It was a bright summer morning, and I woke up with a lot of trepidation. I was eight years old and had an ophthalmologist’s appointment. I was praying so hard that everything would be alright. My Dad and I left home in a scooter. On the way to the hospital, my Dad stopped at a temple. I then knew he was anxious about me. I could see my Dad wiping his tears as he stepped out of the temple.
You see, I had a congenital eye disorder that would cause me to fall often as I could not see clearly with my left eye. When I was younger, my Dad used to tease me that I do not know how to walk. We later realized that I would trip and fall because I could not see clearly towards the left. The eye disorder was not just making me fall; it caused a squint too. My Dad wanted to stop my falls, and I just wanted to have normal eyes.
With bated breath, we waited for the doctor to peruse all the reports and give his verdict. The doctor then said that “Nothing can be done. We cannot operate as the eye may get damaged.” We came home without uttering a word. Disappointment, sadness was writ across our faces.
My Dad, though, did not give up. He looked for alternative ways to treat my problem. He took it upon himself to solve my eye problem. He would take me to other doctors with no cure in sight (pun intended).
My Dad would ask friends about this, and someone suggested a visit to an Ashram. He would go and sit outside the place and talk to the people coming out, asking them their problems and the treatment. I overheard my Mom asking my Dad, “Why are you going on your own? Why don’t you take her?” My Dad replied, “I do not want her to suffer another disappointment. I will check the place out, talk to them and take her only when I am sure that they can solve this.”
Then, one day, many falls later, my Dad took me to the Ashram. I again underwent a series of tests, and for a few weeks, I learnt some eye coordination exercises, which were embarrassing for me. It was embarrassing because I believed that there was “nothing wrong” with my eyesight. I took great pride in reading books that had very tiny letters and was a voracious reader too. I was only interested in my eyes looking normal, which was not something I could achieve.
My Dad, though, was relentless, and at the end of the 3-4 week program, I learnt how to compensate with my right eye. The falls gradually reduced, and though I fall rarely now, it is more out of carelessness than my eye coordination.
This experience taught me three simple yet long-lasting lessons that I have carried through my life.
1. Falling helps find your inner strength:
One of my biggest inner strengths is not giving up in the face of extreme adversities. Falling and failing teaches you to be courageous. You are ready to face the world even when you think that your dreams have failed because you know there is another new dream on the horizon.
“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene
2. Fall but pick yourself up faster:
One question I would ask myself when I jump back from a fall is, “Did I stay down too long?” I would judge the intensity of the fall by how faster I can jump up to stand. Similarly, when we fail, how long do we take to recover? Do you pick yourself faster and march forward, or do you stay in pain for long? One of the quotes from the legendary Michael Jordan that inspires me to stay focused on recovery even when I fail is
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." – Michael Jordan
3. Trust your instincts:
What has gotten stronger over the many falls that I have had, is my instincts. I have learnt the art of evading a fall, looking far ahead for a hole or a mound that could trip me. Over the years, I have also mastered the art of looking for signs that failure is imminent. I either sidestep it or know that I am stepping into failing, so I am prepared to bounce back. I trust my instincts to guide me on my path.
Warren Buffet said, “Trust your gut and don’t ignore your intuition.”
The most valuable lesson of them all is the lesson I learnt about people. When you fall, who is there by your side to pick you up. When you fail, who is it that you can trust to help you with it? My Dad was there to pick me up every time I fell. He nursed the hurt and pulled me to my feet. People who love you and care for you hold you through your fall and in its aftermath.
Image Courtesy: Jakob Owens for Unsplash
Leaves are always falling down to the earth and new leaves emerge!
Thus don’t be afraid to fall! Falling or failing is not about losing but about winning!