President and COO, SBI Foundation: Sharing his views on the youth and on running marathons

SBI Foundation undertakes #CorporateSocialResponsibility (#CSR) activities of The State Bank of India and its group companies. Across India, SBI Foundation has been working with more than 30 partners to create impact at the grassroots – in the fields of #Education, Healthcare and Sanitation, #Women #Empowerment and Care for Senior Citizens, Livelihood, Sustainability and Environment, among others. Its flagship program, SBI Youth For India, is a 13-month rural development fellowship that promotes social entrepreneurship and awareness of among the youth of India.

Mr. Nixon Joseph, a seasoned banking professional, is the President and Chief Operating Officer of SBI Foundation. As coordinator of SBI Youth for India fellowship, Mr. Joseph has been mentoring around 100 youths every year. EduMiles’ co-founders, Teesta Mukherjee and Bahniman Rynjah, had an engaging conversion with Mr. Joseph during his visit to #Guwahati on 29th January, 2020.

Sir, could you please tell us about your journey across North East India?

#NorthEast #India holds a very special place in my heart. I started my career as a Probationary Officer of #StateBankofIndia (#SBI) in the North East Circle of SBI. My first posting after probation was in Demagiri, a village an overnight journey from Lunglei in #Mizoram, bordering Bangladesh. This was in 1987 and was the first time that I was away from home. Contrasting this to the luxury of the pampered upbringing that I had back home in Kerala, I was now to manage my own chores – cooking and doing laundry among others! I did not speak the language as well – mind you, this was the pre-internet era and Google had not even existed. Being in a remote village, we were cut-off from the rest of the world. To put things into perspective, we used to receive a month’s worth of newspapers together in one day of the month. I was placed out of my comfort zone – and how!

I took upon this challenge and tried to imbibe it. I learnt #Mizo within three months, I started enjoying Mizo food (whatever was cooked) and I followed their customs and rituals. Soon, I was no longer an outsider, but one among the local populace. This helped me earn their trust and goodwill, which, in turn, helped me engage better with my colleagues at work as well.

I have also worked as Regional Manager of SBI in the #GaroHills in #Meghalaya, at a time when I saw two of my colleagues being kidnapped. But, I loved my work and enjoyed interacting with my fellow office-mates and neighbours and learnt a lot from them. Looking back, perhaps, this ability to adapt to different scenarios and develop rapport with multiple stakeholders have helped me do my best in whatever assignment I have held.

I have fond recollections of North East India - the people, the place and the talent available here. We, unfortunately, have had limited access and exposure to technology and development, compared to our peers in other parts of India. However, this should not be an excuse to not have an ambitious outlook towards life and refrain from blaming circumstances for personal failures. You have the glorious example of Mary Kom right next door to emulate!

You have mentioned about the availability of #talent here. What do you reckon are traits that the youth of the region should imbibe?

Across my travels in the villages in the North East, I have been fascinated by the ability of people to be content with what they have or what they are earning. Life is easy-paced. In this age of cut-throat #competition, I wish more Indians and especially city dwellers had this positive attitude towards life!

However, if we were to examine this critically, I feel that this outlook has resulted in us not being go-getters or overtly ambitious. Perhaps, this has contributed towards the region’s limited #industrial and #entrepreneurial #development? Could this, in turn, have led to the vicious cycle of the #youth here being less-confident than their peers?

That being said, I see the seeds of positive changes taking place. The governments in #Assam, #Meghalaya and now, #ArunachalPradesh have organised #Entrepreneurship summits and platforms to empower the young and old demographics. We still have a long way to go, though - but interactions with renowned political leaders of the region, successful sportspersons and individuals and inculcating in ourselves, a habit of #reading, with a never-give-up attitude should stand the young generation in good stead as they look into the future.

Speaking of sportspersons, you are a seasoned marathon runner. How did this come about and how has running changed your life?

I have always asked myself the question – “How can I #inspire people around me?” This question has hounded me even when I was doing fairly well as a #banking #professional. I was on the lookout for doing something which enable me to put my stamp on #society.

Till the age of 45, I was never into any physical activity. However, during one of the worst #Mumbai floods, when transportation had come to a standstill, I had to wade through neck-deep water for 5 hours to reach my home from office. Surprisingly, I realised that I was not very exhausted despite the strenuous physical and mental exercise. This set the ball rolling and I thought I should focus on endurance activities. Presently, I registered for the #StandardChartered #Mumbai #Marathon.

Within 6 km of running my first #marathon in 2005, the soles of my shoes had come off, I had blisters on my feet and I was on the verge of giving up. But I did not. I completed my first marathon in seven and a half hours and received a finisher’s medal! This was a very proud moment for me, and one of my life’s greatest achievements – it being the first sports related medal I earned in my life! I have, thus far, run 36 full marathons – I participate in one every 3 months as it challenges me physically and mentally.

Running marathons is like managing a #startup or a #social #enterprise. There will be blistering feet (poor market, no capital), your shoe soles will come off (lack of support from friends and family) and you will be on the verge of quitting. However, you must enjoy the #journey, have self-belief and strive to reach your #goal. The joy of seeing your hard work and determination pay-off is unparalleled. Once your enterprise has gained traction, you will begin to inspire those around you. In the long run, your stamp and your identity will be defined by the effort that you would have put in into your enterprise.

Running marathons has helped me become more disciplined – I am more regimented in what I eat or drink and when and how much I sleep. Running provides me with #clarity of #thought – I have had new #ideas and better #insights to issues at work. And most importantly, running has moulded me into a more #positive, #optimistic and self-confident person. This in turn, has helped me manage anxiety and stress and become a happy person.

Happiness is something that is difficult to acquire. How can we become happier individuals?

#Happiness has to come from within yourself. External factors – money, status or property cannot give you happiness and contentment. Likewise for people – your parents, spouse or friends cannot make you happy. We have grown up hearing the story of a king and queen living “happily ever after”. It is in pursuit of this “ever after” that we lose sense of our present – of our today – and end up chasing what then becomes a mirage.

Life is full of challenges and failures – diseases, lack of financial resources, losing promotions, fall-out with a dear one. We must be prepared to acknowledge and accept these and move on. Comparing ourselves or our achievements with those of others will only make us feel inadequate and miserable.

Each person is #unique and can significantly contribute towards societal development. We must strive to become the best version that we can become. These will surely, help us become more content individuals and spread positivity amongst the lives of all the people who we encounter.

Is this the #message that you would like to convey to young students and professionals of North East India?

Yes, the pertinent question being – “Are you satisfied with what you are doing?” This may mean that a person is shifting between jobs to grow as a professional, to earn more money or to achieve a better balance in life. It can also mean that a person has left a well-paying job to be involved in social entrepreneurship. If you are conscious of what you are doing and if it makes you content and happy, you shall surely tread the path of success. The philosophy is straightforward and simple, but often lost in the deluge of information and peer pressure - love what you do and do what you love.

#Youth #SBIFoundation #Mentoring #Career #Marathon #YouthForIndia #CSR

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