APJ Abdul Kalam was 11th President of India and a pioneer of the country’s space and missile programmes. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1997, the Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and the Padma Bhushan in 1981.

Known as the Missile Man of India, respected APJ Abdul Kalam’s contribution to science goes beyond all the material recognition bestowed upon by the society. Kalam’s significant achievement in the field of science into aerospace is well known all over the world.

Here are the 10 success lessons from APJ Abdul Kalam – “Missile Man of India” for entrepreneurs,

1. Be a leader

He inspired leadership by example. During 1980s, he was able to convince Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, to allocate funds for aerospace projects under his directorship, despite the Union Cabinet’s disapproval. These projects were instrumental in the growth of India’s space research program.

“Let me define a leader. He must have vision and passion and not be afraid of any problem. Instead, he should know how to defeat it. Most importantly, he must work with integrity.”

Indeed his last words were about the qualities that constituted a great leader.

2. Be a dreamer

Under Dr. Kalam’s leadership, a budget of INR 388 crores was sanctioned for the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) by the Union Government. The program started in 1982-83 and lasted 15 years.

After India test fired Prithvi in 1988 and Agni in 1989, under this program, many countries restricted access to any technology that would help India with its missile program.

Undaunted, Kalam carried on with the dream program and this pushed India to successfully develop critical technology, indigenously. True entrepreneurs dream big and then work towards turning their dreams into reality. “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”

3. Push the boundaries

As a young student at MIT, Kalam was told by his professor to recreate an aircraft design from the scratch or lose his scholarship. Moreover, he was given only 3 days to finish a job which ideally would have taken weeks. With sheer determination, he came up with a design that won him accolades from the same professor.

Entrepreneurs face seemingly uphill tasks with strict deadlines in a “succeed or perish” environment. The key is to apply oneself and work towards a solution. “There is no such thing as an impossible deadline”.

4. Take responsibility

During one of the test flights, for an underdevelopment aircraft surveillance system, a plane crash killed the entire crew of 8 men. That day Dr. Kalam felt the weight of being responsible for someone else.

As entrepreneurs, we lead teams. Leading teams can be challenging. Much more challenging can be sharing success and taking responsibility for failure. “Don’t pretend to be a candle, be a moth. Know the power hidden in serving.”

5. Defeat the problem and succeed!

“If you’re on a new mission or a complex task, you should also expect to experience equally challenging problems. You should not allow the problem to become your captain. You should become the captain of the problem, defeat the problem and succeed.”

These were the words Abdul Kalam’s professor gave him once and he’s followed them throughout his life and is also what he suggests to young entrepreneurs.

“This may be true for everyone of you in the decision making process, venture capital acquisition, equipment procurement, commissioning equipment, paying back large loans, acquisition of human resource, training of human resource, marketing of your products and everyone of your day-to-day activities as an entrepreneur.

6. Keep fit

Successful people realize the importance of a healthy body and a healthy mind. They know that the two are inextricably inter-linked and imperative for their smooth functioning. They follow a strict regime of healthy habits which include right eating, adherence to meal times, a holistic exercise plan that suits one’s age and a mind full of positivity. It is established that the first three invariably impact the fourth.

7. Be tenacious

After his longstanding dream of becoming a pilot with India Air Force got shattered, young Kalam got his act together and accepted an opportunity with the Ministry of Defence. He convinced himself that much better opportunities lay ahead. In his words, “Man needs difficulties in life because they are necessary to enjoy the success”.

8. Think different

Kalam never believed in doing a run-of-the-mill job and encouraged others to do things differently, especially the younger generation. He believed that entrepreneurship should be included as a course in India’s, which is otherwise a rote-learning based educational system.

He once said, “My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.”

9. Connect with people

In the mad race for success, we often distance people and embrace numbers. If this is inadvertent and not deliberate, the realization of the same comes as a shock to even oneself.

Gregarious that we are by nature, it is in our best interest that we make an effort to know our neighbors/surroundings and keep in touch with our family. This also helps in self introspection of oneself.

10. Work hard

Even during his last day, Dr. Kalam never stepped back an inch to deliver that speech. “The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.” This saying shows how Dr. Kalam used to define the day by working hard.

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