Feb 20, 2024
Feb 20, 2024
by S. C. Arora
Each one of us is, apparently, a mere speck in the total cosmic set up, leading mundane lives. Our days are filled with meaningless talk and we get caught in the whirlwind of daily life and are easily distracted by worldly pursuits. From space, India as a whole must have appeared as a small dot to Sunita Williams. We as individuals are not even tiny dots: we are very insignificant persons: good for us, for we remain inflated with self-importance. Yet, however nugatory, we are a part of the larger scheme of things of the universe.
Regardless of its smallness, every country has produced great souls, who have shown exceptional courage and an indomitable spirit. We may be peripheral but we are like atoms where the energy lies undeveloped. Once the fusion or fission takes place the atom produces boundless energy: so are the human beings. Emerson once said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”.
One has just to cast a glance and the names of Gandhiji, Buddha, Ashoka, Chandragupt Maurya, Aryabhatta, Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Plato, Karl Marx, Alexander come to mind, who have changed the geographical borders or the course of history or extended the frontiers of knowledge or even altered the thinking of men. Statistics reveal that of the 100% potential of an individual, a majority utilize a miniscule 15-20%. Those who utilize 50% receive standing ovations, while the world stands on its head and continually applauds those who use even 80% of their energies and talent.
To quote Charles Schulz, “Life is like a Ten Speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use”. It is within our power to ascend as high as we like: there is no ceiling.
Rewind, go back in time for a moment, think of the match at Sharjah or any other crucial cricket match between the arch rivals India and Pakistan with just the last ball remaining to be bowled and 4 runs to win the match; the roads are all deserted, offices are half empty, with all ears glued to the radio or eyes focused on the T.V. and there is a fervent prayer on each lip in both the countries. Who then did God, the Almighty favour? The winning team was then of course the one, whose players, showed a perfect combination of team work, individual excellence, motivation, inspiration and above all mental robustness.
Self-confidence and self-esteem come to those who pursue their goals relentlessly whilst believing in themselves, their capabilities and their immense potential. A perfect example of this is Roger Bannister who, at the age of 25 years on May 6, 1954, set the world record of being the first man to run a mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds and that against a crosswind of 15mph, to boot. His final dash for the finish line and immortality broke more than a numerical barrier. He removed the psychological blockage which existed in the minds of athletes, for his record was broken within a month thereby proving that the hurdle was mental and not physical.
Grit, determination and concentration are the key to success. Arjun of Mahabharata could see only the eye of the bird, Bannister, whilst running the race, must surely have kept his focus solely on breasting the tape.
Then there was Dr. Christian Bernard, a South African doctor who dared and performed the first human heart transplant operation in 1967, which was then unheard of. He was the son of a poor Afrikaner preacher who later led a 30-man team in successfully transferring the heart of a 25-year old motor victim into Louis Washkansky. This was a unique feat which the human mind could not easily visualize earlier. Dr. Bernard proved beyond doubt that success comes to those who dare and act.
Stephen Hawking suffers from motor neuron disease and his body does not obey his command. He is confined to a wheelchair: neither can he move his body nor speak, his neck turned to one side. He takes the help of a special computer to convey his thoughts. But he has not allowed this impediment to undermine his soaring spirit. Although he cannot move about, his mind is roaming around, up in space, tackling the basic laws which govern the universe. His research and lectures on black holes and baby universes has left the world astounded even though he can barely manage his own universe.
How can we forget Helen Keller, who, though deaf and blind, was the first such person to graduate from college. She wrote over a dozen books, met 12 US Presidents and travelled the world over!
Beethoven, although deaf, created many compositions and received a standing ovation for the symphonies he conducted but could not hear himself: he is an inspiration to all.
Lance Armstrong, despite having been afflicted with cancer, with a 50-50 chance of survival, won the Tour de France cycling race which is a 2,274- mile course through the Alps, beating the next contender by nearly 7 minutes. He did it not once but an unprecedented seven times straight! What a celebration of human spirit!
As if this was not enough, Erik Weihenmayer, despite being blind, climbed Mt. Everest on 24th May 2001.
Human beings possess an indurate spirit: An 89-year-old grandmother from England, Mary Armstrong, affectionately known as 'the recycled teenager' by her friends, parachuted from 12,000 ft in aid of the Brooke, the UK's leading charity for the welfare of animals. It is a glowing tribute to the unconquerable human spirit.
All these inspiring personalities have proved and reinforced that the real hurdle lies in the mind, having very little, if any, correlation with the physical abilities of a person. The common factor in all of them was an invincible spirit. They had faith in themselves.
The 3rd Cricket Test Match between India and England played at the Oval (9th to 13th Aug'07) showed utter lack of faith in himself and his players, on the part of the risk-averse Indian Captain. He declined to enforce a follow-on inspite of a huge lead of 319 runs. He played excessively safe for a draw. The leadership lacked in courage of self-belief : the will to win was completely missing.
Low self-esteem is a devastating inhibitor of growth. World class musicians, athletes, swimmers, gymnasts, players, authors, generals are not necessarily the most talented or gifted: they are the visualisers, they experience victory in their minds first. Years of training, practice, hard work, perspiration lies behind their success. Diamonds are mined after digging tons of soil!
According to Greek mythology, Prometheus dared and brought fire from the gods for use by humans. Even in Hindu mythology Hanuman when confronted with the problem of distinguishing Sanjivini Buti from other bushes, undeterred, carried the whole hill. Thus, only a Promethean/ Hanumanic nature, energy and spirit can guide and help us in achieving what we desire.
According to Edmund Hillary, the Everest Hero, even a person with moderate ability but with a great deal of determination, conviction and courage to pursue against all odds, can be truly successful in life.
The four D's of desire, direction, dedication and discipline will surely ensure success. One must remember that ideal circumstances never exist, albeit can be created through a positive frame of mind and thinking, deed and action.
As Lord Buddha advised his disciple Ananda, 'Atmadeepo Bhave' i.e. be light unto your self.
Lord Krishna guided Arjun with his words of wisdom urging “Uddharet Aatmanaa Aatmaanam” - 'Lift yourself up with the help of yourself.'
Success and achievement come to those who become like Eklavya, possessing an intense desire and then passionately working towards their goal through sheer hard work and determination, under minimal guidance. H.W. Longfellow in his poem The ladder of St. Augstine explains this beautifully:
Heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Mark Caine has rightly said that the first step towards success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself. The best way to predict the future is to create it. We have inner wells of strength from which we can freely draw to meet any adverse situation. There are inner references, our intuitions and belief system which motivate or frustrate. There is a silent inner voice we have to listen to, to make a mental picture of victory.
Mentioning the secret of success, Walt Disney once said, “Think, believe, dream, dare.” If we think positively, we will attract the positive vibes, and if we think negatively, we will attract the negative vibes. Successful people attract success and frustrated people attract frustration. We cannot change the situation but we can heighten our state of being and attitude in our lives.
What may be perceived as a failure by one person may prove to be the stepping stone to success by another.
A good example of this is the 'Apple', which brought misery to the lives of Adam and Eve yet was successfully used by Newton to prove the gravitational force and in deducing the law of gravity.
Another very important fact to be remembered at all times is to never be deterred by failure. Try, try, try and you will succeed. All great personalities have risen to great heights only after repeated efforts and attempts to achieve. Mahatma Gandhi, after having studied law, was too nervous to even argue his first case but later drove the British out of India and gave her independence without resorting to violent means. Abraham Lincoln, the son of a Kentucky frontiersman, whose life consisted of a series of failures, undauntingly, persisted and succeeded in rising to the highest position as President of USA.
Benjamin Disraeli, in his maiden speech as Prime Minister of England was so petrified that he said “ I conceive, I conceive, I conceive - - -” three times and could go no further. To this a lady MP got up and retorted, “You conceived thrice but could do nothing, I conceive once and produce a child”, which occasioned much laughter in the Parliament. Benjamin, however, went on to become an excellent speaker of his time.
The glory does not lie in never failing but in rising every time you fall.
The Great Scorer at the end of your tenure will not assess you by whether you won or lost, but by how well you fought. Also, never be deterred by the opinion of others.
Charles Darwin, who was considered below average and very ordinary by his father and teachers, went on to give mankind the theory of evolution. Walt Disney was sacked by his newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Einstein was considered mentally slow. Michelangelo began his career as a quarry man in Carralia. Let us draw upon the wisdom of Shakespeare's adage, “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie”. All these men have shown that the real fire lies within us, waiting to be kindled and set ablaze.
Nature has succeeded beautifully in such persons: we can also achieve and shine. It is not a crime to be ignorant, but it is certainly a crime to not make an effort to remove the ignorance. People who are internally motivated without any care for external rewards are the ones who seek and find. Anything at first seems difficult, but with practice certainly becomes easier. Our goal in life should be to avoid secondary greatness like popularity, reputation, contacts, affluence, fame and possession which holds but temporary pleasures: we should welcome with open arms primary greatness with its everlasting higher pursuits of life. With limitless flight of imagination, one can surely achieve the seemingly impossible. As Gandhiji said, “What you think, you become.”
When you reach for the stars, at first you may not get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either. Only when we think big, we become big; but our greatest tragedy is that often we think small and worse still, we begin to believe in our low-worth. One reason for not thinking big is that most people are scared of the heights of success and particularly so, in retaining these heights. Hence, they start looking for escape routes through self pity, less thinking and acquiring the sympathy of others to find the easy way out. As Thomas Edison said, “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the labour of thinking.”
We must avoid living like pigs rooting in the garbage. Only higher pursuits give a basic orientation to life and higher thoughts provide one with inexhaustible energy. In this course of action, there are bound to be hurdles and difficulties on the way, but if we consider temporary failures as a necessary part of success, then success will surely be the end result of all our efforts. History proves that all world champions have failed at one time or the other. However, the crux of the matter is not to be miserable over anything in life, be it setbacks or criticism of others. In fact, one must regard one's worst critic as one's best friend.
People keep trying to impress others by writing their degrees or titles or pull their weight around by claiming to be a nephew of a VIP, or dropping some other names. We must not allow such persons to control our lives: we must not undermine our own position and uniqueness. We should look at ourselves as a whole person who has intrinsic value. Why should we hand over the authority and power of our lives to mediocre people and why should we lead a fake life trying to reap rewards, awards, grades or prizes that society glibly tries to bestow upon us in a bid to lure us away from the real aim of life? Instead, one must try to self-actualize and feel the difference one is making to the world.
Believe in the purpose of your life and see yourself as an instrument of delivery to mankind. One must treat life as an adventure, savour its quirks, not feel trapped in it. For this, self renewal through knowledge, a sense of direction, harnessed, trained and tamed energy is an absolute must.
No Hydro-Power project can produce electricity till the water is tunneled: no steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined: no horse will reach its destination till it is harnessed: no life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined. Some thought must be given to higher goals of life and to growth, else one will stagnate. Discipline and renewal are absolutely necessary.
Mistakenly, good life is thought of only in terms of high standards of material living. We have to draw a line somewhere and the body and soul need to be engaged in action.
A rolling stone gathers no moss is a cliché
but clichés are clichés
because they are truths solidified:
Remember, an aimless life gets to nowhere.
We must believe in our inner talent to acquire maximum output. When a tiny insect like the bumblebee with a heavy body but small wing span can defy the laws of aerodynamics, surely we humans can achieve all we so desire. For this, we must avoid all negative feelings and entropy, be adventurous in our thoughts and deeds, not resign ourselves to the situation but try to better it, be self-competent, not give anybody the power to make you feel inferior, be firm and not tentative in your thoughts and try something harder each time. “Doubters don't win and winners don't doubt”. One must remember that change is brought about by a minority of people.
Verghese Kurien, father of the White Revolution, gave shape to the 'Milk Capital of India' at Anand, Gujarat, single-handedly. The co-operatives he created shaped the only sustainable poverty removal mode in India.
E. Shreedharan, the one man army, has demonstrated through The Konkan Railway and his gift of The Metro to Delhi that excellence is not an impossible dream and things can actually happen if you back resolve with purpose.
Just as a single apple can produce entire orchards for centuries, a single human soul can grow and enlighten generations of humanity. Hence, one must not be scared of taking risks. If need be, walk the road alone, plough your own furrow. Where does the strength come from to swim against the current? It comes from tapping into the higher reaches of the human genius and motivation. When you are drawn by your conscience to meet some challenge, great mental and physical strength is generated.
According to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali , “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts and energy break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.”
A dose of misfortune should be considered as a painfully effective tutor. There is something to be learnt out of every situation in life. We must take responsibility of our own life as no saviour ever came to anyone's rescue nor is likely to come.
George Bernard Shaw said, “The people that get on in this world are the people that get up and look for the circumstances that they want; and if they can't find them, they make them.”
Your persistence is your measure of faith in yourself. Indeed it is no hidden fact that Milton rose every morning at 4 o'clock to write 'Paradise Lost'; Noah Webster took over 27 years to complete his dictionary and Mozart was immersed in music for many years before he produced his acknowledged masterpieces. One must never apply the brakes on one's horse power. Never work for recognition, out of fear or driven by any external stimulus. Nor must one ever work for money, for that will automatically come if you are dedicated towards your work. Instead, work for self- satisfaction and self- realization while being internally driven. The tragedy of man is that he never stretches himself to his full capacity and never stands to his full stature. Life throbs with a swifter and stronger beat when there is a genuine purpose of life, a mission. When meaning goes out, we become susceptible to depression, illness and stress.
How perverse human nature is! Very few people seem to be content with their lot. Everybody thinks that the other fellow is having a great time and the grass is always greener on the other side. Most of us constantly short circuit ourselves with alibis. We must never think that “I am really not good at this, or that, I have no talent, I am not smart, I am not gifted.” Instead, if we believe in ourselves and strive hard to overcome all obstacles, then success will surely be ours.
Most men strut about their little world like actors on a stage. They flap their wings and crow like a cock without realizing that there are higher realms to achieve. Some people make the idea of 'having' as the foundation of their lives. The real thing is the 'being' mode which is definitely the better one. 'Being' implies growing which further means reading, learning, being creative, remembering, conversing, loving, self-increasing, sacrificing and understanding. 'Having' mode diminishes your growth. 'Being' is being inwardly healthy while 'Having' is inwardly sick.
We must enrich our lives and the agenda should be continuous learning, growth and expansion. Positive stress or 'Eustress' is important for growth, otherwise one becomes complacent. One must not have a negative approach, for that would cause distress. One must never let status quo continue: one must remember that nothing stays the same in this ever spinning planet. William Arthur said, “Do more than belong, participate. Do more than care, help. Do more than believe, practise. Do more than be fair, be kind. Do more than forgive, forget. Do more than dream, work.”
Remove the pebble from your shoe rather than learn to limp comfortably.
Let us cull a few lines from Alice in Wonderland:
Alice: “ Tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here.”
Cat: “That depends a great deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don't much care, where.”
If we don't know what we wish to achieve in life, our life would be no better than animal existence. We must realize that we have a purpose in life. Let our spine tingle with the quiver of personal satisfaction.
Plants grow towards the Sun: higher thoughts galvanize us. The fragrance of a flower goes in the direction of the breeze but that of talent and excellence, in all directions. Therefore, be ready to change which can come only from within. Remove the inhibitive tags. Develop a hero's mind set: “If the wind does not serve, take to the oars” - Learn to write your own script in life.
Image (c) Gettyimages.com
More by : S. C. Arora