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You think you have the right attitude?

I write today to recapitulate on a series of events and stories. Read all of this.

A couple of weeks back I was taking a flight from Mumbai to Delhi. At the Jet Airways counter while I was waiting my turn, this unruly passenger in front of me was giving a hard time to the lady behind the counter. This for no real reason as such, he was just plain rude. Probably had a bad day and is now arguing about wanting 2A and not 3A. Doesn’t want to walk may be! Anyway my turn came after about five minutes. The lady looked exasperated – I was irritated myself. I asked her very enthusiastically and with a big smile to change the mood, “How are you today?”

Obviously someone who is in that mood is not wanting another ‘five minute’ passenger. She says with a stern voice, “Compared to WHAT?”

I don’t do this often, in fact not at all. I am quite uncomfortable talking to strangers but for some reason that day, I decided to say something and very passionately. I said to her, “Compared to the people who unlike you do not have a magnificent job with a great company, a company who doesn’t layoff people, living and born in India full of opportunity where you can enjoy almost anything that life has to offer, mostly freely, and a marvelous opportunity to excel in the job you have, serving people like right now and bringing a smile to their faces, a moment they like, a moment they like you for, a moment they like your company for…. You are young , you also enjoy great health the world awaits you - compared to people who have none of this - ‘how are you?”

She was a bit surprised and silent but as she was entering my ticket into the system, she said, “I am doing a whole lot better than I was one minute ago!”

Interestingly enough my ticket was upgraded to business class. I must say I really liked that a lot!

The point is this: You must change your attitude from something you got to do to something you get to do. When you realize that there are millions who don’t get to do a job, it’s much easier to understand.

When you change your attitude about a job, it makes a dramatic difference about your performance on it.

Coach John Wooden, a basketball coach for UCLA, the most successful basketball coach in history, never had a losing season in 30 years, Wooden said that there is no great fun derived from doing something that is easy. He says that failure is not fatal but failure to change might be. He says a player’s morals are just as important as his fitness. Effort is key but direction is paramount. It makes no sense to do a super job on what you should not be doing anyway.

Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things efficiently.

UCLA management school did a study of 1361 most successful vice-presidents in America. The most successful ones had been on the job for about fifteen years and they only ever held two jobs in lifetime. 87% were still married to their first wife. 89% had more than two children. 71% said integrity was their most important asset. AND 100% said hard-work was the key to their success.

Combine Coach Wooden and UCLA survey and you get this – Hard-work + Traditional Morals or Values is the answer..

I was very fortunate recently to have access to a research report dated 1986 about a million millionaires. It took them an average of 20-30 years to accumulate wealth. We are talking obviously about self made millionaires. They earned their money by supplying basic human needs. Less than one percent of millionaires, and read this carefully, earned their millions in music, radio, TV, movies, entertainment or athletics. All of these combines is less than 1%. The report concluded that odds are 1000 times higher that you will become a millionaire persisting with what you are currently doing, with a change in attitude, than by chasing something else. The report also concluded that almost all the million people had a common attribute. They were very clear, absolutely clear of their goals very early in life. I think we will all do our country a great favor, if we can help more and more youngsters figure, just figure their goals.

Something more interesting than this was that in 1987 names at random from this list of millionaires were read out to people. These people had an average income of 140 thousand USD and a net worth of half a million dollars excluding their house. These aspiring millionaires described the most successful people on Earth as unexciting, middle-aged, and over stressing on family values and ethics

From the list of millionaires, 83% were married. 96% acquired their millions through HARD WORK. 80% are politically conservative and for 85% the major objective was to provide for their families. Only 11% said their objective was owning an expensive car or an expensive house or flying first class or anything materialistic.

Not much excitement is it? But lots of happiness.

Good standard of living. But more importantly a great quality of life.

Persistent and disciplined hard work is the difference.

I’ll narrate a story about Thomas Edison. He is regarded as the greatest inventor in our history.

He has a long list of successful inventions. Some that changed the world forever. The story goes that a young reporter comes to meet him and says that Mr. Edison I understand that you have been working one experiment for over 10,000 times. How does it feel to have failed 10000 times?

The question was regarding Edison’s efforts to invent the incandescent light.

Edison looked at the young man and said, “You are just getting started in life and am going to tell you something once. Don’t ever forget it in life. I have not failed 10000 times. I have successfully found 10000 ways which will not work.”

It’s a difference in attitude.

One of the all time great basketball players in the NBA(I can’t remember the name … Jerry something) was not allowed to practice with his friends because he was so poor at it. He was not even allowed to play in school. He was so bad. So he used to stay back in school, wait for the evening and practice in the dark. He could not turn the lights on because they would throw him out. So he used to practice for hours in the dark just hitting the outline of the basket. He developed that touch for hitting the basket even in the dark. Jerry is the all time great shooting guard in the history of NBA.

Again the difference is attitude. Also it takes a lot of effort.

One of the most intriguing stories I ever heard is of Demosthenes. Demosthenes is recognized as one of the greatest orators in Greek history. He scaled to oratory heights never equaled before or after. What people came to realize much later was at the time he was brought up, there was a law in the family – that the inheritance left by the father, if it were challenged by anyone else in public debate – the winner gets the fortune too.

Demosthenes had a speech difficulty. He was very shy and hesitant as a result. He was embarrassed and humiliated in the debate. Not only did he lose his self respect, he also lost his family fortune. But he did not lose his will. He worked hard. He practiced. He practiced standing on the ocean front for hours and hours a day. He wanted to be louder and more heard than the waves.

History recalls Demosthenes as going on to become the greatest orator in the world at the time. History does not recall the name of the man who literally stole his fortune. They certainly keep Demosthenes alive since they last saw him in the year 384.

Nothing can replace persistence.

Callvin Coolidge, America’s 30thPresident said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

The opportunity for greatness doesn’t have to knock. It doesn’t have to appear. It is inside us. We have to take it out. It’s hard-work. There is a common saying ‘Strike when the Iron is hot’ – I got a very precious advice long back in a training program – Someone explained to me – Make the Iron hot and strike. Persistence pays off.

It’s not easy. No where has anyone, whether or not, he or she has tasted success or not, has claimed it to be easy. It’s hard-work and very difficult.

I remember long back from School, we had been taken to a cricket camp for three days. The camp was held just outside of the city. It was a secluded village area. We were mostly to stay in tents and just experience a rough life. The last day of this practice camp – we played cricket under a very hot ‘June’ Sun close to Delhi. After four hours when we were done, we were thirsty. Our coach, however, informed us that we were out of water. There was this old styled hand pump (remember those grey looking things connected to an underground water source?). So we and the coach walked and that was almost another kilometer. We reached the pump. So we started priming the pump. One after another, taking turns. The water wouldn’t appear. Not even a trickle. We kept at it. And at it. Kept pumping. One of my friends said, “this well must be really deep.” We might have to work a lot harder. The coach who was simply observing us said, “That’s great.

The deeper the well, the clearer, the cleaner, the better tasting and sweeter the water.”

That’s life isn’t it? Isn’t it true that the things that are harder to get are sweeter? Isn’t it true that the promotion that keeps eluding you, means the most to you? Isn’t it true that the subject that is most difficult to learn, is the most appreciated in another person? Isn’t it true that the girl or the guy that is most prized, most difficult one to get, is the one that we are most excited about?

We wanted water. After listening to the coach. We carried on. Pumping away at the pump. Sucking out of us the last bit of energy left. One after another we kept on and on. The question that was on everybody’s mind was that just how much work were we willing to put in to get water. So finally all of us threw our hands in the air and said, “There is no water down there. Lets go back.”

Then came the most exciting truth from my coach. He yelled at us and said, “Don’t stop. If you stop. The water goes all the way back down. And you will have start all over again.”

Do you get it? Do you know what am talking about?

There are magnificent lessons in this story.

In order to get the water out, you got to prime the pump. You are no one to decide for how long!

You can’t tell the stove to give you the heat first and you’ll put the wood later.

So many times the employee thinks – I’ll work harder and smarter and come on time after the employer gives me a raise.

So many times I saw in school, students pleading with teachers. I know I haven’t done well but if I take these remarks home I’ll be locked up. Please give me a good remark teacher and if you do, I promise you I’ll start putting in the hard work.

What we really keep saying is ‘Reward me and then I’ll perform’

But it doesn’t work that way. If it did the farmer would get fruit before the seeds. Without any hard work. It will be like – “God give me a really good crop and if you do, I promise, I’ll plant some seeds next year.”

That’s not the way it works. You got to prime the pump before you can have the water.

You have to put something in to get something out. You have to do a whole lot of pumping. And if you ever stop the pumping, what happens? - the water in there goes all the way back down.

We miss out on a good effort, plenty of times, because we don’t extend ourselves a little bit more. What am really saying is his, once you get started you got to keep pumping. You cannot give up because once the water starts to come, there is going to more than you may ever need or consume. There will be plenty. Then you only need very easy pressure for it to keep flowing.

A lot of times people will start a project and say to themselves, I’ll go easy and if it works fine, I’ll plunge in. You see they never plunge in because it doesn’t work like that. When you start you need to go on pumping and hard and fast. You can be easy only after water appears.

Have you ever noticed that when things are good they get better. When things are bad they get worse. It has nothing to do with what is going on outside. Its always about what is going on between your ears. And that is in your control!

It doesn’t matter whether you are Asian or American, black or white, educated or uneducated, male or female, extroverted or introverted, young or old, working at a small company or a large company or not working – the thing I admire about this is that as free people it is our right to work as hard as we wish and as enthusiastically as we wish to accomplish what we wish for.

And this is what achievement is all about.

Keep working. Keep persisting. Keep pumping.


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