Your ‘3 Idiots’ Guide to Success

“Pursue excellence and success will chase you… pants down.”

Remember this dialogue from Rancho to his friend Raju in the 2009 blockbuster ‘3 Idiots’?

This was amongst the several lessons that Rancho delivered throughout this movie, to his friends Raju and Farhan.

But the biggest lesson among them was that if you worry about what you’re doing (or not doing), you will be on the path to desperation and failure.

This not only applies to individuals, but also to companies that are worried about whether their next plan will succeed or not.

You see, success is such a peculiar thing.

When we focus on our failures, or try to minimise or avoid them, it will not help us become successful. This is because we will be devoting our energies focusing on minimising or avoiding failures.

But then, when we go after success, there’s no guarantee that we will really succeed.

So how do we succeed?

There’s no perfect answer, but let’s give it a shot.

Let us first understand the problems with success. There are three that come to my mind.

1. Success is a moving target
In 1997, success for me meant passing my high school with a distinction so that I could get admission to a first grade college.

In 2001, my meaning of success was to get into a top-notch MBA college.

When 2003 came, I targeted succeeding in getting a well-paying job.

In 2005, success for me was to get the biggest salary hike in my team.

In 2008, I thought that people who mind their own businesses are the most successful.

Now in 2011, I think I will be successful by 2015.

You see, success is a moving target. Our ideas of success change as we grow in our careers and lives. And the biggest irony is that, when we achieve what we thought was real success, we don’t stop to celebrate and instead target another moment of success!

This also holds true for a business. If you are a business owner, tell me what’s your idea of success? And doesn’t that idea change every year?

Like when you started your business, getting the first 100 clients would have meant success for you. Two years into it, launching your second product would have been your definition of success. And now, five years later, you are still hungry for success – by targeting to launch your fifth product or reach 10,000 clients. Right?

2. Success does not eliminate fear
Look at Chatur’s character in 3 Idiots. He studied hard at college, went on to get a plum international job, but was still the same fearful man as he was in his college days.

The reason for this is not far to find.

Success does not change how our brain works.

Success just brings out the basic traits in people. If I am a jerk before I get successful, I will remain a jerk even when I’m the most successful man in the world.

3. Success is limited by self-confidence
Our level of self-confidence largely determines how successful we can become. Even if you are the most intelligent person around, you have all the resources at your disposal, and you are tactful, your chances of success are limited by how confident you are to take that next step.

So targeting success is the wrong idea. The right idea is to target self-confidence.

What next?
I just showed you the three key problems with success.

But don’t lose hope. All’s not lost.

If you aren’t successful now, or if you want to become even more successful in the future, here are your three action points.

And these come straight from Rancho.

Don’t chase success, pursue excellence
You are getting it now, right? We just learnt the key problems with success. So chasing it is simply meaningless.

You need to focus on excellence – how you can get better at what you are best at.

Once you excel at something, you don’t need to try hard to succeed.

Look at Roger Federer or Sachin Tendulkar and you’ll know what I’m taking about. These greats don’t try hard. They just play naturally. And see how successful they are.

Forget the result, just play it out
Fearing the future won’t take you anywhere. Don’t be like Raju. Play the game like Rancho did – fearlessly and without bothering about the end result.

Perhaps we can look at our children for some inspiration here. Children love to win like us adults. But their biggest sense of enjoyment comes from playing the game, and not worrying about the result.

Listen to your inner voice
Follow your passion. Sometimes you’ll be confused about what your mind says and what your heart wants to do. But you need to listen to all these voices because only they can guide you to where you really belong.

Don’t ignore the doubts or fears that your mind creates. They are useful signals that suggest that you need to tread with caution. But they should not stop you from acting on what you have set out to achieve.

Ultimately, success is…
…a journey, and not a destination.

We never reach success. We just pass it by.

So enjoy the journey. Be confident, forget the outcome…just play it out.

Bon Voyage et Au Revoir.

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  1. Sarah Alshurdin says

    thanks. this really helps me. i used some of your points for my presentation. hope you don’t mind. but really, i do realize what is success actually about. tqvm.

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