Success in Life

1) Have Ambition

If Lee Kwan Yew did not have ambition, Singapore may still be a Third World country. If the Founding Fathers did not have ambition, the USA will still probably remain a British colony. If everyone has no desire to accomplish anything, our life will remain the same.

Only when we are dissatisfied with Who We Are will we seek to recreate our lives into something greater. And only when we expand our life will we change the world, be it for the better or the worst.

Certainly ambition by itself can be dangerous. This is why I also believe in developing our spirituality so that we know our true role in the bigger scheme of things. I call the passion of following our deep sense of purpose “spiritual ambition”.

Sometimes people confuse the lack of ambition with humility. To me, these are two totally different things. We can ambitious, yet humble. We can also be unambitious, yet arrogant.

To be honest, I believe that most people are secretly jealous of those with great ambition because they don’t have it themselves. They will do everything to try and stop us if we appear too ambitious for our background. Businesspeople just starting out must be discreet yet firm with their ambitions.

2) See the gold, not the dung

If we see the same thing that everyone else sees, we will have nothing new to offer. If we can only see the bad things, then we have nothing good to say or do.

Where others see a vast barren desert, the enterprising sees precious fossils and meteorite rocks. Where others see great poverty, the enterprising sees microfinance opportunities. A businessperson must be enterprising in order to succeed.

3) Take calculated risks

Nothing in Life will happen according to our individual plans. Nothing in life can be assured and guaranteed with our conscious power alone.

The proverbial greedy monkey loses his life. Likewise, if we are too greedy for financial security, we can end up losing everything we have.

A businessperson must let go of his greed for financial security and be prepared to lose his capital. Yet, like a wise general preparing for battle, he should be cautious and take every precaution possible to improve his chances of success.

People who always play safe will never accomplish great things. Neither will people who are foolhardy.

4) Live Simply, Plan Simply

Live a simple life with simple needs and we will find it much easier to achieve our financial freedom. Keep our relationships simple, and our troubles will simplify. Give a simple plan with simple methods and people will accept it more easily.

5) Fulfill promises

Promises are sacred ground on which relationships thread. A businessperson should never promise what he is not confident of delivering. As the Chinese say, when a gentleman speaks, even 4 horses cannot chase back his words.

6) Have a heart

Choose to start businesses that help people, not harm them. Be fair to both ourselves and other people. Choose to treat people generously, even if we are stingy to ourselves. This will give us a good reputation in time to come.

7) Be useful to others

People talk a lot about leveraging on other people’s skills, money and time to get rich. However, no one wants to do business with a parasite. If we want to make use of other people, we should have something that they can make use of too.

A businessperson strives to be useful to everyone in his world – his partners, staff, clients and even friends and family. A useful person is always welcomed no matter where he goes while everyone avoids the parasite.

A shrewd businessperson may successfully cheat a few victims, but soon his reputation will precede him. I believe that it is better to share generously so that your partners have no reason to betray you.

8) Be willing to suffer

When the media proclaims the successes of the famous people in our society, they often leave out the pain, humiliation and sacrifices these people took in order to succeed.

Thus, we can dream big, but we must have the patience to start small. When we meet situations and people who give us a difficult time, we must know when and how to retreat. It is better to survive for another day than to fight to the death and lose all our chances to change their situation.

How many people can foresee the success of Bill Gates and Albert Einstein when they are just nobodies? When people throw us in the mud and step on us like carpets, it is their loss if we are made of solid gold. Eventually, through our effort and by seizing the right opportunities, someone will recognize our real value and assist us.

9) Remember what you are here to do

I remember a story about Mother Teresa. One day, the saint was in town to beg for food for her orphanage. He approached a baker and asked: “Can you give some bread for my orphanage?” The baker spat on her. Without flinching, she calmly asked again. The baker slapped her. Again she did not react and merely asked for the third time. Touched by her serenity, the baker relented. Not only did he give bread for the day, but he agreed to give bread everyday.

The moral of the story was that we should remember what we are here to do. Mother Teresa was at the baker’s to ask for food for her orphanage. How the baker treated her was irrelevant to her mission. Likewise, remember that:

  • We are in business to fulfill our life ambition, not to beat all our competitors and be #1 in everything.
  • We are in business to buy our freedom, not to buy expensive sports cars, private jets and other toys.
  • We are in business to be useful to the world, not to look good in front of our friends and family.

When we are in the heat of battle, we have to remind ourselves to stay focused.

10) Honor the World

The Chinese has an idiom: when drinking water, reflect on its source.

Honor and remember those who have helped you during your most difficult times. When we eventually buy our freedom, remember the times of our slavery and humiliation. When we eventually fulfill our ambition, remember the times of our struggle. When we eventually find recognition, remember the times when we are nobodies.

Honor the suffering masses by respecting the downtrodden and giving them a chance to achieve what we have achieved. Honor the needy by living simply, choosing our luxuries carefully and spending money wisely. Honor your subordinates by exercising your power only when necessary and respecting their personal lives, ambitions and wishes. Honor the world by being a good steward of its resources and taking only what you need.

Then, like leaves falling to the ground, the mystical cycle of Life is completed and returns to its origins.