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15 July 2012

Universal secret of success

I had this 'Aha' experience while I was pasting stamps on the invite letters for a function that we were planning to conduct.
It was a daunting task. There were about 500 invites and I was alone, sitting in my room in Mumbai, looking at the pile of the invites and the daunting task of pasting stamps on each of them. I was looking easily at about 2-3 hours of my time being used in that task..
And I did not like that at all..
Of course, I had the option of procrastinating. I could put off that task to a later date and carry the tension of an incomplete task. 
Or I could get down to it.
I decided to get down to it.
Once started off with the first envelope, and continued into the next and the next. Slowly the pile of stamped envelopes started growing and somewhere into the 45th minute, the the height of the stamped pile overtook the the pile of the yet-to-be-stamped envelopes.
I soldiered on. Envelope after envelope, stamp after stamp I continued till I completed the whole 500 of them. 
This is when the 'Aha' experience struck me.
Most of the success in life is achieved by doing the same thing again and again and again. You start off with the first step and continue to do one boring task after another, always keeping the end goal in mind. 
They call it diligence. It is knowing that something has to be done and persevering with the task till the task is complete.
In his book 'Better', Dr. Atul Gawande, talks about the fight against polio in the state of Karnataka in India. They form a  group of local doctors, whose job is to  administer oral polio vaccine to the children in the various villages in the state.
Every day, they get up in the morning, and start doing the rounds in various villages, administering the vaccine. They keep a record of the number of children covered in this scheme. Heat, cold or the unwelcome attitudes of villagers do not bother them. They are focused on this task and continue to do it, village after village, child after child....
It is the diligence of teams like this that made India 'polio free' this year.
In his book 'Outliers', Malcom Gladwell talks of the 'rule of 10000 hours'. He says that to develop expertise in any area, one has to work at it for about 10000 hours. That is when one becomes expert.
Imagine doing the same thing again and again and again for 10000 hours. That is diligence.
Liem sui King, the former Indonesian Badminton player, who had a continuous run as 'All England Badminton' champion, used to hit 1000 smashes every day in practice. Just toss up the shuttle and smash it again and again and again..
That is diligence....
And that is the very simple success secret. Diligence. Being at it. Doing the same thing again and again and again till you achieve the end goal.
Of course, you could always procrastinate....