Inherent or Acquirable?

“Dude, what were you thinking, when you took up the project? It was an experiment at best. It was known that failure was a definite possibility. It was a high profile project, you were in charge of it, you failed, and now you are left with egg on your face. Did you really think that you would be seen as a visionary, ‘Christopher Columbus’ type hero for taking on this project?” Ravi was scathing in his assessment of Jignesh.

“What makes you think that Jignesh took this up because he wanted to be a hero?” Uma responded, wondering about the motivation behind Ravi’s assertions.

Arrey, in the corporate world, there is no other reason someone takes up such a high profile and risky project, if not to be seen as a star”

“Is that why you did not take it up?” Uma queried.

“You wanted me to tarnish my reputation by taking up such crazy projects?” Ravi chided Uma.

“There could be other reasons for someone taking up such a project” Jignesh responded nonchalantly. Ravi’s words seemed to have little effect on him.

“Whatever,” Ravi responded defensively. “It is imprudent to stick your neck out and then fail this spectacularly.”

“I think differently” Jignesh responded calmly. “The greatest lessons come from being out there at the edge, learning and growing. It was a learning experience for me. If I have to handle such a project in the future, I now know what to do and what not to. I have learned what works, and what does not.”

“And, it also made you look unintelligent and incapable. If I were the senior management in the firm, I would think that way about you.”

“Maybe that is why you are not in the senior management” Uma responded sarcastically.

“Smarts. Intelligence. Capability. What are these?” Jignesh queried. “These are not something inherent. These are merely chunks of acquirable knowledge and learned behaviours that enable one to achieve.”

“I disagree,” Ravi responded. “What you are saying is that effort and learning are what makes one a success. I have seen that some people are more predisposed to success as compared to others.”

“Mmm… what… could you justify that statement?” Uma probed.

“It’s simple, you dufus. Some people have the intelligence and smarts to make it to the top. Some people will never make it, there.” Ravi replied.

“It’s true that some people will not make it to the top. What I want to know is if that is because they cannot do so, or because they are not doing the right things to get there?” Uma persisted.

“Some people cannot. And it has got nothing to do with what they do. It is what they are or what they are not that determines this. Some people just have it, others do not.”

“So, do you believe that you will make it?” Uma asked him.

“What do you think, Uma?” Ravi challenged.

“I doubt it,” Uma laughed sarcastically.

“Even with my educational background, my intelligence, my talents? Even with these you are saying that I will not. You are a dimwit, Uma. I believe in myself.” Ravi spoke. There was not even a hint of doubt in his voice. “And, this joker here is a public failure.” he said, pointing towards Jignesh.


Questions for Discussion:
  1. Has Jignesh made a fool of himself by failing publicly? Justify your assessment.
  2. What do you feel about Jignesh’s assertions that intelligence and capability are something that is acquirable and not inherent?
  3. How will holding on to the beliefs that Jignesh and Ravi possess determine the course of action that each of them will follow in their life?


For each set of statements below, pick the one that you believe is true:

1. a.       Everything about us can be changed or developed in some way or the other and to a desirable level
b.      Our personalities and abilities are innate, concrete and fixed from birth and  thus cannot be changed


2. a.       If someone has a certain quality (viz., people skills, charisma) in a large measure it would have come to the person naturally
b.      If someone has a certain quality (viz., people skills, charisma) in a large measure, it is because it was acquired through structured methods of learning, and mastered through sustained practice


3. a.       Certain qualities (viz., charisma, people skills), which if we just never seemed to inherently/ naturally possess, cannot now be acquired
b.      Even qualities, which if we just never seemed to inherently/ naturally possess (viz., charisma, people skills) can be acquired through sustained efforts


4. a.       Everybody can be a really effective leader. Leadership is an acquirable trait
b.      Great leaders are born, not made (though everyone can be a fairly decent leader)


5. a.       If one has to work hard and expend lots of effort on a task, it is a sign that one lacks talent and intelligence. If one possessed talent and intelligence, then one would not have to sweat it out
b.      Talent is the product of someone having spent tons of time and effort acquiring the skill/ ability in question. through sustained efforts


6. a.       Those who have reached the level of genius/ success have slogged to get there, whether or not they had any kind of ‘natural ability’ to start with
b.      What characterises genius is natural talent


7. a.       When people fail, it is because they have not learned how to succeed
b.      When people fail, it is a sign that they lack the natural ability to succeed


8. a.       Age is no barrier to learning. One can learn new skills at any age
b.      The older one grows, the less likely it is that one can acquire new skills or change one’s qualities/ personality. After a point, the brain loses its ability to change


9. a.       Some things about us can be changed; some things about us, however, cannot be changed
b.      One can bring about the desired change in any desired area of one’s life


10. a.       Academic grades are not necessarily an indication of innate intelligence in a person
b.      Academic grades are an indication of innate intelligence in a person

Specific Steps I Will Take to Improve My Communication With My Onshore Counterparts

Benefits/Outcomes that will accrue if I do this

Target Date

Probable Barriers to Implementing My Action Plan

How I Will Overcome These Barriers

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