The fact is everyone wants success. The problem is - just wanting (and not doing anything about it). It is human nature to expect things to fall into our laps.
From the time we came into existence, we have managed to get things done for us. Studies have shown that babies' cries evoke a natural reaction in many of us to rush to tend to them. This phenomenon assures the survival of our young, for we are born far too prematurely, as compared to other species, for us to fend for ourselves without the assistance of an adult.
Therefore, similarly, when we grow up it becomes a habit to expect things to be done for us. Dependent on one's nature and nurture, life's experiences and individual characteristics, there will always be a tendency to rely on others.
Just wanting success is very, very different from actually obtaining it. Merely wishing for success will not necessarily lead to it. Success does not come easy, but with numerous challenges and sacrifices. Sadly, most of us give up and fold at the first hurdle or the first sign of trouble.
The secret is to be focused and to never, ever give up.
When I was in my early 30s, I was involved in union matters and I was maligned. Despite being judged to be innocent - without a shred of evidence against my character - I paid a terrible price. I loved my father dearly. I saw him as a strong pillar of support and strength for the family. However, owing to the troubled circumstances, I was unable to be with him during his final hours, nor was I able to perform his last rites, as his first-born son.
I was fortunate that two people in higher office had referred me to a MINDEF holding company. After establishing my skill sets and general character, my bosses would send me around as a troubleshooter. Though things were beyond my scope, I learnt on the job. Often, I felt like a fish out of water.
However, I was thankful that I had a new lease of life, and I was determined not to waste it. I would seek good counsel and guidance from experts in the field. I would not stop till I was confident enough to connect the dots. My bosses continued to send me on these troubleshooting missions. I was also glad to be given the opportunity. I continued to equip myself with the skills and knowledge though the pay and recognition were stagnant.
After nine years and a glowing testimonial, I moved on and did not look back.
Through these experiences, I have found that there are five clear and common attributes to success, namely, sincerity, integrity, industry, courage and divinity. Divinity can vary in its meaning depending on the person: "God", "parental blessings", or some "mysterious force" that is beyond our general understanding. I believe that these attributes, coupled with positive energy or divinity, spur you on to overcome the many challenges. During the moments when you want to give up, these attributes push you forward to persevere. However, all these attributes will count for nothing, if we return to the state of merely wanting or expecting, without any effort.
I am in awe of the slogans of top footwear brands Nike and Adidas. I often recollect their catchphrases when I need to lift my morale. Adidas' slogan "Impossible Is Nothing", and Nike's 1988 slogan "Just Do It" still hold true for me.
As these slogans suggest, a major factor for success, or the hindrance to it, is very much what is in your mind. It is important not to give up. That's the difference between the winners and the losers - most give up at that hurdle and think that there's no way out. The winners, however, persevere and find ways to overcome these external circumstances.
At times like these it is best to go back to the drawing board and see how you can repackage yourself to fit the new changed environment. If we can't rebrand ourselves, then we will be left behind and will have only ourselves to blame for not being able to adapt to the new environment.
If we can take a step back, review, renew and realign ourselves successfully, then I believe nothing will stop us from achieving success.
So, stop simply wanting success, or expecting it, or only talking about it.
Instead, start doing something!
Dr R. Theyvendran is chairman
of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and secretary-general of the Management Development Institute of Singapore.
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