week I have been privy to an email discussion between K and his friends that was rather enjoyable. What started as an innocuous question on staying on the technical path vs aspiring to go up the management chain soon changed tracks into rather philosophical observations.

What the conversation did however was to stir old memories on how I defined ‘success’. We are all products of our environment. Growing up I saw my dad look up to people who worked their way up the ranks. My teenage years were filled with stories of men who worked on the factory floor along with him who then went on to build business empires. I also saw my mom eyes arch up when she heard of relatives being promoted or making a lot of money under the age of 30. It is not surprising that in my mind success equated climbing the corporate ladder and making a lot of money in the process. I spent a good many of my initial working years focussed on the ‘what’s next’ question rather than realizing a job done right and lessons learned would have propelled me further along the chain.

Well! all was not lost and somewhere in the past few years I think I have wizened up to the fact that success or not, nothing equates the joy of a job well done and that doing my best was more important than worrying what lay ahead. In the process I also rewrote the definition for success in my mind.

But occasionally I also wonder about the connection between early academic promise and worldly success. Specially given that growing up when and where I did, the failure to get into an engineering stream marked me for failure even before I started. Fast forward a little over a decade, I don’t view myself as a failure and I really do believe while academic achievement is laudable, also important are street smarts. Where does the balance lie?

These questions seem to weigh heavier on my mind of late given that I now have the privilege of applying these lessons to my daughters’ lives.

I know this post is rambling but then so are my thoughts.

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5 thoughts on “Climbing the ladder

  1. Konjam acad smarts konjam street smarts is the recipe to success :–)
    Having only one of it does not help.
    I have gone on such tangential thoughts many time too.

    I think success is defined by the impact you make on people. And nowadays anyway industries make fancy fluffy titles just to lure people, this manager that manager, chief this, chief that.

    I think it depends on the individual and what one wants and treats as success too. Its not wrong to climb the ladder, somebody has to do the dirty work right. And its not wrong to be happy down too.

    There is no one definition…. thats my lesson and conclusion from the long thought processes. ;–)

  2. to me earning respect is success, job satisfaction is success. I do like to have authority and accountability to an extent, but beyond a certain management level I doubt that I am capable of doing that much dirty job!

    agree with SK, it is not wrong to climb the ladder or make lots of money if you achieve it through clean ways.

    laksh, wishing you lot of success! and wealth and health. also to kutties.

  3. Like you, in my professional life, success to me is based on intrinsic value of my job (satisfaction, making a difference etc.) rather than extrinsic value (pay, position, bonus etc.).

    I think apart from being street smart and book smart, you also need a lit of lady luck – doing the right thing at the right place and at the right time, to be successful.

  4. This post brings back to the conversation we had the other day. At times when we look at peers from WA** days and it makes us feel that we probably should have climbed. But then I went home and thought, I am happy to have a work-life balance now, why spoil that by climbing ladders 🙂 Maybe how you measure success changes with every phase of life.

    This is not a rambling, it is a geniune thought to be pondered. Keep up the writing.

  5. We are beasts of reward unfortunately. We are tamed by the pat on the back of academic success right through school, and the rewards of promotions on our careers. Few people stop back to think and see what they would like to be.
    Success is not what others deem for you, it is what achieving what you set for yourself, don’t you think

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