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A Valuable Lesson – How To Learn Everything About Everything

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A Valuable Lesson – How To Learn Everything About Everything

There I was sitting across the desk from the legendary fleet commodore of my company. As a junior officer I could sense the power of the man who had led some of the most daring, and most successful sea voyages of his time. And now he was an admiral of a desk.

Yet, even the most senior sea masters and chief engineers trembled invisibly, at least once, if summoned into his office. He had a way of sizing up the people and quickly telling them exactly where they needed to focus.

As I sat across him, he asked “Lad, do you see this sign under my desk?” I glanced at the sign – neatly typewritten and carefully tucked under the glass covering his desk. I started reading it because it seemed interesting. It said:

A captain is a man who starts knowing a little bit about a few things. As he gains experience, he learns less and less about more and more – till he comes to a point where he knows nothing about everything. A chief engineer, on the other hand, also starts knowing a little bit about a few things. However, as he gains experience, he learns more and more about less and less – till he knows everything about nothing.”

It was an amusing sign, especially for a junior officer barely into 20s. I cracked a smile and looked at him with puzzled eyes. I was wondering why this serious man with hardly a minute to spare would show me such a frivolous thing.

In his thunderous voice, he asked me: “Which one are you, Lad?”

I answered: “It is obvious, I work on the deck side – so eventually I will become a captain.”

“So, you want to end up knowing nothing about everything?” he asked.

I replied: “Now that you put it this way – no, not really. I want to know about more and more things for sure, but I want also to make sure that I know enough about those things to be able to effectively use that knowledge.”

“Keep that answer in your mind as you gain experience – now you can go and join your ship.”

I wondered if he gave the same lesson to everyone. Then I remembered there were several other sayings taped on his desk.

In the next blog I will write about how to get everything for nothing.

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Notes:

1. These ideas and concepts will be usually expressed by our thought leaders in multiple forums - conferences, speeches, books, reports, workshops, webinars, videos and training. You may have heard us say the same thing before.

2. The date shown above the article refers to the day when this article was updated. This blog post or article may have been written anytime prior to that date.

3. All anecdotes are based on true stories to highlight the key points of the article - some details are changed to protect identification of the parties involved.

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Today, Vivek and his partners are among 20-30 people on the planet earth who have this deep understanding of supply chain systems, practices and tools. CEOs, COOs, executives and Boards call them in most challenging situations once they know the full potential of supply chain based transformations. Following are key milestones in Vivek's journey:

  • Started in 1983 as a merchant navy cadet at 18 years age, worked his way to qualify as a Captain – qualified to take command of any merchant ship, worldwide.
  • Earned a top tier MBA from UNSW at the top of his class.
  • Joined highly regarded strategy consulting firm Booz Allen & Hamilton, consulting to the CEOs, Boards and senior management of global corporations within Australia.
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  • More than 500 successful blue chip projects with high impact business transformations in large corporations using the full power of SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT.
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