Monday, May 26, 2008

You can win!

Armed with that attitude, Shiv Khera has set up a thriving career as a motivational speaker

By Shevlin Sebastian

In 1976, when Shiv Khera was struggling to make headway in his life in Toronto, he came across an advertisement in the newspaper that motivational speaker Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (of ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ fame) was in town. Khera attended the meeting and says, “Dr. Peale looked at the audience and said, ‘Do you have any problems?’”

“Everybody raised their hands.”

“How many people would like to solve their problems?”

“Everybody raised their hands.”

“Then he said, ‘On my way here to the meeting, there was a place where I saw some people who were relaxed and comfortable, and had no problems. How many people would like to be like those people?’”

“Again, everybody raised their hands,” says Khera.

“And then he said, ‘Two blocks from here, there is a cemetery and there are some people lying there, with no problems at all, at peace with the world. How many people would like to get rid of their problems like them?’”

“Everybody put their hands in the pocket,” says Khera, with a smile. “And then Dr Peale said, ‘Problems are a sign of life. As long as you are alive, you will have problems. The day you don’t have them, you are dead.’”

32 years later, Khera remembers the event as if it took place yesterday. “It was the turning point in my life,” he says.

Armed with a positive attitude, and clearly defined goals, Khera moved to New Jersey in America in 1978, set up a successful business in life insurance, and sold the company in 1995 for a large sum of money. During that time, he also began giving attitude and motivational courses.

But he made his mark when his 1998 book, ‘You can Win’ sold 1 million copies in eight languages. “I wrote the book to express my gratitude to Dr Peale who had changed my life and also to take the message to the next generation,” he says.

The manuscript, which was rejected by more than 100 publishers, was published by Prentice Hall in Singapore. Later, he wrote other best-sellers like ‘Living with Honour’ and ‘Freedom is not free’.

Just outside the hall at the Gokulam Park Inn Convention Centre, in Kochi, Khera’s books and CDs are on sale, while inside, the man himself, clad in a blue safari suit, with mike in hand, is talking to a group of 120 corporates about self-esteem, attitude, motivation, success and leadership in a three-day training programme organised by the Ekal Educational and Charitable Society.

“There are either good or bad leaders,” says Khera. “Good leaders actively guide and bad leaders actively misguide. Good leaders create more leaders and bad leaders look to create followers, because they are insecure.”

The audience listens to him in rapt silence. One of them is S. Sankaran, the former chairperson (Kerala) of the Confederation of Indian Industry. “Unlike other programmes, we were able to understand what he said at once,” he says. “The good thing was that whatever he said was applicable both at home and at the workplace.”

Khera had to work hard to become successful. Born in Dhanbad, he was educated at Delhi, but in 1973, at 23, just a month after he had got married, the Central government nationalised the coal mines which his late father owned in Jharkhand and left Khera a pauper.

“We were on the streets overnight,” he says. Desperate, he tried his hand at several businesses, but it flopped. In the end, with the help of his sister, he emigrated to Canada on November 13, 1975.

Today, he travels across the country, and to Singapore and Mauritius and the US to give talks on personality development.

Asked why so many people lead unsuccessful lives, he says, “Most people have dreams, not goals. A goal is a dream with a deadline, clear direction and a plan of action.” He says a study by Yale University concluded that less three per cent of people in the world had goals.

“Goal-driven people put in 200 per cent,” he says. He gives the example of American swimmer Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics. “A reporter came to Spitz and said, ‘Must be a lucky day.’ Spitz replied, ‘What are you talking about? In the 1968 Mexico Olympics, I won three gold medals. I was happy, but I was also unhappy because I could have won more.’

So, between Mexico and Munich, in four years, Spitz swam 10,000 hours. That works out to 2,500 hours a year, which translates to eight hours a day, with no Sundays off. “Go sit in the water for eight hours a day for four years and your body will shrivel,” said Spitz. “So, did I get lucky?”

(Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian, Express, Chennai)

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