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Lessons of life - hard work

kartik 
on 10 June 2013

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Lately, after exams, it’s been a time for reflection and self introspection. Though I do this often, it never really gets repetitive. The novelty doesn’t wear off in as much as I get to learn something new each time I do it. The bone of contention this time around was hard work and all the things associated with it. It primarily started with my reading list which I compiled recently, keeping my reading commitments in mind. I purposely use the word ‘commitment’ to emphasize the fact that what I stress on is knowledge and reading as a very important medium to acquire knowledge. It’s not something I can avoid. In order to gain A (knowledge), I have to be ‘committed’ to B (reading). So something that started with the importance of reading turned into the importance of hard work. In this case, it was not really related. It was more of a corollary. I needed some inspiration to get started on that list, so I went on a reading spree and read a lot about some truly amazing people. What struck me was that whatever they achieved came down to one simple thing – hard work, back-breaking hard work with discipline and sacrifice. What I attempt to put forth in this article is a lifetime of learning and experience in order to highlight the importance of hard work. I hope this inspires a few but more than that I actually intend it to be self inspiring to me as well.

I have never been inspired by success as much as I am now. Now call me materialistic or money minded, but when I see the photos of high rise apartments overlooking Central Park in New York or CEO’s working on their iPads in their swanky carks driven by uniformed chauffeurs, what I see is success. It’s not the tangibles in itself. It’s the intangibles that went a long way in helping those individuals acquire those tangibles. We see what they have achieved. What we also need to see is the hours of work and sweat that they put in to get that success. We often overlook that fact and that is the first thing that leads to the larger malaise – shortcut to success. I will not really focus on that now. What I will try to emphasize here is a byproduct – lack of ambition. Here I would like to get a bit personal. In as much as I don’t socialize, I love human psychology and I love to study people. I have met all sorts of diverse characters in my 24 year old life and I have drawn tones of lessons from most of them. The one type I have often met is the ones that have a favourite quote – “Why worry about tomorrow? Let’s focus on today.”

Here too, you can divide them into 2 sub-types. The first are those who believe in taking one day at a time but at the same time having a long term goal and a vision to achieve it. The second are those who are obviously not the first i.e. they love living in the present with absolutely no idea of what they are going to do ahead. I find them naïve. I also find that they have no fire in their belly for a fight, for a challenge. It is a dangerous attitude to have and I would not recommend it.

What also comes into the picture here is sacrifice or maybe a lack of it. We are simply too afraid to let go of the beaten path in order to try something new. We are too afraid to be different. I am not and I have never been like that and so far it has served me well. What I would like to advise all of you here is that get out of your comfort zone. Don’t care about what anyone will think of the fact that you are doing something different. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. What matters is what you want and what you need to do to achieve it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t chat on Whatsapp for a day. It’s something worth sacrificing. Use the time instead to read, to learn something new that will probably help you in the longer term. Always focus on the larger picture. Aim high and work hard to reach there.

Secondly, don’t be too focused on results, especially if you are doing some professional course. It’s by and large a misconception that a degree leads to definite success. It doesn’t. It merely gives you a ticket; sometimes not even that. Whether you pass in the 1st attempt or in the 5th; whether you got a rank or just scrapped by, what is really important is how much you have learnt and how much you are willing to learn. If you think that getting a degree is the end of learning, then you are wrong. It doesn’t work like that, not today. What we are seeing today is the evolution of what I call the ‘knowledge economy’. Good organizations and good HR personnel are focusing more and more on what the candidates know. Mark sheets and scorecards are not really being looked at. If you are lucky, you will end up in a good position just because you scored well. But if you are not ready to learn, you will get found out. Good interviewers know how to get the knowledge or the lack of it out of you. So don’t try to fool around with them. Instead, keep learning new things everyday. If anyone questions you, smile and move ahead. Don’t waste your time in justifying. I have done that mistake and that has made me wiser now.

Thirdly, cultivate the habit of reading. It doesn’t have to be limited to your career. This world is bigger than you can ever imagine. The more you read, the more you become aware. I started reading The Economist, a world renowned newspaper, about a year back. Amongst the many positives that it brought along, one that stands out is the change in my mindset. I am much more broadminded now and I have a better idea of how the world works. What I would like to highlight here in connection with this is time management and the importance of sacrifice. I read The Economist while traveling and on weekends when I am at home. That would be the time when we are busy chatting on our cell phones or lazing around. I used to do the same before. I stopped it and the results are marvelous. I don’t crib about the lack of time anymore. There’s so much time if we know how to use it. From an average friends list of almost 15 with whom I used to chat with everyday, it has come down to almost nil. Do I miss anything? No. On the contrary I have gained a lot. So, get into the habit of reading. Treat it like an investment in a bank. The returns will accrue over a period of time. The more you invest the higher returns you will get.

The fourth thing I would like to suggest is self motivation. Be inspired always. Don’t let life become monotonous. I agree that it’s easier said than done. But it’s one of the key success factors. Don’t be disheartened by minor hurdles and major failures. A few years down the line you will probably realize they made the journey worthwhile. Take it in your stride. And this comes from a guy who has been facing repeated failures. So trust me, I know. If you are working hard, if you are true to what you do, then you WILL get success one day or the other. The key thing is to stay motivated.

So, work hard, inculcate discipline and sacrifice in your life, aim high, read, learn and then repeat the cycle. You must have heard your parents and teachers and other elders preach all this over the years. So this may seem like a repeat dose. Yet, don’t ignore it. Whatever I have written above has only been derived from the lives of all the great, immensely successful people I have known, directly or indirectly and have read about down the years. So they are tried and tested methods. They helped those people. They will help you as well. Don’t be fickle minded and waste your lives in following conventions. Look for the exceptions. Look for the shining stars who refused to bow down to norms and who lived life on their own terms. They are the ones who you need to be inspired by. Rise above mediocrity. If you have that kind of environment, culture and people around you, then shun them. If you want something, you do everything needed to get it. You don’t go down the path everyone takes. You carve out your own path. You make your own choices. And then you don’t stop. You keep going. Remember, life is just a long road. Success or failure is just pit stops. What matters is how far you go. So, let not a day go by without learning, without reading, without working hard. The fruits of success when you eventually get them will taste splendidly sweet.

I am old school. I believe more in hard work than the smarter version of it. Smart work works for some people. It doesn’t work for me. So if you are someone who has believed in smart work, then stick to it. For all the others, try following whatever I have written above. If it helps you, it will have served its purpose. If it doesn’t, then pass it on to anyone whom you think will gain a lot from it.


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