Over the last two decades I have had the good fortune to work with amazing leaders and corporations across the globe. My experience as an executive in Fortune 100 companies, founder of startups, husband and father has given me an opportunity to look at life, success and the pursuit of excellence via a unique lens.
I am also very grateful for my friendship with Deepak, Chopra MD, who has been an inspiration to me. He has life and personal journey, has inspired me to “Pursue Excellence and Ignore Success”. I am sharing these ten lessons that have shaped my own life and journey as an entrepreneur. My hope is that you may find some of these lessons applicable in your own personal quest.
Lesson #1: Value Innovation
W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne developed the concept of Value Innovation, the cornerstone of Blue Ocean Strategy. It is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost, creating a leap in value for both buyers and the company. When I look at a business concept, I explore how we can create a “Blue Ocean” and create value instead of competing in existing markets and slugging it out with fierce marketing, marginalization and pricing i.e. Red Ocean.
Lesson #2: Start with Why?
I recommend Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’, as a must watch. Simon discusses a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?” Too often we do not have a clear understanding of “Why?” and we jump into the “How” and “What” and when the going gets rough, we being to question the “Why”. This often leads to stress and burnout. Over the years I have learned to spend more time internalizing on the “Why”, before operationalizing the “What” and “How”.
Lesson #3: Surround yourself with PHDs
“Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are”, is something I have heard my parents grill into me. I have also heard the saying from Jim Rohn, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Take a look at your network. Take a look at your friends and colleagues. Who do you spend the most time with and how do they make you feel? Will they help you achieve your goals? The Influence of Our Support System plays a critical role in success both personally and professionally. I have strived to surround myself with people who have three traits – Passion, Hunger and Drive. The PHD’s I surround myself with are working towards a higher purpose i.e. living a life of meaning and significance.
Lesson #4: What is your Personal Compass?
Werner Erhard and Michael C. Jensen’s four principles have served as my personal compass:
- Being A Person or an Organization of Integrity -- The state of being whole, complete, unbroken, sound, in perfect condition. For a person and any human organization, integrity is a matter of that person’s word or that organization’s word being whole and complete — nothing more and nothing less. Integrity is required to create the maximum opportunity for performance and quickly generate trust.
- Being Authentic -- Being authentic is being and acting consistent with who you hold yourself out to be for others, and who you hold yourself to be for yourself. When leading, being authentic leaves you grounded and able to be straight with others without the use of force.
- Being Committed to Something Bigger than Oneself -- Being committed to something bigger than oneself is the source of the serene passion (charisma) required to lead and to develop others as leaders and the source of persistence (joy in the labor of) when the path gets tough.
- Being Cause In the Matter of Everything In Your Life -- Being Cause in the Matter is a stand you take on yourself and your life. A stand is a declaration you make, not a statement of fact. Being Cause in the Matter is viewing life from and acting from the stand that “I am cause in the matter of everything in my life.” Being willing to view life from this perspective leaves you with power. You are never for yourself a victim.
Lesson #5: Conscious Leadership
Deepak Chopra, MD has a model for us to move towards becoming a successful leader. I have used this as my framework and in my pursuit towards being a more conscious leader. The acronym L-E-A-D-E-R-S is instantiated as follows:
- L=Look and Listen.E=Emotional Bonding
- D= Doing
Lesson #6: Not all Money is Good
Most us have had to bootstrap our ventures during the early stages and are confronted with making decisions such as raising funds from family, friends or venture capital. How you raise the money and source of funds is at times more important than the product.
Investors who are aligned with your vision and have a long-term perspective that gives you the runway along with the right council is “good money”. Money that is quick, relies on quick exits and may not align with you and your strategic direction, this is the money you have to “run from” – Easy Come, Easy Go!
Lesson #7: Profitable Growth
We are surrounded with models of scaling a businesses and creating “viral growth and network effect”. We are told to worry about the business model once the business has reached a critical threshold of users. We tend to model after the success of companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat and romanticize how we can create a similar business model. We are reminded that growth is about “home runs”—the big bold idea, the next new thing, and the product that will revolutionize the marketplace. While obviously attractive and lucrative, home runs don’t happen every day and frequently come in cycles.
I believe to build longevity one has to look at “profitable growth” and recommend Ram Charan’s – “PROFITABLE GROWTH IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS - 10 Tools You Can Use Monday Morning”. Ram Charan, provides the building blocks and tools that can put a business on the path to sustained, profitable growth. For more than twenty-five years, the ideas he has developed for solving the profitable revenue growth dilemma facing many businesses are based on personally seeing what works in real time. These are ideas that have been tested across industries and that deliver results.
Lesson #8: You Cannot Do It Alone
No leader or business ever got anything extraordinary done without the talent and support of an ecosystem. We need others and they need us. We're all in this together. We have to be sensitive to the needs of others, listen, ask questions, develop others, provide support, and ask for help. You can't do it alone. Whether in the real world or a virtual one, it takes the talent and support of others for us to be exemplary. From an entrepreneur perspective, the path can be especially challenging at time and you need the support of family and friends.
Lesson #9: Wellbeing
The importance of helping members of your team to feel motivated and healthy and the correlation to the success of the business cannot be underestimated. The value of paying attention to employee wellbeing and engaging them in a much more emotional sense so that their mind-set is more positive is more likely to lead to higher standards. It is important for us to care for our own work-life balance and wider wellbeing; but also enable the wellbeing of the rest of the team. Jiyo a wellbeing platform co-founded with Deepak Chopra, MD, we are focused on transforming personal and societal wellbeing. We are collaborating with corporations and smart communities to integrate wellbeing as part of their strategic business and management practices.
Lesson #10: Unbounded Positivity
When things are going wrong and the world around you seems to be negative. I am reminded of the quote from Mahatma Gandhi –“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. If the world always seems negative around you that could mean that you project your own negativity onto the world. To help turn the world into a better place, start by turning yourself into a better person.
In my own entrepreneurial journey, I have come to the realization that success, happiness and success is relative to our own state of being. Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same. Choosing to be an entrepreneur is a choice and so is the choice to have unbounded positive attitude at what life throws at you. Today my goal is aligned with the vision of Deepak Chopra, MD, -- “Reaching critical mass for personal and social transformation, with the goal of creating a critical mass for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and joyful world”.