How My Father's Death Made Me a Better Entrepreneur
Without resorting to reductive stereotypes like hoodie wearers and Ivy League dropouts, modern entrepreneurs can actually be characterized by a profound fortitude in spirit. Our mission to disrupt traditional models and create game-changing solutions is matched by an intense desire to breed success and effect positive change in the world. This kind of drive dictates the rapid pace of innovation, and the pressure to get places faster, better and cheaper, makes entrepreneurs some of the world's biggest workaholics -- though not without fault.
Sometimes, though, an unexpected event can throw you for a loop, and jolt you out of this fast-moving life like a spaceship being knocked out of warp speed. This is exactly what happened to me at the beginning of 2017, when I lost my father to illness. He had been sick for two years before he died, and the experience was incredibly taxing on my entire family. In addition to putting me face-to-face with the frustrations and inadequacies of India's healthcare system -- which is where he received his care -- watching my father's health deteriorate made me realize just how easily I could be in the same position in just a few short years.
I've been so accustomed to living and breathing the invincible atmosphere of entrepreneurship that I never stopped to truly realize my own mortality. When your life feels full of possibility and opportunity at every turn and you're laser focused on your bottom line, it's all too easy to lose sight of the big picture and what is really important. My father's death has instigated a deeply personal shift in me that has inevitably impacted how I run my business. It was a necessary hit of the reset button on my mindset and outlook that I believe has transformed my entrepreneurial spirit for the better. Lessons learned that I have since applied to my business include:
Don't just focus on the money aspect, but identify what is of value to you beyond your bank account. I used to be rather aggressive as a businessman, always gunning for each and every dollar, feeling every win and hurting from each loss. But, now, I remind myself that I won't take a single dollar with me when I die. While I am no less shrewd a businessman, there is a part of myself that has become more tempered; if I lose out on something, I don't lose sleep. If I win at something, it doesn't define me.
Be a good fellow human.
My company is like a well-oiled machine, optimizing workflows and streamlining processes to enhance our business performance. It can be measured by its operational efficiency, its profit margins and sales revenues, its year-on-year growth. But, as it turns out, business is not just business; it's people. The people who work for my company are such a big part of what makes the company more than just its business successes. Having their loyalty and their friendship is deeply important to me, as is supporting their individual success and growth as much as they support mine.
When the competition is fierce and the pressure is on, it's easy to get caught up in chasing success at any cost. It becomes somewhat like an automated response or conditioned reflex to go, go, go and get things done yesterday. I've recently begun actively practicing mindfulness, in order to cultivate the self-awareness and self-reflection necessary to make better decisions for myself, for the company and its employees, and for my family. Without this, I would be acting in my own vacuum, oblivious to the real impact I might have on others and even myself, like my health and well-being.
Though I've heard the saying a thousand times over, I feel that I now truly appreciate the notion of turning lemons into lemonade. Entrepreneurs have no shortage of opportunities to learn some hard lessons, especially if they've run the gamut from being on top of the business world to facing complete failure head on. But I would encourage you not to ignore or underestimate the lessons that come from the human side -- the ones that arise unexpectedly in our darkest, most intimate and most vulnerable hours. It is in the caverns of heartbreak and loss that we gain clarity over our true purpose in this world, and remind ourselves to make the absolute most of the time we have in it.