Learn, unlearn from failures and can them!

Welcome failures. Embrace defeats. Celebrate losses. And learn from each of them!
When you have lost, failed and have been defeated, you have nothing more to protect, cling on to or fight to save. You are free. This freedom is what will give you wings. You are now entitled to your privacy. The world doesn’t want failures. So you are left alone. This is the golden hour then. Instead of grieving that no one wants you, experience this moment of liberation. Use this time alone to think, re-think, learn, unlearn, review and to re-energize yourself and your game.
This doesn’t come easy. You will be tempted to wallow in self-pity. It is comforting always to grieve and sulk than to get up, dust yourself and walk. But by brooding over what is over, you are only punishing yourself. Instead forgive yourself for what has happened and how you played. The truth is unless you forgive, unless you let go of that situation in your mind, you cannot move forward. This applies to any situation. You lost a business deal. You lost money. You lost a friend to a misunderstanding. Someone stabbed you in the back or you were let you down. In almost of these situations you respond, subconsciously, saying, “How dare so-and-so do this to me?” Instead respond with a daring to be happy with the situation, with the person that caused the situation, with yourself. Daring to be happy is an uplifting, appropriate and courageous response. It is proof that you have chosen to be happy despite the situation. Whoever said that a failure or loss must be met with unhappiness? It is just the way we have conditioned ourselves to be so far. Break free from such deceiving conditioning.
Here are some reasons why you should be happy in lost or losing situations: Because you have nothing more to lose. Because you have so much to learn from your defeat. Because you have the opportunity to challenge destiny and try winning one more time. Because you have the option of being happy. Because defeat is inevitable in any pursuit in Life. Because defeat, like winning, is impermanent.
Choosing happiness over sorrow, in the face of defeat or failure, does not mean lack of aspiration or lower self-esteem or lacking in will power or failing to reflect and learn. It only means while summoning your will power, when reviewing and learning, when drawing on your self-esteem, you are choosing to do it with a positive frame of mind__being happy__than in grief. So, in whatever situation you find Life has placed you currently, don’t go by your past conditioning. Once you learn from them, can and junk your failures. As the famous campaign for Coke goes, “Open Happiness”!

Advertisements

Don’t fall for the bait and get attached to outcomes – stay detached!

Stay detached from the outcome of your efforts and you will be at peace. Detachment really means to be unmoved in any situation – success or failure, victory or defeat.

Picture Courtesy: The New Indian Express/Internet
Team India’s Captain Cool, M.S.Dhoni, reminded us yesterday, yet again, why he is such a rare human being, player and leader. After India’s comprehensive defeat at the hands of the Aussies in Sydney in the 2015 ICC World Cup semi-final on Thursday night, Dhoni said: “Of course we are disappointed not to be in the final, but then only one team can win. Australia played better cricket today (Thursday). The Cup did not belong to us. We took it from someone and someone else will take it from us. If we had played better cricket on this particular day, we would have won.” This is the simplest, most logical explanation anyone can give in any situation like the one India finds itself in – they played a great World Cup campaign, winning seven out of seven games until losing in the semi-final. Also, when you do badly and lose a game, there are only learnings, never justifications. And finally, staying detached – as Dhoni is and has always been – from the outcome is the best way to preserve and nurture your inner peace.
Indeed, like sports, Life too is competitive. But no matter how hard you work, and how ethical you are, there will be times when you will not get what you want or perhaps even deserve. And there will be other times when you will be successful. In either situation, stay detached. Remember this: Life happens through us, never because of us. So, when we succeed at what we are trying to achieve, stay unaffected by the accolades. And when you fail at something, or rather when someone else succeeds in your place, choose again to remain unruffled. In the game of Life, someone will necessarily have to win. And it need not always have to be you!
To be sure, however, on the spiritual plane, success and failure, victory and defeat, mean nothing. Everything is transient, everything is a mere experience, and if you pause to reflect deeply, everything is an impermanent illusionary experience! So, don’t fall for the bait and get attached to outcomes – stay detached. In any situation, you have only your efforts to focus on and count on. Here’s how you deal with your efforts:
       Good efforts and you succeed at the task – take it easy
       Poor efforts and you succeed at the task – take it easy
       Good efforts and you fail at the task – take it easy
       Poor efforts and you fail at the task – take it easy
Take it easy every which way. Learn every single time. Remember this too: as Dhoni recounted and the Bhagavad Gita says, “Nothing belongs to you. And nothing will be with you forever. What is yours belonged to someone else yesterday and will belong to yet another tomorrow!” So, stay detached. Stay in peace.

Sitting on a pedestal or mourning in self-pity – both are in vain

Through victory or defeat, stay unmoved.
Two interesting perspectives, and learnings, came up after the recently-concluded World Chess Championship in Chennai, where Magnus Carslen, 23, became the new World Chess Champion, defeating Viswanathan Anand, 43.
After the emphatic win, Carlsen spoke of Anand to The Times of India’s Susan Ninan: “Although he’s an all-time great player, his results lately have not been too good and he’ll need some time to readjust to be able to come back. In this match I showed him in a way that although he’s taught me many things in the past, it’s probably now my turn to teach him. So, it’s safe to say I’ve surpassed him now.” I was not surprised to see Carlsen’s statement or his conceit. It’s his age, I told myself, to think and express himself that way.
This morning, I read what Anand told The Times of India’s Chidanand Rajghatta, in response to a question if Anand really believes Carlsen can teach him: “I wasn’t expecting him to be gracious, so fair enough. The winner can say anything when he wins… so I guess we will just have to swallow it for now.” Considered as one of the greatest chess players of all time, and given his equanimity, it was but expected of Anand to be accepting and graceful.
I can relate to both these attitudes.
I once had the misplaced brashness of Carlsen – when I was his age! In those times, I used to imagine that you needed to display your aggression, that you needed to be “seen” as a doer – that, only through such visibility, you could build a reputation as “someone to reckon with”. As I became more and more successful, I vainly believed that “I” was causing all that success. I remember, as a young, firebrand, civic journalist, I was mandated by my mentor and boss, “Master” C.P.Seshadri to run a weekly column in The Indian Express’ Chennai (then Madras) edition. My stories reported the lack of amenities in the suburbs of the city. The nature of coverage, and the newspaper’s reach, made the column and me very popular. I began to assume that I was all-important and, therefore, over time grew irreverent. Now, I was on the editorial team in the paper and so, was technically not liable to report stories. The head of the reporting team was a very senior journalist called Rmt.Sambandam – his experience was my age at that time! Sambandam was a stalwart in Chennai media and everyone in our paper, and among competition, looked up to him. But I remained irreverent and did not greet him or even acknowledge his presence when I saw him in the hallway or when we rode in an elevator together. Somewhere in my mind, I had developed this holier-than-thou feeling – that made me believe that I was delivering stories that Sambandam’s team was “incapable” of reporting. Years passed. I went my way in Life. I built my career in the media. And then I quit the media world to join the corporate sector. Eventually, after almost a decade of work experience behind me, I went on to set up my own consulting practice. Sambandam, in this time, grew within the Indian Express Group. And eventually went on to edit the Group’s Tamil paper Dinamani. I was not aware of this development though. So, I was dazed when, one afternoon, when I landed up at the Dinamani office, to meet someone “senior” to seek some information I needed, I was ushered into Sambandam’s room!!
Sambandam greeted me with a beaming smile!
“AVIS! My boy! How are you?” he exclaimed.
I tried to mutter a reply but I could not. I had never expected him to be there. I quickly recalled, in a flash, the innumerable times that I had looked away from the man. I wondered what he may be thinking of me. To be sure, over those years, I had sobered down and had realized that to behave haughtily was petty. But I could not undo what I had already done. Especially with Sambandam. And here I was, in front of him, and I did not know what to say or where to begin.
Sambandam made things easy as he humbled me. He said: “It’s grrrrreeeeaatttt to see you. You know after you left us, I often used to wonder where you were. I would occasionally make enquiries and would be delighted to hear that you have grown in your career and are doing very well. You had to. You are one of the finest journalists I have known and are also one of the most ethical and hardworking people in your generation.”
I was speechless. With my raw ambition, as a rookie journalist, I had run roughshod over this man and his team. Not that it affected them. But I imagined, vainly, that it had! Here I was being feted by the man himself. It was both humbling and embarrassing. In fact, I was ashamed of my past conduct. In that brief meeting Sambandam, unwittingly, taught me “how vain it was to sit on a pedestal”.
That’s perhaps why I related to Anand’s sagacity, in response to Carlsen’s bombastic claim,  when I read his interview this morning.
I have learned from Life that “Victory” and “Defeat” are labels that we pin on events that happen in our lives. When you understand and examine Life deeply these labels have no consequence. You and I are mere specks on this vast cosmic landscape. We neither engineer our successes nor do we cause our failures. We keep on acting, doing what’s within our control and what we think is right. Sometimes, these actions lead to results that meet or exceed our expectations – we call these results our successes. At times, our actions backfire and intended results are not achieved – we call these moments our failures. That’s simply it. There is no need, therefore, to sit on a pedestal when we succeed or mourn in self-pity when we fail. Being unmoved in either situation is an intelligent choice. Irrespective of what others may say or think, this is a choice that can surely guarantee your inner peace!

It’s never over until the last ball is bowled

Your biggest crisis is always your greatest opportunity.
There are times in Life when you conclude that it’s all over, you have hit rock bottom and you have nowhere to go, no reason to live and you simply want this lifetime to end. This is a natural, normal feeling. Each of us hits this “low point” in Life at some time or the other. But before you let this feeling grow within you, before you let your desperation exaggerate, before you quit, ask yourself what does rock bottom really mean?
Does it mean end of a phase in Life? Or does it mean the end of your Life? When you examine these two perspectives, in relation to your own Life situation, you will find that every crisis that has hit you, or perhaps the one you are going through just now, is always about a phase ending. It is never about Life ending. Because Life, simply, goes on and on. There are no dead-ends in Life – not as long as you are alive. Each phase ending signals a new beginning. And each new beginning will surely end.
The fickle human mind craves for a steady, stable Life. But Life itself is a roller-coaster. Every day is filled with as many new opportunities as there are challenges. You don’t see Life that way because all your focus is on securing stability. Which really means a good, well-paying job or source of income, a comfortable home, an affectionate family and – if possible, a hobby or an art form to pursue. For most people around the world, most of the time, this is how Life is. So, you don’t see Life events as upheavals. But almost each one of us has had our fair share of surprises or rude shocks. Someone may have lost a parent very early or may have made it through a Life-threatening health ailment, another may have struggled with a job search, or yet another may have never got a relationship right. Or someone may have lost a child or may have failed miserably with academics.
Each beating heart has a story to tell – of trial, tribulation and eventual triumph. You too have had your own share. Even so, why is it that you fear hitting rock bottom? Why do you fear loss? Why do you resist failure?
The answer lies in your definition of Life. You have, thanks to your upbringing and conditioning, concluded that your Life must be in a certain way. So, anything outside of your definition is something you label as bad and, so, don’t want in your Life. Having a job and a steady source of income, irrespective of whether you like the work you do or not, is good per your conditioning. Joblessness and incomelessness means a crisis is upon you. Being married to a person, who you don’t relate to, is stability. But having an intimate relationship, outside of your marriage, with someone you completely enjoy being with, is a sin! Smoking and drinking is fun. But to be diagnosed with a terminal illness, owing to your habit, is suffering! The key to opening the door of opportunity that is always there at every dead-end is to drop all definitions. Drop your own definition of Life. Drop all societal definitions. Just look at the Life that you have, even when you have hit a dead end, and ask yourself where do you go from here. Almost immediately, you will find a new world of opportunity opening up. From nowhere a door will appear where until then only a wall existed.
There was a time, about 20 years ago, when a project I led failed. The promoter who was backing the project did not honor his financial commitments to the project – to me and my team. He simply went missing. My son was only four and my daughter was a month old. Since my taking up this assignment had, unwittingly, made headlines, its collapse too was much talked about. I saw no way out. For weeks on end, I locked myself up in my bedroom, refusing to face the world or even talk to my mother-in-law, who was at that time staying with us, helping my wife with our just born. Life was embarrassing. Life was scary. I was consumed by depressive thoughts. There was an important cricket series going on at that time in India. And although my depressive state prevented me from watching TV or following the series, I heard a snatch of commentary that came in from the neighbor’s TV, one evening, at the close of a tight contest that India won. I was standing in the balcony in my apartment and I could hear the TV blaring at my neighbor’s. The commentator was animatedly describing the spectacular, surprise win that India had managed. He said: “In cricket, it is never over until the last ball is bowled.” That comment, indicating that India had snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat, made imminent sense to me as I sat brooding. I suddenly felt energized and rejuvenated. I used that moment of awakening to claw my way back in Life.
That learning has stayed with me ever since. I have faced, and continue to face, many a crisis since that one. But giving up has never been an option for me. Because, I have realized that, the unmistakeable truth about Life is that when you are dead, you are dead. Till then there’s no end. And you must simply go on…

Remain unmoved to stay unscathed

Just as it is important not to get bogged down by failure, it is equally, perhaps more, critical not to get carried away by success.
M S Dhoni: Unmoved
At the presentation ceremony of the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston, Birmingham, two nights ago, former England captain and Star Cricket’s anchor Nasser Hussain asked India captain M.S.Dhoni: “The T20 World Cup, the ICC World Cup and now the Champions Trophy….you have seen and got them all. What would you want next?”
Embarrassed and smiling, Dhoni, in his characteristic down-to-earth, grounded, style, replied: “I am not here to prove to anyone how good I am. My focus is on the game. We are off to the West Indies from here and we will be keen to put in our best there and work as a team.”
Many observers and commentators have been amazed with Dhoni’s unflappable leadership and his ability to remain calm in a crisis. I feel the biggest reason why he continues to be successful is the because he doesn’t get all that he’s achieved go to his head. He doesn’t let defeat affect him either. And that’s a remarkable quality. An ability. Something each of us can consider, reflect upon and try internalizing.
Think about it. In this lifetime, which has been given to us without our asking for it, there are many things that will happen to us. There are many experiences that we will go through. Some of them will work to a plan. And we will start imagining we caused or created them. Some will happen to us without any effort from us. And sometimes things will simply happen – causing us pain, joy, grief, suffering and often leaving us numbed, shocked, defeated, delighted or humbled. Osho, the Master, invites us to consider the example of the wheel. He says a wheel moves. While its center remains unmoved. So, if your Life were a wheel, with its own fair share of ups and downs, you, the real you, your center, your soul, must remain unmoved. Only this state of staying unmoved, despite whatever is happening to you, can keep you perpetually blissful! The best way to respond to Life is to remain unmoved – by joy or by sorrow, by victory or by defeat. Then, and only then, can you hope to get through this lifetime, unscathed!

Indeed, you cannot be serious about Life!


A key factor that inhibits progress on the spiritual path is our tendency to take Life too seriously. Everything that we do, it appears, seems to key us up. Every small conquest seems to be a moment to claim superiority and every failure is seen as a numbing, lethal, final blow! So much so, when a hard-earned victory comes our way, we fritter away the moment in showmanship and bury ourselves under a heap of unsolicited critique and free opinion, when we fumble and fall.

So, it was with great interest that I read noted columnist Nirmal Shekar’s views on Indian cricket captain M.S.Dhoni in yesterday’s Hindu. Celebrating Dhoni’s legendary equanimity, Shekar made a case for sportspersons having the ‘right perspective’ to their game. That perspective, wrote Shekar, is to understand that a game is just a game. “…Sport is not really a matter of life and death. Sport is enjoyable only so long as we can get our perspective right and put it in its place, put it where it really belongs in the big picture. If we let it become too important, then what was sought as a pleasurable experience will turn out to be a pain.”

I completely agree with both of Shekar’s views: on Dhoni’s attitude to the game and on the nature of sport itself.

My two-penny worth learning from this lifetime’s experience so far is that Life is no different. In Life too the right perspective is very important. And we must place ourselves, and our perspective, where they belong in the big picture. Else what could well be a pleasurable experience may well turn out to be a pain!!!

The past week, I have been limping around, literally, owing to a nagging, painful condition in my right leg. Even a small step forward, at times, requires a big effort. I felt, at several times, crippled unable to carry out my routine normally __ like a bath, or driving, or going out for my daily walk. However, on my visit to the hospital the other day for a review with the doctor, I found a young lady seated on a wheel-chair. She seemed fine, for all practical purposes, laughing and joking with her family and nurses. So, I even wondered what she was doing seated cross-legged on a wheel-chair. Only when I looked closely did I realize that all her limbs were deformed. She didn’t have legs to speak of! Her lower limbs had shrunk abnormally owing to either a disease or birth deformity. Her hands were not normally formed either and her fingers seemed to be sticking out, without a palm, on both hands. I reflected on her spirit. And on my condition. I felt ashamed about the brouhaha I was creating over it! The right perspective and its place in the big picture fell in place immediately. I laughed to myself, much to the surprise of the nurse attending on me. When she insisted I tell her what the joke was, I said, “This leg, this painful condition, is the biggest joke! I find it absolutely funny!”

So it is with everything in Life! What seems like a grave problem momentarily, over a period of time, surely turns out to be laughing matter!  The key, I believe, is not to get keyed up about Life. The operative word and sentiment here is equanimity. Equanimity is simply the ability to deal with both success and failure, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, dispassionately. Dhoni has it. You too can. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gitaends with the highest state of consciousness a human being can attain. Krishna, replying to Arjuna, says: “…He lives in wisdom…Who sees himself in all and all in him…. He is not elated by good fortune…Nor depressed by bad…Such is the seer…!”

Whatever you are going through, take it easy! This Monday resist the temptation to get wound up any further. Invoke the right perspective and place it where it belongs in the big picture. To quote Swami Sathya Sai Baba, “Don’t we sometimes wake up from a dream, ponder over our conquests and defeat in our sleep-state, and shrug it all off thinking ‘it was but a dream’? We need to bring the same approach to Life as well. Because this lifetime is nothing but a dream.” Indeed. Maybe you will not understand, appreciate or accept this perspective just yet. But, may be you will at the end of your journey on this planet. Just maybe. That you really cannot or should not (have ever been) be serious about Life!