We all wish to be successful. How do we define success? Is it determined by the wealth one accumulates, public recognition or popularity achieved, hierarchical status within the workplace, stature in a religious organization, a “feel good” sense of accomplishment through charitable efforts, or, is it a combination of all these and other factors? Do we adopt a societal definition or can the parameters applicable to an individual be used to measure success? Is it static, or does a sliding scale exist to calibrate and nudge the dial? Is there permanence to success or is, as they say, “Success is fleeting and it is only significance that is lasting?” So, is one’s success to be measured by the legacy after their work here is done?
In today’s “no holds barred” race to succeed, are there attendant costs that we fail to discern and measure? A further interesting dilemma arises. Should a person consider moral, just and equitable outcomes for all or focus only on personal success? In his book The Difficulty of Being Good: On the subtle art of ‘Dharma’, Gurcharan Das – former CEO and MD of Proctor Gamble and a respected author has offered an interpretation of the epic Mahabharata wherein he also addresses such issues of morality. It is difficult to define Dharma, (frequently described as ‘duty’, ‘religion’, ‘justice’, ‘law’, ‘ethics’, ‘principle’, and ‘right’.) It is an obligation and an ideology which includes both ritual and moral behavior. In particular, two aspects of Dharma merit discussion: Sva-Dharma (the duties of an individual) and Sadharana Dharma (code of morality that every person is bound to, in a social system) as occasionally these might appear conflicting.
I recently had lunch with a friend who is involved with a non-profit organization that helps newcomers settle in Canada. We discussed a range of issues, including the hopes and aspirations of people arriving in this country, the need to educate newcomers on their legal and societal responsibilities which might be different from practices considered acceptable in their country of origin, how might we help them identify role models that they could look up to and emulate as they start to builds a new life etc. He told me that a large number of new job seekers face interviewers who ask them, “How do you define personal success? How do you evaluate success?”
In very broad terms today, success is usually measured in materialistic terms or by humanitarian accomplishments. In trying to understand the compulsions and behavior of successful individuals, we talked about Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, Martin Shkreli and many others. It is not possible to develop a “playbook” or a primer to educate or instruct, but there are a few generic themes that we were able to identify; some of these are as follows:
- First and foremost, be Honest. Only I know what I want. At the same time, only I know the extremes I can go to, to achieve my goals. I must therefore be honest to judge my goals and actions critically, warts and all. It is important that my actions are “just” and not merely justifiable. All of us have to live by our own “Principles” which cannot always be self-serving.
- Honesty in dealing with others. We have long had the adage, “Honesty is the best policy.” This is being questioned today and people say that one, this is not a “policy” and two, in a personal relationship or in the workplace it is not always possible to be completely honest without suffering adverse consequences. Many whistleblowers are considered to have been “punished” for speaking out for what they considered a “just” cause. Does this mean we stop highlighting bad behavior or malpractice and become complicit? Would inaction (Sva-Dharma) on the part of individuals to correct wrongdoing not be detrimental to our society (Sadharana Dharma)?
- Today the word “Disruptor” is being used with abandon but is also frequently misunderstood. Those who initiate change also bear the burden of bringing this about respectfully and carrying the uninitiated with them. It is important to remain aware of, and, regularly conduct a “360 degrees” evaluation of our relationships.
- Our actions must build mutual Trust, which is the cornerstone of any relationship. One is not expected to have an answer to all questions and it is best to accept ignorance than be seen as a deceptive person.
- Trust builds Credibility. There are no short cuts and this takes time. Credibility is not a one-time success measure, but we have to work hard to maintain it. There is no better business/visitor card than one’s credibility. It travels by word of mouth and is readily promoted by brand ambassadors on one’s behalf.
- Focus and Commitment. Once the goal(s) is/are identified, one has to commit to the process to attain it/them. While a key focus, it cannot be to the detriment of human relationships.
Albert Einstein had said, “Try not to become a man (person, these days) of success but a man (person) of value,” while eminent Urdu Poet Firaq Gorakhpuri expresses his thoughts on the subject as follows:
“Jisse kehtii hai duniyaa kaamyaabii vaa.e naa-daanii
usey kin qiimato.n par kaamyaab insaan lete hai.n”
[What the ignorant (people of this) world call success
At what cost do successful people achieve this]