The Soul of Success Part 3


Please read the first 2 parts (part1, part2), please read the comments as well for a lot of wisdom has been collected.  While we may have reached some level of clarity on goals themselves,  we seem to have ways to go around recalibrating goals? Is recalibrating a cop out?

The Role of Failure in Success

We have all heard the maxim  “aim for the stars and shoot the sky”. It has got a lot of truth in it.  While it may seem like a cop-out, i think it is worth keeping in the success playbook.

What is seldom discussed is, what happens when we end up shooting just the sky instead of the stars that we aimed for?

When we chase difficult goals, failure is inevitable.  What i observed in my experience is that when we fail massively or when massive failure looms large, we should do some deep soul searching. Maybe our methods are erroneous. We can try a different route and see if we can still hit the stars.

If  after that revamped attempt we fail yet again, is it reasonable to recalibrate the goal?  Or should we try again and again untill we succeed? 

Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her insightful book Confidence, talks about a doom loop setting in, if you fail more than once in a row.  

What do you all think?

“Confidence”  maybe a book worth reading to understand how to set the cycle of success going and how to prevent losing streaks and why Confidence is so important in success.

Po Branson’s Take

Po Branson talked to over 900 people from various walks of life to understand the real meaning of success. Fast Company carried some of Po Branson’s key findings in a brilliant article.  Don’t miss reading the article.

Po found 3 important lessons:

1. Timeframe –   persist over a long period of time. 

2. Backup plans – do not lead to different destinations, such as “If I don’t get into business school, I’ll be a schoolteacher.” His backup plans lead to the same destination, and if he has to arrive late by a back road, that’s fine.

3. Don’t get burnt out  – never let yourself get burnt out.

I am sure the book would have a lot more wisdom packed into it. If any of you have read it, please comment.  BTW, Po Branson may be familiar to some of you, since we covered his take on  Praising Talent Vs. Praising Effort.


I would like to contemplate the role of luck next. What do you all think about luck? Is it a significant factor?


  1. Quote

    Good post Sukumar. As of failure, failure is great lesson or step closer to achieve success. Persistent try towards success is really important. But practicality wise, try for something if not, settle with what ever we got is good approach as I said in first post, do the best but the result depends on some one else. The obsession with goal is really bad, at same time gave up on something that you can achieve easily also bad. As you said, recalibrating may be a good option and now I’m thinking it could be up/down depending on situation we can aim higher and higher or settle with the current one. The recalibration may not be always up and up.

    Basically I think for a successful career/goals, we have to be versatile, this fast changing and technology oriented/globalization climate, one got to be adjustable with each environment. I slightly disagree with Po Branson here, “One of the most common mistakes is not recognizing how these value systems will shape you”. A value system will shape you is right but what extend, so a retired police officer have to go with private security profession not to the fisherman. A banker is good at managing funds he would be the same good at catfish business also but he doesn’t had the patience and adjustable quality to continue with the business to become a successful farmer.

  2. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 24, 2009, 8:05 pm:

    Thanks Subba. In my mind as i described recalibration was bringing the goal down. But i think you have made an interesting point. What Kanter covers in her book is to build success step by step. As you achieve each goal, you recalibrate higher and higher. I think that approach makes sense as well?

    I didn’t understand your point on value systems Subba. from the example Po gives, i was of the view that if you are doing something incompatible with your value system, you may want to change your career. i think that makes a lot of sense? Think of it this way, if my value system is incompatible with Sales, i should change my career rather than change my value system. It is not clear why you disagree with that?

  3. Quote

    Agree, we should not change our value system just for career, but we are not that luxury at all the time. For example, this recession forced millions of people change their career, they may not like it or those career completely against their value system. So my point is, instead of rigid on value system, we should be flexible to adopt new set rules as our value system and continue to those careers until become success.

  4. Quote
    kumaran said March 25, 2009, 9:53 am:


    It is interesting that the words I say get recalibrated as this discussion progresses. 🙂 🙂

    When I mean “reclaibration of goals” it does not neccesarily mean bringing up/down the intensity of goal but on re-evaluating the goal. It is like Pencillin discovery, the objective was to help mankind the intial steps were in 1 direction on a particular but he came across another path accidently and took it to reach his success.

    Maybe the care we need to take not getting fixated on the means and clearly differentiate. Succes should be reach goal by the initally defined path it could be different.

  5. Quote
    kumaran said March 25, 2009, 10:04 am:

    On the epilog question “luck”. I read about luck and its definition which will give some food for thought.

    Luck in tamil is “Adhirshtam” seems to be a derivative of “Adhirshti” or “Drishti”. Drishti is vision or what can be seen. Adrishti is what cannot be seen.

    I interpret “Adirshtam” or “Luck” as the UNKOWN FACTOR. I guess the point there will always be unkowns, the paradox if you know the factor it is not unkown anymore. Hmm sounds similar to Schrodinger’s “The Uncertainty Principle””.

  6. Quote
    kumaran said March 25, 2009, 10:09 am:

    The last comment also made me share another thought not directly relevant to above topic but related.

    The last sentence showed some relation between quantum physics and philosophy. One of my uncles remarked any stream of education after point get into philosophical mode that is my PhD ( Doctrote of Philosphy) is the topmost degree. 🙂

    Science/ecomonics/medicine whatever becomes philosphy after a point. 🙂 🙂

  7. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 26, 2009, 8:46 pm:

    That is a tremendous insight which you mentioned in the previous post. i want to cover that in the next part on Luck.

  8. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 26, 2009, 8:49 pm:

    Adrishtam or Luck is actually a Sanskrit loan word. Dhrishtam in sanskrit means obstacle and adhrishtam means no obstacles. So i guess we think Luck means No obstacles.

    Please see Kumaran’s research on etymology of Adrishtam in a later comment. My comment has been struck down as a mistake. Sorry about that.

  9. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 26, 2009, 8:51 pm:

    You are right, any discipline ultimately becomes a branch of philosophy because you actually contemplate meta-concepts.

  10. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 26, 2009, 8:53 pm:

    You are right we do need to be flexible in the short term. That is absolutely the right approach given the bad economic situation the world is in. However, Po’s point is referring to the long term. I think he is right, you cannot do something that goes against the grain of your value system over a long term. That may even be detrimental to you. In the short term, that may be okay.

  11. Quote
    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said March 27, 2009, 7:57 pm:


    As most would attest, you learn a lot about yourself and also the system and process you were working on via failure. So, failure is not necessarily a bad thing. Alternate methods/routes (but not short cuts) should be attempted to reach the end goal based on the lessons learnt from failure.

    Certain problems does not need recalibration of goals if you fail. However, there are others, where the timing may not be right and one does have to morph (not recalibrate up/down) their goals, sometimes even tangentially. For example, the stated purpose of a start-ups existence may become moot due to marketing conditions, customer realities etc. In such situations, one is better off trying to re-position the startup, if possible. However, there could be situations where that is financially impossible, and it is fine to ditch that effort. All may not be wasted. What you learn from the experience would still be valuable in a future endeavor.

    Anand Rajaraman of Junglee and now Kosmix fame, who is also a VC, has written a very nice article about startups can “reinvent” themselves if their current idea is not panning out. Here is the link –

  12. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 28, 2009, 5:46 pm:

    Thanks Ganesh.

    Completely changing course when faced with failure is a tremendous insight.

    The birth of twitter from Odeo’s looming failure is a great case study. As is Kumaran’s point about the invention of penicillin. I hope to cover both these insights in my next post on luck.

  13. Quote
    kumaran said April 5, 2009, 9:41 am:

    I did some more research on the word “Adrishtam” actually semantics change stuff pretty drastcially in sanskrit.
    It looks when the word is transliterated into english it written as “Drushti” or drsti.

    It is also being spelt as “Adrushtam” and root word is “Drushtam” mean “vision” in some articles.

    I checked out with my mother-in-law she was a sanskrit professor in Sanskrit college in Trivandrum.

    There is also an online dictionary

    Some other sources on ‘Dhurstam”
    1. ( look at point 13 )
    2. ( look at section “Lucky and Unlucky )

  14. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said April 5, 2009, 8:15 pm:

    thanks for the research. You are right, it does seem to be connected to vision and hence the unseen factor as you had stated earlier. I made a mistake. Thanks for pointing out. i have struck my earlier comment off.

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    I am in complete agreement with the idea of never never never ever giving up as long as you know you have a noble goal and you have what it takes to achieve it or at least you know you can learn to get to a stage where you have what it takes. In other words, nothing is impossible. There may be no need to relook at the goal if you’re sure you want to reach there and you know it will do you and the world a lot of good….but there may be a need to relook at the methods we adopt to reach the goal! And, being an idealist, I believe just the act of trying again and again will open our eyes to various possibilities and the passion will ensure we crack every obstacle on the way! The world is a magical place for people who are passionate and don’t entertain any thoughts of giving up…! 🙂 Reminds me of a tweet I came across today…which quotes TOM PETERS as saying we ought to do cool things [insert the description of your goal here] or die trying! 🙂

  16. Quote

    Thanks Nimmy. You are right we need to persevere relentlessly, even by changing our methods to get to the goal.

    Your comment reminded of Randy Pausch (last lecture) who said the brick wall is there for a reason – to prevent people that don’t want something passionately enough.

    The tom peters quote is a good one.

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