At a conference recently I happened to run into a guy who was a batch mate at college. After the mutual pleasantries we started discussing our respective career’s as two guys who meet after a long time are apt to do. He was born as one of the golden spoon types, his parents and assorted relatives all in the same profession and as soon as he finished college, his job was waiting for him on a platter, managing director of their own hospital chain, where he has nothing else to do, except dress up in a suit each morning and turn up at their hospital to act the big shot- owners son and managing director. But poor independent me had to make my own way up in life. And poor confused me spent some time wandering around little known paths, exploring them, gaining life experiences and what not and hence I am a little ways back in the straight road to professional achievement. Not that I minded till now. For I never gave much credence to the “professional success (and its associated financial success) is the only path to happiness” credo which so many of my friends and colleagues swear by, to the detriment of every other aspect of their lives. I have followed my own passions, seen a bit of the world and other professions too, and if anything, all that wandering about has made me street sharp and capable of thinking on my feet. As Tolkien says in LOTR (my favorite quotation) “All those who wander are not lost” for some may indeed choose to wander, to explore, to learn and gain wisdom. But more about this later. Let’s go on to what I intend to say in this post.
I am sure everyone knows this Hollywood actor called Sylvester Stallone, who makes these awful movies (he is an awful actor, for god’s sake) where a guy with not much in the way of talent keeps fighting these boxing matches and keeps winning because he refuses to give up. Even when he is getting the pulped beat out of him he refuses to give up and grinning lopsidedly gets back up, to be beaten down again. And again. Till the opponent finally gives up exhausted and throws in his towel. These movies are called Rocky 1,2,3 etc- see them if you don’t believe me. So what do you think Stallone’s success is due to? His talent at taking enormous punishment without whimpering or his talent in hanging in there and not letting go despite all the odds against him?
The reason I am referring to those movies is that I am in some little way like the character Stallone showcases in those films. I might get beaten to a pulp, but I will still hang in there, by my fingertips sometimes, right over a dizzy precipice, but I’ll never let go. I can’t let go. I am kind of stupid in that way. I hang on to things long after a lot of people, you know the real intelligent people? Would give up, throw in the towel and just go home. I just don’t give up- I prefer to keep hanging, pain shooting up my arms, bloody fingers and all rather than do the sensible thing and give up. And it’s not like I am trying to achieve some kind of glorious goal in life, I don’t even hang on to win, I hang on not to lose. I hang on to finish, not for any prizes or recognition or praise coming my way. Not even appreciation. For who would be there at the end of the marathon line, an hour after all the lead runners have crossed the line and gone home, to welcome the stragglers dragging their legs over the finish line. No one. But still I do it. I put one foot in front of the other to drag myself to finish. The reason could be that like an idiot, I don’t know just when to quit. When I hang on to complete it, it’s just to say to myself “I did it, I hung on and didn’t give up” and not for anyone else. In fact if I actually won something, I would have absolutely no idea what to do after, for I don’t think of the winning part, just the hanging on part. And sometimes I keep hanging on, way past the stage I remember why I am even hanging on. But still I won’t let go.
So if you are like all the other normal people and being a well wisher of mine, you say to me with concern “let go” and let’s say I did. What would happen? “They” would win of course. And if you are wondering who the “They” are in my life, they are the same “they” in your life. In everyone’s lives. The naysayers, the doom predictors, the put-downers, the discourager’s, the negative spewers and the Cassandras who cry to all of us constantly in our ears, to give up, go home and take some rest, for you can never win. The people who think and say that all life is meaningless and pointless and the struggle is not worth it, so why do you even bother hanging on? Give up, give up, they whisper constantly in the ear. They will tell you, that you will never amount to much, if you were going to be successful, you should have been successful when you were much younger, or at least by now and if you aren’t by now, then you aren’t much good at all. And if you were any good at what you do, you would be better paid at what you do, be more of a success financially and if you are not, then that shows, for the market is never wrong and things like that, they keep whispering in your ear. All those collective “they” in all our lives is who I talk about. Don’t you recognize anyone from your own life?
I don’t know if my stubbornness is my response to them and their constant put downs or maybe I was just born that way, because honestly I prefer to hang on rather than quit halfway. I am not be winning, but neither are they. And I am fine with the stalemate. I am fine in hanging on there, hoping for a turnaround, believing that every moment will be the moment my fingers finally get the strength to boost me up that overhang and once past that, I will go on to conquer this particular summit. And once I am there at the top of the peak, looking down at the world under my feet, I will probably raise a toast to those naysayers who helped me hang on, by constantly saying “no you can’t” in my ears. They deserve the dedication, for they never give up, but constantly keep motivating us, pushing us past the point where we would automatically give up if not for them and their discouragement. So here’s a cheer to all the negative people- you complete me (to borrow Tom Cruise’s dialogue from Jerry Maguire).
And hell, I may be slow, I may be late, I might get there long after you all got there, but I will get there, one day, at my own pace, in my own way and having done it once the hard way, I will know how to do it again and again. For the one who wins is often the one who hangs in there the longest, don’t you agree?