When it rains in the Death Valley or in the Atacama desert, two of the driest places on earth, life blossoms. When the conditions are right, miracles happen in these ‘dead’ places and flowers bloom and butterflies cut across the azure sky as if they are in a drunken stupor — crystal evidence that some of these places we consider dead are not as ‘dead’ as they seem. They are just dormant, waiting for the right conditions to come about in order to awaken from the deep slumber of infertility.
In my high school agriculture class many years ago, we were taught that plants are capable of growing and developing as long as the right conditions are made available to them. We all know through simple observation that this is true. We are part of this organic system where our growth and development is assured when the conditions are right and we are prepared to grow and let nature take its course. In Zimbabwe and other parts of the world, many who have flourished in their lives did so when the conditions that stimulate growth and expansion were made available to them. There are those who hailed from poverty-stricken regions but, inspired by the works and accomplishments of others, worked their way up to the top and some who did well when others availed opportunities for them.
There’s a saying that goes and I quote, ‘Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor’ – the ones who are already in the mood and groove of things and not those who are sitting on the bench. The weather might not be perfect, the conditions might not be right, the music might be too low to dance to, but in all, one should always hold on to the potential to grow, for indeed one day the conditions will be right and all one has to do is grow.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.
— J.K. Rowling
‘Results are out. go henceforth and reap what you sew!’
In Zimbabwe, students who sat for national exams recently got their results. Some were elated, others were devastated and crashed. I had the opportunity to interact with both. It does not take much effort to realize how exam scores mean a lot to students, to parents, and to all who are not either of these two. ‘How did you do?’ is often the question clinging on the lips of peers, parents, teachers (who might be in the know in most cases), like knives hanging precariously on a bandit’s waist.
The pressure is intense and it feels like life itself is dependent on the outcome of an exam, written by a student who spent days on end towards the final exams memorizing and marked by a teacher working on a target to mark as many papers as possible and get as much money as possible to support a family whose livelihood depends on the money. The tragedy is when one trades his/her life on the outcome of an exam. This does not strip away the importance of grades.
Stories are told of how if one was to look in Einstein’s report card, you would have doubted that this would be the one to revolutionize physics. St. Joseph of Cupertino (The flying monk) is commonly called the reluctant saint because he was slow to learn and stayed in school even when he was older, learning with younger kids and not being the wiser. Yet he accomplished great things and God elevated him. There are many stories of people who failed in their lives but embraced failure as a stepping stone to success. The point is one does not attain success all the time and at the same time as others… which is why one must never compare his/her level of accomplishment to others’ levels of accomplishment.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
-1st Corinthians 1: 26-29, NIV
Most of the things I know are the things I failed at first which makes me think of success as a chain of failures connected together by links of perseverance and determination. It will be sheer folly on my part to say I started off on a good foot for those who know me from an earlier age will profess how I was almost close to being the first from last in my early years in primary school but slowly rose up the academic ranks, not by being very bright and by being bright enough to know I can try harder.
To those who put their life and happiness in the hands of an outcome of an exam, I urge you to digest the words of Malcolm Forbes:
Failure is success if we learn from it.
Indeed, there is no way to success and as Gandhi put it:
There is no way to success, success is the way. — Gandhi, Mahatma
I believe if we all strive to learn from failure, from our mistakes, we can do good and be good. We must learn to learn from failure, rising up each time we fall and not being led astray by the temporary setbacks that are sure to come. Failure is an opportunity to work on aspects of our lives that need improvement. Hence we should embrace failure, not as an end but as a beginning. When we fail, let us fail constructively.
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
— Thomas Edison