Jan 29, 2008

Reflecting on the Self - Moral from a Poem

Their is a blind self in all of us. A part of our being, a stranger to us. At times I have made a conscious effort to recognize my own blind self. Why? Because within this blind side of my personality could lie the answers to many of my most vexing questions.

What do I truly desire from my life?
Is it money...is it respect...or is it simply peace?
Why do some of my relationships work and what irks me about some others?
What are my goals? Are my goals in consonance with my actions?
Am I on the right path? In my career, am I always doing the right thing? or am I in the right career?
I have constantly asked myself these questions and many more. And whenever I am flummoxed for an answer, I read the poem - 'The Guy in the Glass'.
It  exhorts us to examine our own selves. To self reflect on our actions. Stripped of our ego, if we can stand bare in front of ourselves, we can get answers to a lot of questions. The answers can pave the way for a better life, a better relationship or just a better sense of being.

The Guy in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass.

~ Dale Wimbrow 1895-1954

The original poem by Dale Wimbrow titled "The Guy in the Glass" was first published in the American Magazine in 1934. The magazine had asked their readers to offer an answer to a young man's question to the Editor of the magazine as to "Why he should be honest." . . .

Jan 27, 2008

Persistence – Ten Rules For Myself

It has been a few days since my last post. Some unexpected events took me away from my self proclaimed goal of a single blog post a day. I must admit, I lost a bit of my focus again. But here I am back typing away and writing a few words on taking on our goals yard by each yard. I (and I believe - we all.) need the crutches of Focus and Persistence.

What has set me on this topic is the success found by a friend after two years of grueling attempts. He achieved a career breakthrough for himself when all appeared lost. As I harbor similar aspirations, I found within him only, the quality of persistent actions which made him succeed.

Persistence is the sibling of focus and one of the pillars for success. We may not have talent, we may not have an education, we definitely need not be born with a silver spoon but if we do not have persistence towards our goals we then don't have anything. Persistence is the determining factor between a humdrum existence and living a life of goals fulfilled.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
- Calvin Coolidge

Perhaps, I need not write any more. The said quote says it all.

I am not privy to anyone else's life but only my own. My story has been of many failed attempts, but also of bullheadedness. As I look back at my life, I realize my little triumphs had more to do with my singular 'stick to it' than anything else. I was and still am not talented by any stretch of the imagination. For every inch of progress, I have had to work steadily. And progress has come about whenever I have trusted myself and time. That's why I believe along with persistence, patience is an oft understated virtue.

I was absolutely inept at Mathematics during my school years. Euclid and Pythagoras weren't exactly my pals as I fumbled from one exam to the other. But I realized I needed to work on it, and I assiduously did. My grades remarkably went up along with my expenditure on the midnight oil. That is the first case of conscious doggedness I can recall.

I also realize that whatever (and that has been quite a handful) failure's I have had has been for the lack of persistence than anything else. I gave up too soon. And today I have remnants of regret.

Therefore, today I have decided on some 'Laws for Persistent Actions' for myself. My endeavor will be to follow these to the best and to the limit of my abilities.

1. No regrets. I will follow my dreams to the fullest. With all my energy I will give it my complete will and effort. So that even if the desired result does not come about, I will have no regrets. I know I tried.

2. I will live activate my dreams through little actions. Yard by yard, push by little push. I need not take massive action each day. But a little measurable step forward will bring me that much more nearer to my goal.

3. I will live in the moment. Not in the past and not too much into the future. The full realization of the present will make the future come about on its own. Let me effuse all my energies on the present so that I don't rue the time lost when the clock ticks over.

4. I will keep my goals always in sight. I have written down goals. I carry a copy with me in my wallet. I am making a daily habit of at least going through it once. The other places I have kept it, is as a wallpaper on my monitor. It’s always in my face and I hope in my subconscious too.

5. I realize that obstacles will come about. I need to work around them. Goals are what lie behind all the stumbling blocks. If I cannot vault over them then I will walk around them. It might take longer but I will get around the block.

6. I will focus on one or two goals only. Focus is concentration on one single point. It’s much easier to be persistent when we have clarity of a single goal. Too many goals dissipate our energies and loss of energy is always followed by loss of persistence.

7. I will trust myself. When others can do it, so can I. I try out this mantra every day. I know all the power to achieve my goals lies within me. I only have to harness it.

8. I will take a break. I have to fill myself up with energy. After every slight success it’s important to taste a reward. Just to chill out for a while and then get back on the job rejuvenated.

9. I will be flexible. Constant action sometimes demands inconstant methods. If a way is not working too well, I will try to find out some other way to do it. Their always is more than one way to bell the cat.

10. I will be patient. What defeats persistence is time. Time is our greatest friend as well as our greatest enemy. Persistent action by its very extension means overcoming an obstacle over time. So I have to make time my ally and trust that with patience I will complete my goal. If I can progress a little each day, I will have utilized time.

A small footnote - With all the distractions around me, it has taken me exactly 6 days to finish this post. But I have done it. A small victory achieved. I guess that’s persistence …and now I am off for a nap. :-)

Jan 16, 2008

Broken Toys

I stumbled upon this poem. A small poem on 'letting go'...an addendum to my previous article.

Broken Toys

As children bring their broken toys,
With tears, for us to mend;
I brought my broken dreams to God
because he was my friend.

But then instead of leaving him in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own.

At last, I snatched them back and cried,
"How could you be so slow?"
"My child," He said, "What could I do?
You never did let go...."

author unknown

Click on post title for source webpage

Jan 15, 2008

Dependent Relationships - Barrier to Self Growth

Most of our relationships are co-dependent. But even within this truism, are we so dependent on some relationships around us that are own self image suffers? It is a paradox of our times that this age of 'I-Me-Myself' also has most of us in some form of relationship addiction. Is loving a bit too much necessarily harmful? I believe it can be, if our own self expression gets subdued. Dependency of any form takes away the focus from our own self’s and shifts it to some other external object. At first it’s just an enjoyable indulgence, and then it gets to be a habit and gradually turns into a full fledged addiction. This form of an attachment exists in all of us to varying degrees. It is not a disease but it can be potentially harmful. It is characterized by caring so much for the other person that self love and self respect is the first casualty. At times we are so attached to someone that we feel that we can't live without that person. Our walking hours are spent trying to live up to an image. The image may be an illusion after all in our heads. Living an illusion takes a lot of energy and thus is mentally draining. It also warps our own concept of who we truly are...and what we can become. In an addictive relationship we live for that person rather than for ourselves. It is a feeling of need and to be needed that drives the relationship. Any disturbance in the sea of calmness causes ripples in our lives. It changes our moods and attitudes. Also addictive relationships harm the other attachments in our lives.

For all such relationships their is only one absolute cure. It is to 'Let Go'.

To let go of a relationship, need not mean - walking away. But in a more apt way it signifies an attempt to throw away the excess baggage which holds back the growth of the self. It means making decisions through which two individuals can love, live and grow in peace and joy. It is also to realise that no one can truly grow in the shade of the other. It means to, move on. It also means at some level to give up on your ego and accept change (...and a little bit of pain). Their are no formulaic ten steps to a self dependent relationship. We need to find the answers for ourselves. For that we need to look inward first.

If we feel that we can't live without that person we should try learning to give to ourselves and others what it is we want from the relationship.

Our simple job is to become the person to ourselves what we want the other person to be. Only than can we move away from 'our need' and be more 'in love'. We will be able to love others for what they are rather than what they can do for us. Instead of demanding love as an obligation, we can give from our hearts and feel fulfilled.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
~Kahlil Gibran

Jan 10, 2008

Life lessons from Narayana Murthy

One of life's heroes. N R Narayana Murthy.A man who made it big in business and life following sutras of ethics, integrity and hardwork.This is from a pre-commencement lecture at the New York University (Stern School of Business) last year. He speaks on the turning points in his life and the lessons it taught him.

His 'final words' sum up the man who is a true icon for us...

I believe that we have all at some time eaten the fruit from trees that we did not plant. In the fullness of time, when it is our turn to give, it behooves us in turn to plant gardens that we may never eat the fruit of, which will largely benefit generations to come. I believe this is our sacred responsibility, one that I hope you will shoulder in time.

Click on title for the related article...

The Three Important 'R's' for a Relationship - Repair, Reactivate and Renew

Of the plethora of tips, advice, and articles on the net the majority address the relationships between man and woman. Often the spouse or the beloved. While it is true that the eternal struggle between 'Mars' and 'Venus' pre-occupy us more, it is also naturally true that we have other relationships to think about. When we increase the field of our vision we should realize that the 'others' in our life are no less important. Perhaps, our thinking is slightly indicative of the fact that we tend to take these for granted. For instance, I can't remember the last time I said a ' I love you' to my parents. Of course, their first impression would be that I have gone off my rocker! But that is besides the point. Relationships are somewhat like a pond...where we have to cast pebbles of thought for the ripples of affection to take place.

The sweep of my relationships includes my parents, my friends and my near relations. The pond is quite large and thus it seems I have many pebbles to gather. We as a habit make a list of resolutions. I will lose weight, I will earn more, I will wake up early... usually populate that list. This year, I have decided to put - renewal of relationships right up their. Its not that I suffer from sense of blankness in my relationships...by far its warm and loving, but with each passing day I realize, today's are turning into yesterdays rather fast. Tomorrow, most of the relationships won't be their. Age will catch up...some will pass on...others will move away. So it’s important to dwell on the moment. Fill that moment with laughter, conversations and memories. After all one day, life will be about memories. So it falls on me today to create those memories.

The first thing for us to do is to create an 'inventory' of our relationships. It could be like individual accounts in a bank. Just a mind exercise, but it will tell us the credits and debits we have made into those accounts. And just like real world accounts, credits add more value than any associated debits. For example, I have some friends from my college years. I had spent my major waking hours with them during those 'wonder years'. Some adventures got captured in photographs lying about. Yes, I have kept in touch with them through an occasional email. But we all need to go beyond that. So for me it has become important to just call up and wipe the distances in more ways than one. It's just takes a phone call.

Then, there are some difficult relationships. Discordant, misunderstood and distanced. We all have one or two of those I guess. For them the only prescription would be - Break the damn ice. Just start a talk. It could be about the weather for all's sake. I guess in most cases theirs no need for a verbalized sorry. It's an underestimated but a powerful word. Just the beginning of a conversation could signal a thaw in the frost. Let's hope all of us can be good ice breakers.

Then there are some other relationships where we have invested far more than we should have. And as a result have suffocated the relationship. It's at a standstill. The good thing about such relationships is that it's at least their. All we need to do is to give the other person their own space. Instead of throwing our expectations on them. Every individual need space to grow and move forward. They also need to change. For that, just let those relationships be. Manage your own expectations and let the relationship find its own voice. That's the only thing you can control. Always remember, how hard it is to change ourselves...what hope have we got to change others.

As the year starts, I hope by its end I have a few more wishes to send, for those friendships which I have managed to repair, reactivate and renew.

Jan 9, 2008

Spend Time with Your Loved Ones

I read an article recently (*wrongly attributed to comedian George Carlin). The article is on the importance of relationships and the value we should attach to it.

The article may have been wrongly credited but the keynote of the piece that, we must spend sometime with our loved ones, because they are not going to around forever - remains true.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete…

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

* see - http://www.georgecarlin.com/home/dontblame.html

Jan 8, 2008

Be Courageous and Persistent

Aristotle believed, and I think correctly, that - Courage is the first of the human virtues, because it makes the others possible.

Others cannot define who we are. It is a proactive step we need to take on our own. In the face of every obstacle and setback we need to take steps almost daily to become the kind of person we desire to be. Not for our parents, not for our friends but only for ourselves. Everyday when I am feeling down over something or some decision, I ask myself this question. Have I been courageous with my life? Have I justified the decisions I have taken with courage, hard work, persistence and patience...or have I simply fallen by the wayside when the hand of obstacle came hurtling towards me? To gain courage is to change your beliefs about what you deserve and about what's possible with patience and persistence. It is soul searching by another name. Their was a time when I should have been more courageous. Perhaps I lacked honesty with my own ego. I did not follow up my actions and risks with the required amount of persistence. Aristotle maybe did not elaborate but surely the second virtue has to be 'Persistence'. Persistence not only in the face of insurmountable odds but also against the daily blocks and distractions that life throws towards us. It is I guess more easy to be courageous sometimes because courage takes only an instant but persistence can ask and take more from us. In some cases it takes an eternity. Courage could be the flash but persistence surely is the sweat. As I answer the question for myself. I can see that I have been more courageous but hardly persistent. That is why my courage has failed in the face of odds. Courage will make me walk away from my comfort zone. It will also help me to stretch my limiting beliefs, but I need the daily dose of persistence to see all of it through. That is the commitment I must make to myself.
If you read this post, do ask yourself the same question.

Have I been courageous? And then...Have I been persistent?

Then only can we all break through all the self imposed limitations we have allowed to come in our way.

Jan 6, 2008

How I started dreaming again…

My earlier post was about daring to dream again. In this post I write some of my thoughts on how I started to reboot some of my dreams.

- Take time out. Dreaming also takes some dedicated time. Create a time zone for yourself. Away from the hurly burly of the day, some time, some place where you can be alone with your thoughts. I generally think my thoughts on my early morning jogs or just before going to sleep. Or when I am commuting. Believe me, with all the traffic snarls and hold ups, theirs no shortage for ‘time’!

- Start off with a small ‘Dream List’. Settle on one or two dreams. Too many will take away the focus. I started out small. Take for instance my penchant for writing. Blogging offers me the opportunities to write of my own free will, something which was not available before. It’s a dream for me to extend this hobby of mine to something more substantial…to give it a proper creative outlet. I have started out. I work on my blog everyday. I am trying to achieve my goal of a post a day. A small start…lets see where it take me. A dream does not have to be small or big it only has to be. Like for me it’s a blog for you it could be a novel.

- Dream…and then ‘Do’. Dreams without actions are of no value. What is important is to follow up on the dreams with thought out actions. The first step I have always found out is the most vital of all. Thereafter, its just the momentum which takes off all the brakes. I always try to focus on the first step. Often without a definite plan. As the ad slogan goes - Just do it. When I started out writing and blogging, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I couldn’t differentiate between Blogger and Wordpress. I just started. Even now, my blog is without many frills. I know I have started, I will gradually learn as I go along. And the first piece I wrote, was ‘About Me’…!

- Mine your resources. Some dreams cannot be achieved alone or it’s simply easier to take somebody’s help. For us today, resources are unlimited especially information resources. Libraries, the Internet, television, newspapers…nobody had it so good. Their are social networking sites where you can freely ask for advise. I did so, when I thought of starting out with content writing. And I got some pretty good suggestions. Think about all the resources you would need to fulfill your dreams. As you start out, some more will materialize. Perhaps you will find a mentor…perhaps someone with just a single suggestion. That is the fun of every long journey. It’s never alone…we have new experiences if we look out for them.

- Develop a plan. If you are the systematic types like me, you can develop a plan with definite timelines. A step by step map with milestones. The benefit is that you can chart your progress and steer your way around obstacles. The downside is it makes a dream seem ‘like an exercise’. But I think it does help.

- Keep your ‘Visualization’ on. Constantly imagine…even fantasize, how would it be like when you finally achieve your dream. Give the dream its color, sounds, smells and
feeling. Make it come alive. One of my constant dreams was to own a laptop and create a mobile office and entertainment center out of it. Last month I finally achieved it.

- Celebrate. Imagine achieving your dream. How is it going to end? Promise yourself a big celebration the day you reach your final marker. Remember, you deserve it!

Footnote - I have linked some of dreams to a Super List - 101 things I want to do before I die. That’s the ‘Magna Carta’ of my life.

Jan 4, 2008

Dare to Dream…Dare to do

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Mark Twain

So asserted the famous novelist. I remembered when I was a kid, my favorite dream was to become a fighter pilot. I had all the names of aircrafts and their configurations down pat. My favorite pastime was drawing aircraft sketches on any paper I could find. Spoilt many a notebook with that hobby of mine. Flying like Superman had come much earlier and batting like Tendulkar much later, but as they say those were the stuff of dreams. I guess all of us were dreamers in our ‘wonder years’. Wide eyed dreams, the reality of life hadn’t touched us yet.

I guess as the years slipped by, so did many of our dreams. Yesterday, I sat back and tried to recollect some of my childhood dreams. You can very well imagine the wistful look on my face as I remembered some of them. Our dreams maybe slipped away because we were made to grow up by life around us. Somebody probably told us - ‘Forget your stupid dreams…be responsible…you are not a child anymore…its time for you to get a job’. What’s more, I guess we believed those voices. Innocence went first, our dreams maybe followed soon after. We let our dreams die.
Hey, but the good thing about dreams is that we can switch it on again. We maybe had pulled the plug, but we can plug into our dreams again. I for one have started doing it again.
Here’s why-

1. Lying on my deathbed, I don’t want to say to myself with my last breath - ‘If I only had done that…!’ I want to die with as few regrets as possible.

2. Maybe the dream I dream today, will be the catalyst to make my life or somebody else’s life a bit better. Perhaps, I dream of rekindling a damaged relationship. Wouldn’t that dream and its achievement do something for my life?

3. Dreams have the power to ignite passion and energy. A viable dream can galvanize me into action. Kick starting me from my lethargic block.

4. Imagine pursuing and achieving a small dream. For me its as simple as a trip to The Himalayas…for you it could be the Swiss alps (I have dreamt that too!). Imagine the pleasure. Won’t that experience be a life fulfilling one. A small dream could give the momentum to larger fantasies. Therein lies their power.

5. I want to leave some memories for others. I want to fill the memories with the dreams I have and will achieve.

6. To disturb the status quo, to life a fulfilled life, only magnificent dreams will help me to achieve that. So here I am trying to reconnect with my dreams.

And I have ultimately realized, my class teacher was very wrong - Daydreaming is not at all bad as it is made out to be!

Jan 3, 2008

The Secret to Move Forward - The Wind for my Wings

Whether life hands you a bucket of stuff that you want to get rid off, or you are now sitting on the sidelines of life pining for something more, the riddle remains the same. How to push your self forward? How to change your present set of circumstances?
My heart and mind say,”Go!” but my feet don’t budge. My parents tell me,”This is good for you.”, but my body doesn’t move forward. Is it plain lethargy or is it something more?
It all seems so simple actually when we think about it. We want something…but we just can’t move forward with the same verve. Our wings lacks the wind so to speak.
In my opinion, their are two roadblocks we face - resistance and fear.

Resistance is the invisible force which retards out motion. We by nature expect things to go along as they are. It is our comfort zone. Imagine we are swimming in the ocean. Now, I just thought about swimming back to shore and to comfort. As I swim against the tide, the undertow would just drag me back and gradually I will get exhausted. I will probably drown in my attempts to reach the sanctuary of the shore. If I do as experts advise: swimming parallel to the shore while the currents subside, I will reach my shore.

Here lies a small secret to move forward - Don’t resist what is beyond control, focus on what is.
It is impossible I guess, to spend my energy along two directions, to struggle against what is not in my hands and in the same breath to strive for what is in my control. We expect things to be as before, we often ask as bad luck strikes,”Why me?” or “Why couldn’t things be the same as before?”. We might whine, we might cry…but then the time comes for all of to shift gears. Often we may feel that our situation is unfair, but the situation is as it is. With all my realization, I try to embrace whats good in it. Do I need to learn anything? Is their a hidden opportunity here? Can this situation strengthen me? When you cut away all the crap, you will see that every bad situation can sow the seed for something good. It might be minuscule…but so is a seedling before it transforms into a tree. The trick and the effort lies in finding that obscure ‘good’.

After identifying this ‘good’, I try to shift my horizon to what I want to I want to feel. If I am feeling bad…how do I want to feel (obviously - good!). If I am hurt…how do I start feeling upbeat? I give myself permission to dream…to wish…and to hope. What remains is just to get back on my feet, square my shoulders and follow my heart.

Their is a beautiful saying - ‘ When the tide of life surrounds you and the water upsets your boat, don’t waste your tears on what might have been…just lie on your back and float.’

The second obstacle we usually face is - Fear.

Fear of the unknown, anything outside our comfort zone. Fear of failure…fear of success and how to retain it…fear of not being loved…fear of being loved and losing it…fear of not being enough.
Fear should not be immobilising. We just have to try and change our thoughts and attitudes. In any situation, we should realize that we are only one amongst the billions. The fear we so dread, has been faced by many before us and will continue to be faced by many after. If others can overcome their fears so can I. Make a battle-cry for yourself…I do too. I have handled other things before, I will handle this one too. I will face all the problems that come my way. After I conquer this, the ghost of this fear will be gone for ever. Just as when we learnt to tumble and cycle for the first time…watched our first horror flick…killed our first cockroach…proposed to a girl…gave the first interview…or got married, we can find the courage to face any new fear.

The secret to moving on is quite simple - keep moving, one thought, one step, one day at a time.

Jan 2, 2008

Something more about Abraham Lincoln

Listen to this…on a man who had to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles but never thought about giving up. This is perhaps the most inspiring piece I have ever come across.

He had to work to support his family after they were forced out of their home. 1816
His mother died. 1818
Failed in business. 1831
Was defeated for legislature. 1832
Lost his job and couldn’t get into law school. 1832
Declared bankruptcy & spent the next 17 years of his life paying off the money he borrowed from friends to start his business. 1833
Was defeated for legislature again. 1834
Was engaged to be married, but his sweetheart died and his heart was broken. 1835
Had a nervous breakdown and spent the next six months in bed. 1836
Was defeated in becoming the speaker of the state legislature. 1838
Was defeated in becoming elector. 1840
Was defeated for Congress 1843
Was Defeated For Congress. 1846
Was defeated for Congress again. 1848
Was rejected for the job of land officer in his home state. 1849
Was defeated for Senate. 1854
Was defeated for Vice-President — got less than 100 votes. 1856
Was defeated for Senate for the third time. 1858
Was elected president of the United States. 1860

It took him more than 30 years of toil to make it to the White House. So we shouldn’t get discouraged. Take a printout…stick this in front of your desk. Don’t quit

How Average People Like Us Can Excel

Staying up at night, just before going to sleep I have often wondered about this. Sometimes in frustration, sometimes in hope for a better tomorrow. How can a average guy like me excel in life? I like to think myself as a jack of a lot of things but a master of none. How do I become a standout, an achiever? I was a good student but never a topper, was good at sports but never good enough for the top grade, met my targets in my career but never surpassed them consistently. Many of us think about going to the next level. What should we do about it? The only good thing about all of our ordinariness is that is that there are so many of us. So I am not alone in my pedestrian journey. The other good thing is that all of have the power to change. We all can be supermen of our own lives. And we don’t have to be from Krypton. The power is within me and you.

Theodore Roosevelt said once: “The average man who is successful is not a genius. He is a man who has merely ordinary qualities, but who has developed those ordinary qualities to a more than ordinary degree.”

Fitting words. So, what are the qualities or attitudes we need to develop to push ourselves further.

Learn self discipline

Perhaps the most important virtue we should develop. It is the key which can unlock the doors of our potential. Life by its very nature is distracting. Self discipline is the big pot of glue which will make us stick to the all important task in front of us. It will cure our procrastination, another ally of our lack of success. Self discipline is about developing a laser focus, to do what is important right now. To postpone that nice movie playing on the TV, to say no to useless gossip on the phone, to sleep for one hour less, work or study for an hour more. Average people who want to excel have a ’stick-to-it’ attitude. They don’t expect quick fix results. They work on the particular task till the last period. They try to do the best they can. Many people on the other hand get frustrated with slow progress or lack of results. They give up and move on.
I know a few people who are just simple graduates but have worked hard to build their career step by step. That’s a very important lesson in sticking to it. We all can develop the ability to focus on what’s important.

Have a positive attitude

I have a poster in front of my desk that says - ‘Every time something bad happens, you can choose to be a Victim or a Victor’
The single line says it all about developing a good positive attitude. Success is slow, painful and full of more lows than highs. To have a positive attitude, we need to be self motivators. Work on positive affirmations. Say to ourselves that success is just around the corner. I realize that whether I think negatively or positively, both take the same amount of energy of thought. So why not think positively and visualize good outcomes for myself. Attitude after all is everything.

Manage expectations

Successful people especially average ones realize that the path forward is full of sweat and grind. Average people lack the special skills or the touch of genius to make an impossible task possible with a magic wand. Average people are the foot soldiers who have to take it step by step but have to stick to the path. Nothing is going to come easy to us. Everything we want in life has a price connected to it. There’s a price to pay if we want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything. We have to realize that. Tiger Woods probably has hit thousands of balls before he putted to win his first trophy. We see the achievement but not the years of hard practice that went into the making of a Tiger Woods. Success is rarely overnight.

Learn from relationships

We can succeed or learn from the talents of others. We cannot progress in isolation. Each relationship we nurture teaches us something is we care to look. I learnt the value of ‘organization’ and ‘method’ from a former boss of mine and also from my elder brother. Today, I am much more systematic in the way I approach a particular task. Each individual has some quality which can rub off on us. For that we need to get closer and imbibe the best. I knew a person who had a spastic brother. She had to interact with doctors, volunteer helpers and educationists everyday. Through this she developed her unique skills of negotiation and people management. She brought these skills to her work and made a success out of it.

Keep Improving

The Japanese have a word for it - ‘Kaizen’. It is quite simply an incremental improvement method. You improve in small steps. More than a method, it is a philosophy and a way of life. We should be willing to change. Because every aspect of our life deserves to be constantly improved. We may be average, but we can target ourselves to learn new skills. For instance, I have decided to learn two new things every year. For this year it was learning graphic designing and blogging. For a five year period I will learn ten new things. With the advent of cheap internet resources to learn are available to us at the touch of a button. We would be foolish not to take advantage of it.

Bounce back from defeats

Their is nothing more powerful than an average person who holds his head high and goes about life with a surety and zest. Success and defeat come in equal measure. What we learn determines our growth. Sometimes, setbacks forces us to think creatively, to find new solutions and to adapt. When one door closes another opens somewhere. This is a very true maxim. Abraham Lincoln could have been destroyed by his seeming ordinariness. He came from a very poor background and was ungainly in appearance. He went on to greatness and gave a new definition to the word - ‘Average’.

As Lincoln once said - ” God must have loved the common people, because he made so many of them.”