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Sunday, December 7, 2014

7 Secrets to Unlock Success and Happiness

I frequently speak at conferences on many topics including innovation, leadership, and the future of mobile technologies. At these conferences, young people often ask me for career advice. I am reminded of my younger days when I was looking for the same. Wisdom from a few people has greatly influenced my thinking and actions. Please keep in mind there are no silver bullets. But if you are willing to work hard, be patient and open your mind, you may achieve more than you ever dreamed possible.

Following are the seven guiding principles I’ve used for happiness and success.
1. Learn. You have to be learning all the time. Don’t just learn about the job you are in. Learn how the business operates. Learn about the value-chain your company is a part of. Learn how your competitors do things differently. Think about how technologies can disrupt your industry. Understand your learning style. Do you learn more from sitting in a class, reading a book, doing, or listening to stories? Test what you learn by applying it to the real world.
This will help you develop good judgment.
2. Develop an independent mind. Don’t blindly follow what people say and do. Seek understanding and take context into account. The education system teaches things with generalities and universalities. However, life is different. Your action has to vary with the situation or context. Ask a lot of “why” questions. Foster the ability to argue both sides of an argument. Most people spend their life without questioning why things are the way they are. You have a choice not to do that. Another choice you have is not to increase your expenses with your income. This has a magical effect on the mind. If your expenses grow with your income then you will always be dependent on someone or something for your lifestyle and that limits independent thinking.
This will help you create your own destiny.

3. Have rituals and self-discipline. The number of distractions you have today is exponentially higher than what I had when I was growing up. The Internet, mobile phones, and cable TV were not around when I was in college. Although these new technologies are helpful tools for us to accomplish things, they can also be huge distractions. Goals are a necessity to keep you on track. It is really hard to accomplish anything today without self-discipline, and rituals help reinforce self-discipline. Here is an example of my daily ritual. I create yearly goals, review them frequently and grade myself on my performance at the end of the year. Last year I gave myself a B-.
This will help you get things done.
4. Try a lot of different things before you settle on any one thing. Don’t stay with one function. If you start your career in marketing, don’t just stay in marketing. Work in different functions within the company. Understand how the company works as a system and develop empathy for people who work in areas different from your own. I have worked in innovation, product development, sales, marketing, strategy, finance, and P&L management. With this interdisciplinary approach, I’ve discovered my passion for solving complex problems and aligning diverse groups of people towards a shared goal.
This will help you find the one thing that you will be exceptional at.
5. Become interesting. Have a diverse set of interests. If you work in the tech industry and all you can talk about is tech, then you will be boring to a lot of people. We are so lucky to be alive today. Just one hundred years ago, most people spent their lives worrying about survival. Be curious about other people and ask them questions. They love talking about themselves. Be current on world-affairs. Read the Economist or some other current affairs magazine. If people like being around you, then you will get invited to a lot of social gatherings. This is where new opportunities originate.
This will help you develop an ability to relate to all kinds of people.
6. Be Pragmatic. In the last twenty years, the biggest change I have seen in myself is that I have become a pragmatist from being an ideologue. In my first job, I gave a list of 72 things that were wrong with the company to the President and I wanted everything to be fixed right away. I am lucky that the president was a mature leader and I did not get sacked. Think in terms of making relative improvements and focus on things that you can influence. Prioritize what needs to be done. There are always a million things to do. It is alright not to do everything. All decisions are a function of the options available. When you decide to do something, understand that this comes at the expense of not doing everything else.
This will help you focus on the right things.
7. Raise your consciousness. What is life about? Making money, spending it, and constantly satisfying your senses? Think about how you are contributing to your local community and the world. Join the Rotary Club or some other civic organization. Never miss an opportunity to help others. Keep your word. Always do what you say. Share what you are learning with others. Read philosophy. Develop an interest in the arts. Make everything around you more beautiful. Find the right life partner whose love is not dependent solely on your income or your looks. I live by Leonardo da Vinci’s seven life principles.
This will help you become a good human being.

This article was originally published on on November 28th, 2014.