April 2017 What does holistic success mean and how can we attain it? What are the factors that govern it? Suma Varughese explores Despite having pondered deep and long about the factors governing success, I only had an experience of what financial success felt like quite recently, in the early months of 2015 when I decided to hold workshops for writers. I held a trial workshop in February 2015 for four friends and when they enthusiastically endorsed it, I announced it on Facebook. I was overwhelmed by the response. About 60 to 70 people from all over India eagerly petitioned to be part of the workshop. Being a brand new facilitator, I did not want more than 10 people for my first workshop in the second week of March. Sixteen stampeded in. The next week, I held it in Delhi and again was met with enthusiasm. Thereafter, I began to hold workshops almost every month. An announcement on Facebook, and a few Whatsapp messages would garner me a steady crowd of about 20 to 25 people. It has been two years since I started these workshops or courses as they later became known. And they continue to have enthusiastic takers. I have held them in Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. In October 2016, I held an advanced workshop and that too was well received. I have not advertised these workshops save for the half pagers that appear in LP through the kind courtesy of my publisher. I cannot speak for the future, but as of now, the Universe seems to have scripted a delightful success story for me. For I know that marketing a workshop can often be heavy going. In what is a saturated market, even advertising will not fetch you enough participants. So what, if at all anything, did I do differently? I shall answer this later, but I can tell you it feels wonderful. To know that you have something others want is a terrific high. It is what all entrepreneurs, or indeed professionals, aspire to. Sundeep Waslekar: His book was a runaway success despite little or no promotional efforts A runaway success My friend Sundeep Waslekar, who runs a much respected think tank called Strategic Foresight Group, which advises governments across the world on numerous issues, has enjoyed remarkable success with a book he published in October 2010. Written in Marathi, Eka Dishecha Shodh (In Search of Direction) set a new record in Marathi publishing history by running to 20 editions in the last six years. The average time to exhaust one edition of 2,000 copies was usually two years, the publisher had explained to Sundeep, because the thrifty Maharashtrian rarely purchased books, but instead sourced them from libraries. In the event, the first edition was sold out in a mere 10 days! The book has been converted into a Talking book for the benefit of the blind and has also been translated into Urdu and Hindi. The Hindi text is in its 8th edition. Sundeep was flooded with more than 3,000 invitations to give talks. Of the 15 or so invitations Sundeep did take up, the audience numbered between 1,500 to 15,000. Politicians ranging from Raj Thackeray to Prithivraj Chauhan and present CM Devendra Fadnavis made a beeline to meet him, goaded by recommendations from members of their constituency to read the book. RSS supremo, Mohanrao Bhagwat, was so taken with the book that at one meeting he devoted 25 minutes of a 45-minute talk lauding it, and comparing Sundeep to Swami Vivekananda. Many politicos urged him to stand for office and promised not to oppose him because people like him were needed in governance. Most heartening of all was the response of the common man. “In the 2,000 days since the book has been out, everyday between two to 10 readers have contacted me,” says Sundeep. “From poor farmers to post graduate 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. But I will admit that that the book created around 10,000 alert citizens.” His two favourite stories about the impact of his book are as follows: Soon after reading the book, the Deputy Muncipal Commissioner of a place in Thane district, was visited by a corporator who brought along with him a builder. He nonchalantly requested her to sign papers to authorise some illegal constructions while dangling the key to a brand-new car he had parked outside her office. Quietly, the lady called up the police and had them picked up for bribery. “The shell-shocked corporator thought she had some political connections to withstand his machinations, but it was the book that gave her the moral power,” wonders Sundeep. In the second instance, a young student wrote to him to thank him. For the last three years his father had been suffering from asthma so severe that all he wanted was to die. However, on the day the student sent Sundeep the thank you letter, he was astonished on returning home after school to find that his father had shaved for the first time in months, and was giving his wife a string of instructions on what he wanted to eat. He had decided he wanted to live for another 25 years and called up his daughter to tell her to stop her mundane work and take up higher education with his support. What had brought around the dramatic turnaround? His father had got hold of a copy of Sundeep’s book that the boy had accidentally left on his father’s bed! Neither Sundeep nor his publisher spent any efforts in marketing the book, except for an excerpt carried in Loksatha and Sakal, two leading Marathi morningers. No book launch, no interviews with the press, no exhaustive or exhausting book tours. And yet, the book is a marketing phenomenon.What lies behind that? At 18, smarting from being the only one from her batch to fail in the foundation course of her study of commercial art and design at Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai-based Nina Lekhi began to design bags from the bedroom she shared with her brother in their Wori flat, pressing in the services of the liftman, security guard and zip repairwallah to help her. 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 from the Indian government and media, and has been endorsed by PETA for producing a cruelty-free vegan brand. She has no MBA degree, works only half the week at her office, while the rest of her week is in a village called Katarkhadak. She 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 throttling competition, destroying the environment, or by riding roughshod over one’s colleagues, does that really count as success? If, in hot pursuit of success, we have neglected our family, depleted our health, and become a horrible human being, does that count as success? If one can trust 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.” What a chilling obituary. Surely, this is not how we wish to go? A larger more spacious definition of success is available to us once we decide to step into the holistic space. Or even recognise that success has to factor in the fact that we will take nothing material with us when we die. And die we will. Holistic success would mean being successful in all the important areas of one’s life, because it rests on the framework of being a successful human being. It would mean first and foremost a vital spiritual life which governs your values, motivation, priorities, and enables you to focus on the welfare of the whole, rather than on narrow self-interest. It means being physically healthy and emotionally stable. It means building and maintaining beautiful relationships with friends and family to sustain you throughout your life. It means cultivating the qualities and attitudes within you that foster success. It means being able to emerge at the end of the day as happy, enthusiastic, idealistic and optimistic as you were in your high youth, and a whole lot wiser. It means to have grown and expanded with each passing year so that you are progressively more loving, more compassionate, more selfless, more competent, more everything. It means to be soft as butter and firm as a rock, to have done justice to all your roles, to have realised your highest potential, and to have been a force for the good in the world. It means reaching the end of your years with a sense of fulfilment, contentment and peace. It means that on your deathbed, you will have a smile on your face, knowing that your life has been worthwhile and that God himself will say "Well done," when you reach the other shore. And it means that in the process we may achieve extraordinarily, or become billionaires or touch stratospheric reaches of fame and power, but only within the framework of being a successful human being. The purusharthas 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).
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