I watched the Duck effortlessly sailing the Chattahoochee. It was gracefully moving up and down the river. The current of the stream didn’t seem to matter. The direction of the breeze didn’t seem to matter, either. After sometime, it headed back to the shore. As it came closer to the shallow waters, I noticed how fast those webbed feet were peddling back and forth.
The impression of effortless sailing vanished from my mind immediately.
It reminded me that our natural abilities give us an advantage to achieve our intentions, but the road to success is paved with hard work. The duck made it look easy on the surface, while it was anything but easy underneath.
Let me tell you about the story of Buddha. His story fascinates me. Buddha is a position that is achieved by oneself (also called the Enlightenment). The scriptures inform us that a child who is born to be the Buddha is never a random occurrence. Buddhism teaches re-birth. Therefore, the scriptures tell that his life was molded or prepared throughout the numerous re-incarnations, thus creating THE DESTINY in his final birth.
If you are destined for greatness, shouldn’t the path be easy? All that had occurred in his previous lives was a path set for him to become the Buddha. However, it was anything but easy.
In his final birth, during the first 29 years of his life, he splurged on luxury fit for a king. Of course, he is the son of a ruler. He didn’t know any different. Then he came across certain events that made him realize the impermanence of life. Determined to find a way to escape the impermanence, the answer, he leaves his luxuries behind. For the next 6 years, he sets out on a 250 mile journey on bare foot from high elevations in Nepal to the dense forests of neighboring India. All the while seeking the answer, or the Enlightenment.
As an ascetic, wearing raggedy clothes, homeless, he wanders. He meets with other ascetic teachers and learns from them as he journeys. The trek’s conditions are inhospitable and dreary. There are not enough superlatives to truly formulate his incomprehensible Journey. Just the thought of his journey is harsh enough to have created a tone of hopelessness. Finally, the quest for The Truth ends 6 years after he had left behind his luxuries, and at the age of 35 he reaches the Enlightenment, and becomes a Buddha.
Now, ponder for a moment. This is a man destined to be the Buddha, yet he had to struggle to reach his goal.
Discovering our gifts, or what we are meant to achieve in our lives, is innate for all beings. But all must put forth the effort. A more modern-day example from a Vince Lombardi quote comes to mind. “To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.”
What happens if we take a short cut to our destiny? Not go through the struggles? Perhaps couch surf our way to success!
Let me tell you the story of the hungry Caterpillar. No, not the story by Eric Carle.
A young girl notices a tiny Caterpillar on a branch, eating through every leaf it can wriggle onto. After fattening itself, the Caterpillar now hangs from the very branch it feasted off. It builds itself a cocoon. The days pass by. The girl watches patiently and one day she sees a tiny hole on the bottom with an ant size head trying to squeeze out. The struggle is painfully sluggish. As time passes by, nothing seems to be happening, except for the struggle to leave the cocoon. Our girl runs out of patience and, out of the kindness of her heart, grabs a knife. With surgical precision, she widens the incision on the cocoon. To the girl’s joy, the newly evolved being slithers lazily out of the large hole and drops to the dirt. The creature hardly looks like a butterfly. The girl awaits its flight with high anticipation, only to see this creature drag its bloated body and wings, incapable of flight, some inches across the dirt. And then it dies.
The girl is shaken and filled with utter sadness. She runs to her mother, wailing.
The mother hugs her close to her body. She appreciates her compassion and explains…"with each push out of the cocoon, the butterfly helps its body to squeeze out the excess water. With each thrust through the tiny hole, the color is allowed to spread out within the body. But when you enlarge the hole, the creature lost the struggle and the transformation to butterfly was incomplete. It lost the struggle that would have allowed it to fly as a most beautiful butterfly when it emerged".
We must all encounter and face struggle. It forms our ability, character and personality.
John Silber, past President of Boston University, said in a commencement address delivered at Boston University in 1996, “You can never succeed in realizing your highest dreams and ambitions if you do not strive for them with all the force of your personality.”
No one can guarantee your success. Only you can do that. It starts in your mind, and from there your thoughts take physical form through your actions. Believing in yourself is a necessity!
The journey to become a Buddha or a butterfly is about the innate character in YOU. You are Gifted. So, how do you know if you have that character in you? How do I know if I have that character within me?
I set out to build upon my character at the beginning of the 2018-2019 Toastmasters year. In July, I promised my club that I would earn and contribute 3 educational awards. It was a risky proposition that would test me. I would need 22 speeches. The time I would need for these speeches would have to come in addition to other Toastmasters responsibilities + time at work + time with family. Believe me, there were many days that I didn’t want to write or prepare speeches or even give a speech or attend any one of the other clubs. But I knew intuitively, had I used any excuse to skip, then that useless habit (excuse) would occur again. It is human nature. (In the end, 17 speeches were new and only 5 were repeats.) On this journey, I discovered the innate character that is within me that led to not only completing the three educational awards, but also achieving DTM before the end of the Toastmasters year in June. The Distinguished Toastmaster is an award which represents the highest level of educational achievement and leadership in Toastmasters International.
Saying that I am gifted would sound conceited. Rather, I wish to tell you that I found the gift within myself. I wanted to share my struggle and desire to attain a goal that I intended to achieve. I was successful because I put a strategy into place. The duck had a strategy. Buddha had a strategy. The caterpillar had a strategy.
Strategies are important. So are the goals and rubrics put into place to measure the outcome. They are important because they indicate how much progress you have made and how to attain your goals. You will find your character when you are on the journey to reach a milestone or a goal.
Take the first step to begin your journey to reach a milestone, a goal, or an accomplishment. Surround yourself with inspiration, ideals and principles inorder to eliminate your self-induced limits. It will force you to step out of your comfort zone. Then avail yourself with all the opportunities around you. Believe me, the character that will take you beyond who you think you are, is within you.
In this journey, the unravelling of your character is not sudden or automatic. But you will know when it has grown inside of you. Then with vigor you will continue to pursue your ambitions and take challenges head-on.
In this journey, it is natural that self-doubt will bubble in your mind. You will find yourself resisting your own ambition. You will begin to question your own motives and the vision. Why? Because no place is like home; your comfort zone.
It is okay if you need a little nudge in the beginning, middle or towards the end. Most of us will need it, when things get tough. When you feel you are treading water, an emotional nudge of inspiration is wonderful. It will remind you why you started this journey in the first place.
The experience of managing your encounters and challenges are what manifest as your Character. It is the test in the challenge that molds your Character, teaches the lesson and adds to your toolbox. The more aware you are, the more persistent you are, the sharper (or stronger) Your Characterwill be.
Remember this: You will never fulfill even a decimal of your potential by lounging in a safe and a comfortable zone.
So, go out and seek your ambitions and discover Your Character.