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The Forgotten Heroes of the Corona Outbreak

Ravi is a traveler and foodie who loves to visit off-the-beaten-track places and understand the culture, history and customs behind them.

John C. Maxwell has rightly said.

“You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller but by making yourself bigger.”

No, they are not superheroes nor they did something drastic to save millions of lives. They were just a bunch of programmers doing their job during troubled times.

To give you the background……

I am from Mumbai, India the financial capital of India. Mumbai is the maximum city where millions of dreams are made and broken every single day while the city chugs on and on, going about executing its daily business of profits and losses.

India, until the 1st week of March 2020 was relatively immune from Corona with hardly any reported cases. However, things started getting uglier from March 2nd week when the count started rapidly increasing and currently stands around 18000+ confirmed cases.

Finally, on March 23, 2020, something happened which was unprecedented in the history of Mumbai. The city finally went into lockdown mode.

Everything was canceled. Malls, schools, social setups are closed. Companies hastily implemented work-from-home setups for employees. Private offices and business establishments are closed. The normal, vibrant city of 25 million stands deserted with empty roads, emptier sea beaches, and deserted eateries, all telling the story of fear that has deeply embedded itself within the mind of the normally, resilient Mumbaikar.

However, as per orders, essential services like transport, groceries, pharmacies, hospitals, and banks still needed to ply at 50% capacity. These are the backbone services and simply cannot be stopped. And to maintain the systems behind these ‘essential’ services, you need programmers; programmers who need to ensure that there are no outrages in these trying times.

And one of these programmer groups were the elite (or shall we say unfortunate) bunch of programmers maintaining the banking systems of one of the largest public sector banks in India. Outrages are simply not acceptable and every single failure results in massive inconvenience to millions of rural and semi-rural populace living across India. Therefore, if I say, one-fifth of rural India runs on the backs of these programmers, it would not be an understatement.

Adding to the woes, no work-from-home is possible for them due to the data confidentiality and the very nature of the archaic public sector banking system that had never factored in for such force majeure scenarios. These programmers need to be in the office in 24/7 shifts, come what may. Yes, government regulations have mandated a 50% reduction in essential services staff but the show must go on, Corona or otherwise.

And the result? An unremarkable bunch of programmers doing an unremarkable job of providing round-the-clock support to an outdated public sector banking system became superheroes overnight.

Families implored them not to go to work. Friends and relatives call them lunatics and colleagues in multinational offices who can “work-from-home” made memes out of them. Yes, it was tempting to succumb to pressure and simply stop going to work. After all, who can say anything at this stage? A bunch of 30 + people going to work, walking along the desolate streets of a ghost town was not exactly a sensible idea and each one of them knew it pretty well.

Nevertheless, they were doing it because it is essential and they are doing their bit in the time of crisis. They were not exactly brave and they were also equally afraid like others but then, somebody has to keep the services running and the onus lies on them to do just that. In a nutshell, they just made themselves a bit bigger to face the challenge at hand.

They were the forgotten software superheroes who need to be thanked by everybody in the city for keeping systems up and running at the cost of their lives so that we all can breathe easy and avoid going out for our banking needs. They are the background people who need to be brought in the foreground and thanks profusely. Mumbai will be forever indebted to him for their selfless actions.

And here are some motivational lessons from these heroes that can help us to stay inspired in these troubled times.

They find the WHY every day

They are humans after all and every day, somebody or the other will get demotivated and start asking uncomfortable questions.

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Why am I doing this?

Why should I risk my life?

Why should I trouble my family for no fault of theirs?

These are knee jerk reactions that are but natural in crisis situations. And such situations require negative situations to be replaced with positive ones. This is one of the most important ways to stay motivated.

For example, when any one of them get such thoughts, he reminds himself that “I’m here to “make others’ life good. “This mindset is not easy but once you start practicing it, you enter into a selflessness zone that enables you to focus on the objective at hand. It is important to start monitoring your thoughts and to recognize negative self-talk. Once you identify the bug, squash with mercilessly with a positive thought. It works like magic.

The key is to set out a compelling purpose and turn it into a positive one-liner that you can remind yourself about every single day.

They get inspiration from the past and the future

“The present sucks but our past was good and our future will be rocking.”

This is what they tell each other every single day.

For example, in times when they are feeling low and disowned they talk about their past.

“Amit, you remember how you solved that loan account issue in 2 hours. The bank’s reputation was at stake”

“Kailash did a great job in resolving the bug in the fraud identification system. The CEO himself congratulated him.”

“You remember that all-nighter Ram? You delivered mission-critical customization in 4 hours flat”

And sometimes they talk about the future; after this Corona is over.

“Once things get normal, I will take a 10-day vacation to Europe”

“My boss will surely hand over my promotion this time”

“Let us have a wild, rocking party very soon.”

Remember, the beauty of shifting tense is you can visualize a more compelling future, or remember a more enjoyable past. Once you find joy in the past or the future, the present appears far more tolerable.

Lastly, they commit publicly

I know none of us would like to appear bad in front of others. However, in times of crisis, crowd motivation can be the best thing that can happen to you.

For example, everyday morning, these heroes write their goals for the day on the public blackboard. For example,

Ram will solve three type-3 treasury issues by the end of the day. If he is not doing it, he will bring lunch for everyone tomorrow.

Arun has thrown an open challenge that he will resolve the four severity-2 issues in the Credit management system by 2.00 pm.

Kailash has thrown a wager that no CRM issues will come today. If even one issue comes, he will work two hours’ extra tomorrow.

And so on….

When you commit something in public, you will not only go that extra mile to accomplish your job but it also provides the much-needed encouragement to boost the sagging spirits of a stressed, overworked team. Remember motivation is not a tonic that you drink and voila, you are motivated. You need to work on it every single moment.

That said, the funny thing about motivation is that it comes and goes just like the tide. However, while it may go away, it does not do so permanently. It will come back. Just stick it out and wait for that motivation to come back. In the meantime, get others involved in your goal and create that sense of belongingness that comes from asking other’s opinions or even getting inspired by them to complete your goal.

And once success comes, build on it, celebrate it and scream it all the way to others at the top of your voice. Remember, nothing is sweeter than success, however small it might be, and relishing its sweetness is the only way that keeps us resilient and motivated in trying times like this.

As John Wooden has rightly said.

"Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out."

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