Intelligent living is all about staying unaffected by both success and failure!
Even as I was soaking in the “Outsized Life” (David Remnick in The New Yorker) of Muhammad Ali (1942~2016; he passed away yesterday), my cousin called me this morning. Interestingly, we chatted up a bit on the true meaning of success.
To me, living each moment fully, no matter what the circumstances are, is success. Even so, I told my cousin that we must not be carried away by wordsmithing and definitions. There’s nothing wrong in holding on to the worldly definition of success. And if you take that context then you cannot escape the worldly definition of failure. Intelligent living is the ability to treat both success and failure – as the world sees them – as mere imposters. Don’t let your success make you think that you are invincible and don’t let your failure convince you that you are good for nothing! Important: know that both of them are impermanent. Each will eventually go away having served its tenure in your Life!
Here’s the most profound, according to me, Muhammad Ali (1942~2016) quote ever: “He (God) gave me Parkinson’s syndrome to show me I’m just a man like everyone else. To show me that I have human frailties. That’s all I am: a man.” And here was a man, as we know him to be, who was not just the greatest in his league, but wore his greatness on his sleeve. Yet, when he was felled by Life, he fell lightly, like a rose petal! Because, deep within him, he had internalized and understood what success and failure really were. He perhaps saw it more clearly than many others around him – that both success and failure have a mind and time of their own. That they are both just visitors. And visitors don’t stay forever, they only visit!
When you reach Ali’s level of evolution, you too will realize that we cause or invite neither our glory nor our downfall. Yet, with all our education, rational thinking and logic, we will want to believe that we actually do. The truth is that while we have a right to act, to lay out and follow a process for executing our actions, we really can’t always control the outcome of our actions and efforts. And yet we have to own the outcome we end up with. So, while we can, and must, make every effort to change the way our Life is, we have to learn to do that while accepting the Life we have. Intelligent living is about understanding this truth and living by it.