An interviewer made the observation: One thing that encouraged me in reading the book was to see so many big companies… and to hear about their humble beginnings. When you hear how humbly they started, it gives you encouragement in your own humble state and think, “why not?”
Then he asked: Along those lines, do you have any thoughts or advice for younger folks?
This was my response:
I think the biggest issue I see with young people today is that they have taken this whole thing of “I’ll get into the right college” as the end of their ambition. They try very hard, and they struggle, and they get into the college of their dreams like an IIT or IIM or whatever. Or, on the other hand, they don’t get into the college of their dreams. Either way, they don’t see that that’s just the first point. That’s the steppingstone for their whole life.
Even if I get into the best college, I still have to find the way forward. I have to find something where I really am able to give my best, where I am able to achieve what I am meant to achieve in my life. Not only achieve in terms of reaching a certain designation or salary or whatever, but to really wake up every day in the morning and feel charged up to go and do what I’m doing—to feel I’m making a difference. I’m not saying all of them have to become entrepreneurs. But to really be alive, to be looking to learn and grow continuously—that, I feel, is not happening as much as it should.
If you graduate today, you have to first go through the grind. The first 3-5 years is always going to be a learning experience. Just because you are from a good college, you can’t insulate yourself from the world. If you are in marketing, you will have to go on the street and be a salesman—which is a way many companies in the past trained you. If you join Hindustan Lever, you actually go to the villages to be an assistant salesman.
Be an entrepreneur if it’s really your kick, but get 2 years of experience in the field where you want to join. Start your enterprise, or go work with a smaller company. We have IIM students who are working with small companies where they get the responsibility of becoming a CEO. Do something like that where you get overall experience.
If you are in a job then also give it your best. Don’t just go out like a robot everyday and do your bit and come back. Do more than your bit. Take the initiative, have the energy, know that you can make changes happen. Not immediately, not today, but over time, yes, there are many ways in which you can influence your company, your team, and your boss. Don’t just accept that “this is the way the world is, and this is the way it’s going to remain; I just have to take my salary cheque and go home”. Then you are not going to be happy.
You can read the rest of the interview here.