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Wisdom of Success by Desh Deshpande

Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande, the founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks Inc., is an influential technology entrepreneur and visionary. Widely respected for his generous contributions and donations for various social causes, Deshpande is a member of the MIT Corporation, which hosts MIT’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, funded from the $20 million seed money provided by him.

Delivering a keynote address at the IIT alumni meeting in Washington on October 11 at the residence of Lalit Mansingh, Indias ambassador to the US, the philanthropic entrepreneur underlined the need for sharing the spoils of success to make it truly meaningful.

Excerpts:

When I reflect deeply on my own success, Im reminded of the tale of the brilliant and respected scientist who, after many years of single-minded research, finally found the centre of the universe and was surprised to discover that he was not in it.

My message to you is this: It is not our success that defines us, but how we define success.

At age 4, success is not peeing in your pants.
At age 16, success is having a drivers licence.
At age 20, success is having sex.
At age 35, success is having a good job.
At age 55, success is having money.
At age 70, success is having sex.
At age 80, success is having a drivers licence.
At age 90, success is not peeing in your pants.

With all due apologies to my friends over age 70, success is, after all, a relative term.

Those of us working in the fields of technology have, by the discipline of our training, very rigid definitions of success. For us, it is a model or algorithm that accomplishes what we set out to do it is a program that functions perfectly or hardware that performs without flaw. It is my belief that in our livesboth our professional and personal livessuccess is a far more pliant concept. Success is not determined by the traditional measures of recognition and reward, but in the lessons we learn even in failure and the lives we touch along the way.

My definition of success is simple: It is to be at peace with yourself.

And to be able to do it, and I borrow it, in part, from Benjamin
Franklin, you have to be healthy, wealthy and wise

Good health, of course, is a blessing but one that is aided by disciplined living and a healthy respect for the amount of abuse our bodies can take before they rebel. If you are not healthy, there is not much you can do for others. Wealth is also very important. Being wealthy is a matter of personal opinion, but in my view, you are wealthy when you have more than what you need.

After my Ph.D. in 1980, I continued to live on the student budget. I had a very modest lifestyle. However, I got married to Jaishree in 1980, who is also an IITian. After marriage, she cut our budget in half. I remember when we moved to Boston in 1984, we both used to work and make close to $100,000 a year. However, we lived on less than $20,000 a year. As a result, we were able to quickly save enough for me to quit my job and go without a salary for a couple of years to start our first company.

For all of us who grew up in India, financial restraint comes naturally,because we had to live with fewer resources. Alan Greenspan will spank for me for preaching this, but that financial restraint will give you the financial freedom. The financial freedom gives you opportunity. For me,wealth is the freedom to do the things that you really want to do.

Now that you are healthy and wealthy, it is the wise part of the equation,however, that can be the most challenging, particularly for those, like you, who have been blessed with a keen intellect and the ability to use it. That is merely the foundation for success. I believe true wisdom comes from the ability to explore beyond our natural interests and experiences, and learn to be more fully engaged and aware of the world around us the culture, the politics, the economy and the people who make up our communities. For me, true wisdom, and therefore, true success, comes from being at peace with yourself, and the most effective way to get there is to care about others.

As Albert Einstein said: “Try not to become a man of success. Rather, become a man of value.”

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