Suneel Gupta learned at an early age about the power of now – and not “someday”. Gupta, a best-selling author, speaker and Harvard Medical School scholar, remembers how his mother taught him that taking action is the way you succeed in life. She became Ford Motor Company’s first female engineer after insisting to the hiring manager that she could help him change the car manufacturer’s history of never hiring women engineers. Gupta questioned his mother on her success.
“How is it that you in your early 20s, as a refugee, were able to make this trek across the world, leaving your family behind with so little money in your pocket?” he asked her. “I mean, the risk behind that it’s extraordinary. And what she said to me was surprising. She said, ‘It wasn’t courage. It was action. I just took action. It was action after action after action.’”
His mother’s action taught him about the words too many people say, “I’m not ready.”
“I think the thing that mom impressed upon me more than anything else is people who do great things are hardly ever ready to do what they did,” he recalls. “And I think the research bears that out, you know, now as an author and somebody who goes around the world meeting with leaders, like, if there’s one common denominator, it’s that none of them are really ready.”
Gupta spends his time interviewing CEOs not about their success, but about their failures. What he remembers is that prior to the success of his company, Rise, a mobile health care company, he had two companies fail. He became the face of entrepreneurial failure after he accepted an invitation to FailCON. At one point, Gupta says, if you Googled the word “failure,” his face popped up at the top of the searches.
To overcome this stigma, he remembered what he had learned from reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and taking a Dale Carnegie course as a teenager because his mother, an alumna of the program. “One of the mantras that I’ve sort of learned to adopt now, largely because of my mom, and I think also a lot because of Dale Carnegie, is that long term success often comes from short term embarrassment,” Gupta says. “Long term success comes from short term embarrassment, if you can learn something from it, if you can do something from it … I think failure can be the most important teacher we might have.”
Gupta has discovered that burnout is one of the major factors keeping us moving ahead in our careers and lives. Stress often gets carried over from one meeting to the next, day after day. This intensity is debilitating, Gupta says, if you don’t take time to recover. “I don’t care if you’re working eight hours, or you’re working 15 hours a day, you’re eventually going to burn out,” Gupta explains. “But if we have these little moments where we can just come back to ourselves and again, it can be as simple as sipping a cup of coffee or listening to a song or taking a walk. You have these five-minute breaks throughout your day. It’s a continual reset and you can bring more energy in more productivity, more enthusiasm to whatever happens next.” Gupta advises everyone that if there is something inside of you that’s waiting to come out, then let it out. “If it doesn’t work right away, learn from that, because it will eventually,” he says. “Courage doesn’t lead to action. But I think action ultimately leads to courage. And so just continue to act and continue to learn and you will get there.”