This post derives out of a brief conversation I had with a young woman from the audience of young global leaders that I was addressing somewhere in Eastern Europe. After my keynote, when I was interacting with the audience, this attractive young woman cornered me with her smile and laid out her thoughts.
‘Satya,’ she ululated, ‘your talks and words and your life is really inspiring and I totally get your concept of anything is possible no matter what, but I could only understand this at an intellectual level. Not at the practical know-how, how to do it level. A step by step guide in the correct sequence of action that would get anyone to reach a goal.’
For some reason unknown that evening’s conversation came around today on this Valentine Day and I decided to give wings to a young woman’s query several years back. Here’s to you my young unknown lady and to the rest of you out there seeking answers to this secret, which if you ponder adequately, isn’t one at all.
So let me first begin by laying down the 12 commandments for achieving goals. These are absolute unarguable fundamental laws of life in relation to achieving your dreams and goals.
1. Nothing can be achieved by merely wishing and dreaming about it or even planning about it.
2. There is no short cut to success and no substitute to hard sincere dedicated and focused ass-burning brutal work.
3. You will bleed on the way though the rewards at the end will be worth way more than all the blood you shed. No pain no gain.
4. It’s your tenacity and asinine determination often bordering insanity that will get you to the end. Rationality and staying within your limits will never get you anything other than simple mediocrity.
5. You will lose friends, make enemies, and forget the world where you had been living till now on your way to the goal.
6. You will face unceasing criticism, envy, negativity, opposition and obstacles from all quarters.
7. No one and absolutely no one will ever understand your need to achieve, your burning drive and your motivation so don’t even try to make someone understand and don’t be disheartened if no one does. It is your dream and no one else will see it the way you see it. Strike out alone.
8. Results happen when you work dedicatedly day after day, year after year, life after life. If achieving dreams were easy, everyone would be living their dreams.
9. No one can achieve anything single handed. We need support and love of your families, friends and even strangers who would believe in you and push you and stand by you. And to these soldiers of fortune you must be grateful eternally and show them your gratitude with loud positive no nonsense words and actions.
10. When one door closes, there’s another that opens, though you may be clueless where that other door is.
11. Giving up is NOT an option.
12. Believe in your dreams, if you don’t, no one else will.
Now let’s get into the practical step-by-step guide. One rejoinder, these steps are generic and can be applied to anything in any field: whether you wish to begin a start up to socially empower the indigenous tribes of Siberia, swim across English Channel, or become a Nat Geo photographer, or climb Mt Everest or build a dream home, or find your life partner, or win an Olympic Gold or become world’s number 1 tennis player, or win Ms World title, or land a role in Hollywood. Anything and everything goes. This formula is time tested through my own life and that of my global clientele whom I coach on life and success. One word of caution, several of these steps can also be done simultaneously and not necessarily in the exact sequence mentioned below. Use your discretion.
Step 1 – Goal Defining - Establish your goal in absolute plain simple unambiguous words. Write it down if necessary and hang it up somewhere you can see it clearly and often through the day. There should be no doubt in your mind as to what you wish to achieve. If you do not know where you want to go then you may keep reaching all your life without actually arriving anywhere. Once you have done this then you need to keep reinforcing in your goal by constant reminders, it’s like hammering upon the nail to dig it deeper and deeper into the wall, deeper you hammer stronger becomes your resolve.
Step 2 – Commitment - Commit to your goal as if your life depended upon it. Best is to make loud public statements on what you are going to do. Take a blood oath if needed. Commit yourself beyond the point of no return. Jump out of the plane of safety. Throw away your anchors and just sail away into the tempest. Become fearless even if you are afraid. You must be willing to risk your very life, even to the point of losing it, in order to achieve your goal. Only then destiny will grant your wish. Not that you will actually die in the process but this level of commitment is necessary in achieving extraordinary results. I always ask my clients: are you willing to die for your dream to live?
Step 3 – Believe - Believe in life and your power to shape your destiny.
Step 4 – Seek Guidance - find a mentor if possible. We all need a guide, actual or imaginary to show us the way.
Step 5 – Get Inspired - start reading biographies of great achievers especially of those in your chosen field. These are great motivators. Try to meet your real life heroes if you can. For me Capt Scots fatal voyage to South Pole remains the motivation and example of human courage and perseverance. When you are bleeding, such real life stories will tell you how far a human can actually go. I did everything to meet my two childhood idols, Walter Bonatti and Jeff Lowe and I can tell you, spending those few minutes with these two idols of mine were way more motivating than meeting all others through my life. Even after all these years I clearly remember each and every word these two legends had told me. And these words have brought me back from brinks of death and disasters countless time.
Step 6 – Planning and Preparation - thorough groundwork in terms of training and preparation you need to undergo both physical and intellectual, all the resources that you need, check of list, considering all known and unknown variables that may or may not crop up. This is your training and rehearsal phase before the actual climb begins. Do your homework, do mock trials, leave no options untested, no doubts unquestioned. More you sweat in peace less you bleed in war. Train and train and train your ass off, like possessed, drive yourself to the brink of oblivion and then train some more. Practice practice practice... and after you have done all these, adopt this life long mantra of mine – hope for the best expect for the worst.
Step 7 – Resources - get all necessary resources and replenishments in place. Not necessary for you to wait till you have accumulated everything that you would need for the entire journey, but as soon you have got what it takes to begin, begin. It will be cartwheel effect from thereafter. One thing will lead to the other.
Step 8 – Jump - begin your actual journey, take the first actual step. This step is the most important step ever. No matter how far and lofty your goal is, nothing would happen if you don’t take this very first step. And this step will also be the hardest. You got to break your old mould (probably defying everyone else’s opinions about your dream) and take the leap of faith and jump out of the plane. This is the beginning of real action phase, the most important phase. Take the step, no matter if you are standing totally alone at this point. There are soldiers of destiny waiting your arrival on the path beyond your horizon. Once you start and move they will appear like magic at least expected places. Believe me, there are indeed angels, our unknown benefactors, whose destiny is to fulfil ours and ours is to fulfil theirs. But you will never find them if you never start your voyage.
Step 9 – Persevere - persevere and keep on persevering. Nothing is impossible and giving up isn’t an option keep telling yourself. The real pain will start here, self doubts, blood and sweat, all will welcome you. You will question your own sanity, you will be tempted severely to give up and quit and go back home. Yet you must keep going on. Keep telling yourself that nothing lasts forever; very soon all these hardships will go since they have to if you keep on pushing. Be like water, fluid and unstoppable, barge through obstacles and where you can’t, flow around them and find another path to keep advancing to your goal. Never stop, never lose your self-belief.
Step 10 – Identify People - scrutinize all the people who will join your cause as you start moving upwards. You will attract all sorts of people, most of them tasked to bring you down yet few who would push you up. Find the ones that will take you higher and discard those who wouldn’t. Forget about being nice or politically correct. Be the revolution, be the fire that will burn the sky. Be the renegade, the outlier, the one no one believes in and everyone wants to see failing. Don’t waste your priceless moments with people who will not contribute to your upward journey. Of course they would want to draw out your energy for themselves so avoid them at all costs.
Step 11 – Take Breaks - don’t forget to rest and recuperate your energies and resources.
Step 12 – Slow Down - when you begin to feel that the climb is going to kill you with the sheer opposition you face, then do three things: slow down, hydrate and breathe deep.
Step 13 – Don’t Give Up - don’t crumble down when you face your first gut wrenching defeat, your first taste of so called failure. The first bad weather that hits you and uproots your foundation, shakes the very ground you stand upon. Accept the challenges that life is throwing your way. Always remember, harder you work, harder will be the challenges, it is life’s way of testing your resolve and your dedication to your goal. Weak people with shallow goals have an easy life. Real achievers go through trial of fire. History is replete with such real examples. When life seems at its worst and hardest, you are nearest to your summit. Don’t give up since you might be just one step below the top. All failures are actually lessons. A part of learning curve and growing up, to evolve we must make mistakes and fall yet we must stand back up each time.
Step 14 – Learn – even as you taste success and adulation, never cease to learn. Never become complacent thinking that you know it all, even if the world says so. We keep on succeeding as long as we are willing to learn. As it is often said: road to success is always under construction. There is no upper limit to achieving your goal, since perfection too is a limit. You must strive for beyond perfection. And the only way to do it is to keep on learning.
Step 15 – Don’t Stop – don’t rest on your laurels even after you have reached your summit. Continue with your journey from one summit to another. Keep reinventing yourself if needed else you will lose the zing once you succeed.
Step 16 – Smile – according to me the step that goes hand in hand with all the others. Always smile, no matter what. Stay positive, focused and optimistic. Of course you would have shitty days, defeating days, days when you would want to jump out of the window but always come back to your smile.
Step 17 – Share – once you have reached your goal it is payback time. Always share with others what you have learned upon your journey. Sharing and caring is the only way to uplift the society and all of humanity and do not be selfish and keep your lessons to yourself. You will benefit way more if you have successful people around you. When everyone goes up you automatically move up too. Help and assist others in reshaping their lives through your own self-experimented and applied experiences.
I would stop here though there can be many more definite and indefinite steps, which after all would only be extension or modifications of the above ones. But to summarize my entire life’s learning in reaching my summits, in a sequence I mostly follow, are below: -
Training, preparing and planning
Gathering best resources out there
Begin your journey
Hard work, persevere, never give up
Identify and stick to people who are your angels and shut out those who pull you down
Never stop upon a summit. I always find my next summit from the one where I am standing. The climb doesn’t stop at the top, I keep on climbing.
Keep on learning
Always smile, be positive
Share openly your experience
And then repeat from the beginning. This is pretty much the secret of achieving anything and then continuing to achieve further.
I have seen many high achievers who slump and find life a drag once they have reached their goal. This only happens when we do not keep the energy and excitement of finding the next goal. Life must go on as long as we are alive, we do not stop living once we have found life hence how can we just give up our quest for newer summits once we reach the top of the one that we had been aiming for. Life is all about change and motion. So we must continue and carry on.
One point I must emphasize is that a human is capable of excelling in many fields with equal expertise so if you have achieved a lot in a particular chosen field and now feel there’s nothing more to achieve then do move to another field where you are a novice and have to begin at the bottom. Start the journey again and it would fuel your zeal and mind to greater heights.
I personally keep doing this. In climbing I have experimented with every genre and style of climbing, with main focus on high altitude extreme climbs and raw technical ice routes and I looked for the climbs all over the world. Didn’t restrict myself to only one region or nation or only one kind of ice. Though one can spend 1000 lifetime climbing only in the Himalaya. Yet I kept moving on and away and around. For the last five years I have barely climbed in the Himalaya, barring few 8000ers. I find more excitement and pleasure now in exploring small and unknown mountain ranges scattered in remote unknown locations. I am no more excited or fuelled by altitude. I am fuelled more by the unknown and exploration. Similarly I keep on learning new things, be it a language, an instrument, a skill, music, painting, juggling, dancing or a new subject purely in the academic pursuit. And my wish list just keeps growing longer and longer no matter what I do. Since there’s always something in this world that we don’t know.
Pursuit of the unknown is a great way to keep your passion and learning curve alive. And this excitement, this passion, drive and this focus is pretty much the main ingredient in the formula for success.