From what you learn from your Life experiences, you can only get better at the art of living

There is no success or failure in Life. There are just experiences and there are the lessons you learn from those experiences.
Yesterday, at a workshop I was leading, a manager asked me: “How do you retain your hunger for success while not getting too desperate with whether you succeed or not?”
That’s a very interesting question.
Success and failure, victory and defeat, win and loss – all these are social labels. 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 efforts, on the action, and to leave the results, the outcomes, to Life.

So, I would simply rephrase the manager’s perspective. 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 you. And through your learning, as long as you are continuously learning – and sometimes unlearning too – you can hope to get better and better, and better and better, and better and better, at the art of living! 

How to be free from the fear of failure

To be free from the fear of failure stop imposing conditions on the outcomes of your efforts. In whatever situation, do your best, and leave the rest to Life!
Yesterday I met a young businessman who, like me, had lost a lot of money in business. He was in debt for almost 10 years. And although he has managed to clear all his loans, his business is not doing too well and he himself has become very tentative and risk-averse. “I am bogged down by the fear of failure. I am unable to work with a free mind,” he confessed.
The fear of failure is a human creation. In Life’s larger design there’s nothing called success and failure. There are only efforts and events. Each outcome of an effort is a mere event. It is the human mind, driven by social conditioning, that labels these events as success or failure. Think about it: when you make an effort, an outcome will follow. Now, who decides and qualifies the outcome? It’s you who does that. As such the outcome has no quality. For instance, you put in a lot of effort at work. At the end of one year, you get a raise. Now, because you got that raise, you label the outcome as success. Had you not got it, you would have called the outcome a failure. But what about your effort? Would you now review your effort and say you will not want to work as hard because you are not likely to get a raise? This will only lead to a mediocre performance by you. And again you will end up not getting a raise. And therefore leading to unhappiness and discontentment with your job. There’s no point in looking at work and Life this way. It will leave you incomplete and frustrated. Instead simply focus on your effort. Do whatever you are good at happily. Pour your heart into it. And don’t worry about the outcome. If the result meets or exceeds your expectation, fine. If the result falls short of your expectations, fine again. Either way, learn from the experience. What will people say, how society labels you – these are inconsequential. What is important is that you worked hard, and well, and enjoyed yourself in the process. Simply stay with that perspective.
The key in Life is to enjoy the experience of living. With fear of failure you make the experience nightmarish. It disturbs your inner peace and robs you of the opportunity to be happy. Let go of that fear by stopping to impose conditions on how you want the results to be. Just put in your best every single time, into each moment. And discover how blissful you can really be!

It is up to us to change the stories of our lives

Nothing in Life is worth suffering for.
Not money. Not health. Not love. Not career. Nothing. And contrary to popular notion, Life is not about suffering. Yet we suffer in Life because we try to force outcomes. Don’t. Just do what you can do in a situation. Do your best. And let the outcomes take care of themselves. It is when we try to ensure outcomes that the strife, the struggle, the suffering begins.
A friend called yesterday to say that his attempts, over the last five years, to try his hand at business had all failed. He said he was out of money and out of luck. He confessed that he was gripped by fear and insecurity. He did not know what the future held for him. And he said he did not see a way out of this situation immediately. He wondered if I could share with him how to be calm in such a crisis and avoid suffering.
I told him that there are no methods to deal with Life. The best way is to do what you can and must do in a situation and live each day fully – engaged in turning the situation around, without bothering if the results were coming the way you wanted them to. There will be some times in Life when, despite your best efforts, the results will not come. This doesn’t mean something is lacking in your effort. It only means you must now try once more. Outcomes, I said, are not in our hand. Efforts are. We must be engaged in making our efforts with focus, purpose and joy – relentlessly. Leave the outcomes to themselves. If they happen as envisaged, great. If they don’t, we must learn to try again. It is only when we expect outcomes to be the way we want them to be that we suffer.
Think about why you force outcomes. Because of your wants. You want someone in your Life. So you desperately woo that person. If she rejects you, you suffer. You want more money. So you will do anything for it__even if you don’t like doing it. Because you don’t enjoy doing what you are doing, although you are making money, you suffer. You have been let down by someone. So you sue them. Because you want them to feel your pain. Little do you realize that in trying to bring them pain, you are hurting. Your want to fight your battle with them is causing you a lot of harm. Invariably, it is the wants that lead you to expectations of outcomes and therefore plunge you into suffering when they are not met.
So, the simplest way to avoid all suffering is to stop wanting. Just live Life fully not worrying about the outcomes. If the outcome’s meant for you, it will come your way. If it is not, it won’t. Why struggle? Why suffer? Know this__clearly, surely: We are the authors of all the struggle in our lives. We are the script writers of all our miseries. And so, it is up to us to change the stories of our lives.

There are no full stops in Life!

The key to intelligent living is to go with the flow of Life – savoring your successes and learning from what you fail at!
On a recent episode of the popular TV show, “Koffee with Karan”, celebrity Bollywood director Karan Johar had the two sensational young stars Parineeti Chopra and Alia Bhatt as his guests. The show’s format includes other stars giving Karan’s guests either feedback or compliments through video recordings. On this episode, Alia’s father, the famous Bollywood director, the venerable Mahesh Bhatt, had recorded a message for Alia. His advice for Alia, who’s just a couple of films old in the industry, was this: “…Remember that in this world we will be penalized when we fail and we will be applauded when we succeed. Take them both in your stride. Keep going…because in such journeys, there’s nothing like a full stop…!” Papa Bhatt was helping his daughter understand the vagaries of the movie business since she is new to it, she’s young and inexperienced. But all that he said is true for Life itself.
Most of the time, a lot of us struggle with Life because we fear failure. Even before we make efforts, we have developed an attachment to the results. We expect and want every effort of ours to succeed. While theoretically every effort, when made with dedication and precision, can be successful, in reality this is just not possible. Besides, success and failure are labels that society has created. At a deeply spiritual level, there’s only effort – there is no success or failure! This the essence of the message of the Bhagavad Gita – focus on ensuring that your motive is pure and the means are right, don’t worry about the results or the outcomes.
I took a long time to understand this truth about Life and struggled with accepting it initially. I could never comprehend why sincere effort, driven with sound integrity of purpose, should fail. For the first few years of our bankruptcy, I felt humiliated with the label of “failed entrepreneur” that society pinned on me. Every time I appeared in court, to face charges pressed by irate creditors, I would be addressed as the “accused” by the officials and the judge. It hurt very badly. I was devastated when my family called me a “cheat”. My grief was unbearable. It was my effort to get rid of my grief that led me to realize that I was allowing these social definitions (of me) to affect me. Yes, I had made mistakes in our business which had caused our challenging situation. But this was not the end-of-the-road for me, I reasoned to myself. I redefined my Life’s context – I told myself that we had to hang in there, face Life, work harder than ever before, and climb out of the situation that my family and I were in. To be able to do this diligently is what success now meant to me. Indeed, we haven’t managed to even begin turning around our financial fortunes. But we have developed this ability to keep ploughing on. This has happened because my wife and I have been able to get over the fear of failure. I believe when you are not afraid of failing in Life, you will be successful in facing Life, even if material success – as defined by society – takes a long time to arrive!
In Life, you win some, you lose some. Neither is success permanent. Nor is failure. Really, there are no full stops in Life. You simply have to keep on going – no matter what!