AS I waited at the doctor's clinic last week, a framed cartoon on the wall caught my attention. It illustrated a patient telling his doctor, angrily: "Don't talk to me about improving my diet. I ate a carrot last week, and nothing happened!"
And that set me thinking. We are all like that patient, really. In an era of instant noodles and T20 cricket, we are all hungry for quick results. And when that's not forthcoming, we get bored. We give up. We change tracks. For true success in life, it's important to remember that we need to develop the habit of perseverance. Consistent behaviour has its rewards. Always.
You can't stop working hard, just because you didn't get promoted last year. You can't stop studying, just because it didn't help your grades in the last exam. Look around, and you will see several people who had great ideas, and tremendous ability - but somehow lost their way, because they did not stay the course. They stopped trying. They gave up, even before success had a chance to show up! Perseverance pays.
In the Bible there's a story about a farmer and his seeds. The farmer is ambitious, and he has excellent seeds. Now here's what happens when the farmer goes out to sow the seeds. As he scatters the seeds, at first some birds come and get them. What does the farmer do then? He doesn't go chasing the birds. He just continues to sow seeds. Some of the seeds fall on rocky land. They sprout into tiny saplings. But at the first strong wind, they bend over and die. The farmer would be justified in blaming his luck. "Why me? Why do I always get rocky land?" But the farmer would have none of that. He just continues regardless.
Some seeds find themselves trapped between weeds. As they try and grow, the weeds strangle them, and shut them out. Again, most farmers would probably complain about the unfairness of it all. This farmer doesn't. He just continues to sow the seeds. And of course, finally, some of those seeds fall on fertile soil, and the farmer is rewarded with an excellent crop. What happened to that farmer happens to all of us in our lives, all the time. We are like him - ambitious - and like him, we all have excellent seeds: we have the raw material needed to reap a fortune. But we dont necessarily behave like the farmer.
When the birds get the seeds - when we find someone else take undue advantage of our efforts or when something is amiss, we get distracted. We shift focus to the birds, and get busy chasing them away, rather than focus on our real task: sowing seeds. Farmers become bird-chasers! It's good to remember that in life, some seeds will fall on rocky land, or amidst weeds. Dont bother. That's the way it is. Such is life. Our task is to continue to sow. To persevere. If you do that, success is sure to come.
Sometimes, a non-seasonal flood wipes out an entire crop. Farmers are devastated. All their efforts come to naught. What do they do? Do they give up and say they will not sow any more seeds? No, they don't. They realise that to have any chance of reaping a harvest next year, they need to sow seeds. One more time. And never mind the flood. But in our lives, we are not quite like that. One failure and we look at doing something else. If we don't get the results, we stop trying. Good lesson to remember: Trying does not guarantee success. But not trying certainly ensures failure.
As a new year begins, here's wishing you the perseverance of the farmer. Keep trying. Keep sowing. You are bound to reap a wonderful harvest. In 2010. And beyond.
Prakash Iyer is MD, Kimberly-Clark, and executive coach.