Introduction A forwarded message received on WhatsApp carried this quote along with the Good Morning wish - "Confidence is better than perfection because, Perfection means doing the best, Confidence means knowing how to handle the worst."
One hundred percent true. It is also true of situations where the sustenance of success is absolutely essential. In fact, such situations are becoming more acutely applicable to any human being today. There are so many ways to build self-confidence. There are hundreds of self-help books, nowadays available in many Indian languages too. However, as we often observe, only those who learn from real-world experiences are always successful. In this context it is relevant to a) understand self-confidence in the context of one's present situation b) Building self-confidence with one's own resources c) building self-confidence in the context of tomorrow's likely challenges and d) aiming for excellence in whatever we do. These steps will be discussed in some detail in this article.
Understand self-confidence in the context of the present situationThis real case study happened exactly around 14 months ago, when this author was introduced to a family, who were then living in Tirunelveli, a district headquarter town in South Tamil Nadu. Their daughter, an only child, was a consistently high performer in her class and just before the public examination, she had arrived in Chennai to attend her cousin's wedding. It just then transpired that the child was thinking of living with her uncle in their house at Chennai and complete the plus two in a good CBSE school. The idea was good but the mother was apprehensive. The author then advised the family to shift lock, stock, and barrel to Chennai and live close to the school. Though the transition from the State Board to the CBSE was tough, the girl managed it so well by getting introduced to other children of her age, in the same apartment complex at Anna Nagar, a very posh gated community. At SBOA, a leading school, the girl found her feet. NIT or IIT is sure to happen. She is well on the way. Her spoken English is now far better. All this happened because the father, a development officer with the LIC, immediately accepted this author's suggestion for a change of environment. Once a month the father travels to Tirunelveli to make further inroads into his business. However, the change happened when the family understood the need for a change.
This is exactly what should happen. The present situation is never rosy for anyone. It has to be a passage to something better. Self-confidence is not for just the breadwinner. It is important for everyone. It is indeed very important for everyone in the context of their present situation.
There are certain pre-requisites too. The first is a very calm mind. The second is patience. The third is terrific focussed hard work. The fourth is the ability to network with people. The fifth is an ability to see the big picture, no matter what the present situation may be, or how difficult it may be. It should be noted that the girl referred above had all these in abundance. At least four hours focussed attention on the JEE examination of the IIT is going on, with at least fifty percent of it, being teamwork.
Cut to your own situation. Whether you are a student, a housewife or an employed person, or a professional or an entrepreneur, the ground rules are the same. We all need self-confidence, in a given set of circumstances. Yes, the environment may not be very conducive. For example, during summer, in most parts of India, we do have the power cuts. But sleeping less should be the norm. It should be hard work all the way during the times when power is there.
Building self-confidence with one's own resources My own father's brother's son had to do his bachelor's degree in the worst of circumstances. My paternal uncle was seriously sick. The money vanished in a trace. My cousin had only three blackboards and chalk with him to prepare for his B.Sc (Mathematics) examination. His brother, already settled in the States, offered to help, but that money was all spent on medical treatment. My uncle had a heart attack and passed away. This boy was a bit shattered but got his act right. He prepared well and had a distinction. His next hop was the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, where he studied for his master's in computer science. He worked for a short while with WIPRO and then migrated to the US. He now works for IBM.
The urge, the fire to do well in life, does mean sleepless nights. With whatever resources one has. The poor boy had just three pants and shirts. Dramatic transformations occur only when the basic hard work is there. One positively has to find his own resources. Taking the help of some good elders is fine. Visiting the big libraries, where at least one can spend hours together to take down notes.is fine too. This is the only way in which things can be done. Self-confidence will always come when the focus is alright. Parents always support their children in such trying times.
Building self-confidence in the context of challenges This is another aspect that needs a good deal of attention. It never happens that things are static. Robots are a huge challenge. The Manufacturing sector's tendency to take on only contract labor is a huge minus. This decrease is spreading even to the banking sector.
So, where does one go? What are the alternatives? We ought to prepare our children only for these challenges. For example, it is very easy to start small businesses, even when the children are studying in the LKG classes. Remember, higher education is likely to cost at least fifteen hundred rupees ten years from now. The twelve years will be gone in a flash. The competition will creep in. So, parents need to get prepared with a great deal of self-confidence. They need grit and determination. Anything less will not do.
Similarly, the values of hard work and patience will naturally come to children, when they see their own parents supporting them through such businesses. Self-confidence will be a natural by-product. The next thing to do is to find out the ideal environment for study. For example, in Tamil Nadu, only two cities, that is Coimbatore city and Chennai have a fundamentally nice ecosystem to study for the higher education competitive examinations. It is only here that one will rub shoulders with the best in class.
Then come the other challenges. Even after education in the good deemed Universities, the salary is not good and the "settling down phase" does take up to seven years. Patience, a determination to stay put and not wander is a vital requirement. For example, a fresh mechanical engineer, when he finds a break, even as a trainee, should work for three hours beyond shift, every day and immerse himself in the maintenance aspects. He should also pay due attention to the production processes and the inherent challenges. For instance, the manpower may be fresh. Absenteeism may be high. One may have to motivate contract workmen to do the job. The bosses never tolerate excuses. They like people who say"Sir, I will get it done", even when the conditions are very tough. If one stays through such a difficult phase when he migrates to a State like, say, Gujarat, where the number of good companies is available, a good break in a very good job is never too difficult. Patience is the key.
So, steeper learning curves are going to be the norm for engineers from the B or C grade colleges. The IIT guys go abroad as a matter of choice. They are India's largest export of technical manpower. Their challenges are different. They want to slog it out for a decade in a global environment. Their agenda is different.
For the fresh graduates in arts and science. only experience will help them get better, regular jobs. Self-confidence calls for discipline, which in turn calls for patience. It is never ever too easy. Hard work and discipline are very much required for any human being. Those at the bottom of the pyramid will also devise their own ways to survive the challenges. But they will still go through all the challenges, rather bravely. Their endurance power is rather very high. Self-discipline can also be learned by observing others. When such learning occurs, the process becomes that much easier to accomplish. The task becomes a cakewalk.
Aiming for excellence in whatever we do This does not mean behaving like Steve Jobs all the time. To become one like him is never too easy. The idea is to do the simple things right.
Where do we start? From the kitchen of any home. Observe, how neatly our mothers manage the kitchen. Even without labeling them, mothers who are even eighty years old now, effortlessly pull out the things they need to cook. They are very much organized and always calm.
Be that as it may, excellence is also about doing the right things. Ladies who do not want to watch the horrible TV serials are always productively engaged, even in the remotest villages. In one case, this author was aghast when he found a seventy-two-year-old lady, walking all the way carrying pots of water, to keep their roof garden in good condition. When I suggested that she better use a servant, she was offended. She said excellence does not come by seeking the help of others. The family got all the organic vegetables she needed, was the quick retort. The small garden was so fresh in the vacant place of their independent house. The roof garden was an addition. And this happened is in a small village.
Let us learn from such determined people. If she can, why can't we? The rest of the time was spent on pooja and attending to her husband, who was a diabetic. Once again, it was all Ayurveda. She said she would never go after allopathy, as it had "side effects". No wonder, such determined women look for the minutest things in such detail.
Once such a routine is part of our psyche, the rest becomes easy. When a 72-year-old lady has so much of self-confidence, why can't we? Yes, we can. Provided all the attributes discussed above become an insatiable thrust in us to forge ahead, irrespective of circumstances. This is very important. And very crucial too.
Conclusion This author never believes that only books can teach us everything. Experience does it far better than books. Yes, books do teach us something. But the substantial learning comes from the real world. Some dimensions of building self-confidence have been discussed above.