K(NO)W PAIN, K(NO)W GAIN

THE TITLE TO THIS POST IS ACTUALLY A MINOR MODIFICATION of  a Nike ad  which in turn was actually a very meaningful adaptation of an age old adage : no pains, no gains. Personally however, if all of us have quick fixes at arms length we would of course reach for them almost reflexively.  Indeed, the whole world of apps revolves around making life easier, more convenient.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I WISH TO DWELL ON the possibility of securing enormous gains by the sheer consequence of our own, individual painstaking efforts.  By way of example, while Google’s search engines will bring information at our finger tips, our own understanding of the world around us depends entirely on the application of our own minds, the time we take to reflect on what we see, read and listen to. Technology eliminates the efforts in securing information but it cannot eliminate what we as humans need to do.   Likewise, there are no easy options at all in the mastery of a skill.  A lazy singer endowed with a great voice may meet oblivion faster than he or she imagined in comparison to a mediocre one who, by putting in countless hours of practice perfects his or her voice to the level of an absolute master.  The same goes for sport, writing, scientific research, and all of the fine arts.  While we marvel at the way Tiger Woods, Roger Federer or Sachin Tendulkar play, the deceptive ease with which  they execute their strokes conceals the several thousand hours of self denying toil, industry and patience they have put in to reach their present levels.  Furthermore, to remain consistent in their performance, they have no options but to continue taking pains, raising the bar, each time. If  I remember rightly, it was Malcolm Gladwell who said that a minimum of 10,000 hours was required for the mastery of a basic skill aside of the right environment where talent has to be nurtured. (Those interested must read his Outliers,where,amongst other very interesting examples, the efforts behind the extraordinary success of The Beatles is documented.)

RATHER THAN DESPISE THEM, WE SHOULD CONSIDER ourselves fortunate if we have the opportunity to be apprenticed or work under task masters who will demand nothing but the best and who will keep raising the bar each time we do better.  In many ways, the ancient gurukula system ensured this and the leading classical singers of Hindustani and Carnatic music regale us often with inspiring stories about their mentors who had exacting standards of performance.  As is often said, there is no way of knowing what perfection is – we can only be on a perennial journey towards it. If we are not fortunate enough to have a guru or a mentor we should ourselves have a healthy cynicism about our own “achievements so far”  and aspire for things higher than what we are accustomed to.

THE TROUBLE WE TAKE TO EXCEL IN WHATEVER WE DO and the pains we take to deliver a better result each time the same activity is performed again helps us reach and experience a level of happiness and fulfillment that is individual and unique.  We have to therefore know pains to experience gains and there are no quick fixes at all here.
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