IMG_4179This must be around 1978. I was 10 years old. I was enjoying the delights of growing up in a middle class Indian family. The world was a simpler place then and life was full of ‘less is more’ happiness. We were also getting used to some middle-class novelties such as a black and white television, a cassette player and of course, a refrigerator. Just as the TV occupied its pride of place in the living room, the fridge was a marvel in the kitchen. It was a cool thing to posses, literally. One of the most fascinating things about owning a fridge was making ice at home. As a school kid the only access I had to ice was ice-lollies sold at stalls near our school. So having on-demand homemade ice was an exciting concept.

At home, there was no real use of ‘ice’. Few occasions to try out a chilled glass of water, but that’s it. Rest of its purpose was purely play. Either to collect all ice cubes in a bucket and observing until the melting point or to drop an ice cube down a friend’s shirt and enjoying a ‘get that ice cube of my back’ dance. That was fun!

As the eldest of siblings I was quickly awarded the job of re-filling the ice tray. The initial happiness quickly eroded. Filling the ice tray was not an easy thing to do with my height and tiny hands. Holding the tray, slowly passing it under the tap water, or to let it rest on a table and pouring water carefully without spilling. Either way, this was a problem. One day my mother was observing my struggle and lovingly suggested an idea to me. She tilted the ice tray slightly so that the tap water ran from the top cavities flowing through to the bottom cavities and slowly adjusting her hands to be in level. The job was done, all cavities were filled and quickly. I was excited with this newfound trick and I tried it over and over, just for the sake of it. I think I may have even sulked a bit on why I couldn’t think of it first? As a curious kid every new discovery was my self-proclaimed right and my mother, however lovingly, had infringed it. I was also hurt that my first method of filling the ice tray was not the best. Child ego hurt, ahem!

After some practice I learned this trick and the novelty was soon lost turning it into just another house chore.

I wish I had paid more attention.

During later years as an ambitious young man with ‘fire in the belly’ attitude I was deeply lost in chasing success. As part of that journey I encountered many tough problems. In most cases I let myself be guided by my prejudices and ‘my way or the highway’ strategy – suffice to say that it did not always work. I lost some important battles and left many problems unresolved. Little did I realise that a solution to such battles was seeded in a simple lesson that my mother had unknowingly taught me as a 10 year old kid.

In everyday life, all of us go through many problems. We try to solve these problems to best of our abilities. In competitive professional world solving a problem whilst proving ones’ point can sometimes take unprecedented importance even without realising. Sometimes we find ourselves overusing our intellect to admire the problem and sometimes we get fixated on just one side of it. In the flow of events it makes sense but in the end it doesn’t work. It’s tough and frustrating.

Now think about this. “Tilting the tray”. How simple was that? Learn to be open, be ready to change and trust judgement of someone else who means well for you. Don’t let your prejudices control you. There’s never a single perspective to any problem.

Sometimes all you need is a new perspective!