The ‘Art of Winning’ for successful entrepreneurs

Becoming an entrepreneur can be quite a challenge. Even with the capital investment and a plan in hand, there are things that need to be constantly monitored and weighed. So what exactly does it take to start and run a company successfully?

Alok Kejriwal, CEO,, speaks exclusively to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on how a successful entrepreneur can overcome failures to achieve success.

From invaluable tips like improving communication skills to developing an entrepreneurial intuition - Gurudev’s management mantras for budding entrepreneurs are worth learning and implementing. Here’s your guide to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Q: Gurudev, everyone knows you as the CEO of AOL, spiritual master, global leader. But I would like to interview you on your incredible journey as an entrepreneur-Guru.

Gurudev: It was a very eventful and interesting journey. I started by taking responsibility for a sick school which had no funds. Promises made had not been fulfilled. Therefore, the children were left without a teacher or a place to stay.  Neither had we ever asked anyone for money nor did we have any experience of running a school. But I knew I had to do this. Soon, things fell into place, and people came forward to help the school grow. Then I started teaching programs. The first program I taught in Shimoga was attended by eight doctors and engineers. I never intended to start programs. My intention was just to share what I could.

Q: That is what all entrepreneurs say, but then it becomes so big…

Gurudev: My passion was to do something for villages. I used to travel in villages, sleeping on the floor at their homes, talking to people, being with them, teaching them meditation.

Q: You are a science graduate. Why do entrepreneurs do the unusual? When you entered the realm of spirituality, why did you do the unusual?  You could have been a tech guy, earning a lot of money, traveling everywhere.

Gurudev: It was simply not my cup of tea. There was a calling, a feeling that there was something I needed to do. I had seen wealth and fame when I was with Maharishi.

I spent most of my youth with seniors, great poets, great entrepreneurs and people dedicated to a social cause.  Their wisdom, simplicity and broad vision were so beautiful. We started very small, going from village to village. Then I started training people to be teachers.

Q. In startups that have succeeded, the first team members- 5 or 10 - they make or break a company. What did you do to form a team?

Gurudev: I did not base this on anyone or volunteers. I based it on knowledge and wisdom. There is one power that is going to take you through, and that is moving with passion and dispassion, all together. Praise, talent, and adulation are things people aspire to see in their twenties, thirties, and forties. I had seen all this in my teens. Time is only for caring and contributing. And then the path opens up.


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“Competition in business will help you be more innovative and alert. Every competitor can inspire you to do more, and if you look at it that way you will be more at ease, and it will not dampen your enthusiasm. Else you will burn with jealousy and depression and do unethical things.”

~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Q: On Mondays, people in organizations are crying, and frowning on Tuesdays. How do so many of the people in the ashram keep smiling?

Gurudev: Moving with passion and dispassion, together. That is the power of spiritual knowledge. It gives you centeredness which recuperates your energy, keeps you enthusiastic, and brings the much-needed passion for work. You want nothing for yourself. That brings passion in work and dispassion in meditation.

Q In entrepreneurship and spirituality we have a common problem. 5 in 10 IIM-IIT graduates want to begin a startup, and family members become cagey.

Gurudev: They should do start-ups. 30 years ago there was so much prejudice against India. When we started the Prison Program in Boston, they just gave us a small 10’ x 15’ cell to do our Sudarshan Kriya. It was a dusty place with a small window.

But when we started the program, it created a significant breakthrough in the prisoners’ lives. The prison authorities said what they were seeing was a miracle. They then gave us the grant to do the program for 3000 people in another place.  So, wherever there are sincerity and talent, there will be people who recognize it. It may take some time. You simply have to have patience and hold on.

Do you want to be a successful entrepreneur?
Watch the interview: Art of winning 

Q. Gurudev, we are talking about patience and time, but everyone wants to grow a rose-garden in a day. You are talking about 30 years (to build Art of Living). A lot of young people think that startups mean instant money. Nobody realizes the value of time and money.What is your advice to young people?

Gurudev: You should not be feverish about it. When you are feverish about success, you take wrong decisions. It is not difficult to climb up that ladder by hook or by crook, but then you fall down the ladder faster than when you climbed it. Realize that you have sown a seed and you have to let it grow. You have to have inner strength.

At every step, you have to ask yourself, “Am I doing the right thing or not?” If you sit and worry, “What about me?” all the time you miss out on ideas because you are self-centered. If your goal is clear, your aim is clear, and you have the patience to move in that direction, nature is with you.

Q. On the power of intuition, a lot of us who are trying a new business, have not done that before. How do we cultivate intuition, how do we draw on it?

Gurudev: That is what spirituality is all about - taking that inner rest. That restful alertness of mind, meditation, and seeing life from a broader context. Then you will not be so feverish. You will let things unfold. You cannot force a flower to grow. You simply let it be there. Now “let it be there” does not mean inaction. People take it to the other extreme. Either they are complacent, or they are too feverish.

Q.  Gurudev, a lot of us find it hard to get success. 99 percent of the time it is not easy to do a start-up. Then we start comparing ourselves with other, wishing we could be like others, or saying, “I wish I could get that funding.”A bit of jealousy creeps in, and then it starts dominating our mind.

Gurudev: That is because you don’t recognize your uniqueness. In this creation everyone is unique. Nature has made us very unique. If we recognize and honor our uniqueness, there is no jealousy or competition. Jealousy is there when we want to possess things.

When you know you are here only to contribute, how can there be jealousy? Here spiritual knowledge becomes so relevant. Firstly, it helps you to overcome all these negative tendencies, and secondly, it improves your intuitive, innovative abilities and communication.

Q: You have made a product that is popular in India and abroad. How did you globalize your product so fast and make it so popular?

Gurudev: (laughs) Everyone is breathing! Everyone wants to be in love, be happy, and at peace. We just guide people on what they already have in them. And I still feel it has not become as popular as a cellphone. Cellphones are useful as they help you in communication. In the same way, meditation is even more useful because it helps you communicate with yourself and with the universe.

Q: This whole problem of competition becomes so serious that sometimes you feel like giving up. How do you keep yourself sane in in this competitive field?

Gurudev: You should see the positive aspects of competition. Competition in business will help you be more innovative and alert. Every competitor can inspire you to do more, and if you look at it that way you will be more at ease, and it will not dampen your enthusiasm. Else you will burn with jealousy and depression and do unethical things.

If you go with this one principle that no one can take away my enthusiasm, happiness or disturb my state of peace, then you will see the difference.

Competition in business will help you be more innovative and alert. Every competitor can inspire you to do more, and if you look at it that way you will be more at ease, and it will not dampen your enthusiasm.

~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Q; Seva, Satsang, and sadhana is the formula for spiritual success in Art of Living. Any formula for successful entrepreneurs?

Gurudev: They should keep their mind open and not be too anxious about success. Put in your 100 percent effort and be open to new ideas instead of being stuck in old ones.  You never know what will work on this planet. People should meditate at least twice a day, especially in a group. Then you will find the atmosphere is more humane. If there is a humane atmosphere, there is nothing you cannot do.

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