When I talked with Deepak Chopra, he was in a car en route to his meditation center in Carlsbad, Calif. The spiritual guru was on the freeway at the time and a train rolled by above him on a bridge. He requested that we pause our interview for 60 seconds so that he could make a wish. “I believe that if you go under a train, your wish will come true,” he said.
Chopra made a wish and asked me to make one, too. We resumed the interview, which happened to be about making entrepreneurial dreams come true, something Chopra has certainly accomplished on his own remarkable path to success. The 68-year-old adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and adjunct professor at Columbia is not only a successful medical doctor, but also a world-renowned thought leader. He’s penned more than 80 best-selling books, including the ever-popular The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams.
While briefly chatting about his new virtual reality (VR) meditation experience, which he partnered with VR content studio Wevr to create, I asked him for tips on how entrepreneurs can free their minds for business success. But, before we dig into his soulful advice, it bears noting that he said these tips are intended to be used alongside a carefully devised “clear and focused business strategy and a strong business plan with measurable outcomes to strive for.”
Here’s the wisdom he imparted, in his own words. Note that his comments were lightly edited for clarity and length.
1. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I want to be in business?’
"With happiness and joy top of mind, the first thing I ask my MBA students at Columbia Business School to reflect on are these fundamental questions: ‘Who am I?’ ‘What do I want?’ ‘What is my purpose?’ ‘What contribution do I want to make to society?’ ‘Do I have any heroes or heroines in history or mythology or religion that I consider mentors and guides?’
"Mentors are incredibly important in the business world. Some look to Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or others, but I want them to ask themselves 'why?' Why are the people they look up to important to them? What specific characteristics and traits in business that they possess do they hope to emulate?"
2. Define your vision for success.
"To sort out your underlying vision, passion and motivation in business, start by asking yourself, ‘What is my real motivation for being successful in business?’ ‘What does it mean to me to be successful in this realm?’
"Start by pondering why anyone does anything. Because they are motivated by wanting to feel a certain feeling — satisfaction, fulfillment, recognition, fame, fortune. Those are subsets of feelings that people strive for. But, really, happiness and joy, those are the ultimate goals, above all other goals, even in business."
3. Think about who you want to work with and what you want to accomplish together.
"Ask, ‘What kind of organization do I want to lead?’ ‘How do I create a team with a shared vision, values, enthusiasm?’ ‘How do I compliment my team members' strengths?’ Think about the ways you can emotionally bond with your business team, because you can’t do anything by yourself.
"How will your leadership impact customers, investors, employees, in other words, the broader ecosystem of business? And how will you impact the larger ecosystem of the world and what kind of world do you really want to live in?
"Finally, ask yourself what your business vision would look like if it were successful. How would you feel and how would your team feel if you achieved business success? The feelings you’re striving for are the underlying basis for your every action."
4. Detach yourself from the outcome.
"Let go of being outcome-oriented, which is totally antithetical to business. Instead, be more process-oriented. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you won’t enjoy the outcomes, either.
"Finally, ask if you’re making a difference in your company, with your colleagues and customers, and in the greater ecosystem, in the world, alongside the people on your team. If you can say yes to all of that, and you stay the course and follow the process you’ve set forth, the outcomes will be guaranteed. As opposed to only striving for monetary gain as a goal, make a greater difference. It’s much more important. The mantra here to remember is, pursue excellence, ignore success."
5. Create goals and establish timelines for achieving them.
"Check in with your team and make sure they are clear on what your business goals are. Check in and ask if they agree with your timeline for achieving them? Are your goals realistic and measurable? Are you stretching to achieve them as much as you can? What is the specific timeframe between now and what you hope to accomplish together?"
6. Know what it means to be disruptive and disrupt.
"A lot of people in business talk about being disruptive, but nobody defines what it means to be disruptive. You cannot really have innovation and be disruptive if you are merely a copycat. To achieve exceptional entrepreneurship, you have to think, ‘Is what I’m going to do really so cutting edge that nobody else is doing it?’"
7. See problems as opportunities.
"Criticizing, condemning and victimizing aren’t helpful or productive and hinder success. No matter what the situation, identify positives and move forward.
"With a lot of successful entrepreneurs, I find that every time everybody else in the company or around them is perceiving something as a problem, the successful people see the same thing as an opportunity — for growth, for change, for innovation.
"You make your own luck in a sense, in that where there’s a problem, you see opportunity and turn it to your advantage. When you do that, you’re on the path to success."