Tuesday, April 29, 2008


My piece on Success Mantras, given below, has appeared on Prabhjot Singh Bedi's career-related website - www.myeclatcoach.com

Prabhjot is a Hospitality professional, trainer and life coach.

GUEST POST| 3 Attributes of Success

Aruna is an experienced Corporate Communications, Marketing Communications and Public Relations professional with 15 years of experience in the Diplomatic and Hospitality industry.

I asked her to do an article on 3 Attributes of Success.

As a keen observer of people from different walks of life and their behaviour, I have come to the conclusion that success is not only the life-force of an Identity, but that it is also subjective.

While to the world, in its most generic manifestation, the rich entrepreneurs and businessmen, the heads of organizations, famous people in sports, media and entertainment are all supremely successful, I have a skewed view on that. To my mind the cobbler-by-the-street corner who has been practicing his craft over all these years and has become the colony favourite is a successful man. The deft nurse who gets asked for by most of the patients, who does her work with utmost sincerity to the Hippocratic Oath and ably assists the doctor in saving may lives yet many a times remains nameless, is a successful health provider. The teacher who has earned a reputation of churning out students who go on to become stars in their chosen profession yet she stays on at the same school year after year content with practicing her job to the best of her knowledge and with a rare sense of commitment, is a highly successful Guru.

Many years back we had a lady who used to work for us at home, tending to our domestic needs. Like other members of her profession, she worked in several other houses besides ours. But what stood her apart was that she was never short of work. People asked for her to come and join their households, she was bestowed with a lot of gifts both on occasions and otherwise. We took turns in giving her money if she ran out of cash or needed the extra buck for getting herself or her husband treated. When she decided to leave this line and join a school as an administrative support, we all gave her glowing references – all true, mind you. Even now she visits us and is welcome anytime. And I think she is one of the most successful people I know. She is not rich, mighty or famous, but she IS successful.

If Sunita Williams is a successful astronaut, so are the set of skilled workers who work hard to ensure that every cog in the wheel of her spaceship works smoothly. If the flamboyant striker in a football league team is successful then so is the goalie who does not drop even a single ball.

If we must take names of the very famous, then Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar - India’s celluloid superheroes - are all successful. Yet each has had a different approach or strategy. Shahrukh is populist, has a lot of fire in his belly, is hungry for recognition and for being the best in whatever he does and plays unabashedly to the gallery. He has a deep need to be the number one in whatever he chooses to dabble in – movies, endorsements, cricket, television, even awards and the recognized lists of the rich and famous. Aamir is more niche, likes to do only what he really likes to do; makes wonderfully intelligent and sensitive films yet refuses to fill nominations for the popular awards, turns down million bucks offered by corporates for making run-of-the-mill films. Aamir has a maverick approach to his art and follows his heart and breaks several moulds in the process. Akshay cashed in on his strengths – action, martial arts, dancing – to gain a foothold; worked on his weaknesses – voice modulation, dialogue delivery; and added to his skill base – drama, comedy, romance. Three people, three strategies and three success stories.
Having established that success permeates through caste, creed, colour and social standing, I would like to state that there are several common threads that run through the successful people in their respective ilk and genres.

The first thread or quality definitely is hard work or smart work. If you need to get somewhere you will have to burn the midnight oil to get there. There are no short cuts or quick fixes. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow uttered the following famous words, definitely my favourite quote –
Lives of great men reached and kept
Were not obtained by sudden flight;
They while their companions slept
Were toiling upwards in the night.

That was then, but even now look at the success stories of the geek-entrepreneurs dotting the Silicon Valley skyline and you will discover that many of these young guns end up sleeping for only a few hours putting in 18 working hours to realize their dreams.

If you want to be promoted, if you want to move up the corporate ladder then you need to be a fast, smart worker who packs in quite a punch in terms of his deliverables and quantum of work.

The second quality would be persistence, perseverance and a consistent internal push. We would not have had light bulbs or telephones or planes or the revolutionizing concepts of relativity and Archimedes principle, to site a few, had it not been for the never-say-die spirit of these zealous, determined folk. How many times have we been told by our seniors – If you try and fail once then try again. Would any of us have learnt any of the stuff we did while growing up, be it academics, sport, dramatics, elocution or hobbies had we just tried them once and not gone back, again and again? Ask the innovators, developers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs and they will reel off some mind boggling numbers for the times they tried, failed, tried again, failed once again, re-attempted ………………till they finally succeeded.
With persistence I would link in grit and tenacity that keeps you in the groove of your chosen activity.

So go for it and keep going till you get there.

The third most important quality is, undoubtedly, passion. That definitely is the main driver in your path to success. If you don’t let that little light within you extinguish or quell the inner voice that eggs you on or keep the fire in your belly alive and stoked then it is passion that does it for you. It is passion that keeps you motivated in the face of flak, failure or fear.

Fervour, ardour, enthusiasm, zeal, craze ………………..call it by any name but it is passion that is your undying spirit which keeps your dreams alive and brings you a step closer to your coveted calling.

Vincent van Gogh, Christopher Columbus, Johann Sebastian Bach, King “Tut” Tutankhamun, John Keats …….. some of the world’s super famous and successful who either died poor or unknown and gained fame only posthumously. But it was their unstinting passion that kept them at it as they went about churning masterpieces after masterpieces.

If I could get to vote a fourth quality then it would be serendipity. The streak that sees the need, that truly believes that necessity is the mother of invention, that takes risks and craves for finding the extraordinary among the ordinary. It is the curious, insatiated spirit and the un-accepting diehard mind that lets you chart a new course, YOUR course in a direction uncharted before.

To sum up, lets coin the ‘W’ factor – Winning attitude with a high winsome quotient; Want as in desire or ambition; Way as in methodology, strategy, action plan; Wisdom as in assimilation of knowledge with practicality; Why – the curiosity, the thirst to know more and do more; Where to – the vision, the far sightedness; Will as in determination and fanaticism and finally Worship – by that I mean faith, veneration of the one above (whatever shape and form he or she takes for you) and a belief in yourself as an integral part of HIS universe.

So, success is an attitude and a way of life. And yes, nothing succeeds like success.

For comments & further talk…write to arunadhir@hotmail.com

The power, the influence and the ethics of advertising!

Monday, April 07, 2008

The power, the influence and the ethics of advertising!

Going through the full page advertisement of Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre Ltd. in the latest issue of City Limits today, I was taken back in time to Circa 1999. I was at The Oberoi and had just got initiated (courtesy my company) into the benefits of an Executive Health Check-up offered by biggies such as Apollo and Max. Once my regimen was completed, I was tempted enough to get one done for my Mother. That is when we found out that while my Mother had a heart as strong as that of a young man, she had several almost fatal blockages in her aorta and other main arteries. We began taking her around to Delhi's best Heart Institutes. For the Angioplasty and stenting routine (which was going to save her life), we spent sleepless nights tossing over the options of Apollo VS Escorts. We sought opinion of family and friends and received equally divided votes between the two medical health providers. For us personally, the swankiness, the cleanliness, the international appeal and the strong buzz for Apollo veered us towards them and that's the way we went for my Mother's treatment. Again, personally for us (and I am sure not for everyone), this turned out to be a hazardous step. The consulting cardiologist had a private practise on the side and that's where he liked to consult my mother often. We spent money like water but I eventually lost her within eight months of her Angioplasty. Lot of friends, sharing our unimaginable grief, lamented that we should have gone to Escorts which minus the Apollo lustre at that point of time, boasted of some of the finest cardiac experts. We had been sadly taken in by the hype that the other Hospital had created and the superficial sheen it presented. The permanent damage had been done.

This is not the first case for me or for you, as we turn out to be suckers for fancy advertising, giving in to their agressive, above-the-line and constant persuasion. We are constantly urged to drink fizzy drinks, eat trans-fat rich, preserved and packaged foods, buy over their prime as well as, sometimes, their expiry date international products that have been dumped into the third world super / hyper markets, exercising the optimal pull and push factor on the crazy mall novices from these places. We get done in by the promotional offers, on-site advertising and discounts that play on our minds heavily while shopping in these glitzy places. Pushpa Girimaji, a consumer behaviour expert, warns us against such shopping pattern with dire consequences both on our health and pocket.

Every waking moment, we are attracted to a product by our favourite celebrity endorsing the product unabashedly with two hoots given to its overall brand value. Aerated drinks eat the biggest share of the pie. So, while Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and their ilk, put the might of their immensely appealing persona to persuade us to buy stuff that they would think twice about using so rampantly themselves or allowing their kids to do so, there is little thought, if any, given to the hazardous effect of some of these products on the people of a country which is fast becoming the Diabetes capital of the world, for one.

While earlier we would pay heed to what our mothers told us OR our Nani-ke-Nuskhe (grandmother's tried and tested tips) OR some of the relevant old wives tales and passed the rich knowledge down to our progeny, today it is blatant and pretty often unethical advertising without a conscience that rules our mind.

The moral order crumbles down ever so often in the face of the commercial greed. Sadly, in a country where millions are spent on advertising and celebrity endorsements on stuff that has very less realtime value for its masses, there is pittance reserved for health care and educational initiatives.

Do a quick stat analysis or reality check and see how many Indians are denied the basic right to proper health care, hospitalisation, education............. even three square meals a day. Then look at the reach of advertising even in the back-of-beyond hinterland where real and spurious drinks or foods do brisk business. And then somewhere in your heart and mind, the little voice will grow into raging anger against the immorality and unethicalness of it all.