Have you ever been seriously nagged or irked by your family members? How do you feel when someone hurls expletives at you in a crowded train for having accidentally stepped on his or her feet? If your boss screams at you for not completing the report on time, do you forgive your boss easily? Can you sleep peacefully when you discover a close friend has back-stabbed you?
Most of us struggle for days to get over the pain of a negative experience. Often even years later, the unpalatable experiences haunt us. It sucks away our enthusiasm and leaves us uninspired. What differentiates a successful leader from a failing one? It’s got less to do with our achievements; it’s more to do with the way we cope with the negative influences in our lives. A successful leader has a healthier internal mechanism to cope with depressing and humiliating experiences. He or she focuses on cultivating strong spiritual traits that help one go beyond the provocations of this world. A successful leader’s core existence is made of positivity; that person’s blood group is ‘Be Positive’!!!
A failure, on the other hand, broods over the words and behaviour of others. Such a leader allows people to influence him or her negatively. The internal growth of such a person is stunted. A successful leader draws spiritual strength from timeless, sacred principles; a failure is anchored on fragile shelters. Sacred virtues like humility, forgiveness, tolerance, truthfulness, and integrity give us strength during testing times. Since a spiritual leader works on cultivating these principles, that person is happy and peaceful even when things go wrong. That person remains focussed on his or her goals. As Radhanath Swami often quotes, “One’s greatness is estimated by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations.”
The reason why we remain sad for a prolonged period of time is because we identify ourselves with our false ego. The ego is the subtlest part of our existence that covers the pure soul. The ego is our identification with this world; when we consciously cultivate the thoughts of being a master and controller in this world, we are devastated when things don’t go the way we wish it would. When someone speaks unkind words, it challenges our identification with our own egos. Our estimation about ourselves as being wonderful is smashed by the person humiliating us. A spiritually centered leader while addressing the issues involved prefers to identify himself or herself with the soul, the pure existence within this perishable body that has a divine connection to the Supreme Lord.
The ego is compared to a diseased puss. If someone blows air and soothes the puss, we feel nice. An expert surgeon, however, takes a needle and pricks it to cure the puss. A shallow leader prefers to be surrounded by sycophants who blow air and soothe the ego. A true leader takes all harsh comments, open criticism and cynicism as the crushing of the puss by the expert surgeon, God, who through his representatives purifies us of our diseased false ego. Thus a strong leader doesn’t allow potentially distressful experiences and emotional setbacks to dissuade him or her from the goal; rather such a leader marches on against all obstacles.
This is real positive thinking, and Radhanath Swami exemplifies it. He often says, “Happiness is not determined by an event but how we interpret that event.”Radhanath Swami’s golden words of wisdom remind me of an interesting contrast presented by our professor in college.
A man on the verge of a major success in his career met with a serious accident. He suffered 65% burns and lost ten fingers. Four years later, in 1975, in another accident he injured his spinal cord that left him paralyzed waist down. There was another man, who as a twenty-year-old rocked the world with his music and at twenty-four was a millionaire celebrity, with over fifty million copies of his album sold worldwide. Our teacher asked us to judge who is more fortunate of the two men and whose life would we wish to emulate? I remember falling for the bait and opted for the second choice. Then the teacher revealed the real story: the first man is W. Mitchell who since his devastating accident has decided to be an instrument of positivity and lend substance to everybody’s lives. He is a successful businessman and as a motivational speaker, transformed thousands of lives. He also became a small town mayor and authored It’s Not What Happens To You, It’s What You Do About It (1997). He leads a life centred on service, gratitude and prayer. The second man is Kurt Cobain who despite his wealth and fame was a victim of substance abuse. In April 1994, his heroin addiction consumed him; he committed suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.
Mr. Mitchell transformed a potentially depressing and suicidal situation to tremendous positivity and an unprecedented success story. Kurt Cobain on the other hand was swimming in an ocean of success but committed suicide and thus became an unfortunate victim of negativities.
Radhanath Swami has time and again reinforced this message: the need to centre our lives on strong principles, rather than seek success based on an external yardstick.
This is positive thinking at its best; this approach to life helps us remain enthusiastic and inspired despite the innumerable challenges thrown by the world.