Like a digital version of Helen of Troy, the LinkedIn post immediately raised a gazillion angry tweets, op-eds, and other proportionate reactions during which several crude epithets were cast upon his shelf.
Journalism used to be about telling people who didn’t know Mr Jones that Mr Jones was dead. Now journalism, at least in its online form, has become about telling people who didn’t know Mr Jones that Mr Jones had said something deeply problematic and it’s time to cancel him.
That’s in part thanks to the internet – which gives us the knowledge of the universe at our fingertips – but which we use to take collective umbrage about things when we aren’t sharing bizarre memes or dancing badly.
The most recent Mr Jones who has pricked the collective morality of netizens is Shantanu Deshpande, the CEO and Founder of Bombay Shaving Company who asked freshers to stop doing “random rona-dhona, take it on the chin and to be relentless”.
Like a digital version of Helen of Troy, the LinkedIn post immediately raised a gazillion angry tweets, op-eds, and other proportionate reactions during which several crude epithets were cast upon his shelf. Most of them are largely unprintable but the politest of them was to tell his parents that their son was a ‘slave owner’. It’s a minor miracle that no one called Deshpande’s views the sign of rising cishetero-capitalist patriarchy among start-up bros.
The real irony is that most people who are outraged will tell you – behind closed doors – that Deshpande didn’t say anything wrong.
In fact, India’s biggest star Shah Rukh Khan, said the same thing during an event when he told young people: “Aaram haram hai.”
This is something which keeps motivating me everyday whenever I feel low, thank you shah rukh khan sir for inspiring many like me. @iamsrk pic.twitter.com/1CJMAnziMA
We should take what he said in the spirit that it was said, not the unimaginable socialist utopia we consider the world to be. The former NIT Nagpur and IIM-L alumnus knows what he’s talking about.
He’s not some influencer who tells people to “Do Epic S…”. He’s an actual job creator who’s highly regarded in entrepreneurial circles. The former McKinsey executive’s Bombay Shaving Company is among India’s top 10 brands which grows 35% quarter-on-quarter and clocks ₹150 crore in revenue (as of February 22).
More so, what Deshpande said will be echoed by many who’ve tasted success in their lives.
Sachin Tendulkar spent thousands of hours honing his craft. David Beckham didn’t become great with free kicks because of his dashing looks, it was because he spent every minute practising them.The Beatles played for 10,000 hours at O’Shea Pub before attaining cult status. The Old Man and The Sea, Ernest Hemingway’s piece de resistance that won him a Pulitzer and (most probably) his Nobel, took almost 16 years of hard work. Finding yourdharma isn’t enough, one has to spend hours honing their skills.
And it’s not just famous people. Ask anyone in your vicinity who’s remotely successful and they tell you the hours they toiled to make it happen. Also life is about perception management. Like it or not, very often you need to be seen doing things by your seniors to get that pat on the back or that much needed promotion. To show that extra zeal and passion often separates the first among the equals.
If you can mix discipline in your craft, more often than not, it leads to exponential growth. Or to quote the greatest football manager of all time Sir Alex Ferguson: “Once you bid farewell to discipline, you say goodbye to success.”
That was a basic fact of nature that Shantanu Deshpande was saying, for which he, and even his company, are being dragged over the proverbial coals.
In fact, most people criticising are doing so out of a desire for performative arts on social media which is needed to remain relevant, rather than actual belief that he said something offensive.
The outrage is actually a reminder that we live in two different worlds. In one, we say polite things on public fora which sound nice but have nothing to do with, to borrow a phrase from inimitable Jug Suraiya: the real nature of the perceived universe and all its creation.
And then there’s the real world, where we have to live by values which greatly differ from the things we say on public fora. In that world, saying you prioritise work-life balance on your CV may well be a red flag in a high-growth environment. To borrow a quote from one of my successful colleagues: “You can either have work-life balance. Or you can be successful.”
All socialist fantasies aside; we reside in a capitalist society where our worth is linked to how much money we can make for someone. And in most functioning systems, if you make money for someone, that someone will ensure that you earn it. It’s also possible by dint of hard work to cross that Great Railroad Divide. That’s in complete antithesis to the aversion to what the kids call ‘hustle culture’ which is seen as an anathema to existence which is then blamed on capitalism. But working hard to earn validation is something that makes capitalism click cutting across geographies.
Many moons ago, the great pacifist Bertrand Russell said: “Conventional people are roused to fury by departures from convention, largely because they regard such departures as a criticism of themselves.” In some ways, people who work extremely hard are seen as departures from convention by those who don’t.
And before I sign off, there’s one thing Shantanu Deshpande was wrong about. He wrote on LinkedIn after the outrage: “To those who sent nasty ‘your son is a slave owner’ messages to my parents and thousands like those – You won.” No, they didn’t Shantanu.
Duds who complain on social media will never win. You won by creating a company which has raised ₹210 crore in Series C funding, and whose investors include Reckitt, Colgate Palmolive and Sixth Sense Venture Partners. To paraphrase Jack Black from The School of Rock: “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym. And those who can’t teach gym, whine on social media.”
The views expressed are personal.
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