The Pillars of Success

The biggest mindset shift that helped me to succeed happened when I had hit a very low point in my personal and professional life. I had just taken premature retirement from the Indian Army, and without any capital or experience, had thrown myself at the fickle mercy of a new business in a new city, and to make it worse, my personal life was in quite a mess.

In every which way, I was feeling completely overwhelmed and totally stuck. Then one day, when I had pretty much hit the end of my tether I realized that I was not coping well with things, because I had been asking myself the wrong question: instead of asking myself ‘Can I do it?’ I should have been asking myself ‘How can I do it?’

Notice the huge difference that one word makes to the question, and thus to the way we think, and how we approach life in general.

Can I do it’? 

can i do it

Can I do it’, is an inward looking question that focuses not even our on our capability, but merely on our perception of our current capability. This is hugely misleading, since I believe that all of us only realize the extent of our capabilities when we hit rock bottom and have no way, but forward. It is akin to what Hernando Cortez did when he wanted to motivate his men to fight against a much larger enemy host; he asked them to burn the boats. This made it clear to them that they only way they were going home alive was to defeat the enemy, which they did.

HOW can I do it,’?

how can i do it

Conversely, the second question, ‘HOW can I do it,’ assumes we are capable of implementing whatever the task before us, the only question is ‘how.’ This instinctive assumption of capability is most empowering and puts us directly in a solution-seeking mode. We now focus on energies on analyzing the options available to us, and examining their pros and cons.

The funny thing is that even if the option we pick does not work too well when we do try it out, it gets us moving, and allows us to switch to the other options we may have considered.

Within weeks of adopting this new mindset, my life changed. I regained my confidence, balance and began to take action to overcome the obstacles I was facing. The result was that my first company, MSD Security Private Limited, grew from strength to strength, and is now a professionally managed one operating in over seventy Indian cities.

I was also able to handle much more positively the various personal issues I was facing, and soon they too began to get sorted out. Even the things I was not able to do much about, I found I was facing them in a much more energized and positive frame of mind.

This very same question was invaluable when I moved to Singapore and we were driving our second company Influence Solutions Private Limited; within just three years we were established as a leading regional Learning & Development organization that delivered customized solutions in thirteen countries in four languages, English, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.

And I am happy that this ‘How Can I do it’ approach has now become my default way of thinking. It has delivered me to a place where every problem is an opportunity, and I approach life with the most gung-ho attitude possible. Consequently, even when I do not get the results I seek, which is fairly often, I find that I am always cheerful and optimistic.

This ‘How can I do it’ realization becomes so much more powerful when we club it with the primary pillars of success, Focus, Flexibility and Discipline. Focus to ensure we do not lose sight of the goal.

Flexibility to ensure when we meet any obstacle we immediately seek an alternate path to keep us moving towards the goal. And Discipline of course is the super glue that holds everything together and ensures we keep surging forward relentlessly.

Applied in tandem they make us virtually bulletproof. They have always stood by me, and helped me, whether as a writer, an entrepreneur with highly progressive companies in two countries, as a parent, and of course, most importantly, as a human being.

ByMukul Deva

An alumnus of La Martiniere College, the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy, Mukul is a certified coach from the Henley Business School, University of Reading, UK. He coaches and mentors C-level leaders, business owners and Director-level civil servants across several countries and cultures. Mukul has also served as a mentor with the UNITAR Afghan Fellowship.

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