I’m sure everyone has heard of the famous saying – slow and steady wins the race. This is the morale of the story about the quick hare losing the race against the slow-moving tortoise. Essentially, it means that even an average person can achieve success through persistent and consistent efforts. I still remind myself about this story when I get impatient and start wishing for faster results with my efforts to do better at work, savings, investments and relationships i.e. prioritising instant gratification over delayed gratification.
I also understand how a combination of bad decisions, unfortunate circumstances and bad luck can cause a person with a normal life to spiral down into anxiety and depression i.e. spin out of control. I have seen this happen once to my dad after he got retrenched in China and had to return to Singapore. And I have experienced this once when I was jobless for a few months after graduation in a foreign country. Both were mild cases as we were able to recover within one year. Serious cases can stretch for years and they can have disastrous consequences for yourself and the people around you.
Even in mild cases like ours, the impact of this downward spiral is terrible enough. You can ask my mum and wife about it and they still remember what it was like. There’s something else that successful people keep going on about – failure makes a person stronger, which suggests overcoming it should result in success. I have to admit that I don’t buy into this as much as I probably should. I keep thinking it depends on so many factors that odds are failures will more likely end up crippling a person than the other way around.
The number of failures, personality and tenacity of the person, influence of the family and external environment, etc. Any one of them can cause a person to be knocked down and never get back. So I do find it annoying when people talk about how overcoming their past failures made them such a success. That’s because you survived them. Doesn’t mean others can do the same just by believing in you.
I’m not saying failures are not important, just that you will learn something painful enough to remember for the rest of your life. Whether you can take that learning experience forward is entirely up to you and it’s okay if you don’t manage to do it. I want to say I persevered, kept believing in myself, and that’s how I broke that wall down. But I would be lying. I had almost given up and just about ready to throw in the towel. Even my wife (then girlfriend) who was supporting me the entire way was getting increasingly frustrated as she struggled with her own work issues. It came down to dumb luck that saved us from the deep hole we were in, which was about to get a whole lot deeper if it didn’t happen.
So yes. I believe in luck just as much as I believe in our efforts that got us to where we are today. That one bad life experience 8 years ago just after we graduated shaped much of our core beliefs, values and attitudes. How essential it is just to keep taking one step forward at a time even when you have no idea where you are heading or you end up moving backwards. That it is not about the pace of progress but how steady and stable the progress you have made is. Spend most of your time building the foundation and you will be surprised how quickly you can level up after. We may behave differently from the past because our personal and financial circumstances have changed. But some things stick to you for a lifetime and hopefully for the better.