After Chennai Express, I’ve made new enemies: Shah Rukh Khan
I am going to say good evening again, because that’s how I started the speech. First of all, it’s really scary here. Some of the biggest managers of the biggest corporations in the biggest convention for management – AIMA.
It’s very sad that in such an august company of people, big business houses and managers, all you could manage was to get a speaker from Bollywood to speak at the convention. The economy must be really bad.
Well, who am I to speak about the economic downtrend across the globe etc, or anything, for that matter? Just reading the topics being discussed before I came on stage, I was frightened. And if I’m allowed to say so, shit scared. I couldn’t understand a word. Let me tell you one of the discussions they had earlier on in the day – ‘Could financialisation of commodities be used to incentivise supply growth without inflating prices?’
Okay, if you say so. Or no, if you guys are in a bad mood, whatever you say. The other one – ‘Managing liquidity supply crunch risk of NPA CSR mandate CEOs COOs CFOs UFOs’… mind-boggling and numbing for a person like me who can just about say, k-k-k-k-corporation management. And the topic that my friend Shiv (D Shivakumar, president, AIMA) told me is, I have to speak about courage, in this scared state and ill-informed mindset. But here I am, and so are all of you wonderful people. I wish you a great convention and a happy economy, and I want to thank my friend Shiv for giving me this opportunity to speak in front of such an extraordinary amazement of grey matter – all of you highly successful, perhaps the most successful people in the world – and he chose me to give you a speech on success. Am I the only one seeing the irony here? Or are you all too busy holding back your laughter on what I’m going to say?Apart from my lack of knowledge and fear, the only other thing is that I’m not good at giving discourses on how to succeed. I don’t know what I’m going to say to you highly motivated people that you don’t already know about life. So I’ll bore you with a few details of my life. But let me warn you, this is a recycled speech. It’s generic and it’s simple.
Successful people are almost never able to pinpoint what it was that made them so. Take Warren Buffet. Here’s a guy who must get asked five times a day how he became the most successful investor of his era. His answers? ‘Reinvest your profits, limit what you borrow’ – are no different from what any fool could tell you. But he’s not being cagey – he simply doesn’t know. Success is a wonderful thing, but it tends not to be the sort of experience that we learn from. We enjoy it, perhaps we even deserve it, but we don’t acquire anything from it. And maybe that’s why, it cannot be passed on either. Being successful does not mean my children will also be so, however much I teach them what all did in my life, and they follow it to the letter.
Success just happens, really. So, talking about how to become successful is a waste of time. So let me tell you, very honestly, whatever happened to me, happened because I’m really scared of failure. I don’t want as much to succeed, as much I don’t want to fail. I come from a very normal middle/lower middle-class family, and I saw a lot of failure. My father was a beautiful man, and the most successful failure in the world. My mom also failed to stay with me long enough to see me become a movie star. We were quite poor, actually – at certain junctures of our lives, I had even experienced what we call in Delhi a kudki – how many of you know about it? This is a thing that the government does when you don’t pay the rent of your house, and they throw you and your stuff on the roads.
Let me tell you, poverty is not an ennobling experience at all. Poverty entails fear and stress and sometimes, depression. I’ve seen my parents go through it many times – it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. At an early age after my parents died, I equated poverty with failure. I just didn’t want to be poor. So when I got a chance to act in films, it wasn’t out of any creative desire that I signed my films – it was just purely out of the fear of failure and poverty. Most of them were discards of other actors and the producers could not find anyone else to do them. Deewana, which was my first hit, was actually discarded by an actor called Arman Kohli. Baazigar was rejected by Mr Salman Khan, and Darr was negated by Mr Aamir Khan. I did them all just to make sure I was working. The timing or something was right, and that made it happen that I became a big star.
I asked Dilip Kumar sa’ab one day – we were watching Devdas together – and I said, ‘Sir, yeh joh picture aapne ki hai, itni achhi acting…’ I had made my own version of Devdas, and I was sitting next to him, and I said, ‘Sir, yeh picture jo aapne ki hai, bahut achhi hai. Kyun ki aapne? Aapko yeh character kyun achha laga?’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘Pata nahin yaar, bas thoda sa… kya thaa woh… Bimalda ek lakh rupaye de rahe the mujhko…’ That was the only reason he did Devdas at that point of time. Of course he’s the greatest actor the world will ever see, but at that point of time, that’s all he wanted. That sometimes, our success is not the direct result of our actions. It just happens on its own, and we take the credit for it, out of embarrassment sometimes.
So I believe the true road to success is not the desire for success, but the fear of failure. I tell everyone, if you don’t enjoy and be afraid of your failure hard enough, you will never succeed. I’m not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun, but I will insist and hope that all of us will experience it in some measure. The extent of what each one of us perceives as failure must differ, as it should, but I believe that everyone should pass through some stages of failure before they succeed. So how does one fail?
I’m sorry, this is what I teach my kids, so if it sounds a little novice and silly, please excuse me. First and foremost, it’s not the absence of failure that makes you a success, it is your response to failure that actually helps to buffer the reverses you experience. I myself have two responses to failure. First is pragmatism. I believe that if one approach does not work, another one might, as in business, too. The second response is fatalism. I fool myself that it was bound to happen, and that I need to move on, and not get caught up in the oft-repeated question – ‘God, why does it happen to me?’ It happened, move on.
Failure also gives me an incentive to greater exertion, harder work, which invariably leads to greater success in most cases. Failure is an amazing teacher. If you don’t fail, you will never learn. And if you don’t learn, you will never grow. There is a well-known story of a bank president who was asked the secret of his success, and he said, “Right decisions”. How do you get to know how to make the right decisions, came the follow-up question. “Experience,” was the answer. Well, how do you get experience, asked his interrogator. “Wrong decisions,” he replied.
Sometimes, it has also taught me to stop pretending that I’m someone other than what I’m supposed to be. It gives me a clear-cut direction that ‘Hey, maybe I’m not supposed to be doing this. Let me just concentrate on doing and finishing things that really matter to me that really define me, instead of following a particular course that’s actually taking me away from what my core liking is’. KKR, my cricket team – and Shiv knows this – is one such example. Till friends like him gave me advice, I was doing everything. Then I got myself a COO, set up a whole new department, and the job I think has been handled much better than what I think I was (doing). And I’m willing to accept that.
Failure also gets you to find out who your real friends are. The true strength of your relationships only gets tested in the face of strong adversity. I lost a lot of friends post-Ra.One, apart from losing a lot of audience too. And post-Chennai Express, even though I’ve made no new friends, I have a whole new set of enemies, which is also interesting to know.
Regular failures have also taught me empathy towards others. Being a star, it is easy for me to be prone to the notion that I’m superior, self-sufficient and fantastic, instead of realising that I was just plain lucky or got some lucky breaks. Overcoming some of my failures has made me discover that I have a strong will, and (am) more disciplined than I suspected. It has helped me have confidence in my ability to survive. So, all in all, I think failure is a good thing.
I won’t bore you with more details of how failure is a good thing because you won’t call me back for a talk on success. But I’d like to tell you all that life is not just a checklist of acquisitions, attainments and fulfilments. Your qualifications and CVs don’t matter, your jobs don’t matter. Instead, life is difficult and complicated and beyond your control, and to know that with humility, respecting your failures will help you survive its vicissitudes.
There is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures in life. I say making because I believe failure is not an exterior force. I believe it happens due to our own actions, our own reactions, in such convoluted ways sometimes that we may not understand, but we are the reason for it. So don’t be weighed down by it – relish it, cherish it, the experience, and learn from it. By accepting it all and experiencing it will you experience success, not in isolation of life’s full offerings.
Let me conclude by saying that my hope for you is a lifelong love of learning, exciting and inspiring projects, dreams, businesses, profits, power lunches or whatever turns you guys and girls on. But alongside, I wish you a fair number of moderate failures. By experiencing all, I hope that you will experience success. Success is never final, just like failure is never fatal. Courage is ill-defined if you think it means doing something macho, risky or chancy. If that happens at somebody else’s cost, it’s even less courageous. Courage is doing whatever you are afraid to do – personally scared to do – in whichever capacity you work. There can be no courage unless you are scared. So be scared to feel courage, be fearful.
I believe one has to have the fear of failure so much that you get the courage to succeed. And that, my friends, is my learned piece of courage in success or what I call the success of failure, and being scared enough to be courageous, to make it so. Or if I were to put it into words that surround me, when I entered here and I was scared of all this corporate jargon that I heard, ‘This is my theory of the management of high-rising failure to convert it into success by growth index of 100%, while understanding the indices of fear and not compromising the syntax of our courage globally while keeping a holistic 360 degree view of our domestic market through rigorous system and processes.’
In simple terms or film language, which is what I do – ‘If at first you don’t succeed, reload and try again. Shoot fast, shoot first and be ready to take a bullet too. And remember what Don said – “Iss company ke management ke dushman ki sabse badi galti yeh hai, ki woh is company ka dushman hai. Kyunki jab tak dushman apni pehli chaal chalta hai, yeh company apni agli chaal chaal chuki hoti hai.”‘
Tagged Shahrukh Khan