Monday, August 27, 2012
The way to your dreams, your goals lies not just in charting a good action-plan, but also equally in decluttering your life, the way all great men have done


“Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature...” – Thomas Kempis

In today’s world, where we live in an environment of clutter, chaos and confusion, the person who is able to de-clutter and simplify his life is the one who can achieve the maximum. Most of us are doing too much – speaking too much, connecting too much (thanks to Facebook and other networking sites), multitasking too much, aiming for too many goals, filling our workday with too many commitments, and the list goes on. It’s time to hold back, think, and simplify things. It’s time to focus on the essential and de-clutter, and de-stress our life. All successful people have done it.

However, simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. The ones who can achieve it have been the most successful. Charlie Chaplin was one such legend. He simplified films. All his films were immaculately constructed. He understood human psychology perfectly and depicted it in the simplest manner in his films, which is why even today, they are as enjoyable to watch. Come to think of it, simplicity can be pretty complex. Only if you have a deep understanding of the problem can you think of a simple explanation or a simple solution. As Lao Tzu once said “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” The one who can master these three virtues is sure to succeed.

Look at the world of advertising; even here, simplicity works the best. The commercials we remember the longest are the ones that tell a simple story. Remember the Zoozoos of Vodafone, or the little pug of the Hutch advertisements? Almost all of us remember them even though the ads have stopped being aired on TV. A great advertising guru is one who has the knack to understand the pulse of the consumer. Ask any advertising man and he will tell you that the toughest challenge is getting ‘customer insight’, i.e. trying to figure out what will motivate the consumer to buy. Most of the times, the answers are the simplest. When Rasna was launched (sometime around 1983), the ad agency Mudra used one simple headline, ‘Home Magic’, and below it put a photograph of 32 glasses filled with Rasna with a straw in each glass. A simple idea, but the housewives loved it for the visual embodied the value-for-money proposition. One pack could make 32 glasses. So successful was this simple depiction that the visual remained the brand’s identity for 23 years. A great advertisement is one, which very simply articulates what the consumer wants. This requires great skill but once you have found your message, you do not require expensive locations, celebrities or expensive sets to make your ad stand out and get noticed. The right message is remembered and people never get tired of watching the ad. Amul’s advertisements are another example of the power of simplicity. They pick up a topic that is in the news and build an ad around it. In 1967, the first hoarding of Amul went up in Mumbai and till today, people wait for Amul’s next ad. Look what a simple idea can do!

Prof Rajita Chaudhuri
Rajita Chaudhuri
It’s said that the greatest truths are the simplest. The same can be said of the greatest men. William Wordsworth was a great poet who wrote about the simple joys of nature; and even today, his poems remain as popular. He said, “How many undervalue the power of simplicity! But it is the real key to the heart.” Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest men India has seen, believed deeply in the virtues of simplicity. He said, “Live simply, so that others may simply live.” The moment we ‘clutter’ our life with too many unnecessary wants and needs, we forget to enjoy its true beauty; and it’s this greed, this insatiable hunger that leads to more problems for not just us but those around us also.

In a nutshell, great things start with simple ideas; and truly great people have achieved their greatness by believing in simplicity. They lived simple lives and found simple solutions to every complicated problem. Very simply put, if you want to lose weight, the simple solution is to eat less. If you want to do well in studies, study daily. If you want to become a good musician or sportsman, get up every morning and practise. If you want India to really change, go ahead and vote for the most deserving candidate. If you want to achieve something, just do it!


The temptations of time wasters are everywhere and are the causes of a lot of procrastination. The television and YouTube are two mediums causing the biggest wastage of time. Hours evaporate into a mist of undone tasks before we know it. These temptations are the greatest when we have the most to do. The less time we have, the more the temptation to waste it doing things, which could easily have been avoided.

In his book Eat the Frog, author Brian Tracy gives one simple advice. He says that according to an old saying, if you eat a live frog in the morning, nothing bad will happen to you for the whole day. However, the ‘frog’ that he speaks about is actually the one thing that you find the most difficult to do in your ‘to-do’ list. It means the task, which is the most important; and it is generally the most demanding task that we try to procrastinate the most. It is this ‘frog’ that should be attacked first and finished the moment we start our day. This will ensure that the job is done when you have the maximum energy and time in hand, leaving you feeling happy and satisfied for the rest of the day; and perhaps, because of this, one is encouraged to do even more things in lesser time. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time.” What he meant was that we write our future ‘one day at a time’; so if each day is planned well and if each day is made productive, the future is bound to be good. Live each day to its fullest, by planning it well and starting the day by doing the most important things first.


Give up something. Abstain from certain things. Have the courage to say ‘No’, for it gives you strength and prevents you from giving in... from succumbing to pressure. Great people managed to achieve the impossible by making a promise to themselves of abstaining from certain things till they accomplished what they wanted. Chanakya refused to tie his hair till he had avenged his father’s death. Draupadi refused to tie her hair till she had taken her revenge. Gandhi refused to eat (and undertook indefinite fasts) till the British agreed to his demands. Giving up something to attain a greater goal has been the foundation of Indian culture. It gives one immense power. Fasting makes us stronger. Giving up non-vegetarian food makes us increase our self-control. You could start by giving up one activity that wastes time and use that time to do something productive.

One of the greatest qualities of a leader is his ability to overcome temptations. It’s his ability and courage to say a ‘no’ which gives him greater control over his life and his thoughts, for every time he says a ‘no’ to the temptation, he keeps the focus on his goals and that increases his determination and willpower. You say a ‘no’ for you refuse to take ‘not possible’ for an answer; because when you are obsessed with an idea and think only about it and nothing else, all your energy and life starts revolving around it. Once that happens, you are bound to succeed.

A person who can control his thoughts, a person who has a strong mind is the one who achieves the most. As someone said, “As you think, so shall you become.” Think about what you are planning to do today, for your thoughts become your actions. If your thoughts match your plans, only then will you succeed. The book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill says that if you have a burning desire to achieve something, you will get it, for that [burning desire] will help you overcome all obstacles and opposition. Thoughts become things, and as Hill puts it, “All achievements, all earned riches have their beginning in an idea!” So find that idea which will engulf you and make you work towards it like a man possessed, and you will never look back.

Both your thoughts and actions finally decide your future. So think right – this will help you to plan right. Before that, de-stress and declutter your life; simplify it so that you can focus on the really important stuff. Finally, once you have decided on something, don’t let anybody in the world change it... Just do it!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

She was born into a family of jhum cultivators of Manipur. She helped her parents till the fields and looked after her siblings. Brought up in such a modest background, she never imagined that she would one day win a medal for her country at the Olympics. The woman I am talking about is Mary Kom, a true winner who, without any formal training and money, has won six gold medals at World Championships. This year, she made India proud by winning a bronze for the country. While better and more popular athletes crashed out, this woman put up a tough fight and achieved victory. Her story is the story of a woman who never gave up.

Rajita Chaudhuri
Prof. Rajita Chaudhuri
Every cartoon this boy submitted was rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Later on, even Walt Disney refused to hire him. Yet, he never gave up. Finally, in 1950, his dream of becoming a professional cartoonist was fulfilled as his comic strip Peanuts was published. It soon became a big hit and Charles Schulz was soon earning $30,000 a year by 1953. The characters of his cartoon strip became virtual heroes and soon they were adorning cards, books, clothes, lunchboxes, et al. Snoopy, one of Schulz’s creations, was such a big hit that he soon became the mascot of NASA in 1969. NASA’s lunar excursion on the Apollo 11 mission was called Snoopy! Ford used the characters from the cartoon strip Peanuts to sell the Falcon. The characters of Peanuts were also used for 15 years to sell the products of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. A man who faced a lot of rejections and misery, but all the time kept his focus on what he loved, Schulz finally showed the world that ‘quitters never win and winners never quit’.


In life, things may not go as planned, but great minds have the ability to rise to the occasion and take up the challenge. As Washington Irving once said, “Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune, but great minds rise above them.” It’s these people who have achieved true greatness. John Milton lost his eyesight, but it did not deter him from writing Paradise Lost almost 16 years after losing his eyesight. Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime, that too, to one of his sister’s friends for $50. Yet, he never gave up painting and completed 800 paintings without feeling dejected; and all the time totally believing in what he was doing. Persistence pays, and is the deciding factor between winners & losers.

The exhibitions of the ‘Impressionists’ artists were routinely rejected by the Paris Salon. They thought it was not art and refused to acknowledge it. The artists never gave up and continued their work. Today, there is hardly anyone who remembers the name ‘Paris Salon’, but anybody interested in art knows about the ‘Impressionist’ artists. In June 2008, the auction house Christie’s London sold its most expensive painting, that of Impressionist master Claude Monet, for more than 40 million pounds. Never ever in Europe had a painting been sold at an auction for such a price. The ‘Impressionist’ painters never let the judgment of Paris Salon pull them down. They never gave up on what they believed in till the world gave them their due.

He did not speak until he was four years old, and couldn’t read until he was seven. His parents thought he was ‘sub-normal’. He was expelled from school and his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrip forever in foolish dreams.” Those were these ‘foolish dreams’ of his that transformed the world. From opening a whole new world of ‘Quantum Physics’ to answering the question “Why is the sky blue?”, he changed the way people understood the world! Albert Einstein looked at things differently and saw what others could not see. Even the ‘God particle’ would not have been discovered had it not been for Einstein and the support he gave to our own Indian scientist Satyendra Bose.

This boy failed in sixth grade and he was defeated in every office he stood for. But he did not give up till at 62, he became the Prime Minister. His name was Winston Churchill.

These and many more such success stories have one thing in common; the people never succumbed to adversity and never lost focus. They relentlessly pursued their goals and believed in themselves even when the world gave up on them. These people had the courage to fight all odds.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz
Cartoonist Charles Schulz


As Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen”. If success comes with listening to your ‘inner voice’ and not letting other’s opinions overpower this voice, it also comes when you have the courage to listen to other people – especially those who don’t agree with you. Success also comes when you have the humility to accept you were wrong and change your course of action. The most difficult words to say are “I am sorry” and ‘I was wrong”. People who have the courage to use these words win in the long run.

Indian Boxer M. C. Mary Kom
Indian Boxer M. C. Mary Kom
In fact, it’s so important to accept your failures that kings of medieval times kept court jesters, who were allowed to comment on the king’s failures; something others dared not to do. But kings realized that it was important to have someone point out their mistakes. Great kings had great jesters. In Persia, the autocratic Shah Naser al-Din had all his courtiers quaking except the jester Karim Shire’i. He would ridicule the whole court, including the Shah. Once, the Shah asked whether there was a shortage of food, and the jester said “Yes, I see that Your Majesty is eating only five times a day!” Be it Tenali Rama, who was the favourite jester of King Krishna Deva Raya or Birbal, who was the favourite of Emperor Akbar; these people made the kings realize their mistakes through their wit and intelligence and the kings rewarded them amply. Everybody makes mistakes, but it takes great strength of character to accept them. Only great leaders have the humility and courage to do so.

John Burroughs once said, “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” When you blame others, you learn to find an easy way out to justify your mistakes. This takes away the cutting edge from your fight, which is what makes true winners succeed in the long run.

Noted Painter Vincent Van Gogh
Noted Painter Vincent Van Gogh
When I have the courage to blame myself, I learn to take personal responsibility. When I blame myself, I close all escape routes, which helps me to keep a focus on my goals and work harder to achieve them. Richard Branson started Virgin Cola. Failed. He started Virgin Credit Cards. Failed. Yet, he never gave up. He accepted his mistakes and moved on.

There is no success without failure. The truly successful ones are those who have mastered the art of handling failure. They have the courage to accept their mistakes and sit down.


Everybody fails, but you become a ‘failure’ if you refuse to get up after a fall. There is a Japanese proverb that describes success in a simple line: “Fall down seven times, get up eight (times).” The Campbell Soup Co. was one of America’s most successful brands, but by 2002, it had lost its charm. When Douglas Conant was appointed its new CEO, he was not scared to put up a fight and even though sales were declining and new competitors were closing in, he kept the faith. After eight years, he changed this company, which was once labeled as “a beleaguered old brand”, into an ‘extraordinary’ one. Today, the company is once again going strong and is back on its feet because there came a leader who refused to give up.

Former British PM Winston Churchill
Former British PM Winston Churchill
Everything that could possibly have gone wrong went wrong with Chrysler, from a federal bailout to bankruptcy to takeover by the Italian automaker Fiat. Yet, the company did not give up and this year, it’s back. In fact, it has reported its first annual profit since 2005.

Edwin Land co-founded the Polaroid Corporation in 1937. By 1960, it became so popular that half of America owned a Polaroid camera at that time. However, when mobile phones with built-in cameras came in, the definition of ‘instant photography’ changed, and the corporation had to stop the manufacturing of its instant cameras. The company was down and out, for it failed to assess the changing needs of the market in time and lost out to new and better technology. However, as the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” A group of passionate photography lovers are reinventing the Polaroid. They have called it the “Impossible Project”. They feel that there still exists a market for their product. They have a new peg for their instant films. They say that it’s carefully manufactured to develop slowly in the palm of your hand. Maybe this initiative succeeds and Polaroid reinvents itself to suit the demands of the new market, but the fact is that here is a company that refuses to give up. It will not be defeated so easily. That is what success is all about.

Edwin Land Cofounder of Polaroid Corporation
Edwin Land Cofounder of Polaroid Corporation
The people who succeed are those who don’t take no for an answer.

You too, must not let failures affect you. Believe in yourself, for no one else will till you do so. Have the courage to follow your dreams, but at the same time, have the courage to accept your mistakes and correct them; and at every stage that you fall down, do not forget to get up and once again start working towards your goals. Everyone who has seen success will tell you this, for all success stories have one common thing – they never, never, never gave up!