There is nothing called ‘my success’ || Acharya Prashant (2012)

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Questioner: Isn’t there something called an individual business effort, not conditioned by others? Is it not possible that a business or entrepreneurship effort could be free of society and based on one’s own mind? We are all students of social entrepreneurship.

Speaker: Is there something called business untouched by society? The real estate business, or pharmaceutical business, or the business of selling shoes or software — if one enters into these, with the ambition of success, then it is already a social phenomenon. Real estate is not significant. What is significant is that the individual is entering with a view to earn success. Remain with that: from where does your motion of success and failure come? If somebody wants to prove himself, don’t you see the mental game of success in his desire?

The next term you used is, his own mind. Is there anything called one’s own mind? Or, is the mind itself a social construct? What do you mean by one’s own mind? Whatever you call as mind is aggregation of three things: knowledge, experience and memories. In addition to that, there are certain scholars who also add evolution to it. Knowledge comes from outside, experience comes from outside, and memories are a reservoir of first two. What do you mean by mind? Is the mind  yours? And it is the mind that is talking the language of success.

I suppose most of you, as students of social entrepreneurship, have claims: a general claim of doing things differently, doing things for some sanctimonious social cause. Before you go into the subject of demonstrating yourself for attracting resources, or communicating to fund-givers, or selling some idea to communities, first you must understand who is acting.

If you are talking the language of success, then there is hardly a difference between a profit entrepreneur, a lifestyle entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur. All are defined by success, all talk the language of success. It will not be greatly beneficial to you even if all business and communications techniques are handed over to you. Finally, what matters is: who is communicating, what is his self-concept, to whom is he talking, and for what purpose.

Now, I am supposed to take a session on communications need of a social entrepreneur. I could have come and started a Powerpoint presentation, saying: there are five kinds of communications that a social entrepreneur needs, and you have note writing and project writing, this and that. That would happen if I think — if my self-concept is — that I am coming here as a communications teacher of post-graduate students. How and what I speak to you is a matter of my concept about myself and yourself.

Similarly, as a social entrepreneur, you might be talking to, let’s say, a big donor. What you will say to him will depend on what you think of yourself and him.  The label of your meeting may be anything: That fellow’s secretary may tell him, “somebody ordinary from that NGO has come and he will present a project report”. The label of the occasion might remain the same as in several other routine cases. But if you know who you are, then the content and spirit of your communication will change entirely.

Do we see that the question of self-concept is a very important question? Rather, the most important question in communication?

Just speaking about something is not communication. Who is speaking?
Once you are clear about who is speaking, then what is being spoken automatically takes care of itself.

Just like theater; any body who has been into theater? What does the director keep telling you? ‘Get into the character, get into the character’. Once you are into the character, then the dialogue delivery, the body language – everything – will fall into place. You don’t have to try too hard, it just happens. Because now you know, you are the character, your self-concept has absorbed that. Now let’s say you stand in front of an audience to make a fund-raising proposal. In this situation, is it not important to see who you are, and what are you trying to do? And won’t then your actions follow in a relatively easy way? You won’t need to be taught about that.

In theater, you are getting into someone else’s skin. When you are not getting into someone else’s skin, it must be your own. The problem is that it is very easy to get into somebody else’s character, and so mighty difficult to get into your own. I ask you for a roleplay, and I ask you to play your neighbor. You will do that with some success. The most difficult roleplay is when the topic is ‘I, and you stand there, not knowing what to do.

That is the most unknown entity – ‘I’.

My work for the last eight years has involved speaking to audiences of all ages and all kinds, and all purposes. I can say that what you are carrying in that Powerpoint, or as prepared material in your mind, does not matter that much. The real clincher is that odd question that suddenly comes from the audience, and your spontaneous response to it. It is an unexpected remark, and your response to it cannot be a thing of planning. You cannot prepare for it. That spontaneous response comes with clarity of the self. Clarity about who you are and what are you doing here. Otherwise there is fear, there is conflict.

Have you ever wondered why public speaking is a dreaded skill? The fear of public speaking is the biggest fear. This is because of the conflict that comes with it. There are others and their expectations, and the way of their conditioning, and the penetration of their eyesight, and here am I, who is exposed, and the conflict. No preparation works in a different circumstance.

When I was of your age, doing my graduation, there were students who prepared wonderful reports, presentations, and documents. They would have actually worked hard. And when it came to displaying it, explaining it, speaking on it, defending it, they would be shivering, because at that moment, things like success, expectations, would come into their mind. Those who would stand a little outside of the society, not feeling the society’s pressure to succeed and deliver, the pressure to be respectable, they would be the ones who would deliver normally and smoothly. That won’t be very spectacular, having nothing miraculous about it, but there would be a very warm kind of comfort about it. There would be no violence in it — standing in front of an audience not feeling the heat, not feeling the violence.

Can you see that standing in front of an audience and making a presentation or a speech or a proposal is a thing of great violence? Can you understand the violence contained in it? Can you see if you are dying for success, there is a war going on? Where there are two parties and something is at stake. What else is the definition of war? What else is the definition of violence? Is it a collaborative thing? It’s a win-loose situation: ‘Either I get it, or somebody else gets it. Either the proposal gets extended, or it gets aborted. Either I will be successful or I will be labeled unsuccessful’.

Do you not see the violence contained in it, or do you not see how your body responds to that violence? Your whole face goes red and all the sweating and all the palpitation.

‘I am prepared’, for what?
Prepared for violence. Preparation means an anticipation of violence !

Excerpted from a Samvaad session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: There is nothing called my success || Acharya Prashant (2012) 

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