“I want you to learn to “struggle“. We don’t hear that very often in classrooms. It is an welcome change, especially coming from an IIT, where every wall and tree seem to ask about the last quiz score, leave alone the fellow classmates. We hold very dear the letter grades, which in the bigger scheme of things, has less value than an average piece of junk.
“I want you to learn to struggle”. The professor said, when some students wanted to leave the class,because they were getting less marks in the homework (homework is graded in these parts, unlike ours). “I don’t expect you to get full marks or solve all the problems in the assignment. The idea is to make you sweat and bleed”. For not an inch can be gained without fight, in this world. “In research, the chances of encountering failure is more than finding success”. He continued. ” I fail 99% percent of times, while solving a problem. But this leads me to 1%, where I am able to solve. I want you all to carry this , to learn to accept, struggle and grow”.
The other day, I was talking to an elderly learned man, who was asking me about, what I do and why I do it. I paused and reflected for a second. “Because I love doing it”. He chuckled, nodded his head in appreciation and said that “The problem with us is that we do things which we don’t love doing. And at the first sight of difficulty, we give up”. I being me,(always obsessed with words like “How” and “Why”, Occupational Hazard I guess) chose “How” and asked “How does one know what to do and what not to do?”.
He simply directed me to Mr Rainer Maria Rilke. “No one can advise you or help you-no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart. Confess to yourself whether you have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all; ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night. Must I write?? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity, your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour must become a sign and witness to this impulse”. (The word “write” has to be replaced by whatever it is, that one wants to do)
Coming back to my Professor, it is remarkable for someone of his stature to accept that “I too fail”. We were always told to look at and admire the achievements of someone great, rather than the ordeal undertaken. I wonder if we could inculcate this idea in our lives, in whatever that we do. We must learn to embrace struggle like a friend. The greatest of people have their best friend in “struggle”. Michelangelo, once said that “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all”. Most of the times, we run away in fright at the very thought of “sweating”. We want everything to come, without us breaking a sweat for it. We must let go of it. We must light the fire ourselves.