Saturday, July 26, 2014

Emulation as ‘Sadhana’: A Paradigm of Intellectual Development

Life is full of challenges and opportunities; hence, also full of fulfillments and disappointments. Life has several templates to grow or atrophy, materialistically and philosophically, as one moves through various stages of life, from birth to death. All wise parents try to set up a life that is full of opportunities and fulfillments for their wards. Unfortunately, due to factors beyond one’s control, idyllic scenarios do not mostly happen, except for those borne with a silver spoon. As one gains the ability to independently analyze the life’s challenges and opportunities, emulation-execution emerges as a conundrum which most individuals flirt with, and more often than not, fail to get it right. This blog post discusses a paradigm of emulation. Emulation is the thought or act of trying to do something like someone whom one likes or admires (usually a role model). Emulation is an attempt to try. Execution is the act of actually carrying out the act in a manner that conforms to, or exceeds, the expectations set by, or perceived of, the role model. Emulation and execution are governed by an invisible but intrinsic factor called emotion. 

The process of emulation is a life-journey process that is invisible and unrecognized for most time but is real and perpetual. Emulation, in formative years, occurs through family upbringing and pedagogy. Emulation in later years occurs through experiences and aspirations. In the earlier formative stage, one is told explicitly to emulate a model behavior, be it from family, religion, history or contemporary public life. In the later stage one gets inspired or motivated by oneself to emulate a certain model behavior. In the formative stage, execution is compelled by the system, be it the family or the institution, while in the later stage execution flows from one’s own volition that execution gets results. Obviously, there exist no cut and dried boundaries, as all through one’s life the processes of emulation and execution keep taking place, most times with guidance (and sometimes with misguidance!) providing fulfillments and opportunities in this journey. If there could be a way to align opportunities, emulation, execution and fulfillment in one’s life, it would indeed be a great pathway to ‘materialistic nirvana’!
Worthiness, practicality
Emulation is a part and pathway of life whose existence cannot be denied. Emulation can occur in multiple ways, from a feature to a person, from a trait to a personality, and from an objective to a mission. There are five common cautionary characteristics of emulation that an individual needs to be aware of. The first relates to the inability to judge for oneself whether one is emulating (or should be emulating) a person or what he or she stands for. For example, it would be one thing to believe that one should emulate Dr Abdul Kalam (the past reputed Scientist-President of India) and an entirely different thing to believe that one should emulate Dr Kalam’s erudition, simplicity and passion. The second pitfall is the belief that emulation is around one role model. Here again, one tends to emulate, rather unknowingly, several people or several features for several reasons, and the ability to align or integrate multiple emulative processes is vital for comprehensive development. The third is a lack of understanding that emulation is an iterative process. While emulation cannot be opportunistic it cannot also be ossifying; it is a continuous learning experience in its own right. The fourth is that emulation, oftentimes, has an emotive trigger; de-cluttering the emotional aspects is necessary for meaningful emulation. The fifth is a perception that one needs to be independent, and never emulative; this, of course, is the greatest fallacy and pitfall for, even pioneers emulate a pioneering behavior or mindset!
In totality, Inability to introspect into one’s own emulative behavior often lands one in difficulties; more positively, understanding these aspects helps one achieve fulfillment from emulation. To be successful in emulation, one must consider two primary aspects of emulation; worthiness and practicality. Whatever or whoever one emulates must fundamentally be worthy of emulation, that is it must be positive and capable of providing fulfillment or actualization. Secondly, it must be practical to emulate and execute. While heroic sagas have been written of amazing achievements even under most challenging circumstances, they have been made possible because of certain accentuating features of the emulators. In other words, knowing what to emulate and how to emulate holds the key to successful emulation and fulfillment. It always pays to emulate a feature, trait or an objective than a person, personality or mission. Given that unknowingly, a person has multiple emulative triggers, it would be necessary to stay narrowly focused rather than broadly generic in emulation.
Competency, completion
While worthiness and practicality are the essential parameters of emulation, emulation itself cannot be successful without execution. Execution has two facets; competence and completion. The desire to emulate must be backed by passion to execute. Individuals who embark on risky programs of sportsmanship or creative arts leaving conventional means of livelihood finally become successful as they get to understand and grow their competence well and remain relentless in their passion till they succeed in their task. The first step to successfully execute is, therefore, to understand the competency needed to execute. The second step to successfully execute is to understand the final step that defines the completion. Individuals, unlike organizations, cannot outsource their competencies. Those who execute based on others’ competencies eventually fail in non-native circumstances. Again, individuals, unlike organizations, cannot redefine completion. Unsuccessful organizations may get taken over and eventually prosper with accrued synergy but unsuccessful individuals lapse into oblivion, relative to potential. 
At an individual level, therefore, every thought or act of emulation must be accompanied by an understanding of competency and completion. In this process, there is no better way than emulate what the role model stands (stood) for, and how he stands (stood) for.  Biographies of great leaders, or their own teachings constitute a great way to understand the ‘what and how’ of emulation. Working with legends and role models in real time is an even greater opportunity. Being part of a great philosophical organization may in itself lead to opening of one’s mind on what one should look for. The irony of the situation is that many times individuals begin building competencies (like becoming a certified professional) and assuming completion (like landing a good job) without understanding the larger purpose of emulation.  Whether one’s domain happens to be a matter of choice or circumstance, it is important for one to appreciate those aspects that are worthy of emulation and grasp what it takes to successfully emulate.
Transient versus committed
As mentioned earlier, emotion plays a major role in the process of emulation; more often than not, emotion is the first trigger for emulative thought. As one watches an exciting sport, one may feel that the sportsmanship displayed is worthy of emulation (“I wish I could play like Sachin!”). As one listens to a music program, one may feel that the musical talent evokes emulation (“I wish I could sing like SPB!”). As one gets swayed by a corporate leader, one may feel that the role model is all there to emulate (“I wish I could present like Steve Jobs”). The point to note that these tend to be transient thoughts of emulation, spurred on by emotional feel-good experiences and aspirations. Committed emulation, on the other hand, is a rational process; even when spurred by emotion, it delayers emotion from logic to develop a sustainable basis for emulation. It connects an individual to what the leaders stand for as much as for the leaders themselves. Mahatma Gandhi’s success was in connecting Indians to the values of  Swaraj and Ahimsa, and making them emulate those values for the larger national good.
Committed emulation has both material and philosophical aspects to it. It recognizes the importance of being (or becoming) someone well recognized in the professional or social system on the strengths of one’s capabilities. It has to be, therefore, a matter of considered choice, even if it is triggered by emotion. One may, after a successful career stint, be emotionally attracted to be a social servant. It is important to logically analyze whether that worthy goal of emulation fits into oneself (or what one is capable of becoming) by passing the idea through the four filters of worthiness, practicality, competency and completion. Of the several emotive options that one encounters in each phase of life, these four filters would help one crystallize one’s emulative thoughts effectively.  An emulative process has to mandatorily satisfy all the four criteria; drawing a blank on any of the four would lead to imperfect, if not negative, results.  
Emulation as ‘sadhana’
Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that means a quest to accomplish. Emulation is like sadhana. The goal has to be carefully chosen, and the ‘sadhaka’ (the one who is set on the path of sadhana) cannot, and will not, rest until the process of emulation is complete. Fortunately, in the classical systems of education, the concept of emulation as sadhana is ingrained. Most accomplished musicians gain their musical strengths through individualized apprenticeship under reputed musical legends. The concept of house surgeon in medical education is aimed at letting young doctors learn the skill of medical practice from the experienced physician or surgeon. Even in a corporate setting, the practice of youngsters working as executive assistants with leaders is a way of apprenticing the youngsters in the art and science of management and leadership. As the base of talent seekers keeps expanding at the base, and as career development keeps becoming a more fast-paced race, unfortunately, the apprentices as well as the leaders seem to be missing on the fulfillment of emulation.
And, for those who still appreciate the need for emulation, it is important to realize that sadhana or emulation is a great anti-gravity effort. Non-emulative talent, like water, flows as per gravity to opportunities available. Emulative talent, on the other hand, scales new peaks with each phase of sadhana, based on committed and diligent efforts. Literally and figuratively, enlightened emulation is akin to intrepid mountaineering. And the aim of emulation is not to create intellectual clones but to enhance the intellectual strength of the talent base in the country and the society.  Typically, every society or every organization produces only a few natural leaders or maestros. The more the larger population, whether of a society or an organization, seeks to emulate the leaders and maestros for what they have accomplished and the virtuous paths thereto, the greater would be the combined intellectual strength of that society or organization.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on July 26, 2014   

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