x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Life Lessons: Sanjiv Mehta

Sanjiv Mehta, the chairman of Unilever North Africa and Middle East, offers his words of wisdom.

Sanjiv Mehta, chairman, Unilever, North Africa & Middle East, pictured at his home on the Palm Jumeirah. Randi Sokoloff
Sanjiv Mehta, chairman, Unilever, North Africa & Middle East, pictured at his home on the Palm Jumeirah. Randi Sokoloff

1. People trust you when you are genuine and authentic and not a replica of someone else. I have been lucky, having worked with and come across several genuine people - great leaders who left an indelible mark. But I also realised that as much as I admired them, I should not try to be their clone. No one can be authentic by trying to imitate someone else.

2. The way to avoid getting caught up in materialism is to understand where you find happiness and fulfilment. The key to happiness is to find a balance between your extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, which are derived from your sense of the meaning of your life. I personally get a lot of satisfaction from spending quality time with my family, indulging in passions such as reading or avidly following my national cricket team.

3. Plausible impossibility is better than a convincing possibility. These words of wisdom were shared by Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys (one of the biggest IT companies in India) when I met him in the summer of 2004. Most of us utilise a small part of our capacity. Very often we don't realise our own potential and let the past dictate our future. People like the certainty of misery more than the misery of uncertainty.

4. Holding back bad news never helps the cause. Most people would rather get the bad news fast and straight rather than let the uncertainty linger. The consequences often get exaggerated in our own minds, which prevents us from facing up to the reality. It is best to face the reality and move on with life. In life, there will be many moments which necessitate making tough calls, but do it in the most humane manner.

5. Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom. Life is never a bed of roses. It is not about tripping and falling but how quickly you get up and run. There will be setbacks and roadblocks. However, build resilience to bounce back and importantly, learn from your successes and failures and try never to repeat a mistake.