Just reading self-help books is insufficient: Surinder Kumar

Texas based Indian American author’s latest book, ‘Everything You Need is Within You’ is also an inspirational read

Surinder Kumar’s new book can be best described as a part self-help manual, part memoir and part an inspirational read. He pens his life story with important takeaways for the reader.

Kumar grew up in post-partition India and his father, Kanshi Ram Arora, with his disciplined attitude made a mark on Kumar’s journey towards success.

Having started his life in a nondescript Indian village amidst poverty, Kumar rose to serve prominent roles with Wrigley, PepsiCo and Warner Lambert in the United States.

Kumar ties his success directly to the principles he learned from his father as a child. The very principles that took him from the depths of poverty to a life of great professional and personal accomplishment.

Read: Surinder Kumar’s 3 lessons to shape your life (August 27, 2021)

He speaks with the American Bazaar on his book, his life and the journey he undertook.

AB: ‘Everything You Need is Within You’ sounds like a self-help book. In the past few years, self-help books have become the new craze. What do you say about the trend and what do you think about it?

SK: I believe it’s more than a self-help book. Yes, this book offers helpful principles and insights for self-introspection and improvements.
Additionally, though, it is a guide for parents to help their children build a strong foundation of principles that would help them create a bright future by their own design.

This book is also a great guide for leaders to inspire their teams to achieve exceptional results and make a meaningful difference. My father shared these empowering beliefs, insights, and principles with our extended family and with people of the village where I grew up.

Our family and many children of that village ascended from the dirt streets of that village to prominent positions in the world and attribute their success to the teachings of my father.

I was also able to use many of these principles to become a successful leader in my career in several Fortune 500 companies in the United States.

I believe that good self-help books offer a way to develop insights for personal growth and development. Just reading self-help books is, however, insufficient.

Books provide information, and information without use is nothing more than pollution. The key steps are to convert information to knowledge; using knowledge to develop personal insights; and acting on personal insights for self-growth and development.

Many people read self-help books. Very few take disciplined actions to use that knowledge and change their behaviors. My point of view is that if a book changes the life of even a few people for the better, that book is worth all the hard work.

‘Everything You Need is Within You’ shares the helpful principles and insights about what can help you build a happy successful life supported by examples and shares how you can implement these insights to develop a plan for helping your children, friends, and team members to design and create a successful, brighter future.

AB: Yours is an interesting story, you rose from poverty to work in some of America’s biggest corporations. Take us through your journey.

SK: My personal journey started with the declaration of independence of India from the British Rule and associated partition of India in 1947 into two countries: India and Pakistan.

That partition set in motion displacement of 17 million families from their homes and communal riots that killed over a million people.

Our family had to leave our home in the middle of the night, join a caravan of bullock carts and walk over thirty miles to cross the newly created border between Pakistan and India.

Our family had lost everything except the empowering beliefs of my father that we will find a way to build our lives again. After wandering around in search of a place to live, we moved to a small village in India about 250 miles north of Delhi.

The name of the village was Pandori Takhat Mal. We abbreviated it to Pandori. Pandori had a population of about 500 people. When I was growing up, it had no electricity, no running water, no paved roads, and no sanitary toilet facilities.

Most people in this village were farmers with small parcels of land and very low income. Only a handful of people could read or write.

The sanitation in Pandori was very poor. Our source of drinking water was an open well that got highly contaminated during monsoon seasons causing a multitude of sicknesses including cholera and intestinal diseases.

There were no medical facilities nor were there any doctors. The closest city was about 15 miles away. The dirt roads and lack of transportation made it impossible to get sick people to the city for help. The residents counted on ancient Indian medicines that had been passed on from generations to generations.

Poor sanitation and lack of good nutrition and medical facilities led to a low life expectancy. The childhood mortality rate was almost 50% and the average life expectancy was in the mid 30’s.

My father, Kanshi Ram, acted as the headmaster, the postmaster, an advisor, and a part of the village elders’ council. This informal council met in the village center every evening to talk about what was happening in the village and if anybody needed help.

My father would use this occasion to convince people that education was the only way for all of us to create a better future for the future generations.

This focus on education has been the key to our family’s success. As a matter of fact, millions of people from India have been successful doctors, engineers, and business leaders in the world because of the emphasis on education by their parents.

I graduated from the National Dairy Research Institute, a prestigious institute built to educate students to meet the nutritional needs of India.

After working for a couple of years in Hindustan Levers, I applied for admission to many universities in the US to get advanced education in the field of Food Science and Nutrition

Fortunately, I was accepted in several universities including The Ohio State University where I completed my PhD in Food Science and Nutrition in 1971.

After completing my PhD, I joined the Quaker Oats company as a research scientist. While working full time at Quaker, I completed my MBA in Marketing and International Finance from the University of Chicago.

Since then, I have worked in many food and pharmaceutical companies including Frito Lay, PepsiCo, Warner Lambert, Mead Johnson and Wm. Wrigley Jr. company in senior management positions.

Read: Indiaspora launching new book on rise of Indian Americans (July 28, 2021)

AB: You said you believe in the mantra, ’You Must Make Tough Choices to be Successful in Life”. Did you follow it and tell us some of the tough decisions you took and how they helped you in the long run?

SK: This was one of the principles taught by my father. He personally led by example and insisted that his family follow suit. Our family had lost everything during the partition of India.

My father believed that education was the key for his children to rise from poverty and to build a successful life. I recall many incidents when he insisted that our choices of spending must be aligned with education being our number one priority.

One time, when I was in the sixth grade, I asked my father for a penny.

“What do you need the money for?” He asked. I told him that I wanted to buy a treat for lunch just like all my classmates.

“I am sorry, but we cannot afford money for treats. If you need money for books, I will be glad to give you the money,” he answered.

As a young man, I was tempted to pursue hobbies other than the pursuit of education in my chosen field. My father’s belief that we must make tough choices to be successful guided me during those times.

I had saved some money from my scholarship at the National Dairy Research Institute and decided to buy a violin. When I came home with the violin in my hand, my father asked me what I planned to do with the violin.

When I told him that I was going to spend some time learning how to play the instrument, he reminded me that I had to make the tough choice of staying focused on my scientific field to be successful. I promptly handed over the violin to him.

I can’t say that I have followed that principle with as strict a discipline as my father did. However, I have made many decisions that were guided by this belief.

One of those decisions was a risky choice of leaving a job where I had established a good track record to join another company to expand my knowledge of business models.

When I was working at the Quaker Oats Company, my boss shared my annual performance review with me. He told me that I had made significant contributions to the business growth, and I was one of the people who would be a prime candidate for the top research management position.

Quaker was my first company in the US. As I reflected on my future, I believed that I needed to have experience in several business environments to be successful business leader.

Next day, I shared my belief with my boss. He was shocked that I would consider leaving Quaker when I had a successful career planned for me.

I insisted and made the tough decision to join Frito Lay which had a different business model than Quaker. That change helped me become a more successful business leader.

AB: Why did you decide to write this book?

SK: ‘Everything You Need is Within You’ was inspired by my desire to share my father’s ideas, principles, insights, and beliefs that helped the lives of several generations of people who knew him. Our family was fortunate to have him as our guide and mentor.

He navigated our journey from the depths of poverty to a very successful family, and a promising future for many generations.

After the partition of India, my father became a teacher in a small village where he encouraged the children of that village to get good education.

People of that village still remember my father for transforming the lives of their children by sharing his wisdom, insights, and principles. Many of those children have been highly successful professionals in the world.

My initial thought was to write this book for my son, my grandchildren and all the descendants of my father. I had learned a lot from my conversations with my father. His insights and teachings had helped a lot of people.

Our family had no documentation of my father’s beliefs, insights, and teachings that had guided his children and the people of his village from the dirt streets to unimaginable success in one lifetime.

I wanted to make sure that the grandchildren and great grandchildren of my father would be able to benefit from his insights and principles.

I wrote that book just for my family and gave everybody a copy. A couple of my good friends who were staying at our home in Colorado with us happened to read that book during their stay. They insisted that I rewrite the book for a broader audience to share these universal principles.

Everything You Need is Within You is available on Amazon in the US.

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