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Here's What The Millionaires Next Door Taught Me About Success

10/05/2016 8:10 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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We all like success stories. When we see people beating odds and achieving their goals it gives us hope for our own dreams. It tells us that we too have a chance. We feel a little more in control of our future in an unpredictable world. Success stories inspire us to work hard towards our own goals, big or small. In the lives of extraordinary men and women, we look for lessons and try to glean mantras that can be put into practice for our own selves.

As a writer of books which chronicle the lives of successful entrepreneurs, I have met many high achievers over the past few years. I became acquainted with their life journey and the struggles they faced to reach the top in their chosen field. I realized that while there's no secret formula to success, there are indeed some common principles that successful people apply effectively in their lives to keep them on course in difficult times. Here are some lessons I took from the lives of these successful entrepreneurs.

Chart your own course

Every person and their circumstance are unique. It is important to focus on your own strengths and capitalize on the opportunities you have. There may be others in your field with a better education or a wider network of connections but may not have your experience, focus or diligence. Utilize your skills and build on them.

There may be others in your field with a better education or a wider network of connections but may not have your experience, focus or diligence.

"It is important to recognise your unique strengths," Rajesh Satoskar, an insurance agent and motivational speaker based in Mumbai, told me. Satoskar's story is an inspiring rags-to-riches one. He remembers having sold pens at train stations to support his family's meagre income as a young boy. Satoskar recognized his knack for selling early on in his life and decided to become an insurance agent even though he did not have the contacts assumed to be critical for success in this profession. Among, the top LIC agents of India, today, he sells policies worth millions of rupees.

Be in it for the journey

Instead of focussing on what you want to become, be guided by what you want to do. Some people want to emulate their role models. They have a vision of what success should look like and have lofty ideals. In their concern for the future, they sometimes forget to do their best in the present.

"Don't aim to become the next Steve Jobs, aim to serve your customers well and build a solid business," says Prasoon Gupta to the young entrepreneurs who come to him for advice. Gupta has lived by this principle himself. Although he's an engineering graduate from IIT, Gupta always wanted to be an entrepreneur. A vegetarian and a foodie, Gupta began a chain of Sattvik vegetarian restaurants called Sattviko with a mission to provide healthy and wholesome eating-out options to people. While the venture has been dubbed as one of the more promising food start-ups in the country, recently it has had its share of ups and downs and the journey has not been an easy one for Gupta. Nonetheless, he has been able to sustain and grow in this highly competitive industry because of his pragmatic approach to business.

"Don't aim to become the next Steve Jobs, aim to serve your customers well and build a solid business," says Prasoon Gupta to the young entrepreneurs who come to him for advice.

Choose actions over ideas

I have seen some friends struggle for years to find the perfect idea to start their venture. Many have too many ideas but none good enough to implement. While it is good to bounce your ideas off friends and family, talking with too many people may be counter-productive. This is what Ritu Nanda, top LIC agent and daughter of the legendary film maker Raj Kapoor learnt when she decided to become an insurance agent. "The very thought was outrageous for everyone," she said about the reaction of people around her. Nanda did not think much about the pros and cons involved and simply went ahead with her decision. Similarly, most achievers put the idea into action rather quickly and test out its potential. While it has a risk of failure involved, it also gives them a chance at success.

Develop a thick skin

Don't take rejection personally. A salesman may hear a "no", a start-up may not get funding, a writer's book may get rejected and a film maker may get bad reviews. Rejections will come your way in whatever field you are in. Take it in your stride. Pay attention to feedback from trusted friends but discard the rest. Strive towards self-improvement but do not let criticism diminish your self-worth.

Successful salespeople, who I met during the course of writing my book, shared several techniques for dealing with rejections. Dinesh Tater, a Jaipur-based businessman and successful financial advisor practised what he called the "let it go" approach to deal with the high number of rejections common in his profession. "Don't give it any importance," he says. "Redirect your energies to new prospects, tasks and ideas."

While it is good to bounce your ideas off friends and family, talking with too many people may be counter-productive.

Keep on learning

Invest time and effort in gaining knowledge and skill. Take courses, go for seminars, or join a professional community. The road to success is not easy. Do not look for short-cuts. You can achieve your true potential only through hard work and patience. Do not avoid the long road just because you are eager to reach the goal. The longer path is usually the more enriching one and teaches you valuable skills.

Finding a mentor and learning under his tutelage for five long years is what Dr. Partap Chauhan did before he started his company Jiva Ayurveda. With a chain of 50 Ayurveda clinics and 150 doctors in the central telemedicine centre, Jiva is redefining the practice of Ayurveda in the country. Dr. Chauhan believes that learning with his guru gave him the necessary knowledge and conviction in Ayurveda to be able to set up and run his enterprise.

Success means different things to different people. It also has various classes and categories. Whatever your personal yardstick for success, the above ideas will certainly help you towards reaching there.

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