Monday, December 14, 2009

Harsha on Excellence

Very recently I came across a splendid lecture on ‘Excellence’ by the one and only Harsha Bhogle....thanks to Facebook. He had delivered the lecture on one of the programs at his alma mater - IIM Ahmedabad. The lecture was so inspiring and awesome that I could not stop myself from watching the entire 90 a time when I was supposed to study that afternoon for my exams. Just thought of sharing with you the gist of what were his thoughts on the subject.

He started off modestly by apologizing for coming late. He was at his humorous best and didn’t flinch a bit while taking a dig at Fardeen Khan’s acting prowess...Sidhu’s commentary antics and even at himself by stating ‘people crave for what loose’...referring to the words ‘young’ and ‘hair’ :-)

Between all these he mentioned certain pertinent points about the nature of excellence from whatever he had gathered from all the sports around him, people he had interacted with and from his life.

Excellence lies in the journey than in the destination
The debate of what is more important– the end or the path is perennial like what comes first - the chicken or the egg. End is the driver of ambition....our ultimate goal that we look up’s our vision. But it is proven in sports that result oriented goals add anxiety and turbulence to our system. The end starts to choke you over a period of time - we forget to exist in the present and think about what we have planned for the future. This is exactly what happened to Yuvraj Singh where he used to set targets such as 3 centuries in a series or 500 runs in a tournament. The Indian physiotherapist Sandy Gordon asked him to change his targets to something like staying at the crease till the end of the innings, which worked wonders for him.

Fastest path to excellence - Working your butt off
Allan Border once told to Harsha when he was doing a ghost column during 1991 test series against India "Take care of the runs and the dollars will take care of itself”. Excellence is chasing the performance goals and letting the result take care of itself. A simple analogy would be that a swimmer in Lane 4 has no control on what others swimmers do. The best he can do is to concentrate on his performance and give it the best shot.

Excellence exist in performance and more so in the preparation.
“I don’t win the Tour de France on the last day...but I win it when I ride the bikes on the mountains in the cold winters when no one is watching”
- Lance Armstrong

Learn to give every moment 100% be it practice or the real thing. Work hard when no one is watching, recognize the opportunity and grab it once it come and it will always goes well as you are already well prepared.

On the path to excellence – talent is not a long term prospect
Talent is something which dazzles and leaves us spell bound...but excellence is not about talent. Ability and talent is the most useless virtue to possess over the course of time…what you do with that talent matters most...and so does our attitude.

Talent breeds ego and does not solve most of the problems. A classic example is that of Vinod Kambli where he couldn’t deal with the bouncers from Courtney Walsh in the 1994 series and didn’t know what to do. For him talent had solved all his problems till date but was left in a soup in this case. He unfortunately never played a test match after that.

If excellence is being in top 10%....then everyone in top 10% will have the same talent. It is the work ethics and attitude counts most. It is not Tendulkar’s talent that produced a battalion of centuries but it is his love for the game…dedication and attitude that scored the hundreds.

Excellence is learning from mistakes.
Mistake is not a crime nor is it a matter of shame. Mistakes are your best friends. The more you commit them the more you know what not to do. According to Harsha he is yet to come across a situation in life where you are not allowed to make mistake. It’s when you make the 2nd or 3rd mistake you lose respect.

Does excellence require luck?
A question that often rings a bell in us....Does being at the right place at the right time mean luck? The famous golfer Gary player once said “The harder I practice the luckier i get”. Luck is combination of preparation and recognition. Football strikers are hailed more than the defenders for the simple reason because they have to recognize the opportunity of a goal and come at the right position. Luck has no part to play for the fact that a striker happens to be at the ball more often than not. It is because he has worked at the practice session for it.

Excellence is more of being humble
The saddest thing about humility is that is has started to become a cult virtue. It is something that everyone should posses...! Unfortunately we see people remarking that a particular person is very should be an inherent quality and not something to be awestruck of.

Excellence is the confidence of sharing knowledge
The spin wizard Shane Warne is a master of his art but is not at all insecure. He teaches his art to everyone and anyone. We should learn to share our craft and knowledge.

If you are really interested you can have a look at the entire lecture on the links below


  1. Kitna bada likha hai saale !!!... Aisa lagta hai bahut time hai tere paas... Kuck projects kar...
    I've seen the video... "Amazing" hai yaar... It was more of a motivational speach than a lecture.. Well written Adi (nice video too)..

  2. amazing video.. :-) totally loved it...

    very well written AD :)

  3. Whoa! Harsha is an IIM-A passout? Didn't even know that! Now I know how come he comes upon as such a confident personality (not that all IIM-A passouts are management Einsteins)...

    Didn't actually check the video (got bandwidth limitations here) but the post wouldn't really get a thumbs up in my book! Very motivational and self-help kind of stuff...

  4. Hey Adi,

    I read it quite late but ...

    its truly amazing the way you write.