An excerpt from

Everything You Need Is Within You

Principle #1:

You and You Alone Are the Architect of Your Destiny

 

The year was 1959 and at the young age of fifteen, I finished high school. Education in India had been at that point (and still is) highly competitive. High school final exams are conducted on a national basis. With very few colleges in the country, every student participating in these exams was competing for a limited number of entry positions in prestigious universities. The final exams consisted of taking three-hour tests in eight subjects within one week in a centralized location chosen by the government. The test questions were kept confidential to avoid any cheating. These tests were tough and nerve-wracking, and every student prepared for months before sitting for these exams. Every student’s future was riding on their results on these finals.

 

I was studying at the DAV High School in Amritsar, India. This school happened to be one of the best and most prestigious, and there were many brilliant students taking the finals along with me. About a month after the exams every year, the results of these finals were published in the state and the national newspapers. Only about 10-15 percent of the high school graduates would be selected for college education. At such a young age, the pressure of getting grades to qualify for entrance in a good college or university was almost unbearable for me and all the friends I knew. Soon thereafter would come the reports of students committing suicide after learning that they had failed to get high grades.

 

With the stakes so high and my competition so evident all around me, I was feeling considerable pressure to succeed. And once I finished taking the tests, I felt completely drained by the entire experience. I had returned home to Pandori, but the exams stuck with me. I kept going over the test questions in my mind and second-guessing my answers. I was uncertain, anxious, and very concerned about my future.

 

One morning, when Bauji and I were walking to the alfalfa fields to harvest the feed for our buffalo, he asked me how I thought I did on my finals. The anxiety and stress I felt while I waited for my results boiled over. Raising my voice—which I never did with him—I said, “Bauji, I really don’t know, and I don’t care. I do not plan to go to college anyway. I am tired of studying! I have no life!”

 

Bauji was stunned. He had never heard me speak so heatedly. For a moment, he was speechless, but he soon gathered himself. He stopped in the middle of his walk, turned to me, and said, “Beta (son), this is your life. You and you alone are the architect of your life. I am here as your coach, your guide. Of course, the decision to go to college or not is yours. In deciding your future path, ask yourself a question, though: ‘If college is not on my life path, then what is my destination?’”

 

I remember feeling a lump in my throat. I had no idea of my life destination. Who and what would I be when I grew up? The images of some of the young people in the village who worked all day in the fields for landowners flashed through my mind. I imagined darkness in my future as far as I could see. A trickle of tears slowly rolled down my face and onto the dust of our walking path. We both walked silently for about fifteen minutes before I could finally speak.

 

“I am so sorry, Bauji,” I said at last. “I’m stressed and confused and not thinking straight. I will take this time to think about my life. I will decide my life purpose and destination. I know that education is the only way for any of us to prosper. I am just frustrated that I don’t know the results of my finals and I do not know whether I will make the cut to be able to go to a good college. Please forgive me for my outburst.”

 

Since I’ve already given you some of my background, you know that my test scores were good enough to land me in a prestigious university, which took me to the postgraduate degrees that put me on my professional path. My life destination, which was in truth already clear to me even before my outburst with Bauji, became much clearer as my education progressed, and I set off on a course that has afforded me an enormous amount of career and personal satisfaction. But the key lesson that Bauji delivered during this fateful conversation was one that has proven invaluable to me over the years: that my destiny is firmly in my hands. I am responsible for the decisions I make and, while I might seek the counsel of others, I alone am to credit or blame for how things turn out in my life. That day, I learned that I needed to be the architect of my own life because my life was too important to be left to other people’s designs.

 

This lesson from Bauji is first in this book because it is fundamental to all of the other lessons I will be sharing with you. If you are truly going to be able to enhance your place in the world, you need to accept that this is all going to be the result of the decisions you make. Yes, outside forces might have an effect on how things turn out for you, but you alone choose how you will react to every condition in which you find yourself. If you don’t accept this fact, you will forever believe that others determine your fate, and you will be relinquishing power that no human being should ever surrender.

 

So, how do you incorporate this lesson into your life in such a way that this mindset becomes second nature? I recommend that you start every day with an action plan. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish that day to move closer to your goals, and then take the actions necessary to accomplish them. This will serve you well both in the short term and the long term. In the short term, you will make a habit of setting an agenda for yourself that includes making palpable progress. And in the long term, you will be reinforcing your role in your own destiny and begin living the reality that no one other than you is in charge of what you make of yourself.

 

 

Exercise 1: Create a plan for living your life by design

The life you are living today was created by your own vision and design, or you were guided by somebody else such as your parents or other influencers in your life. It is also possible that you just drifted to your current state without any design. The probability of achieving your life goals is significantly higher if you have a clear idea of what those goals are. As Lewis Carroll articulated, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” With a clear destination and goals to get there, all of your senses become focused and, surprisingly, the universe seems to help. In the words of Paulo Coelho, “If you want something in life, the whole universe will conspire to make it happen.” In order to develop your plan, it is important that:

• You know yourself.

• You know what you want your life to be.

• You know your goals.

• You have clear action plans.

• You execute your plans with discipline, while learning and improving as necessary.

The following guide is designed to help you be clear about designing and achieving your life plan. The best way to create a plan is to start writing down answers to the questions below. Do not worry about being perfect; just start. You will have many opportunities to modify the plan. For now, just let your mind flow.

 

I. Who am I?

This is the toughest question. It calls for introspection, and is intended to help you understand your values, your passions and interests, and even the areas that you want to avoid.

 

Carve out a two-hour block of your time. Find a quiet place away from your daily routine. Calm your mind by taking a few deep breaths. In key inspiring phrases, start writing:

I am:

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II. What is my ideal life?

Create a set of phrases that describe your ideal life.

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III. What are my key goals?

Select three to five major things you want to accomplish. For a more detailed plan, you can give your goals categories, such as “Personal Goals,” “Professional Goals,” “Family Goals,” “Financial Goals,” and so on.

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IV. What are my action plans?

For each category of your goals, develop a set of actions and establish the timetable necessary for these actions. For example: Action Plans for my professional goals: What are my current realities (my current profession)?

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What is my ideal profession/job?

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Where do I want to be in five years?

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What is my One-year Plan? (Specific “To Do” by Month/Week)

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V. Disciplined Follow-through

Keep a journal of:

• The progress you made toward your goals last week.

• What you want to accomplish in the coming week.

• Specific actions you need to take.

• People you need to enroll to help you (a coach, a network of supporters, a personal advisory board, etc.).

 

It is important to have a network of people to help keep you on your path. Often you can find these people from your contacts and create an arrangement where you offer each other help in development. A coach can help you improve your skills and approaches. Your network of supporters is generally composed of your friends, family members, and coworkers. They can help you build additional contacts and resources from their own contacts. A “Personal Advisory Board” is akin to advisory boards that business CEOs use to seek council and advice on different subjects to help advance their business. Your personal advisory board consists of people from your professional contacts who have expertise in different areas of your personal and professional interests. They can advise you informally on how to use different approaches to achieve your goals. By sharing your expertise with them, you can get the board members without monetary compensation. Just ask. Most good people are keen to help.

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