What does holistic success mean and how can we attain it? What are the factors that govern it? Suma Varughese explores
I had an experience of what financial success felt like, quite recently, when I decided to hold workshops for writers. Following a trial workshop in February 2015, I was overwhelmed by the response to it, and very soon, I began to hold workshops almost every month in Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bangalore. I have not advertised these workshops save for the half pagers that appear in LP, and yet, the Universe seems to have scripted a delightful success story for me. Marketing a workshop is not easy in a saturated market. So what did I do differently to deserve this success? I shall answer this later, but I can tell you that it feels wonderful to know that you have something others want.
A runaway success
My friend Sundeep Waslekar’s book Eka Dishecha Shodh (In Search of Direction), which he published in October 2010, set a new record in Marathi publishing history by running 20 editions in the last six years. Sundeep was flooded with invitations to give talks, and politicians made a beeline to meet him and urged him to stand for office.
Most heartening of all was the response from the common man. “From poor farmers to postgraduate students and small entrepreneurs, all have told me that it has changed their lives. I don’t think it was the book. They were ready to change and the book provided the trigger,” says Sundeep.
Except for an excerpt carried in Loksatta and Sakal, two leading Marathi morningers, there were no attempts at marketing the book. And yet, the book is a marketing phenomenon. What lies behind that?
Bagful of success
At 18, having failed in the commercial art and design foundation course at Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai-based Nina Lekhi began to design bags from home. Today, this bright and bubbly young woman is the brain behind the 100-crore company, Baggit, a leading name in bags and accessories. She has won several prestigious awards for her entrepreneurship and has been endorsed by PETA for producing a cruelty-free vegan brand. She has no MBA degree, shares a wonderful relationship with her husband and daughter, and is an enthusiastic cyclist, swimmer, and member of the spiritual organisation, Siddha Samadhi Yoga. Clearly, hers is not business as usual. And yet, her success is indisputable. So what sets her apart?
What is success?
Success. It’s time to redefine the term. If one is ragingly successful in one aspect of life and spectacularly dismal at others, can we call that success? If one has set up a business empire worth billions by destroying the environment or by neglecting their family or health and become a horrible human being, does that count as success?
If one can trust the Internet, Steve Jobs was reported to have dictated the following shortly before his death:
“I have come to the pinnacle of success in business. In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success. However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed. . . . I realise that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud have become insignificant with my imminent death.”
Surely, this is not how we wish to go? A larger definition of success is available to us once we decide to step into the holistic space. Holistic success means being a successful human being. It means a vital spiritual life which enables you to focus on the welfare of the whole, rather than on narrow self-interest. It means building and maintaining beautiful relationships and progressively becoming more loving, compassionate, selfless, and competent.
It means reaching the end of your years with a sense of contentment and peace. And it means that, in the process, we may achieve extraordinarily or become billionaires, but only within the framework of being a successful human being.
Indian philosophy has a wonderful set of parameters on which to forge a successful framework of life. Called the ‘purusharthas,’ they consist of dharma (appropriate action), artha (money), kama (pleasure), and moksha (enlightenment). It is no coincidence that artha and kama are flanked on either side by dharma and moksha. Thus one makes money and enjoys life on a framework of ethics, in order to attain enlightenment.
We are meant to be successful in the process of living, and every other success has to emerge from that. In the Bible, Jesus put forth a simple but succinct formula for success: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” If enlightenment seems too drastic a remedy, at least get your ethical base clear. Righteousness should be the foundation upon which to build your success edifice.
Going by the book
Most contemporary books on success recognise the importance of the spiritual or ethical domain and promote it.
Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, offers principles that govern true success. It begins with the Buddha’s great insight: Between action and reaction, there is a pause. And in that pause lies our happiness, health, success, and everything else. Thus, by using the pause effectively, we can learn to take control of our lives. Other habits include beginning with the end in sight, so that we do not lose track of our desired path; prioritising, so as to always put what is important ahead of what is not; and working on improving oneself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra talks about the Law of Pure Potentiality (the Universe is made of pure potential), the Law of Giving (when we give, we get), the Law of Karma (our actions determine our destiny), the Law of Least Effort (relinquish resistance and let success come to you), the Law of Intention and Desire (through intention you will achieve your desires), the Law of Detachment (only when you relinquish attachment will your wishes come true), and the Law of Dharma (finding your purpose in life.) In the last, he talks about the fact that each of us has something unique to offer, and there are those who need it. When these two intersect, we get success.
Based on these parameters, how do the success that Sundeep, Nina, or I enjoy, measure up?
Case study A
It was 25 years ago that I first began to think about success. I had just had a spiritual awakening, and I was now ready to live. But then, I looked within and found that I had absolutely no qualities required for success. Moreover, my impression of myself was that I was a huge failure. It was a rude shock, but it also launched me as a seeker. I determined to change myself one hundred per cent.
During these last 25 years, I have changed hugely. Today, at nearly 60, I am on goingly getting better at everything—from writing, running the magazine, editing, cooking, to becoming more patient, more loving, more giving, calmer, and so on. I took the trouble to change myself into a successful human being—a key success principle.
Furthermore, I followed the guidance of the inner voice. My fear of public speaking and reactivity stopped me from attempting to be a trainer and facilitator for a good 20 years. At the end of 2014, though, I got a nod from my inner voice that I was now ready, and only then did I decide to start holding the writer’s workshops. The more we let go of individual will and follow the divine will, the greater our chances of achieving our goals effortlessly—another success principle.
There is tremendous wisdom in waiting for the right time, but it is possibly one of the success principles least followed because, today, everyone is in a hurry to reach their goal. Holistic success, however, is a long-term business, requiring you to work on yourself, find your purpose, and heal your karma, in addition to any other qualifications you may need for your goal. Acting at the right time would be our next success principle.
Another point that worked in my favour was that the content of my workshop was unique. I designed it entirely based on my own experiences as a writer and editor. Instead of duplicating someone else’s route to success, why not design our own?
I also allowed the design of the course to evolve by itself, following cues from the Universe, which had guided me to create a unique workshop aligned to my unique gifts. Thus, in accessing and releasing our unique gifts, we also find our purpose, both of which are important success principles.
Besides, without quite knowing it, I had tapped into a zone where there were few sellers and a lot of buyers. Positioned uniquely in the cusp between journalism and spirituality, I had access to many healers and facilitators in the holistic field, and all of them were looking to take the next step—write blogs and books in order to share their insights as well as build their reputation. They needed me, and I was happy to support them. This again resonates with Chopra’s Law of Dharma, where he talks about the intersection between having a gift to give and finding those in need of that gift—another success principle.
The Universe supported me hugely by bringing me mentors who helped me finetune the course and supporters who gladly told others about the course.
Case study B
When it comes to Sundeep, the most important factors governing his success were the motivation behind writing the book and the contents of the book.
It was written after a massive heart attack that gave Sundeep a desire to leave behind a legacy. He wanted to write something that would communicate his deeply held convictions and thoughts about society, and how it could be transformed.
Sundeep was not looking for money or success, and that kept his focus on the larger whole. When the motivation is pure, the Universe will take over the marketing and craft a stunning success story—one more success principle.
Secondly, the contents of the book were original and inspirational. The book encapsulated Sundeep’s rich experience of travelling to over 50 countries and interacting with heads of governments, terrorists, industrialists, inventors, diplomats, and common people.
Among the questions that Sundeep raises are the following:
• The world is moving towards the fourth Industrial Revolution. India missed the first three. Can it possibly catch the fourth, by reinventing itself as a domain of creativity and inclusivity?
• Hope for education and employment is denied to millions of rural youth because of the absence of a high school in thousands of villages. Is the elite prepared to introduce radical reforms in the education department to permit hope for the poor?
• Instead of wanting to be a powerful nation, can we aspire to becoming a great nation?
These informed and searching questions touched a deep chord in the minds of the common folk looking for inspiration and hope. Let’s face it. No matter how holistic our approach to life may be, it is ongoing striving for excellence alone which will help us retain the edge—another successful principle.
Case study C
When it comes to Nina, she too went by the spiritual book. She outlines some of the things she did right, by the rules of holistic success. “I was never an obsessive businesswoman. I simply enjoyed my work and the process of creating trendy products. What I enjoyed the most is working with people who are my family and who have become my family. This success has been the outcome of an inner journey. My Guruji, Shree Rishi Prabhakar, the founder of the extremely powerful SSY programme, transformed me from a ‘party animal’ to a loving and giving human being. This, in turn, has transformed my business.”
There you are again. Focus on becoming a successful human being, and success will permeate all areas of life.
Nina’s commitment was also to the welfare of the employee and the larger society. She made it possible for every member of the organisation to go for SSY retreats once in two months at company cost. She instituted fixed meditation slots for all those interested and strove to develop healthy eating habits by serving the team nuts and salads twice a day.
Nina opened a manufacturing unit in Katarkhadak and Mann villages to enable the villagers to be employed without getting displaced. In the next five years, Baggit grew 14-fold! The more she gave, the more she got back—another key success principle.
Excellence was another principle she followed from her earliest days. She says, “I uncompromisingly bought the best material I could afford and put every product through strict quality control checks.”
Nina also adopted a long-term perspective in formulating employee policies. When she found that her workers would only be motivated by timely payments and good wages, she gave them competitive wages on delivery. Thinking long-term alone will help us operate from integrity, honesty, and ethics, without which there is no chance of holistic success.
And finally, we can best attract success when we are passionate about what we do. It will give us the creativity to move forward and hang in there as long as we need to. All three of us, Nina, Sundeep, and I pass the passion test. Nina is passionate about making Baggit an international brand, Sundeep is passionate about the country and the future of its youth, while I discovered that I was passionate about books, writing, and teaching. This was one more ingredient of our success soup and another success principle.
And, if despite abiding by all these principles, success still eludes you, never mind. Perhaps this lifetime was not meant to be about success. Perhaps it was meant to be about learning your lessons instead. We are all on the path of evolution. Sooner or later, we will achieve the goals that truly resonate with us. If not in this lifetime, then in some lifetime. For immortal beings, time is not a consideration.
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