“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul” – William E. Henley, or more recently, the movie Invictus. Nelson Mandela also often used this to keep his mind focused when he had mitigating circumstances all around him. What’s truly beautiful about this quote is that it teaches us that we’re not a function of our outside world or its results, but that you indeed control what happens next.
I recently watched Hasan Minhajs' Homecoming King and while it’s hilarious and informative about the life of immigrants wherever you are, I feel like the main message I took from it was his tenacity to follow his dreams. He talks about rejection and difficulties he’s had to endure. Now, for the best part we look at somebody who is famous and think about being in their shoes, but here’s an average person doing extraordinary things from the modesty and obscurity of suburban living in a country that is not his own. The fact that he is relatable makes you think about what else you could be doing, and more importantly – how do you take control of your life when perceptually, life is designed to make you fail.
Jack Ma is another stellar example, he failed from the offset, let it be primary school, applying to KFC, the police force and a host of other things and being rejected by each. He applied to Harvard 10 times and got rejected each time – he knew he would, but what the heck right? No, this is a calculated attempt by a shrewd individual, failure or not. Being a leader has intrinsic values, and his was that life is a roller-coaster and you need to be able to laugh at yourself, pick yourself up and keep moving. He never accepted mediocrity even though his track record proved it. He is the very definition of a leader, learning all the time and leveraging experiences to make himself better – I think he’s done well for himself, hasn’t he? So now, how do you even begin to think about applying that to your own life?
The first thing we need to understand is that we’re not going to be perfect and there will almost always be somebody better than us at what we’re good at. While we should always look to emulate ourselves, comparing yourself to the top of a building with no staircase or elevator is futile – not everybody has a helicopter, build your own stairs. You need to be in a position to laugh at your shortcomings, but at the back of your mind, learn why and evolve with it.
The more you learn about yourself, the better you become at building these proverbial steps. It’s ok to have failed attempts, but what you cannot condone is failure to learn or even worse, not trying at all.
I’ve discussed the psychological nature of confidence before and the value momentum and like-minded peer feedback, but what hasn’t really been touched upon is decision making and how your daily life is affected by a few basic principles that all add value to accomplishments which you may look upon as commonplace. Spoiler alert, they’re not as commonplace as you think, and you need to identify them!
According to the internet, we make approximately 35,000 decisions a day, and while most of these come down to the trivial such as changing lanes while driving, or even deciding to brush your teeth it’s still an astounding number. But how many real decisions do you have to make, and why are you scared of making them?
Now, I’m not a professional by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve learned to identify where I am a leader, where I am a follower and where I am a bystander, and up till recently, I hated the split – too often a passenger only observing my surroundings and condemning myself to a fate already sealed - I had to change. Whether it be personally, professionally or otherwise, every call you make has a place. Think of the chaos theory, a flutter of a butterfly’s wings in New Mexico can cause a hurricane in China – the almost inconsequential nature of the origin leaves ripples in its wake and in the same manner, everything you do and learn today makes a difference tomorrow.
I want you to start looking at your life more constructively and start visualizing the inherent values each action you do has. I’ll put myself out there a bit, at work I aspire to be a leader. Bestowed responsibility through projects and customer relations has really elevated my way of thinking. What I have started doing more frequently is helping the respective parties I interact with to understand the work that I do and essentially, make me obsolete. Now while that could infer you’re running out of things to do, you should really look at it as mastery of a topic to where you can do something else. I’ve rapidly evolved and my job description from when I started working is startlingly different to what I do now, and I’m ok with that. I can reaffirm my knowledge when needed but more importantly to me, I can elevate my responsibility. I have learned to be a listener, a leader, and an educator, and all from simply saying that Hydrochloric acid will kill you if you drink it – I know, it shocked me too.
Personally is where it gets a bit fuzzy, but it’s the same principal! While playing video games is nonsensical at best, it teaches me how to coordinate, strategize and optimally strike with minimal invasive force. I play a lot of sports and have learned, better than anywhere else, that being talented is ok for particular one-off situations, but like a jig-saw puzzle that fits in perfectly to complete the picture, I am incomplete without the sum of my surrounding parts and that my success is the teams’ success. I have also started spending a lot of time helping others navigate through new waters and although I might not have personally experienced it, I’m sure that there is something relatable – I’ve developed adaptability and the awareness to apply these situations through my own to better visualize a problem.
This last example is one of particular importance. The way you adapt and navigate life’s lemon distribution is imperative when looking to follow your dreams and inspire those around you. Relating things to what you know and understand helps you adjudicate better, whether it be for yourself or others. I used this technique while studying for the GMAT where I’d take each question and make it talk about football or think like Ali-G did when he wanted to control immigrants by classifying them as fit birds – you chuckle, but you know who passes and who doesn’t.
In summary, each and every single day, you make decisions that impact you and pave the way for your future successes. The ones who get left behind are the ones who not only fail to identify the inherent value of what they are doing but also applying them to the next situation. Be the master of your fate.
- It’s ok to fail a few times as long as you are always learning from your mistakes. You’d need to only worry if you make the same mistake twice, that’s inexcusable.
- Learn to laugh at yourself and your shortcomings, it helps deal with the failure from a psychological standpoint as well as helps put your perspective better to move forward. But always make sure you are evolving with them – don’t stagnate!
- If you feel yourself seeing life pass you by, identify key decisions you make regularly and try to optimize them to help move you forward.
- Don’t be afraid to organically evolve at the workplace by making the work you do obsolete, educating others reaffirms your knowledge and allows you to move onto bigger and greater things.
- Extract value from all the tasks you do, menial or necessary – taking the trash out at the same time every week or waking up every morning to go to they gym still shows as much discipline as the time you finished a project within an acceptable time-frame.
- Adapt and evolve. Be the jack of all trades while mastering several.
Although a little harder, try to always think of your long-term goals and break them down into smaller manageable targets and hit those as opposed to making decisions that help you in the now. The best example I can think is fitness, if you want to shed that extra fat for health reasons over the next 3 months, how much is that wonderful, aromatic, yummy, tantalizing chocolate you crave helping you right now? It’ll satiate you and make you feel better, but in the long run, is it benefitting you?
Ok, that’s a terrible example, screw the weight, take the chocolate!
(But you get the gist right?! – DON’T LET MY FAILURES AFFECT YOU – said the cookie monster nom nom)
Till next time y’all!
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