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Do Something Selfish. Help Someone!

Guess what? My world is a much better place now. Maybe that’s how we were always meant to live. To help each other

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami


I have always admired folks from the armed forces. I do believe there’s a lot we can learn from them. As India celebrates 70 years of independence, here’s something I have learnt from a friend — a retired brigadier. He’s changed the way I think. And the way I behave. But first, the flashback.

Like many others who fought their own battles, and slogged and earned every bit of  whatever little we have, I tended to have a very poor opinion of people who sought favours. Or asked for help. I didn’t ask for favours. Nor did I grant them. If someone requested me to speak to a friend to help with a job or a free ticket or school admissions — I would be extremely reluctant to do that. Asking for help, wasn’t easy for me.

And then, I met the Brigadier. Brigadier Tolani.

Two things struck me about him. One, he would easily ask for help. And two, he would do all he could to get things done for others. To help others.

So he would just call and ask if I knew someone in that large MNC. Why? Because they were sponsoring a golf tournament, and he wanted an invite. Or more likely because a friend of his wanted a summer internship for his daughter — and he wanted to help. So he’d want me to call a friend and ask for a favour –— for a friend, or worse, for a friend’s friend. I’d struggle with that!

But of course, I knew that if anyone wanted help, the Brigadier was the man to turn to. Wanted your car serviced quickly? He’d call a friend and request for VIP service when you turned your car in. Wanted help with getting papers signed by a notary in a distant city? He’d call his contacts, find someone who could help, and then move heaven and earth to make sure your job got done. An incredibly helpful man he was, the Brigadier.

And then one day I asked him how he could so easily ask for help. He smiled, with a look that seemed to say, “Yeah, and I know how you struggle with that!” And then his answer made me think. He said, for the better part of his life he fought for the country, for people he didn’t really know. His life was all about helping others.

“Even today,” said the Brigadier, “I would happily do all I can to help someone else. And since I would do that myself, I expect other people would do the same for me too. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t help me. So I ask! If you ask, you usually get. And if someone asks me — I do all I can to make sure they get what they are looking for.”

Must confess, that conversation changed me. Today, if someone asks me for a favour, I try and help. Really, I try my damned best. And now that I do that, I find it just a bit easier to ask for help too.

Guess what? My world is a much better place now. Maybe that’s how we were always meant to live. To help each other. So thank you for the lesson, Brigadier.

This independence day, maybe you should make a beginning too. Do something really selfish. Help someone!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Prakash Iyer

Iyer is an author, speaker and leadership coach , and former MD of Kimberly Clark Lever

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