This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders.
How deeply do you care about the quality of your work?
Do you doggedly look for things you can improve in whatever it is that you do?
Do you set stretch goals for yourself, strive till you achieve them, hold yourself at that level only till you get comfortable? Do you then set another stretch goal to move up further?
Do you hold yourself to unforgiving, unflinching high standards?
Did you do it in the past and have gotten comfortable now?
Comfort is the enemy of real success. World champions are made by constant trial by fire. They are created by setting stretch goal after stretch goals. Inch by inch, second by second, from one tiny improvement to another, these crazy people become great.
I am like that. I am never satisfied. Every achievement is only water under the bridge. Let bygones be bygones. What’s next? Are we going for something bigger or not?
When I was in 11th standard, I got the president’s award for writing poetry in the Bengali language. I received it from Abdul Kalam, when I was just 16 years old, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The government arranged for my family to travel to be there with me. It was a pretty big moment. I still remember the amazing experience of listening to the military band playing the national anthem in the Durbar Hall.
It brought tears to my eyes.
As I got out of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, still mesmerized by the splendour and gravity of the place, my father asked me what I plan to do with my life. I said I don’t know. But this is over, so what’s next?
First time I gave the law entrance test to join NUJS, I was in the waiting list. It was not bad at all given that I had studied in a vernacular medium school and this was the first exam I ever wrote in English. I didn’t have much time to prepare either.
But well. I wasn’t prepared to get in through the waiting list. I dropped a year. Prepared thoroughly, learned English as much as I could, mugged up almost the entire Webster Collegiate Dictionary, watched two Hollywood films every week and repeated the dialogues aloud so I could learn to speak English fluently, and then eventually topped the law entrance. I was the 2nd topper actually.
Mediocre is not OK. I can’t accept anything less than excellent from myself in matters that really matter to me. When I get good at something, I still have to get better.
I was recently reading a book by Angela Duckworth, called ‘Grit’. Miss Duckworth is a leading performance psychologist, who coaches some of the most successful people in the world including champion athletes and superstars.
She was hired by the US government to figure out how to select the right candidates for their most elite military commando training programs. After her research, she came up with a scale called the grit scale, and she says only the grittiest people make the best elite commandos. It has no connection with strength, fitness, intelligence or past accolades.
But grit matters.
What exactly is this grit?
She talks about several things. But the most important, she says, is this dogged pursuit of excellence. Perseverance of effort, to get better, and better and then even better.
Not all people are going to be like this. Only a few people ever pursue excellence. Many settle down when they are good enough.
But, what about the great? They are just ordinary people who do not rest on good enough. They want to get better even when they have no competition.
Rabindranath Tagore was one of them. He was far ahead of his time, and no other writer or poet was anywhere close to what he had already achieved. You would think that man would have taken it easy when he was already a legend! But he didn’t.
He produced volumes and volumes of literature, songs, poetry, novels, short stories, essays and plays and every other thing you can imagine at an incredible speed. He was writing even in his deathbed!
His competition was with himself. That’s how you stand tall and be remembered through the ages.
There is no stopping the forward march. This is how we treat our courses too. They are always a work in progress.
We don’t just provide you with some study material and stop there. We keep adding new content all the time. We try to give you a library of content you may even need someday!
We keep investing in technology. It never stops. We are developing technology that makes it easier to study, quicker to find necessary information when you need it the most, and we keep updating as new laws are legislated or old ones are amended.
We are always trying to figure better ways to assess your performance, engage you through exercises and train our own trainers to do better.
The evolution never stops. Students who did our course years back and loved, come back and do more courses. And then they are literally shocked by how much things have changed! It’s a slow but gradual change in the short term, barely visible, but over the years it makes a world of difference.
There is no waiting for one day, someday, when something will be possible. We are here and right now, working on getting better as we speak.
Try it sometimes, it is an amazing way to live your life.
2018 is coming to an end. It’s almost over. Just 45 more days are left. What can you start now, that you will feel that the year was worth it when you reflect back on 31st December?
I say gift yourself a new habit, or holding yourself to highest standards known to you, and then working on yourself till you get there. Keep learning, keep struggling with your own ordinariness and mediocrity till its transformed, and keep fighting the good war you wage on your own laziness and directionless actions.
If you care about the quality of your work, about your skills, about your abilities, about being the best and never stop working on it, chances are very high that you will reach there sooner or later.
There is still time!