Friday, March 25, 2005

The Wisdom of Success by Deshpande IITM 75

in 'Times of India', Oct. 18,

The wisdom of success
[ FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2002 01:58:21 PM ]

Gururaj 'Desh' Deshpande, the founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks Inc., is an influential technology entrepreneur and visionary. Widely respected for his generous contributions and donations for various social causes, Deshpande is a member of the MIT Corporation, which hosts MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, funded from the $20 million seed money provided by him. The first grants for the Deshpande Center, created to serve as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting research and collaboration among entrepreneurs, young companies, and MIT students, alumni, and faculty, were awarded on October 15.

Delivering a keynote address at the IIT alumni meeting in Washington on October 11 at the residence of Lalit Mansingh, India’s ambassador to the US, the philanthropic entrepreneur underlined the need for sharing the spoils of success to make it truly meaningful. Excerpts:.................................

When I reflect deeply on my own success, I’m reminded of the tale of the brilliant and respected scientist who, after many years of single-minded research, finally found the centre of the universe… and was surprised to discover that he was not in it.

My message to you is this:
It is not our success that defines us, but how we define success.

• At age 4, success is not peeing in your pants.
• At age 16, success is having a driver’s license.
• At age 20, success is having sex.
• At age 35, success is having a good job.
• At age 55, success is having money.
• At age 70, success is having sex.
• At age 80, success is having a driver’s license.
• At age 90, success is not peeing in your pants.

With all due apologies to my friends over age 70, success is, after all, a relative term.

Those of us working in the fields of technology have, by the discipline of our training, very rigid definitions of success. For us, it is a model or algorithm that accomplishes what we set out to do… it is a program that functions perfectly or hardware that performs without flaw.

It is my belief that in our lives—both our professional and personal lives—success is a far more pliant concept. Success is not determined by the traditional measures of recognition and reward, but in the lessons we learn—even in failure—and the lives we touch along the way.

My definition of success is simple: It is to be at peace with yourself.

And to be able to do it, and I borrow it, in part, from Benjamin Franklin, you have to be healthy, wealthy and wise…

Good health, of course, is a blessing – but one that is aided by disciplined living and a healthy respect for the amount of abuse our bodies can take before they rebel. If you are not healthy, there is not much you can do for others.

Wealth is also very important. Being wealthy is a matter of personal opinion, but in my view, you are wealthy when you have more than what you need.

After my Ph.D. in 1980, I continued to live on the student budget. I had a very modest lifestyle. However, I got married to Jaishree in 1980, who is also an IITian. After marriage, she cut our budget in half. I remember when we moved to Boston in 1984, we both used to work and make close to $100,000 a year. However, we lived on less than $20,000 a year. As a result, we were able to quickly save enough for me to quit my job and go without a salary for a couple of years to start our first company.

For all of us who grew up in India, financial restraint comes naturally, because we had to live with fewer resources. Alan Greenspan will spank for me for preaching this, but that financial restraint will give you the financial freedom. The financial freedom gives you opportunity. For me, wealth is the freedom to do the things that you really want to do.

Now that you are healthy and wealthy, it is the "wise" part of the equation, however, that can be the most challenging, particularly for those, like you, who have been blessed with a keen intellect and the ability to use it. That is merely the foundation for success.

I believe true wisdom comes from the ability to explore beyond our natural interests and experiences, and learn to be more fully engaged and aware of the world around us – the culture, the politics, the economy and the people who make up our communities.

For me, true wisdom, and therefore, true success, comes from being at peace with yourself, and the most effective way to get there is to care about others. As Albert Einstein said: "Try not to become a man of success. Rather, become a man of value."

You are not truly successful till you share it [ FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2002 03:34:37 PM ]

High achievers tend to be very focused on what they do, and their consuming desire to do it better than anyone else. However, I have found that it does not matter how beautiful you are, how smart you are, how rich you are, you cannot buy enough insurance to live
happily ever after. You have to reinvent yourself everyday.

As we do that, if we focus solely on ourselves, our problems take on new magnitude. But if we train ourselves to think more broadly, to care more deeply, about life beyond the narrow confines of our careers and our reputations, it will bring both perspective and

Many of us go through life thinking we need to achieve, to be successful, before we can truly “afford” to start giving back – either financially or in terms of the cost in time and energy diverted from our professional pursuits.

But in my view, success and giving are intertwined: You can never be truly successful unless you use your talents, resources and energies to give back.

Similarly, our charity is less meaningful if we wait to give only when we have too much – if what we give is only what is left over after we have achieved every other goal.

As the French philosopher Voltaire said: “The man who leaves money to charity in his will is only giving away what no longer belongs to him.”

We need to begin giving back even before we can “afford” to – before we have reached whatever level of achievement we have defined as success. If we wait for success before we’re willing to share it, it may never come.

I know, too, that success brings intoxicating supply of attention. People will seek your wisdom, your secrets and your philanthropy in ways that are very seductive. Why? Because more often than not, it is about you. You know the appeal: You are asked to give speeches, asked to donate to good causes, often in a manner that serves to promote you. That kind of charity is the easy kind.

It is, of course, much harder to give when it is anonymous… when to do so causes some measure of sacrifice or some distraction from doing whatever it is that brings you professional success.

My message to you is that it is this kind of giving that is most fulfilling – not only to the beneficiaries, but also to you. It is this ability, and this willingness to participate more fully, and contribute more broadly, that I believe is integral to true success

The role of the immigrants [ FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2002 03:35:13 PM ]

Immigrants are always an interesting breed. We live in the US, and this is our home. However, we also have deep emotional attachment to India. What can we learn from both these places and make this a better world?

We have much to learn from this country, where there has been a culture of charity and community outreach that extends back to this nation’s founding fathers.

Giving back is a life-long pursuit – a value parents instil in their children, and something they carry with them from the first rung all the way up the ladder of success.

In my view, there is little difference between professional success and leading a life of contribution and commitment. Certainly, the goal is the same: To change something, to come up with a better way of doing things and to make a difference.

The more pure your intentions in these pursuits, the more energy you derive from them. If all you want to do is get ahead in your careers, you’re not going to be truly successful. Whether it is your job, your family or your personal life, the rules are the same: You live so that you can improve the things around you, your thinking is clarified, and success comes more easily.

The philanthropic traditions in India, by comparison, are still in infancy, and it is our challenge to embrace and adopt the philanthropic spirit so rich here.

Our mission is to work together to promote IITs as institutions that not only produce the finest minds in technology, but to make a difference in the lives of the people and communities we all live in.

India achieved Independence just 50 years ago – a mere two generations ago.

The first generation of Indians to enjoy freedom could do little but focus on trying to survive. From that era, we learned discipline, frugality, and the amazing potential that comes from hard work.

Only with the second generation are we beginning to test our capacity to create, improve, and contribute to society. It is the self-expression that comes with freedom and something that has brought our culture farther, faster than we might ever have dared imagine just 50 years ago.

We are the fruit of two generations of hard work, discipline, commitment and creativity. It is our obligation to share our success with those in India who have not been so lucky, or had the opportunities we have enjoyed. This obligation also extends here, to the communities we have chosen to make our new homes, and in a culture in which we have much to contribute.

IITians’ onus in technology innovation [ FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2002 03:35:52 PM ]

I believe we in the high-tech industry—specifically, the alumni of IIT—have an opportunity to create a culture of philanthropy where it does not now exist. In the US, the best universities are built by the support of their alumni. There is no reason as to why we IITians cannot do the same.

India has a culture that already has proved that it can do much and go far with relatively little. Harvard University alone spends more money every year than what India spends on all of its education – from primary school through universities.

Yet, despite limited resources, India has been able to produce some of the world’s best engineers, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists and scientists. The people who have led this charge in technology are the professors at IITs.

What can the IITs and the IITians do that is going to be exciting and useful? We know that the technology is rapidly advancing, and with the tremendous potential of connectivity, the innovation is growing exponentially. How can we find a bigger meaning to this effort?

Professor C.K. Prahalad, who teaches international business at the University of Michigan and is considered one of the world’s most innovative thinkers on corporate strategy, has come up with a profound theory. He notes that in a world of 6 billion people, the combined power of the business and technology sectors have so far focused only on the one billion rich people in the world. The rest of the world has been served by the leftovers of this effort. He has shown that the return on investment is greater when you use innovative technology and target the market for the less fortunate.

Technology for the masses will be the next buzzword. I truly believe that technology innovation is accelerating and is sophisticated enough now that we can solve the problems of the forgotten 5 billion people and do so profitably. This promises to be the next growth opportunity for the best companies in the world. This will offer not only tremendous commercial promise, but the opportunity to raise living standards and improve lives across the world through the reach of technology.

I envision IIT and its alumni around the world as the driving force of this effort and, by working together, become the centre of innovation for this marketplace, and many others. Our mutual success depends on it. And the opportunities it will bring will make any achievement more meaningful.