Thursday, May 30, 2013

Success or Failure: It’s a Relative Matter

We celebrated the Dean’s list ceremony at my university two weeks ago. When I was reading the list of successful students who were on that list, I was happy to see some “regular” names but I was even happier to see some new names on it. In particular I was thrilled to see the name of one of my advisees, “Elie C.,” who made it to the Dean’s list for the first time although he was close to being suspended from the university a couple of semesters ago.  Two years back, Elie came to my office asking for help because he had received some severe suspension warnings from the administration. I advised him to change his major and try to make a new start. I warned him at that moment and made it clear to him that this was his last chance. To my surprise and that of everyone else, not only did he manage to pass his exams but he passed them brilliantly!

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure”—Napoleon Hill

Another story on success and failure came to my mind when celebrating this event. I recalled an incident when I was about ten years old. At that age, I did extremely well at school. Although my parents were happy every time I brought my grade book home, my reward was simply some kisses with a couple of words of encouragement. On the other hand, I had a friend who was relatively less talented than me and who occasionally passed her exams. But every time she did not fail her semester, her parents threw her a big party to celebrate her “success. At that age, I was cynical of these parties and did not understand why my friend’s parents were so impressed by their daughter’s minimal success.

One day when I came home with my grade book, my mother was doing some ironing. I said, Mom, I came in first in my class.” She answered me back, “OK,” without even looking at me, and then continued her work. I got so upset at that moment and replied to her promptly, “Is that all you can say to me? Should I fail my exams first and then pass them so that you would be happy for me?” All I could think of at that time was the parties that my friend got for simply passing her semester. Mom then stopped what she was doing and came to me. She explained, “ Sweetheart, coming in first in your class is no longer news for us. Now you need to surprise us with something different.” Hearing Mom say this taught me something very important at that early age: we can’t be successful if we remain in our safe harbor. We need to always get outside our comfort zone and explore something new.

One needs to try always some new ventures to surprise and impress not only others but also oneself. A life-long learning approach is needed to continue to achieve that success. Also, we need to trust ourselves, be more willing to take risks, explore new ideas and always look for creative solutions for any of our problems. The most wasted of all lives is the one without sweat and the world’s most boring game is “Playing it safe. We should never stand still; we must always go forward, follow our dreams and stick to our plans.

I shall finish this post with one of my favorite inspirational quotes that stresses the importance of dreaming, exploring and pioneering in order to achieve sustainable success:

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination"Oscar Wilde

Picture by Karim Abou Samra
Thank You RAP for your valuable Comments!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Finishing is Winning

In what follows, I give a summary of the compelling memoirs of a friend of mine who happens to be a marathon runner. His story emphasizes the importance of finishing any project one starts with or one launches. We tend to brag about doing things, and too often we quit with half the job done. This story is a real proof of strength of will and determination. I would like to emphasize here that I myself am not a marathoner and could hardly run 26.2 meters, let alone a marathon of 26.2 miles!

"I am a slow walker, but I never walk back." — Abraham Lincoln

Here is the Summary:
I had been running since I was a teen, doing 5Ks and some longer races, even winning a few. I was occasionally asked if I had ever run a marathon. My answer then was that I did not like running really long distances. But I suppose I heard the question so many times, I grew tired of it and wanted to say yes. I registered in a marathon in my hometown without telling a soul. Even my family was not informed because I did not know whether I would be able to complete the distance. Still, I was hopeful if not confident of finishing it in a decent time. The race went surprisingly well. My time was 2 hours, 48 minutes and 2 seconds (2:48:02), and my friends were all surprised that I had run and come in at such a time. That was the first of what turned out to be 33 marathons I ran.
            One of the things of which I am most proud is that I have competed in between 550 and 600 races, and never have I dropped out. Even when I was feeling bad and in the process of earning an unimpressive time, I always slogged my way to the finish line. Once, while running a marathon, I was having some genuine soreness in my legs as early as the fifth mile. It was much worse by 10, by which time I had decided I would give it up at the halfway mark, where my family and friends would be waiting. But when I got there, they were all smiling and cheering, and I simply could not do it. I waved back and soldiered on painfully. I stopped so often, I knew my time would be terrible, but I was determined to get to that finish line. It had taken me 3 hours and 9 minutes, by far the worst time of my entire “marathoning” career. Still, despite it all, I was proud that I managed to get from start to finish. This was a huge character test, and I had passed.
"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." — Confucius
I had signed up to run in other marathons later that year, but injuries prevented me from running. I finally had to admit the obvious: My marathon career had come to an end. I still ran in 5Ks and 10Ks, but time had offered the perspective to realize what those 33 marathons meant to me. I have had some pretty wonderful moments with the shorter races, but the marathons I ran were the peak of my rather modest athletic life. Indeed, they were builders of character with moments and sometimes hours in the crucible when failure and success were both possible. And if, as has been said, finishing is winning, then I had won 33 times.
Finishing-is-winning is common wisdom shared among marathon runners. Running a marathon can simulate many aspects of our personal lives and careers because it includes the key ingredients: the will to start, the perseverance to continue and the joy of finishing. And finally, on judgment day we will be judged on what we have finished—and thus won.
“If forced to choose between something being perfect and being done, remember leaders get stuff done.” ―Matt Monge
You might also like Modern Renaissance People , Cure Them with the Cause of Their Own Disease