WANT to go somewhere but don’t know the way? Simple. Just punch in your destination on one of those websites that offer maps and – bingo – you will get directions on how to get there. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with your goals in life. Those websites don’t offer roadmaps to get to your goals!
Most young people have similar goals. They want to be loved, healthy, happy, and successful. And rich! And here’s the problem. As we set off on the journey towards our goals, two paths emerge ahead of us. One looks like a fast and easy road – full of short cuts. It’s the path of least resistance. And the other is a long hard road, often strewn with obstacles. And - no prizes for guessing – most of us take the easy way out!
And that becomes a habit. We look for short cuts all the time. We compromise. We don’t push ourselves to succeed; we merely set ourselves the objective of not failing. We don’t play to win. We just want to avoid losing.
And so we love tips like “If you study these three sections, you can get 35 marks”. Or ‘if you attend classes twice a week, you won’t be in the black list.” Unfortunately, this attitude pervades our life and becomes a habit. We stop striving for the greatness that we are all capable of. “Chalta Hai” becomes our defining motto. And as someone rightly said, ‘Good is the enemy of Great’.
There once lived a sculptor in a small town. He was working on a huge idol of a Goddess that he was making for the local temple, when a young man walked into his workshop. As the young man marveled at the idol, he suddenly noticed another idol, almost identical, lying on the ground. “Do you need two of these?” he asked. “No,” came the reply. “We only need one. But the first one got damaged in the finishing stages. Hence I am doing it again.”
The young man looked closely at the idol on the ground. It looked perfect. He could not see any signs of damage. “Where is the flaw?” he asked. “Look carefully,” said the sculptor, “and you will notice a scratch under the left eye.” “Wait a minute!” said the young man. “Where will this idol be installed?” T
he sculptor explained that it would be on a platform fifteen feet high inside the temple. And the young man quickly retorted, “At that distance, who will know there is a scratch beneath the eye?” The sculptor smiled and said, “I will.”
Now that’s a good reminder of what excellence is all about. It comes from inside, not from outside. And it’s an attitude. One we would all do well to inculcate.
Commit to doing your best at all times. Don’t compromise, ever. Whatever you do, give off hundred percent. Aim to be the best at whatever you do. And do that not because someone else tells you to do it – but because YOU want to.
And make sure you always, always do the right thing. Don’t tell yourself it’s okay, no one will notice. Remember, someone is watching all the time. And that someone is you. Your character is defined not by how you behave when you know others are watching – but by what you do when no one is looking.
If you create an idol with a scratch and think no one will notice, you will soon find another scratch appearing in your work and then another. And you will spend a lot of time and effort hiding those scratches, covering up, hoping no one notices. And instead of becoming a master sculptor, you become a patch-up artist. And your life – instead of becoming a masterpiece – becomes just another flawed piece of work. And in either case, what makes the difference is not the skill. It’s always your attitude.
Get the sculptor’s attitude. Commit to excellence. And make your life a masterpiece.
Prakash Iyer is MD, Kimberly-Clark and Executive Coach.