In one of his talks, Denzel Washington said, “Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.” He is talking about this sort of ease that leads to lethargy; it is when everything is at hand, that one may not even bother to try. Trying incessantly has almost always been the key behind great breakthroughs. Tawfiq Al Hakim (1898-1987), the founder of contemporary Egyptian drama, wrote more than 50 plays. His success was not an act of just the passion to succeed; he was reading around 100 pages every day in different languages. Had not he worked that hard, he would not have achieved that much.
What Denzel stated sets some sort of challenge to the mainstream idea about how the world operates, how people succeed and how people become happy. The main theme of many pop self-help books like “the Secret” by Rhonda Byrne is based on the belief of the law of attraction, which assumes that thoughts can change a person’s life directly. I wish it were that easy. The same applies to another mainstream idea that you can be happy because you deserve to be happy, or because you decide to be happy. I wish it were that simple.
Life is neither easy nor simple. It is entangled and complicated. Every single story is linked to other stories that make it even more entangled; it has got many layers, and everyone is linked to another, which makes what Einstein said, “ What is incomprehensible about the world is that it is incomprehensible” fathomable enough. We cannot just claim that life is easy because we think so, or we want to be popular, or because I can use an anecdote to prove what I am saying. When we set rules, we base them on patterns, not one single story, and that is why we cannot copy people’s life or follow what they have done and expect to get the same results. There is no manual that is based on other people’s stories. People’s stories are their own stories and these stories, whether successful or not, are based on many layers and circumstances that are almost impossible to copy. When you ask a happily married couple about marriage, their response would be different than those who are miserable in their married life, or if you inquire about someone’s experience in a foreign country, you would get diverse responses that are totally dependent on their own experiences there, but then again these are different people’s stories, so it would be too hard to benefit or even learn lessons from their own life, unless you study the whole context, but then you cannot repeat the same exact story with all its details.
Change is a process; it is almost never a decision. So, it is not merely a law of attraction or a decision to be happy, the process is much more detailed and sophisticated than this. Stephen Covey (1932-2012), the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” explained that the cycle of change begins with an idea and that leads to a decision and then a practice phase where so many people fail to continue, if you don’t pass phase three you can’t get to the desired end. In this phase, change is basically linked to hard work which is the core of the story.
Covey resembles this to the law of the farm, where we have to prepare the ground, plant the seed, cultivate, and water it if we expect to reap the harvest. You don’t reap anything if you just decide, or hope or wish or mentally focus on what you want; the process is long, hard, and arduous. It is easy to tell people you can change if you want to, but then the story is much more sophisticated. It is not merely about the vibes, there are deep layers to life. The core is to consistently practice what you are aiming to achieve, to really walk the talk, to get deeply immersed in the craft, profession, project or relationship you desire until it becomes part of you. Still, success is not guaranteed, it is an ongoing pursuit. There is a risk factor that is shaping the pursuits we are after in life. We have to embrace that factor so that we may master that change we are hoping for.
M.A International Relations, University of Bedfordshire