Message to Som Gollakota

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Hyderabad, India
Life's Vision and Measuring Progress
September 22, 2010
very one of us, no matter who we are, at some point had a vision about who we want(ed) to be. Ask any kid in school or college and they will share their vision with you. Ask yourself if you recall what your vision for yourself was when you were a kid. See if you can recall. Many of these change over time as we grow older and more mature. They become more realistic than “I want to be Superman (or Spiderman)”. And somewhere along the journey, as we grew older, that vision was lost (even perhaps became a shattered dream) for many of us, while some of us are “livin’ the dream” every day!
The reason the dream was (or is) lost is perhaps because – we gave up too soon; we did not pursue it hard enough; we did not want it bad enough; we did not know how to achieve it (or what it really meant for us); or we did not know how to measure our success and/or progress.
The world around us is constantly changing. The universe is constantly changing and evolving. And we are constantly changing (and hopefully evolving). So, how do we measure our progress in this ever-changing times and universe? How would we know if we are being successful, or giving up too soon, or we need to hold on just a little longer?
It takes courage, perseverance and will power to pursue and fulfill one’s dreams. As the quote goes, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the realization that something else is more important than fear”. “Brave may not live long, but coward don’t live at all”.
I have long held the view that the Will of an individual alone produces results, even against all odds. The line that separates those who realize their vision and those who don't is drawn using the Will of the individuals. When going gets tough, I look within myself. I do a lot of introspection. True and honest introspection requires true courage.
I don't worry about letting someone else down – because what is worse than letting someone else down is letting myself down. As a matter of fact, there is nothing worse than that. I strongly believe it is true for everyone. We need to ask ourselves, are we meeting our own standards? Not compared to someone else (we don't control others, they could and would change); not how someone else views us (it is a perception, and perceptions are subject to change as well). The only thing that is immune to perception is our knowledge of our true self – who we really are (regardless of how others perceive us). At the barebones, beneath the “presentation layer” (which generates the perception), what really defines us is who we really are.
A beautifully gift-wrapped and/or painted trash-can is still a trash-can, and at the end of the day, it will still be storing garbage. If you want it to foster a plant that will give birth to a beautiful flower, then you must reorient its purpose and usage. If you want it to be a bookcase holding a wealth of knowledge, you must alter it at a structural level. Therefore, what matters for beginners is to identify who you really are – underneath all those wrappings, and dressings, and makeup – and what purpose and usage you have assumed for yourself. Identify your dreams, goals, and passion. Introspect with courage to see if your true self is geared up to realize your dreams, achieve your goals and pursue your passion. If not, change – your purpose or usage, or your core at a structural level.
You identified your vision, your goals in life, and your passion. You mustered the courage to introspect, and while doing so, realized you need to change. You even initiated change and are changing. Now the big question in front of you is – how do you measure the change? How do you know that you are succeeding? How do you know you are making progress in your quest?
Do you measure your change, success, progress based on how the world around you was when you initiated change? The ever-changing world and universe has changed along with you. Can it be a true measure? Or is it the people around you or someone who matter the most in your life, and how they perceive you? Even they would have changed and their perception about you may have changed due to a variety of reasons beyond your control. And what’s more, you may not even be aware of these changes occurring outside you. So, would that really be a true measure of your success? If not, then what is a true measure of success?
Therefore, for you to truly measure your progress, you need a barometer that you are completely aware of, including the changes that are occurring within the barometer. The only such barometer available to you is yourself! My favorite quote is “I am the only constant in the ever changing universe”. I am the only constant barometer for my progress in this ever changing universe. This is true for every one of us. Because, everything around us is constantly changing – unbeknown to us, with factors beyond our direct control most of the time. If we compare ourselves to others around us, we are only as good today as the ones we compare ourselves to are today, or we are only as good today as they perceive us today.
So, how do I use myself to measure my own progress?
  • Clarity of vision/goal/passion – I realize where I want to go and what that place looks like; so I know when I have reached my destination.
  • Clarity of the path and Courage – I realize how I can get there without getting lost. Even if I am lost, I have the courage to trace my steps back to the right path.
  • Where was I yesterday? – I made a note of where I was yesterday, establishing a baseline
  • Where am I today? –Did I make progress compared to yesterday? If not, why? How can I course-correct?
  • Where do I want to be tomorrow in order to realize my vision? – Setting short term goal and next step toward the end
All this, combined with unwavering eye on the prize, unshaken Will to do whatever it takes against all odds, and relentless efforts/perseverance – will get me where I want to be. And if at any point, you realize you are lost or are on the wrong track, have the courage to correct the course or even make a U-turn. Sometimes, a U-turn may be your only option.
"For what it’s worth, it’s never too late – or too early – to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. You can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope ya see things that startle ya… I hope ya feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. And if you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength and courage to start all over again." (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

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