“Tear down this wall”

I was watching a documentary on the Berlin Wall.  On 09th November 2009, the world rejoiced in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. 

As I saw the documentary, I wondered to myself if the Berlin Wall would have fallen without the speech of President Reagan?  May be, but it definitely would have taken more time.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the State Department, National Security Council and his Chief of Staff advised President Reagan to remove the line “…tear down the wall” from his speech.  They warned that it would possibly incense Mr. Gorbachev and fray relations.

President Reagan left the line in…and the wall came tumbling down.

As I thought about this event, I learned what President Reagan knew. He knew that the safest harbor is our own convictions.  Safe not because we would not have to face the flack or that we will always be right…but because when we reach a considered conclusion and say what we truly believe, tearing down the walls of our own insecurities, we can not only look into the mirror and be pleased with what we see, we open the gate for others to change as well.

How?  Let me explain. 

While speaking from conviction may require that we say something others don’t necessarily want to hear.  This is by no means unkind.  Mr. Gorbachev may not have wanted to hear “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”, but President Reagan was not asking him to jump off the cliff or was throwing him under the train.  Instead, think about it…wasn’t he actually inspiring Mr. Gorbachev to do something that ought to be done long back; wasn’t he actually saying “Mr. Gorbachev, you have an opportunity to do something grand and great.  It requires sacrifice but I believe you are up to this.”

President Reagan stuck to his conviction and resulted in Mr. Gorbachev being inspired to do something substantially great.

This documentary actually made me not only reflect on the walls that have fallen for me in my career thus far but also about the kind of conviction that was needed to bring down those walls – be they miles of concrete in a former communist area or invisible but no-less-apparent in an office setting.

I have quoted a few very-easy-to-relate personal examples for.  In my career span thus far, I have come across a lot of people who have actually faced these moments…some have been able to bring down the walls while some struggled at getting the conviction enough.

In my first job, I could barely gather the courage to stand in the training room, in front of my peers and deliver a speech.  I distinctly remember one such speech I wrote and delivered.  The room temperature was around 16 deg. Celsius and I was sweating.  I was unimaginably nervous.  I am sure a lot of you would have experienced this in your early days.  How did you overcome this?  Did you do something different and this fear disappeared or it took time for it to get normal?  When I was promoted to be a Team Leader, I knew I had to stand up in front of new team members and deliver training, clearly communicate performance expectations etc. and all of this with unquestionable confidence.  A week before I was to conduct my first training batch, I used to stand in front of the mirror and speak, speak whatever came to my mind, looking straight into my eyes to make the all-important eye contact.  I gained confidence with every talk I delivered in front of my mirror and slowly my conviction in my ability to speak in front of any number of people was building and the wall was coming down.  It took me one training session and my wall of fear and nervousness came tumbling down forever.  Today I deliver presentations to top management at my clients and within the company, speak at conferences and conduct many training sessions round the year with no issues at all.  I brought down my wall by speaking in front of the mirror…that was my way to gain confidence and build the conviction – but more importantly I believed I could do it which was my biggest conviction.  What was your method?  Are you still struggling to bring down this wall of fear and nervousness?

The other wall I faced was when I became a Manager and I was leading a Team Leader – who had trained me on the product line, one who was thus far my technical mentor and now was my team member.  Have you faced this?  Well I am sure most of you have.  It could get tricky at times and some times it could get bitter.  For me it was a crazy ride for the first month or so – while I was coming to terms with this fact and figuring ways to make it a productive environment.  Within a few weeks, I realized that the wall I had, that of consciousness and insecurity was self created.  How would I give instructions and do performance reviews for the person who trained me, one I used to look up to all this while?  How would I get him to follow the direction I wanted the team to go in?  I knew if I made it a battle of power, it would always be bitter and at times even worse.  I realized that I needed to be confident and believe in my abilities, be honest-objective in sharing opinions and at the same time continue to learn from his experience, involve him and utilize his expertise productively, give him the freedom and authority he deserves but lay down the result expectations and clear roadmap for movement ahead for him and the team.  Being hands-on, making it a participative culture but more importantly setting clear expectations and a roadmap, seeking and giving honest opinions and feedback helped me gain his confidence and trust…and the wall came tumbling down.  Soon he was a partner in my efforts and I can not thank him enough in helping achieve and surpass the team performance targets time and again.  I learnt how to break the wall in such cases.  Ever since then, I have managed many of my peers and seniors, and have never faced this issue ever.  How did you overcome this wall for yourself?

Lastly I would like to talk about my blog.  As I wrote in the introduction for LEG [Home Page], it took me months of deliberation to finally be convinced that I should write and share my thoughts, ideas and opinions.  I may not be right all the time as these would be my opinions from my knowledge, perspective and experience, but even if I am not, I will get to learn something new.  I also realize that either my blog would see new horizons or may hit a dead end, or something interesting in between.  But what I am convinced about is my motive on why I want to share my thoughts, what I hope to achieve through it [that very essence of L E G].  Even if I succeed a little bit, I would think that I have been able to take a small step towards my ultimate goal.

Overall, I feel that one needs to have be very objective in his or her thinking and approach, be very considered in deriving conclusions and have enough self belief to build the safest harbor for yourself – that of your own conviction…then bringing down your own Berlin Wall is not at all difficult.

I am sure you have succeeded in bringing down some of your own Berlin Wall equivalents.  I will be very interested in learning about your experiences and am sure it will help us learn from your convictions, continue to empower ourselves and keep growing.

Explore posts in the same categories: Personal Effectiveness

8 Comments on ““Tear down this wall””

  1. vicky chauhan Says:

    That was a brilliant one…

  2. Huzaifa Vasaiwala Says:

    The article was really encouraging. I always appreciate you writing skills.

    And shouldn’t the name be GEL :).

  3. Thanks for your comments Huzaifa. There are more posts to come – hope they help you add to your perspective.

    And, I am glad you still remember ‘Project GEL’…the project is still alive for me and am constantly working on it – even today. Adding blog posts enables me to keep the fire kindled.

  4. Shishir Bhatt Says:

    Truly inspiring!

    The wall is in fact one’s own mental creation. A cloud in the shape of a monster. Once you have won over it, you will feel it was never there! And you start wondering to yourself “What on earth was I so worried about? The fear was never there!”

    As I had once read these lines about “fear”,

    *Fear is a surest sign of lack of faith in the law of nature!

    *If I am truthful in all my acts, I cannot have fear!

  5. Excellent, very well put Shishir.

  6. Pushkar Says:

    Hey Nimit,

    Wondering on the internet brought me to the doors of your blog site and I started reading them. I liked your thoughts in this artical.

    Keep up the good work.



  7. Deavng Vakil Says:


    Good work. I read your article on convictions and tearing down your mental blocks (the wall created by the mind). You have done a Good job at penning down your thoughts based on your experiences (that too in English 🙂 )

    Keep up the good work.

    Devang Vakil

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