It did take a lot of courage to put myself out there and share my perseverance story earlier last week. How many times do we talk about our failures? They are hard to relive, they are dark times of sleepless nights and self-doubt, but more often than not they are also times that help us push beyond our boundaries and make us stronger.
In case you missed the post, here’s a small recap for you!
33 years ago, I was asked to rethink my decision of pursuing a Ph.D. in Marketing at The Wharton Business School.
Not because of my grades which were fine, but “bad attitude.” Well, I did wear my hair long, wore colorful tie-dyes and smoked, all of which were frowned upon in those haloed halls! I was a cheeky non-conformist!
And just like that arose the irrational fear of not being enough.
Now, had this happened today, it would be equally devastating but we at least have Quora or LinkedIn to affirm that we aren’t alone! However, back in the 80’s all I could do was spiral-downward at bullet speed into the self-doubt pit and live there if I wanted to.
What do I do now? Where do I go?
What was it all for? Is this the end of my “American Dream?”
But here’s the thing. YOU get to decide what happens to you, YOU get to create your destiny. If there was one thing I was certain of, it was that – No one should have the power to tell me what my story will look like. I get to decide when I leave and I wasn’t done yet.
No, I do not say it from a place of arrogance but that of grit and determination.
33 years later, today I am recognized amongst the top 1% cited marketing scholars globally by Stanford and among the top 50 cited marketing academics per Google Scholar.
When I reflect upon my journey today, I often find myself wondering – Had I not been put through the hardships that I was during my dissertation, would I strive to be the best possible version of myself? Would I push the envelope? Maybe, maybe not.
Here are 4 key life-lessons that I’d like you to take-away from my journey as you navigate yours. I’d like to leave you with the courage to share your story and inspire others to strive and persist.
1. View the situation through other’s eyes
The first step is going to be grueling but sometimes, you have to choose to take control of your situation, your future and decide to re-write your story. So pause, stop being harsh on yourself, forgive yourself for what happened and try to see the issue through “their eyes”. I learned that in a Ph.D. program, it wasn’t just about grades, demeanor and even appearances mattered. Being an outlier wasn’t going to make me any friends in that profession.
What is it that I did not succeed at?
Why did I not succeed?
What can I do better?
I particularly enjoyed Former US President Barack Obama’s address at the University of Chicago.
“Worry less about what you want to be and more about what you want to do” – Barack Obama
2. Stop catastrophizing the situation
Losing sleep over what has already happened does not solve the problem. A lot of successful people fail, even Steve Jobs did! Someday the dots connect.
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” – Jobs said in 2005.
Does that make me Steve, no; does that make you the next JK Rowling or Disney? No, it doesn’t, but neither does stewing over the situation. Sometimes you need to accept situations for the way they are. Instead, ask yourself –How am I going to solve it?
Focus on finding a solution with what you have instead of whining over what you don’t.
I was reminded about Karl Rahner, by an ex-student through her comment on the post
3. Give yourself the freedom to fail
Most of us beat ourselves up for every mistake we make and certainly over every failure we encounter.
Making mistakes, accepting them and looking for a solution helped me try new things, learn about and explore other avenues of impact in business and academia and fail forward.
4. Get out of your comfort zone.
Death puts a lot of things into perspective. Often, we do not try hard enough because we fear failure, we fear what society might think of us. Our decisions are often driven by our fear, ego and perception of the situation. However, if you let that go, if you had nothing to lose would you risk it all for that dream of yours? I gave up a prestigious job and a promising career in an MNC and came to “look for America” with one suitcase in hand. I had to learn to type, cook food and read incredibly dense academic papers all at the same time. Why am I doing this? I would shout out multiple times every day. And that quiet inner voice would pipe up, “No one said it would be easy.”
Taking risks and living life on my own terms has not been easy for me but today as I reflect upon my journey, here’s what I realize. Success isn’t tough, taking risks isn’t the hardest thing to do, being authentic to oneself is.
“There’s no such thing as failure – failure is just life trying to move us in another direction” – Oprah
So, as I leave you with this thought to ponder upon here’s what I need you to know or I hope you’ve already realized: You need not be a genius to succeed, you just need to be dogged and persist hard enough, show up every day and not give up. Life is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.
“DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE THE ROOM UNTIL YOU ARE KICKED OUT OF IT. “
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This fortnightly knowledge byte series is an effort to rekindle courage to take action, share experience, insights, and innovation available across the globe to give us the courage and accelerate change. For we can be the generation that passes on a future of hope, abundance, and tranquility to our children if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are courageous enough to be it!