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The epic of Mahabharata has so much to teach to mankind that one can spend an entire lifetime learning all the teachings. And will probably need another lifetime to teach and preach all of the learning to the world. The Mahabharata is the longest Sanskrit epic. It consists of about 200,000 verses or 1.8 million words. It is about ten times the length of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey combined. It explores the issues of character, love, sacrifice, jealousy, hierarchy, loyalty, corruption, war, crime, and punishment. The greatest thing about ancient scripts is the relevance of their teachings even in the modern times. The lessons learned are immortal and can be applied to all situations in life at all points of time.
Recently while watching one of the episodes of the televised Mahabharata series, I came across a very interesting philosophy. Lord Krishna, who is now acting as a kind of narrator in the initial episodes, brings out the learning that can be derived out of a particular episode to the audience. In one episode, Lord Krishna talks about people centering their lives around one failure or a single disappointment. He says, when some incident shatters all the plans, hopes and aspirations, people start considering that pain and hurt to be the center of their lives and continue to live their lives around it. He asks, “Is the future constructed based on the plans that we mortals make?”
While answering this question, Lord Krishna uses a beautiful analogy: “When a mountaineer climbs up to the peak of a mountain for the first time, was it the plans that he had made at the bottom of the mountain that carried him to the top? No, it does not. In reality, as the mountaineer keeps climbing up, he faces different challenges and obstacles. At every step, he makes the decision for his next step. He has to change his plans at every step. The plan that worked for the last step may fail him miserably on the next. He cannot make the mountain worthy of him, he can only make himself worthy of the mountain.” Same is the fact with life, he goes on to say. When people start considering one obstacle, challenge or misery to be the center of their life, and stops the very momentum of life, they cannot become successful in life. Nor can they achieve happiness and contentment. That means, rather than trying to make life worthy of one, making oneself worthy of life is the only way to success and happiness.
Being a startup enthusiast with the entrepreneurship bug digging the brains, I saw an amazing lesson we startup buffs can learn from this analogy. It is a known fact that, starting up is a choice that some of us decide to make. The choice is just the beginning of the journey – a journey that could very well be as great as the garage to multi-billion dollar enterprises and the dorm room to billion plus user websites. Although such are the great examples of phenomenal entrepreneurial successes, still a majority of startups are reported to shut down within the first few years of inception. What could be the reason of such failures? And what could be the solution to that? In a recent interview with a very enthusiastic and inspiring young entrepreneur, Shruti Dhanda (read her story), she quoted a very impactful fact line. And I quote her, “Businesses don’t fail. People fail. People say the business didn’t run. Actually, the people didn’t run.” And I couldn’t agree more. I believe a startup, as a journey, is just like life. And as stated by Lord Krishna, you cannot make your startup or your idea or the concept worthy of you. You have to make yourself worthy of the startup journey. If things don’t go according to plans, then change your plans. Improvise and innovate. Find out new solutions for new problems. And learn to enjoy the obstacles. Enjoy the process of dealing with new challenges every day. And that can only happen if you see a bigger goal. A goal that is bigger than yourself, your team or your small office in the basement garage. A goal that is bigger than the sacrificed weekend evenings and countless sleep deprived mornings. Only then you can go all the way and live up to your own expectations of what and where you want to see your startup baby.
And if you fail miserably, remember the words – “Businesses don’t fail, people fail“. Pick yourself up, pull up your socks and start again with a renewed vigor. Failure is not even an option. Don’t allow yourself to make one failure the center of your life. Don’t scale down your dreams. Don’t bring down the level of commitment only because this one attempt was too hard and you failed. You have to make yourself worthy of the journey. The journey will not make itself worthy of you.
I wish everyone great successes in their journeys, be it startup or life. May you be worthy of the mountain!