Enzo Ferrari: An automotive visionary

The Ferrari is a symbol of prestige, elegance, speed and status. It’s a car that’s within reach only for the wealthy, the royal, and the famous. So how did a mule-skinner’s boy develop one of the world’s most prestigious luxury sports car brands? How did he build a racing team that has won over 40 constructor and driver championships in a sport that’s only sixty four years old?

The most important victory is the one which has to arrive. - Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari was born ointo a family that ran a mule-skinning business. While he was enrolled in the Army, his father and brother had died from a widespread flu outbreak. The ramifications showed in the family business. Ferrari dreamt of working for Fiat, a premier Italian automotive company, but was rejected.

Instead, he took a job with a smaller automotive manufacturer, CMN. He began by designing truck bodies into smaller passenger cars, but moved to the racing team in 1919. Even though he didn’t find much success in his early days, he moved to the Alfa Romeo racing team. Here, he did quite well on the local circuits and he would say “The most important victory is the one which has to arrive”.

As the largesse of victories grew, Alfa commissioned him to race on the world circuit, but he rejected and instead started Scuderia Ferrari as one of the racing wings of Alfa Romeo. This decision developed into a life-long dream of developing his own brand of race cars and then, into one of the world’s most desired sports car brands.

Ferrari goes beyond his instincts

Novulari was one of the best racers in the early days of racing. Ferrari observed him and said, “As bend followed bend, I discovered his secret. Nuvolari entered the bend somewhat earlier than my driver’s instinct would have told me to”. This idea of going beyond one’s instincts pervaded all parts of his life.

He was not one to mute the voices of skeptics in his head; instead he would work hard to prove them wrong. When Alfa Romeo said that he could not build a 1.6 litre engine that would function in the rigours of the race track, Ferrari set out to prove them wrong; in the process building one of the most successful racing engines of all time.

By being unfazed in the face of criticism, pursuing his ambitious goal to be in racing and by going beyond his instincts, he developed a brand of cars that everyone seems to dream about.

Ferrari pledges himself to consistency

Due to funding problems at Alfa, Pirelli, the tyre manufacturing company, stepped in to help Ferrari out. Despite all the back-end tumult, the Ferrari engines just kept getting better and better. The engines were so good that the team had 40 drivers and kept winning till Alfa Romeo could take back control of Scuderia in four years.

Ferrari was slowly edged out of the organization and couldn’t build race cars because of his contracts. He made a reticent move to supply parts, which was taken over by the government during WWII to build military vehicles and armour. Post the war, Ferrari worked very hard to earn his old reputation of consistency back.

This is when he started the eponymous luxury sports car brand. Within four years, they started winning at the highest level of motorsport, Formula 1. A testament to their consistency is that Ferrari is the only racing team to have participated in every world championship of F1 in the history of the sport.

A deep passion for his work, a work ethic based on consistency, and his fighting spirit, helped this visionary truly change the landscape of the automotive industry.

Action Points

  • Consistency is very important in business.

  • Strengthen your core competencies.

  • Have a deep passion for your work.

  • Look towards the future.

  • Keep up with your competitors.

    ~ Amala Putrevu

Mary Somerville – Mathematician who found algebra in a fashion magazine

A woman born in an era where the sole purpose of a woman’s life was to look after ones husband and children, Mary Somerville was an exception. Born into an orthodox family, Mary was a wild child. However, her parents made it a point to keep their weird girl away from anything ‘improper’ for a lady. And ironically Mary first found about the love of her life in the most unusual place – a fashion magazine!

Sometimes I find problems difficult, but my old obstinacy remains, for if I do not succeed today, I attack them again on the morrow. ~ Mary Somervile

Mary Somerville was born in the late 18th century, an era where women were expected to do nothing other than marry and indulge in household chores. Mary was a wild child, she preferred outdoors to reading. She loved to explore and was a sharp observer.

Her father, alarmed at the sight of a daughter who refused to fit into the usual stereotypes, sent her away to an elite boarding school for girls. Mary hated the place and was sent back home after she refused to settle down like the other girls.

After her return, her mother decided to keep Mary engaged in practicing dance steps and attending tea parties. When the bland routine started getting into Mary’s skin, she turned to the only source of challenge she could get her hands on – puzzles in the ladies magazines.

One day, Mary noticed a complex mathematical formula which was used as a decorative pattern in a fashion magazine. Intrigued by the formula, she sat down to solve it and there began a decades old affair between Mary and the love of her life – mathematics.

It was not easy journey for Mary, with a husband who hated the idea of his wife studying algebra and a society which looked down upon a woman who wanted to pursue her muse. However, after the death of her husband, Mary was determined to pursue her passion and became one of the world’s first female mathematicians to author books on mathematics!

Action Summary:

  • If you believe in your true passion, no force in this world can stop you from pursuing the same.
  • Sometimes one finds the sparks to ignite ones inner passion in the most unusual place.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Helen Keller: Having a vision doesn’t need sight.

Helen is a gem of a person not because she got a college degree despite being blind and deaf. It is her contribution towards helping disabled people, a joy that she discovered when she was as young as 10 years old, that makes her an inspiration.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. ~ Hellen Keller

Helen became blind and deaf at the age of two. She was lucky to have very supportive parents who were willing to go to any length to help their daughter. As per the advice of Alexander Graham Bell who was working with deaf children at the time, her parents reached out to the Perkins Institute for the Blind for any possible help.

Anne Sullivan came to little Helen’s life when she was six and from then on, Helen’s conditions improved drastically. With her help, Helen began to hand talk, read Braille books, write and she learned a lot of things which would have looked next to impossible for a blind-deaf child.

Helen began surprising her parents and teacher with her learning skills and talent. To the people around her she was nothing short of a miracle.

Helping comes to the rescue.

When Helen was ten, she heard of a blind boy Tommy Stringer. The boy was only five years old, was poor and lived in Pennsylvania.

Helen knew the difficulty in living the life of a blind. She decided to do something about it. She started writing letters to everyone she knew asking for help. She even sent letters to newspaper describing Tommy’s condition and asking for money to be sent to Perkins Institute for the Blind.

Helen was surprised at the response to her letters. Money poured in from all corners of the country and very soon they had enough money to cover Tommy’s education.

Helen felt an overwhelming joy during the whole process. She experienced an ecstasy like never before. At the tender age of 10 Helen had figured what she wanted to do for the rest of her life – help others in need. Tommy Stringer had shown her her life’s path!

Action Summary:

  • The joy of giving and helping a person is uncomparable.
  • Everyone is born with a potential to make the world an ounce better than it already is. Our disabilities come in the way, only if we want them to.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Stephen Hawking: Turning the odds into opportunities

He was diagnosed with a degenerative disorder early in his youth. But that’s what woke him up to the infinite possibilities of life. Read ahead for Stephen Hawking’s motivating story.

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. ~ Stephen HawkingBritish theoretical physicist, cosmologist and known genius Stephen Hawking was born with a keen sense of wonder and inquisitiveness, love for science and a brilliant mind. But, at the take-off point of his highly engrossing career as a physicist, life played a terrible move.

Stephen was diagnosed with an incapacitating disorder Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – a degenerative disorder that affects the nerves that control voluntary motor functions, leading to atrophy of muscular function – when he was just 21. His diagnosis came as a complete shock to him and his family, who were told that nothing could be done about his condition. The disease would eventually rob him of his breathing, leading to pneumonia and a slow death, they said. He was told he had only two years to live.

Hawking slipped into a terrible depression, often locked himself up in a room and listened to complex opera music.

Every cloud has a silver lining

While undergoing tests for ALS, Hawking witnessed a boy suffering from leukaemia die on the bed next to his. He realised that there were people who were suffering more than he was. “At least my condition didn’t make me feel sick. Whenever I feel inclined to be sorry for myself, I remember that boy.”

Hawking had a series of dreams while in the hospital – one in which he was going to be executed and realised how many fruitful things he could do if he was pardoned; and another in which he believed he could sacrifice his life to do good for others and make their lives worth living.

It dawned on Hawking that he couldn’t just sit around depressed, and do nothing with his life. Fearing that he had less time to live and that he wouldn’t be able to contribute as much as he wanted to the world, Hawking immersed himself into his study.

He not only defied the two-year notice given to him, but also authored many scientific papers and publications – the most famous being “The Brief History of Time”. Hawking made some great friends during his research, and fell in love with a girl, whom he later married.

Action Summary:

  • Look for a silver lining in every difficult situation. Empower yourself to rise above the difficulty and thrive.

  • Cultivate a strong will power within yourself. Fuel it with positivity and a focused attitude.

~ Atrija Gaur

Walt Disney: Importance of letting things go

When he finally created a successful character after 10 long years of hard work, Disney’s producer stole his company and his creative works from under his nose. But he bounced back from that lowest point of his life and emerged the winner!

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. ~ Walt DisneyWalt Disney was only 21 when he started his first venture, the Laugh-O-Gram Studios, where he busied himself in creating cartoons. However, the company did not survive for long. Barely a year after it was founded, the studio went bankrupt. Walt was back at square one, but he kept going.

After plunging in failures for around 10 years, in 1927 Walt created his first successful animation character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Overnight he became a well-known name in the entertainment industry.

Oswald’s producer Charles Mintz was paying its creator a mere 20% cut and with the film’s huge success, Walt naturally expected a decent raise. When the contract was due for renewal, a very hopeful Walt travelled all the way to New York to negotiate better terms.

However, Mintz delayed the meetings and dragged the discussions over weeks. During this period, Mintz went behind Walt’s back to negotiate an agreement with the existing animation crew of Walt’s studio.

His producer had not only stolen his star character but also his employees, which consisted of some of his closest friends. Walt was given two options – stay back as a mere employee of the studio on the same 20% cut or leave the company and forget about Oswald series and his animation crew. Walt chose to leave.

Walt had lost his studio, his employees and his favorite character, the fruits of ten years of hard work. Deeply hurt by the betrayal, Walt vowed that never again will he work for anyone but himself. He wasted no time brooding about his losses nor did he waste an ounce of his energy plotting revenge against the betrayers!

Instead he calmly accepted the reality and started afresh. He let Oswald the Lucky Rabbit go without even a sign of protest!

Very soon Walt created Mickey Mouse, his most famous creation which led him to the pinnacle of success.

Action Summary

  • Sometimes we lose things to gain something much better.

  • Everyone faces setbacks. Failures and betrayals are not the end of the world. All it takes to succeed is ability to let go and the spirit to bounce back!

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Peter Mark Roget: The synonymous man

One weird hobby that Peter Mark Roget had right from his childhood was making lists of things. And that is what he devoted all his time for after his retirement – in making a giant list of words. At the age of 73, he published his list of words as a book; Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, the one book that made him immortal.

To wait till perfection is attained would be vain and fruitless presumption.

Roget was born into a family with medical history of psychological disorders. Though he was considered the sane one in the family, Roget had his own share of obsessions. He had weird hobbies right from his childhood, be it counting his steps every day or making lists of things.

When life presented difficult times before him, Roget resorted to this one thing that calmed him down – making lists. After spending his younger days being an accomplished doctor, inventor and researcher, Roget decided to spend his days of retirement doing what he loved the most – making a list of words.

Memorable retirement.

He began adding to his previous collection of words and over time built a huge catalog of words grouped by their synonyms and antonyms. Though it was a mere hobby in the beginning, over time Roget realized the relevance of the work he was doing and how it could benefit others.

Roget continued his work for years, well into his nineties, and his collection of words was later compiled into a book- the Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, popularly known as just the Thesaurus.

Even today most people know of Roget more from this giant list of words than the vast amount of work he did in his active younger days. What started as a pointless hobby indeed became the identity of Peter Mark Roget.

Action Summary:

  • Sometimes a pointless task can transform into your biggest accomplishment, provided how passionate you are about it.
  • Keep doing things that matter the most to you, however trivial they might seem.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Kathryn Joosten: Suburban housewife to Emmy-winning actress

Kathryn Joosten was 56 when she moved to Los Angeles wanting to make it in Hollywood. Though her chance to succeed was next to nothing, with her determination she not only became an actress, but also won two Emmy awards along with the love and affection of thousands of viewers!


Kathryn was working as a nurse when she met her future husband, a psychiatrist by profession. After marriage, she gave her career up to become a full-time housewife. Her husband did well at his work, but he was an alchoholic. After ten years of a strenuous marriage, Kathryn finally got a divorce.

Being a single mother with no job and two kids to support, life was not easy for Kathyrn. She had to struggle to make ends meet. She was in her forties and was juggling with three jobs. And in spite of all these, Kathryn decided to chase her dream of becoming an actress.

Though she was immensely talented, Kathyrn didn’t get an immediate break in her career. She didn’t even find a decent agent for herself. She kept appearing for auditions with no magical results. During these times she had to support her kids with odd jobs like painting.

Staying dissatisfied is not everyone’s cup of tea.

She then did the impossible thing – she moved to Los Angeles with her son. She was fifty-six at the time and didn’t even have an agent or any good contacts. Nor did she have an impressive resume.

Her courage and confidence did pay off in the end. With a small role in the sitcom Family Matters, people started noticing her. Soon she started making appearances in almost all notable sitcoms of that period. She went on to win two Emmy awards for her role in Desperate Housewives.

There were so many moments in her life when Kathyn could have given up on her dreams and decided that enough was enough. But her perseverance saw her through!

Action Summary:

  • Persistence and strong will always pay in the end.
  • Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to not give up and keep going.
  • Risking all that you have to chase your dreams makes you the most deserving candidate for success!

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Bethany Hamilton: The one armed fighter

Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer, bestselling author, inspirational speaker and a fitness expert. She achieved all these pinnacles of success not without dramatic challenges.

 Strive to find things to be thankful for, and just look for the good in who you are. - Bethany Hamilton.

Bethany Hamilton was born into a family of surfers and it was only natural that she took to surfing. At the tender age of eight she entered her first surfing competition and emerged the winner!

Life challenges, young lady disposes

Her family and friends had great hopes for Bethany. However, not everything goes as planned. On October 31, 2003, the life of then thirteen year old Bethany underwent a major change. While surfing along Kauai’s North Shore, she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark. The beast severed off one of her arms. When she was eventually rescued, she had lost about 60% of her blood. It was a miracle that she survived.

Bethany was rushed to the hospital and underwent one surgery after another. The shock of losing a limb and the looming possibility of infections was devastating. However, little Bethany’s display of optimism and bravery left everyone around her speechless.

Barely a month after the unfortunate incident, Bethany returned to the lap of the oceans to pursue her passion for surfing. In January 2004, she entered the NSSA National Competition and procured the fifth place.

Fate had mercilessly yanked away her arm, but it was not strong enough to kill her spirits. In 2005, a year after the accident, Bethany won her first National title.

Bethany has since then participated in numerous national and international competitions and has attended various world events. Her auto biography, Soul Surfer, continues to inspire thousands of people. Bethany has shown to the world that fate can only push you down; it can’t stop you from getting back up!

Action Summary:

  • Fate cannot stop you.

  • There are two choices in life, brood over the setbacks or accept them as challenges to be used to push yourself further. Choosing the latter makes you invincible!

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Alan Rickman: The late bloomer

Alan Rickman, the famous English actor, got his first big break in movies when he was 46. He had given up his successful graphic business to become an actor. When the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses, in which he was one of the lead actors, became a hit and was made into a movie, everyone involved in it became famous. That is everyone except Alan because his role was played by another actor in the movie!

Alan Rickman


Alan Rickman graduated from college with an art degree and started his own graphic design business. He was doing pretty well when he decided that his true passion was acting. He left his own company and joined an acting class, a pretty risky move.

While pursuing his acting classes, he was in his thirties and was working as a part time dresser. He started doing small roles in plays and this continued for years.

Finally, at the age of 42, Alan landed a role in the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He was one of the lead actors and this was his first break. The play went on to become a hit and was later adapted into a movie. Almost everyone involved with the play got a part in the movie and became famous. Well, that is everyone except Alan. His role was played by John Malkovich.

Bad man, Alan.

However, Alan Rickman’s tremendous performance in the show did not go unnoticed. Two years later a producer, Joel Silver, who was very impressed by Alan’s talent, asked him to star as the main villain in his movie.

Alan Rickman went on to become the bad guy and gave life to the badass characters like Hans Gruber and Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series.

Action Summary:

  • The door to success is not always opened on the first knock. However, every knock makes an impact.
  • It is more comfortable to stick to safer options and to retort to practical means. However, listening to one’s heart and consenting to take risks is perhaps what defines one’s destiny.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Franklin D. Roosevelt: The political genius

A few years before contesting the elections Roosevelt had a polio attack which left him partially paralyzed. In spite of this he won the election and successfully led his country to progress during some of the most difficult phases in history like the World War II and the great depression.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ~ Franklin Roosevelt

After passing his bar exams in 1907, Franklin started practicing law in the city of New York. However, he soon found his job boring and confining and turned to active politics.

He learned his valuable political lessons from his success and failures alike. With his political career thriving, he accepted the nomination to run for the vice-presidential elections in 1920. However, he lost the elections by a huge margin.

Before he could recover from this huge professional loss, Franklin faced yet another setback in life. The very next year, while he was vacationing in Canada, he was diagnosed with Polio and soon the disease left him partially paralyzed. The doctors declared that his condition was incurable and Franklin found this hard to accept. He tried many unconventional treatments with no success and finally resigned to being an invalid.

This unexpected ailment broke Franklin and he almost gave up his political aspirations. However, his wife Eleanor and political confidant Louis Howe continued to encourage him. As a result of their motivation, Franklin decided to pursue his political career. He worked on his physical disabilities and practiced walking short distances on braces. Though he was wheelchair driven, Franklin was careful to not make public appearances on wheel chairs.

Meanwhile he worked on improving his personal and political image. In 1928, he was elected as the governor of New York; though with a narrow majority. This boosted his confidence and he realized that even when his body had weakened his mind and will were strong.

Franklin D. Rooselvelt went on to become one of the greatest presidents America has ever seen. Many of the reforms and policies that he had brought about are still in force.

Action Summary

  • If one can hold back fears and work towards fulfilling their dreams, they will be amazed to find what can be accomplished.

  • Life is a hard game, there will be huge setbacks that will tempt you to quit. But the more you learn to hold your head high, the more is your chances of survival!

~ Gitanjali Banerjee