JRD Tata – Importance of People in Business

Origins of the now renowned Tata philosophy of business with affection.

It is not what we put on our plate or even what we eat that provides nourishment and growth, but what we digest.

Aiming for excellence

JRD Tata was a French born Indian aviator and business tycoon. He was the Chairman of Tata Sons for 52 years, during which he grew the company to the multi-industry conglomerate that it is today. He also strongly advocated business ethics and corporate social responsibility.

Having started his career in 1925, he went from unpaid intern to Chairman in just 13 years through sheer hard work and perseverance. JRD owed his success to the aim for perfection. He believed that aiming for perfection results in excellence.

Growth and integrity

When author R.M Lala questioned JRD in 1979, as to why the company hadn’t grown much in the past two decades, he replied that if they had done some of the things that some other groups have done, they would have been twice as big as they are today. But they didn’t, and he would not have it any other way.

He was also extremely diligent when it came to his taxes. Tax evasion was punishable, but tax avoidance was legal. He forbade his employees from tax avoidance too because it was not right, even if it was legal.

JRD believes that corporates can have a conscience

He wanted workers to have a say in their own welfare and safety, and he wanted their suggestions on the running of the company. He created a personnel department to cater to their needs and make sure peace was maintained between the management and labour at all times. To him, ethics encompassed gratitude, loyalty and affection too.

What we know today as Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR was first introduced by JRD. By expanding the ambit of social obligations that a company has, he created an ecosystem that benefits people, profit and planet. To put JRD’s ideas into action, the rulebooks of leading Tata companies were amended and social obligations beyond the welfare of employees was accepted as part of the group’s objectives.

Action Summary

  • Never compromise on your values

  • To be a leader you have to lead your team with affection

  • Aim for perfection, you will achieve excellence

  • Strive to serve the needs of the country and people

~ Amala Putrevu

Marilyn Monroe – Ahead of Her Times

Stories from the life of Marilyn Monroe on how she fought against women and racial discrimination

"If I had observed all the rules, I'd never have got anywhere." - Marilyn Monroe

The woman who smiled with her eyes. The woman who was with the President of the United Stated, his brother and the mafia. The woman whose death turned out to be as mysterious as her life was mystical.

Marilyn Monroe comes across as a lost soul who was constantly trying to figure out life. She did perform “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” but owned very little precious jewellery. She was considered a dumb blond but had an IQ of 168 and her list of attractive men included Albert Einstein. She was a great cook and a writer too!

Carving her own path

She was way ahead of her times in terms of a liberal outlook towards society. Not shying away from nude pictures of herself, she hated to be known as just a pretty face. When Hollywood’s studio system in the form of Twentieth Century-Fox relegated her to roles that typecast her further into the dumb blond mould, she protested and walked out in the middle of her contract. She went on to start her own production company and was one of the first women to do so.

Similarly, she was severely against racial discrimination. Her singing was heavily influenced by African American singer, Ella Fitzgerald. She studied her records and was rumored to have been asked by her vocal coach to listen to Ella’s recordings of Gershwin music, a hundred times in a row.

The Ella Incident

During the 50s, Mocambo, one of the most popular venues in Hollywood refused to let Ella play because of her race. Unhappy with this turn of events, Marilyn Monroe took matters in her hand and made a call to the owner. She told him if he booked Ella immediately she would book a front table every day of the first week. This would certainly bring the crowds in and was enough to convince Mocambo’s owner.

Indeed, Marilyn booked and showed up for every night of the first week at Mocambo. The press went crazy and so did the audience. Ella Fitzgerald never had to play at a small jazz club after this incident.

Action Summary

  • Never forget the people who influence you in life.
  • Use your strengths, clout and confidence to help talent that you believe in come forward.

~ Meeta Kabra

Nelson Mandela – The World’s Most Famous Prisoner

The reason why an unknown Nelson Mandela rose to become the face of a revolution

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

It was Feb. 11, 1990, and the world waited with bated breath as the lone prisoner was freed from his shackles. Those who knew him saw that the full cheeks of the former boxer now gave way to a thinner, emaciated man in a suit.

But what was more perplexing was the reaction of the people who didn’t know him.

During the big day, millions of people lined up and surrounded Nelson Mandela as they tried to catch a glimpse of his face, even if some of them have not heard or did not know of the anti-apartheid revolutionary.

The question is, why? After all, when he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, Nelson Mandela was only known in some political circles of the African government as being a staunch opposer of racial segregation.

And his imprisonment was meant to bury him – and his advocacy – in obscurity even more. In fact, during his prison term, Mandela could only see his close family members; he was not permitted to see anyone else. Even the government kept photos of his captivity from the public.

Imprisonment Failure

The opposite effect, however, occurred. Deeds indeed go beyond physical limitations, and as the anti-apartheid movement grew in influence, the anonymity and continued exile of Mandela for a quarter of a century became a prophetic symbol for the people sharing his ideals. The movement needed to have a face, not of any man, but of a person who embodied and experienced the oppression the black people themselves were facing, and Mandela acquired a mythical status whose story symbolized such suppression.

For a man meant to be forgotten, Mandela’s 27-year imprisonment has not only sparked the anti-apartheid movement, he was also ironically catapulted into a revolutionary figure– all from the confines of his dingy cell. Truly, the more you hide something good, the more it rises up to the surface.

Action Summary:

  • Understand the strategic importance of absence. Just like how wind douses a candle but fans a fire, absence diminishes minor statures but inflames great ones.
  • Don’t over-saturate your audience with your constant presence. Let them crave you.

Larry Bird – The Allround Basketball Player

How an injury forced Larry Bird to develop his skills and become an all-round player

"A winner is someone who recognizes his God given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals." - Larry Bird


Larry Bird was born in West Baden Springs, Indiana, on 7th December, 1956, he grew up and attended college in Indiana before heading to the NBA to join the Boston Celtics, the team with which he would spend his entire pro career. Over the course of his 13 seasons with the Celtics, Bird led the team to three championships, was named NBA Most Valuable Player three times, and made the All-Star team 12 times.

Bird was born to poor parents in Orange County. The family had six kids and didn’t always have much growing up. Bird’s two elder brothers were athletic, competitive and always ready to give him a challenge. Sports formed a major part of their lives and they were always playing – baseball, basketball or football – so much so that a day didn’t pass by without them playing.

Bird was pretty good at basketball and played as a power forward or a small forward. He consistently shot 50% from the field and 90% from the free throw line. But his competitiveness made him a selfish player. He often demanded the ball, especially during pressure situations.

The Ankle Injury That Made Bird a Better Player

During his sophomore year in high school, Bird broke his ankle during a game and was out for almost the entire season. Being really upset that he couldn’t play, he sought to practice any way he could. He started focusing on passing the ball whilst hobbling on his cast.

He realized that he loved passing and was good at it. Usually players who play at the forward positions don’t usually pass the ball much as they find themselves closer to the basket. Their main responsibility is scoring points. But Larry Bird changed that.

No other forward in NBA history passed with the effectiveness that Larry Bird did. He became one of the best passers of the game. And all because an injury forced him to focus on passing the ball.

Action Summary:

  • Recognize opportunity in adversity. When things go wrong, what can you work on to improve your situation?
  • Be a team player. And you will win more.

Ayrton Senna – The Messiah of Motor Racing

How Artyon Senna won the unwinnable races and became one of the best racecar drivers in the world

"And so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high." - Ayrton Senna Ayrton Senna da Silva was a Brazilian Formula 1 driver who won the world championship three times, in 1988, 1990 and in 1991. He was widely regarded – by fans, critics and pundits – as one of the most brilliant and skilful racers of all time. He won 3 world championships and a total of 65 grands prix. Senna was born with a silver spoon in his mouth – son to a wealthy businessman in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where his father built him his first go-kart. From that point on, there was no looking back. He was known for pouring his soul into everything that he did – not just racing. He always pushed himself: to go faster than he was, and to be a better human being every day.

Pushing when others have given up

In the Monaco GP of 1984, Senna was racing for team Toleman, a minnow team that wasn’t expected to win races. Monaco as a racing circuit is extremely technical with few and fast. But Senna was no ordinary driver. He qualified a thirteenth, and would start the race somewhere in the middle of the pack. He was driving a rather uneventful race when it started raining. That’s when Senna truly shone. In unforgiving conditions, which prompted other racers to request race cancellation, he pushed harder than anyone else on the track and – In a circuit where overtaking is considered next to impossible, he lapped every car on the circuit. He gained an unbelievable 3 seconds a lap and won the race! Unfortunately, the race was cancelled at other teams behest. But it showed what Senna could do even in ordinary cars!

Senna at his home circuit: Brazil

Senna was already 5 years into the sport, but had never won the Brazilian GP at Interlagos.  But this time, he was leading the race. When disaster struck.

Around the 60th lap of a 67 lap race, his car’s transmission jammed and he was stuck in the sixth gear. Now, it is nearly impossible for any car to navigate turns at that speed. Drivers almost always have to slow down to at least the third gear on the slower turns. Most drivers would have quit. But not Senna.

He drove through twists and turns on sixth gear! The force required to manage the car was immense. It took a toll on him, and when the race ended, Senna couldn’t even be touched. Let alone walk and move. But he did win in a situation where others would have given up.

Action Summary:

  • Pour your soul into everything you do and give it your best.
  •  Constantly challenge yourself. Don’t quit when others would and you’ll rise above them.

How Walt Disney Sane Made His Fortune

The story of Walt Disney and how Mickey Mouse is created

"You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you" - Walt Disney

Walter Elias Disney sat at his drawing desk in a makeshift studio in his father’s garage, pondering where life had taken him. So far, it had given him a rough ride.

Walter begins following his dream to be an artist by cartooning for his High School newspaper, drawing patriotic cartoons focused on the war over in Europe. Fascinated with the war, he quits school to join the army, but is rejected because he is underage.

Determined to be involved in the war effort, Walter joins the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. But by the time he arrives in France, armistice had been declared. War is over.

A “Talentless” Artist

Back home in Kansas City, Walter decides to embark on a career as a newspaper artist. He goes to the Kansas City Star to ask for a job. The editor glances at Walter’s drawings, and tells the young cartoonist that he has no talent. The 18-year-old Walter is heart broken.

So Walter decides to be an ambulance driver instead. But still no one wants to hire him.

Eventually, he decides to set up his own animation company. He hires a team of animators, including his close friend, cartoonist Ubbe Iwerks, and their cartoons are a big hit in Kansas City. But the profits aren’t big enough to pay the team Walter has hired. Debts mount up, and eventually Walter declares himself bankrupt. He’s let down himself and his team, including one of his closest friends.

The Tame Mouse

As Walter sat at his desk, reflecting on his series of failed ventures, a mouse scuttled across the garage floor.  It looks at Walter with bold, curious eyes. Walter goes into the house, and brings out some crumbs to feed the little critter.

Over the next few days, the mouse becomes so tame that it will run across Disney’s drawing desk to collect scraps of food.

Failure Again – Betrayed In Hollywood

Five years on, Walter has made it to Hollywood. But again, he’s staring failure in the eyes, and this time, it’s left a bitter taste in his mouth.

The character he’s created with his team – Oswald the Lucky Rabbit – is a huge hit with the public. Buoyed by his success, Walter goes to his producer to ask for an increase in budget. With more money, he can create even better cartoons.

The producer refuses, and demands that Walter takes a budget cut of 20%. He reminds Walter that the studio owns all the rights for Oswald’s character. Worse, Walter finds that his team of animators – some of the best in the business – have already signed the new contract. The only one who stands by Walter is Ubbe Iwerks.

A Legend is Born

“Money doesn’t excite me – my ideas excite me.” – Walter Elias Disney

Feeling betrayed, Walter walks away from the producer and decides to start his own studio. He’s got to start from scratch, and he’s lost his team of some of the best talent in animation. What character can he and Ubbe come up with that will rival the success of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? Ubbe Iwerks draws up sample sketches of a dog, a cat, a cow, a horse and a frog. None of them are good enough for Walter. They just aren’t quite right.

Racking his brains for inspiration, Walter suddenly remembers the friendly mouse in his Kansas studio. He grabs a pencil and draws up some sketches, handing them the Ubbe. Ubbe reworks the sketches so they can be animated..

With that, Mickey Mouse is created, and the legend of Walt Disney is born.

Action Points

  • Don’t take failure as an omen of your destiny. If you do, failure will become your destiny. Instead, take each knock-back as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Cherish the small things that delight you – you never know when you will be able to return to them for inspiration.


Natalie Portman – The Scientist Actress

The story of how Natalie Portman focused on living a balanced life without getting caught in the glamour world of Hollywood.

"I don't love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful." - Natalie Portman

She is known as Evey in V for Vendetta, Queen Amidala in the Star Wars series, and most importantly, as Nina in Black Swan, which earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2011. We also know that behind her stellar acting career, she graduated with honors from high school, earned a Psychology degree in Harvard, co-authored numerous scientific papers, and advocates animal rights and other causes.

She is none other than Natalie Portman, and the first thing to ask her would be: what is your secret?

The secret turns out to be an anecdote from childhood.

One day, a ten year-old Natalie was approached by a modeling scout after dance class. The agent wanted the doe-eyed girl to consider modeling for Revlon. Natalie, however, refused, boldly saying, “I don’t want to model, I want to act.”

The hard part was pursuing an acting career at an early age while remaining devoted to school. Theater camps during the summer soon became not enough. At the same time, though, the girl did not want to give up school. She enjoyed school so much that her classmates would call her a dork. Faced with this challenge, the young Natalie decided to take the plunge and test the waters.

At first, it wasn’t all too easy. During rehearsals, she would keep on joking around with her fellow actress, and people would tell her to be quiet. She lacked the discipline required of a cast member. In school, kids would tease her, “you think you’re so hot now,” and Natalie would cry every day whenever she went home from shooting. She felt out of place and out of focus in both worlds.

But this strengthened Natalie’s resolve to pursue acting all the more. She decided to devote six days a week, seven hours a day, to rehearsals, waking up at 7:15, leaving for school at 8:00, then starting rehearsals at 10:30. This would continue until 2:00. During her break from 2:00-3:00, she would be tutored in one of the classes that she missed in school (Japanese, history, or math), then rehearsal would resume until 7:30 in the evening. From 7:30 to 8:30, she would be tutored once again. The same goes for weekends before and after whole-day rehearsals. After school and rehearsals, that’s the time Natalie would allow herself her much-needed rest.

The hard work eventually paid off.

Natalie soon got more projects, and landed her mainstream role as Queen Amidala in Star Wars. The rising star, however, true to her commitment to education, preferred to study for her final exams than go to her own movie premiere.

The rest, of course, is history.

Natalie has become what she is today not simply by pure talent or mental acumen, but by imposing upon herself the proper discipline and hard work to do what she wants, and to do them well. Natalie, for all her beauty and talent, is not afraid to do the dirty work.

Action Summary:

  • There is no substitute for hard work.
  • Be curious and keep on learning.

Bob Ross: How an Hobby Artist Becomes a Global Sensation

The story of how Bob Ross transitioned from a career in the air force to becoming a world renowned painter.

"Talent is just pursued interest." - Bob Ross

1960, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. New recruit, 17-year-old Airman Robert Ross, struggles to fit in. He hates being yelled at by his superiors to clean the latrine, make his bed, and always turn up on time.

Has he messed up at the first hurdle with the wrong career choice?

Ross escapes the stress by picking up a paint brush. He spends every free moment he can get at the local art college, learning all the traditional painting techniques. The snow and mountains of the Alaskan landscape inspire his artwork.

The Late Night TV Epiphany

Ross has one problem: he’s pressed for time, and he wishes he could paint more. But the trouble with oils – his preferred paint – is that you must wait hours for each new layer of paint to dry before continuing your work.

Art supplies are expensive, and Air Force wages only go so far. In the evenings, Ross takes to moonlighting as a bartender. Of course, this further squeezes his free time. It’s also a decision will turn his life upside down.

On a slow night at the bar, Ross finds himself watching the bar TV. An art show comes on, which perks his interest.

The show is The Magic World of Oil Painting with German painter Bill Alexander. Ross immediately realizes that what he sees on this show will transform his approach to painting.

Alexander uses oils, Ross’s favorite medium. But he doesn’t wait for one layer to dry before applying the next. So Alexander can paint a whole landscape in a singe 30-minute TV show.

Alexander’s technique is called wet-on-wet. Using this technique, Alexander creates beautiful landscapes at high speed.

Becoming a Disciple

Ross realizes he’s found his life’s calling. He makes contact with Alexander, who agrees to take Ross on as a student. Ross absorbs everything he’s learned from Alexander, and uses it as a starting point to develop his own techniques. Pretty soon, Ross notices he’s making more money selling his paintings than from his job in the Air Force.

With that realization, Ross quits the Air Force to paint full time. Following this decision, he drops the tough-guy persona he’d picked up in the Air Force, and vows “never to scream again.”

From Artist to TV Star

1981. Ross starts a tour of the United States to teach his unique approach to painting. A business executive takes one of Ross’s classes, and is captivated by his charming painting style, and his personal charisma. She manages to land Ross a TV audition.

By 1982, Ross is on TV, teaching his wet-on-wet technique to millions of viewers.

To this day, Bob Ross’s Joy of Painting is carried by hundreds of public television channels across the United States and around the world. Aspiring artists in countries all across the globe continue to be inspired by Ross’s passion for painting.

Action Summary:

  • Unsure where to start in looking for your passion? Start where you are today. Look everywhere for inspiration – even late night TV.
  • No one can be completely original. Find the things you love and plunge yourself into them to make them your own.
  • Find the master of what you want to do, and make yourself their disciple. Learn everything you can from them.


Albert Einstein – The Music Teacher?

The story of how Albert Einstein taught a tone-deaf person the ability to appreciate music. And what that teaches you about building and learning hard skills.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible. But not simpler." - Albert Einstein

Who would have thought that the proponent of the theory of relativity, who came up with the famous equation, E = mc2, also taught a tone-deaf man to appreciate Bach?

One night, a young man attended a social gathering hosted by a New York philanthropist. As he entered the room, he noticed that the seats were arranged in neat little rows, and a set of musical instruments were set up in front. Apparently, and to the man’s disappointment, he was invited to a night of chamber music.

Throughout the night he pretended to listen and would imitate the soft smiles and applause of the guests in order to blend in, hoping that nobody would notice that he could not care less about Bach’s music. The next words he heard, though, were totally unexpected:

“You are fond of Bach?”

It was only then that the young man realized he was sitting next to the genius extraordinaire, Albert Einstein. When he revealed, with a hint of embarrassment, that he was tone-deaf and hence could not fully appreciate music, Einstein immediately stood up in consternation and led him upstairs to a private room.

Einstein Plays a Few Records

The young man revealed to Einstein that he could only appreciate songs with lyrics and whose tunes are easy to follow. Einstein then played a record of Bing Crosby and asked the young man to tell him what he just heard. Easily, the man sang the lyrics of the song. Einstein explained that being tone-deaf is not an inherent defect, but only a symptom of poor methods of instruction. Just like arithmetic, any child confronted with division problems or complex fractions during his first math class is obviously bound to be terrible. Skills properly develop when learned step by step, in a process of unfolding.

Following this principle, Einstein would play songs one by one increasing in complexity.

  • After the Bing Crosby record, Einstein played John McCormack’s “The Trumpeter”;
  • Afterwards, a difficult musical fragment from Caruso’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

In all instances, the guy would sing or hum the songs he just heard with surprising precision.

When both of them went down to listen to some Bach once again, the young man, to his surprise, was able to hear the music. Thanks to Albert Einstein, he was now able to appreciate Bach for the first time in his life.

The young man, who turned out to be the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Jerome Weidman, would be forever grateful to this science genius who taught him, that nothing is impossible to learn.

Action Summary:

  • If you find something hard to do, break it down. Simplify it.
  • Every thing is learn able. As long as you build a strong foundation to learn from, and learn in a step by step manner.