You probably know him as the ‘monk who sold his Ferrari.’ Bestselling author and popular motivational speaker, Robin Sharma is the founder of Sharma Leadership International Inc. His clients include Microsoft, NASA and Nike. His books have been published in over 60 countries and in nearly 70 languages. Ahead of his Chennai seminar ‘Lead without a title,’ Sharma talks to Shonali Muthalaly about his influences, dealing with cynics and that inescapable ‘new age guru’ tag.

When you wrote your first book, you were forced to self-publish. Your mother edited the book, and you stored the first 2000 copies in your kitchen. What prompted a successful lawyer to quit and do what — at that point — must have felt like tilting at windmills?

I was a successful lawyer but I was completely empty on the inside. And what’s the point of being a success in the world and a failure at being yourself? So I set about to discover how truly successful people think, behave and live. The ideas I learnt transformed me and inspired me to share the lessons I discovered. That was the beginning of the life spent helping companies become legendary and helping people live amazing lives.

You were in your early 30s when you wrote the The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. Looking back, do you think you would have done it differently?

The ideas and success tactics in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari came from conversations I had with authentically successful and fulfilled people as well as all I learnt from studying what makes the greatest amongst us truly great. I believe we can accelerate our acumen, performance and success by leveraging our associations and spending time with people better than us. So — to paraphrase Isaac Newton, I stood on the shoulders of giants and walked with people whose lives I wanted to be living. I wouldn’t do anything differently. My difficulties have served and strengthened me. My successes have fuelled and energised me. It has all been a fascinating and exciting ride so far.

You’ve written 11 books so far — do you have a favourite?

The Leader Who Had No Title — and I share that with respect and humility as it’s hard for an author to suggest which of his books is his favourite. I wrote the book while living in New Zealand for a month. I’d ski in the mornings, and then write late into the night. And as I wrote, my goal was to distill the best ideas I’ve learnt working with the Picassos of business and the icons of life into a 200-page book people would love reading because of its story.

Why do you think the world is rapidly developing this insatiable fascination for ‘new age gurus’ from Rhonda Bryne to Tony Robbins. Would you define yourself as one?

With such disruption, distractions and uncertainties in our world, many people feel lost or unhappy and are looking for guides. Even people who are successful are always looking for new ideas and valuable tactics to become more focused, creative, excellent and happy . So these people you mention have met a need.

As for whether I am a ‘new age guru’, I am not at all. I help companies build employees who lead without a title and become high performers. I help individuals maximise their talentsand build lives they are proud of. Most of my ideas are based on the latest research on productivity, performance and mental mastery — that’s why so many iconic companies bring me in to help them grow and win.

Definitely not ‘new age’. And I’m certainly no ‘guru’.

How do you deal with the cynics?

True, some people are cynical and they think the ideas and tactics I teach don’t work, even though millions of people have used them to achieve big things and make their personal breakthroughs. But some people don’t like change and they feel more powerful when they bring others down. I pay no attention to cynics. I just focus on being helpful and an instrument of service. I just try to follow my mission and stay loyal to my values. And I always remember that cynics are just dreamers who got scared and gave up.

Do you feel a connection to India, given your roots? Has it influenced your philosophy in any way?

Yes, very much. I adore India, its culture and all the beauty of the nation. My father is from Jammu and he’s had a profound influence on my mindset and way of being. I’m currently on an eight-country tour. I visited him before I left for the trip. His parting words were: ‘Help people’.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt along the way?

To lead is to serve. Investing in your personal development and professional education is the game changer. Because as you know more you can achieve more. All it takes is one idea or insight to change the game — no matter what your current conditions are. Of course, ideas are worthless without flawless execution. Focus and hard work (on the right priorities and opportunities) always yield excellent dividends.

What is the most important thing Chennai will learn from you when you visit next week?

How to shift from being distracted to being beautifully focused on the few most important things in business and life.

Eyeball Events presents Robin Sharma with his seminar ‘Lead without a Title’ on March 2nd at ITC Grand Chola from 10 am to 1 pm. For details on participation call 8754472686 or 9500079488. You can also book tickets online by logging on to www.ceolifestyle.in