To Everyone Who’s Ever Thought “Am I Capable of Anything?”

Lessons from a recently delivered TEDx talk by Vivek Mehra, MD and CEO, SAGE Publications India

Mr Vivek Mehra delivering a Ted speech

There are 7.6 billion people like you – people from different countries, upbringings, circumstances with extremely different talents, skill sets and preferences. Yet, we’ve all gone through this one question of self-doubt at some point in our life, ‘Am I capable of anything?’

Mr. Vivek Mehra, MD and CEO of SAGE Publications India, a hugely successful and renowned leader today, also asked himself this question repeatedly at different points in life, and at each point, got different answers. This humble man has collected several extraordinary lessons from his unique journey of life.

The first lesson Mr. Mehra learnt while going through his journey of life at an early stage was to disengage from negativity and engage in positivity. Like many of us, he got a lot of criticism while growing up; his grandfather called him a ‘padha-likha bewakoof’ among others who doubted his decisions and way of looking at life. Nevertheless, he adds that negativity taught him three things-

  1. It is in your mind
  2. You can’t dump it on other people to feel good without it reaching back to you
  3. Isolating yourself OR worse, blaming yourself doesn’t help you in any way

You need to train your mind to overcome negativity that haunts it. One easy way of training your mind is to fill it with knowledge because knowledge in itself is empowering and uplifting. Mr. Mehra says that it is vital to recognize constructive criticism and take it in your stride as that is the key to improve your life. It is imperative to always remember where one comes from because that is what will make you ‘who you are’, and also get the world to see you more compassionately.

We’ve all heard the proverb “Complaining today won’t make tomorrow any better”. Mr. Mehra was taught this lesson early in life, which he shares as lesson number two: Stop Complaining and Start Doing. To illustrate how this works he recalls two things he has heard consistently over the last 3 decades. These are

  1. That it needs fixing
  2. That the fixing will be done by someone else in the future.

He recommends that instead of waiting for things and systems to change in your life; either fix the situation or stop complaining.

Remember that the serenity prayer1 goes:

“May God grant us with the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Vivek recalls that even in the midst of not having a career, he had the choice of choosing a path that wouldn’t really help him grow. It would take care of his immediate needs but not do anything more in the future. Then an Indian, who won the Booker Prize, intrigued him and he considered writing novels for a livelihood. Soon, he wrote a book, was summarily rejected by many publishers but he learnt that he could write! He kept doing small writing jobs to keep him going in search of his passion. Through one of these jobs, he found one that required him to be an editor. The first assignment earned him INR 6,000. Today, he heads one of the most renowned social sciences publishing house in the country. He squarely credits the first assignment for setting him on the path to success. He suggests that one should never stop searching for their own true calling because it is waiting for them!

Traditionally, it is imbibed in us that emotions are for the weak and we must never let emotions rule our decisions. Mr. Mehra challenged this belief as he introduces us to the third lesson he learnt: Discover your emotional side. As he takes us down memory lane, he recalls a day when he was waiting for his friend to pick him up from Dadar railway station. This was when he didn’t have a stable career nor a steady income stream. Soon, a family that looked fairly well to do came up to him and asked for money as they had lost their belongings. He had only six hundred rupees with him. He gave the family five hundred without thinking about himself. The family thanked him and promised to return him the money, but till date, it has not reached him. His family members lectured him and told him that he was an ‘emotional fool’. However, he believes in taking rational decisions while letting his emotional side sit next to him. It is difficult to balance emotions and rationality but vital in making good, and compassionate decisions.

Wrapping up his discussion with us, he gives his last secret, his last lesson: Always be inspired! He shares a story of RK Narayan where a failed tourist guide turned swami, was asked “Swami, do you believe it will rain today?” The answer to this question changed Mr. Mehra’s life forever. “I believe in the belief that people have in me” answered the Swami. This was when he realized that you only need one person to believe in you! Even if you can’t find someone else, it is best then to believe in oneself. Only one person believed that he could edit content and that was sufficient for him to set him on the path to success and finding his calling.

These four jewels of experience teach us many lessons, but most important ones are living life to the fullest, living and thinking young (he is 53 and he has just begun!) without self-doubt and being overtly critical. Maybe it is true when people say that each person is a library of stories and experiences. So, the next time you doubt yourself, remember what this man had to say about self-doubt, remember your worth, your achievements and the ultimate purpose you were made for. I hope that you will find your way out of that thought.

We hope you liked Mr. Vivek Mehra’s journey and we hope that the world will listen to yours, one day!

Click here to view his TEDx Talk titled Our World, One World, You and Me.

Connect with SAGE Publications on Facebook @SAGEPublicationsIndiaPvtLtd, to know how they can help with you with your journey as a student, researcher or teacher.

NOTE: 1 lines from The Serenity Prayer added by the author of this article - a common name for a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr[1][2] (1892–1971).


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