It's never that easy

11:46 AM

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a great collection of motivational speeches and music on iTunes, they are all from a website called Fearless Motivation.

Listening to these, I'll admit is getting super addictive, but what really surprised me about them is not necessarily that they motivate me more than I used to be motivated about my dreams and goals before. It's how much I agree and resonate with what is being said in these speeches.

Passion + Grit = Success

These motivation boosting speeches align perfectly with my absolute core belief about success and how I applied it to my life, for as long as I can remember. 

It's not about luck, being gifted, having it easy. Success, never comes from that, if you believe that, you are pretty much setting yourself up for average bordering on mediocrity. And yes I said it before, and I'll keep on saying it. 

Not a single successful person, in any field, any sphere or at any level just reached where they are without a lot of failure, sweat, a moment of sheer despair. 
The story of my life so far is paved with past failure, obstacles, and moments of me crying myself to sleep. But that is not what matters, what matters is that I never gave up on any of my goals. Once I reached a goal, I moved to the next one, I never quit at anything until it served my purpose to quit. 

One of my probably most obvious success, or at least the most public one is the one that took place 14 years ago when I hopped on a plane all the way to India to start a new chapter of my life with my now husband. 

Moving from Geneva Switzerland to you think it was easy? NOPE! Did you think I got lucky? If you think that you are deluded. 
What happened is that you just saw me make it work, and decided that no human being would make it work through fear, failure, and emotional meltdowns. Yet, this is exactly how it happened. 

I could have quit on that one a million and one times, I could have hopped on the first plane back to Geneva the moment things got a bit rough, and there were no shortage of rough patches. I could have given up on the potential I saw in this move the instant culture shock got me curled in a ball on my bed because I felt like I was an idiot at just about everything. The moment I cooked expensive pasta with a bottle of tomato sauce because I didn't know this was synonym to Ketchup in India. 
I could have ran away from all the staring, and standing out because I've never been really a fan of standing out in a crowd. 

Then added to it there were the cultural clashes within my relationship, the struggles, the tight spots, the fact we at one point were two really broke newbie at this adulting gig. 

I'm just not a quitter

I never have been, at least not the kind that quit something because it gets hard. I did quit certain things, like highschool one year short of graduation. But not because it got hard, but because putting myself through it did not serve my creative purpose. 
I also hate being a pawn in a game or a system that doesn't work for me. I am the type to go find another system that works for me. 

And this is the type of story you will hear from just about any person you perceive as successful. It's not that we are good at everything. We just focused our energy on the right thing. 

And while we are at it, there is no such thing as being gifted. I don't believe in this. I believe we have special affinities toward certain things, and that those affinities is what will drive us to try harder and go through failures along the path. 

I am a great at painting, and drawing and a lot of artsy crafty stuff. But guess what? I wasn't born great at it. 
I can guarantee you that I sucked at it at one point or another. I wasn't born with the ability to paint a masterpiece. My early childhood doodles were the same type of stick figures everybody else was doing. But I liked doodling, so with time spent on it, I got better and better. 

Greatness is learned

What people usually perceive as talent or a gift is nothing more but dedicated hard work that looks easy from the outside. 
I feel really sad inside when I hear someone tell me that they are not pursuing a dream or hobby saying "I don't have the talent for it".

It's an excuse, and it's usually that the person is afraid to fail before even trying. 

Take this blog for example.

When I started it, I didn't worry about not being read, or how sloppy my style was. And god knows my early posts sucked. Based on this talent theory, I should never have started blogging because I wasn't born with the inherent gift to blog. 
Silly me! Internet did not even exist when I was born! What was I thinking dedicating hours and hours to that? 

I also remember a time when every single person around me thought Internet was stupid, and a trend that would die. I was mocked for spending time online, then in message boards. Funny how my sticking with it got me where I am today. 

I sucked at English too, I wasn't born bilingual. I still suck at other languages. It's just that I saw the potential in learning English over other language for my own growth and stuck with it. While all my other classmates were content to just get the marks in English to get them through the year onto the next. I went the extra mile, I read books in English for fun, switched to the only radio channel in Geneva that spoke English, only went to movies shows that were in English (with subtitles), and I even switched to English to write in my diary. 
It's not that I was naturally good at English, it's just that I spent more time at it that others. I could have decided to give up on it the moment someone made fun of my accent, or did not understand what I said. I just didn't. 

Back to this blog. When the trend to post pictures started, I didn't know any better. My pictures sucked, I didn't even know about photography skills, I just naively thought posting a picture without editing it would work. If you dig down the archive you will find a lot of cringe worthy snaps. 

I could have decided it didn't matter, settled for mediocrity, but I didn't. I admired the bloggers who got amazing pictures on their blogs and decided to teach myself how to do it. 
The same way I taught myself basic coding when I needed it, or learned about SEO, Social media marketing. 

And soon my blog pictures went from this : 

To this : 
I didn't get to that point overnight, and let me tell you there were a LOT of trials and errors involved. 

Who I am today is the sum of my mistakes, and failures, and how I learned from them. 

Once upon a time, while I was in highschool, I had a head teacher that at the end of the first term announced to the class: 

"You are my most successful class ever" 

We all looked at him baffled, because if there was anything, we were the ONLY class in the school were every single 25 students had a report card that stated failure. None of us 25 students had the term marks to be qualified to pass to the next grade at the end of the year at this point. 

Seeing our blank stares, he explained that failure is catalyst for success but only if we learn from it. And by all failing that first term we all were faced with an opportunity to learn and do better, but the choice was up to us alone. 
We could quit, rot the rest of the year in mediocrity and re-do that grade next year. Or learn from what didn't work and what made us fail and improve on it. 

By the end of that academic year, we all got the marks to move on to the next grade. I was the odd one to ask to be held back and repeat that grade because I wanted to change my major, and felt my foundation wasn't solid enough to keep on building on it. 
That teacher was shocked, but honoured my request, he had to go to the board of direction to make it happen. But I got what I wanted : being held back to improve myself and get more time to figure out my life. 

My goal wasn't clear then, and I recognised it early enough to re-adjust the aim. I did that a lot over the years, I constantly learn from my mistakes, even today. I don't see failures as that. I just see them as a stepping stone to something else. 

And this is what a lot of people don't see about success. This is what prompt people to chalk another person's success as luck not realising that what they call luck is just about seizing the day, not fearing a challenge and turn everyday occurrences into an opportunity. 
It's not luck, it's hard work, calculated risks, and determination to get there no matter what. 

Don't be that person

So next time you find yourself dismissing a person's success as luck. Stop yourself from doing so. You are insulting that person's drive and effort, and insulting yourself. 
Next time you find yourself making excuses not to do something, ask yourself why and make the effort to just think about the possibility of things turning right, because even if you perceive it as it having a 90% chance of failure, there are still 10% chances it could long as you believe and work hard toward making it happen. 

And rest assured that nothing has ever been easy, not in this world. 

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  1. Anonymous9:10 AM

    Happy navratras to you and family. May goddess durga bless with more positivity. I have reflected upon your long journey and all the problems that you have encountered on the way, and have nothing but admiration for you. Your positive attitude almost infectitious.

    I can see a part of me in your introvert self and your school years and childhood experinces. Yes we all had those years of struggle.

    Talking about cultural experinces, i remember the time when you discovered that in India there someone called an "ironing man" who could iron your clothes for a fee. You approached him with such apprehension. That incident struck in my mind. I guess that was the nature of your self journey.


    1. Thank you, wishing you the same

      That's funny you mention the ironing man, because I did mention the whole hired help thing when I was giving that speech 2 weeks ago.

      This is one of those core fundamental cultural difference between India and most of Europe.
      Hired help for such small tasks is looked down upon in Switzerland. You are perceived as spoiled, or weak for outsourcing things like ironing or cleaning your home to someone else for a fee. I also stopped counting the number of time I got criticised for having a maid by someone in Europe or the US. Now I don't have a maid anymore and love it, but I still outsource ironing, and have a cook, because seriously, if one can afford it what's the harm, it frees my time for other stuff.

      It probably is because delegating those tiny "easy" tasks to someone is perceived as a loss of independence. Most of Europe has a DIY culture, probably because natural and manmade calamity through the ages have forced us to be as self reliant as possible to survive in a much different way than in India.

  2. Anonymous11:40 PM

    I rember that incident because it was one of those rare posts about culture shock. Your earlier posts are often observations about indian life but nothing overwhelming. Just a few strange things here and there. Nothing strictly about culture as such. You mentioned culture shock in a very matter of factly manner then. This was very different from other expat blogs where culture shock was often central to the narrative. It could have been a concious effort on your part to keep those experinces away from the blog, i don't know. No offence meant, i felt that reading your blog at that point of time a few years ago. I did not want to make any comparisions.


    1. I usually do not dwell on the negative so it's probably why my blog never really had a lot of culture shock accounts. It hit me just like it hit every expats, it's just that I didn't write about it much because it didn't feel productive.
      Beside I could have chosen to blog about it, but my blog would have been an endless rant about silly little things and writing it would not even really have felt therapeutic to me.
      When presented with a problem or obstacle my first instinct has always been to figure out how to overcome it rather than whine about it and blame the obstacle in front of me. I guess that says a lot about my personality huh?

  3. This is such a great post! People often don't see or choose to ignore the struggle and hustle behind someone's success.

    1. I think it is easier to tell oneself that others just got lucky at something than accept our own short comings, or as a way to avoid facing a fear.

  4. “It turns out that merely feeling good about yourself doesn’t really mean anything unless you have a good reason to feel good about yourself. It turns out that adversity and failure are actually useful and even necessary for developing strong-minded and successful adults. It turns out that teaching people to believe they’re exceptional and to feel good about themselves no matter what doesn’t lead to a population full of Bill Gates and Martin Luther Kings.”

    -Mark Manson,“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”

    1. Exactly! And we seriously are heading in a very dangerous direction teaching kids to always feel special for no reasons.
      I don't believe in praising kids for everything all the time for that reason. If the only thing a kid has been told is "You did great" they will never have an accurate scale to measure their progress against.

      Criticism isn't bad as long as it is constructive, yet people seem to no longer realise the benefit of it. The number of articles and blog posts and even parenting books I read about how it is unhealthy to tell a child they did something wrong or stupid, or how criticising lead to death of creativity is staggering.

      As a creative, I actually THRIVE on criticism, because it can help me create better, and in the case of less constructive one push me that much harder to prove that the person giving it to me was wrong.


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