George Washington once said: “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for it is better to be alone than be in bad company.”
Purandaradasa often considered the grandfather of south Indian classical music said in one of his compositions: “It is better to quarrel with a good person than to have a friendship with a bad person.”
Why do I quote this?
Isn’t it amazing that two great people, separated by centuries, in an age when communication between nations was absent, could espouse similar thoughts?
Think of the best classes that you have attended.
Think also of the worst classes that you have attended.
What differentiated the two?
Was it the quality of the teacher? Was it the ambiance of the classroom?
Or was it the subject being taught?
I would submit that it was not any of these, although they may have had an indirect contribution.
The single best predictor of the “best class” and the “worst class” is your attitude towards the subject, the teacher, the purpose, the classroom, and the state of mind with which you entered the classroom.
Attitude is your mind’s response to people, places, events, and things around you.
It is not what you think but how you think that is important.
Bill Gates reads a book every week.
Warren Buffet reads at least a couple of hundred pages every day.
Do they need to read so much?
Well, if you think that learning is a life-long process, that the more we learn, the more we respond to situations with courage and confidence, then reading has to be a life-long process.
If you think that learning is over once you have that coveted degree, your mind goes into deep freeze. Your ability to adapt and be resilient diminishes as you face new challenges.
Here is the reality.
Life is full of opportunities and threats; successes and failures; joyous days and sad days; triumphs and tribulations; no one can say with honesty that life has either been a smooth ride throughout or a tumble throughout.
Attitude is entirely a matter of personal choice.
You can choose to respond with anger or with a smile.
You can choose to be arrogant or humble.
You can choose to be helpful or be constantly seeking help.
You can choose to be frustrated or be tranquil.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to do any of these. It is how your mind responds that matters.
Attitude determines how high you can climb.
Linguistic experts propose that much of what we consider “language” is pre-programmed – it is a part of our genetic code.
Have you ever wondered how quickly children learn?
Have you counted the number of times a child falls before being able to walk? If a child can do it, why can’t we?
A considerable part of our “conversation” is with ourselves – our inner voice. What does it tell us?
Does it recall all the positive things that happen to us and lift us?
Or does it recall all the negative things and pull us down?
Don’t bother what those around you tell you. By all means, listen but develop the capacity to separate the wheat and the chaff.
Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disorder when he was barely twenty. Doctors said he would not live beyond twenty-five.
The greatest cosmologist of our time and one of the greatest minds defied the doctors. He passed away in March 2018, at age 76.
Till the very end, he challenged the status-quo. He asked questions that others dared not to ask. What can explain this amazing ability?
Sidney Farber had one of the most troublesome childhoods that one can imagine. Was he depressed? Did he start using substances to reduce his inner turmoil?
No. Farber went on to become one of the most dedicated researchers of the time and was the first oncologist to develop a cure for childhood leukemia. What can explain this amazing ability?
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, said in an interview last week that in the hot and humid weather of Chennai where he grew up, they did not have a refrigerator. Did he jump up and down demanding a refrigerator?
No. Sundar Pichai told the interviewer in a lighter vein that in contrast, his son was mining Ethereum and making money. Please don’t forget that Pichai went to IIT, Kharagpur, got his MS from Stanford, and his MBA from Wharton. What can explain the resilience of this technocrat?
Here are my suggestions to develop the all-important attitude:
- Affirm to yourself that you can achieve anything. Always think positive.
- Motivate by constantly challenging the status-quo. If you have only two flights of stairs to climb, do you walk up (great aerobic exercise) or do you wait for the elevator?
- Visualize of all the good things that have happened and also all the good things that will happen. Do you know what Nelson Mandela was constantly visualizing in prison for 27 years? The day he would be free.
- Learn to have a convergence of your thoughts, words, and deeds. Be careful of what you say. Watch Your Words.
- Exercise regularly – a healthy body and a healthy mind go together.
- Let your enthusiasm light up those around you.
- Relax. Smile. The world is not coming to an end anytime soon.
- Connect constantly with your inner voice. Practice meditation, yoga, Tai-Chi, whatever suits you. Be calm even when provoked.
- Repeat steps 1 – 8. Don’t stop.
“If you reach for the stars, you may not get there, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”