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Powering Through Tough Times

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"I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door -- or I'll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present." -- Rabindranath Tagore

Although intellectually we all know that true success as we define it comes from our staying power, most of us struggle with our journey, and many give up altogether before we ever reach the finish line.

My path as an entrepreneur has been marked by the adversity I've experienced in my own life and the struggles I've witnessed in the lives of others.

Over the years, going through my share of ups and downs, I have created my own method for staying power. Along with passion, purpose, and focus, I need to constantly be devoted, believe in chance encounters, and practice patience.

The Power of Devotion

There is just no substitute for hard work. Almost all very successful people work harder than most people can ever imagine. As Business Insider reports, "From athletes like Michael Jordan to executives like Howard Schultz, these people are known for waking up early and working toward a goal while other people are still in bed, and staying later than everyone else too."

I call it devotion, or "shadhona." The Sanskrit word "shadhona" means "life's pursuit with discipline." I was born not too far away from where Buddha was born. Sages and monks are still roaming around debating about longing, devotion, and duties. With my affinity toward Eastern philosophies, I believe that when our devotion turns into discipline, it is only then we can begin to lead ourselves.

Based on Buddha's teachings, I believe devotion begins with:

  • Right effort -- without effort, nothing can be achieved.
  • Right mindfulness -- to actively observe and guide our minds toward our journey.
  • Right concentration -- concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions.

While we cannot control everything by an act of will, we can certainly be devoted to life's pursuit.

Believing in Chance Encounters

"Chance encounters are what keep us going." -- Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

In life's journey there are many encounters. Some are planned, some are by accident, and some by divine intervention. I have had many amazing "chance encounters," where it seems as if the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed the help most. They have occurred when least expected -- and many of the people I've encountered have become friends and family. And whenever those encounters initially left me with a "negative" experience, they turned out to be much-needed lessons for me.

I believe chance encounters happen to those who remain optimistic no matter what. Dr. Daniel Tomasulo writes:

In the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology researchers Peters, Flink, Boersma and Linton demonstrated that subjects who imagined a "best possible self" for one minute and wrote down their thoughts generated a significant increase in positive affect. The researchers also concluded "...that imaging a positive future can indeed increase expectancies for a positive future."

In other words, the researchers demonstrated it was possible to induce optimism. They go on:

By inducing optimism, the prepared mind becomes a positive one. This is an intriguing finding: it suggests that we can change both how we feel in the moment, and how we feel about what is to come. If we are prepared properly and are optimistic we are likely to incorporate the chance encounter and use it as a positive experience. The glass we were not expecting to see will be half full.

And from my own personal experiences, I couldn't agree more.

Practicing Patience

The realization of the power of patience was most obvious to me during my visit to the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan. There I was, standing in front of a famous Japanese calligraphy. It was a quote by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868.

The quote says: "The strong manly ones in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. I am not as strong as I might be, but I have long known and practiced patience. And if my descendants wish to be as I am, they must study patience."

Over time, I have found that the practice of patience begins with:

  • Acceptance -- Not everything goes according to plan. We cannot always control what happens, but we can learn to accept victories and defeats and use them to move forward.
  • Compassion -- The Dalai Lama says, "a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you." It is perhaps one of the hardest things to practice, yet there is no substitute for compassion.
  • Gratitude -- When life turns us upside down, staying in an attitude of genuine thankfulness helps us realize what we have.

I have come to believe that to survive and ultimately thrive we have to choose the blessings life brings to us everyday. Each day is a different one; each day brings a miracle of its own. And ultimately, it is with that belief we build our staying power every day.

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