Grow Anywhere!

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It’s amazing where you can find inspiration from if you are looking for it.

A few weeks ago, I was in Mumbai. My family used to live on Madh Island when I was a baby and so I took a ferry there on a Sunday evening track down my old living place. Although I couldn’t find it, I had the chance to watch the sun set on the beach. And since I’ve always loved beach sunsets, It was an opportunity not to be missed.

On this particular beach, there was no sand, only rocks. As I was walking towards the coastline, I noticed this small plant growing up between the cracks in the rocks. Here–in the most likely place where all conditions were against it–here was growth!

No matter what the condition are like around you, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do your best to grow into your potential. You are destined for great things!

To Be an Olympian

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To Be an Olympian

By Thirumur David Kiran

 

Over the past few weeks, the Olympics has claimed the interest of the world as 11,000 athletes from 207 countries have dazzled one and all with their strength, skill, speed, endurance, mental toughness, and overall athleticism. World records have been broken, previously unattainable heights have been achieved, memories have been made, and moments have been experienced that have captured the imagination of the viewing audience and elevated their makers into instant stardom—some of them into immediate legend!

According to the statistic team of the BBC website, an estimated 3.5 billion people were engaged with the Olympics worldwide—through viewing on television or through commenting on mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I will happily admit that I was included in that figure.

I am a massive sports fan. True, I don’t play sports all that well at the moment, but I have an avid interest in viewing sports and learning about new sports. In another life I would probably be a sports anchor or journalist. But in my present life, sports are my way of relaxing and are a big hobby for me.

As such, the Olympic Games are a very happy time for the sport’s fan in me and I generally try to adapt my schedule to be able to keep up with the major events. This year, that meant waking up two hours earlier than usual in order to watch the final events of the day. That has resulted in about 4-5 hours of sleep a night, as my days are usually quite full.  This schedule has truly deepened my relationship with the dark beauty we call coffee, and I will confess before all that my love for it has grown in manifold ways over the past few weeks.

Aside from enjoying the close races, the nail-biting finishes, the grandstand flourishes of ability, and the incredible feats of strength, I have come to have a healthy admiration for the amount of athleticism that these sportsmen and sportswomen. And it isn’t just about their rippling muscles and their incredibly toned physique. It’s their ability to run for an hour and then dig in and sprint the last lap. It’s their ability to swim at top speed day after day (sometimes two or three times a day) and still come out on top. It’s their ability to jump, flip, somersault, and twist in ways that the athletes of yesteryear could only dream of. It’s their ability to fight through pain and exhaustion to produce results. It’s their ability to have the mental grit that pushes them across the line ahead of the rest of the field.

Once in four years, these athletes have their moment in the sun. Once in four years, these athletes command the attention of the nations as they push all boundaries in search of gold. Once in four years, these athletes have a chance to become legend.

Once in four years, the world stops and admires these athletes. Once in four years, the world applauds these men and women as heroes for their feats.

However, that is not the whole story.

What people fail to realize is that it takes years and years of trying, failing, pain, agony, exhaustion, sore muscles, blood, sweat, and tears in order to produce a performance that takes them to a medal finish. What is seen on display is but a fraction.

A 100 meter dash takes under 10 seconds to complete, but years to perfect.

A vault is over in a single motion, but takes ages to master and improve.

A swim dash can finish in under a minute, but takes uncountable hours to train for.

Indeed, an Olympic performance is but a fraction—the tip of the iceberg. It is a culmination of effort, a synopsis of a lifetime of training. And while we must applaud achievement, we must not forget the hard work it took to get them there.

Michael-Phelps3Michael Phelps (31), winner of 28 medals and holder of numerous records across five Olympics, trained for eight hours a day for five straight years during his teenage years without a single day off! His workouts were considered to be inhumane and his coach was dubbed “the mad scientist” but he continued them through his career, pushing his body beyond what most people would consider as the breaking point.

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Simone Biles (19), winner of 5 medals (four gold) at Rio and highly touted as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, grew up in a foster home and began training at age 7 as a way to escape. She trained for hours and hours for years. Even her coach told her not to train too hard, to which Simone responded, “I want to do this!”

 

mo-farah-double-double-athletics-rio-2016-olympics_3769224Mo Farah (33), winner of the 5,000m and 10,000m gold two Olympics in a row, grew up in the war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia before moving to London.           He originally had no interest in running (he wanted to play football) until his coach bribed him into it. After slacking off in the beginning, he made the decision that he wanted to be the best and then began training like no other distance runner. He went to Kenya to train with the great marathon runners, and then continued to train there over the years, even leaving his wife to go home alone after their honeymoon because he needed to get back to training. He eventually moved to the USA to continue training. He implemented crazy training techniques such as sprinting at high altitudes in order to increase lung capacity, underwater treadmills to build stamina, weight training to reduce bobbing arms, etc.

The Great Britain women’s hockey team won gold for the first time in their history at Rio.74400395-england-hockey-sport-large_trans++PjDZOdMgceQ0ik-fUDgEdn5kBUHVUPIOFeoJr9sPfNk The players in a later interview talked about the intensive training that they had undergone over the past few years. Not content with the usual training regime, the coach doubled their training exercises for the week. In addition, the coach wanted to improve their ability to think well when exhausted, so every Thursday he would have them work out till they were practically collapsing from exhaustion and then he’d make them do tests and quizzes to improve mental sharpness. It paid off, as after a gruelling final went past extra time and into penalties, they scored all of their penalties, while their opponents missed three.

These few stories are just a tiny percentage of the stories that are out there. I could have looked at any athlete from any country and found a similar story there. Indeed, just a bit of study will throw up many more examples of hard work, of training, of pushing, of fighting, of going beyond exhaustion and going beyond pain to produce their best.

Every four years, the world takes notice of crowning moments and achievements—moments and achievements that were a lifetime in the making. The incredible dash, the world record finish, the mind-blowing feat—these all are the culmination of years of hard effort.

Muhammad Ali put it best: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”

Your success too will be the result of your hard work and effort. All those nights with less sleep, all those hours spent at your desk, all those letters that you send out, all those people that you meet, all those times when you are tired, all those times that you get rejected, all those moments you feel like a failure, all those moments that you want to quit—those are what make you a champion.

One day, the world will sit back and applaud your success. And you alone will know the hundreds of hours of suffering that brought that success about. Your success will be the culmination of your effort, the synopsis of a life of dedication.

May that motivation push you through the difficulties of today. Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a Champion!

Learn from Failure

No one likes times of failure. It hurts to make a mistake that leads to loss or a setback in any way. Like a runner who trips during a marathon, it can hurt when we fall. However, hidden in failure are some of life’s greatest lessons–lessons that can transform our lives and help us to not only avoid failure the next time, but turn it into success as well. Don’t ever move on from there without learning something in the process. Have a wonderful Friday!

“Whenever you fall, pick up something.” – Oswald Avery

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Heroes, Hooligans, and History-Makers

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Heroes, Hooligans, and History-Makers

~ By Thirumur David Kiran

 

It’s been a week since the passing away of one of the greatest men of the 20th Century.

Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) was a boxer—and a great one as well. Yet, he was so much more than that. He was an icon, a motivator, a fighter, a rebel, and even a saviour to some. He was more than just the poster boy for a golden generation of heavyweight fighters—he was the poster boy for revolution, for making a difference, for standing up for what one believes is right. He didn’t just talk about holding to one’s beliefs; he showed that resolution when he gave up his title, his career, and some of his prime boxing years for a cause that he deemed right. He was an inspiration, a motivation, and a man who changed the world.

Today is his funeral and in the past week, countless tributes, obituaries, and statements have been written in honor of the great man. Trillions of alphabets have been spun into billions of words across millions of documents posted on all forms of electronic media—each with the intention of appreciating the passing legend. I personally have read dozens of them over the past week, as Muhammad Ali was a man that I personally looked up to and admired.

One article in particular caught my eye. It was written by Mike Costello of the BBC and was titled: “The Kid Who Lost a Bike and Found a Calling.” [1]

If you know me, you will know that I am intrigued with back story. I think that we tend to look upon and admire the end results of the journey of success, yet fail to study the genesis of the success idea and the journey that was travelled in order to bring it about. We obsess over the outward manifestations of success without seeing all the work that went on behind it. As one of my favorite quotes state:

“Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character” – Alan T. Armstrong

I enjoy tracing that journey. Moreover, I am intrigued by what kick-started a successful career. I like to call them “genesis stories.” I always want to know how a success got started. I want to know what made a man what he is. I find—more often than not—that each story has a very interesting beginning. Muhammad Ali’s was no different.

Here is his genesis story: On a cold a windy evening in the downtown area of Louisville, Kentucky, a 12-year-old boy and his friends were scouring stalls inside the Home Exhibition Center. There was a big exhibition going on and they were hoping that they’d score some free popcorn or candy from a generous stall owner or two.

The year was 1954 and the streets weren’t always the safest on this part of town. When the boy emerged from the center, he found to his horror that his bike had been stolen. Anger and frustration came over him like a cloud and he began muttering curses and intended threats towards the unknown hooligan who had taken his prized possession. Oh, how he would hurt him when he found him!

A police officer happened to be walking by at the moment and overheard the boy muttering about how he was going to “whup” the thief who had taken his bicycle. The officer, Joe E. Martin, remarked to the lad, “Sonny, perhaps you’d better learn how to punch before you take on the thief.” He extended the invitation to young Cassius to come to the Columbia Training Center, where he was boxing instructor. The boy showed up the very next day. And the rest is history.

joeMartinToday, as Muhammad Ali’s body makes its final journey to its place of rest, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect not just on the man, the myth, and the legend, but to give credit to the man who made him what he was.

I cannot imagine a world that hadn’t been touched by Muhammad Ali. Our culture would not be the same without his contribution on it. Not only would fans have missed out on the breathtaking entertainment that he provided through his boxing skills and his theatric personality, but the world would have missed out on his standing up for the truth and his fight for the right. The world would be a lesser place had he not graced it.

This is why I feel it only fair to make this tribute not just to the great Ali, but to Joe Martin as well.

It was Joe Martin who directed him toward the passion that made him great. It was Joe Martin who first gave him the skills that he needed to become “the greatest.” It was Joe Martin who saw beyond the angry young boy in the streets of Louisville who was fixing for a fight and saw a man who could take his fight to the world and make it a better place.

Yes, the world would be a lesser place without Muhammad Ali. And we have Joe Martin to thank for that.

In my profession as a leadership speaker and motivator, I do a lot of teacher training. As schools get ready to kick off the new school year, it is my job to inspire and motivate the teachers and equip them with the tools that they need for the big job that they have ahead. The school year in India is kicking off next Monday, and so I have spent this week with a number of teachers in group settings.

One of the things that I try to help most teachers realize is how important their job is. If any of you are teachers or have been teachers before, you will know how easy it is to get burnt out on your job. Every day, you come face to face with 40 children who are all unique in character and mood swings. Every day, you have to try to convince them to learn. And it is a struggle. Some days, you don’t even want to do it.

I’ll never forget the joke that my father used to tell us about the boy lying in his bed, refusing to go to school. His mother came to the room to try to convince him, but he said: “Mom, I don’t want to go to school. Everybody hates me there. The students hate me, the teachers hate me, the cleaning staff hates me—even the canteen chef hates me! Please don’t make me go.” To which the mother replies, “Son, you have to go! You are the principal!”

As a teacher, sometimes it is easy to compare with those who have more glamorous jobs or are in roles where they receive more recognition and/or publicity. And we in society take on the same view. When we speak of heroes, teachers almost never come to mind. Politicians, actors, scientists, CEOs, founders of big organizations, sport stars—these are all the first names on our lips when the word hero pops into our head. I throw out this question every time to the teachers that I speak to and receive the same answers.

But then I present this reality to them: Every politician, actor, scientist, CEO, founder, and sport star, was—once upon a time—a child in a classroom. Before they became a success, there was a genesis story that made them that way. And more often than not, that genesis story started with a teacher or a mentor—someone who saw past who they were to what they could become.

They say that a teacher affects history; you can never tell where their influence stops. I wholeheartedly agree to that. I tell my teachers, “If you ever want to change the world, please stay right where you are!” There is no need to go out and try to make a difference—the difference is being made every day in their classroom. So what if they are not politicians, actors, scientists, CEOs, founders, or sport stars? The kids in their class will be all that one day and more!

I hold teachers in the highest regard. I save my choicest praise for the ones who help to groom little minds into the future of our planet. They are the ones who shape the destiny of our society and our world.

And so today as the world celebrates Muhammad Ali, I want to also celebrate Joe Martin—the man who gave the world Muhammad Ali. And I want to celebrate all of you wonderful teachers out there—the men and women who are giving us the hope of our future.

May you never see your job as insignificant. May you never see yourself as “just a teacher.” May you never see your job as anything less than it is: a platform to change the world from. You are making a difference. You are changing the world. You are making history. You are heroes! And we are forever grateful to you!

 

[1] http://www.bbc.com/sport/boxing/21533990

 

Your Dreams are Yours!

“Anything that you dream, you can do! Your dreams and goals are within your grasp. It just takes effort and stretching to reach them.” – Thirumur David Kiran

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You are Important!

Thought for your Day: No role is unimportant; no person is insignificant, nothing happens without a reason. Destiny has placed you where you are so you can make your own unique difference in this world. Play your part with pride!

“In life, whatever part you have been given, whether large or small, glamorous or plain, give it all you’ve got. The part that you play is not unimportant. Destiny has put you in that place to complete the harmony. The symphony would be incomplete without your part!” – Thirumur David Kiran

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