The Falseness of Ambition || Acharya Prashant (2012)

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Before we start venerating entrepreneurship on this forum today, let me present to you the life-sketch of a typical entrepreneur.

When the fellow is in class sixth, he is continuously told by his mom and dad that he ought to do well in his exams. He is bound to be among the top ten percentile in his class. He is also somebody who is pushed to do well in other areas of life.

He does reasonably well in his board exams. He likes the sound of applause that he receives when he stands infront of an audience that is there to felicitate him and of course after that he opts for engineering from a good college.

And after that he moves to US or IIMs and that requires a percentile of ninety nine, and all the time he is being competitive and looking at others.

When he was at class sixth, he was looking at his mom and dad, when he was at class tenth and twelfth, he was looking at the audience and all the certificates that he gathered. When he reaches IIM, he looks for the admission offices and the placement offices.

And he is looking at this whole world of opportunities and offerings that this world is providing him. And deep within he is very insecure that I must be aware of these otherwise my stakes are getting higher and higher with every passing day.

He gets into a job and he finds that it is still not meeting his needs of ego. So, what next? How can he satisfy his ever-thirsty ambition and greed? Entrepreneurship is the answer. So, he again does all the right things, he does the market survey, decides the right time, he finds the right kind of people to fund him.

And what is deciding this ‘rightness’ of things? The same mind that is competitive, greedy, insecure and afraid. He is always looking towards future, either trembling with fear or bubbling with hope. The present is absent for him.

Entrepreneurship for this man is not an expression of the self, it is not a way of living, it is not his internal music manifested. For this man, entrepreneurship is not a jump into the unknown, not a pilgrimage that will help him find himself. For him, entrepreneurship is just a continuation of his existing patterns. Driven by social conditioning, he has been chasing accumulation, reputation, numbers, money all his life, and entrepreneurship for him is just a furtherance of his blind, mechanical pursuits.

Hope and optimism are his key words. After he had done his B.Tech, he looked for MBA. After MBA, he looked for placements and after that- entrepreneurship. A nice series it is, isn’t it?

And if such a person is supposed to build a team, what kind of people will he attract? He will look at people like commodities and put them in the right slots that he has created for them.

The world becomes either a threat for him or an opportunity for him. He is always looking outside.

What fundamentally is entrepreneurship? Is a different, real entrepreneurship possible? Does entrepreneurship need to be a business, something separate from life? Is entrepreneurship a way of earning livelihood? Must your firm not be just what you are? Must you create a separation between personal and professional life? Must office and home be two separate entities?

How should one choose his work? By seeing what financial opportunities exist outside, and then cashing on them? By seeing which sectors are hot and profitable these days? Or by asking himself: what ought to be my life-work?

What should be the central question in front of the entrepreneur: ‘What is it that will help me make the maximum money?’ Or, ‘What is it that I can joyfully do even if there were no money in it?’

When I have to include somebody in the team, I hire people who are not obsessed with the outside. One characteristic that I definitely look for in my team members is that even if they have very little idea of what is happening outside in the world, yet they must have a clear understanding of who they are within.

My team members must understand what is happening right now with them. If somebody comes to me and says that “I have come to you because I am seeking a great future”, that does not really impress me. However, if somebody comes to me and says that “I like the work that you do and this excites me and I am not bothered what it will result into one year later or one month later. I am looking at it right now and I think I will have a pretty good time doing this.” Then I am more interested in working with this fellow.

I know this way of selecting team members may appear illogical, primitive to many of you. But for me, this seems to be working. As of now.

Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: The Falseness of Ambition || Acharya Prashant (2012) The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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