“I am sick and tired of fighting Life,” he said as he sat down across me at a café recently. He was in his late 20s. He looked beaten. He had reached out to me and Vaani wanting to seek our perspectives through our ‘Let’s Talk Happyness!’ Program. He ordered a black coffee for himself and told us his story. His parents are separated. He has a smoking habit that he loathes. He has been rejected by all potential employers – 15 of them so far – in the last 3 years. He feels he is “cursed” and “condemned” to “worthlessness”. His girlfriend has deserted him. “I feel lost and lonely. I am sick and tired of fighting Life,” he repeated, choking as he spoke.
This young man’s plight is not unique. There are many, many out there who feel lost and beaten by Life’s challenges. They feel they can’t go on “fighting Life” anymore. Vaani and I can relate to their agony, because we have been there and felt that way. But we have also realized that fighting Life is futile. You can’t win over Life. And, interestingly, Life is not playing to win – or defeat you – either. No matter what the circumstances are, however excruciating and hopeless they are, you only have one option. Which is to face Life, and take it as it comes, one day at a time. This may sound too simplistic especially when you are in the throes of complex situations. But there seriously is no other way. You can never fight Life – and hope to win. No matter what, you must just face Life and flow with it.
This is what Vaani and I have learnt from our own experience of dealing with a decade-long bankruptcy. We believe that it is best to put your head down and go to work – remaining detached from the results. We have learnt not to complain, not to mope and mourn, not to suffer.
Facing Life simply means this – you do what you can in the given circumstance without expectations, without resistance, without grief. Eventually, each of us has to go through what we have to go through; so, we might as well face Life with equanimity than fight it with angst.
Focus only on the effort and leave the outcome to Life.
A young reader, who wrote to me on Facebook Messenger after reading my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal, asked me this question: “How do you stay motivated and retain that urge to succeed when you have been dubbed a failure by the whole world?”
That’s a very interesting question.
To be sure, for the longest time I would cringe when people called Vaani or me a failure. A friend, who is also a head hunter, once told me that no company will respect Vaani and me because we are “failed entrepreneurs”. A wealthy businessman has told me on my face that he wouldn’t want to associate with us in public because we have a “negative net worth”! These remarks used to affect me a lot. I would cook within – seething with rage, feeling helpless because all our efforts to fix our business were coming to a naught.
But through consistent reflection, during my daily mouna (silence period) sessions, I realized that success and failure, victory and defeat, win and loss – all these are mere social labels. They are imposters – they will come and they will go; they are not going to stay with us forever.
In reality, all of us have only choices, to act in a given situation or not to act. When we act and the outcomes match our expectations, we call it success. When the outcomes fall below our expectations we call it failure. But the truth is that our choice of action – or inaction, as the case may be – is far more important than the outcome itself. Which is why the Bhagavad Gita invites us to focus on our effort, on the action, and to leave the result, the outcome, to Life.
So, I would say that we must exercise our choice of action and learn from the experience that leads to the outcome. It is when you are attached to the outcome that you invite ego and suffering. You turn egoistic when the outcomes match or exceed your expectations. You suffer when they don’t. So why go through this up and down cycle? Why not simply be focused on the action and leave the outcomes to happen in their own way? And whatever is the outcome, the way it is, simply accept it – without qualifying it as good, bad or ugly. At the end of the day, nothing is good, nothing is bad, nothing is won, nothing is lost, no one succeeds, no on fails. Life is just a series of experiences that you learn from.