By Hardik Vaidya

Simon Taufel : Leading with Vulnerability

It was around 9:00pm in Nagpur, when I had just wrapped up an event with Simon Taufel, in front of 500+ audience members. We had overshot by quite a margin, because the fantastic audience were bustling with questions. Post the event, Simon and I, headed back to our rooms as we had early flights to catch the next morning.

Since our rooms were in adjacent buildings, I asked the organizing team to help me reach Simon’s room. I wanted to thank him for a great candid interview that we just had. Plus, I’ve always admired Simon’s on-field genius; so how would I miss such an opportunity? He made umpiring look graceful and easy. I believe, he raised the bar of the game in his own way. I intended to say a quick hello and scoot back to pack my luggage. But, I accidentally chanced upon a passionate exchange of cricketing stories between Simon and a senior umpire from the Vidharbha Cricket Association, who was shortly on his way out. To my pleasant surprise, Simon suggested we grab a quick dinner together. For friends and family who know me well, I have a habit of celebrating a good show with a can of Redbull. We called for two each, that night. So you can imagine, how ecstatic I must have been! Little did I know, that a quick dinner would turn into an almost two hour long conversation.

As we segwayed into numerous topics, I really got to understand Simon on a much deeper level. The candour with which he spoke, inspired me to share my own personal stories. It gave me a chance to know why he is such a high level performer, both on the field and off it.

I however, do not take any credit for the quality of that evening. I deeply acknowledge the fact, that it is Simon who led that meeting with vulnerability and honesty, He spoke about how deeply he cares and thinks about his family and values that he holds dear. He passionately shared about his book – Finding the Gaps, which was under works. When you strip away all the titles and achievements, and simply connect on a human level with anybody, magic happens. And magic did happen that night. If this article has so far sounded like an all glory trumpet about him, pardon me; because it is. I believe, appreciation and admiration should be fully given where it’s due.

Several months later, Simon pinged me about the completion of his book and the upcoming promotional tour in Mumbai. I still remember reading his message and wondering, that there was no need for him to ping me or check-in if we could catch up for a chai/coffee. Given his rolodex, you can imagine, how jam packed his schedule must’ve been. He even gave me a preview of his book’s cover. At the time I remember feeling, I had to get a signed copy from him. It is in moments like these, when you get to observe the humility of an individual inspite of being a global figure. When you live the values you preach, there is incredible power and magnetism in it.

I took a chance and asked him if his schedule permitted an interview for my digital talk show – Bosses On Internet. A month later, when he landed in Mumbai, Simon figured a day and time and graciously incorporated my request. The next day, he was to be on a panel at the Tata Literature Fest at 10am, speaking as a newly minted author. He scheduled us for 8am that morning. When we reached the venue by 6:45 to do the setup, Simon was already up and rearing to go! Due to some technical issues with the venue, he even helped us secure an alternate space. All I can say to you is, even in that interview, he generously shared stories with complete vulnerability. I highly encourage you to check our chat on Youtube. If you’re a genuine Cricket fan, I’m positive you’ll enjoy his experiences and anecdotes.

He handed me a signed copy of ‘Finding The Gaps’, and I took great privilege in reading it page to page. It is every bit its worth weighed in gold. If you’ve never met Simon, I guarantee you this, it will feel as if he is sharing all his lessons in person with you; just the way he did with me the other night. He shares his trials and tribulations with as much passion, as he does about the successes and routines that made him the 5 time ICC Umpire of the Year. It is a book not just geared towards umpires or cricketers or sports persons; but it could very well be a deeply insightful read for students, professionals, managers, business leaders and CEOs alike. If you are ready to up your game, this is your book. He won’t accept mediocrity. In my opinion, the best way to read this book is to take it slowly and reflect as you go along. I copiously kept taking notes in my diary throughout the read.

Thank you Simon, for your friendship and showing that vulnerability is a huge strength in our careers and personal lives. I continue to value our conversations.

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