April 2017 Redefining success made all the difference, says Abhishek Thakore Back then, a long time ago, I was a bright kid. I was ready to jump through the hoops and loops. If there was a biscuit, I’d wag my tail. I scored my marks, got my certificates. I got away with being naughty just because I did well in academics. As head boy for three years, I pranced around with a sash and special privileges (stepping out of class when called, free movement during “statue bells” and access to exclusive opportunities like plays). Without knowing it, I was on the Platinum Tier of a frequent flier programme. I continued to do what the system rewarded. I wrote books. I started an NGO. I got featured in the press. I was so cool! I would even step into the library once in a while to see how many heads turned. Then I stepped up the ante even more. I made it to a Business School, graduated with a gold medal, a funded exchange programme and an internship at a Singapore Bank. I did a startup, then procured a job with a prestigious consulting firm and a beautiful relationship. Check marks all the way to “success”. Except, not. All I was successful at was responding to the stimulus provided by the system I found myself in. I failed to listen to myself – to what I really wanted. It is only recently that I am unlearning all the ‘specialness’ that got ingrained in me. As I do that, I value every life, every soul, every voice rather than putting myself on a self-created pedestal (also acknowledged by others!). Only now am I starting to realise that so much of what I do is because a certain ‘role’ requires me to do it, and not because my heart truly wants it. The irony is that I have run workshops on following your heart, but only now do I realise how faint are its whispers. When I first looked deep into my heart, I was scared at what I found. My heart, in its heart of hearts, did not want anything except to live fully. It did not want the fame, it did not want the heady success. It did not want to be special. All it wanted was to love and be loved. It wanted to play and freely express. It wanted to have a deeply human experience, full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows. It wanted to learn. Today, I find myself at the epitome of success when I am wasting my time having coffee with my beloved (we do it quite frequently!). In staring into her eyes and chattering away, in a bubble of slowness, without agenda, I feel like a revolutionary. In a world that is hurrying and scurrying towards something or somewhere, this totally pointless indulgence is what success tastes like, at the end of it all. Today, when I have opportunities to step up and take leadership roles, I shy away. I step back. I realise that I am equally happy being the fool, the back bencher, the clown, the gossiper, the ‘loser.’ As much as my anxious mind tries to plan and strategise, find ways to be great or change the world, my being tries and rests into the beauty and perfection of this moment. From long phases of suicidal ideation, I have realised that any moment can be my last moment, any day can be my final one. So if this is the last sentence of my life, these are the few final moments, what will I feel? Successful? Can’t say. But I’ll feel human. I’ll feel whole. I will feel complete. Whatever that means. Bio: Abhishek Thakore is a stand-up philosopher, full-time lover of life, and the founder of The Blue Ribbon Movement.
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