Ten Mashelkar Mantras

The results of the board exams have just been declared. I want to congratulate all the students, who will begin the new journey of their life. In life, three things are going to be important in determining future. These are ability, aptitude and attitude.

Your abilities will be developed in your college and university. Your aptitude will be determined by what you really like and love. You should do what you love and you must love what you do. Then next is your attitude. Here I will give you ten Mashelkar mantras, which will help in your future life, just as they have helped me.

First, your aspirations are your possibilities, so keep your aspirations always high. Keep your eyes on the stars, and not down at your feet. We often complain about scarcity in India. But remember, the combination of scarcity and aspiration can create disruptive and game changing innovations.

Let me explain from my own learnings. When I took over as Director of National Chemical Laboratory in 1989, it was in the pre-liberalised India, which highly protected the Indian industry through huge tariff barriers. All our scientists were busy doing just import substitution by only copying foreign processes, products, etc. NCL budgets were very small. I said to my scientists, “It is not the size of the budget that matters, it is the size of the idea. Let’s keep our aspirations high. Rather than just being borrower of ideas and technology from foreign companies, let’s export our technology, let us license our patents to them”. Everyone thought that this was impossible to achieve. However, within two years, in 1991, we were able to license three of our US patents for close to a million US dollars to a multinational company, who was a leader in the field in which we had got these patents. This was the first ever reverse transfer of technology from an Indian national laboratory to a foreign multinational. It was sheer magic!

But who made this magic possible? The same NCL scientists who were merely copying so far. And why? Because they were fired up by the high aspiration of moving from copying to creating – from importing to exporting, from merely doing something that was first to India to doing something that was first to the world.

Second, you can do anything but not everything. So focus. I learnt the importance of focus early in my life. Let me tell you that story.

I remember going to a poor school in Mumbai. But that poor school had rich teachers. I remember Principal Bhave, who taught us physics. I remember his taking us out in to the sun to demonstrate as to how to find the focal length of a convex lens. He took a piece of paper, moved the lens till the brightest spot emerged on the paper, and told us that the distance between the paper and the lens was the focal length. But then he held it on for some time and the paper burnt. For some reason, he turned to me and said “Mashelkar, if you can focus your energies like this and not diffuse them, you can burn anything in the world!” I was so impressed with the power of science that I decided to become a scientist. But that experiment gave me the philosophy of life too; ‘focus and you will achieve’.

That’s why I say, never lose focus in your life.

Third, perseverance always pays. It is always too early to quit. Winners never quit and quitters never win. As Dr. Kalam had said, let the problems not defeat you –you should defeat the problems.

Michael Jordon, the legendary basketball player has said `I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed’.

So my friends, look at the world FAIL differently. FAIL is First Attempt in Learning. As long as you keep on learning from the errors you have done and not repeat them, you will ultimately win.

Fourth, be always a part of a solution, never a part of the problem. If you can’t find the way, create a new way. Don’t just knock on doors of opportunity. Create your own doors.

Let me again explain through my own experience. I returned to India in 1976. I needed sophisticated imported equipment to carry on my research in the field of rheology, in which I was researching abroad. There was acute shortage of foreign exchange in India. DGTD clearance, not manufactured in India certificates were needed for importing any equipment. In my case, I was told it would take 2 years.

So I opened my own new door of opportunity, which did not require any equipment I got into the field of mathematical modelling and simulation. We were so successful that within a short time, I got the S.S. Bhatnagar Prize, one of the highest scientific awards in the country. Just imagine what would have happened if I had just waited for that door of opportunity to open which required foreign equipment!

Fifth, there is no substitute to hard work for becoming successful. I have myself worked 24×7, week after week, month after month, year after year and will do so till I take my last breath. The golden rule is the following. Work hard in silence. Let success make the noise. Like instant coffee, there is no instant success. Your overnight success is always a result of everything that you have done through that moment. If you really look closely, most overnight success took a long time, as Steve Job famously said.

Sixth, again about success. Please remember that success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing, as the legendary footballer Pele, who reached an ultimate pinnacle of success in life, had said.

Seventh, always be innovative. Remember, innovator is one who sees what everyone else sees, but thinks of what none else thinks. Indeed, if you master the art of visualizing the invisible, you can make even seemingly impossible, possible.

Eighth, continue to be creative. It does not get exhausted. The more you use creativity, the more you will have it.

Ninth, when someone tells you that it can’t be done, take it that it is more a reflection of his or her limitation, not yours. Remember, innovator is one, who does not know that it cannot be done.

Tenth, I strongly believe that there is no limit to human endurance and no limit to human achievement excepting the limits you put on your mind yourself. So be `limitless’.

Let me illustrate this with some inspiring examples.

Swapna Burman is a girl with 6 toes in both legs but with no money for special shoes. Her father was a rickshaw puller. Her mother was working in a tea garden. She ran for India in the final event of Heptathlon in the recent Asian games with a bandaged jaw. She won a medal for India.

Arunima Sinha was a national level volleyball player. She was pushed from a running train by some robbers in 2011. As a result, one of her legs had to be amputated below the knee. She was inspired by cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who had successfully battled cancer. She said, if he can do it, I will do it too. She decided to do something special with her life. She hoisted the Indian flag on Mount Everest on 21 May 2013, just two years after she lost her leg.

My friends, that’s why I say that there is no limit to human endurance and achievement, except the limit you put on yourself.

So all my best wishes to you. May you put no limits on your mind, and may you achieve limitless success in your life.