How to retain confidence during failures?

September 28, 2019

Having read my previous post – the value of failures – someone asked me, “I agree that we should learn from our failures but the problem is that our confidence gets shattered due to failures. What can be done for that?”

Indeed, confidence shatters during failures. However, there are ways to work around this.

Let me first share a short story:

A bird got tired of flying and landed on a branch. The bird rested there safely, enjoying a good view from the branch. Suddenly came a strong wind. The tree swayed and it looked like the branch will break. However, the bird was not worried. Why? First, it knew that it was able to fly; and second it also knew that there were other branches and other trees. Not all branches were going to fall due to wind.

We can draw some important lessons from this to retain our confidence during setbacks, failures, and unforeseen events.

First, let’s always remember that failures don’t reduce our abilities. Just like the bird knew it was able to fly, we must know that we have the ability to pursue our goals. Failures can never take that away from us. For example, not getting good grades in an exam does not mean you will not do well in future exams. Just draw your lessons from this experience and try to do better next time.

Second, like the bird knew it could sit on another branch, let’s always remember that there are always other options, other destinations and other goals. We should not give up. Writing a post on – Train yourself to develop a never give up attitude – I had shared story of Derek Redmond and stressed that this attitude can be developed only when we train ourselves to respond to failures that come along the way or to have a new goal if the previous goal becomes unfeasible.

Third, an out of box solution. In the event of a setback, take your attention off it for a while and do something that can give you a sense of achievement. For example, last week, I did a two-hour online course and felt good to have passed it in the first attempt. It helped lift up the mood, the confidence and had an overall feel good effect. Try this. It really works.


The value of failures

August 29, 2019

In my previous post – The barriers that hold you up are not real – I had stressed that we should not get discouraged by failures.

Failures actually teach valuable lessons. The only problem is that we don’t realize them until much later.

“Don’t read success stories, you will only get a message. Read failure stories, you will get some ideas for success – Dr APJ Abdul Kalaam.

When I think about my own failures (and there are plenty of them!), I can draw the following three lessons:

1. I had tried but not hard enough:

Introspecting now I think in most cases my own effort should have been better. There are a number of aspects that contribute to success and we need to work on all of them. At times, our effort looks good but there are some loose ends. Therefore, be honest to yourself. Try to understand what was lacking in your effort and next time go ahead full stream.

2. I did not seek help as much as I should have:

If you try to solve all issues yourself, it may not be possible or it will just take too much of time and effort. Seeking help makes it easier but most of us are too shy to reach out to others for help. Asking for help should be a mantra for life. It could just be an advice from someone you trust.

3. I did not invest enough in myself:

We are all gifted with some talent or skills. If we identify them early and develop them further, we can achieve a lot. What complicates the matter further is that we are often reminded of what is lacking in us rather that what we are good at. We need to identify our hidden skills talents or hobbies. We should invest our time and resources in nurturing them. We are more likely to put in our best effort and get success if we pursue a dream that allows us to use our inherent talent and is something that is of interest to us.

The above three are my own lessons. True, they may not go with everyone. The point being made is that we all should learn from our failures.

Having said this, I would like to reiterate that we should learn from failures but should not get discouraged by them. They are part of life. Our passion for success should be so strong that it reduces the pain and disappointment that come with failures.

The barriers that hold you up are not real

July 30, 2019

A marine biologist once did an experiment. She placed a shark into a tank and then released several small bait fish into the tank. The shark attacked the smaller fish and ate them.

The biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. She put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.
Again, the shark quickly attacked. This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off. Undeterred, the shark kept on trying but could not go up to the bait fish due to the divider between them. The bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition. Eventually, after some time the shark gave up.
The biologist repeated the experiment a few times. Each times the stark tried to hit, got tired after a few unsuccessful attempts of hitting at the fiberglass and gave up. The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider and was surprised. The shark did not attack at all.

Why? The shark was trained to believe that a barrier existed between it and the bait fish.

The message is clear: the barriers that hold us up are not real!
We give up our efforts assuming the obstacles and barriers that stopped us earlier still exist, even when they have disappeared. Even if they exist or resurface in another form, with careful planning a never give up attitude, we can find a way to overcome them.

This is also a good example of the law of attraction. If you think of barriers, you will face barriers in your path to success. But if you only think of achieving your goal, you will be able to overcome any obstacles real or unreal. Don’t get discouraged with the failures and obstacles you face. Tell yourself repeatedly that you are moving towards your goal.

Dreams should have no boundaries

June 29, 2019

A teacher once asked a boy to write on what he wanted to be when he grew up. The young boy had a troubled childhood. His father was a horse trainer, who trained horses moving from stable to stable. As a result, his schooling was interrupted too. The boy wrote – I would like to be owner of a horse ranch – and wrote details about it, including a drawing of his house in the ranch. The teacher returned his answer sheet marked with an ‘F’ on the front page. When asked for reasons, the teacher said the dream was unrealistic for a boy of his background and limited means. The teacher asked him to be realistic and rewrite the assignment. The boy thought for several days, consulted his father and then brought the same paper to his teacher, without making any changes. He told his teacher, ‘you keep your ‘F’ and I will keep my dream.”

The boy grew up to be known as Monty Roberts. He is a well-known horse trainer who owns a beautiful house in the middle of 200-acre horse ranch. Monty Roberts still has that school paper, which he has framed and keeps over the fireplace. He has mastered the technique of training horses in a non-violent manner and is the author of the famous book – The Man Who Listens to Horses.

I have shared this anecdote because I recently read – The Secret – a book by Rhonda Byrne. The book is about the law of attraction, and includes perspectives of several people around the world who have successfully applied the law of attraction into their lives.

Simply put, the law of attraction means you become what you think. If you think positive, you attract positive results. Universe helps you achieve what you hold in your thoughts. Buddha seems to be the first one to have introduced the law of attraction to the world. The book is full of examples showing that the law of attraction actually works.

However, I had a doubt. I was wondering how realistic should we be in our aspirations. And, I was looking for answers until I read the Monty Robert’s story.

Now, there is clarity. Let there be no bars on your dreams. Thinking big should not be constrained by your current situation. We must of course have a realistic plan to achieve our dreams, which should be pursued with full vigour; and a never give up attitude.

Dream big and think positive always. It helps us tap into the unlimited potential that we are blessed with.

Train yourself to develop a never give up attitude

May 22, 2019

Derek Redmond, one of the Britain’s most famous athletes, was favourite to win the 400 metres sprint in the 1992 Olympic. He started very well but 250 meters into the race, he felt a severe pain in his leg. He fell to the ground with a torn hamstring. Not willing to give up, he started again amidst pain and tears for he knew that his dream had been shattered. He knew he was not going to win but he still wanted to finish the race. Breaking the security, his father jumped onto the track to help him. He told Derek not to run anymore but Derek insisted. With one hand on his father’s shoulder, he hobbled towards the finish line. Shortly before the finish line, his father let him go alone to finish the race. Over 65000 crowd rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation. This became one of the most inspirational scenes in the Olympic history. Due to injury, Derek could not continue his career as an athlete but ventured into Basketball.

We are often told about developing a never give up attitude. Examples such as Derek tell us that it is possible. We give up for two reasons: setbacks and failures, and/or some unforeseen circumstances like accidents, change of plans etc.

‘Never give up’ attitude can be developed only when we train ourselves to respond to failures that come along the way or to have a new goal if the previous goal becomes unfeasible. Derek said the moment he fell and realized that he was not going to win the race, he changed his goal. He just wanted to finish the race. And, he did that. Later, Derek started playing Basketball and did very well.

We don’t win always. As I wrote in one of my earlier posts – the day you don`t win – a true winner is someone who knows how to accept failures in a dignified manner, and moves on.

Make decision making a habit

April 27, 2019

If you are learning how to drive, you do as the instructor says – slow down, speed up, or stop. However, once you have learnt driving, you don’t need instructions anymore. Taking driving decisions gets ingrained in your mind, you take decisions without even realizing.

Can we make decision making a habit? We can perhaps draw some insights from the driving experience itself.

The goal should be clear:
A driver knows where to go. He gets into the vehicle and starts driving. Decision making needs to be seen in the context of goal, whether personal or organizational. “What do we want to achieve” is our goal; and “what should we do to achieve our goal” is the decision we need to make. When the connection is clear, we are more likely to decide and act.

Turn-off distractions: A driver, no matter how much skilled he/she is, may make mistakes and get into an accident when distracted. It could be thinking about something else, talking over the phone or talking with someone in the car. Likewise, we get absorbed into so many things that we become oblivious of our goal and important things in life. Mobile phone has become the biggest distraction in our life now. In one of my earlier posts, I made a suggestion: create mobile switch off hours. We need to create free mental space for ourselves in order to think, prioritize and act.

Take decisions which are important: We don’t need to just take decisions, we need to take important decisions. Important decisions are the decisions that are linked to our goals, relationships and health. In most cases, we seem to neglect one over the other. Think which of these you have been neglecting. It may well turn out to be the most important one in your life.

Develop ‘Just do it now’ attitude: Don’t think much. Life is short. Imagine if you had limited time to live what would you do. Go ahead and do it as you actually have limited time. This attitude is a good way to make decision making a habit.

Why did Jacinda Ardern wear a black headscarf?

March 29, 2019

15 March 2019: An insane terrorist attack in two mosques left 50 people dead and several others injured during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. As I write this post, cars are still parked outside the mosques where the dead had gone to pray. Who can console the families who lost their near and dear ones? We can only pray for them.

However, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand won everyone’s hearts the way she responded to the situation. In her actions, there are five lessons for leaders from around the world:

Communicate clearly: Jacinda’s communication was clear. She described the atrocity as a terrorist attack. It is important not to beat around the bush and call it what it was.

Show that you care: Jacinda demonstrated a genuine concern. She symbolized her country’s values of peace and inclusiveness. She hugged family members of victims the way a family member would hug. The following Friday, the national flag was seen at half-mast near the mosques; a two-minute silence was observed; and the Islamic call of prayer was broadcast on national TV and radio. There was no politics there, no photo opportunities. The pain on her face was there for all to see.

Take action: Jacinda wasted no time in taking action and banning military style semi-automatic weapons. She intends to put in place an overhaul of gun laws by the 11 April.

Stop the hatred: The world was shocked as the attack got live streamed on the Facebook and other platforms. Jacinda didn’t let it pass. She has decided to work with other countries on holding social media companies accountable for letting this happen. Several companies withdrew their advertisements from social media platforms.

Demonstrate solidarity: The best expression of solidarity is in actions. Jacinda wore a black headscarf. Women across New Zealand, including those in the police force, wore headscarves in a show of support for the Muslim community. “I wore hijab because I felt it was the right thing to do. It gave people a sense of security. I am pleased I did that because it is my job to make people feel safe and secure,” said Jacinda Ardern in one of her recent interviews. I hope leaders from around the world will learn a lesson or two, including those who have unnecessarily banned the use of heardscarf in their countries or in the process of doing so.

The attacker wanted to divide but Jacinda managed to keep the nation united. And this is the greatest achievement of her leadership in a moment of crisis. Thank you, Jacinda! You are an inspiration.