Success Is A Lousy Teacher

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The other day, I was reading a story that reminded me of the quote from Bill Gates that said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It makes smart people think they can’t lose.”

The story was about an Indian man, Karthik Rajaram, who grew up in Bangalore and completed his graduation from one of the premier colleges, IIT Madras, in the year 1985.

Karthik went on to complete his MBA at UCLA, which gave him the opportunity to work at Sony Pictures from 1989 to 1994. He also worked as a financial analyst for PricewaterhouseCoopers and then for EHS Partners, a start-up consulting firm.

In 2001, Karthik was responsible for taking NanoUniverse public, a London and LA-based venture fund, on the London Stock Exchange, where he was called a “winner” in an article published by The Daily Telegraph.

Karthik invested £12,500 in the company, and he received £875,000, which equates to approximately $1.2 million in 2001, after a voluntary liquidation. He became a millionaire.

Karthik also sold his house in 2006, despite the fact that his wife, a bookkeeper at a pharmacy, did not want to leave. He sold the house for $750,000, a substantial profit on a residence the couple bought in 1997 for $274,000.

However, he lost it all when he invested all his money due to the stock market crash. He was also fired from Azur Partners LLC, a management consulting agency since he developed behavioural problems due to the money lost.

One thing led to another, and Karthik finally decided to end his life and that of his family. He lived with his wife, mother-in-law, and two teenage boys. He also wrote two suicide notes and a last will and testament. One letter was addressed to the family friends and the other to the police.

In fact, in the letter to the police, he wrote that he considered two options: taking his own life or killing himself and his family. He chose the latter since he thought “it would be an honourable thing to do.

When this news broke out, it caused a sensation in the media because Karthik was a successful businessman. He was a smart guy. Why would he end his life and that of his family?

Researchers from the Institute of Clinical Psychology studied this case where several family friends and ex-employers were interviewed to learn about the dreaded financial crisis of the family. Karthik was also not getting a job. All the savings dried up. They were going to be homeless. The financial crisis slapped Karthik hard on the ground.

The research was concluded with a report that said Karthik was “programmed” for only success, which he had achieved most of his life, but when the chips were down, he didn’t know how to cope with it.

It does make sense. We, as a society, always show off our successes and wins on every platform and in every walk of life. People have a perception that “winners take all the limelight” and hence most of us participate in the senseless rat race.

Success over the years makes people delusional that whatever they touch will turn into gold, whatever they do, they will succeed.

No one prepares for handling failures when it is definitely known that life is a roller-coaster of successes and failures. Yes, we can learn a skill to earn money, but if we are not able to earn it, then we must also learn to handle the disappointment.


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