Every success, whether big or small, has its own price to pay. Success brings limelight & recognition not without hard work and exhaustion. A few months back, I was re-discovering this the hard way. The success was sweet but I had to pay heavy price - my health. At work, I had started several projects to reach my goals. I wanted to be ahead of all others and wanted to leave no stone unturned in my quest. Each project required tremendous efforts, dedication and focus. I felt it was all worth it because each project was successful. The spiral of success was pulling me inside and I was running with all my energy. I wanted to reach the top at shortest possible time, so I was running harder and harder.Like world of physics is governed by Newton’s laws, Corporate world is governed by Murphy’s laws. Out of several Murphy’s laws which derail your plans, one law that clearly stands out is “When everything is going smooth, you have overlooked something very important.” In my case, it turned out to be my health. All successful initiatives were taking a toll on my health. I was working non-stop often feeling tired, fatigued, irritable. I had stopped exercising, meals were irregular. Global initiatives meant, con-calls at unearthly hours causing lack of sleep. No matter how hard I wanted to run, I could not. I fell ill and doctor strongly advised me to improve my lifestyle.
That is when I decided to take a break and go for a trek in the Himalayas. We had a strict exercise regime. I had to work hard to get back in shape and improve my stamina and endurance. I started exercising with the same sincerity and rigor that I showed at work. Slowly but surely I got back in shape and exercise regime worked.
The trek was most enjoyable. Being closer to nature and un-connected from internet gave me enough time to reflect on my challenges. It was almost like meditation which helped me listen to my inner voice and sort out my priorities. Little did I know that the trek would also teach me something about the way I was chasing success.
This learning came on the toughest day in our trek - we had to cross the highest pass in our trek which was located above 17,000 ft above sea level and later walk for another 4 hours. It was cold, windy and air had 25% less oxygen. We had to fight all adverse situations and cross the pass.
I was upto the challenge. I started on an upbeat note. I started walking as fast as I could, just like I was chasing my projects at work. I wanted to reach the peak as fast as I could. I was a man in hurry, I was worried that if I don’t keep the speed I may fall behind or worse still I may not even make it to the peak.
Initially, it felt good, I was making good progress but soon my legs started tiring and I suffered from shortness of breath. Soon, I was so tired that I could not take even one step forward and had to rest to catch my breath. That is when the most experienced trekker walked up to me and said, “What is the hurry dear! You are walking too fast. That is not sustainable.”
“I don’t want to be left behind”, I said.
“You would be left behind if keep running like this. Slow down. Find your own natural speed.”
“My own speed! What does that mean?”
“It’s the speed at which you don’t feel tired. The speed at which you don’t feel like stopping. The speed at which you can enjoy walking.”
“But that will be too slow?”, I said in bewilderment.
“You don’t have a choice. That is the only speed you can sustain.”
I was introspecting.
He started walking past me as he said,”When you are crossing that pass, you are not competing with anyone else. You are competing with yourself. You could win only if you walk with your natural speed.”
I realised he was walking very slowly, almost at a negligible pace. But he was comfortable, able to look around, admire the beauty and smell the roses.
I was still short on breath so I had no other choice but to follow my fellow trekker’s advice. His advice sounded profound. I remembered a quote by confucius, which so far had made no sense to me - It does not matter how slow you walk towards your goal, as long as you don’t stop. I got up and started walking slowly. Small steps at low speed made the walk enjoyable. Rather than thinking about the peak, I started looking at breathtaking views around. I heard cooing of birds and noticed rabbit-like animals jumping around. The glaciers look relaxing and the grass looked greener. I started enjoying the journey than worrying about the destination. I didn’t care whether I was falling behind or leading the pack. All I cared about was whether I was walking with natural speed or not. I had to ensure I don’t tire myself up.
Needless to say, my team leader’s advice worked like a magic and I crossed the highest pass without getting tired. It was a great feeling. I had stopped competing with others and started competing with myself. I had stopped running and worked on finding my natural speed. That made the success very enjoyable.
This was the turning point in the trek that helped me to set my work-life right. I came back to work refreshed and charged up. But I didn’t start running like I did before. Instead, I worked on finding the natural speed of each initiative, each team and each project. If I could keep moving with that natural speed, I reckoned, I would enjoy my journey not just the destination, like I did at my highest mountain pass.
So, if your success is tiring you up, probably you are running too hard. Stop, take a break and find your natural speed - speed at which you wouldn’t get tired, speed at which you can enjoy the journey and not just worry about reaching the destination, speed at which you could smell roses on the way. Go find it!!