Understanding the Winning Mindset: How to Succeed Against All Odds?

Lessons from stories of inspiration, relentless determination and winning despite all odds

This article is based on inputs from the Fireside Chat held on Day 2 – SHRMIAC’19 and moderated by Emily M. Dickens, Corporate Secretary and Chief of Staff at SHRM. The panelists were Navin Gulia - Internationally acclaimed Author, Adventurer, Thinker, Orator & Social Worker, Man Mohan Bhagat – Founder & Chairman of Bhagat Global Group and Nupur Jain – Learning and Development Leader at GAIL.


If a tiger was chasing you, you will not be looking towards a motivational speaker to guide you. You will run. We can hear all the motivational speeches and read motivational books we want, but the forces within us should push us to get things done.

Navin Gulia believes,

"great people were almost never motivational speakers. They went about doing their jobs and striving for better than the best outcomes whether it was Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Mahatma Gandhi and so on. No one can achieve greatness by simply listening to motivational speakers."

For instance, Navin Gulia was paralyzed neck down at the age of 22 owing to a freak accident that happened while he was training at the Indian Military Academy. He was bedridden for months with traction drilled into his skull to keep his spine straight. He spent months telling himself all the things that he could never do in life. However, through a little act of courage, he told himself that none of the things that he could not do defined his self-worth. He accepted his condition and found ways to make himself worthy and completely redefine the traditional sense of ability that many of us are socialized and indoctrinated with. From his hospital bed, he read extensively, practiced chess mentally with an empty chessboard and passed a computer proficiency course using the speech to text tool on his computer. He completed his master’s in computer management and taught the subject too. He designed a hand-controlled driving kit that could be fitted on cars driven by persons with disabilities. He can drive cars, all-terrain vehicles, motorized gliders and micro-light aircrafts. He runs an organization to aid children from deprived backgrounds and children with disabilities.  

What to do when one’s work is challenged by issues surrounding one's capability

Nupur Jain, being a visually challenged person, has gone through several hardships and challenges throughout her professional life. Her commitment and capability to do her job has been continuously questioned and challenged by people around her. To which she shares, 

“When people challenge me, I love it more because it allows me to prove myself again. It is an opportunity for me. I want to challenge society and achieve my goals uninhibitedly for which I channelize my passion for work. I stop at nothing and (am) driven to achieve my goals at any cost.”

Undeterred by these challenges, Nupur Jain has been passionately involved in the learning and development space for the past 11 years and has continuously upskilled herself and gotten herself a wide range of certifications (including coaching, instructional design, women’s leadership development, diversity and disability management and so on), and has engaged in range of researches/ studies.

Whether you are/ will be able to do your job well or not depends upon your skillset, experience, expertise, job-related capabilities, passion, professional aspirations and so on. It does not depend on the physical package that you are in (a disabled body, an old body, a trans body, a woman’s body, etc.), your socio-economic background and so on. Everyone has a unique skillset that can be put to good use by a skilled leadership and HR, as long as you have the self-confidence, drive and passion.

And Emily M. Dickens insists,

it is the responsibility of HR to create an inclusive work atmosphere where every employee feels empowered and can thrive despite their physical, personal and professional challenges and the package they come in.”

The 4 Mantras to success despite all odds

Consciously address your internal judgments and barriers

Man Mohan Bhagat believes that one must not plan for a short life. Even at 92, he continues to head the several national and international business organizations and institutions that he founded/ has been a part of. He also actively participates in the day-to-day functioning of his family-run NGO, the Earth Foundation, which works on issues concerning education, women’s empowerment, the environment and improving the quality of life on Earth. He has also graduated as a top-ranked student from Harvard University earlier this year, at age 92. The takeaway is people need to address their preconceived notions about self-worth and abilities and forge ahead of the internal challenges and mental blocks, do things to make self-worthy, break all barriers and contribute to the society.

Find your passion and invest time and effort into it

It is important to find your passion actively. Passion does not find you or walk in through the door to where you are. You must understand your areas of interest and invest your time and emotion into it to make it your passion. Nupur Jain is zealous about her profession and has continuously equipped herself with the skills and capabilities required to flourish in her profession.

Never stop learning and upskilling yourself

Man Mohan Bhagat has completed a certificate course from Harvard University at the age of 92 to work towards fulfilling his NGO’s mission of improving the quality of life on earth. He has started to develop a program thereon to help individuals make a positive contribution to society and the future by reducing their carbon footprint. He has kept pursuing all his other passions and never lets an opportunity to learn go by.

It is critical for success that you do not stop learning and upskilling yourself - lifelong learning is key to leading a meaningful life amidst all and any challenges and barriers in life and in your profession.

Staying Positive

Navin Gulia strongly believes,

"We are humans and what others say or think about us will affect us, especially things about our differences or abilities. However, it is vital to speak positive things, read positive things, meet positive people, surround ourselves with positive people, go to positive places, find activities to do when we are in a not-so-positive frame of mind and thereby, build a mountain of positivity around ourselves." 

This will help create a positive mindset and ensure that we stay forward-looking. In such a constructive environment, one or two negative people or forces will not affect us or demotivate us.

"There are only two motivational forces in this world - fear and desire. Most of us do our jobs from morning to night and put in all the hard work only due to the fear of losing our current standard of living. Only some of us are driven by the desire to achieve greater things. I am passionately in love with life and the fear that drives me is that I will not be able to live my life to the fullest. I do not accept anything that keeps me from living my life, be it people, my injury or anything else." - Navin Gulia



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