Experiencing Joy at Work

When you introduce India's stellar cue sports professional with eight world titles to his credit, and he turns around to say, "I am not a world champion," you can be confident there is a profound lesson within that single statement. At The Nalanda, Padma Shri and Arjuna Award winner Geet Sethi discussed the importance of finding joy at work to achieve excellence with Saptam Patel, Assistant Professor, Amrut Mody School of Management. The Nalanda is a student-centred programme that provides students and the larger university community an opportunity to engage in a small group with deep thinkers of our times. He urged students to "be obsessed with whatever you do. I am someone who has spent 40 years of my life understanding three balls and their movement. You need depth for that level of understanding. That joy is a nirvanic experience, and it comes solely from diving deep into your subject."

While recounting his journey to becoming the World Number One, Mr Sethi spoke of how he had an unorthodox style that helped him in his early days. "I never had 'pure' technique because I had never really learnt professionally. So while he won two world championships in 1985 and 1987, he also endured the worst phase of his career between 1989 and 1992. "It was then that I met British snooker champion Steve Davis who told me straight that my technique was 'rubbish'. It was hard, but that started me on my journey of searching for excellence," revealed Mr Sethi. For the next three years, he practised 18 hours a day, waking up in the middle of the night to look himself in the mirror and correct his hand-elbow alignment, which he undoubtedly had been dreaming of. In 1992, Geet Sethi bounced back into the game. He went on to receive India's highest sporting award, the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, for 1992–1993 and won an astounding six world titles till 2006.

"None of it is success; it's just a pursuit of excellence. For a gardener tending to the University gardens, seeing the flora and fauna he has supported around him may mean success. For a cleaner, it may be doing his job diligently," he said, giving the example of a cleaner in one of India's airlines who would do his job with the same passion as one would, for instance, play a world championship or prepare for a crucial test. "That cleaning job evidently gave him joy because he was passionately involved with it. We have to do our tasks similarly with a promise to do the job best for oneself rather than for validation by others," he added.

When asked if keeping goals is a tool for motivation, Mr Sethi said that while temporary goals work in motivating the self, long-term goals are self-defeating. "Once you've achieved your goal, then you'll be left with the what-next question. If, instead, you're looking at bettering yourself, now that's a journey that won't stop," he said.