Monday, April 13, 2015

Exploring Mid Career Crisis with Partha Sarathi Basu

Partha Sarathi Basu, author of "Mid-Career Crisis: Why some sail through and others don't” explains the mid-career crisis in everyone’s life. He is Finance Director – India & South Asia for AkzoNobel, is a member of the Board of Directors of AkzoNobel India & AkzoNobel Paints Lanka Ltd.

In his book, he explores years of leadership experience in the corporate world, and offers life stories and professional insights. If you are just starting your career, this book will help you avoid common mistakes and prepare you for your mid-career crisis-because face one you will. And if you are already in one, it will show you the way out before it's too late.

In an exclusive chat with Storkes of Pen, he discusses all that went into penning “Mid-Career Crisis: Why some sail through and others don't.”

1. Was writing your passion since childhood? Or how did you ventured into writing?

Partha: Like most youngsters, I too wrote short stories and poems. But the habit died once the education became demanding and the life became hectic in the corporate world.

In my training sessions, I use stories drawn from real life. One day, just after I finished an internal training, one of the participants said, ‘Partha, you must capture these stories in a book. Or else, with you all stories will be gone one day’. That set me thinking….why not?  Later, in June ’06, I was on a long flight, and the thought stuck me. I took out my laptop and captured few incidences. That was the start of my journey to become an author.

2. How did you think of bringing Mid-Career Crisis? What has been your inspiration behind it?

Partha: Last many years, I have been closely studying people, listening to their stories to understand why some powers ahead in their career while for the rest the progress slows down during their Mid- Career. I wondered why do only a few people reach the top while others fall behind after a good progression in the first few years of their careers?  Superior knowledge, sharper skills, better education or just sheer luck?
How do people answer the questions that start bothering them mostly in their mid-career : Should we stay put and grow, or quit and move to a better-paying, bigger profile? Should we continue drawing salaries or build our dream start-ups? Through such introspection's, over time, I realized the meaning of Mid-career Crisis.
And as I was unable to find a right book to help me during my MCC to answer these questions, I wrote one for others.

3. Tell us the story/idea behind the title of the book.

Partha: The book is to find an answer, to many questions, that bothers us during our MCC.  I wanted to keep the title simple, to the point so that people can identify the subject. I realised over time that readers look for something they can identify with, and hence the title is absolutely what the book is about. Mr. Krishan Chopra, Publisher and Chief Editor Harper Collins, allowed me to keep the title the way I wanted and then Harper Collins did a fantastic job with the cover design, which portrays through the blue boat and the zigzag arrow what we wanted to communicate.

4. How long did it take you to bring up this book?

Partha: The study for this book started long back, if I remember right, it was in 2002, and I started jotting down points, introspecting stories. I actually started writing in 2012, after long ten years, and it took me about 1 year to complete the book.

5. How did you boiled down to 34 and additional 10 stories? I mean, there would have been some interesting other stories too.

Partha: I also remember the evening in May 2012, in a Mumbai hotel, when I first drew the frame work of this book. I started working on the topics at 7.30 pm that evening only to realize that it was 4 am as I finished jotting down 53 topics to write on.  Next morning, as I returned to Delhi, I enthusiastically showed Sayanti, my wife, my ‘list’ and she replied “that's a lot, that's real MCC, you need to remove duplications and classify better.”

I honestly did not appreciate her comments after a sleepless night, but today I thank her for telling me the truth and for being with me supporting my entire journey to complete the book. This is not a regular management book, this book takes a break from the normal monologue, and deals with the issues through 34 near real life corporate stories which professionals can relate to thinking “I think I know this person” or “this is what has happened to me  “ etc. At the end, we all remember stories, and can learn through them, not from management lessons.

And at the end, I included 10 write up from CEOs so that people can relate to the issues I spoke in the book through those CEO life stories. So yes, there were many more stories at the initial stage, but I finally chose what I thought to be best suited to describe MCC, without duplicating them.

6. The book is a solution to all those who are stuck with Mid Career crisis or Midlife crisis. Did you ever face something similar in your career life?

Partha: The book is not a solution to MCC, it just makes you aware to the issues we all face.
Let me refer back to a time, when I was the General Manager – Commercial of Coca-Cola India. I had been in the corporate world for about thirteen years and had spent time in three companies, performing multiple functions in different industries. In my mind, I was all set to leap ahead in my career.

When I compared myself to my friends and colleagues, I could safely state that while I might not be ahead of all my contemporaries, no one could tell me I was a laggard. In terms of my personal life, I had nothing to complain about. But still I was unhappy. I was confused. My life was nothing but chaotic and I was convinced that I was in a big mess.

I spent many hours introspecting and spoke to my friends, seniors, peers and also my juniors. Against my firm beliefs, I visited an astrologer, hoping that he could tell me about my future. I wanted to convey how unhappy I was with my career. In the end, almost everyone sang the same tune and reassured me that ‘all will be well’. Though their words provided me temporary solace, in reality, nothing changed. I continued to feel miserable. It got worse with every passing day. But where was the problem? What else was I looking for? Frankly, I did not have an answer.

However, I was determined not to leave my suffering unattended. During our conversations, my seniors, peers and juniors told me interesting events and stories. I realized that I was
not alone and almost everyone went through this phase. But while some people came out and kept growing, others failed to sail through. These stories gave me many insights into how winners conducted themselves at this stage of their careers. These stories shattered many myths that I used to believe in. Identifying those myths and understanding their effects helped me overcome my MCC.

7. According to you, what makes a person suffer the mid career crisis feeling?  Is it a common thing nowadays?

Partha: Mid-career Crisis … is about a phase in our career that most of the professionals go through. It is a time in our career where some would have had a reasonable career progression, some would be still struggling to make a mark in the corporate world, and some would be in between. This point of inflection and a stage of transition wherein we know what should be next, but quite often not clear how we reach there, what should be our next step. And, hence like any stage of transition, there is discussion in the mind about how to navigate to the next stage and so on.

We thus enter into a state of mind when we are often confused(C ), start believing in many myths which leads to many changes (C)  in our behaviour, leading us to a less effective way of delivery. The effect of which many a times is that we start sliding down hill that leads us to a sense of misery(M), and self-pity.

It’s an ailment that the professionals walk into, knowingly or unknowingly and needs to be detected early, addressed with due care. The way to tackle MCC is purely in our hands but the problem is most of us, do not even recognize that we are into MCC.

 8. How has been the audience response so far regarding the book?

Partha: The book seems like is accepted by readers, Business Today , in 3 consecutive issues mentioned this in their best seller list, major media houses have reviewed this book. Many will be publishing soon. So in one word, thank you.

9. What are your future plans?

Partha: Many ask me are you planning to quit your job to become a full time write…my answer is No.I love my job, I love the corporate world. I have a lot more to contribute and a lot more achieve. Hence I have no plan to leave the corporate world in the next few years. It helps since a corporate has people of all ages/ all levels and interaction with them helps me to shape up characters. Plus quite often I bounce ideas with some of my colleagues. It helps me to cross check my thinking.
I do not believe that the person who is into a regular corporate world has lost his touch with creation. The only difference is that an author takes the pain to put them together and share. It is the passion within them that makes them create new stories.  

I have just published my forth book. You will find many more coming out of my desk as I will continue to write. That’s my passion and my way to give back to the society. I am ready to put in that extra effort to support a cause.

10. Anything that you would like our reader’s to know.

If you read the book, please share your comments in the FB page, and the blog we have created especially to hear stories relating to MCC, I will be happy to learn from your experience.


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