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A personalised account of waht success in life is.

It usually so happens that people live without much thinking. As long as life keeps you busy with its vagaries, you feel very comfortable with the discomfort and keep living that confusion called life. You make decisions as if you are the best judge of all. Even if you want to ask an opinion, most probably there is none to offer one. This is a fact with people like even me, who is not a first generation literate. I had many friends and classmates who qualify for that definition. Though my people were educated, the worldly wisdom was their best forte. They desisted from deciding my future. Today I really do not know why I chose biology in the school, but for the fact that all the good friends were in that class. I really do not know, why I left my post graduation class in language and joined sciences. Then after a Ph.D. degree in sciences I went joined an organisation which never had any respect for anything. Is it not living life as it comes?


Gone are the days when people would take life as it comes. Being ambitious is the fashion these days. Every Tom Dick and Harry talks of success! There is a lot of confusion in the minds of people about this success. The unassuming people who lived within their means and passed away without even making a mark on their vicinity, forget about the world, are according our standards today, meek, mild and useless. Have they lived happily? Have they made their people happy? No one asks these questions. I chose to write these few lines because of certain very peculiar experiences of mine. I asked myself some questions and am answering myself.


If success is calculated according to the positions you have reached, I am both a success and a failure. I no doubt reached some position and also lost it. I was a senior officer in the central government. I was summarily dismissed from my job. I became unemployed. What happened to my job? Why did I lose it? And how did I lose it? Are the questions to be asked. I lost my position and job by choice and design. I was not enjoying the work. I realised it early one day and told myself , I don’t belong there. I started moon lighting. May be that was a bad decision. But, it made me and my people very happy. I never regretted that decision later.


I am happy with what all I have done with my life. So, I feel I am eminently suited to tell people about what I think is good for them. Successful people particularly in our country never share their experiences. In the western world every famous man and woman writes a book to tell the world about their life. We, in India think that everything is a great secret and all those secrets die along the individual. Those who write memoirs are rare. Rarer are those who tell the truth about the other side of their life. Those who can not resist telling the truth take umbrage under fiction. When people ask them whether what they have written is autobiographical, the answer would neither be a no nor an unqualified Yes. People somehow think too much about themselves and reveal too little.


If you feel-I did not say think-that you are worthless, you may be and probably are a victim of a culture that has told you that your worth depends on your achievements and the judgments of others. The feeling of worthlessness besets and enervates men and women, but in different ways.


For women it can be a devastating experience, especially for those who experience depression because of the conditioned beyond their control. The same society which supports organized brutality in the form of football and boxing, assigned them second-class citizen status-a promotion from the third-class status of only 30 years ago. No woman deserves freedom, thought our forefathers. They are vulnerable, they are moving targets.


And men? Men are even more vulnerable than women to feelings of worthlessness. Men have been programmed since childhood to base their worth on their accomplishments. They must deal with unrealistic expectations assigned to them by the society in which they live. Winners are enshrined: all others are "losers," and are forgotten. Our culture tells us that what we do is important. What we are is not. That's wrong, dead wrong.



There is a proverb in my mother tongue which means “the grapes out of reach are always sour.” Many people when not able to get what they want say that they never aimed for it. Even if it is such a simple thing called happiness. Rich never talk about making money. They make it. They talk about their not intending to make money. There are some poor people who tirelessly talk about the futility of money making.


Money is one thing and happiness is another. One need not make money to be happy. Here lies the hitch. In these days of materialism you are judged by what you flaunt before the world. May be your belly is not full. It could even be empty. You are respected only if you put up a decent appearance. This decent appearance is the root cause of all the confusion.


There is this story about Mulla Nasruddin and the coat. Looks like Mullah went for  a party in some ordinary clothes. He was mistaken for an intruder and was driven away by the guards. Mullah went home and dressed himself in an impeccable way and returned. This time around nobody objected his entry. He went into the party and started stuffing his coat pockets with the goodies served there. Somebody asked him why is he not eating and putting all the food in his pockets. He replied that the coat was invited to the party and  not him. He perhaps explained what happened earlier at the gate.


You either put up  decent appearance, make others happy or be like what you are and make yourself happy. It is all, so confusing. Is making other people happy a sign of success? Many people think that is success. But what happens to you in the bargain. Success is getting what you want. Happiness is liking what you get. Success may not always make you happy. And may times you may not like what you get.


I could not like the job I had. I tried to like it, but nobody helped me further. In fact many of them with whom I confided about the way I felt, almost shouted at me. They told that I am a moron and only a fool would think of quitting such lucrative position. My heart, on the other side was asking me about the missing happiness. So, I gave up as per my own decision, made consciously.


Nobody now can say that I am not successful. There are a lot of them who can’t see this stand point. I can only pity them. They are stuck up with the paradigms. They only know complaining or putting up a show that they are enjoying what they do. Gone are the days when you enter a trade and continue till the end, either yours or that of the trade. Today people create new opportunities. Success does not come without notice. You have to plan for it, work for it and develop an attitude of reaching the goals. All this happens by conscious decisions one after the other. It can be said without doubt that success is a result of choice and does not come by chance.


A lottery ticket is a gamble. You can perhaps make some money and think that you are successful. It is a gamble after all and you can have control over the ultimate. You most of the times lose the half rupee that you spent on buying the lottery ticket. Even if  a gamble clicks you can never call it success. Because successful people go on without let up. Success becomes a habit with them. It is a part of their attitude. Gambling is a chance oriented activity. It is one in thousand probabilities. You can only wait for the result. Never can you decide it in advance.


The Ten Misconceptions of Success


To talk any further about success we have to make a few points clear at this stage itself and change our attitude about success? Maybe... I've found in much of my work with people on creating a better, more positive attitude towards life that many of us have a misunderstanding about success and what makes us successful.


Here are the ten most common misconceptions people have about success and some thoughts about those misconceptions.



Some people can't be successful because of their background, education, etc.


When I exhort people to come up with results most of them feel diffident and tell me that it is not easy doing things and taking life my way. They tell me that it has to be there inside to push you towards success. I tell them that I am not really special. There are many people who think that I am a failure. They even have stopped interacting with me because of the stigma they feel, around me. The reality is that I never thought of myself as failure. I always quote the master chef Martin Yan, who on his programme says “if Yan can cook, so can You!!” . Me a villager with a villagers mindset even today can do some thing, and can come to a level where I am today, I feel everybody who thinks “I Can!” can do a lot in life. My teachers even in the college were of average kind, Most of them. The times were really bad. Even if we meant to be good students the system never allowed us to do so. I have only a second class degree to my credit. When the atmosphere was different in the post graduation I performed well. It is not the background and education that makes people weak. It is their mindset and determination. I strongly feel anybody can be successful. It's a matter of wanting to, then doing what it takes to achieve it.


Successful people don't make mistakes.

I remember a research scholar working with our professor when we were in the Final year of the M.Sc. course. I really do not know whether he was and is now a very successful man. He had one quotation scribbled on a paper and kept under the glass sheet on his table. It read like this. “ Are you not tired of committing the same mistake again and again?” I remember it even today after some three decades. It only tells one thing. Successful people make mistakes just like we all do. I have committed more mistakes in my life than most people in this world. I clearly remember that the typing mistakes in my Ph.D. thesis were far too many. No examiner would have pardoned me, but for the worth of the work. There is only one rule. People learn from their mistakes. They just don't repeat them. Once you realise that you have committed a mistake you become a better person. You know that doing some thing in a particular way will only lead to the wrong results. That is a lesson. Each failure is a lesson. They say Edison failed more than a thousand times before he could invent that light bulb. It has not changed much since then. That is the way success is achieved. Bhartrihari the poet par excellence in sanskrit says that worst people never start a work since they are afraid of the hurdles on the way. The next kind start it and leave it half way not able to stand up to the task. But there are the others who are classified as the Uttama or the best kind, who in spite of the problems and hurdles keep going and attain the desired results.


You've got to work 60 (70, 80, 90...) hours a week to be successful.

It's not a matter of doing A LOT of something. It's more about doing the right thing. Many of us think that working like a donkey is the best thing that can be done. There is a saying in Sanskrit which means some thing like this. “ If in spite of efforts success eludes us, where is the problem?” it almost means that it is not a fault at all. There is efficiency and there is also what is called effectiveness. If the earlier is doing things right, the later can be called as doing the right thing. It is not enough to do it because you can. It is intelligence to find out whether that is what is expected to be done in that situation and yields results as per expectation. If you are drawing water from the well and putting it back into the well what use is the effort of? I never burnt what they call the mid night oil. When the results were declared none believed that I bagged the gold medal. Best of it is , even I did not believe it. There are hard working people and there are intelligent people. For an intelligent person the mid night oil is not required. Right thing at the right time is the trick, or is it a trick at all?


You'll only be a success if you play by the rules.

There are always some rules for every activity. Who makes up the rules anyway?  Those who have experienced the fruit of the efforts at a simple task can tell the followers what is expected to be done. It in some time becomes the rule for that game. Each situation is different. Sometimes following the rules is needed, other times making up your own rules is what's required. Perception is needed to find out whether the rules are valid even now. Give them a try perhaps. It may be necessary to make your own rules and also tell the world about your experience. If you keep doing the same things that are always done you only keep getting the same results like they always got. That is the beauty of rules. You get into a frame. Look aside and find out whether there is a better way of doing the same work. You may fail! No problem! On the day you are successful with the way they start calling you an innovator.


If you have help along the way, it's not success.

Success rarely occurs in a vacuum. Recognize the people who help you become successful, there are plenty of them. I have even written a poem named “The steps”, wherein the steps are nothing but the people who have helped you reach your place. No one is independent. We are social animals. We depend on each other in more than one way. It is always good to hold the hand that can lead you to the better destination. It is not is natural to take help but also is expected of you to help others in their efforts. If you know a thing or two about the ways of success, that could be a blue print for many others to follow. If the parents do not help you on the path to being successful; individual can never emerge out of you. If the teachers do not bring the best out of you, it may not be possible to make out the potential all by yourself. So, the way can never lead you anywhere if there are no sign posts on it. Similarly taking help of friends and others is a natural part of efforts for success.


It takes a lot of luck to be successful.

It takes some luck to be successful, sure. It takes a lot more hard work, diligence, knowledge, and application. Put only one fishing rod into the water and wait for the biggest fish for ever. There may not be any fish at all on your hook. Put as many baits and nets and rods and any other tools of fishing as possible and you will surely get more fish than you can ever use. Luck favours a few. But those who put up real efforts seldom go empty handed. They can go at least with a feeling that they have tried and learnt a lesson that there perhaps is another way of doing the job. Opportunity comes at the most inopportune times. It is for you to recognize it. Luck does not knock at the door twice. If let go, it does not even look back. Allama Iqbal, the poet who migrated to Pakistan after independence wrote a couplet in Urdu. In it he says, “ elevate yourself to such a height where, even the God will ask your choice when he grants you a boon.”


It's only success if you make a lot of money.

Money is just one of many benefits to success, but it's not guaranteed. The days have changed and the paradigms also have changed. Only those people like me who could not make a lot of money say that making money is not the only sign of success. In these days of materialism it is only the money you have which brings social status and all the good things that go with it. All said and done, one who is making money like a printing machine in the security press, is always under duress and is always thinking of making better money. One who is under stress can never be happy. One who is not happy is not really successful. There is a way of being successful even without a lot of money. I have proved that I can make a lot of money and my time is really valuable. People are ready to pay for it. Had I made myself a commodity and put on the market I would be rolling in riches. I end up doing what others want. I can never do what makes me satisfied. I am not talking of indulging in myself. I am, even now, working for the happiness of people first and then me. That is the order of preference and there is a fine balance in it. Money is needed. Old time knowledge in India has identified the use of riches in a wonderful way. It is said in the following way. Education makes you humble. Humility makes you deserving of position. With that you get riches. With Dhanam, that is the money, you can make some good deeds that are to be done, and only then you can buy your comforts. Comforts are not always bought. You derive comfort by doing things that give you happiness. Happiness is the ultimate secret.


It's only success if everybody knows it.

You may get more money and more accolades the more people know about what you've done. But, even if you were the only one who knew it, you'd still be a success. For example I have done certain things which obviously are very difficult. I did not say this and the people who commissioned me for the job themselves said it. They even said if I don’t do it the project may have to be withdrawn. I told them not to put my name in the credits. I had my own reasons for it. I was doing that job just because I needed some money. Though it is a job for a specialist and I get name and fame , I was not for them.

It has become a record now. Interestingly, I continue the work. Not many know it. It has become so routine that the people who commissioned it also are not aware of the dimensions of the effort. Since I am doing it so easily, no one except one or two think about it. Can we call it a failure just because many people do not know my achievement in this connection? There are many in this world who do some wonderful things and not even think about it. Publicity is needed only when the success is not very complete.


Success is a goal.

Success is what you get, when you achieve the goals you've set for yourself. Saying that you "want to be a success" begs the question: "At what?" there is this famous quotation which says success is not the destination but the journey it self. Everything you do in pursuit of success is success itself. You get the experience of working for success. A researcher after working for years realises that the hypothesis on which the work was based is all wrong. Even that is a result. Many people think that negative results are bad. The scholar becomes more intelligent. She knows that the hypothesis is wrong. This knowledge was not there before she embarked on this journey. Paulo Coelho’s alchemist never finds the treasure at the pyramids. On the way he learns so many things which are more valuable than the treasure. Every step of yours in the effort is success it self. At the end of the road you may realise that it is the wrong road you have trekked. That is knowledge and you will never follow that road once again. Success in short is the effort and the journey. Make hundred journeys. You may still not reach the goal. But that satisfaction and the experience of the hundred journeys will make you wiser than what you were in the beginning.


Once I'm successful, my troubles are over.

You may be successful, but you're not God. You'll still have the ups and downs that you did before. Enjoy what success you achieve and live each day as it comes. One success does not mean anything. Once you feel you are successful you start feeling that it is easy to reach success and you will sure start another effort. Success is addictive. Success goes to the head. There are some benefits in it and more dangers. Once you are known to be successful you will be expected to be successful al the times. It is like the reputation of a good doctor. One failed case and all will fall down. No! never! Because success is not one single case for the doctor and one small achievement for you and me. Since success is not the destination but the journey, troubles will continue along with it and will make you used to them. Your perspective will change totally. The speed of your life will change for ever. In essence success will make you more vulnerable and responsible.


7 Steps to Living at the Speed of Life

Everywhere you turn today, people are in a constant rush: Hurry here! Hurry there! Free up an extra half-hour and you just might be able to squeeze one more task into your already overflowing schedule of things to do. Even one without much to do will put up a show as if all the work in the world is their responsibility only. I heard in Delhi, this word ‘tension’ even from low class workers. One who is taking rest will continue there. One who has achieved success once will chase the dreams and will become a machine and a success robot. Unfortunately, too many of us these days mistake living fast for living well. They aren't the same things. Rather than spend your time rushing around not enjoying life, make the decision to do just the opposite. Choose to slow down. That is exactly what I did when I decided to let go the job I was having. You need to enjoy what you are doing. If you can not change what you are doing, it is said, you should change your attitude towards the same. It is easier said than done. I know many successful executives at very senior level who are stuck with what they are doing. They can neither leave it, nor be happy at it. One has to make an option about life. Social position, money in the bank, invitations to parties are all one side and the peace with which you sleep at the end of the day is an the other. This focus in life about what exactly you want is the trick. I don’t mean to say you need not earn money. I don’t even say that money is everything. You need money to live well. How well is well enough? That is the decision to be made. The success you are looking at will depend on what you define as your happiness.


Below I've listed 7 steps that will help you get started "gearing down" to a calmer, more enjoyable pace: your own, personal, speed of life.


1. Stop rushing

No matter how much you do or don't do, time passes by at a steady rate. Second by second, minute by minute. You can't change that. So accept it and pace yourself. If there is one resource available equally to everyone in this world that is time. All the other things are distributed in the most imbalanced way. A non performer is the richest man around. A fool gets all the happiness in the life and not the wise one. Only hence, we have to choose our own speed of life. You follow people faster than you and end up tired before reaching the destination. You follow the lazy people who are not really worried about reaching there and you also will never reach the destination even if it is visible from the place where you are. You follow your own speed and reach, arrive may be at your own time. This may not be the rule. Remember the rules are meant to be made by us and modified by us. Thinking differently is all about breaking the rules. Many people who break rules and conventions are very successful. It is sometimes called as innovation. It may perhaps be more meaningful to reach the destination when it is not crowded.


2. Stop being rushed

People may misunderstand you that you have given up and not in the race any longer. To hell with people. Of course, you'll need to spend some time telling some of the people around you that you're not going to rush anymore, but it's worth it. Take a stand: don't let others force you into fast forward mode. It is like walking in a group. You may have your own optimum speed and will end up running according to your definition. You will end up gasping and perhaps will also break down if it reaches a point beyond limit. Your limit. Nobody need to push you. You know the situation when you have to accelerate yourself. It should happen by a conscious decision of yours. If you speed up just because some one asked you or some one is faster than you, remember, gasping.


3. Do less

It's natural for you to start rushing about when your list of activities is jam-packed. A successful person will have a long “To – Do” list. Only a busy man can do one more thing. Even you want to give a work to somebody who is known to work well and not to one who is lazy. There is no fun in having a big list of tasks and ending up not doing many of them. The secret here is about reducing the tasks and prioritising them. If you really want to slow down, reduce your commitments --it's okay to say "No" when people ask for your help and/or participation-- and free up some "spare" time. This calls for lot of confidence and a quality called assertiveness. Learn to identify the difference between the urgency and the importance of the matters and you will know how to reduce your engagements.


4. Do nothing

Better yet, take #3 even further. Do less than less.... do nothing! Plan "nothing days". These are days when you have absolutely nothing that must be done -- days when anything you choose to do is the right thing to do. These are the days or the hours of thinking and planning. When was the last you spent with your friends, relatives and family? You have become so busy that you are not spending time with yourself. Even when on the move all the gizmos are along to rob you of that one fleeting second when you layback and meditate. I know of books on meditations for men and women who do too much. Have a schedule of silence, inactivity. That time is reserved for planning and review. It will save you of many embarrassing situations. Time management is a subject which is misunderstood by all. Rushing and being in time is not time management. Perhaps canceling that engagement if it makes sense is much better than that.


5. Do one thing at a time

If you can't bring yourself to doing less (or nothing), then slow down by simply doing one thing at a time. You'll focus more on each task you do (and you'll probably complete it faster, too). They say something about biting more than what you can chew. Learn to realise if you are in some such situation. Having a finger in every pie will rob you the chance of tasting even one among them. Even a computer will go slow when you are multitasking. It will even hang. Learn to prioritise and do your job in a natural sequence and speed. I know many people who read when they eat. Worse when in the toilet. You are not doing justice to either of the tasks. Ideas should not get mixed up. Similarly work should not get mixed up. Concentrate and do one thing at a time. Your efficiency will go up.


6. Do things now

Not everything, just the stuff that really must be done today.  Prioritising is the key. We have a habit of letting the work pile up. Feeling that you have a lot of work to be done may give you satisfaction. It is vicarious satisfaction. When a letter comes to you, do you try read it immediately unless you are doing something very important? I know many people, senior officers for that matter, who keep aside their important papers thinking they will see them separately at a convenient time and not along with all the other ordinary papers. They will most probably forget that they have postponed seeing something very important. Strike it when it is hot is the idea here. Unless you have a systematic approach of listing and doing all your works in a sequence, which even officers do not do, you will end up with piles of pending work. Post works for their suitable times and make a note of the posting in a place that you see invariably .Pay your bills when they arrive, not the day they're due. Take out the trash when the trash is full, not just on the day the garbage truck comes by.


7. Do something for someone else

Spend an hour each week helping your favorite charity. You'll quickly see how valuable time really is and you'll feel great by focusing on helping others. Helping yourself with some meaningful activity is also equally important. You should have some avocation which takes you away from all the routine and takes you into another realm. Service to the society is wrought with it’s own problems. Choose the right place and work. Lest it may become a dead weight around the neck.

What do you feel about my thoughts?