Choose your boss wisely, say no to good ideas: Tips for success from 10 of the world's most successful icons
Indra Nooyi underscores the value of a team of female peers you can rely on
When learning how to ride a bike, you had your dad trailing after you ensuring you didn’t lose balance. When making dal for the first time, dadi was peeping in from the kitchen window, dishing out tips for success so you wouldn’t end up the victim of an exploding pressure cooker. In college, your roommate would churn out coffee after coffee to help make your all-nighter productive.
But then came the time to face the professional world. Just when you needed training wheels to navigate around this alien setting, and Burnol to soothe the after-effects of your first evaluation meeting, there seemed to be no one around to draw out the perfect road map to Success Marg.
If only your dream mentors, the ones whose quotes you’ve memorised, and whose biographies you’ve devoured, could appear out of thin air and point you in the right direction.
We might not be able to help you FaceTime your career icons, but we can do the next best thing, and share with you their best tips for success in your professional life.
10 tips for success from wildly successful people who changed the world
Focus means being able to say no
We are taught to grab every opportunity that crosses our path by its collar, and stick to it like a makhi to a motichoor ka ladoo. “You never know what might act as your ticket to success,” they say.
But American business tycoon, the brain behind Apple Inc., and the person who made turtlenecks cool again, Steve Jobs, disagreed.
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things,” said the late tech magnate.
When faced with criticism, just ask yourself, “So what?”
One “good job” from your boss and all-nighters begin to feel like romantic evenings spent staring at the stars. But the flip side – people dragging you down – feels like a punch in the gut.
Entrepreneur, author, activist and our eternal favourite, Sudha Murty advises you to say “So what?” and move on.
“When someone looks down upon you, let them do it. When you ask the question ‘So what’, you realise how shallow the other person’s knowledge is. We never listen to our conscience, we always worry about what neighbours or colleagues talk about us,” she says.
When you find yourself struggling with harsh criticism threatening to knock you over like a wobbly tower of Jenga, or if you feel like praise might be nudging you towards complacency, use the Murty’s tips for success to stay grounded – “Asking ‘So what’ helps you take people and yourself less seriously and focus on your goals.”
Channel your passions into a career and success will follow
Google CEO Sundar Pichai shares his two tips for success to help you achieve your career goals.
Step one is to “Take the time to find the thing that excites you more than anything else in the world,” says Pichai. He recognises this is not something that comes easy, and requires you to be courageous, relentless, and go against what your loved ones might’ve envisioned for you – “Had I stayed the course in graduate school, I’d probably have a PhD today, which would have made my parents really proud. But I might have missed the opportunity to bring the benefits of technology to so many others. And I certainly wouldn’t be standing here as the Google CEO.”
And once you have narrowed down on your passion, keep an open mind.
“After writing 10 books on leadership and communication, and meeting many of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs, I’ve reached a better understanding of what passion is and how to pursue it. A passion is a deep sense of excitement, a mission. But turning that passion into a reality requires keeping an open mind,” explains Pichai.
Once you’ve picked a career, be flexible with your course of action instead of sticking to a rigid plan, according to Pichai, that’s the only way you evolve, and ultimately succeed.
Create an independent support system of peers you can trust
The workplace can be a lonely place for a successful woman. “When you become a C.E.O. and you’re a woman, you are looked at differently. You are held to a different standard. It’s not that you’ve become C.E.O., and now you get a hall pass. You don’t,” says ex PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.
But she worked past this hurdle by doing exactly what every woman does when she finds herself in a sticky situation – turned to her girl gang.
“You’ve got to create your own ecosystem, and your own kitchen cabinet, so you can sort of alleviate some of the loneliness without giving away any confidential information. I remember that we had a group of five CEOs who would meet every quarter to talk about issues that were on our mind. And it was a good safe group for us to sort of bounce ideas off of each other,” recalls Nooyi.
These conversations might differ from regular sleepover banter, but you walk away with the universal rule that all female friendships are based on – as long as you have a group of girlfriends cheering you on, there is nothing that can come in the way of your success.
Up-skill and re-skill if you want to survive a tumultuous economy
Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO, Tata Consultancy Services believes that freshers have the most potential to turn their lives around in these difficult times.
“As far as job seekers and my younger colleagues are concerned, you couldn’t be in a better position than now because change is always the friend of the one who is starting new. Don’t assume that because you know something today, which is hot right now, that sets you up for future. If you want to think about a 30 to 40-year-long career, you need to be constantly ready to learn.”
So, take all the online courses you can, go annoy colleagues who might have a different skill-set, and keep experimenting with areas of work that you might not be entirely comfortable with. These are the building blocks that will help you inch closer to your idea of success.
Decide where to invest your time and energy because you can’t juggle everything
Answering emails while changing diapers, being the best wife in the world, and heading teams while simultaneously teaching your little ones to multiply are unrealistic expectations that most working women find themselves trying to fulfil.
According to Arundhati Bhattacharya, former chairperson of the State Bank of India, the only way you’re going to get to taste success is by cutting yourself some slack — something she learnt along the way.
“I got married in 1983, and was cooking for the first time in my life,” recalls Bhattacharya. She talks about how she would recreate dishes from a recipe book her mother had gifted her, and her creations ended up being hits with guests.
“But when my husband contracted typhoid, it became difficult to look after him, manage the house, work late hours, cook and do other chores. And that’s when I decided that I couldn’t do everything,” she adds.
Bhattacharya decided to get help, and focus her energy on doing a handful of things well, rather than attempting to be an exhausted overachiever.
Trust is the most important important asset you can build in your professional career
There’s a reason Ratan Tata’s surname is synonymous with credibility in India. “I believe trust is the underlying foundation for the way people look at you, your business, and how you operate your business. Trust is the basis on which you live by your contractual obligations and I think trust is the more important thing,” says Tata.
He also emphasises building a psychological connect with your employees and customers. “I think without that you run the risk of being a superficial business entrepreneur,” he adds.
Making mistakes is never a bad thing
With drive, and a hunger for success, come a fair share of goof-ups that you can’t foresee – a crashed hard disk, miffed customers, or misplaced documents.
Regardless of how big or small the mistake is, all you can do is put in all you have to make it right. That also happens to be Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook’s mantra for success.
“Sometimes, when you’re running fast, you slip and you fall. And I think the best thing you can do is get back up and say, “I’m sorry,” says Cook. “If you’re never making a mistake, you’re probably not doing enough,” he adds.
Choose your boss wisely
Every next big entrepreneur has a few things in common – a curious mind, a caffeine addiction, and the ability to binge watch Shark Tank for an unhealthy number of hours.
We have some tips for success straight from a Shark’s mouth – “The boss makes all the difference,” says Barbara Corcoran, real-estate mogul and “Shark Tank” investor.
Keep your eyes open during your job interview, and ask yourself what you like and dislike about the person who might become your boss.
“Every time I had a great boss, I excelled beyond my wildest expectations, and every time I had a clunker, I hated my job,” says Corcoran.
Someone who is not threatened by you, pushes you to do your best and helps you identify your area of interest are some qualities to look out for in a new boss. Also, “intuition is a wonderful thing,” points out Corcoran.
Don’t be afraid to quit
You may have dreamed of the perfect job since you were seven, but according to Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, there is no such thing as a perfect job. “Just do anything where you’re going to learn something new,” says Wojcicki. And while she might have burst a bubble that you were living in for quite some time, she also goes on to disregard the kind of importance most people give to the Q-word – quitting.
“Don’t be afraid to quit. So many people are afraid of change. But if you’re not stimulated, you should do something else — the world is full of lots of interesting jobs. It can be scary at times, but you have to push yourself to take on challenges and do things that are new. Push yourself to keep growing,” she explains.