While Sridevi took her English lessons in English Vinglish, the movie taught us several lessons about life and business. Here's a short round up of 7 inspiring ones.
English Vinglish, the much anticipated comeback film of Sridevi has been received very well at the Box Office and got great reviews from critics as well. It an inspiring tale of a woman, Shashi (Sridevi), who sells laddoos from home, and decides to learn English to earn respect of people around her, and win our hearts, too. Just as Shashi takes English lessons in the movie, I think, there are some great lessons from the movie, which we can use in our daily life and business.
1. Finish what you have started
When Shashi was having doubts and second thoughts about the utility and significance of her English classes, her niece Radha encouraged her to stay on course and not give up on what she has started. In life, when we take up some task, challenge or responsibility, we will always face some conflicting choices. It would seem, some of the choices are actually not in our greater interest and / or have negative impact on people and things which matter. However, it’s important for us to finish, what we have started and set out for, once the decision to move ahead has been well thought through. Entrepreneurs face this challenge every day and it’s not uncommon to have nagging doubts and questions, about the decision to embark on a very difficult journey. It’s important to be resolute in the face of adversity and as the ‘Don’t Quit' Poem says
“So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit. It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.”
2. Fortune smiles on those who embrace its offerings
Towards the end, at the wedding, Kevin’s (groom) father tells the newly married bride and the groom that fortune smiles on those who embrace its offerings. And it’s such a beautiful and important lesson to learn in life. Every day is not equal in terms of opportunities. But, each opportunity is pregnant with many possibilities depending on how we look at it. We face ups and downs, challenges and obstacles as we go about with our daily lives. In life and business, things don’t always go according to our plans. We can live through the difficult phase, if we stop considering it as a hurdle and refuse to be bogged down by temporary setbacks or delays. There are learnings from each experience in our life, however small it is. And, if we smile at all the troubles, they will seem less burdensome and soon disappear. So, we are ready to face the new day with renewed enthusiasm and vigour.
3. Self assessment is important: look inwards and introspect
Shashi didn’t get due respect from her family, especially her husband and daughter who were embarrassed in her presence, as she was not good in English and it often verged on humiliation. She could have easily walloped in self pity and sulked and blamed others for her predicament. But, she knew better and decided to learn English and redeem herself. At life and work, when we don’t get what we feel we rightfully deserve, we often blame it on circumstances and others. But, more often than not, the answer lies within us. It’s the right time to look into the mirror and ask ourselves, if we need to reassess our skills and learn something new which can get us that elusive promotion or transfer to a new division or even respect from our colleagues at work or family. For entrepreneurs, it’s imperative to identify weaknesses and take corrective action or work on a plan to acquire resources which bring in the necessary change.
4. Stay close to customers
Shashi may have been lacking in spoken English, but she had the right entrepreneurial DNA. In the early part of the movie, when Shashi calls her husband for the car to deliver her laddoo consignments, he tells her, she could give this job to the delivery boy. But, Shashi knows the importance of a personal connect between entrepreneurs and the customers. She is also seen sampling the product with her clients and confirming future orders during the delivery rounds. Especially, when the business is small, it’s important for the owner of the business to have a direct relationship with customers to build an emotional connect. In the initial stages, when there are not many customers and the entrepreneur is generally the face of the business, it’s more often than not, this bond which converts into repeat orders and referrals leading to growth of the business.
5. Respect is greater than love
Shashi decided to join English classes to win the respect of her daughter and husband, who often ignored and ridiculed her for lack of proficiency in English. When her niece asked her, if she was ever tempted by the attention she got from the handsome French guy in her class, she is quick to respond that she was looking for respect and not love. Shashi is shown demonstrating this quality in small ways, like acknowledging the security guard at the Metro station or not indulging in making fun of David regarding his sexual preferences. It’s not possible to love everyone you know or come across. Also, love is often a selfish feeling, when we want to feel good, by that ‘feeling’ of being in love with someone. But, respect is more unconditional and it’s more selfless in nature. It’s possible to give people the respect they deserve for their presence in your life. To get the best out of relationships in life and business, it’s important to give respect to people. This includes family members, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, subordinates, business partners, and clients and so on. Also, unlike love, respect is more easily obtained in return, when you give it yourself.
6. Stay focused on the goal and get your priorities right
Shashi was a determined woman who carried her wits along with her. While replying to her husband, that important matters are only discussed in English, or telling her daughter, that she may not know what PTA stands for, but, she knows what the word, ‘Parent’ means. So, from attending PTA at her daughter’s school in absence of her husband to managing the household and running a small business, Shashi handled all her responsibilities quite well and knew when to rise to the occasion and also effortlessly switch roles. She was a woman on a mission, when she joined the English classes, and continued with her learnings at home by watching English movies on DVD with subtitles. When it came to prioritization, she clearly chose English over fun, i.e. extended sightseeing with family and spending time with her sister, when she feigned tiredness or illness to not bunk classes. Entrepreneurs often have to choose between multiple opportunities or paths or product options. It’s important to stay focused on the goal and not get carried away by fleeting opportunities or fads.
7. If you fall, get up and start again
I know, this sounds similar to lesson no. 1 above. But, I think, there is a difference and it’s worth re-emphasizing it. On the day of the wedding, when her son’s pranks lead to a minor accident and all the laddoos, which Shashi had prepared for the wedding, fell on the floor, Shashi takes a moment to decide that she is going to make the laddoos again. Someone suggested that they could get it from the market, but she knew that everyone was looking forward to her laddoos, especially her niece and sister; moreover, she had committed to prepare them for the wedding. Shashi didn’t give up and nor did she take the easy way out. Without complaining or making a fuss, she started making the laddoos again. In life, we are often handed the wrong throw of dice, and it seems a lot of our efforts go waste at times, due to circumstances beyond our control. Think of the people who rebuild life after natural disasters like an earthquake or flood or tsunami. No one probably knows this situation better than an entrepreneur. The product is not bug-free or the competitor beats you to the market, or simply there is some system crash or even ‘Act of God’ which wipes out days, months or even years of efforts. It’s never a good idea to give up. As Sanjeev Bikchandani, founder of Naukri.com had said, ‘There is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur. You are a failed entrepreneur only when you quit.’
So, these are a few of the things I learnt from my English Vinglish outing. What about you?
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