The other day I was watching “Koun banega crorepati” (KBC), the 2014 season Hindi edition of “Who wants to be a millionaire”. With viewership well into the tens of millions, the biggest draw is undoubtedly Amitabh Bachchan, the Bollywood icon and the show’s compere.
From a leadership and self-development perspective, the first candidate of 2014, Khushbu Singh completely floored me with her story. For understanding extreme self-motivation against hardship and tremendous competition, you cannot get a better real-life example.
In this post, I want to present my own analyses of Khushbu Singh unparalleled action of EXTREME self-motivation to achieve a goal.
But first let me give you her story.
Khushbu Singh is about 24 years old, blessed with a 2-year old daughter and lives in Central India. Khushbu is a social worker and in 2012 she was selected for a personal audition for KBC, based on a successful phone interview.
Unfortunately for Khushbu, the audition was scheduled just two days after the baby was born. She was too weak to attend the audition and had to give it up.
There is TREMENDOUS competition to get through even the first round of KBC. Given the belief that going on the show can potentially bring a windfall of untold riches, people spend tons of money trying to compete.
It all begins by sending text messages (Rs.2 to Rs.60, depending on your medium) to the show and then preparing for the show. Books and coaching academies galore have sprung up. For every gold-digger (KBC candidate) there is a shovel-provider (the coaching academies).
For a two-week period, to even start the process of getting selected for the show, Airtel received 700,000 text messages and 1,400,000 calls per day. Competition is HUGE. With about 5 rounds of increasing difficulty, the odds of making it to the final stage of the competition are less than 1 in a hundred thousand.
In 2012, Khushbu passed rounds 1 and 2 and was then invited for a personal audition. She stood a real chance to be on the show! But it was not to be.
The baby – and too, a girl child – was the reason Khushbu could not go on to win the KBC money. Khushbu’s immediate society cast a taboo on the child. The child was blamed for the mother’s losses.
Against this background, Khushbu made herself a promise.
Actually she took an oath.
Khushbu declared that her baby would not have a name, until she made it to the KBC show and personally requested Amitabh Bachchan to name the child.
Just read the last sentence again. The mother refused to name her child!
Think of the uncertainty involved. She would have to go through 2 rounds of extreme competition, and then submit to a personal interview, Q/A and a video audition round. This would then be filtered by a 2-member jury and then a 3-member judge panel. Only after all this would she get to go the stage. And then there is the dreaded “fastest finger first” round where she would have to compete against 9 other candidates where SPEED is the only criteria to win, after you know the answer.
Then again think of other past candidates who have been spending year after year just focusing on preparation for KBC. On stage, you routinely hear stories of how people have been “at it” for 5, 8, 10 and 12 years. And these are people that made it to the show. There are hundreds of thousands of others who do not make it.
In Khushbu’s case, it was not just a matter of preparation, time and effort that she had to put in to get selected for the show. She was also taking on a HUGE gamble against many other factors over which she had no control. The whole audition process, the questions that would be asked for selection and then the capabilities of the other 9 candidates were all factors beyond Khushbu’s control.
But she came up with an extreme resolve.
And everyday her motivation would be staring (yes, with her two little eyes) Khushbu in the face!
Inflicting this kind of self-motivation on oneself is not for the weak-hearted.
Just imagine Khushbu’s plight when the next KBC selections took place, and she did not make it.
What kind of frustrations would she have experienced? Self-doubts would certainly have crept in. Khushbu would have second-guessed herself. Was it the right thing to do by taking such an extreme step? What was the poor baby’s fault and why should she not have a name. Everyone around her would have become counselors. After all, the immediately family had rights to the baby as well. What about the father? And the grandparents?
Anyone else would have taken the easy way out, at least after the next non-selection.
It is not easy to get medical help or birth registration with a blank for the first name (yes, she brought the birth certificate to the show).
But in the 2014 edition of KBC, Khushbu made it to the hot-seat.
I firmly believe that Khushbu’s extreme will-power brushed aside the competition and put her in the hot-seat.
A short write-up of the episode including a great picture is available here.
So what self-motivation lessons can the Khushbu story provide?
In the Kay Leadership Academy forum, I have listed the following steps to setting oneself a goal and achieving it.
1. What is your goal and why it is important to you
2. Understand what it would take to achieve the goal
3. List out the sacrifices you are prepared to make to achieve the goal
4. Plan properly – i.e. do your research, due diligence and lay out a solid plan
5. Let some (close) people know
6. Measure success
7. List risks
Now let us look at each of these from Khushbu’s perspective.
1. Importance of being on the KBC show. Khushbu had already cleared the first two rounds once. So she had tasted a bit of success, but wanted to go all the way. While the promise of the potential KBC riches was always there, proving everyone else wrong was very important to her. These are the people who blamed the child-birth for Khushbu’s setback.She declared the importance in an extreme manner – by refusing to name her daughter until she got on stage.
2. Understanding how to get to the show. Having cleared two rounds once, Khushbu knew she was capable. When you do something once, you gain confidence. Of course she had not gone the entire distance, so there were some unknowns. But Khushbu was prepared to tackle those.She knew the methods of preparation and all that it needed.
3. Sacrifices. With family, relatives, neighbors and friends all around her (normal in India) I can only imaging the repeated advice Khushbu would have got every day. It takes great courage, thickness of skin and steadfast resolve to hang on to your decision against such constant battering. It becomes even more difficult if you are not in the big cities. It becomes much more difficult if you are a female. And the fact that a girl-child caused this would be unbearable.
If Khushbu’s sacrifice is not extreme, I don’t know what is.
4. Plan properly – research, do due diligence and lay out a solid strategy. In Khushbu’s case she already knew what she was getting into. This has been done by others and there was a roadmap available. She would have had to spend a lot of time and effort in preparing for each round, but she had a plan.It is important to note that Khushbu was not attempting the impossible. She had to stretch herself, face a lot of criticism and self-doubt and then overcome factors over which she had little to no control.
However, it is safe to assume she had a plan.
5. Letting a few people know. Did she let a few people know? The idea of letting two or three close friends know about your goal is to have them keep you on track. In Khushbu’s case, she had her own child who would remind Khushbu every day about preparing for success on KBC. This is in addition to family and relatives and neighbors and friends!
6. Measuring success. As soon as she composed herself on stage, Khushbu mentioned that Amitabh could give her what she wanted even before the first question was asked. And that was a name for her daughter. A name for the baby girl uttered by Amitabh was the measure Khushbu was looking for.The iconic Amitabh named the baby girl in his own inimitable style. He gave her the name he wanted for his grand-daughter and presented a pair of gold bangles as his gift.
7. Risk management. This is a question only Khushbu can answer. What were the risks she saw and the mitigation steps that she put in place? Thankfully for her, she made it in 2014. Had she gone another KBC season without selection, the pressure would have been far greater and more risks would have surfaced. It is one thing to not have a name when you are 2 years old. It is an entirely different thing when you are 4 and getting admitted to a school, to not have a name.From a risk management perspective, Khushbu should have had a Plan B which should consider the (more likely) situation if she went four or six KBC seasons without success. After all she would, at some point, be answerable to her daughter. And there would be a lot of “I told you so” when that would happen.
I am fortunate and thankful to have watched the Khushbu Singh episode of KBC. Not only did it give me a great story to write her, but it also vindicated the framework that I have established on this forum.
There are some thoughts and conclusions that I would like to draw from this story.
It is very important to note that Khushbu had extreme self-confidence and based it all on her own ability to make it to the KBC show. In that sense, it was a test of her own resolve and capabilities, for the most part. She did not depend purely on others’ capabilities.
For Khushbu, this was not a gamble.
In a land where people depend on their Gods for everything, promising candles, rugs flowers and coconuts, this was very different.
From a motivation perspective, Khushbu did not promise herself a vacation or a gift when she achieved her goal.
She was in the quest of getting a name for her daughter.
Khushbu’s was a case of extreme motivation.
Khushbu went all-in. There was no room for failure. There was a lot of uncertainty and each KBC season had a wait-time of more than 6 months! All this time she had to put up with the constant battering from everyone around her (except perhaps her husband and maybe a few others).
But she pulled it off.
From my experience, you cannot have this kind of strategy every-time you set yourself a goal. You should reserve it only for the most CRITICAL goals that you feel you MUST achieve.
Also, this kind of extreme motivation SHOULD NOT be your strategy the first time you set yourself a goal.
In Indian history there is the story of Arya Chanakya (who was a renowned strategist in ancient India) and how he vowed to bring down the Nanda Empire. Chanakya vowed to not tie his hair until the defeat was inflicted. And he took under his wing, a great warrior prince, Chandragupta Maurya, taught him everything about warfare, and then achieved his goal through Maurya.
Talk of self-motivation (every day he looked in the mirror, his untied hair would keep him motivated) and self-belief – both in extreme – Chanakya had it all!
Elsewhere I read that Malala Yousufzai – the teenage sensation who braved an attempt at her life – wants to be the Prime Minister of her country.
Well, having defeated death once, Malala has arguably set herself an easier goal. All she now needs to do is get herself motivated, set a solid strategy and execute it with patience.