Five Questions For … Manoj Saxena, AI Investor & Ex-IBM Watson Chief

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as much. You are limited by what you allow your mind to put as constraints or guardrails around you.

Back in ’98, my second daughter was born. I had this deep desire in me to do a startup. I decided to take out 13 credit cards with $200,000 on them. I was making $140,000 at 3M, but I decided to quit and start a new company. The fear was absolutely paralyzing. What happens if things go wrong? I went and lived with a monk for a month, and practiced this teaching, vipassana, which is a process where you turn inside. The concept is, we are who we are today because of an aversion we have built up over life. Things that happened when we were children end up determining who we are as adults. The idea is to go deep inside my psyche and do surgery on it. It helped me get a better handle on myself, to take that leap with confidence rather than fear.

X: How do you define success?

MS: Success is not a destination; success is a journey. One of my favorite quotes is, “Success is never final and failure is never fatal.” Every five years in general the definition of success changes because the purpose towards which I’m applying my time, energy, and resources changes. Success to me is the journey. Second, it’s a state of being rather than a title or a paycheck, the W2, or a speaking engagement.

Success is about learning, growing. Something one of my CEOs at IBM said was growth and comfort don’t exist. It’s the ability to continue to grow and continue to be uncomfortable as you push into new areas.

X: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

MS: I wanted to stay as a kid. When I was a kid I had very average dreams in the sense that I wanted to get into a good school and get good degrees. My father was a commissioner of police; my mother was a doctor. It was only when I came to the U.S., and only when I worked for 3M after my MBA, did I understand the power of what innovation really is. I was in a training program on methods of innovation and I got hooked on it, the excitement of coming up with new products, bring them to market, building businesses. Having done that for eight years, I took the same lessons of atoms and molecules at 3M to bits and bytes in the software world.

The 12-year-old would not recognize the 51-year-old today.

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