Prof P.R.Mukund, professor of electrical engineering at Rochester institute of technology, Newyork, CEO of a successful startup company and founder president of the Foundation for the preservation of knowledge was the speaker during the monthly meeting (May month) of NHRD Bangalore chapter. He is a keen student and teacher of the vedic way of life and therefore the ideal person to talk to us about the manner in which the wisdom from the vedas can be applied in the corporates. Prof Mukund said that the vedas (Indian scriptures) have a collection of truths from a period of over 6000 years. They touched upon various subjects like mathematics, science, astronomy, medicine etc. The essence of the vedic thought is balance and equal prioritization for all areas of life with the aim to benefit maximum number of people. Thus, there should be a balance between Dharma (Right behaviour & social order) and Artha (Resources which includes money, time and energy)- As a human being,"I should be forwarding energy to others, not sucking up energy from all quarters."
Prof Mukund said that based on the vedic thought, he has developed a ten pronged approach for success called "The DecaTrait approach to success". After discussing the same during the evening he gave away few copies of his booklet on 'DecaTrait' to the audience on "first come first served" basis and I was fortunate to get a copy. The ten traits are (1) Knowledge (2) Passion (3) Attachment and detachment (4) Awareness of the self (5) Absorbtion (6) Confidence (7) Conviction (8) Balance (9) Vitality and (10) Strength.
1) Knowledge:- The speaker said that knowledge can be classified into three- (a) resourceful knowledge (b) incorrect knowledge and (c) antiknowledge. Resourceful knowledge takes us upwards towards our goals. Incorrect knowledge takes us around horizontally in circles. But antiknowledge takes us downwards and away from our goal. As all knowledge stems from information, it has to be distilled through questioning/ logic so that all irrelevant and incorrect information is eliminated and only useful information remains. The best approach is to verify and confirm that the conclusions are in synchronization with the spoken or written words of those with vast experience.
In this connection Prof Mukund shared his own experience in the initial days as a young reasearcher - " I collected a lot of information, confused this for knowledge and started writing proposals. My proposals were based on what I was told by research office staff on how to write "Winning proposals". This was incorrect knowledge as funding agencies did not have the time to read all the proposals they got and their knowing the candidate was an important factor.
Further, the discussion with the research office staff was not very useful as they were reapeating what was available in the public domain and were not experienced researchers themselves. The speaker said that he found out that his discussions with reasearchers at other institutions were actually harming him . One person with whom he had shared his idea, poked holes in it but later used the same idea himself to get funded for a three year project. After that incident, Prof Mukund started keeping his ideas to himself.
In later years, this learniing of relying only on resourcceful knowledge was effectively used when Prof Mukund started a company to market a new technology developed by his team. Although information was collected from academics, entrepreneurship 'experts', accountants. lawyers, potential customers and successful entrepreneurs, it was examined carefully including for motives if any of those giving information and unwanted information was removed.This enabled the company to survive through a difficult economic scenario and succeed in winning business.
2) Passion: A strong passion for a desired goal is a very powerful driving force for success. The common thread of passion is love; reverence for the objective is an essential ingriedient. The voluntary feeling of passion in us is recognized by others and it attracts very useful partnerships.Turn your goal into something special which will provide great motivation and immense pleasure. Prof Mukund said that he has known many capable people give up easily and accept defeat on encountering obstacles. In his own case, although he received reject letters to his research proposals, the passion never went away. It was kept alive by the mere belief that the chance of success no matter how small, when it came would not be just personal achievement but bring opportunities to the larger community especially young students. Similarly, while floating the startup company, the passion was for creating jobs, more than anything else.
3) Attachment and Detachment: It is all about the attachment to the effort and detachment from the outcome. One cannot hold the successful outcome a prerequisite for the effort to be put in for accomplishing a goal. Once the fear of the outcome is detached from the effort, we can be attached to the effort with passion. The journey itself becomes enjoyable. Most startup companies fail because they plan at the very beginning to only create something that looks attractive to others, encash this and exit as a strategy ( sell to a bigger company or go public).
On the other hand , if the goal is to constantly strive for growth, any company can succeed. If the aim is to build the company,create products & services and create opportunities for others, why exit? similarly if companies follow this maxim of 'detached attachment', they would allow employees to work with freedom without being tied down by hierarchical relationships. This creates ownership in innovation and creativity. The productivity is also far greater when everything is not controled by one manager.
4) Awareness of the self: It is important to be aware of our true self. Often we have a distorted picture of ourselves that is based on past conditioning or opinions of those around us. We then try to change others' opinion about us to feel good and reassured.It is always better to know the reality as it is. In case there are shortcomings, we can work towards compensating for them . This saves time and energy trying to influence other's opinion and also reduces stress levels. To know your true self it is necessary to introspect and engage in deep thinking shutting down external senses,the mind, intelect and look wihin.
Prof Mukund shared his own story as a youngster when he was a kind of a rebel unwilling to blindly take down notes, memorize facts and engage in late night study, all of which he found boring. His teachers were not impressed with this attitude and told him frequently that he was stupid.and he had begun to believe them. It was only when he realized that he had been relying too much on others' opinion and figured out who he really was that he began to taste success in another country(US).
The 'stupid' boy of yesterday has today become a professor , reasearcher and an entreprenuer. The speaker said that he faced a similar challenge when he decided to enter the business scene venturing to start a company. Many were patronizing in their interaction wondering what a professor is doing in business? But this time he was not willing to buy into other people;s opinion and was confident that he could analyze actions and consequences, avoid pitfalls and be successful. It was not blind arrogance but self awareness based on reality. However, genuine feedback and well meaning criticisms should be carefully examined and calibrated for self improvement when it makes sense.
5) Absorbtion: In order to be successful. one needs to complement one's own experiences with observance of others' experiences. Pay attention to not only the words of others but also their body language and gain insight into their real experiences. Focus and concentration is vital. Often, we hear but do not listen, see but do not observe and touch but do not feel. Spend more time on observation and less on real time analysis. Important data can be lost while the mind is distracted by the analysis. Digesting the data from either direct experience or by keen observation of someone else,happens over time. We need to delve into it when there is ample time and separate it into three parts: useful matter,useful energy and unwanted part.
The speaker shared an instance from his research experience.He noticed that many researchers looked to others for inspiration and did more reasearch on problems already identified and worked on by them. They tried to come up with better solutions to these problems. They lagged behind successful reasearchers in understanding the current problems and this inability to visualize potential problems became an obstacle to their progress. On the other hand Prof Mukund found that whenever he visualized potential problems and articulated them in his proposals, people started coming to him for solutions.
The speaker gave another example of absorbtion from his experience as an entreprenuer. He had a good product which was reasonably priced but people were not buying resulting in disappointment and stress. He then observed a successful business person in a sales booth at a conference. He noticed that this gentleman seldom talked about his products but on topics such as the weather, sports etc and the potential customers would walk away carrying his brochure. Prof Mukund said that after this happened several times, he realized that what the business person was doing was building relationships which is what brings real business, when one has a good product in the first place. This learning was absorbed and used successfully by the speaker.
6) Confidence: It is not uncommon for people to invest a lot of emotion, energy, time and money in an enterprise but back out at the last minute due to lack of confidence. This could be due to lack of self confidence or a lack of confidence in the world around around them. We need confidence not only in our own capabilities but confidence and trust in the Universal Inteliligence that maintains balance in the universe. It is said that it takes three forms of energy for anything to happen. The first is a strong desire and will power. The second is knowledge. The last is creative energy provided only by the Universal Intelligence. If we are humble and accept our dependence, we get connected to the Universal Intelligence that has no bounds. If one can have the self confidence to be most optimistic when things are really in bad shape and most pessimistic when things are really great, one can see the outside world reacting to it, and the cycle continues.
7) Conviction: Conviction is the ability to stay on track without doubt, distraction or fear. It becomes possible when there is a firm and strong belief in your goal. Doubt and uncertainity has no place once a path has been carefully chosen.Having faith in the path chosen, you can seek guidance from one who has already trodden that path after satisfying yourself of the guide's credentials. Another aspect to be vigilant of are of the distractions from the many wonderful sights and sounds on the way that can make one forget one's goals. Here, it is necessary to remind oneself that our lives have only so many years and every year passing by is an year less for pursuing our goal,
Conviction is about the retaining of the same level and intensity of belief till the goal is reached. Prof Mukund related of instances when people came up and flattered him in international conferences. This made him feel good but also had the effect of making him feel that he was better than others. He found himself chatting up with these people in the hallway and skipping presentations. It was later that the speaker realized that such activities were detrimental to his basic goal. Some reasearchers, after they taste success spend little or no time with students. They tend to travel to exotic locations all over the world , basking in their glory. All these distractions will have to be kept in check for achieving long term success.
8) Balance: In yoga a balance is sought to be attained in the body by physical stretching exercises and in the mind through meditation. Similar balance is necessary to handle opposing circumstances or events such as success and failure, profit and loss. Multiple interests can expand the horizon of the mind and make it stronger. Yet, they have to be balanced as in a wheel for the the centre of gravity to remain at the centre even as the mind is pulled in many directions such as family,work or finance. This balance enables you to effectively deal with setbacks and sudden wins/success.
Prof Mukund said that the very nature of research is the exploration of unchartered waters. However, a balance in all activities associated with it contributes to success - (a) acknowledging when a particular solution is not the right one (b) funding,lab equipment,good students, (c) good ideas, good proposal writing abilities and (d) good contacts. A good balance in respect of all these activities is the key. Similarly, success in running a company or small business requires a balance in leadership, management, financial acumen, ability to negotiate, networking, dedicated employees etc. In his own experience the speaker found initially too much focus was given to bringing in the revenue and not enough on the other aspects. This was corrected subsequently with appropriate time management.
9) Vitality: Everything has a life- ideas, events and actions all have a life of their own. At the beginning, the idea needs to be protected and nurtured so that others do not kill it in its infancy. Like human beings, ideas also need a pollution free environment to survive and grow. Constant questioning and discussions on the idea could lead to pollution in the form of unwanted or incorrect responses to it by others. Therefore keep the idea to yourself and breathe life into it by clear thinking
Finally, accept that even the best ideas have a life. When the idea has served its purpose, let it end in peace. It may reappear in a new form later and the cycle repeats itself. Feeding money and people to an organization that has passed its prime is as futile as looking for the fountain of youth, which is a myth.
10) Strength: In an ideal situation, we would be seeking to be strong in all three domains viz the body, the mind and the spirit. Strong body can be assured by good nutrition, proper rest and an active lifestyle. Tending to the mind and the spirit is the bigger challenge and it may seem daunting with feelings of confusion, weakness, frustration and depression at different points of time. However, proper understanding and application of the nine traits discussed earlier would give strength to the mind. The attaining of a strong mind can be experienced in the form of a general sense of peace, ability to focus, a determination to succeed and optimism about the future.
A strong mind resides in a strong spirit.When the spirit is strong , the storms tend to subside and there is tranquility inside. The strong spirit is free, unbound and for ever expanding its horizons. It is an incubator of flashes of brilliance .It brings instant good feelings to all who come into contact with it. It has the will to succed and cannot but succed. " Success feeds success" concluded Prof Mukund bringing down the curtain on a very interesting, enlightening and engaging evening! What stood out in this talk were the number of personal experiences that he shared from the research and business scenario.