December 3, 2019

Learning from your enemies

Amit Trivedi
Owner, Karmayog Knowledge Academy

Learning from your enemies

After the war between Ram and Ravan was over, Lord Ram asked his younger brother Lakshman to go and seek the blessings of the demon king Ravan. Bhagwan Ram was in awe of the knowledge and wisdom of Ravan, in spite of his “adharmic” act of kidnapping Devi Seeta.

Since his elder brother asked him, Lakshman did not argue and went to where Ravan was lying on the battle field, and stood near his head. Ravan did not utter a word, and Lakshman returned. He went and told his brother what happened. Lord Ram smiled and said, “If you want to learn from someone, you do not stand near his head, but you should stand at his feet.” Lakshman obeyed to his brother and went again. This time, he stood at the feet of Ravan, who shared some profound wisdom with Lakshman.

One of the lessons was “to never underestimate one’s enemy”.

This was one of the biggest difference between Ram and Ravan – the humility. While Ravan underestimated the strength of his enemy (we won’t get into the details of this), Ram understood how wise Ravan was and asked Lakshman to go and seek his blessings. Once again, humility won against arrogance. The same thing happens in business, and in investing.

In the world of behavioral finance, “overconfidence” is considered to be one of the major problems for the investors. Overconfident investors drop their guard, and hence are easy preys when risk strikes. On the other hand, humility ensures that we do not take any risk, any situation or any competitor lightly.

While it is critical to pay attention to the risks in investing, your competitors also deserve due respect. It is often that we tend to take the small competitors lightly, and it is often that we tend to take a newbie lightly. At the same time, one cannot afford to ignore the larger players, even when one seems to be slipping, or sleeping.

As Ram sent Lakshman to learn from the enemy, it pays in business to learn from your competitors. Incidentally, in most cases, the competitor may have some perspective to offer that you may not have seen at all. If the competitor is a newbie, one may have a different point of view, whereas if the competitor is senior to you, one may have a better experience. The experienced player might have made some of the mistakes that you have yet not made.

The qualities required in an advisor

First of all, one needs to have an open mind about the possibility that there could be a different approach that also works, and at the same time there may be a better approach, too.

Second, one needs the humility to go to anyone to learn – even if it means going to one’s competitor, and even if it means going to a newbie to learn something. Lakshman had to stand at the feet of Ravan, after all.

Third, the ability to listen without being judgmental is essential in order to learn. Many times, we start to judge the person or what one is saying. These filters prevent from new insights to enter our thinking. In such a case, one may get stuck with the old ways of working. Once one has intently listened to what the other has to say, the evaluation must start thereafter. The new information and insight must be evaluated keeping one’s own objectives in mind.

These qualities would help one learn, and grow.

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