Let Setbacks Be The Wind Beneath Your Wings

Dear Friend,

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln saw two business ventures fail, lost eight different elections and had a complete nervous breakdown before becoming the 16th President of the USA in 1816? His story is a great inspirational confidence story. It shows you how if you just keep moving towards your dream despite failures and setbacks, you will eventually make it. It is amazing how much he went through yet he kept on going.  A lot of people would have given up after the first failed business. Abraham Lincoln is a perfect example of why you can’t let setbacks knock you down for long. His life made a positive difference to the world as he abolished slavery in the U.S.A. and kept the Union intact. Your life can also make a positive difference to you, your family, your country and the world, if you just keep going after your dreams undeterred by any upheaval till you finally realise them.

And the most recent case in point about how to triumph over tragedies and turmoil, is the corona-devastated Year 2020, which has gone down as the worst setback in memorable human history. The way the global scientific community rose to the occasion like never-before to come up with the Covid-19 vaccine in a record time has proved that a focussed determination and perseverance can work wonders. Another recent glaring example of how persistence ultimately pays has been set by British Prime Minister Mr. Boris Johnson who ceaselessly campaigned for Brexit for years, successfully convinced his people and ultimately led the exit of his country from the European Union on most favourable terms—a development that was described as a watershed in contemporary world history.

Coming back to Abraham Lincoln, you will be surprised to know that he lived in a log cabin. The roof of the cabin had holes and rain water would drip in, wetting his bed and his clothes. It was a challenge to stay dry. Many other people in his place would have given up on their dreams and settled for a life of failure and resignation. Many would have put it down to destiny or the result of their ‘karma in past lives.’ But Abraham Lincoln was made of stern stuff. He dared to look beyond the misery of his present and dream about a successful future. Once he was able to envision the future that he wanted for himself, he broke his long-term goals into ‘mini goals’ and gave himself deadlines for achieving them. He knew that each mini goal was a step in the ladder that would take him towards his ultimate goal. Mr. Lincoln became one of the greatest Presidents in US history and resolutely fought a civil war from 1861 to 1865 that abolished slavery and kept the Union intact.

Just like Mr. Lincoln’s humble beginnings, we have seen many students who have risen from very modest financial backgrounds and have become IAS officers. I am sure that many of you will be battling challenges ranging from financial challenges to the difficulties being posed by Covid-19 as you prepare for the journey to become a successful civil servant, military officer, lawyer, professor, doctor, engineer or corporate executive. Please remember that a life where everything is served to you on a platter is not a life that will bring out the best in you. Adversity often brings out the best in us. It is a double-edged sword that can also wound us if we lack the skills to handle adversity well. When adversity strikes, we should not waste valuable time in moping around as to why this misfortune has befallen. Our environment and the family that we are born in are both events of random chance and they are beyond our control. We should spend 100% of our mental and physical energy in trying to influence those events and outcomes which are totally under our control—namely our response to the given situation. It has been rightly said that ‘O God, give me the strength to change the things which I can, the courage to accept those things which I cannot change, and above all the wisdom to know the difference.’

I wish you strength, courage and wisdom as you build a successful career for yourself!

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