Advice, Pt. 3 // Reading for Rebels

advice3On my flight back from China, I found a copy of Business Today, India's leading business magazine. The Jan 11 issue features a cover story titled: The Best Advice I Ever Got with pearls of wisdom from a handful of very successful business executives — most of them Indian. I shared a bunch of quotes and my thoughts earlier this week in the post, Pearls of Wisdom, and in a second post, More Advice. Here is the final installment. "Do not give up. If you keep at it, results will come." — Salvatore Ferragamo, Owner, Il Borro Vineyards

Early on, I created the four original Rules for Rebels. They are:

1) Be tenacious 2) Ask more questions 3) Learn from everything 4) Win as a team

That first one is fundamental. It means you never give up, and implicit with that is you better choose your goals carefully, because there isn't enough time or energy to go after everything with tenacity.

"Be better than the best." — Naresh Goyal, Chairman, JET Airways

Obviously, I was relieved to read this while sitting on a JET Airways flight. The story went on to tell how Mr. Goyal had taken on the established players to launch a new carrier through dedication to being better than they were.

Part of our job is to constantly challenge the status quo. Client satisfaction is an important measure of success for us, but we always ask ourselves and our clients how we can do better in the future. Even if everything was perfect this time around, it's important to identify how we can improve next time.

"Always raise the bar and never be content with the status quo." — GV Prasad, CEO, Dr. Reddy's

"Be successful, but not at the cost of principles." — Am Nail, Chairman, L&T

There's a lot of conventional wisdom that preaches to the contrary. "By any means necessary," "The ends justify the means," "Get rich or die tryin'." Great sound bites, but they're basically unproductive to creating lasting success. Talk to most people who have built lifelong success and they'll tell you that how you treat people is important. Look at any industry (web 1.0, automotive, real estate, finance), and you'll see that the shorts you take today are surely going to catch up sooner than later. Sure, there are instances where you have the opportunity to get rich and get out without ever having to look back, but those are more for legend than reality. It's much more likely that approaching life in that way will bite you sooner than later.

"Hands that help are holier than lips that pray." — Dr. Devi Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Health City

In other words: Don't talk about it, be about it. Put up or shut up.

advice2"Save more, spend less. Every single rupee matters." — Ramchandra Agarwai, Founder, Vishal Mega Mart

This is more relevant today than ever. You might say "swagger is nothing, saving is everything."

"If you're not in control of your calendar, you're not in control." — William Lauder, CEO, Estee Lauder

There are so many distractions that compete for our attention. To quote Stephen Coven again, "the good is often the enemy of the best," which is to say there are so many good things out there to spend our time on, we have to be extremely disciplined to make sure we only give our attention to the most important things, and to those things we must give it all. "You must always take the path that is difficult because the difficult path leads you to a destination, the beautiful path is a destination in itself." — Prasoon Josh I, Chairman, McCann World Group

This is a bit contrary to what we hear in California about the journey being the destination, but I liked it because it emphasizes taking the road less traveled. Too often we're tempted by the easy way out, or the glamorous path. The reality is that the harder way is often better because fewer people are going to tough it out.

"If something takes three months to complete, ask yourself if it can be done in a week without compromising on the outcome or quality." — B. Ramalinga Raju, Chairman, Satyam Computer Service

I liked this one because it combines three valuable concepts. First, in today's environment, faster will always beat slower. Time is our most precious resource. Second, always challenge the status quo. The third is less obvious: you must always be honest with yourself about your ability to do things right. During the dot com days, I used to say those guys forgot that it takes nine months to make a baby. No matter how smart you think you are, you can't get it done in five. "Every failure opens up a new vista. Learn to fight failure with a spirit of challenge that will make you stronger. Remember failure is temporary, it's giving up that's permanent." — Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman, Biocon

Failure really sucks, if you let it. A setback like losing a client or great employee feels terrible, but you have to learn to find the valuable lessons in those experiences and use them to steel your resolve. It's a process, but it works for me.

A smart man once told me he only hires people with scars. He looks for people who have been fired, so they’ve had the opportunity to grow. What a great way to think about people, rather than the false ideals of perfection often emphasized in the hiring process.

"Remain focused in times of crisis and use that as an opportunity to become stronger." — Shantanu Prakash, Executive Chairman, Educomp

This is what we're telling clients who are afraid of the current economic situation. Now is the time to push ahead, build market share, show your customers that you're serious about meeting their needs.

Where have you heard great advice lately?