Have you ever had the privilege of witnessing the total grin of delight on a toddler’s face the first time she or he managed to stand up unaided? What about the very first tentative steps and the squeal of delight that followed? As babies, that smile and delighted squeal is the first heady sips we take from the cup of success, stemming from an intrinsic knowledge of self-achievement! The feeling of, ‘OMG! I did it!’ We can go onto drinking from the very same cup of success throughout our lives – professional and personal. But, to do that, we have to understand just how demanding the quest for success can be.
You have to have the hunger!
Why do babies keep trying to stand up or walk till they succeed? We can argue that the process is natural and there really isn’t that much to it. I disagree. For, we really don’t know what goes on in a baby’s mind. I think they are far more intelligent than we give them credit for. Sure, some of the effort is in-programmed instinct. But a lot of it is the hunger to venture out and explore the world without relying on an adult. Why else would a baby keep trying to stand up even after falling down innumerable times?
In life, there are many times when we are akin to a baby trying to first stand up, then walk and finally run! We are always novices at something or the other; no matter how old we get. At such times, we are all lined up at the starting line – as trainees in a profession; as a first-time presenter on stage addressing a large, critical audience; as a newlywed; as a parent; as a boss leading a team; as an individual trying to achieve some sense of self-worth. And the ones who leave that starting line and go onto see success are those who have the hunger to prove something to themselves and the world.
Actually, the ones who have a desire to prove something to themselves rather than the world are more likely to succeed. Why? Because, often, if there is one thing that stands between a person and success, it is that person’s own personality.
You have to want to test your own limits!
In my career, I have often observed highly talented people falling by the wayside simply because they were too lazy or couldn’t be bothered to make the effort to showcase their ability. There have been others who were both talented and hard working but still stagnated at some level because they just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) work on their social and networking skills, keeping to themselves. When you are blessed with intrinsic talent but don’t use it, it’s sad! Forget testing their own limits, these people, in my eyes, didn’t even try. Not very hard, anyway. And were soon left behind by those who were perhaps less talented but had the hunger to push and prove themselves.
There is this friend I have. We grew up together. I always just saw her as a quiet person who’s company I found extremely calming. I never realized that what I saw as quiet calm was actually lack of confidence. Years later, she confided that she was highly dependent on me to experience anything at all in college. Today, I joke that she would jump and be suffused with a blush if anyone so much as called her name.
Anyway, this friend got married and migrated to another country. After some years of loneliness and frustration with her life (and herself), she realized that there was only one person who could change her life, and that was herself. That realization led her to law school and then to sign up for Hindustani Classical, Sitar and Odissi dance classes. Today, that shy girl is an accomplished dancer, singer and sitar player. And confident with it!
And to think, there was a time when I had to literally push her onto the stage to sing a song in a college competition. Or that she used to get nervous to even enter a bank by herself to withdraw or deposit some money!
I salute the way she found the courage to test herself and push the limits she could go to ever outwards. Knowing her, I know it couldn’t have been easy. Conquering that kind of fear never is. Of course, it must have helped that she had always wanted to learn singing and dancing. But here’s the thing. As a child, she had been too scared to even tell her parents that! I knew her parents and I am sure they would have arranged for her to be tutored in the Fine Arts if she had only told them. So, it was her own fear that stopped her.
Today, if there is one thing I am sure she takes pride in, it’s the fact that she conquered her fear and that too, unaided. What a feeling it must have been the first time she performed on stage and received praise for her talent. I am pretty sure she must have been over the moon with the feeling, “I can’t believe I did it!”
You have to also know your limits!
I believe there are many people who never realize their true potential because they hold back. For whatever reason! I also believe that there are those who just don’t know when they need to stop pushing.
Success can be heady. Especially the unbeatable euphoria that erupts after a great success. It could be a sports championship in school or a beauty contest you won or an award winning campaign you were instrumental in or a client who jumped up and hugged you for a breakthrough strategy. But there always comes a time when you can’t do it again or push ahead. That’s the time you simply have to hang up your boots and retire into the wings gracefully. Or be booted out unceremoniously.
Just like it’s sad seeing talent wasted, it’s also sad when talent doesn’t know when to quit. I adored Dev Anand. But I often felt he should quit and not produce the string of failures he did, just refusing to accept that his hey days were over. Maybe he went on producing films for the love of the art. But in my eyes, his attempts were more like trying to recapture the magic just one more time. The same can be said to be true of many a celebrity and corporate personality.
That’s why it’s important to figure out which measure of success you wish to live by. The imagined or real applause from the gallery or the deep sense of satisfaction of knowing that you pushed yourself into discovering just how much you were capable of!