Dipa Karmakar and Nadia Comaneci: Parenting & Leadership Lessons

Dipa Karmakar.jpgNadia Comaneci.jpg

When I was a child, it was fun to watch Olympic Games on T.V. (1984 – 1996 perhaps). Nadia Comaneci was one of the most loved gymnast whose name and achievements were mentioned during every gymnastic competition despite the fact that she was a champion in 1976 & 1980 Olympics.

She scored an unprecedented 10 in gymnastics at 1976 Olympics game at an age of 14. With a sudden rise of Dipa Karmakar in India, we have become charmed with words like Produnova and gymnastics. Gymnastics has found a special mention in our dinner table conversations and it will perhaps hold some importance for us till Olympics 2016 get over.

  • Nadia achieved success with a lot of effort but ease because her country Romania had a culture for this game and she was fourteen when she nailed the perfect score. There was no pressure on her to perform in 1976 and a girl that age in that time didn’t acknowledge the pressure even if it existed. She agreed in a recent interview that performing at 1980 Olympics was far more challenging than 1976 as she understood far more then.

Closer home, the situation is different. Gymnastics in its western avatar doesn’t come easy to us like cricket or chess. Dipa has already fought against many odds to achieve this feat with extreme focus and discipline.

We cannot forget that she is twenty two with a newly found fame at a critical professional juncture.

Let us leave her alone as parents, leaders and as a nation. Let us support her by letting her be. Let us not ply on and burden her with our wishes guised in expectations.

As parents, we are guilty of wishing the best for our children while giving them the message of “being the best among the lot.”

As leaders, we are guilty of appreciating and acknowledging the final ten on ten or a successful Produnova act while conveniently discarding the long journey of focussed effort which could have gone awry. Our success obsessed leadership styles with very limited editions of success definitions, cause a lot of stress and unwanted expectations. This futile stress clutters our minds and life.

  • A twenty two year old engineering student from Mumbai had suddenly disappeared from her home just before her exams. Though she had supportive parents, a good academic record and a placement, she still felt a disenchantment and disappointment with her achievements. Fortunately, Mumbai Police and the family found her in Kochi and brought her back safe.

The normal chatter among friends about dream jobs and dream lifestyles made her feel inadequate and left behind.

Let’s get to the root of this pressure which secretly builds up during all our conversations with children, students, friends and colleagues. We emphasize on “great package equals great life”. We appreciate all those who top classes and competitions when our experience tell us that toppers do not essentially top in life (as if even that is necessary). Let me put it more blatantly – How many of us were toppers in schools/college/theatre/sports or any other interest.

We, as parents and leaders need to be more objective and disambiguate our childhood and success memories. To motivate our children and teams, we mention our hard work, our achievements as if we are a by-product of success (magnified by our biased memory remnants).

Let us share the truth – filled with mistakes, laced with disappointments, sprinkled with accomplishments – with our children and our followers.

Dipa Karmakar, there is a tougher task ahead for your parents and mentor-coach. I am proud of you for your sheer grit and discipline focus. The only difference your successful Produnova makes to me is that I suddenly know you. Honestly does that matter to you? I know, it doesn’t and it should not.