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"It Is Okay to Get Into Unchartered Territory and Look Foolish Because That’s Where the Learning Starts"

"It Is Okay to Get Into Unchartered Territory and Look Foolish Because That’s Where the Learning Starts"

Kulmeet Bawa, President and MD, SAP, Indian subcontinent

Photograph by Shekhar Ghosh Photograph by Shekhar Ghosh

What was the problem you were grappling with?

I was doing pretty well in the army. I was a cavalry officer. I was in the Armoured Corps. Everything was going well. There was no reason to quit, but I wanted to come out of it.

Who did you approach?

I remember chatting with my dad, who is no more. He asked me why I wanted to leave. I said I didn’t have a reason except that it couldn’t get better than this in the army for me.

What was the best advice you ever received?

He told me to follow my heart. It is okay to get into unchartered territory and look foolish because that’s where the learning starts.

How effective was it in resolving your problem?

After serving in the Indian Army for 12 years, I quit and enrolled in ISB for a management programme. After my MBA, I entered the corporate world, which is where I have made my career for around 19 years now. I say this all the time: Go ahead and play for failure. Five-six years ago, I used to measure on my phone how many times I failed in a week. The more you fail, the more you learn, but it also gets you outside your comfort zone. We live our lives thinking this is what I’m good at — will I look foolish? Have I done this right? Life is simple. We complicate it so much. Sometimes, we mix up things and try and make ourselves more important than we actually are. So, follow your heart and play for failure — these are things I have adopted all through my career.