Life is hard? Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 02:32
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It’s the name of a Bob Dylan song, a John Mellencamp song, and even the name of a charity organisation. It’s what people say when they feel overwhelmed, exhausted, discouraged, depressed and dejected. And I hate the sound of it.

“Life is hard.”

Hey, why not write a best-selling self-help book that starts with similar words? Think of all the people who’ll believe whatever you say after an opening like that. Okay, I know – someone already did. And he made a killing.

If you get a kick out of hearing how difficult life is, this one’s not for you. Page back and read something else. Because, like American columnist Sydney J Harris, “When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’”

Look, I’m not saying life’s a breeze; just that we’re befuddling ourselves by considering way too many options for way too long. Those open backdoors . . . I’m going to tell you a story about shutting them all.

Have you heard the legend of Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez? It’s the story of the great Aztec treasure. The time is 1519.

The place is Mexico, on the shores of the Yucatan. The objective is to relieve the unconquerable Aztecs of the riches they’ve been hoarding.

Our hero Hernando was a great motivator. He convinced a bunch of Spanish sailors and soldiers to set sail with him; telling them how the treasure they’re going to take by force will change their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Somewhere along the journey, though, many of the soldiers started having second thoughts. I mean, consider the fact: a small band of Spaniards taking on a mighty empire that has been in power for over six centuries.

Hernando kept doing his motivational spiel throughout the journey.

When they finally landed on the shores of the Yucatan, Hernando called all his men together. Another motivational talk, they thought. But not this time. He commanded them to turn around and burn the boats. You can imagine their surprise. You want us to what?

“If we are going home, we are going home in their boats,” Hernando said, making sure his men had no escape, no fall-back position, no choice.

The boats were burned, the Aztecs conquered and Hernando made his way back to his Indian allies in July 1520.

Which boats do you need to burn to get yourself to move forward? Which backdoors do you need to close? You think it’s crazy to force yourself into such a position?

Actually, removing all other options used to be called commitment. It’s only now, that we’ve grown so used to being paralysed by the variety of options we keep surrounding ourselves with, that commitment has kind of started sounding like back-against-the-wall.

So, yes, you can probably say that “life is hard” if you’ve been planning to start your own business, but all those backdoors you’ve kept open in case your business plans fail, are holding you back.

Strange how one doesn’t seem to be moving along route A if you keep glancing back at route B, C and D. Same with relationships, I guess. To get the benefit of belonging, you have to cut out other options.

Things tend to not work out if you’re not committed. Fact is: it takes hard work to build a business; it might take hair on your teeth to build a life-long relationship. If you don’t want to do the work, then it’s possible you should not be building the business or be in the relationship.

How to know? Surely not by listening to other people. Throughout life, you’ll run into people who presume to know what is best for you.

Trust me, they don’t. Only you do. Life is hard? Oh, decisions-decisions. You hear that faint whisper? It’s your inner voice. If you stop long enough to catch your breath and remember who you are, then you’ll see that you already know what you truly want.

Come one, girlfriend. You know. Do you feel the matches in your pocket? Good, then start those fires. Burn them, baby, burn them.

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