What I’ve Learned: Zia Eftekhar

What I’ve Learned: Zia Eftekhar

Posted 2/23/2016


Chairman of Philips Lighting Company

Perhaps the most important thing I learned was from a decision I made early on in my life: I wanted to become an American citizen. It was not because I wanted to run away from the war or the politics. It was because I wanted the opportunity that America offered. It is the fact that it is an inherent freedom that comes from being American – I can inspire and aspire as high as I want. America does not give it to you but offers it. It gives you the freedom to do what you want – if you have the skills, the talent, the drive to do so.

My drive for success in business overshadowed my drive in personal life. If I could do it all over again, I would have spent more time on my personal life. There has to be a balance and equilibrium to make life worthwhile.

You have to have passion in what you are doing for it to be worthwhile to you and your business. Not everyone is going to be CEO. It is not about how far you go. It is about satisfaction and not hating what you do every day. My advice to everyone is that you owe to yourself and everybody, including your employer, your partner, and your spouse that you have to have passion in what you are doing.

You can’t fool yourself. You have to work to live. A lot of passion starts from how you choose your education. Your career starts as you begin your educational path. It is important to start looking at what you want to do in your life. You have to look at it before you are writing your resume. Ask, “Where do I get the most satisfaction? What do I want to do?”

Happiness is not just a personal responsibility but rather a responsibility to others. You have to look at happiness beyond the happiness in your own life, and look at how you will affect the happiness of others.

I think the lighting industry is posed for a fantastic future. We should not maintain old business models of the past but look at new technological opportunities. I am very optimistic about the industry. A lot of people’s business models are not working for them. This disruptive technology is making them unprofitable. They absolutely need to embrace the disruption. New companies will be coming in. The industry will be fantastically successful. It will be what companies do that makes them part of the success story, rather than what is being replaced by new companies.

Life will march on, so what you do will define who you are. Being a giver to a larger extent than a taker is one of the most important things you can do.

My biggest regret that I have, especially at the beginning of my career, is work-life balance. The question was whether I was really at home when I was there, and I wasn’t. Looking at my past versus now, looking at my relationship with my wife – it is far better balanced. It is about the time I spend with her – whether I am really with her, rather than focusing on ten other agendas. It is about quality, rather than quantity. Not keeping balance ends up in a broken life, broken relationships, and broken business.

No matter how hard you work, there are things that are not under your control that are inevitable – whether it is a depression or repression.

The most difficult lesson in business is that there is no successful business that is run and managed by one person. Businesses are inherently made up of teams. It is about energizing your team. The team has to be able to act as a team rather than as individual stars and others just feeding the stars. It is the most difficult thing to learn. Managing yourself is hard but managing hundreds becomes much more difficult.


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