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Just about everything has got its ABCs. Just about everything. The very brass
tacks, as you may call it. Just as we cannot write dissertations in a language without
knowing its basic letters, one’s magnum opus cannot be created out of thin air. Now, we
are all given just one life in this Earth. Of course, there are theorists who beg to differ,
but well, we cannot satisfy everyone, all six billion plus of them living, simultaneously.
To make the best of this life would seem to be the logical conclusion of the
aforementioned statement. Again there are theorists who have a different perspective, but
we will just ignore them. As easy it is to make that simple statement, fulfilling it is
certainly not an easy commission. We have to cope up with that most elusive and
unfulfilling of charmers, Lady Luck. She can make or mar you, to use a well-worn cliché.
Somerset Maugham, English novelist, playwright, and short-story writer, who had a
shrewd understanding of human nature, had the right idea when he wrote a story about a
tennis player who had luck on his side when he went abroad. This story inspired the
Woody Allen movie, “Matchpoint” which again harps on the importance of luck in life.
But for the purpose of this essay, we will ignore the effect of luck, not a good thing to do
in real life, but alright for this essay. We just have to “do our best and leave the rest to the
Almighty”, to use an axiom I heard way back in Junior School.

So what constitute the ABCs of success? The Holy Grail of life as I can say. A
philosophical sort of question, I think, on which people can deliver long harangues for
days on end if needed. Well, I believe that success is an amalgam of ability, boldness and
courage. A for ability, B for boldness and C for courage. A fair permutation, I would say.
Of course, luck’s shadow falls heavy or light on our life, but ignoring its contribution,
these three traits reign supreme in the game called life.
Encyclopaedia Britannica describes ‘ability’ as a ‘natural aptitude or acquired
proficiency’ to complete a job. A nice grouping of words, as one might say. Without an
inherent aptitude to ‘do things’, it will be impossible to climb the marble staircases which
lead to success. A practical nature here is the prime requisite. It is like the fuel that a car
must have to move. Without fuel, a car cannot move, and without ability, a person cannot
rise to high places and achieve success. Ability can thus be seen as the most important of
the three abovementioned qualities. Now, the talent or ability can be both inherent and
developed. Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, also known as
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, an Austrian composer who at age five began to compose and
gave his first public performance is a prime example of the former. Joseph Haydn, a great
composer himself, called Mozart the “greatest living composer”. He had so much of
promise at such a young age that anyone now who shows adeptness at a young age in any
discipline is called a Mozart. On the other hand, we can build up our persona so as to
achieve success too. Perseverance is the key here. Edison was right when he said that
genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. A successful person will have to have an
ability to sweat things out if he or she is not inherently good in a field. He or she will
have to make the field hers or his.

It is not just enough to have the talent to do something. We should also have the
boldness to stand up for our convictions. This is of absolute importance. Now, there is a
difference between healthy aggression and mindless aggression. Unfortunately, many
people are unmindful of this or rather do not recognize it and spoil their promising lives
and realize it just too late. One thing I have noticed in movie and literary portrayals of
Kings and other persons of respect and authority is that they have a healthy pride in them,
born out of their position and the respect that they receive. It is but natural. However,
people very often behave like Kings in real life, if they attain a small measure of success.
An old truism says ‘Pride comes before a fall’ and it is not for no reason that it has
attained a measure of popularity. An unhealthy mixture of aggression and arrogance is
very often the result of trying to be bold and proud. Pride very often means arrogance in
moderation; a recognition of one’s own abilities rather than the unbridled
superciliousness that arrogance conveys and is thus much more desirable and important
for a person to be successful. We should follow the philosophy of the great Roman lyric
poet, Horace. He followed ‘aurea mediocritas’ or the ‘golden mean’, which means the
desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. We
can see several examples littered on the pages of history that show us the importance of
boldness. Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus showed enormous bravery and
schoolchildren now learn about them, albeit unwillingly. Now, schoolchildren may
protest or raise dharnas and slogans like our politicians have been doing quite often
lately, against it, but we should try to match up to those great people who did such great
things while facing difficulties, or rather braving difficulties. There is a difference
between the two words, you see. Fortune after all favors the brave, and it’s not just in the
movies that things go in a fairy-tale fashion.

Now, there is a difference between boldness and courage. Boldness has a more
practical sort of meaning. A bold person is the kind of person who is forward and
aggressive. An extrovert as you may say. But courage can be found even in the most
inveterate of introverts. It is a calmer quality and conjures up images of someone like the
Father of our Nation, M.K. Gandhiji. Standing firm under the force of relentless pressure.
Sounds a lot like the Rock of Gibraltar, right? Well, that is a prime physical example.
Standing at the intersection of the Mediterranean Sea and the mighty Atlantic Ocean, the
Rock of Gibraltar has been standing unyielding for innumerable years. In cricketing
terms, one thinks about “the Wall” Rahul Dravid or maybe Jacques Kallis or Shivnarine
Chanderpaul. A straight bat to every delivery, however fast, wily or dangerous. Now it is
not easy. Not easy at all. To withstand temptations and dangers and still stand firm is as
tough a job as there is. Very often the result is unsavory, but that is only in the short term.
In the end, the reward is sweet. Life is full of mistakes, mistakes and mistakes and very
often we may be at the receiving end of quite a large amount of flak; but we must soldier
on, without giving up hope any time. We should develop a cast-iron determination to try,
and very often that is all that is needed, along with say, a pinch of luck. Well, there is
misconception that flavorsome dishes require a whole load of ingredients, but here we
have a recipe which is remarkable for its lack of them. The recipe to success, right? Well,
very often we may have to give up “blood, sweat and tears”, to use Churchill’s
memorable, prophetic words, and hopefully the end result will be victory too.