As with most things in life, water finds its level if we wait. Success follows failure and failure follows success just as surely as night follows day. As I learnt to accept myself and my own failings, the world around me slowly became more accepting of me too.
As I look back upon twenty-three years, here are some of the things that I learnt along the way:
1. Failure is an event, not a person. Like that other imposter, success, it is temporary, and we must learn to step back and look at it from a distance. It is only when we step away from the noise that we can appreciate success and failure for what they truly are — minor events in the course of our lives that we choose, sadly, to be defined by.
2. People are people no matter where in the world or in what circumstance you make their acquaintance. While no two people are alike, all people have fears and insecurities, strengths and weaknesses. Try to understand where they come from and make allowances for them. But if they bully you, stand your ground. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “in matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
3. Learn to change and adapt to your environment. Experience what you can, embrace change, be agile. Be open to moving to different places. Make sure you can pack all your belongings into one suitcase at any given point in time.
4. Make your own chances. Set yourself a goal and work towards it. Consciously. Relentlessly. Your chances will come, and when they do, do not let them go. Work towards reaching your goal, while recognizing that your destiny is not always in your control.
5. Be yourself. Always. Be authentic. Stand for what you believe in. Define yourself. Do not let roles and positions define you. Rather, define your role.
6. Hire, and surround yourself with, people who are better than you and who are different from you. This is the only sure way to become better.
7. Walk away when you’re on top. Everybody and everything has an expiry date. Do not overstay your welcome. Leave at a time when people will ask you “why” and not “why not”.
8. Exercise. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. You have only one body. Take care of it. You’ll find yourself mentally stronger too.
9. There is life beyond work. Experience it. There are different things to experience at different stages of our lives. Do not miss any of them. And it won’t happen by working 16-hour days or spending time in an air-conditioned office. Get out and live.
10. The world will not stop for you. It will keep moving ahead. It’s up to you to stay where you are or to move along with it. Accept that things change and accept that we are insignificant in the larger scheme of things — yes, even at work. Especially at work.
11. Work hard, be kind, do good. Pay it forward as much as you can. We all owe our success to many people. And while we must pay it back, choose to pay it forward too. Set someone else up for success. Make sure they don’t have to go through the same challenges that you did.
I am a reluctant Chartered Accountant. I never wanted to be one. I still don’t. But life has a way of taking us down strange paths. Paths that we question as we traverse them, but that we eventually realize were always destined to be…
And so, I soldier on, not quite sure where I might end up in life, but assured that I must give my best, accept whatever comes my way, and be better each day.
This series constitutes a work of fiction. Any resemblance to characters living or dead, in service or retired, is purely coincidental. If you enjoyed reading this short series, watch out for the book and TV series.