Cumbersome path to success reveals your own mettle

What comes easily goes easily, too. That isn’t actually a proverb but as life experience goes, the easily achievable is hardly valued—neither by the achiever nor by the onlookers. Despite the fact that we find ourselves wishing that the things we longed for didn’t demand so much of our time and energy, so much persistence and doggedness, so much single minded focus, the fact is that it is the very cumbersome path to success that brings out what is finest inside us.

The simple economic law of demand and supply indicates that the more supply outstrips demand of an object, the more its value decreases. To put it differently, if it’s easily accessible to everyone, if it is requires relatively less effort to be acquired, it wouldn’t be worth so much. It is the tortuousness of the path, the toil and planning required to cross it, the amount of dedication required to scale the peak that makes it a symbol for your uniqueness: for the things you did differently that made all the difference.

The deeper you dig the more precious stuff you find. The harder you dig, the more you hone your skills at digging. The very process of ‘getting there’ sharpens your physical and mental muscles, enhances your endurance. The worst kind of storm in life reveals to you your own mettle. It tells you what you are capable of. It isn’t just that the storm leads you to revelation but that the process of withstanding it sharpens your abilities to the point of precision.

“Thou hast done well, my lover, thou hast done well to send me thy fire of pain/

For my incense never yields its perfume till it burns and my lamp is blind till it is lighted./

When my mind is numb its torpor must be stricken by thy love’s lightning; and the very darkness that blots my world burns like a torch when set afire by thy thunder.”

Thus spoke Rabindra Nath Tagore in his book of poetry, ‘Crossing’.

The incense, as he rightly points out, cannot bring forth its perfume till it is lit. Of course, you might argue that the lighting of the incense is the beginning of its end; unlit, it is safe. But then, to what purpose? What is achieved through a life of safety that obscures the purpose of life itself? The incense may ‘live’ forever unburnt, but it would be just an idle stick that had nothing in it to give; reached out to no one and spread its fragrance nowhere. Conversely, it may waft slowly away to its end, fragrant and far-reaching in a brief life of glowing and giving, spreading itself and touching lives.

Everything in this world was created with a purpose—and that purpose isn’t served through remaining safe and cushioned. When you step out of the comfort zone, endure a burn or two—when you feel a twinge of pain, you are shaken, stimulated into action.

The human body, mind, emotional intelligence, faculty of observation and empathy—each of these are like parts of a machine that together create something greater than the sum of the parts. And each of these parts, like the machine, need constant exercise and operation—ever-new stimulation—or they would be rusted, destroyed. Ultimately, all life on this planet must end in flames and smoke—or as dust within the heart of the earth. Would you rather glow to your end, or rust toward it? Blaze of glory sounds like a much better way to go.