If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward – Martin Luther King, Jr.
In one of my previous articles, I have spoken about being relentless in our pursuits despite the pain, and that pain is that part of the process that tells us we are growing constantly (What? You haven’t read that blog? Please get back in line and follow the correct order of the series…:)). And then there is that lack of self-belief that reminds us regularly that we don’t have the skills to fulfill our true passions.
A lot of us have dreams but may have limited talent to back those dreams. A small pothole in the road seems to be compelling enough to change course, strangle our dreams and resort to mediocrity, lack of fulfillment, or both (But if we encounter a pothole on the roads we will rev our engine and fly over it in style). We may love something but are quick to decide that the skill level or work that needs to be put in to obtain it is beyond our means. We will come up with excuses pertaining to lack of ability, lack of money, lack of time, people’s opinions, the risks involved, and a million other negative possibilities (We will, however, save for that shiny iPhone, as opposed to a self-development program; we will work overtime to potentially make more money to be able to afford the high-end model of our favorite automobile, as opposed to investing more time in attaining mastery in our skill set; we will call in a favor to get our child a seat at a college that someone else deserves more, as opposed to guiding him to put in the necessary effort to achieve it himself; we will eliminate competition at work through unscrupulous means, rather than work hard and prove our mettle; and we will even undermine our competition in business, because we feel its easier to bring someone down, as opposed to rising ourselves).
How come we don’t find too many roadblocks while engaging in unproductive or negative practices (Like smoking while wearing a nicotine patch, using our debating skills against our boyfriend when we can easily use a broomstick, or constantly hitting snooze on the alarm clock. Why set an alarm if you don’t intend to wake up?)? How come we convincingly maneuver ourselves to settle for less in matters that truly impact our heart and soul (Why cheat yourself into getting a box of six donuts when you can have twelve?)? Are we looking for quick fixes? I don’t believe there are any (Superglue tends to work on some of my action figures and collectible statues). Some of the practices we resort to only give us the illusion that there are. Short moments of thrill and accomplishment lead to a lifetime of misery, even if it’s only the substantial weight of guilt and emptiness in our hearts. Doing things, the right way is always harder, more painful, and involves a lengthy process, but is eventually truly liberating. As young boys and girls, we are abounding with positivity and conviction in our abilities to fulfill our passions. Along the path to adulthood and beyond, our environment seems to indicate that we need to be risk averse, realistic, and fit into society.
For instance, in India, the rat race to adhere to what the society deems fit begins as soon as we are out of our diapers (Imagine conducting a formal interview for a 3-year old to decide if he/she deserves a seat in lower kindergarten at their institution. Not to mention the rigorous classes parents put their children through, months in advance, lest they underperform at this interview). While I see a few positive changes now, older student life is no different. Students great at math and science are labeled as intelligent, while the rest are relegated to the ‘also ran’ status (They had to be incredibly good at sports, dancing, elocution, debates, etc. and have had to have represented their school if they were to receive some semblance of respect). If we had the highest marks we were promptly ushered into scientific fields in college. If we didn’t do as well, we were relegated to arts colleges like it was where all the scum of the earth studied. Bright people that chose arts too were frowned upon and people refused to believe that it was indeed a choice they made (It was like opting to take the overcrowded metro when you had a chauffeur-driven Mercedes at your disposal). By this definition, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare, Voltaire, Leo Tolstoy, Sun Tzu, Charles Dickens, and several others were just hapless underperformers and ‘good for nothings’. What’s more? Scientists like Michael Faraday, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison seemed to have struggled with math, and yet they served society in a colossal way, against the demarcations set up by society itself.
And why consider the aforementioned geniuses alone? Look at two outrageous Hollywood characters, Johnny English, and Pink Panther portrayed by Rowan Atkinson and Steve Martin respectively. They had limited abilities, but strong beliefs in themselves and persistence of the highest level (One of them even manages to humor the pope in his own backyard, or courtyard to be precise). Despite all the outlandish situations they managed to get themselves into, they prevailed in the end through pure perseverance and their ‘never say die’ attitude (Yes, these are fictitious characters. But movies are as much a reflection of us as we are of them. Besides, if gangsters, thugs, cheats, unethical businessmen, and the like can influence us, why not heroes in the simplest forms?). Champions at heart will persistently try to overcome their limitations, one small step at a time, in their quest for self-actualization.
We are modeled to believe in our limitations and yet want the world. The mental battle between our lack of confidence in our abilities and unwillingness to put in massive action on one side, and our unquenched desires on the other, tend to lead us down the wrong path or keep us stagnant. Innately, our desires continue to live on long after we have convinced ourselves of our inability to fulfill them. Therefore, we either spend our lives in frustration, dejection, and averageness, because we don’t fulfill our passions, or we implement methods that give us the delusion of achievement.
We admire Arnold Schwarzenegger for his impressive physique, Roger Federer and Cristiano Ronaldo for their sporting brilliance, Michael Jackson for his musical genius, Dr. Abdul Kalam for his virtuosity in scientific research and advancement, Meryl Streep for her acting prowess, Richard Branson for his business flair, Oprah Winfrey for her courage, Walt Disney for his imagination, Steve Jobs for his quest for perfection, Stan Lee for his inspiration, Jack Ma for his passion, Keanu Reeves for his humility, Charlie Chaplin for his creativity and scores of others.
We look in the mirror and say to ourselves that they are gifted and we are not. Therefore, they stand where they do and we stand where we are. However, all these men and women once stood where we are. In fact, many of them stood in deeper pits that seemed impossible to climb out of. But they believed and they persevered, every minute of their lives. They failed one day and tried with greater reinforcement the next. They didn’t let life’s encumbrances snuff out their fire. Neither did they let the naysayers keep them from achieving greatness. In my mind, their greatness is not reflected in the wealth they accumulated and the accolades that were showered upon them, but more so in their determination to make extraordinary contributions to the world, and lend hope to one and all that persistence is the key to legendary.
Nothing in this 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. — Calvin Coolidge