Episode 5: The Mindful Entrepreneur: Dr. JM Sampath

About Dr. Sampath

Dr. JM Sampath is a Management Thinker, Author of several books and a Mindful Entrepreneur.  A quintessential learner, Dr. Sampath is an ardent practitioner of enabling learning and transformation through stories and parables. Over the last 24 years, he has successfully leveraged the power of stories and parables in coaching global leaders and in helping individuals and organizations achieve growth, excellence, and innovation. His book How Full Is Your Cup (a collection of 64 parables) figured on the bestseller list in Malaysia for 16 weeks in a row. Discovery (a collection of 100 powerful stories), his self-development tool-cum-book, has enhanced the learning ability of thousands of users worldwide. His personal collection of over 7,000 stories spans all faiths and cultures across the globe.                                                                                                                                                                       




Nitesh Batra:   Hello and welcome to a new episode of the Mindful Initiative podcast. We are very privileged to have amongst us today, Mr JM Sampath. Mr. Sampath has over 30 plus years of work experience in the industry. I have personally known him for about a year and it’s been a privilege to know him. He is mindful, not just in the way he carries himself, but the work he does, the companies that he has created. He calls himself a mindful serial entrepreneur, but I don’t think he needs to call himself that. I think he’s just a person who is very caring about anything and everything he does. Welcome to the podcast, Mr. Sampath.

Dr. Sampath: Thank you.

Nitesh Batra: To start with, I would like our listeners to know a little bit about your background, where you have come from, what you have done, your education, maybe your family.

Dr. Sampath: Well, it started with a very humble background. I think life always, prepares you for what it wants you to do. So by the time we came to college, though we were born with a golden spoon, we had literally nothing to fall back on. So that gives you a lot of courage to deal with anything in life. And I finished my Master’s from Madras School, got into a large public sector as an HR Management Trainee. Not for too long. I suddenly realized that I was in conflict with the environment and in particular with my boss, but I was already introduced to meditation, process labs, trying to get deeper into knowing who I am and what I am. I was looking around; I saw many people who could get along with my boss and some of us had some trouble with him and I said, look, if he’s the trouble, everybody should have a trouble with him.

Dr: Sampath:Very fact that some have, and some don’t have means I also have a share in this conflict with him; trying to figure out what is my share. And after a lot of reflection, introspection, thinking, meditation, the answer I got was my values didn’t match with his values. So I said, if values are at the source of human conflict, what’s the work that’s being done in that space? I was hardly 27 then. Soon I realized the culture was so strong that it would engulf me. That’s when I decided to leave the public sector and go to a private sector only to realize that I jumped from frying pan to fire. Where I was, I saw my company literally looting sugarcane from farmers and I challenged it and I decided, enough of corporate. Let me go out and do something about it. This was way back in ’88. Since then, I’ve been focusing all my energy on understanding values and helping people gain clarity on values and see how that can help them to make more qualitative decisions.

Dr. Sampath: I also got elected as Ashoka fellow in the year ’90, which gave me a lot of space and time to think about values at a very, very serious level. I always say that if somebody takes two years to think about a subject, at the end of the two years, they’ll come out with something about it. So did I. Over the years, we have worked with several groups, several countries, several cultures. I ended up finishing my Ph.D. Did start a few companies. I always believed that what you talk, you should be able to apply in your real life context. Otherwise it becomes purely theoretical. You can’t be teaching entrepreneurship without having started a company. So I always believed that if I’m talking about values and can I show companies that run successfully with values. There’s one company in which I am very deeply involved in and I’m one of the core founders of that company.

Dr. Sampath: It’s in Ayurveda called Punarnava. We are very close to Coimbatore and we have adopted 15 villages around it. We take care of their health, the children’s education. We believe that if you can’t have an inclusive community and if you’re not mindful of your environment, the environment will come to hit you back. So wherever it is, that’s the approach that one has taken. I also have written a few books. One of my first book was called Discovery where I used a lot of parables and did some work and I’m glad to share that as I’m talking to you, it’s been translated into French and it’s being used as a book cum tool that will build reflection in young people in Brussels. The book is likely to be out in November. So therefore, life has been a lot of fun. A lot of understanding. I should have led by now a 1,000+ workshops and I feel each workshop is a learning opportunity. I’m married to Kalpana, I have two kids and I think it’s become a way of life for us. We don’t know the difference between work and home or home and work. For us it’s a way of being. That’s where we come from.

Nitesh Batra: I think that’s fantastic and there’s just so many things that you have shared and you’ve talked about a lot of things that I really wanted to talk about. So, I think e to start with, one of the most important things I feel is that there is no separation between work and home. Work and personal life. And over the last 15-20 years we have heard this, you know. We need to keep our professional life separate, personal life separate, and I understand it is very difficult for people to do that because one leads to the other and vice versa. So I’m glad you’re doing that, but coming back to the early years of your life and your career. Nowadays, it’s easier for people to leave their job because they are unhappy with the work culture, they are unhappy with their bosses or their peers, but back in the days you had a very stable job in a PSU and you decided to quit and what led you to do that and you know, how did you get the courage and what is the recommendation you have for the others in the current generation? If they are unhappy with the work that they’re doing, what should they do?

Dr. Sampath: One of my teachers by name Prof. Nair, who also later became my mentor when I was leaving my college said, “Always have a white paper in your pocket. If you are asked to do something you don’t believe in, that’s your last weapon that you will use”. I never thought I will have to use that, but in the last company that I worked, when I realized what my company was doing; that night, I couldn’t sleep. I was rolling in my bed and I said, nothing is worth losing one’s sleep. For me, if you believe in what you believe very strongly and you are passionate about it and you’re willing to give everything you have for it, you don’t have to worry about anything else. Things will fall in place. You will have to have that unconditional trust. The world around you will tell all kinds of things. It’s sometimes they are genuinely concerned about you and your future. So they would tell you, having a job is important.

Dr. Sampath: All kinds of things. They are telling all of concern. But deep within, you’ll have to ask yourself, do you really believe in what you’re setting out to do? In fact, I had even more a challenging situation where when I quit my job, there was a consulting company which was willing to give me the same salary, same kind of things for half my time. They said just work with us for two weeks and rest of the time you do what you want. It was very, very tempting to take that offer. I took almost a month to take the final call and finally went in, told them I wouldn’t join them. The rationale I had in my mind was, you can’t learn swimming with a float. You’ll have to let go of everything and then you will know whether you will swim or sink. You should have that courage and you should believe in what you want to do more than what you care for anything else around yourself. And I think I did have that courage and conviction at that time.

Nitesh Batra: And there is a fine line in being courageous and being arrogant, right? And, nowadays I see more and more people who are in their 20’s, I see sort of arrogance in their attitude rather than just the courage part. How would you put that in words in a way so that people don’t become arrogant about what they do, but you know, have the right courage and the will to do what they’re doing?

Dr. Sampath: It’s a very good observation and I do agree with you. What you seem to be seeing these days. Courage is born out of the faith you have in what you believe in. But the fact of life is none of us know everything about anything. And life is too large and any subject is too deep and wide for any of us to get a complete hold on it. And if you can’t stay humble, if you can’t stay open, and if you can’t respect the world around you, your knowledge will become very limiting. You can’t go beyond a point and then you will suddenly realize, “where did I land up?”. What did I start with? Where did I stop? In my case, I think people ask me, are you not bored? You have led thousand workshops. I said the day I’m bored, I’ll stop. Every workshop seems to be teaching me something. That’s because one is willing to stay humble. One is willing to say, I don’t know with ease. One is willing to say that there is so much that there is to be understood and learned from. So for me, having courage with humility will take you much longer in life than just having courage and courage with arrogance will not take you too long.

Nitesh Batra:  I think just adding humbleness to courage I think, says it all. And moving along, right after you left your private enterprise with the same issues that you were having with the public sector, but in a little bit different way, you decided to form Arpita before you became Ashoka fellow. Is that correct?

Dr. Sampath: They happened almost together in the year ’90 and Arpita was Arpan which means we wanted to dedicate ourselves to excelling and excellence. I truly believe that all of us have enormous amount of potential in our lives. Are we capable of realizing that enormous amount of capability? We all agree without a blink of an eye, that human potential is unlimited. I don’t know how many of us truly trust that ,that potential is truly unlimited. If you believe in that statement, then you have not even realized 1/100th of your capability. It’s important for you to start believing something and set the ball rolling and you’ll realize that there is so much that you can do. I was not a great a student during my school days. I didn’t perform very well and towards the later part I went to do my Ph.D and so on. But my parents were genuinely concerned what will we do with this kid who’s not doing very well in education while my siblings were doing very well. So, they even thought a career option for me would be to get me 20 buffaloes and I could raise them and sell milk and make my living. If I could, I think anybody else can. The secret is you’ll have to believe in yourself and you have to believe that you are an enormous amount of potential and you’ll have to be extremely mindful of that reality and that reality cannot be denied at any point of time.

Nitesh Batra: I think the other question that I have along with the same company and the Ashoka Fellowship that you had, is, that we were dealing with, the end of License Raj during that time – ’91, right? And the value systems were evolving and you were a pioneer of a sort during that time, in understanding what is required for companies to be successful. And we had companies who were investing in India and they were bringing in their value system. So there was a lot of flux. How did you go about making sure that what you deliver in these workshops for value systems is in line with what you want to do and also the companies become successful?

Dr. Sampath: It’s a very important point that you brought in. When I started talking about values which was ’88- ’89- you can imagine it’s almost 30 years ago.

Dr: Sampath: I was hardly 28 and people would tell me your age and my experience is the same. What are you coming in trying to tell me? The belief system predominantly at that time, socially was, with values you cannot succeed. By being good you can’t succeed. In fact, when I started leading value clarification workshops, some of my friends would come and say, because I came from the HR fraternity, yeah, I have a Supervisory Development Program. Would you do that program? And I would say, “Other than values, I won’t work on anything else.” And they would think why this guy is so crazy. Not that I had a lot of programs to do.

Dr. Sampath: What I realized is if you stay put and believe in what you believe, things will start coming. We had two international companies which were coming into India at that time. One was Dupont: Thapar-Dupont. I did get to work with them and I went to study their high performance work system. While I was doing that, Ford was coming into India and they got in touch with me. Somebody referred my name to them and they spoke to me. I did a lot of work with their emerging markets team for the next seven, eight years. And I still remember one comment, one of the persons at Dearborn Ford World Headquarters made when I had presented something that I did. He said, “you’re too ahead of time and what you’re talking will become relevant in the future and it takes a lot of, lot of thinking to understand what you’re saying”.

Dr. Sampath: I do believe what he said from where he was, right. Just take the first work that I did, Discovery, which is a tool cum a book which primarily is aimed at introducing basic human values to a person and to initiate a process of self- inquiry, which takes care of the need to learn to learn. It got published in ’88 and it’s now that it’s getting translated. It’s getting used in another country without me having to do anything. So I think sometimes you will be ahead of time. Sometimes you will be with the time. It really doesn’t matter. What you need to be doing is, you have to believe in what you are doing and go ahead and then world will fall in line with you. But to start with, the world will want you to fall in line with them. As long as you can stay strong and you don’t have that need to be a part of the mob and you have the courage to walk alone. Eventually you will see people following you. That’s something that I’ve experienced personally as a person and thereafter I’ve worked with several companies. I think people saw value in what we did and they also saw that values, vision, learning put together can help companies become more profitable in a right way.

Nitesh Batra: I think around the same time, Ashoka Fellowship was, part of what you were doing and one of the things that you did was along with Discovery, there were games that you were developing to help people understand their value systems. This is part of your workshop, or at least they were part of your workshops before. Can you talk about that gamification? Because gamification, has become a big thing nowadays and you have been doing this for 30 plus years, so you’re a pioneer of that as well in, in many sorts. So I would love to know your thought process at that time. Why did you go into that direction and, you know, how and why was it relevant then? And it is very different now as well.

Dr. Sampath: Well it’s a long story, but I’m going to see how, I can share it without losing any, critical point. I’m not a voracious reader, but even as a student in Madras School of Social Work, I was already introduced to meditation. I was doing process work, human process labs. I was attending them and was quite deeply engrossed in what is going on within me. Knowing me, my friends when I left Bangalore to Hyderabad where I was posted, they gave me a book called Song of the Bird which had nothing but parables and anecdotes. And that is one book that I have read so many times. I would keep it in my hostel room, open a page.

Dr. Sampath: It would not take more than 30 seconds to read and then try to reflect on what that parable was trying to tell me or what that anecdote was trying to tell me. And this was a standard ritual. Just before going for breakfast, I would open a page. Through the day I would be reflecting on it. During one of such routines, I suddenly realized that the characters are not out there in the book. They’ve been in my life at different points of time. So I went and started looking at other parables and I could relate to all the characters in all the parables and that’s when I started collecting parables from all kinds of origins, cultures and I could relate to everything that I read in any parable. Then I went and told my senior executives, I would like to do a small experiment using parables with you guys. Are you ready?

Dr. Sampath: They said, we’re too old for stories and parables. We’ll give you our children, and one of the senior executives was kind enough to organize a high tea in his house with his two teenage children and their friends. Four of them. I told them the story of hare and tortoise. And they said, “Oh uncle, we know the story” and I said, “I also know you know the story, but tell me in the recent past when were you the hare or when were you the tortoise”? One of them said, “in mathematics, I got 100 out of 100 in 2 tests. For the third test I was watching a video. I got 98. My friend got a 100 out of 100. Maybe I was the hare.” Another girl said, “Sanskrit was a tough subject for me. I decided to spend half an hour every day. At the end of the year I topped the class. Maybe I was the tortoise”. And it was an hour’s discussion and when I left them, one of the kids came, said, “Uncle, we never thought about this parable from this perspective”.

Dr. Sampath: That’s when I realized that maybe there is a role that I need to play and consciousness is asking me to do something about it. So as I walked from that person’s house to my room in the hostel, I put the design for the first game cum book that I created where I adopted the conventional Snake & Ladder chart, reduced it to 100 boxes. There are traits, qualities, attributes and values in each of these boxes that one needs to understand to know what it means to be a human. And I went and picked up 100 parables that conveyed these hundred themes that we have put in each of the boxes. So the chart was available in the past, parables have been very ancient. What was missing was the linkage of them and then the bridge that connects them. So what I did was I created three levels of playing this game.

Dr. Sampath: The level one is called the Level of Explicit Learning. Where in three obvious statements are made based on the parable and the value. One has to choose one statement which he or she thinks is the most appropriate. The second level is called the Level of Experiential Learning wherein you are asked to share your own real life experience. Actually, if you see our life is nothing but a series of stories. Everyday, from morning to night, there are only stories and some of us also get stories in our dreams. If we can understand stories and understand what is the essence of that story, it’ll add a lot of value to our life and the third level is called the Level of Experiential Learning. I mean level of introspective learning, wherein you ask the fundamental questions. All that you are expected to do at this level is to respond to these questions while the answers keep changing with one’s own inner growth. So to give you an illustration of the whole process, the first box and the play chart is “House of Learning” and the story that goes with it is “Eat your own fruit”.

Dr. Sampath: Some disciples once complained to the group, you always tell the stories but never reveal the meaning to us and the guru replied, “how’d you like it if someone offered you a fruit and chewed it before giving it to you?” None of us would like that. We have to reflect and we have to take the essence of anything that we come across. Now, the options at level one are “Learn to see the world from your own point of view”. You can’t see the world through others’ eyes. We always want someone to think for us. At the experiential level, share an incident where in your dependence on the world, share an incident wherein someone wants to see the world through you, share what it means to see the world through one’s own eyes. At the third level, how do I learn what motivates me to learn? What is the process of learning?

Dr. Sampath: Now when you go through these many questions and sharings, your understanding of learning goes through a clear shift from what you would have held before that whole process. Like this that are 100 parables to work on, several themes to pick up and work on. If you just want to understand team building or you want to understand creativity, there’s a separate chart which only focuses on those that will facilitate and restrict creativity. So that was the game that I developed then and I thought it was important to bring a game. Values was seen as a very heavy subject. People said values, then they will go to sleep or they thought values is not something that you discussed in public. So I said, if you bring a game format that will be something which will work. Today we are glad that we’ve been able to bring that and modify that for children in schools.

Dr. Sampath: We work with close to over 10,000 children at any given point of time and the number is only increasing. So for me, not just that game. After that, I’ve created several games, several processes which will, which will help us to truly, truly raise the level of consciousness in the society. I give you one idea that we have tested in – we will be at some point of time building it into a large scale intervention. I was, in a greeting shop and looking at all the cards. I said, why are we stuck with these cards? Same old cards, birthday, anniversary, get well. While the world is becoming so busy and people have no time for each other, how do you make people contextual? So I created a story card, a card which you can send for a given context. Example, you went and met a friend and your friend was dealing with the son in a way that it was not appropriate and the son was not liking it and you felt the intention of the father was good, but the way he was delivering that to his son was not good and he was being very imposing.

Dr. Sampath: You can come to our website and say storycard.com and go and say “imposing”. You will get a beautiful parable. The parable that goes with this context is: there’s a man who had a Doberman for a pet and somebody told him cod liver oil is good for dog’s health. So he went and bought a bottle full of cod liver oil and everyday evening when he comes home from the office, he would take a spoonful of oil and thrust it down the throat of the dog. The dog did not like this, but for the master, it tolerated it and it would go and hide under the sofa. The moment he comes and he would pull it out and still put the oil into its mouth. One day when he was trying to do that, the dog managed to escape and in the process, the oil in the spoon spilt on the floor. To his surprise, the dog lapped up the oil that fell on the floor and came to lick the spoon.

Dr. Sampath: That’s when he realized what the dog was resisting was not the oil but the way it was being given and there are so many ways to give the oil. If you can send this parable to your friend and say that, hey, your son is not resisting you. Maybe the way you’re dealing with them and there’s so many ways you can deal with your son. You love him. It can be a very, very pointed, timely intervention that you’ll do in your friend’s life. And today we need that timely intervention that we can do in each other’s life. That can bring about a lot more quality. And for me, this is also a way in which we will create a mindful culture, a mindful society.

Nitesh Batra: And for that, we need time to reflect. We need time for ourselves. I want to ask you, what is your daily routine like? How do you take care of yourself? Because that is one of the most important things.

Dr. Sampath: Well, it’s important. And, you need to have certain disciplines that you will continue to live with. At the age of 27, I made my own life vision, which is, “In this lifetime, I want to understand myself and out of that understanding, leave something behind for those who want to understand themselves”. Having said that, when you set a vision, everything that you do should be in line with your vision. In ‘83, in my second year of my Master’s, my teacher called me and said, “Go learn meditation”. Typically, I would have rebelled. And I said, “Why only me? Why not others”? That day, quietly, I went, I learned Transcendental Meditation. And I can tell you I’ve done it with 95 percent regularity.

Dr. Sampath: This morning I did my 20 minutes of meditation and I think moving forward I wouldn’t miss that for anything. Maybe 360 days in a year I would meditate. I also go and experiment other forms of meditation. I’ve done 2 Vipasanas, 10 days of noble silence and I’m looking forward to doing more of them. I do treks. I would walk. I would like to be with myself in my walks. When I’m taking my dog for a walk, I’m predominantly talking to myself, looking at what my mind is working on. So I think in today’s world it’s not that we don’t have time. We have to be very, very conscious of what we’re doing. We all are capable of doing multitasking. But somewhere, we don’t have the discipline. We start something. We don’t stick to it long enough. We want to see immediate results. We don’t want to wait for the results to show up, when they will show up. So therefore our commitment to anything doesn’t seem to be very high. But I can tell you in the 35 years that I’ve been meditating, that’s been one of my very, very important parts of growing up. And so, my routine definitely starts with the meditation. I do yoga, a few exercises to keep myself healthy. When time permits, I go and have an Ayurvedic Abhyangan. I do several things. I still feel I only work at 40% efficiency and there is so much more that one can do. It’s not how much energy you exert, it’s how you can be very, very mindful in creating and generating things with least effort.

Nitesh Batra: How productive can you be in that 40 percent! I wonder if you were doing 80-90 percent, I don’t know what will be happening. So I think with that 40 percent so much is happening. Well, coming back to right after Ashoka, you decided to go back to school and pursue your Ph.D. And this was after many, many years of being in the industry as an employee, as an entrepreneur or as a mindful entrepreneur. And after the fellowship.

Nitesh Batra: Was it the fellowship that prompted you to go study further or was there any other reason? And to our listeners, I want to let them know that, he pursued his Ph.D in Sociology. And worked on it for seven years. Is that correct?

Dr. Sampath: Yes, it’s very interesting why I did my Ph.D. My mentor and my teacher said, “Dr. Sampath will be louder than Sampath”. So I said, okay, so what do you want me to do? He said, “Go do your Ph.D”. And I just blindly followed it and I went and registered. One of my toughest thing was doing my literature survey, which I always believed that your original thought should not be colored by others’ thought. So I did have Kalpana’s support me in doing my survey of literature. But my study was on what goes into creating a cultural excellence.

Dr. Sampath: And I also wanted to check out. When you work, when you dedicate your life to do something, I wanted to know if that really brings about deep lasting change in people. So I did a three timeline study, where I did the intervention, I saw what changes people made. I went back to them after six months. I went back to them after 18 months and what I found was 0-6 months, the absorption was very high and 0-18 months there is a dip. But still, 0-18 there was significant shift. That’s what my study did. But in real life, I still have people coming back to me after 20 years of having attended my workshop, remembering everything that they have gone through during the workshop. I’ve had many interesting episodes. I would like to share two episodes with you.

Dr. Sampath: One was, one of the persons who attended my workshop, when he was in Dubai and I never was in touch with him and 18 years later, we accidentally met in Delhi, in his boss’s house for whom I was doing some work pro-bono. And, when I met him he was so excited and he was living in Boston and my daughter was going to Boston to join the Berkeley College of Music. So he said, no, you have to come and stay with me, I’ll take care of everything and all kinds of things. I thought, okay, out of enthusiasm. Finally, the day came, we were driving into Boston and I called him and I’m saying, hey, we’re coming into Boston. He said, you come to my place straight. I said, I have two more friends and we have already booked our hotel. He said, nothing doing, bring your friends also.

Dr. Sampath: And we went to his house. 10 minutes into being in his house, he brings the material that he got from me 20 years ago and he said everything is intact. And the discovery book that they had got as a part of the workshop, he said, we have been using it every other week or every other month. This has been a part of our life. Another person when I was doing a lot of work in Malaysia. And I thought that was a very, very, very big compliment for Discovery itself. He said after the workshop, after he played Discovery in the workshop, he got a copy of Discovery. He took it home and we had a review and we wanted to know what people were doing. This person said, I used to read Quran to my children and they were not very interested, so I’ve kept Quran aside and I played discovery.

Dr. Sampath: Both are saying the same thing. How does it matter? What is important is growing and that for a Muslim to tell is a big, big thing in the kind of world that we’re living in today. He respects his religion, he respects the essence of what his religion was and he was willing to teach that in any format and I thought that was a very, very big compliment for the work itself. So the Ph.D was just not a Ph.D. But it was also something which seems to be a reality. Over the years that I’ve seen, that any learning should bring realization into people not learning. When you learn from a program or an experience, it remains as knowledge. When you realize it becomes a source of change.

Nitesh Batra: It becomes a source of change. I think one of the most important things, and I think that’s how you’re providing your value when you provide the workshops through your books. And of course I’ve had the opportunity to read Discovery. I think it was last year, when I met you and I read the book. So, and, it was interesting for me to read it at that point of time because I was deciding what direction to go in my life as well. And you’ve had the opportunity to pen down a few more books and some with your wife as well, with Kalpana. What are some of the other things that our listeners can read? If you can talk a little bit more about your books, and little bit in the direction of mindfulness as well.

Dr. Sampath: I truly believe that there’s one school from which I will never graduate and that is the school of life. And from the age of 24, which is a year into my meditation, I started making notes out of life, which is whenever there is significant event that happened around me, which which impacted me, it had a way of boiling down to a note or a quote or a poem. The only discipline I needed to have is, when it shows up, I’ll have to make note of it. Otherwise I would lose it. So therefore I have kept those notes from the age of 24. And to give you an example of one note-one morning me and somebody very close to me, were going for a walk and we started talking about our parents. And, he said you can’t change your parents easily. Like every parent. I think each parent has certain nice things and certain not so nice things. Only thing is this person told three times in a span of five minutes and I very spontaneously asked him, “can you change your thought that you cannot change them?” But I was very disturbed by that very process.

Dr. Sampath: And whole day I was reflecting on it now and then now and then. And that night, just before going to bed, what showed up in my mind was this beautiful little note which I noted. I kept on telling, “He is rigid, he is rigid, he is rigid”, not knowing how rigid I was over his rigidity. So like this, I have taken several notes. When I turned 40, when we were looking at it, we said time to share the notes with the rest of the world. So I called it Inner Realities Notes on the School of Life. And, as I’m talking, I have written several other notes thereafter. And, I’m just looking at how share, create an e-book which will be full of at least 365 quotes that I have taken as lessons from life. Today, I send as morning quotes to my friends. Every morning I send a quote, which I write myself, based on my understanding of life.

Dr. Sampath: So that has been a book in all these books have done well. Over 20,000+ copies sold. The third book was, when I created Discovery, it was a tool cum a book. And I believe in parables quite strongly. And I think parables have a way of telling you what you need to know without threatening you, without hurting you, very, very subtly, the essence of the parable gets into your mind. So I said, well, everybody can’t take the tool and Discovery and read. So how do I make a common man look at these things? So I wrote a book called, “How Full is Your Cup?”, which has 64 parables that impacted me the most. Of over 6-7,000 parables I have as a collection.

Dr. Sampath: And each of those parables have a certain dimension of your life covered in it. What is very interesting about this book is there is not a single PR, not a single review done, but it was on the top selling in MPH Malaysia for almost six months. And even today, it’s a book that’s there and it’s selling well. So I think the time has come and we’re getting into a world which is becoming more conscious, more aware and is wanting to become more conscious and more aware and more mindful. The work that I’ve done, I believe will be useful in that space. And I truly, truly believe that the future is going to be very different, the future is going to be very demanding and the future is also going to give you a lot of, lot of space for you to do what you want. And I always keep telling people the one important skill that will be needed as you live today and walk into tomorrow is your ability to do 4 C’s before others can do. And what these 4 C’s stand for? Ability to Connect, Co-relate, Create and Capitalize. Google has made knowledge almost redundant. You having knowledge is no more a big power. But if your ability to connect, correlate, create and capitalize is enriched and you can do that much faster than others, you will be growing and you’ll make a difference to the world for sure. As an institution, as an individual, as a big organization.

Nitesh Batra: I think that’s beautiful and I think that’s something which is very, very important in today’s world and like you said, knowledge is something that is available and there is overload of knowledge and what is the right knowledge we are really not aware of. We just have the knowledge because it’s there and I think with knowing that that knowledge is there, what are the shifts that you have made in your life towards the changing workforce that has been happening in our country, in our industries? How have you evolved as an entrepreneur and what are some of the things that you are providing which are similar values but in a different way?

Dr. Sampath: In ‘98, I had an opportunity to meet the Head of Learning and Development at Ford –he was the Vice President. And I had an hour of his time and that year I know the budget for training and development at Ford was $80 Million. I could have very well gone and sold a part of my work and tried to get a small share out of it. But that’s not what I wanted. I knew that at that time Ford had 320,000 employees. So I said, if there’s a person who’s responsible for their learning and development, I need to understand what this person looks at as learning. And as we were conversing, finally I realized that Ford was still trying to tell people what to do and they were not letting people realize what they need to do. So out of that conversation when I came back, I said, today’s world, we need more wise people than knowledgeable people.

Dr. Sampath: And I created a journey from ignorance to wisdom. How do you really become wiser? How do you become more introspective, reflective? So today, knowledge is not going to be the power, but your wisdom. Which is, your ability to understand whatever you see, reflect on it, draw your own insights and create something out of it. That’s what is going to be very, very critical. And our ability to ask why, ability to inquire into things. I feel very sad. Our current education system and the education system that you and I went through only tested us on the accumulation of knowledge, how much we could remember things. It never tested on how much we understood knowledge. I mean in history, people asked you when was Taj Mahal built , how many people were involved and so on and so on. All were numbers and years and days that you had to remember. Nobody asked us what is the feeling behind such a great effort. Why did somebody do that? What would a relationship mean? Nobody asked us such questions. But I think the future education will have to look at those perspectives. If we want to make our generation, our current generation future ready, we’ll have to teach them understanding not teach them knowledge. That Google will give them.

Nitesh Batra: I think that’s more along the lines of understanding our emotions better and how do we express ourselves emotionally too. And moving on, I think the startup that you started in 2015 or 16, won the best startup by Ministry of Human Resource and Development. And so I would like you to talk a little bit about that and the product that it has. And how it relates to the evolving industries that we have in India.

Dr. Sampath: Again, a long story. Way back in ’90, I used to do an exercise called Value Auction in my programs and I used to have 15 values, give Rs. 15,000 to all of them and we would the auction the values and people will bid for them and we’ll have finally name of the value, amount bid for, name of the bidder and once we have completed the process, each one will tell why they were willing to give so much money. But one of the participants in my 35th workshop walked up to me and said he didn’t want to participate in my exercise. He said, I don’t believe in your exercise. I said, “why”? He said, I want all values. Your game will never be able to give me all. So I asked him very naively, “what do you want me to do”? He said, “that’s your problem, not mine”. And I remember, I was 30 and he was 23 at that time.

Dr. Sampath: And this is a program I was doing for Vivekananda Kendra in Kanyakumari for their life workers. And, I finished that workshop, came back home, and, was very disturbed by the question that he had asked me and I realised there was something very important that he was trying to convey and I didn’t understand–4 days and nights I couldn’t sleep, but just stay with that question and on the 5th morning I cracked it. Which is, no signal value by itself is valuable. Values are interdependent, and one needs to understand this interdependence in order to understand one’s own self. Now, when I got that breakthrough, I created a tool. Those days I called it Value Profile Instrument. Now it’s called Life Orientation Instrument, which is built on this framework that no single value by itself is valuable. Values are interdependent and one needs to understand this interdependence.

Dr. Sampath: Now, for years it has been a tool that I used and few of those who have been with me for ages can use that tool and interpret that tool. But five years ago we said, you can’t have everything and you can’t let it die with you. So you have to let it go to the world. So we thought we will digitize it and we’ll get a report engine to create a report, which will be automatically downloadable and so on. So when we started working with realized that this instrument had so much of data that you can generate, that we can do huge analytics based on it. So we created a assessment driven analytics platform and the company that we started was Nidharshana. And when we showcased it, the national HRD network adjudged us, as the best HR startup company and give us a Lakh as a prize money. What this does, what this platform does is it can do a host of analytics.

Dr. Sampath: There is a huge confusion between big data and when it comes to people and big data is not been very successful when it comes to people analytics. It’s very successful in areas where there is terabytes and terabytes of data, but when it comes to people who don’t have that large data for you to be doing that kind of analytics. So we believe that assessment driven analytics is what is going to be the future. Also, when you come with pure technology cannot give you all the solution. You need a mind that will work with the technology and there’s been 50 to 60 years of psychology and deep research about behavior and mind. You cannot write off that and say big data will now give you everything about human beings. I don’t believe that. So therefore, we have created a very powerful platform and this is working very well and people are beginning to see when we predict teams and when we predict individuals, it has all the three. It is diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive. So it does all the three and people who have been, we have 30 clients, people who have been using them are very, very happy with the output and the clientele isn’t growing. And we’re now moving into the next phase. Today technology and processes are changing. So, we’re evolving that whole tool to the next level. So that’s been something very satisfying and I truly believe technology is going to help us scale things beyond our imagination.

Nitesh Batra: I think that is true. With a given increase in population in India and limited resources, I think technology is the answer to a lot of questions. Not all the questions but at least a lot of questions that we have answers for. We’re nearing the end of our time here. So before we bring this episode to a close, I would like to ask you. Is there any suggestion that you may have for our young listeners or people who have a lot of experience as well? How to be mindful in the work that they do, things that they do, managing their family life?

Dr. Sampath: Well, so much to say. I’m trying to see what will be the most appropriate thing to say. Maybe I should conclude it with a small little parable. It seems on the riverbed of Ganges, there are village of creatures whose lifestyle was to cling to the rocks on the riverbed. They are born clinging, they live clinging, they die clinging. One of the creatures was tired of this clinging and wanted to let go and told his friend, yeah, I’m tired. I want to let go. And that friend went and told everybody and everybody came and counseled him and said, the river current is very dangerous. It’ll upturn you, kill you. You better be here. This is how we are born to be. Or this is what we are bound to be. Learning from that experience, the next time that he felt like leaving, he took a deep breath and left the rock that he was clinging to. The river current did bruise him, but the same current brought him up and he was floating freely.

Dr. Sampath: Creatures beneath looking at somebody like them floating freely, started hailing, “Here is a mahan. Here’s a great savior who has come to save our life”. Looking down, he said, “I’m not a mahan, I’m not a savior. I’m no different from you are. All that I did was I left everything I was clinging to”. I think it’s time that you moved on and not get stuck with what you are stuck with. Each of us are a free spirit and we are so capable of doing so many things. And if you’re willing to let go, nobody can stop you from realizing your own potential. And that would be so much more valuable to helping others realize their potential. Thank you for this opportunity. I enjoyed talking to you.

Nitesh Batra: Thank you so for being part of the show. Thank you so much everyone, for listening to The Mindful Initiative. Please share this podcast with friends and family, if you like it. Thank you so much.


Research by: Pranjali Maneriker

Transcription by: Gita Venkat

Editing: Juan Pablo Velasquez Luna




One thought on “Episode 5: The Mindful Entrepreneur: Dr. JM Sampath

  • I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Dr. Sampath’s thinking is really good and helpful. I am appreciative of hìs thoughts. It should guide the youth and others amply if they bother to read and understand them. I could appreciate this because I have read what Jesus said in the New testament about human potential. Nothing new has been added to that since. Anyway people like Dr. Sampath is doing a great service to our society. May God bless him in all his efforts.

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