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MS Dhoni & The Success Trap: Important Lesson For Entrepreneurs

13 April, 2012
It is sad to see MS Dhoni become a victim of the 'have too much to lose to risk a win' syndrome. The funny thing about life is that as one achieves more success, the ability to take 'risks' falls in almost the same proportion. It is only the iconic creators who are able to continuously keep the risk cycle going and experiment with new things. And at the end of the day, those risk-takers are the people who challenge history. For others, the fact that now they have something to 'lose' becomes more important than what they have to 'gain' if they take that risk.
MS Dhoni embodied the 'I don't care about historyâ I am here to be the best and do things which I think are correct' attitude that comes from a person who is 'ravenous' for success and is a risk-taker at heart. This enabled him to see success that no Indian captain had ever seen in his career. No 1 in Tests, No 1 in T20, world champions in 50 overs and all these in a space of three years. This is equivalent to probably growing a company 10x in a year and then again 10x in another two years, making it 100x in three years. It is very easy for the leader to want to play it safe at this stage and try and 'maintain' its position in the market. The risk of failing in the eyes of others and his own is now very high which deals a further psychological blow to the leader's ability to innovate and take some leaps into the unknown. Don't get me wrong here. I am not, for a minute, advocating the cavalier, devil-may-care attitude that this entrepreneur might have had when he started. But the fact still remains that if the leader is not able to continue to make mistakes (even if in a measured fashion), the winning streak which got him here in the first place will also slowly desert him.
What I loved about Dhoni was the fact that he represented the hunger that needs to exist in the Indian cities (beyond the six large ones) if we are to dominate the better part of this century. He had nothing to lose and so made his own rules (his unconventional batting is ample proof of that) and took risks (like getting Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over of the T20 final or getting Ashwin to bowl within the first six overs in the IPL) which came off more often than not. This rubbed off on the Indian team and we saw a dramatic rise during 2007-2010, reaching its pinnacle in the 50 over World Cup win.
After that win 'fear' has become more pronounced in his leadership. It is as if post reaching the summit, he is almost afraid of 'falling' and, therefore, the first instinct is to try and stay here rather than think of climbing further.
The first proof came when India let the West Indies off the hook by giving up the chase in the last Test on the tour prior to the disastrous English 4-0 whitewash. More recent was Ashwin's extremely defensive tactic in the third and final Test during the last West Indies series in which India should have gone for the jugular to seal a 3-0 win. This continued in the field settings on the fourth morning of this Test which were more to stop runs rather than to take wickets. The 60 runs added in the morning's play changed the mood in both camps and things were always downhill from thereon for the Indian team.
Like sports, business also has no 'maintenance' mode. You can't play if you are afraid to lose. If you forget the key ingredient that made you successful in the first place was your ability to take risk as you climb the ladder of success, the 'slip' will be just about as fast as the climb.
Come on MSD, your inspiration is only yourselfâ Take the jumps of 'faith' as you used to earlier and life will once again spring positive surprises!

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MS Dhoni & The Success Trap: Important Lesson For Entrepreneurs

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