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Last week, I was blitzkrieged by the number of responses to the post sharing my experiences on the meaning of success. Thanks everybody who took the time to read and comment (24), “liked” (18) and forwarded (3) it. I tried to respond to each one individually, but then thought it is better to just go and write a sequel. I’m hoping this will be the only one J

I realize every individual has to deal with a unique situation, and therefore the uniqueness of the questions. Each one is important. For brevity, I’m highlighting two that came in early, and encapsulate quite a few things.

Renu Dhar “Great Sanjiv. You have put your thoughts nicely together. One thought i have do we have to wait till we are in 40’s can’t we balance it or do we have to leave one part of life to achieve the other part I am sure you must have gone through this phase do share your experiences.”

Ashish Uchil “Awesome Sir, my view goes a step further to your last line and a bit contrary ” good idea to create your own definition of success and then achieve it “….by doing this, you would love the path to success, and if you love what you do. higher chances of achieving success, The moment you hit high strike rates, you are perceived to be successful, however – whoever looks at it! Makes sense?”

Before I write any more, I do want to clarify that I have permission from both Ashish and Renu to reproduce their comments in this post. I’m footnoting this because of my experience with Microsoft and exposure to its Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA) team which has instilled this discipline. If you’re reading this and you’re from LCA, you’re winning! Naru hinted this should be titled “getting away from the rat race”, but I’m just keeping the title because it’s a sequel.

So Renu’s ponderings (not verbatim) are…

  • Is there a time or age when you start building the balance and defining success for yourself?
  • Is it necessary to sacrifice some part of what we do to be able to achieve the other part?

…and Ashish believes this needs a strong closure, namely

  • …by doing this, you would love the path to success, and if you love what you do, there are higher chances of achieving success any which way you look at it.

Honestly, I never thought about whether there’s a good time/age to start. Let me tell you when I started. It may give you some idea. There were two distinct periods. I wasn’t very strong academically, and I have wondered since my school days whether I’m being successful or not. It continued well into my professional life. In the early part, I became really good at what I did. That built up a lot of self-belief. The obvious success meant I put everything into my job since I believed it was helping me out of the insecurity. But that may have been when things started working against me, without my realizing it.

I know that’s a contradiction, but it was the point where I created the one and only dimension of success in my mind – my job – and that stayed with me till several years later. As I dropped much of what I enjoyed and directed my energies in the sole pursuit of professional success, I laid the foundation for a mind that was kidnapped by its alter-ego, my other self. I believe my alter-ego had been fed on the uni-dimensional mantra of success – that which is achieved professionally and is represented by wealth, power, fame etc. Essentially, that’s when I lost the balance. Two things I want to make clear here – first, I’m not looking for the enemy without; and second that there’s nothing wrong with the pursuit of wealth, power and fame. My alter-ego is mine to use the way I choose. It was being consumed by the “sole” pursuit and that’s what corrupted it.

Not all of us have that problem. The ones who do should reflect where they are if their issues are similar. That could be a great time and place to start working on rebuilding the balance.

On the point of having to sacrifice one for the other, I’ll go back to my heyday in professional life. I never felt the need for the balance. Everything was great. There was recognition, growth, wealth, some fame and power in a limited context. It’s just that at some point I realized that I had already sacrificed my balance. I needed to bring it back. My reason for making the change was that I was up to my ears with the way I was feeling about myself, and I wanted to do something about it urgently. That thought, or event, didn’t give me the freedom to leave what I was doing. Most of the time, old and painful things don’t go away. But to not let them consume us by creating new things that matter is important to keep the older things in their place and not let them consume us. I don’t view that as a sacrifice, but as an investment, and I don’t believe it’s one over the other.

Has it had a positive impact – well, yes because I feel much better about myself. For example, I’ve relegated the “mine is bigger than yours” syndrome – I’m referring to house, car, bank balance, designation, team, company, alumnus, salary etc. – to one of the things I care about, not the only thing. That’s a big one. As a result of doing this, I have gotten rid of a property investment which I had made because it had the right social profile; I already have lesser debt; the worry of a Grade B house coming up opposite my balcony doesn’t trouble me as much, and so on. Instead, I’m making decisions better suited to my profile, and am less influenced by anybody else’s view. We all KNOW this, but it is different to ACT on it. So many people I know kid themselves about what importance the symbols of success have for them. For most of them, these symbols mean EVERYTHING, whatever be their public position. Let me reiterate, there’s nothing wrong to desire for symbols of success. It doesn’t even matter what they are. But making these the sole pursuit of our lives, or not understanding when that happens, can spell trouble. You can avoid this by adding things that really matter to you amongst your list of high priorities, and you could keep your successes in much better perspective more easily.

There are some things I’m not so sure about yet, because regaining the balance did mean doing some fundamental things very differently; it’s too early for me to say what the impact will be. It’s also evident that I will have to keep finding the balance, so there’s more work to do. But at least I realize that what was incredibly important to me 10 years ago is less important than some other things now, and I must tilt the balance if I want to have a free spirit, and not a mind abducted by my alter-ego.

Which brings me to Ashish’s comment.

It’s a very simple and powerful point. I can say without a doubt that everything I have been successful at has been something I enjoyed doing. I read more, I worked longer, I learnt more, I fought harder, I believed in myself, and it just mattered so much more. I can still tell detailed stories from 10-15 years ago about things I enjoyed doing because the memories are so good, and because, surprisingly, so many of them ended in success. I’m glad I took the initiative to try and create more such stories for myself. My environment was no longer giving me those opportunities, so I decided to create my own. In business literature, authors extol the virtues of being passionate about what you do. Much of the literature has a use by date from the time of unpacking. I wish there was more about how to re-ignite that passion. I am on the lookout for creative new things to be passionate about, and to push use by dates into the future.

There’s some good reading on related subjects from an author called Marcus Buckingham. I’ve heard him once, and read some stuff he’s written. It’s inspiring. And if you haven’t already read it, try The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Renu presented me a copy; I still read it off and on.

Thanks for sticking with me this far. See you again.

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