One of my very good trainer friends* once shared his very inspiring life story to me. He has seen a lot of ups and downs in his life and each time he has tide over them and has been successful in his life to date, both professionally and more importantly in his personal life as well.
His struggle started when he was just 16 years old when his father passed away in 1977. He had no time to express grief. Apart from going to college, he had to start working in a transport company to support his family and also for his own education. He worked in that company from 1978-83. Being passionate about meeting and connecting with lots of people, very soon got himself self-employed with India’s largest NBFC (Peerless) in 1983. He was looking to settle down in life and even bought his first car in 1992, a Maruti 800. He worked there for about twelve years but unfortunately, the problems started in the company due to government policy changes, and he had to leave this assignment. He was now unemployed.
In the meanwhile, just before the problems started in his career, he got married in 1995, an arranged match. Now with a family to support and all of sudden no income, he was forced to sell his car. That was the time when one of his earlier senior colleagues and friend helped him to a pharma distribution agency in Dombivali. During those days he used to sell pharma products from shop-shop on a bicycle, to make his end’s meet. As everything seemed to be going smooth, tragedy struck upon him once again. He realized that his in-laws had concealed some things about his wife’s mental health before the marriage. But he decided to carry on with her and like any dutiful husband, he started medical treatment for her with a psychiatrist, in a hope that one day everything will be fine one day. In 1996 during all the turmoil he was going through, he was blessed with his bounty of joy- twin daughters. However, to his dismay, our friend found that his wife was totally uninterested in her daughters. Now, the new challenge with him was who will take care of these kids (those too young girls) apart from his very less income. He used to get anxious to have left them and had to make rounds to home during the day to check if both were safe. Somehow, he dragged it along for three long years but found it difficult to continue in this manner. He had to leave his job rendering him unemployed once again.
He was finding it very tough in his marriage, as he would be continuously worried about his twin’s safety as he would leave them with their unpredictable and violent mother. She was not interested in taking care of her twins because of her mental health and finally, in 2001 they both got divorced. Thankfully, he had got the possession of his twin daughters from the court.
This was a real tough time for our friend. A failed marriage, unemployment, and the responsibility of bringing up two young daughters aged just around 5 years, he was mentally, physically, and emotionally devastated. He was also under tremendous pressure to run the house with very less income and just an aging mother for moral support.
He then started network marketing as it gave him the flexibility of working hours and was also able to be with his kids, although the income was very less. He was finding it very difficult to continue and bring up his kids as a single male parent. He had no other option to sell his flat and shift to a rented one. In the meantime, the daughters were growing. He gave them education to the best of his capacity. Daughters, too are very understanding of their dad’s plight. They were seeing their dad slog for them and they were showing maturity which was much more for their age. They never asked for anything and were very happy with whatever their dad gave them. He continued this way till 2005 when ultimately, he got a settled job in a well-known life Insurance company. Although he was beyond the age of recruitment as per the company policies, he impressed the management by his never-say-die attitude, patience and perseverance, some of the qualities required for a successful salesperson, and seeing his past experience and excellent past record in Peerless, the company tweaked their rules and he bagged the job. He continued working there till 2017, with his daughters now graduated and looking for further studies.
But again, struggle and our friend going hand in hand. While he was an ace performer in his company, most of the old people were replaced with new ones and corporate politics was at its peak. He was a victim of these politics. Some bosses in the new management wanted their own people to be inducted, and he was transferred to Cuttack. Again, it was just not possible for him to leave his daughters alone in Mumbai as they were still in the college nor it was possible for him to take them to Cuttack, a totally unknown location. Nor he could have kept them in the hostel. But he had the courage and the conviction in self and anyway, with only two years left for retirement, he decided to leave this company to pursue his passion of training which he had to keep in the back burner for over two decades, for the sake of his daughters. He completed the ‘train the trainer’ advanced diploma in Dec-2017 and has now made a niche for himself as ‘Law of Attraction’ trainer and a life coach.
When I heard his story, three very prominent qualities I saw in him apart from, his ability to bounce back ‘n’ number of times in life, were his will-power (never-say-die attitude), super confidence in self and 100% faith in the almighty. He is a regular reader and follower of the ‘Bhagwat-Geeta’ and tries to follow its principles in his day to day life. (*Our friend’s name is Milind Pai)
Another real-life story is of a joint family which I have been a very close witness of. A family that had a man with his two grown-up sons, married, having kids, and earning enough to keep their respective families quite happy. They all stayed together in a small village. The elder son runs an automobile parts shop and the younger son was a doctor and had his clinic on the same premises as the automobile shop. The father was head of the family and would assist the elder son in his automobile parts business. All three of them would leave the house together in the morning and came back together in the evening and all would happily have dinner together along with the kids. A perfect picture for the storyline of a Hindi feature film. But destiny had different plans.
Although they all stayed together, disaster struck this family in terms of safety and security to their business and hence the lives of their families. For no fault of theirs, they were forced to take a decision to relocate from the village overnight to another nearby city, leaving behind their nicely built big bungalow, the property where they had their businesses and also some of their relatives and friends. For some time the head of the family was totally devastated (and ultimately died of a heart attack after a few days of relocation), as his two sons were picking up the pieces to start all over again from the scratch. The elder brother started a small shop of only two-wheeler auto parts and the younger one had to start his clinic about 30kms away from the city in another small village.
Both the brothers worked hard and within a span of about two years, the elder brother was able to open a big showroom for a big automobile company and the younger brother was referred to by other doctors for their patients which they were not able to treat. The life was on track once again as the two brothers bounced back and how…. Soon as their children grew up, and they have joined in their family business and now scaling new heights every year.
Many times, we may take inspiration from our own self or from the real-life stories of our very close friends, in addition to the stories of the famous and celebrities. Most of us will have our own experiences to share and to look back to when we are pushed against the wall. We can help others from our experiences and others too can learn from the mistakes we committed or the knowledge and the wisdom we applied to tide over the difficult times to return victorious.
The figure below shows that in each of the resilience stories, there are some common factors/qualities which help these real-life heroes to bounce back in life:
- Be realistic: bad times, calamities, catastrophes, and natural disasters never give you the notice to prepare for them and you need struggle, overcome obstacles and once again get the life train back on track.
However, if you have a chance as in day to day life to set your goals, objectives, and life targets, one needs to be more realistic rather than set very aggressive or in corporate terms which are called BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals). It sounds good to say that we have our BHAGs, but more often than not these goals fail. Hence, even the top management gurus have been advising the corporates to have goals that should not be too easy to achieve, however, must be achievable with some hard work and teamwork. As a leader, you need to have the capacity to assess the ground realities, understand the immediate situation, and be practical.
Either in professional or personal life, you are the driver of your vehicle called life. The key to success or at least to reduce the possibility of failure is to keep aiming for small targets so that the possibility of achieving them is far more and the possibility of failure is that much less. Each small win will take you closer to the big goal.
Also, the time frame for achieving these goals is critical. Keeping it too long for say 10-12 years may result in losing focus and breed complacency. Keeping targets with a too short time period can overwhelm the team and demotivate them as they are sure that they will not achieve them, so why even try?
2. Self-esteem: it is the measure of how you think and feel about yourself, your abilities in relation to the situations that will determine how much you like yourself. As the expert on self-esteem, Dr. Nathaneil Brandon put it “it is your reputation with yourself.” Self-esteem is all about how much you consider yourself to be valuable and worthy of.
After a setback, if a person thinks that, he was not worthy enough to try and reach out for that goal, means that his self-esteem is low and gives up on his goals easily whereas, a person with higher self-esteem uses his failures as learning lessons and responds to challenges as opportunities with more determination and the need to be successful.
One of the keys to improving your self-esteem is the way to talk to yourself. Positive affirmations such as “I accept myself”, “I accept myself” or “I like myself “, “I like myself” 100s of times in the day goes a long way in building your self-esteem. As you feed your subconscious mind repeatedly with these positive affirmations, it accepts this message of self-liking, and your self-esteem increases with your ability and the fire to perform against all odds. You tend not to give up very easily with increasing resoluteness and tenacity.
3. Self-confidence: This can be said as the twin brother of self-esteem but slightly different. While self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, confidence is the conviction and a strong belief on capabilities of self and trusting your own mental, physical, and emotional strength to achieve anything you desire or put your hand at, and overcoming all the obstacles in the path of your objectives and goals, to return victorious.
How much you achieve or have the will power to continue against all odds, will strongly depend on the level of your self-confidence. When you have enough self- confidence you will try and achieve almost anything you dreamt.
Points to remember with regards to self-confidence which will come handy in your times of crises helping you to fight against problems and hurdles in life:
a. First of all, remind yourself that its only human to fail and only those fail, who try something big in life. You may fail many times in life, each time have the resolve to stand up and start all over again towards your goals. The key here is to learn from your mistakes and not repeating the same mistakes again.
As mentioned in point no.1 “Be realistic” confidence-building is a process and it comes with small wins. Break each big project into small milestones and work towards achieving them step by step, with each small step moving you closer to the big goal. In this way, you will not be getting bogged down by big figures and they won’t demotivate and depress you. Even if you fail in getting those small milestones, it won’t be treated as a complete debacle or fiasco.
b. Work as a team: On a professional level, as a leader, one should build confidence in others and create an environment of mutual trust and faith in which each team member feels valued, all working as a cohesive unit. Boost the confidence of others by, i) recognizing and making the team members understand their strengths, and ii) through mentoring and training them. As a leader, try to be a giver rather than just being a receiver, which will increase self-esteem and happiness among the team. As you support your team members, they will also support you in your times of crisis, be it professionally or personally.
c. Anticipate setbacks: confidence is not about being in the state of denial that in the end, everything will be alright. If you can identify possible vulnerable points along the journey towards your goals, you can be better prepared to handle failures. Have plan “B” (and even plan “C” if the project is too critical, stakes involved are too high, timelines are very strict, etc.) in place for every important stage or the milestone of the project/ your professional/personal goal and keep the dependency on the most critical point to a minimum.
As a simple example say, you want to move into a 2BHK apartment from a 1BHK for which you have taken a hefty loan which is in addition to your existing car loan. Your son is in the 12th standard and aspiring to get admission to an esteemed University to pursue computer engineering and his results are just around the corner. Now, just imagine you lose your job. Your wife is also not working. Have you done all your financial calculations considering this possibility? How long can you sustain this situation? Do you have enough savings to take care of your son’s first year engineering admission fees?
4. Grit: There will always be a temptation to give up after a major set-back or obstacles faced towards your achievement of goals. That’s the point where you will require all the inspiration and the motivation to just carry on how so ever, the path may be full of pebbles, thorns, and the how so ever the journey is full of adversities. When caught in such a situation, I always remember Rahul Dravid. Not for nothing he is called the “The Wall” of Indian batting, as he would just dig in and camp on the pitch for hours together and wear out the opposition away by his grit, resoluteness, determination and never say die attitude. Not surprising that he has faced the highest number of balls (more than 31500) in test matches for his more than 13000 test runs. He always put a very high price tag on his wicket, making it very precious. The bowlers over the world very rarely got him very cheaply. They literally had to earn his wicket with a lot of hard work.
Similarly, we too are precious and if we can put a very high price tag on ourselves, the negativities, laziness, boredom, self-doubt, fears about failures/future and attitude of giving up will run away from us if we are gritty enough towards our goals or facing obstacles or even adversaries in life.
So, what exactly is grit? It is the ability to show a lot of courage, patience, hard work, and perseverance to continue your lives struggle in pursuit of your goals or even when challenged with difficult/shocking situations in life and that’s when your true character will be tested. (I have written a detailed blog on grit and resilience https://www.shrikantmambike.com/emotional-intelligence-resilience-and-grit/)
How can you be grittier? As Angela Duckworth put it in her book “GRIT” There are two ways you can do it: “The inside out” and “from the outside in”. In the former, you cultivate your interests, passions, goals, and have a self-disciplined approach towards achieving them. You make yourself strong enough to handle most adversaries in life yourself, with some help from people close to you. However, only you have to be the captain of your ship. It always helps if you are innately serious and passionate about your goals and the purpose of your life right from your childhood. You tend to be more mentally stronger when faced with lives’ problems. You build yourself to be hopeful when everything seems to be lost in life.
Now, in the latter i.e. “from the outside in” approach, you require an external push, a mentor, a coach, parents, guardian, or even a counselor to develop your grit.
So, in either case, it really helps to face bigger challenges of life if you are brought up in a grittier environment either through self-efforts and hard work or by the push from outside.
Many times, you may not have the option (like our friend on the story above), but to grind yourself into resilience and see through the situation for the sake of our loved ones. However, this quality is not available in everybody and one has to work hard to develop it. Just to cite an example, in our area, there was a doctor couple running a small hospital and doing quite well. All of sudden there was shocking news that the man first killed his wife, then his children, and finally committed suicide. On deeper investigation it was revealed that he had taken a lot of loans and was not able to pay back and the lenders were making his life miserable, so he found this ‘easy’ way out to get rid of all his problems. The same is the story of Café Coffee Day owner. These people are basically weak at heart and perhaps no internal hope and external counseling, guidance, and support to help them, they decide to take the extreme step.
5. Patience and perseverance: being in industrial and project’s sales for a long time these two qualities got imbibed in me, as the sales cycle would go on for months to close a big order. The same is the case with life when we are faced with difficulties and hurdles. While you go on struggling sometimes for survival for self and for your loved ones, or towards your life’s goals, you may have no other option but to remain patient, show your resolve, grit, and tenacity as you keep your struggle ON to get your life back on track or to get into the next step towards your goals. As you are working hard, you may still have to wait for success. That is the time when your patience and maturity will be tested.
Perseverance is similar to having the grit. Only that, being gritty is a general quality towards imbibing it into our system and working towards achieving your goals, while perseverance is something related to a particular project or a task to be completed. It is being after some task that you want to complete and not having peace until it is completed. Perseverance is continuous action with a lot of self-discipline towards attaining your objective. When you practice perseverance at its peak, your self-esteem, character, self-discipline, personal pride and self-respect will automatically increase and you are on the path of resurrection or inching closer to your goals day by day. You just need to have a firm belief in yourself that if you persevere long and hard enough, you can tide over any situation and win or achieve your planned goals.
6. Courage: Courage is a very positive emotion and the opposite of fear. It may be defined as facing a threatening, or potentially fearful situation, pain, or grief with a lot of strength and boldness. It is also showing and having the confidence to face any adversarial situation with a lot of bravery. Showing courage many times can change the course of many a life.
Following are some of the methods which can be used to increase your courage:
a. When faced with a disaster or a difficult situation in life where the requirement is to show a lot of boldness, yet you get fearful, ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen? will I or any of my loved ones die? Will I face any worst situation than I am in right now? If the answer to the above questions is NO, (which will be the case most times) then go for it. As Brian Tracy says in his book ‘The Power of Self-Confidence’- Each act of boldness and courage will not only build additional courage and boldness, but it also builds your self-confidence readying you to take on further reversals of life that you may have to face.
b. The more often you dare to go forward to do things which you are fearful of doing, even in face of uncertainty and when the chips are down, the more likely courageous behavior becomes your habit. The key here is to come out of your comfort zone and resist the temptation of going easy on yourself.
c. If you can constantly have those thoughts of boldness and courage, slowly but surely you become bolder and more courageous. The more you implant these thoughts in your subconscious mind, it will become a part of your character and personality.
7. Problem-solving: One of the best problem solvers and managers who may not have taken any formal education (leave alone an MBA degree), is your mother. My boss used to always give her example if I failed short of achieving my sales target. Have you ever seen a mother failing to cook food for her children and the household? She will make all the arrangements to get the raw materials, vegetables, if required go herself to the market, and see to it that we would get our breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Worst case, she will make something out of whatever raw material is available, but will never starve anyone of us. Irrespective of what she is going through, howsoever big the problem she is facing in life, she’s is fighting her own battle daily, most times- alone.
Similarly, we all need to solve our own problems when pushed against the walls. Some of the examples of problems most of us may face after we experience a set-back or find ourselves in difficult circumstances are the following:
- Loss of a job and suddenly no income. EMIs, family expenses, children’s school fees don’t stop, they have to be fulfilled.
- The sole breadwinner for the family passes away.
- The sudden death of a very close family member
- Hugh financial loss in business/someone cheats you heavily on money.
- Divorce. Having to take care of your children as a single parent and a combination of any of the above reasons. (as in the case of our friend’s story above)
- Sudden changes in the organization, takeovers/ mergers/transfers, etc.
While most of us ultimately find our way with the help of our own people, friends, or purely on our own efforts, grit, courage and resilience, the following steps might help in solving problems:
a. Make a list of all the problems as a fallout of any calamity in the family/at the workplace.
b. Prioritize the problems.
c. Think as many alternative solutions as possible for the problem. Also, try to see things from other people’s perspectives and how they would have solved this problem?
d. While nobody can predict the accuracy of your choice to 100%, choose the option which seems best at that moment of time. Your choice has to be based on practical realities, the fair judgment of things, calculated risk, information available, etc. and not on emotions.
e. Now, implement your solution. It could be as simple as taking some tuitions, joining some temporary job, starting a small business which requires very little/no investment, could be anything. Don’t get bogged down with thoughts of “what if this happens?” Or “I should have instead done this”. Accept that you are no almighty or someone who can predict the future. You take decision based on the conditions, fair judgments, analysis, taking opinions of your near ones, seniors, mentors, etc. So, at that point in time, it is the correct decision. Give some time to yourself and your strategy to work. In the end, pat yourself for taking some decision rather than being in the state of indecision.
f. Continue with it, and maybe life itself unfolds and directs you in the near/distant future. In most cases, you will find that problems are getting solved as you get along with life and taking decisions.
8. Hope and optimism: yes, this world runs on hope and optimism and resilient people maintain positivity even when faced with adversity. They accept the fact that there will be difficulties in life, but they have a positive outlook on how things will ultimately shape up based on their own confidence, knowledge, efforts, skills, problem-solving abilities, and recalling how they tackled similar or even worse situations in the past. ( I had already written a detailed blog on hope and optimism https://www.shrikantmambike.com/emotional-intelligence-optimism-and-hope/)
Conclusion: It is good to look for inspirations from world leaders, historical personalities, the famous and the celebrities, from their struggles in life and how they won against all odds. However, we as common people can always derive that positivity, motivation, and inspiration from live examples of people very close to us in the society we live in. Examples of resolve, grit, courage, confidence, fearlessness, and resilience are ever-present around us. In fact, we can even look inside ourselves and own past experiences when we may have faced many difficult situations, obstacles, and setbacks that we overcame. We can always look into this bank to get the required inspiration to tide over any calamity and set-back in life.