Thursday, June 01, 2006

Aspirations – How dreams take shape

I had the opportunity of reading Abraham Maslow’s theory of hierarchy (again after 8 years of college). It is very interesting, more interesting than it was during college. I tried applying the theory to my life till date, on my progression.

From the dreams of a little boy to the practical family man to the aged head of a family trying to shepherd things, it is one full circle.

I found 6 distinct sections in anyone’s life in a pyramid structure. When I tried placing myself in the pyramid, I find I am in the fifth step. Let us see what these 6 steps are.

Not that I have discovered something new, but it seems interesting and may be we could use it on brands we are working on. Try map out where where the brand is placed on the pyramid and tackle its needs and wants as the pyramid would dictate us.

This seems interesting, the only problem - this is a fairly long post. If you do manage to take some timeout and read this, let me know your feedback, it would be invaluable and I would be grateful.

1) The age of Innocence

This is the time in life when everything around you impresses you, from the street side bougainvillea tree to the wiper blade of your uncle's car . Often you feel like floating on air and you wouldn't be worried about anything in life.

There is absolutely nothing called a cause – effect theory now. You are happy enjoying the all little pleasures in life.

I want to become a train driver!

That was my first aspiration in life. I was all of 3 when I decided I would become one. I was fascinated by the way they stood in the first compartment of a train, the engine. Their blue color bandana and uniform. They operate the horn of the train, I had heard. I wanted to drive my train all around India, meet and carry different kinds of people in my train. And more than anything operate the whistle whenever I felt like.

I want to become a doctor!

When I was 5 I had my first memorable fall. I had to have 4 sutures near my left eye. It was awfully painful. It was a Monday afternoon, I had come home for lunch from my school and I had this fall. My mother couldn’t control her emotions, she was inconsolable, weeping. My father was away at work. So it was my grandfather who took me to the doctor. But I was a brave boy, I didn’t cry, I didn’t growl. But when the doctor was working on my injury I couldn’t tolerate the pain. The pain turned into anger. The person who bore my brunt was my grandfather. I swore I would become a doctor and prick my grandfather with an injection, like how the doctor was doing to me then.

My grandfather took that seriously and began motivating me to become a doctor. My father gifted me a doctors play set. My grandfather had a vision for me – serve the needy and poor. I felt like I had already become a doctor.

I want to be a policeman…

Two years of dreaming doctor came to an end when the people in my colony caught a thief. He was bound to an electric post and was given a severe dressing down by the locals before the police arrived. This policeman incidentally was my father’s student at college. I loved his khaki uniform, starched to perfection. The elegant whistle chord. The stars on his shoulders. The pistol that hung from his belt. And more than anything the bike he rode – A Royal Enfield Bullet, Standard 350. I tried walking like him. I had a haircut like him and I did everything to make sure I looked like him. I wanted to become a policeman.

2) The age of Ignorance

This is an age where your life is driven by what others do. Most of the time is spent being a copy cat. You want to be everything what the boy / girl next door wants to become and is doing. From wanting to join swimming classes to pestering your father to take you to the same restaurant where your classmate went last week.

Most of the time is spent taking all “Word of mouth” at face value.

The engineer in me

I was in my 10th class when I decided I would become an engineer. What engineer god knows, but I wanted to join an engineering college and become an engineer. This was mainly due to peer pressure. It was a custom those days when half the class said they want to become doctors and the other half engineers. I tried asking myself “why do I want to become an engineer?”. The answer was simple Rama wants to become a doctor, Abdul wants to become a doctor, Rajkumar wants to become an engineer and therefore I would want to become an engineer.

3) The age of Adventure

The physiological developments start to take shape. The first love, smoke, drink and all the other little vices get started now. One becomes more careless and even a little arrogant. The mind wavers around, you want to be a hero and you want to do every possible thing to be known a hero. Street fights, fling with many women (read classmates), trying to watch x rated movies when your parents are not at home are common symptoms.

The motto being “I am fearless, I can face anything”.

“The world at my foot” attitude is prevalent.

How about becoming a musician?

Within one year of my engineer dreams I was fed up or maybe I understood the world better. I had realized I wouldn’t become an engineer, given my low marks in my 10th class. And the pressure of the 12th class made me resolute that I wouldn’t become an engineer. I was learning music for the last 5-6 years. I was from a musical family – my mother being a good singer and a Veena player, my father was a music critic writing for major newspapers (that was his hobby) and my sister, also an accomplished singer and she could also play the Veena. I was a bits and pieces musician. I would suddenly be a regular to vocal music classes. The next month I would want to learn playing the violin and then the flute. I would also experiment with the Veena we had at home, when nobody was there.

But some respectable people in the music circles acknowledged my musical abilities. But they also thought I was a crank to learn Carnatic music and also be part of a pop band. It was sacrilege for the puritans. I wanted to be a professional musician. Earn through music. I was serious about this and even grew my hair to look like a modern day musician. Then, it took me exactly 365 days to know the value of money. I was about to finish my schooling. I had to go to college, finish it and start earning for myself and my family. I suddenly felt like a very responsible man, how long would my father feed me. I must feed him someday, he is getting old.

The charted accountant

I had already joined my Bsc in Physics, when this option came to my notice. Those days we had an entrance exam post 12th class. Clearing this exam one could directly take the CA – Inter. Peer pressure again, I decided to take this exam. I had seen a couple of my seniors fail this exam twice or more times. So I wanted to clear this in my first attempt. This was an ego issue for me. I eventually passed the entrance test in my first attempt. I was among the 5 or 10 people who did pass. While everyone decided to take things seriously and take the inter in the next term, I had other ideas. So my dream of becoming a CA came to an end.

I want to play for India!

I was a decent cricket player and still think am one. So during my first year college there came the question – cricket practice or CA classes. I decided on the former. I was serious in my resolve of making it big in cricket. I wanted to represent my university and then the state and eventually the country.

I wouldn’t even represent my college in the first year, same old politics. In the second year I did represent my college but missed out on the zonal squad. The third year, everyone said I would definitely get an university color, but unfortunately I was down with chicken pox. My dreams were shattered. I was already in my third year of college. So I decided I would forget serious cricket and look at my future. Now I wanted to become a software professional. That is where the money was and still is.

4) The age of Realization

One starts understanding life, trying to find his / her foot on something. Money and future become a matter of concern. You try imagining yourself in your seniors / elders shoes.

“My cousin joined Infosys and went to Boston and even I should”.

Will I? Or will I not? Becomes the buzzword.

A soft dream

My dreams of becoming a software professional were shattered within the first 8 months of joining my Msc. I felt like I had gone back to the kindergarten, I had a bunch of nerds around me. I couldn’t stand them and the Msc in computer science. But time rolled fast, I swore that I would definitely not take-up a software job come what may.

Advertsing, management, show business

I had a family friend who was working for a place called BBDO. He said it was an advertising agency. And he was in client servicing. He was a serious advertising guy and he told me about who an Account Executive is and what he does. I was impressed and I wanted to join advertising.

The qualification this guy suggested me was a management degree. So I joined my MBA. I also started reading about advertising – “Ogilvy on advertising” was one of the first books I tried. I finished my MBA training with BBDO and Y&R.

But unfortunately for me advertising in India was faced with an year of recession. I was offered a job with BBDO, but in media planning. I refused because I was resolute to join client servicing and no other department. I could only land a job with a small advertising agency. But I was fixated on advertising and that too client servicing.

Cinema production and direction

The small agency I joined also had strong connections with the film industry. They were also producing a serial for a regional television channel. I was put in charge of this division. My interest in films and television swelled as I started learning about this medium. I was doing well for myself. At one point, I was in two minds to make this my career. At the same time, I also had an offer from JWT, so I consulted a good friend of mine who happens to be one of the goliath's of the Tamil film industry.

But for this person’s advice I would have decided on cinema and television as my career. He took me through some examples in the industry and explained me how the industry functioned. He didn’t ask me to wipe my mind clear of this field but advised me to earn experience and money taking up what seemed my first love – advertising. Advertising according to him was no different from cinema and television. It was all another facet of showbiz. So he asked me to learn more about the business and then comeback to films sometime. I took his advice and joined JWT.

5) Age of Consolidation

Here you have gotten into something you always wanted to. You have found a foothold and now you try and spread your wings. You want to be recognized by the people around you. Everything you do is dictated by this one thought.

Profit and loss accounts on everything you do becomes the order of the day.

My journey in advertising

It was in JWT I realized the importance of visibility and proaction. I had to use these qualities all around – within the agency and with the client. An year and a half later was when Y&R called me for handling a big consumer durable account. I felt happy because it was one of the most happening verticals at that point in time in India and there were more monies for me.

Two years there and I got smitten by the direct marketing bug. So in came OgilvyOne. After two fantastic years in OgilvyOne & Ogilvy Activation and setting-up my family I needed to consolidate further, so I moved to Dubai.

And now I am looking to find my feet on to Account Planning.

Maybe this would be the final step of consolidation I am looking at before I move to the next level on the pyramid.

6) Age of Retrospection

This according to me would be the last journey for anyone. This is after one earns enough of monies and respect, after he is seen as a champion of sorts by the world (or whenever he realizes he is seen a champion). This would differ from person to person depending on what his needs and wants are and also based on his movement across the other segments of the pyramid.

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