An Achiever — Quotidian — 027

(Transcript of video originally posted on 27 Jan 2021)

Many of you sent me messages. On the eve of the Republic Day, our CEO, the CEO of Zoho Corporation, Dr. Sridhar Vembu, has been conferred the prestigious Padmashri Award by the Government of India. Many of you appreciated and congratulated us. All those goodwill messages, I have shared with him. He is very happy that you are happy about it. If you follow him on Twitter, you will get a feel for what he is really thinking about this! @svembu is his Twitter handle.

Ralph Waldo Emerson had once spoken about what is to have succeeded. A bit long. But, it is one of my perennial favourites. A beautiful passage about the true meaning of Success. If I were to use that as the benchmark, and look at the achievements of Sridhar Vembu, a few things come to the fore. I wanted to share that with you.

The “respect of the intelligent people” and the “affection of children” — the school that he runs in Govindapperi now, you must see it to believe it. The way the children relate to him today. “Appreciation of honest critics” and “betrayal of false friends” — how he treats the ones who accuse him, and the ones who betray him, both quite common in the world of business, and the advice he gives us all about what is the right way to treat such people is indeed a unique perspective. If you read the articles that he pens that appear in the outside world, you will know!

To “leave the world a bit better”, a “redeemed social condition”, says Emerson. Zoho Schools is an experiment we have been conducting for over fifteen years now. And that vision to help, to serve the underserved… Has really redeemed a social condition.

So, THIS is to have succeeded, said Ralph Waldo Emerson. And I see a lot of that in his achievement today. I have known him for twenty-five years. Personally, professionally, and I am able to relate to that.

Quite contemporaneous to Ralph Waldo Emerson, perhaps about twenty-five years younger than him, his student — by name Henry David Thoreau — let us look at the definition HE gives for Success. It goes: Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it! This is exactly how I see the way Sridhar Vembu has handled his time! I didn’t go chasing for anything. I am so busy handling my company, working with my employees, working towards upliftment of society as a whole, … I see it in everything that he does.

So, what should one do?? If one is not to pursue it, what CAN one do? Along comes John Adams to the rescue. President.. The second President of the United States. One of the founding father. Look at this quote from him. Sridhar often shares it with us. So, we cannot ensure success.. For example, if you were launching a product in the market, we cannot assure you that it is going to be surefire hit or success! If you were acting in a movie, nobody can assure you that the movie will be a blockbuster superhit! But, can you put in enough? Can you pack sixty minutes every hour? Can you pack sixty seconds every minute? Of good quality inside? Can you DESERVE it? If you can put in the effort and ensure you DESERVE it, whether it eventually comes to you or not, there may be a thousand reasons why you may not get it… Politics may come in the way. Market conditions may be unfavourable. Covid may throw a spanner in the works! Remember the adage? From the Bhagavath Gita? “Don’t covet the results. Focus on doing your duty!” Similarly, we cannot ensure success, but we can deserve it, says John Adams, in a letter to his son. (And, who is the son? Sixth President of America. John Quincy Adams. With golden advice of this caliber, I say why not!)

Okay, what do we do to DESERVE success? Well, we need to head over to ANOTHER father-son combo for that. Steve Jobs. In that autobiographical account that Walter Isaacson put together about the man, he talks about a memory he has with his father. When asked how he got this obsession for quality, this obsession for perfection, he answers by taking him to a fence in the backyard of his house. “This fence was painted by my Dad. I was there with him when he painted it, long ago. You would notice that the wood is still intact, the paint has still held up against weather and time. My Dad, before fixing the wooden slats together with nails, he would paint the gap between the pieces of wood. I would ask him, “But, Dad, nobody is going to see it! Why do you want to waste paint on it? Is it not enough to just prime it with termite-proof coating?” “But”, he said, “Others might not be able to see it, but I will know!” I have let myself down, I have lowered my standards when nobody was looking, my quality standards have been diluted.. I would know about it, and so, that is what I have to obsess about. Can I get a good night’s sleep? After behaving so atrociously, can I get sleep ever? No way! I won’t! I am not doing it for somebody else’s evaluation. I am doing it because I want to do the best I can!

So, I think that’s an amazing benchmark you can use to measure yourself. Every little thing that you do, if you can do it to the best of your ability, forget about the results, forget about what others say, forget about the eventual awards, medals, degrees, grades, accolades, that you get. Can you sleep that night?

Thank you!

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