Yeah!!!!! Got my first column in 'Mint' on my fav, fav topic!!!

Yoda’s wisdom at work

Here’s how to apply the Jedi Master’s advice on when to cut your losses and when to give it your all...

I grew up on Yoda. I first saw him on a movie screen when I was 9, and 35 years later, I still can’t get enough of him. Is there something wrong with me? Am I the “quintessential geek” who bonds with aliens and UFOs (unidentified flying objects)? No! I’m a “pukka Marwari” and I believe that Yoda teaches some important lessons for anyone in management. 

Yoda, as you know, is the diminutive, mystical “Jedi Master” who appeared for the first time in George Lucas’ Star Wars (Episode V)—The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Part of the Star Wars lore is that Yoda is actually yoga spelt with a twist and that Lucas modelled him on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (whose wispy hair and manner of speech was Yodaesque), who had influenced Lucas a lot.

In 2007, Yoda was selected by Empire magazine as the 25th greatest movie character of all time. So,Star Wars and Yoda are serious business. 

Yoda famously speaks backwards (not literally but via jumbled words), and his quotes shine with eternal wisdom. These are the ones I have chosen which can help you get ahead on the job: 


You must unlearn what you have learned

While Yoda says this to Luke Skywalker to train him to become a Jedi Warrior, the same words should be beamed to CEOs of the Indian software services industry. 

In just 10 years the industry has turned upside down. Old stalwarts (like Infosys Ltd), who thought they could sell “hired brains” (or “body shopping”) forever, have had to eat their own code. Others (like Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp.) understood that the past would not be the future and reoriented themselves to sell “solutions” rather than “hours billed”. They won, while the rest have been punished and scrambled to reboot. 

Yoda said this long ago but this is applicable in every industry. The question is: Are you unlearning and learning as vigorously?


Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose

This was Yoda’s advice to Anakin Skywalker (Luke’s father), who was grieving. 

Shouldn’t UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya have paid heed to these words too? What really went wrong with the brand new, spectacular Kingfisher Airlines? We all flew it for the first few years and enjoyed it. It beat the competition to pulp. But as recession set in, fuel prices spiralled and the concept of flying moved from “high class” to “bakri class”, shouldn’t Kingfisher have changed? 

What was the airline clinging to? Its premium imagery? The “brand image” that had been built via flat TV seat screens, model airhostesses, free earphones and pens? Was pride so hard to lose just to survive? Who would have minded if we had been charged for everything, including the smiles from the gorgeous ladies in red? 

Jet Airways morphed like a chameleon. Indigo emerged from nowhere. But Kingfisher refused to lose its vanity and landed itself in the hangars for good.

Let Yoda and Kingfisher remind you that you have to overcome your darkest fears to survive. And then win. 


Do... or Do Not. There is no try

Yoda says this to Luke Skywalker, who crashes into a swamp and is inspired by Yoda to “mind lift” his X-Wing aircraft out of the muck. 

This quote has a very personal and emotional significance for me. In 2001, most dotcom companies had become dot-gones, and my venture——was facing massive headwinds. My venture capitalists had abandoned me, my employees were demoralized and we were on the verge of extinction. 

On a depressing Monday, my co-founder and I met in a dark conference room and began thinking of shutting down. He solemnly said, “Alok, we have six months of salary money left.” I said, “Hey, that means we still have time. Let me ‘try’ and see what I can do.” At that moment, my co-founder morphed into a Yoda-like avatar and said, “No more ‘trying’. Just get out there and make this company survive.”

I was jolted by his inspiration. In the next 100 days, I met over 300 clients and begged for business. We managed to survive and 13 years later, I have the honour of sharing this story with you. 

That incident taught me that doing and trying are as different as heaven and earth. 

I could go on, but I’d rather inspire you to ruminate on two of my favourite Yoda quotes and figure out how you could apply them in your life: 

“Always pass on what you have learned.”

“Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.”


On behalf of Yoda, I wish “May the force be with you.”


The article as appeared in 'Mint' today!


Are you a Star Wars fan? You can catch some conversations with Yoda here...!!


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Mind what you have learned. Save you it can. 

Much to learn you still have, my old Padawan. This is just the beginning!



I am inspired...


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