Message to Som Gollakota

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Woodinville, WA
Conflicts – An Opportunity
May 14, 2007
ou are in a conflict with someone at work or in life. What do you see? Is it a battle or an opportunity? Battles are to be won, and opportunities are to be learned from. Life is not all about winning and losing. Life is about identifying opportunities. Life is not a battle that you have to win. Life is an opportunity for you to learn and become better. Where there are two people, there are conflicts. Where there are conflicts, there are opportunities.
I have had my share of conflicts with others (who didn’t?), in my professional and personal life. While I am still learning to see the conflicts in my personal life as opportunities, I have successfully converted some of the bad situations at work into opportunities. Very early in my career, call it inexperience or adolescence; I was in conflict (however just the cause was) with a Vice-President of a company (that I went to work for later). My career was on the verge of crashing even before it took off. In a disturbed emotional state with no certain future, I still managed to see an opportunity (had some help from some good people, friends and family), took it, went to work for the same company and set out on a path to success for next eight years.
Many years later, I was working for a company that ran into severe cost-cutting due to tough economic times. Each one was for their own doing whatever it took to stay afloat, and conflicts were the norm. My organization kept shrinking until one day when it was finally announced that my entire division was being outsourced to India. Although I was not surprised (nor thrilled), the timing of it was not right (it never is). I left the company, packed my bags and drove off to Iowa. On route to Iowa, the company called me back, but I already made up my mind - I needed some time off. Took a few months off, went on my own and ventured into Industrial Automation and MES, a completely un-chartered territory for me at that time. Within a very short period, I established myself as an expert in Industrial Automation and implemented multi-million dollar manufacturing systems for Ford and Land Rover (again, had some help from some good people, friends and family).
Several times in my life, as in everyone else's, I have been at crossroads. There were difficult people, difficult situations, difficult times that put me there. Really? People, situations and times are only difficult so long as we don't know how to handle them. One thing that is common to all bad things in life, that I learnt, is - at the root of everything is the first person - 'I'. People, situations and times are not bad or difficult - they are what they are. They turned out to be bad for us because we didn't know how to handle them.
Now, let me ask this question again. Is life filled with conflicts or difficulties, bad or challenging? Is life a battle? Or is life an opportunity? An opportunity to learn, better yourself, and make yourself stronger. If we want to change the world, we need to look at ourselves and learn to adapt. Because, the world is what it is. When we adapt to situations, learn and become better, we see things differently. We see the world changing - not because the world is really changing, but because we are learning to handle it. It is the perception that is changing.
In summary, I submit the following for your consideration during conflicts and difficult times.
  • Conflict, challenges and difficult times are opportunities – to learn, adapt and become better.
  • Try and learn from your mistakes/failures, for it’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it.
  • Disagreements have reasons, sometimes good ones. Listen to know what they are.
  • Turn problems into possibilities - Focus on what’s possible, rather than what is not.
  • Make the best of a bad situation – there may be a door or even a window waiting for you to open – Identify, and open it.
The possibilities are endless. No conflict will remain a conflict if you have the ability to see an opportunity. When you learn to turn a conflict into an opportunity, life will be filled with opportunities, and everything you encounter will make you better and stronger, and help build your character.