Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a talk with Rudy Karsan. Rudy is the co-founder of Kenexa, which he sold to IBM for $1.3 billion. That's more money than any man can spend in a lifetime.
What would you do with? Buy a private island? A new yacht? An estate in Cannes? Rudy noted that the day he sold his company was the saddest day of his life and started a period of deep depression. He has since emerged more radiant than ever and I captured some of his key lessons and learnings below.
The first thing I noticed was how contagious Rudy’s energy and optimistic outlook was, and rightly so, as he believes we are living in the golden age of our species
Here are my top three key takeaways from his talk:
"There is no difference between you and me."
Rudy said that the reason why he was so successful (apart from his love of money!) was because of immense luck, persistence and a little hard work, in that order. Oftentimes, we are so close to the finish line yet we give up when the going gets tough. Rudy had 10 business failures and was bankrupt numerous times before his immense success with Kenexa. We often put the world’s most ‘successful’ people on a pedestal. In doing so placing them out of arms reach. When we view them as our potential, rather than our idols, we level the playing field in our heads. He emphasised that we ALL have what it takes to succeed, oftentimes, we just need to have faith in ourselves.
"Embrace your feelings"
When Rudy was asked why he left his well-paid, comfortable job as an Actuarist to start a business. He said simply ‘I am greedy and I love money.’ He knows who he is and he makes no apologies for it. And let’s face it, your primary goal of starting a business is normally to make more, be more and do more. For any business to succeed and have a global impact, he stressed the importance of focusing on cash flow first. After all, cash is king. Once this is established, you can then use this to increase the size of your worldly impact.
When we start to embrace our feelings, we start to wholly embrace ourselves and all the quirks that make us unique. However, we are often very out of touch with how we feel. For example, we feel tired, yet we drink another cup of coffee, we know we should sleep but watch some more Netflix, we know that hanging around that one friend is not good for us, yet we continue seeing them. By continually masking our feelings, we lose touch with our truest self. Only by fully embracing, acknowledging and acting on how we feel, can we truly begin to thrive.
"I was tethered to my material possessions"
Rudy shared a story of the day he was driving his Ferrari on his way to buy a new Lamborghini, when his Ferrari suddenly got a flat tyre. When he got home, his wife remarked, what would you have done if your new Lamborghini had gotten the flat tyre?
After some reflection, he came to the conclusion it would have just caused more stress, resentment and worry. Afterall, a fleet of cars requires maintenance, a big house requires cleaning, a vacation home requires you to visit that country on your holidays, or feel guilty that you don’t. We think that once we have the nice car or the big house we will be happy. The research shows that once you get whatever it is you desire, you’re not nearly as happy as you thought you would be, maybe even a little less than before. This isn’t our fault. Society conditions us to find our worth from something external to us. And let’s face it, the advertisers are really good at it. Firstly, by making you feel unworthy and then saying this hole can only be filled when you buy _______ (fill in the blank)
It’s okay to own nice things. As long as they don’t own you. We know that we only have a finite amount of energy every day, so by clearing our minds of the worries involved with owning three cars, two homes or ten suits, we can utilise this energy towards something more meaningful and greater than ourselves.
Rudy has since sold his Ferrari, moved to a smaller home and managed to fit his whole life in 3 boxes, including one just for taxes! Now he travels around the world and finds joy in experiencing the most amazing possession of all, life itself.