Larry Page: Why he didn’t Google for ideas

Google CEO, Larry Page realised the prominence of nurturing great ideas in his early Google days, which helped shape his company into one of the best in the world.

Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting. ~ Larry Page

Larry Page’s Google has been ranked 1st among the best companies to work for by Fortune in 2014. The founder CEO himself has been the powerhouse of ideas that gave rise to applications, which are responsible for the whole world relying on them. When Google Inc., the extension of a research project he took up with Sergey Brin at Stanford University, was launched in 1998, Page was just 25. Bursting with ideas and armed with dreams to change the world, young Page had little patience when it came to employee matters and was infamous in his network for openly dissing ideas he thought were irrelevant. The environment at Google then was extremely competitive – a culture that revered ideas but had no room for emotional nuances.

The Google Toolbar Story

In 2000, Google hired talent in the form of Wesley Chan to pioneer the Google Toolbar project, which was a tool to carry out searches on the net without launching Microsoft Explorer. Chan realised that the Google Toolbar was low on popularity because there was no special significance attached to it, and users didn’t find its presence important. He suggested the tool be clubbed with a pop-up blocking algorithm, to bring the user’s notice to it and eventually increase their reliance on it.

When Chan proposed this to Page, Page was resistant and dismissed the idea as “the dumbest thing he had ever heard”.

Actions speak louder than words

Determined to make his idea tick, Chan decided to take the dismissal as an encouragement and secretly installed the application on Page’s system. Unbeknownst to Page, the application led to a drastic reduction of pop ups on the system and he happened to exclaim at a meeting about the welcome change. This was met by Chan’s explanation.

The Google Toolbar was thus born, and Page realised that he would have to do away with delegating tasks to his employees, to encourage them to step forward with fresh ideas.

Action Summary

  • Recognise and respect everyone’s ideas in your organisation. There may be one that changes the way people look at the world.

  • One needs to look beyond age, designation and experience when working on an innovation. Never underestimate the power of an idea based on these aspects.

~ Atrija Gaur

Emily Blunt: How she stuttered away to success

Emily blunt’s success as an actress is spectacular because she had to overcome a mammoth hindrance to reach where she is today- stuttering!

Life is ambiguous, isn't it? It's never as black and white as you see it in the movie. ~ Emily BluntEmily was not the most exciting girl in her school. A bit of a goody-two-shoes kind of a shy girl, she was. However, what really made her life difficult in her girlhood was that ‘little problem of hers’, the one which made her feel very awkward at times – stuttering.

Growing up in an era where effective techniques to overcome speech difficulties where unheard of, little Emily had to live with the stutter for quite a long time. Her problem became really bad between the ages of 7 to 14, further bruising her self-confidence.

Luckily, Emily had an amazing teacher who not only empathized with her but helped her grow out of her stutter. He encouraged little Emily to take part in the class play. When Emily was unsure of joining the play concerned about her speech disability, her teacher came up with a plan. He asked her to try her lines in a different voice or accent.

Though Emily found his suggestions a little weird in the beginning, she was amazed to find out how helpful it turned out to be. She used a funny northern accent to practice her lines and eventually found out that she could speak fluently in her new ridiculous accent. Being able to hear herself speak fluently helped boost her confidence to a very large extent.

After the night of the school play, things became much easier for Emily. Soon she started practicing in her original voice and accent. Emily stopped stuttering eventually and in the future went on to become a great actress. She now works closely with the American Institute for stuttering, helping kids in need with their “disability” and to strengthen their self-confidence!

Action Summary:

  • Every problem comes with a solution, whatever your problem may be; and sometimes the most weird solutions work in your favor.
  • A person who has once juggled with a problem and succeeded in overcoming it can motivate others going through the same problem to act, much better than anyone else.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw: Shrugging off the stereotypes

At a time when women were unwelcome in business, women entrepreneurs were an impossible thought. It took a woman of grit to unshackle and cut her niche. Read on for the biotech Czarina’s story.

The credibility challenges during your growing up years start disappearing when you start demonstrating success - Kiran Mazumdar

She features in the top 5 richest women in India, heads one of the largest biotechnology empires in the world, and is a recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards. She has one of the most inspiring success stories. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw – CMD of Biocon – has had a long journey, studying brewing (which was unconventional for women of her time) and then starting her own company when she saw she wasn’t being accepted in the brewing industry.

Mazumdar-Shaw’s story started when her brew master father encouraged her to study the science of brewing and malting. She went to Australia’s Ballarat University, from where she graduated as Master Brewer in 1975. She was the only woman from her batch to pursue the course, and she aced it.

Post her degree, she had a couple of training stints in Australia, and then headed back to India where she got a negative reception. The problem was not with her qualification, it was with her gender. She was told – “You’re a woman. It is difficult for a woman to deal with labour unions. You are high-risk. Can you command the respect of your male colleagues?”

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

Not one to concede defeat, Mazumdar-Shaw joined Biocon Biochemicals, an Irish company that was looking for a market expansion in India and found a fierce, goal-oriented partner in her. Mazumdar-Shaw ultimately started her company using INR 10000 in a garage space.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw faced gender barriers during and post her company launch – people were unwilling to work under a female lead, reluctant to provide start-up capital to a woman entrepreneur and unenthusiastic about listening to her idea. She went beyond these issues, making them look small in comparison to her determination – and Biocon soon started exporting industrial enzymes in profitable global markets and earning huge profits. The results are for all to see.

Action Summary:

  • Don’t be perturbed if the world tries to suppress you – it’s their way of making you realise that the time has come to work the suppression in your favour and create waves.

  • One doesn’t need to be of a specific gender to possess determination to make things work. Strength of character and drive are above any barrier – be it gender, age or anything else.

    ~ Atrija Gaur

Soichiro Honda: The Self-made Entrepreneur

Soichiro Honda, a Japanese automobile engineer and industrialist, established the Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and nursed the company from a small scale manufacturing unit running in a wooden shack to a multinational automobile industry.

Success represents the 1% of your work which results from the 99% that is called faiure. Soichiro Honda

Soichiro Honda never believed in traditional education. Helping his father in his bicycle repair business was his favorite activity in his school days. His disregard to his lessons often resulted in poor grades. Those days in Honda’s school, the report card of the students had to be stamped with the family seal.

What’s wrong with a little cheating?

To save his parents from disappointment by showing bad grades, Honda once crafted his own version of the family seal using the parts of an old bicycle pedal. As soon as the other children heard of Honda’s brilliant idea, they started approaching him for fake seals of their family names. Honda was more than happy to oblige to these requests.

However, while making these fake seals the little innovator missed out on a crucial point. His stamps were not mirror imaged. Since his family name, , was symmetrical when written vertically, he never realized the mistake. But forgery became evident in the case of the family names that were not symmetrical. The culprit was soon identified and Honda’s father was notified about his misadventure.

His father left him standing on his knees for a whole day, not for the miniature fraud that little Honda had cooked up, but for the fact that he didn’t make the seal mirror imaged.

The urge to do more.

After eight years of schooling, Honda decided that he had enough of formal education and started working in an auto repair shop in Tokyo. After literally living in the workshops for years and familiarizing himself with the designs of all sorts of vehicles, he became one of the most sought after automobile mechanic in the locality.

Honda had bigger visions for himself though. He decided to develop piston rings, which he believed would revolutionize automobile designs. But even after spending almost all of his savings and burning midnight oil for days, his research bore no fruits.

He had to finally accept his incompetence in the task and realized the importance of education. To acquire the necessary knowledge to accomplish his mission, he enrolled as a part-time student at Hamamatsu Industrial Institute. However, he refused to take any examination. To him only learning mattered, not the diploma certificate.

After about two years of hard work, Honda finally succeeded in creating the model of a piston ring. However, out of the 300,000 piston rings that he had produced and sent for examination, only 50 were accepted for consideration by the Toyota Company. Amongst those 50, only three passed the quality control test.

By this time Honda was close to bankruptcy and was recovering from a terrible accident. Where any other person would have called it quits, Honda remained adamant about continuing his attempts.

Further research, hard work and undamped spirit finally brought success to his heels. Honda Motor Co., Ltd, the company he had established went on to became the world’s biggest automobile manufacturing company!

Action Summary:

  • Success is never a coincidence. It can be achieved only by diligent hard work.

  • Failures are necessary elements to succeed in life. Only if one realizes the importance of learning from their failures would they discover the path to success

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Dhirubhai Ambani: The Equity Revolutionist of India

Dhirubhai Ambani always believed that a company’s fuel is the trust of the people. His story tells us how he won the hearts of his shareholders and mobilised the Indian equity markets, building on this trust.

Between my past, the present and the future, there is one common factor: relationship and trust. This is the foundation of our growth. - Dhirubhai AmbaniFounder of the Reliance Industries, India’s largest private firm, it is common knowledge that Dhirubhai Ambani hailed from a poor family. However, he did not let that deter his capacity to think big and move forward. Ambani, the third of five siblings, was articulate and intelligent, right from the beginning.

Dream big.

Ambani realised two things early on – that he would have to keep his customers happy and that only by keeping them happy would he be able to raise the capital to fund his grand dreams.

Ambani was unable to secure bank loans to fund his projects. Keeping in mind the customer relationships he had cultivated over many years, hardened risk-taker Ambani decided to go public in 1977. More than 58,000 investors subscribed to the Reliance IPO.

The turning point for Indian equity markets

Dhirubhai Ambani was known to pay his investors handsome dividends, which kept them loyal to Reliance. He realised that there was one way to maximise profit for investors, better than dividends, and that was capital appreciation. He ensured bonus shares and rights issues to his investors – big and small – apart from handsome dividends. Thus, he decided to convert non-convertible debentures into equity through which his shareholders would get massive profits, which did not go down well with the Government.

In the interest of the investors, Ambani lobbied relentlessly for the restrictive law to be changed, and eventually he won. Investors were so happy with the idea, that the Reliance issue of 1979 was oversubscribed by 6 times!

Seeing the shares (and subsequent returns) soar, millions of retail investors were encouraged to invest in the Indian stock market – all because of the massive market mobilization by Ambani. In fact, Reliance had such a large investor base within a decade that it would hold meetings in stadiums!

Action Summary:

  • Create relationships, not links. The trust that emerges from relationships lasts long.

  • Be determined – let your deeds speak of strong will. Positive results always come from a tenacious and focused attitude.

  • No idea is too small to be leveraged. Believe in your ideas, and work towards making them a reality.

 ~ Atrija Gaur

Michael Jordan: The conqueror of failures

Michael Jordan is perhaps the most popular NBA star of all time. But this basketball miracle was not born in a day. In Jordan’s own words he had “failed over and over” in his life before he tasted success!

I've failed over and over again in my life and that is why i succeedMichael was from a non-athletic family. While in high school, he was not considered tall enough to be a successful basketball player, nor was he hailed as a basketball prodigy. Michael was more than often known as ‘that goofy kid who likes to play basketball’.

Early disappointment.

The biggest disappointment in Michael’s life came quite early in his life. At 15, though Michael was only 5 feet 10 inches tall, the hard work he had put in and his passion for the game helped him find a place in the JV team at his high school. That year, the varsity team needed a couple more players for the upcoming playoffs. Michael knew that getting into the varsity team meant kick-starting his career possibilities. He was one of the most promising players who tried out to be in the team that season.

Michael knew that he was good at the game and was fairly confident that he would be selected. However, the team was looking for someone taller and hence Michael’s friend, who was a good 6 feet 4 inches tall, was selected instead of him. Michael was more than disappointed.

However, this incident also became the turning point in his career. Instead of wasting his time brooding over his loss, Michael channeled all his frustration towards becoming better at the game.

He has often admitted that whenever he was practicing and got tired and thought he ought to stop, he’d close his eyes and see that list in the locker room without his name on it and that was more than enough to keep him going. He vowed to never let another opportunity slip by and completely devoted himself to becoming one of the best basketball players the world had seen!

Action Summary

  • Sometimes only failure can help us fathom the magnitude of success.

  • Life will have disappointments in store. Until we start to accept these disappointments and learn our lessons from them, we will never learn to live.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Steven Spielberg: The ardent pursuer of dreams

Steven Spielberg is one of the most influential film makers in the New Hollywood era. His movies are applauded equally by critics and audiences. His persistence is what has seen him through success after success.

Even though I get old, what I do never gets old and that's what keeps me hungry

Steven Spielberg, the multi-talented film personality, did not exactly have a fairy tale childhood. Being dyslexic and shy, Steven was often bullied by other kids at school. Though immensely talented, he was never counted as a brilliant student. He barely managed C’s in his studies, thanks to his preoccupation with cameras and movies. This often led to severe arguments between Steven and his father.

In spite of all these odds, at the age of 12, Steven shot his first movie “Fighter Squad” with his Dad’s 8mm movie camera. Dressing up his friends in ketch up spattered World War II uniforms, he shot the fight sequences in the cockpit of old airplanes stationed at Phoenix airport. By the time he had turned 17, Steven had shot 4 films using his 8mm movie camera.

After finishing his high school, Steven wanted to join one of the best film schools. But his poor grades stood in his way. Without many alternatives left, he enrolled in a program in the California State University–Long Beach. He was soon bored by his classes. Determined to get his movie career rolling, Steven dropped out of college.

One summer, Steven had worked as a clerical intern at The Universal studios. He knew that hanging around the locations where TV shows and movies were actually shot would really help him in understanding the industry better.

Though his internship was over, Steven realized that the guards might still recognize him from the previous summer and he might be able to sneak into the studio premises. Dressing in his father’s best suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, he succeeded in hoodwinking the guards who just waved back at him every time he walked by.

Once he reached the studio, he would hang around every department asking questions and understanding the technical details. Often, he would get kicked out from a set. But that didn’t keep him from going back later.

A few months into this game, Steven became a familiar face in the lot and people started assuming that he worked for someone or the other in the Studio. He even found an empty room to call his office.

Once he made some acquaintances within the industry, Steven didn’t hesitate to make the next move. He shot a film with his 8mm camera and requested the studio executives to take a look. When they refused to look at anything that was not shot using a camera bigger than 16mm, Steven re-shot the film using a rented 16 mm movie camera. In an attempt to get rid of this pestering guy, the executives informed him that they would only look at it if shot with a 35mm camera. Without losing zest, Steven shot the film again using a 35 mm camera.

Impressed by his will and persistence, the executives watched the movie and were amazed by his talent. The film, “Amblin”, went ahead and won a prize at the Atlanta film festival. Moreover, the Universal studios signed a seven-year contract with twenty-two year old Steven and now his career is history!

Action Summary:

  • If you are strong willed none of your weaknesses is big enough to stop you from achieving your dreams

  • Persistence always helps you succeed.

  • Real life and hands on experience is the best teacher.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

Randy Pausch: An Inspiring Educationist

Randy Pausch gets the answer to why football isn’t just about the ball. Randy’s story teaches us how grasping the basics first is more important than building strategies.

You've got to get your fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn't going to work.Randy Pausch – zesty professor of human computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University, shot to fame long before his famous last lecture at his alma mater. His eminence lay in the way he dedicated his life to come up with the most ingenious means to broadcast the beauty of design education to those around him.

As a 9-year-old, Pausch was obsessed with becoming an NFL footballer when he grew up. In an attempt to realise his dream, Randy signed up for a football club under a towering, beastly fellow named Jim Graham, who everyone dreaded. On day one, the coach turned up, but to the surprise of the team, without any footballs.

Why didn’t Coach Graham bring any footballs?

The Coach asked the team, “how many men are on the football field at a time?” The team replied, “Twenty-two in total, inclusive of both teams.” He then asked, “how many people possess the ball at a given time?” “One.”

The Coach pointed out, that they would be working on the twenty one other people on the field who are without the ball, at any given point in time. Why would he say that? The simple answer was: one simply cannot build a game strategy without getting the basics right. He added that a player should gauge what mind-set the other players are in to tackle the game and win it, instead of paying attention to the one person who possesses the ball. Pausch gathered that the deeper one would understand the nitty-gritties, the better the build-up on any strategy would hold.

Hard taskmaster that he was, the Coach would make Pausch work hard at practice, pointing out what he did wrong time and again, and making him do the entire exercise till he got it right. After one such tough day, an assistant coach made Pausch realise that Coach Graham really took interest in his progress, and that’s why he was pushing Pausch to do better.

Action Summary:

  • Get your fundamentals in place before you attack the bigger picture. Goals before the grandiose is the mantra to success.

  • Accept and work on constructive criticism. The experienced ones who take interest in you, do so because they see a spark in you to excel.

~ Atrija Gaur

Mark Zuckerberg: Little boy wonder

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s story tells us how his passion for coding helped him to intuitively begin connecting the world through the ZuckNet, all at the tender age of twelve!

I think people have this core desire to express who they are. And I think that's always existed.

Social media moghul. Billionaire at 23. Founder of the largest social network – Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg has successfully pioneered the social media revolution, hanging on to the belief that everyone in the world should be connected and be given a voice and to help transform society for the future.

Not many are aware though, that Zuckerberg was a child prodigy. He had taken a strong liking to communication and technology ever since he was in elementary school. He is said to write logic since he was 10! The turning point in little Zuckerberg’s life came when his dentist father introduced him to Atari BASIC programming, a type of machine language used to develop great applications back then.

The birth of ZuckNet

Zuckerberg’s father had his dental practise adjoined to the house, and the patients would be received in the hall of his house. Zuckerberg was quick to identify that his father would have to take a manual effort to coordinate with the receptionist to see his patients. Armed with Atari BASIC and a passion for connecting people, Zuckerberg came up with ZuckNet – a messaging application which connected the computers on the home and clinic network to exchange pings for incoming patients.

Not only did this solve the problem, it brought about efficiency. Zuckerberg even connected all computers in the house which enabled the family to carry out internal communications on the messenger.

To hone Zuckerberg’s thirst for programming, his father hired a private tutor to guide him and sharpen his innate talent.

Action Summary:

  • Take an effort to recognise your in-born talents, develop a focus on them and work towards nurturing them. This will place you on the growth trajectory.

  • Have faith in what you are passionate about!

  • Look for problems that need solutions.

~ Atrija Gaur

Sylvester Stallone: The might of unswerving will

Sylvester Stallone, the famous American actor, screenwriter and film director has redefined the action movie genre in Hollywood. His story is about how he didn’t cave into temptation.

Life is not about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit, how much you can take and still keep moving forward.

Sylvester Stallone always wanted to be an actor. But there was a small problem – he was born with his lower left face paralyzed. His speech was slightly slurred. Not exactly the ideal qualities in an actor, right?

But Stallone was persistent and after dropping out of college he moved to New York to pursue his acting career. Though he auditioned for almost every casting agent in town, he failed to get a break. The longer he went without work, the more he found himself struggling to make ends meet.

His financial condition headed for a steep decline. He was even forced to sell his favorite pet dog to a random man he found in front of the local liquor shop, for all of $50.

While roaming the streets of New York on one cold winter day, in an attempt to keep himself warm he wandered into a library. This later went on to become a routine and during these visits he got accustomed to the works of great writers like Tolstoy. It was during this period that Stallone penned down the script of Rocky. He was so involved with the script that he couldn’t visualize anyone else playing the title role.

After taking his script to many producers, he finally found someone who loved it and was willing to produce it. They offered him $125,000, but there was a catch. They didn’t want him as an actor. For a man writhing in poverty and desperate enough to sell his loyal pet, this was indeed a handsome sum. But Stallone did the unthinkable, he rejected the offer!

Weeks later, the producers approached him again and raised their offer to $400,000. But Stallone was adamant. They could have him play the title role and get the script or else mind their own businesses!

The producers had absolutely loved the script and eventually let him have his way, but on one condition. They would pay him only $35,000. Stallone happily agreed to this.

He soon tracked down the man he had sold his dog to. He had to pay a sum of $15,000 to get his pet back, which he did without hesitation.

Rocky went on to make $200 million and has 6 sequels. Sylvester Stallone also became the third man in history to get two Academy Awards nominations for the same film, for the Best Original Screenplay and the Best Actor for his work in Rocky!

Action Summary:

  • Persistence and strong will pays.

  • The biggest challenge in life is to recognize one’s inner potential and believe firmly in it without giving up in adverse conditions.

  • Sometimes we get extravagant offers at the cost of giving up our dreams. But sticking on to one’s passion always rewards in the end.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee