Expressions of success

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Expressions of success

Monday, 27 May 2019 | Vinayshil Gautam

Accomplishment of a purpose will require being a light to oneself and that is as much a matter of personal growth as of external recognition

Everyone wants to be successful. Almost everyone has some faith or belief in symbols and his/her socialisation orients him/her to read the meaning under the symbols and thereby flag external indicators of success. In itself, success is often self-consuming and often cripples one if not destroy him/her by setting newer goal posts. Consider the current election results. Nearly 350 MPs from the projected ruling combine have not even formally entered the Lok Sabha portals and the race for the next indicator of success, ie making it to further prominence by getting into the ministerial position, has become a matter of speculation and conduct. The media has been talking about the possibility of the Prime Minister taking oath — alone — on the day the Cabinet is to be sworn and that other Ministers would be sworn in later. Success, but for how long and how much?

Put it simply: To a large extent, success is an act of choice, a frame of mind and a vantage point of perception. It’s often how one looks at a situation, interprets and internalises it. This is only part of the story. There are objective situations and externalities to it. Illustratively, if one doesn’t have adequate shelter or enough food to eat, then clearly one is in the grip of poverty, no matter how one defines it. Of the many definitions of poverty, perhaps the simplest one to understand is that it is an involuntary deprivation of the basic facilities and amenities of life, as accepted in the community where one is embedded.

Caution needs to be exercised here without being confused. Different communities have different perceptions of amenities and basics of life. For some, a common toilet maybe a way of life and it doesn’t occur to that person that personalised toilets are achievable. And even if that person sees it as achievable, it may not be an objective in his/her life to reach that level. Once this is established, the story of success intensifies and it is an escalating story. Like many human emotions — love, hate and irrationality — success is without boundaries. The more you succeed, the more you want. The more you want, the more you work for it. Getting there, and once having got there, one needs to learn how to pause or one starts resetting the goal post. There are two messages to be given. One is that success is a personalised experience. Second, success is embedded in a social framework of reference. If success walks on these two legs, both of them are important to understand. One is as successful as one believes one to be.

As an undergraduate student of a top-grade university in a B-grade city, this writer, having achieved some prominence in grades, was part of a group playing host to a Minister, who had flown in to the city on a Government aircraft. He was of the same State as where this university was and when the Minister was asked to tell more about himself, it looked strange to the writer that while the Minister was in his mid-50s, he remarked: “What more could I want from life? I have got enough. How much can the son of a peasant get? I am, after all, a peasant’s son.”

It struck the writer odd then, it strikes odd even now. The Minister’s framework of reference was a peasant (a kisan). The sense he conveyed was that in his scale of living and occupation, a peasant (kisan) was the bottom of the pyramid. Having become a Minister in the Central Government, he had not only changed professions, but arrived. Why the society should look upto a Minister is not difficult to guess, especially if it is resource scarce. This is the not the story the world over. Illustratively in Scandinavian countries, it will be difficult to make out on the streets, if somebody was a Minister or a mere peasant. Put simply, success appears not only in multiple shapes but also multiple sizes, colours and myriad manifestations.

The story rolls on. That there are social indicators of success has already been referred to above. This is a frame of reference, which cannot be wished away. The proposition is simple — success is an internal feeling of well-being, arising out of a conformity to a visualisation of a preferred state of being. It is also ensconced in a context of group, community and geographical habitat. In all cases, it is a consort of smugness, of achievement, so recognised by the individual and the community to which he/she affiliates.

Like all stories, there is more to come and the missing part of the narration above is that success always requires internal peace and external recognition. Success will require being a light to one self and that is as much a matter of personal growth as of external recognition.

(The writer is a well-known management consultant)

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