Excerpt from You Too Can

04 August 2017

It was a failure from which the brand couldn't recover. Kumaravel panicked. He was forced to sell his property, and then the brand too, as he tried to keep angry creditors at bay. Soon, there was no business, no brand and no money. His mother in law helped pay the fees for his school-going children. Kumaravel was down. And almost out. Well, only almost.

It was around this time that Kumaravel wandered into the iconic Landmark bookstore in Chennai. He saw a book called Innovative Secrets of Success-How to Turn Your Visions Into Reality by Denis Waitley. As he opened it, he discovered it wasn't a book but an audio cassette. And as Kumaravel puts it, in that moment his life changed ''That tape taught me resilience. It gave me inspiration. It gave me hope. It helped me survive!'

Soon enough, he was hooked to the idea of listening to audiotapes and audio books. He listened to Robert Kayasaki talk about Rich Dad Poor Dad. And he heard with great interest Stephen Covey talk about the 7 Habits. Today he has over 1,000 audiobooks in his collection and spends 2-3 hours every day listening to the words of wisdom. "After all these 3 years, I can still hear Robert Sculler's voice in my ears saying 'Tough times don't last. Tough people do.' I psyched myself that I have not failed-only my efforts have failed", says Kumaravel. "I listened to the same tapes several times. I am a Tamil-medium student, so it usually doesn't register the first time!" he says, with a mix of self-effacing modesty and self-deprecating humour.

Publisher: The Times Group Books
Price: Rs 214

"I began to see myself as the skinny frog in the bucket of milk", says Kumaravel, alluding to another story he had heard and that had stuck in his head. And he proceeds to tell you the story of the two frogs that accidentally fell into a bucket of milk when they were looking for some food. One of the frogs was fat. The other was skinny. The walls of the bucket were slippery and try hard as they might, they couldn't climb out of the bucket. Even as the thin frog kept swimming, kicking its legs trying to get out, his fat friend pointed to the futility of it all and said we are going to drown. Keep swimming, said the skinny frog. Maybe someone will get us out. The fat frog said that's nearly impossible. No point trying. He soon got exhausted, stopped swimming and drowned. Meanwhile, the skinny frog kept the faith, kept paddling, hoping for a miracle. And soon he felt something solid under his feet. All that swimming and kicking had turned the milk into butter. And gradually the frog was able to climb on top of the butter and jump out of the bucket.

So despite finding himself drowning in adversity and failure, Kumaravel kept kicking. Quite like the skinny frog, he just did not give up. And soon enough, that lifesaving mountain of butter magically appeared. One audiobook that seemed to have made a particularly strong impression on Kumaravel was Body and Soul by Anita Roddick-founder of Body Shop.

And he heard Roddick tell the amazing success story behind The Body Shop-a business that she started with $8,000 of borrowed money and built into a global empire with nearly 2,000 outlets worldwide, serving over 77 million customers. Inspired by her story, he decided he wanted to meet her. And in 1997, he and his wife actually went over to the US and met her! They wanted to get The Body Shop into India, but Roddick told them that in her view, "India is not ready. And you are not ready."

The disappointment notwithstanding, they came away even more impressed by Anita Roddick and her unorthodox ways of doing business and her informal ways of selecting a franchisee. She gave them several pearls of wisdom, lots of practical advice, peppering it with stories-including the oft-repeated one about how she gave that Canadian franchise to a woman 'for no other reason than that she wasn't wearing a bra'. Just like that!

(See interviews: Beyond the comfort zone)

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