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He is 58 year old, spectacle with distinguished silver grey hair. He’s spend 25 years working for one of India’s most respected corporate houses. I have learnt a lot from him, but it is unlikely you would have ever heard of him. His name is Gopal and he worked as a driver on my client’s place. Sometimes, the biggest lessons in life come from very unlikely sources, as Gopal spoke to me one morning about his life and time. I thought young people would benefit from listening to what he has to say. Since Gopal will probably never be invited to deliver a convocation speech or write in newsletters.

I decided to share those lessons with you. Here goes:

1. Getting a driving license does not make you a driver

“I was 18 when I got my license but it was only after several months of driving a car that I actually learnt to drive and became a real driver”. A license is only a permit, not a stamp of authority; CA degree does not make you a CEO. It is a license to drive you to prove yourself in real word. It is after you spend several more years learning on the job that you truly qualify to call yourself a CEO. Many young people confuse getting a degree as signifying the end of their learning. WRONG. It’s just the beginning.  A degree or a diploma – the license – simply marks you out as someone qualified to learn from real life experiences. It doesn’t make you an expert.

2. The real word is very different from a classroom

“I learned to drive a car, but my first job required me to drive a little tempo. The steering wheel was different and so were the gears. I thought I knew how to drive- but I couldn’t even get the tempo started”. The world outside the classroom is a very different place. That’s as true for CA’s and engineers and MBA’s as it is for drivers. The real world is different and every situation is particular so get ready to get surprised.

3. Get your hands Dirty

“I spend night working as a cleaner. That’s when I learnt all about the insides of an automobile. Knowing what’s under the bonnet has made me a better driver today”. The brightest marketing professionals in the country will tell you that they learnt their biggest lesson in the days the spend slogging in small towns selling soaps or colas. There’s no other way, if you want to be successful, work hard. Dirty your hands and go beyond your specific role.

4. Initially, what you learn is more important than what you earn

“In my first job, the pay was bad but the boss was good. He gave me opportunities to learn, make mistake. I banged his tempo quite a bit. While the dents were quickly repaired, the lessons I learnt remain firmly etched in my mind”. In your first job- doesn’t worry about pay package or the size of the organization. Working experiences in small enterprise help you to gain knowledge in all the functional areas and make you a decision maker. Get a good boss, a good mentor. That’s priceless.

5. Don’t worry which car you drive- focus on being a good driver

“I always wanted to drive the best cars- but rather than complain about having a driver a tempo or a school van or city transport bus. I focused on driving well. I told myself that if I do that, the good cars will come and they did.” Now that’s a great lesson. It’s not about the company. It’s about you. Do the best with what you have where ever you are. Gopal spent 15 years struggling in odd jobs before landing a driver’s job in one of the India’s largest companies. We could all benefited by staying focused on doing a great job- rather than worrying about the next job or the next promotion.  Do a good job.   Success and happiness will follow you, inevitably. Those then are five fabulous life lessons from an unlikely guru. Follow Gopal’s advise and I guarantee they’ll make a difference to your career and to your life. ■

Source: Sumit Agarwal (NIRC News Letter)

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