Every successful person I have spoken to around the world about the recipe for success, I have never been able to receive a concrete and direct answer. It has always been an abstract answer. Something of sorts where you would have to draw your own conclusion. Some would say it was their Discipline. Some would talk about their vision. Others would take pride in their educational background. The list would go on and on.
This left me a bit confused at a very early stage of my career and looking for answers. Answers that can lead me to my destination as a young investment banker in the 90’s. I picked up every book that was available on self help, from Dale Carnegie to Norman Vincent Peale to Anthony Robbins to Deepak Chopra. Anything that I could get my hands on I would read looking for a quick fix to my quest for success. I attended seminars, I read autobiographies of successful people, I watched documentaries on legends such as Henry Ford or Howard Hughes and many other European and American business tycoons of their times.
The more I threw myself into looking for a road map for success the more I got off the road to success in finding my answers. Throughout this process, without knowing, I was somehow succeeding myself on Wall Street. Year after year I was doing better. Yet I kept looking for answers. Then one day I was invited to speak at a youth conference in Chicago, arranged by the Islamic Society Of North America ISNA. After my fiery speech trying to motivate my peers, yes my peers…because I was barely 28 myself at that time, I was standing in the lobby of the hotel where the conference took place and a bright-eyed young man walks up to me in the lobby and started a conversation. His first question was, If you had to explain in one word the reason for your success so far, what would it be ? I had never been put on the spot like that before. I myself was looking for answers to similar questions for the past 7 years. But having been put on the spot like that having been demanded a One-Word-Answer to the question, I guess my mind went into quick thinking mode and all of a sudden, I uttered an answer without even realizing. OPTIMISM. Yes, OPTIMISM. And the moment that answer came out of my mouth, I realized that I have my answer for the question that I was looking for from others. It also made me realize that every person has a different answer that worked for his success story. If you are measuring success in monetary sense only, then you need to get your head checked out because your concept of success itself needs to be redefined before you go on the quest for answers.
Positivity over the years I realized that is the biggest contributor towards a person’s success. Optimism combined with hard work and strategic planning will take you to your destination. Positivity alone without the work and a vision will only make you day dream. And there is a huge difference between day dreaming and visualizing. That’s a topic I will write about some other day. Today lets discuss what needs to be done along with optimism that will lead you to your desired results. Specially the youth of Pakistan and this surrounding region where we are faced with negativity, despair, rejections, terrorism, and every other discouraging phenomenon that western youngsters can never think about. I look at the success of the youngsters of this region with much more respect because their odds of failing are much higher than their counterparts in the west. Odds are high of failing not because there is less financing or less opportunities for businesses or their education quality is below other countries, NO. It is so because when a young person in constantly attacked by negative surroundings through media, friends, neighbors, political speeches full of discouragement, it becomes almost impossible for a young budding mind to stay positive to the point where he can identify a business opportunity. When you can not even identify an opportunity, how can you even begin to work on it with vigor. So the most important advice I can give to the youth of this region is to protect your mind. And this is how you do it.
1. Friends and Elevators.
The first thing you should do as a young individual is to identify your negative friends and simply get rid of them. Friends are like elevators, they either take you UP in life with their support or bring you DOWN with their criticism. You don’t want to get onto an elevator that is going down. It is the most difficult thing to do in life because so many times you will be left alone when you begin to realize that you had been surrounded by negative friends. Look at it as a blessing in disguise. It will make you uncomfortable in the beginning but it will leave you with more time to do POSITIVE things in your life. Read, put in more hours into your goal, do research on your business plan, meet positive role models and the list can go on and on.
2. Protect Your Dreams From Negative People.
Negative friends are not the only cause of your downfall. Negativity surrounds us all from every direction. Protect your dream like your most valuable asset. By protecting I do not mean that keep it a secret. I mean do not discuss it with the people who will laugh at your goals because they themselves have no courage to think big and grow. How will you find out who to discuss it with ? Well, its an art you will learn instinctively. There is no science to it. Most dreams and plans die before their first breath because most plans are not fully workable at its inception stage and when you discuss your plans with novices and pessimists at the inception stage, they knock it down. They create doubts in your mind. They subconsciously and subliminally make you give up. So be careful about discussing it with negative people.
3. Cut Off Yourself From Negative Surroundings.
I stopped watching Pakistani news channels after a few months of my arrival here because all I saw was negative news being promoted day in and day out. I avoid it like I would avoid plague. Sure, while flipping through channels I do come across bad news but I don’t get glued to the channel. I keep moving on till I find something that I like. I cant emphasize enough the importance of keeping your thoughts unpolluted from negativity. The only thing that keeps you successful and will make you successful is your positive state of mind. All your growth ideas, business genius and creative thoughts are generated from your mind and if the epicenter for this creative activity is damaged, never think that you can produce positive results in your life. Your mind is a computer gifted to you from Allah. It only produces as its output what it receives as its input. JUNK goes in, ONLY JUNK will come out. If you are surrounded and occupied by negative thoughts, your mind will process out negative action plans. Your subconscious is your slave. It does not know what to do. It only takes orders from yourself and starts to work on producing results. Those orders come in the form of your thoughts. If you feed your subconscious negative thoughts it will produce negativity as its final product.
4. Be Proud To Start Small.
Never feel shame in starting small. It’s the process created by Allah. Even a human being comes into this world in a tiny form and then grows. Your business will also grow with time. Do not worry about small or big. Just concentrate on the results and efforts. The rest will be taken care off by the universal law of success. While going through studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick New Jersey, I used to work in the Apparel department of K-Mart on Easton Ave, punching price tags. I would also lift cartons and move them into the store room. Mop the floors of my department and etc. K-Mart was part of the conglomerate with ownership of Borders Bookstore, Home Depot, The Sports Authority, all in all a $32 Billion empire run by an Individual named Joeseph Antonini years later from that time when I started my investment bank on Wall Street and met Joe Antonini for deal that I was doing. The first thing I told him in a room full of blue blooded investment bankers, out loud with amazing excitement was that I used to clean floors in one of his stores and before he could even grasp what i said, i excitedly announced, and i also cleaned tables and mopped floors at Burger King as well. He was so happy to know my pride in starting at the bottom that we became friends. A year later Joe Antonini became a member of my Board Of Directors.
There is no hard and fast rule of success in life. Some things work for some successful people and for some, something else works. But one common thing I have found over the decades about successful people is that they are all OPTIMISTIC people. Positive people. People with smiles on their faces always ready to greet the world with positivity. Grouchy, angry, jealous of others success type of people can never be successful. If you cant be happy about other people’ success, God will not grant you your own success. That is the law of the universe. What you do not want others to have, The creator does not want you to have it either.
So keep your eyes on your own goals instead of who is going ahead of you or whom you have left behind. Life is not a race with multiple participants. It is always You Vs. You. Nobody else.