If you want to really learn about how to succeed in business, I feel that you should have a talk with someone who has failed. This is the kind of thing I am feeling more and more to be a wise action that one can take when on the journey called life.

Actually, the norm is just the opposite. We read about what people like Trump, and Jobs, and Jack Ma, and Gates have to say about the reasons for their success. Similarly, we read interviews and articles about other local and foreignbusiness icons (natural, since the media is not likely to feature unsuccessful individuals), and we think we become savvier. In fact, I would say that all this can be pretty misleading.

In the preface to ‘The Godfather’, one of the most famous books (and movies) of all time, it is written, “Behind every great fortune lies a crime.” I can’t say that it is applicable to one and all, but this leads me to think that perhaps one should realize that there can be many untold stories behind success stories that simply do not come to light, but which could have been a major factor behind the success story. 

We know about many businesses that have made their early fortunes through methods that cannot be said to be ethical, and even lawful. I personally know about a large corporate house that now produces many well-known brands, whose enterprise in the beginning was smuggling in huge amounts of goods into the country through what was once (could be still) porous custom points on the border. This porosity due to highly corrupt custom officials who were in cahoots with smugglers from the day they reached their assigned posts.

Many business icons of today, we know very well, have become highly successful because of the large amounts of capital they had at their disposal, capital that they received as largesse from patrons in power of yore. One could say, it was capital gained through exploitation of the oppressed. Many offshoots of such illegal gains have gone on to become reputable, perfectly legal enterprises today. No doubt, there are many enterprises that have been successful due to diligent and intelligent effort, and many that have had Lady Luck on their side by being at the right place at the right time.

So, while it is true that one can gain snippets of wisdom from so-called successful individuals, it would be wiser still to listen to those who haven’t succeeded. As they say, you can learn to be happy in a marriage if you take lessons from one who is divorced. But, that’s another story.