Two Birds in a Tree

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Two Birds in a Tree

Timeless Indian Wisdom for Business Leaders

Ram Nidumolu, Chip Conley, Jim Manchester


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Looking back to the ancient knowledge of the Indianscripture, the Upanishads, Ram Nidumolu finds the core philosophy of sustainableleadership that’s needed today. In this remarkable book, he uses a powerfulparable from these scriptures to create a business vision that our worlddesperately needs.

“There are two birds, two sweet friends, who dwell in theselfsame tree,” says the Upanishads. The firstbird, dwelling on the lower part of the tree, lives “in sorrow and anxiety.”Unable to see beyond the branches, it hops around compulsively indulging itsappetites, eating every fruit, sweet and sour. The other bird, higher up, cansee the whole tree and the wider world—this perspective puts it in touch withits innate sense of being, the quality of existence that it shares in commonwith all other living beings and the natural world. Content, it “looks on incompassionate silence” at the other bird.

Ram Nidumolu’s beautiful book on business leadershipuses this allegory to highlight why many businesses aredistrusted by the public and contribute to social ills like environmentaldestruction, wealth inequality, and climate change: they mimic the bird on thelower branch. But can business, compassion, and stewardship really coexist? Ram’ssurprising insight is to hearken back to ancient wisdomtraditions to reclaim their lessons for acting in accordance with our connection toBeing.

Two Birds in a Tree uses evocativeparables and stories from the Upanishads to introduce Being-centeredleadership. Being-centered leaders are guided by an innate sense ofinterconnection—the good of the whole becomes an integral part of theirdecisions and actions. Using the experiences of over twenty trailblazing CEOs,as well as those from his own life, Nidumolu describes a four-stage road mapevery aspiring leader can use to reconnect business to the wider world—to thebenefit of all. It is time, he writes, to “look up from our rickety perch onthe lower branch of a storm-tossed tree and begin the journey to the higherbranch.”