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Failure: a “Fiendish Friend”


There is something truly amazing about the Chinese bamboo tree. Once you plant the bamboo seed, it remains for four long years dormant under the earth without any visible sign of growth. However, what happens in the fifth year is simply awesome. Once the bamboo sprig is over the surface of the earth, it reaches within five weeks a maximum height of ninety feet, gaining almost three feet growth a day. It is obvious that though there has been no visible sign of growth for four years, the bamboo has been growing by way of developing elaborative root system which enables it to attain rapid growth in the fifth year.

If you want to achieve long term success and everything you want in life, you need to have solid foundations such as character, values and attitudes which can happen only if you spend time in mental preparation. This is the only way you can meet the demands of pressure-cooker situations in life time and again. It is true that if we fail to plan ahead in life we cannot succeed. It is in this context that Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

As Robert Schuller puts it, the spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation which is time-consuming, boring and sometimes anxiety-inducing. Thus, in their pursuit for instant success, wealth and gratification many people do not spend quality time in preparation, resulting ultimately in their failure at the task at hand. The quality of time you spend in preparation will be manifested in the quality and effectiveness of your life. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Real success takes time, diligent preparation and painstaking effort.

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan became the first Bollywood personality to be honoured with the prestigious Chubb Fellowship at Yale University on 12 April 2012. In his speech, he spoke about “a fiendish friend called failure” and gave the following lessons:

Firstly: It’s not the absence of failure that makes you successful. It is your response to failure that actually helps to buffer the reverses that you experience. I personally have one response to failure, i.e., Pragmatism – a recognition and belief that if one approach does not work, then the other will or might.

Secondly: Failure also gives me an incentive to greater exertion and harder work which invariably leads to later success in most cases.

Thirdly: Repeated failures have taught me to stop pretending as if I am someone else. It has given me the clarity to stick to the things that really matter to me instead of distracting me from my chore.

It seems that failure tends to be more public than success. Or at least that is what we perceive. We fret about it, we try to avoid it, and we question ourselves every time we are confronted with it. But the simple truth is I no great success was ever achieved without failure.