To an Athlete Dying Young

Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936) was an English poet and classical scholar. Housman wrote the elegy “To an Athlete Dying Young” in 1896, following the death of his close friend, Adalbert Jackson. As you read, take notes on how the poem’s tone and figurative language contribute to its unconventional message.​

To an Athlete Dying YoungBY A. E. HOUSMAN

The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay,

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Source: The Norton Anthology of Poetry Third Edition (1983)
We are all athletes, right from conception we began a race, some still running, others have won the race, some have even “wore their honours out” and “the  name died before the man”. Now this leaves us with a fundamental question: Should the name die before the man or the man die before the name?


From Father To Son; A Lesson

This is a story still making rounds in cyberspace – what the social media milieu would call ‘gone viral’. And it is about attitude, something I am a student of.

The fact that I got this story from different sources says a lot about it; many people have read it and feel good about it enough to share it with others. And because there are many people who are not social media’savvy, it would be a social service to ‘forward’ it to them. And we can be assured that each one of us will learn a lesson or two.

On this and similar stories, we sometimes don’t even bother investigating who really are the original authors of these ‘think pieces’, the real sages , as the social media (and especially the practitioners) are notorious for appropriating someone else’s creative output. But as we are only after the lessons contained therein, we will just wish all of them (original authors) divine rewards.

The story, which we choose to call “From Father to Son; A Lesson”, will strike a  chord in many a father’s heart and mind, as it will also strike a bigger one on a conscious child’s psyche. Almost all fathers  have similar sons – disagreeable, rebellious, stubborn. And that is our nature. Because that is our age. 

The story has been edited for space and localisation. Enjoy.

The home is typical middle-class. The fresh graduate son (who is just over his teenage years) is tired of everything – the parents, the siblings, the house, the school. “You are leaving the room without switching off the fan,” he could hear his father’s voice nagging him again. “The TV is on in the living room where there is no one seated. Switch it off! And keep the pen in its stand; it has fallen down.”

The son didn’t like his father nagging him for these ‘minor’ things. He was only being tolerant of all these ‘insults’ since he still lived in the same house with this bothersome man, as that’s what he thought of his father.But today, however, he has an invitation for a job interview, so he would do as directed in order to remain calm and composed. ‘As soon as I get the job,” he thought to himself, “I would leave this house and these people. There won’t be any nagging again from my father.”

On the interview, the father advised the son: “Answer the questions put to you without any hesitation. Even if you don’t know the answer, mention that confidently.” The father also gave him more money than he actually needed to attend the interview.

The son left and soon reached the interview venue. There was no security person outside or inside the gate, even though the door was open. But the door’s metal latch was protruding, and could probably hit the people entering through the door. Without prompting, the young man put the latch back in properly, closed the door and entered the premises. On both sides of the pathway he could see beautiful flowers being watered, but the gardener had kept the water running longer than necessary as the hose was oozing water which was even overflowing onto the pathway. The gardener was nowhere to be found. Again without prompting, the young man switched off the tap and adjusted the hose and went further on his way.

There was no one in the reception area, but there was a notice saying the interview was on the first floor. He climbed up noticing the lights were still on – at 10am! He remembered his father’s admonition, “why are you leaving the room without switching of the light?” And thought he could still hear that nagging voice now. Even though he felt irritated by that thought, he sought the switch and turned off the lights.

Upstairs in a large hall he could see many aspirants sitting, waiting for their turn for the interview. He looked at the number of applicants and wondered if he had any chance of getting the job. He entered the hall with some trepidation and stepped onto the “welcome”  mat placed near the door. He noticed that it was upside down, so he made it right although with some irritation. Habits die hard.

He also noticed that all the applicants were seated in the front rows, and the back rows were empty. But then a number of ceiling fans were running over those rows of seats. He heard his father’s voice again’ “why are the fans running in the room where there is no one?” It had become second nature, despite himself, so he sought the switches again and switched off the fans that were not needed. He then sat on one of the empty chairs.

He could see many applicants entering the interview room and leaving almost immediately from another door. There was thus no way anyone could guess what was being asked. Finally, his name was called. He went in and stood before the interviewer with some trepidation and concern. He was asked to sit while one of the interviewers took his certificates. But without even looking at the  documents, someone who looked like he was chairman of the panel asked him, “when can you start work?

He thought, “Is this a trick question everyone is being asked at the interview, for them to gauge your desperation? Or perhaps it is what I think it is – a real offer of a job?” He was mightily confused. “What are you thinking?” Asked the boss. “We didn’t ask anyone any question here. By asking a few questions we won’t be able to asses the skills of anyone. So our test was to asses the attitude of the person. We kept  certain tests based  on the behaviour of all the candidates and we observed everyone through CCTV. No one who came in today did anything to set right the door latch, the water hose, the welcome mat, the unnecessarily running fans and the lights. You were the only one who did that. That’s why we have decided to select you for the job”, said the boss.

The young man nearly fainted. He was always used to to getting irritated at his father’s discipline and remonstrations. Now he realised that it is that same discipline that has gotten him this job. His irritation and anger at his father immediately evaporated. He uttered a silent prayer for his father. What a good man his father was, is , and will ever be, he thought. He left for home a very happy and gainfully employed young man.

So then, a father may be a son’s teacher when the child is five; may be a villain in the mind of some children when they become teenagers;  and then he becomes a guidepost to remember when he is no longer alive. Sometimes when it is too late. 

All cultures are used to seeing mothers going to live in her daughter’s or son’s home when she is old; but the father doesn’t know how to do that. He is always independent and alone. So don’t hurt him. Don’t hurt a father.

And attitude is everything.

Why there are Black Holes in Space

The reader must understand that I am not a physicist, and have never attended any lecture on physics, as a matter of fact, I am a hopeless lover of art. My interest in physics only came to be after a continuous obsession with the TV series Big Bang Theory, in which Physics concept like the String Theory and the existence of black holes in space were almost constantly a subject of discussion between Sheldon and company. My subsequent research on the above mentioned concepts gave birth to this article, my study is sparsely resourced and from the perspective of a none-scientist therefore should be treated as such.

Black Holes

A Black Hole is a place where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.

Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than others stars.

There has been speculations of empty spaces in space. The reason it appears that there are dark, empty spaces (Black Holes) is that the gravitational pull of stars inside of themselves is so strong that it bends their light rays back inside, so the stars go out and consequently they do not give out light rays  anymore

The black holes do not mean that there are no stars there, but simply that their light has gone out and they cannot be seen. The black holes are the graveyards of stars. Likewise human beings, when our thoughts turn inward, we become just like the stars that are wandering in darkness. I believe every concept of physics is more credible when it applies to everyday human life, to the larger and plural society.

There are people everyday wandering in darkness, they do not reflect the light that comes their way, they were shining stars but they’re not anymore. To me, these are the “black holes” of outer space.

My Review of Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’


Is it a tale of adventure? Or should we just call it an original story of passion and goal pursuit? The Alchemist  by Paulo Coelho is, in my opinion a gripping blend of the two. Written in 1988, it is a story of an Andalusian boy who dared to follow his heart when everybody in his society would rather play safe and be like everyone else.

…he had attended a seminary until he was sixteen. His parents had wanted him to become a priest, and thereby a source of pride for a simple farm family… But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about man’s sins. One afternoon, on a visit to his family,  he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he didn’t want to become a priest. That he wanted to travel.

It is a thought-provoking story of Santiago’s physical journey from Spain to Africa, as well as his spiritual journey where he discovers the universal language.
The author introduces the concept destiny pursuit and completion of a Personal Legend as the golden thread woven into the engaging storyline. We discover within the story that achieving ones goals is the key to living a successful and satisfying life as perfection comes from finding your treasure (destiny). Santiago eventually realizes this truth after first avoiding the distraction of personal wealth gained through working with a crystal merchant, and the distraction of love found in the unexpected encounter with the beautiful Fatima. While on this journey, he receives assistance from an Alchemist. While traveling across the Sahara, the Alchemist helps Santiago better understand his quest for completing his Personal Legend. In the concluding section of the book, it is revealed to the reader that the life lessons Santiago learned while on his quest to complete his Personal Legend were just as important as the actual treasure he finds upon returning to his Spanish town. During his journey to find the treasure, Santiago is also educated regarding the oneness of nature.

Constantly in the story we are reminded of concepts such as ‘omens’, ‘beginner’s luck’, and maktub. Santiago learns from the wiseman (Melchizedek) that universe helps guides one towards achieving their dreams:

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

This is realized through reading the omens, but again we’re reminded to rely on our intuitions to guide us as Santiago hardly only uses the stones Urim and Thummin to help him read the omens. Intuition here is referred to as the Universal Language. The Universal Language is an individual’s ability to interact with nature as a whole, and also one’s self. It is the medium of communication that connects man to ‘infinite intelligence’.

The ‘Beginner’s luck’ is the idea that at first everything goes in ones favour, a sign that the universe is conspiring with you to help you achieve your goals:

“That’s the way it always is,” said the old man. “It’s called the principle of favourability. When you play cards the first time, you are almost sure to win. Beginner’s luck.”

‘Maktub’ an Arabic word that means ‘it is written’.

“It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your destiny. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”

A reminder to anyone in pursuit of success that everything happens for a reason and every occurrence has a significance and it is certainly part of the journey to destiny.

The central message in ‘The Alchemist’ is that everything; our hopes, dreams, aspirations, events and occurrences in favour or against us might mean that the universe is out there tickling our minds, if only we would listen. It also might mean that the universe has these ideas etched into the unified field, and if we tickle the universe we might be able to scratch off some life-changing thoughts and ideas. People who have discovered their life purpose and mission seem to be able to access ideas from a unified field of sorts. Some people “listen” to these ideas and they change the quality of life on our planet.

Santiago finds his treasure back home in Andalusia but would not have discovered where it lies, if he had not travelled. The journey is always as important as the destination.

The book was translated from Portuguese to English, I know that translation affects the quality of writing, but I could not get into his writing style. At all. I felt like it was totally affected and contrived. He was going for this “fable/parable” style, but it seemed to fail miserably. The parable-like quality was totally contrived, but, it is, after all, a good book.

Talking so people listen, and Listening so people Talk

The ability to communicate with yourself persuasively and others is very important to success in life (career, business, relationships etc). Communicating with yourself means having the ability to live within your values and principles, having experiences that bring you fulfilment and happiness. Most people never think of talking to themselves as being part of a success journey, and that is often the very reason people are unable to achieve what they want to in life.

It would be really nice if we could just talk to people and have them open up, but we don’t and they don’t either. Instead, the process of getting through to people by talking is more reminiscent of the onion. You peel off one layer  after another until you come to the core, the centre. Each layer is attached to the next at one point on the onion. Each layer is separate but attached at one end of the sphere. People have a  number of levels or  layers of experience.  Each layer of experience has its own unique  qualities that demand a specific kind of communication to gain acceptance by the person. Then as acceptance is offered, you can go to the next layer, until you reach the  centre where most people only themselves and many have never  experienced at all. This is the self. This is you, and you’re pretty protective of “you”, aren’t you? Almost everyone is protective of their self, and that is one  reason communication is so difficult at times! Make the effort to communicate with other people on levels and layers, you cannot proceed to each succeeding         layer or level of communication without having established trust and intimacy on  the proceeding level. This single  fact is the cause of the majority of all breakdowns in talking and listening to people. Learn to  meet  people where they are in life, help them to be comfortable and at ease with you, only then will they be able to open up to you.

Talking so people listen is about experiencing something quite extraordinary. Each day we live in this life despite the challenges, setbacks and heartbreaks we encounter in day-to-day life. Throughout all the challenges that life has for us,  we  have the ability to communicate with those around us  to experience happiness. We  can  share our thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and desires. The ability to communicate is really incredibly amazing. It is through our ability to communicate that we are  able to  touch the hearts and  minds around us…and everywhere.

Stop for a moment and take a look at your life. Have you begun to achieve that which you set out to do? Have you begun to make a real difference in the world? Are you happy with what you a accomplished?  Do you have the income and lifestyle you deserve?

It is  up to you to live the life  you chose  to  live or relentless drift of events will make the decision for you. connect with yourself and others, in order to fully experience life we must become very much in touch with our true self and with the true selves of others.

Each communication you participate in is another wonderful opportunity to build up the self esteem of another person.

Have you ever met someone (or many people) with whom you immediately connected? Have you ever said, “He/she is really something. I’d like to get to know him/her”? At some level, you recognized something very charismatic about that person. Sometimes he or she recognized that same something in you, but then over time, or maybe immediately, nothing happened and you went your separate ways. That is because connecting with people is more than just physical attraction, though to be sure that is important and very real. Connecting with people really is when one person sees another and recognizes a kindred spirit. It’s virtually impossible to achieve true greatness as a lover, a teacher, or a salesperson without getting along with other people. In business,  the ability to  get along with others  is something that corporate executives pay a great deal of money for! Today, at the dawn of the millennium, corporations spend billions of dollars a year to enhance communication skills of their employees. No one can get along with everyone, but those who can build rapport with the majority will always be more successful on average than others.

Connecting with people is a naturally given talent that has been made weaker  through negative experiences. Much of what happens to us in our life time hardens the heart and weakens the spirit. Connecting with others has become a little complicated and requires patience and conscious effort to do so. Here is one conscious effort you should make; as you walk through and experience life each day, you will  come in contact with many people. Look at each person you talk with or make eye contact with and allow them freedom to be  whoever they want to be with you. Give them the security of knowing they can be open with you. You will not judge them. Finally, allow them to be interconnected with you and be separate from you. 

How do we accomplish such a monumental task of helping people feel secure, free, and happy? We all are different. Different things seems to make people feel secure, for example; we have so  many different needs, desires, and interests. It’s not easy knowing what will make a person feel more free and at  ease. In fact, we often don’t know what to say when we are in the presence of groups of strangers, so we tend to simply look at the ground and avoid eye contact as we pass by. What specifically do we need to do to generate this love, this happiness, this sense of security with other people? Even when we know people, it is remarkably difficult to talk to them about certain issues and topics that are most important to us.

How do we talk about religion with relatives? How do we  talk politics with our friends? How do we communicate with those we love in an honest way and  STILL keep the relationship intact? It isn’t easy but it can be done. 

To be continued in the next article.


Africa! “a continent carved out of glory, decked with bronze, embedded with gold, crowned with ivory. A land of bounteous harvest: where the rain wets, and the sunshine nurtures what we sow, the land of lands, the mother of the lands”, Africa the land of the African Sister.

Africa has the most beautiful women in the world today, women with an outstanding kind of beauty. Beauty from within, beauty on the outside, facial beauty, amazing body, the African woman has it all. The whole world stands in awe at the appearance of the African woman.

African women have been outstanding over the years, they have fought so hard to be accepted in the society, past and present, but in the struggle they have lost something called ‘authenticity’. 

One of the challenges that African women struggle with today is the loss of originality. Most of them have lost those virtues that makes them unique, most African sisters have failed to understand that beauty is not acquired at a make-up counter, it lies inward. Family values, morals, self-respect and self-worth are no longer guiding principles.

In a modern society that demands conformity, the African woman is losing her true self, her beauty is fading (literally). The use of fade creams to lighten (bleach) their skin is one of the many results of the loss of identity.

Among African countries, lightening  products are most popular in Nigeria – according to a report, over 75% of Nigerian women use them. Following Nigeria is Togo with 59%. South Africa with 35%, and Mali with 25%. The global concept in the 21st century tends to be dominated by Eurocentric standards which includes having a fair complexion.

Many ladies now have uncharacteristically light skin faces while the rest of their bodies are darker. Some even have scabby burns on their cheeks from the harmful chemicals used to strip the skin of pigmentation.

Local Dermatologists say they are seeing more patients whose skin  has been damaged by years of bleaching – most of the time irreversibly.

Psychologists say there are underlying reasons why people bleach their skin –  but low self-esteem and, to some degree self-hate, are a common thread. Africa has become a continent where black no longer means beautiful.

Dear African sister, there is absolutely nothing wrong in looking radiantly beautiful, but true beauty emanates when you begin to enjoy and celebrate the unique person you are and love the skin you are in!


Boss & Apprentice

There is a dangerous little catchphrase that asks you to keep an open-mind.

This blog-post comes straight from my gut and is the subject of a recent discussion. It’s a subject near, and dear, to my heart only in that it makes me chuckle whenever I see someone proudly bandy the concept about. 

Repeatedly, in the discussion, I was asked to keep an open-mind, a call to me to disregard whatever contrary opinion, views and even personal experiences I may have and accept another.

That term is an anti-concept. It is usually taken to mean an objective, unbiased approach to ideas, but often it is used as a call for perpetual skepticism, for holding no firm convictions and granting plausibility to anything.

We may find that a person is talking foolish nonsense (deliberately being closed-minded [irrational]) and our open mindedness does not demand that we continue to take him seriously.

‘Open-minded’ is a redundant word, consistently used by people who are the exact opposite of its supposed meaning. “You’re not open-minded. You’re closed-minded to logic and evidence” they even dismiss whatever you say as invalid, silly, pointless and wrap it up by calling you ignorant. But the use of these very words makes hypocrites of people who claim to be open-minded.

There is no open-mindedness. There is only rationality. Without rationality, open-mindedness let’s in both truths and falsehoods. Without rationality, close-mindedness keeps out dangerous lies  as well as useful, life-changing, life-saving  ideas. Rationality is the semi-permeable membrane of your mind.

Conversely, calling out someone as close-minded is generally a means of asserting that “I don’t like the fact that you’re proving me wrong, so I’ll pretend that your failure to agree with me is an ideological or philosophical defficiency” hence the use of the words ‘invalid’, ‘ignorant’. 

Being open-minded means granting plausibility to anything while being rational means being objective and an accepting any argument presented with credible evidence.

If you’re reading this article with an open-mind then there is no argument. Even the feature image has nothing to do with the subject matter, but, keep an ‘open-mind’.


The 3 Stages of Failure in Life and Work (And How to Fix Them)

One of the hardest things in life is to know when to keep going and when to move on.On the one hand, perseverance and grit are key to achieving success in any field. Anyone who masters their craft will face moments of doubt and somehow find the inner resolve to keep going. If you want to build a successful business or create a great marriage or learn a new skill then “sticking with it” is perhaps the most critical trait to possess.
On the other hand, telling someone to never give up is terrible advice. Successful people give up all the time. If something is not working, smart people don’t repeat it endlessly. They revise. They adjust. They pivot. They quit. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 
Life requires both strategies. Sometimes you need to display unwavering confidence and double down on your efforts. Sometimes you need to abandon the things that aren’t working and try something new. The key question is: how do you know when to give up and when to stick with it?
One way to answer this question is to use a framework I call the 3 Stages of Failure.
The 3 Stages of Failure
Stage 1 is a Failure of Tactics. These are HOW mistakes. They occur when you fail to build robust systems, forget to measure carefully, and get lazy with the details. A Failure of Tactics is a failure to execute on a good plan and a clear vision.

Stage 2 is a Failure of Strategy. These are WHAT mistakes. They occur when you follow a strategy that fails to deliver the results you want. You can know why you do the things you do and you can know how to do the work, but still choose the wrong what to make it happen.

Stage 3 is a Failure of Vision. These are WHY mistakes. They occur when you don’t set a clear direction for yourself, follow a vision that doesn’t fulfill you, or otherwise fail to understand why you do the things you do.

In the rest of this article, I’ll share a story, solution, and summary for each stage of failure. My hope is that the 3 Stages of Failure will help you navigate the tricky decision of deciding when to quit and when to stick with it. It’s not perfect, but I hope you find it to be useful.

Stage 1: A Failure of Tactics
Sam Carpenter became a small business owner in 1984. Using $5,000 as a down payment, he purchased a struggling business in Bend, Oregon and renamed it Centratel.

Centratel provided 24/7 telephone answering service for doctors, veterinarians, and other businesses that needed the phones to be answered at all hours, but couldn’t afford to pay a staff member to sit at the desk constantly. When he bought the business, Carpenter hoped that Centratel “would someday be the highest-quality telephone answering service in the United States.” 

Things did not go as expected. In a 2012 interview, Carpenter described his first decade and a half of entrepreneurship by saying,

“I was literally working 80 to 100 hours a week for 15 years. I was a single parent of two kids, believe it or not. I was very sick. I was on all kinds of antidepressants and so forth…

I was going to miss a payroll and lose my entire company. If you can just imagine a nervous wreck, physical wreck, and then multiply that by ten, that’s what I was. It was a horrible time.”

One night, just before he was about to miss payroll, Carpenter had a realization. His business was struggling because it completely lacked the systems it needed to achieve optimal performance. In Carpenter’s words, “We were having all kinds of problems because everybody was doing it the way that they thought was best.”

Carpenter reasoned that if he could perfect his systems, then his staff could spend each day following best practices instead of constantly putting out fires. He immediately began writing down every process within the business.

“For instance,” he said. “We have a nine-step procedure for answering the phone at the front desk. Everybody does it that way, it’s 100% the best way to do it, and we’ve taken an organic system and made it mechanical, and made it perfect.” 
Over the next two years, Carpenter recorded and revised every process in the company. How to make a sales presentation. How to deposit a check. How to pay client invoices. How to process payroll. He created a manual that any employee could pick up and follow for any procedure within the company—system by system, step by step.
What happened?

Carpenter’s workweek rapidly decreased from 100 hours per week to less than 10 hours per week. He was no longer needed to handle every emergency because there was a procedure to guide employees in each situation. As the quality of their work improved, Centratel raised their prices and the company’s profit margin exploded to 40 percent.

Today, Centratel has grown to nearly 60 employees and recently celebrated its 30th year in business. Carpenter now works just two hours per week.

Fixing a Failure of Tactics
A Failure of Tactics is a HOW problem. In Centratel’s case, they had a clear vision (to be “the highest-quality telephone answering service in the United States”) and a good strategy (the market for telephone answering services was large), but they didn’t know how to execute their strategy and vision.

There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Tactics.
Record your process.
Measure your outcomes.

Review and adjust your tactics.

Record your process. McDonald’s has more than 35,000 locations worldwide. Why can they plug-and-play new employees while still delivering a consistent product? Because they have killer systems in place for every process. Whether you’re running a business, parenting a family, or managing your own life, building great systems is crucial for repeated success. It all starts with writing down each specific step of the process and developing a checklist you can follow when life gets crazy.

Measure your outcomes. If something is important to you, measure it. If you’re an entrepreneur, measure how many sales calls you make each day. If you’re a writer, measure how frequently you publish a new article. If you’re a weightlifter, measure how often you train. If you never measure your results, how will you know which tactics are working? 
Review and adjust your tactics. The fatiguing thing about Stage 1 failures is that they never stop. Tactics that used to work will become obsolete. Tactics that were a bad idea previously might be a good idea now. You need to be constantly reviewing and improving how you do your work. Successful people routinely give up on tactics that don’t move their strategy and vision forward. Fixing a Failure of Tactics is not a one time job, it is a lifestyle.
Stage 2: A Failure of Strategy
It was March of 1999. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, had just announced that his company would launch a new service called Amazon Auctions to help people sell “virtually anything online.” The idea was to create something that could compete with eBay. Bezos knew there were millions of people with goods to sell and he wanted Amazon to be the place where those transactions happened. 

Greg Linden, a software engineer for Amazon at the time, recalled the project by saying, “Behind the scenes, this was a herculean effort. People from around the company were pulled off their projects. The entire Auctions site, with all the features of eBay and more, was built from scratch. It was designed, architected, developed, tested, and launched in under three months.” 

Amazon Auctions was a spectacular failure. Just six months after launch, management realized the project was going nowhere. In September 1999, they scrambled to release a new offering called Amazon zShops. This version of the idea allowed anyone from big companies to individuals to set up an online shop and sell goods through Amazon.

Again, Amazon swung and missed. Neither Amazon Auctions nor Amazon zShops are running today. In December 2014, Bezos referred to the failed projects by saying, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Literally billions.” 
Undaunted, Amazon tried yet again to create a platform for third-party sellers. In November 2000, they launched Amazon Marketplace, which allowed individuals to sell used products alongside Amazon’s new items. For example, a small bookstore could list their used textbooks directly alongside new ones from Amazon. 
It worked. Marketplace was a runaway success. In 2015, Amazon Marketplace accounted for nearly 50 percent of the $107 billion in sales on 
Fixing a Failure of Strategy
A Failure of Strategy is a WHAT problem. By 1999, Amazon had a clear vision to “be earth’s most customer centric company.” They were also masters of getting things done, which is why they were able to roll Amazon Auctions out in just three months. The why and how were handled, but the what was unknown.
There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Strategy.

Launch it quickly.

Do it cheaply.

Revise it rapidly.

Launch it quickly. Some ideas work much better than others, but nobody really knows which ideas work until you try them. Nobody knows ahead of time—not venture capitalists, not the intelligent folks at Amazon, not your friends or family members. All of the planning and research and design is just pretext. I love Paul Graham’s take on this: “You haven’t really started working on [your idea] till you’ve launched.”

Because of this, it is critical to launch strategies quickly. The faster you test a strategy in the real world, the faster you get feedback on whether or not it works. Note the timeline Amazon operated on: Amazon Auctions was released in March 1999. Amazon zShops was released in September 1999. Amazon Marketplace was released in November 2000. Three huge attempts within 20 months.

Do it cheaply. Assuming you have achieved some minimum level of quality, it is best to test new strategies cheaply. Failing cheaply increases your surface area for success because it means that you can test more ideas. Additionally, doing things cheaply serves another crucial purpose. It reduces your attachment to a particular idea. If you invest a lot of time and money into a particular strategy, it will be hard to give it up on that strategy. The more energy you put into something, the more ownership you feel toward it. Bad business ideas, toxic relationships, and destructive habits of all kinds can be hard to let go once they become part of your identity. Testing new strategies cheaply avoids these pitfalls and increases the likelihood that you will follow the strategy that works best rather than the one you have invested in the most.

Revise it rapidly. Strategies are meant to be revised and adjusted. You’d be hard pressed to find a successful entrepreneur, artist, or creator who is doing exactly the same thing today as when they started. Starbucks sold coffee supplies and espresso machines for over a decade before opening their own stores. 37 Signals started as a web design firm before pivoting into a software company that is worth over $100M today. Nintendo made playing cards and vacuum cleaners before it stole the hearts of video game lovers everywhere. 

Too many entrepreneurs think if their first business idea is a failure, they aren’t cut out for it. Too many artists assume that if their early work doesn’t get praised, they don’t have the skill required. Too many people believe if their first two or three relationships are bad, they will never find love.

Imagine if the forces of nature worked that way. What if Mother Nature only gave herself one shot at creating life? We’d all just be single-celled organisms. Thankfully, that’s not how evolution works. For millions of years, life has been adapting, evolving, revising, and iterating until it has reached the diverse and varied species that inhabit our planet today. It is not the natural course of things to figure it all out on the first try.

So if your original idea is a failure and you feel like you’re constantly revising and adjusting, cut yourself a break. Changing your strategy is normal. It is literally the way the world works. You have to stay on the bus.

Stage 3: A Failure of Vision

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Massachusetts in 1803. His father was a minister in the Unitarian Church, which was a relatively popular branch of Christianity at the time.

Like his father, Emerson attended Harvard and became an ordained pastor. Unlike his father, he found himself disagreeing with many of the church’s teachings after a few years on the inside. Emerson debated heavily with church leaders before eventually writing, “This mode of commemorating Christ is not suitable to me. That is reason enough why I should abandon it.” 

Emerson resigned from the church in 1832 and spent the following year traveling throughout Europe. The travels sparked his imagination and led to friendships with contemporary philosophers and writers such as John Stuart Mill, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle. It was later written that his travels to Paris sparked “a moment of almost visionary intensity that pointed him away from theology and toward science.” 

Upon returning to the United States, Emerson founded the Transcendental Club, which was a group of New England intellectuals like himself who wanted to talk about philosophy, culture, science, and improving American society.

Emerson’s deep questioning of his life and values, which began with his work as a pastor, intensified during his international travels, and continued with his Transcendental Club meetings helped him realize the desire to become a philosopher and writer. He spent the rest of his years pursuing independent ideas and writing essays and books that are still valued today.

Fixing a Failure of Vision

A Failure of Vision is a WHY problem. They happen because your vision or goal for what you want to become (your why) doesn’t align with the actions you are taking.

There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Vision.
Take stock of your life.
Determine your non-negotiable.

Navigate criticism.

Take stock of your life. People rarely take the time to think critically about their vision and values. Of course, there is no requirement that says you must to develop a personal vision for your work or your life. Many people prefer to go-with-the-flow and take life as it comes. In theory, that’s just fine. But in practice, there is a problem:

If you never decide on a vision for your life, you’ll often find yourself living someone else’s dream.

Like many children, Emerson followed the path of his father to the same school and the same profession before opening his eyes and realizing it wasn’t what he wanted. Adopting someone else’s vision as your own—whether it be from family, friends, celebrities, your boss, or society as a whole—is unlikely to lead to your personal dream. Your identity and your habits need to be aligned.
Because of this, you need to take stock of your life. What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to spend your days? It is not someone else’s job to figure out the vision for your life. That can only be done by you. My suggestion is to start by exploring your core values. Then, review your recent experiences by writing an Annual Review or doing an Integrity Report. 
Determine your non-negotiable. Your “non-negotiable” is the one thing you are not willing to budge on, no matter what. One common mistake is to make the non-negotiable your strategy, when it should be your vision. It’s very easy to get fixated on your idea. But if you’re going to get obsessed with something, get obsessed with your vision, not your idea. Be firm on the vision, not on this particular version of your idea. Jeff Bezos has said, “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” 
The key is to realize that nearly everything is a detail—your tactics, your strategy, even your business model. If your non-negotiable is to be a successful entrepreneur, then there are many ways to achieve that vision. If Amazon’s non-negotiable is to “be earth’s most customer centric company,” they can lose billions on Amazon Auctions and Amazon zShops and still reach their goal.
Once you are confident in your vision, it is rare to lose it in one fell swoop. There are so few mistakes that lead to the complete annihilation of a dream. More likely, you failed at a strategy level and felt demoralized. This crippled your enthusiasm and you gave up not because you should, but because you felt like it. Your emotions caused you to turn a Stage 1 or Stage 2 failure into a Stage 3 failure. Most of the mistakes that people assume are Failures of Vision are actually Failures of Strategy. Many entrepreneurs, artists, and creators get hung up on a particular version of their idea and when the idea fails they give up on the vision as well. Don’t develop a sense of ownership over the wrong thing. There are nearly infinite ways to achieve your vision if you are willing to be flexible on the details.
Navigate criticism. Criticism can be an indicator of failed strategies and tactics, but—assuming you’re a reasonable person with good intentions—it is rarely an indicator of a failed vision. If you are committed to making your vision a non-negotiable factor in your life and not giving up on the first try, then you have to be willing to navigate criticism. You don’t need to apologize for the things you love, but you do have to learn how to deal with haters.
The 4th Stage of Failure
There is a 4th stage of failure that we haven’t talked about: Failures of Opportunity.

These are WHO mistakes. They occur when society fails to provide equal opportunity for all people. Failures of Opportunity are the result of many complex factors: age, race, gender, income, education, and more.

For example, there are thousands of men my age living in the slums of India or the streets of Bangladesh who are more intelligent and more talented than I am, but we live very different lives largely because of the opportunities presented to us.
Failures of Opportunity deserve an article of their own and there are many things we can do as individuals and as a society to reduce them. However, I chose not to focus on them here because Failures of Opportunity are difficult to influence. Meanwhile, your vision, your strategy, and your tactics are all things you can directly control.
A Final Note on Failure

Hopefully, the 3 Stages of Failure has helped you clarify some of the issues you’re facing and how to deal with them. One thing that may not be apparent at first glance is how the different stages can impact one another.

For example, Failures of Tactics can occasionally create enough havoc that you mistakenly believe you have a Failure of Vision. Imagine how Sam Carpenter felt when he was working 100 hours per week. It would have been easy to assume that his vision of being an entrepreneur was the failure when, in fact, it was merely poor tactics causing the problem.
Sometimes you need a few tactics to create enough whitespace to figure out your strategy or vision. This is why I write about things like how to manage your daily routine and how to figure out your priorities and why multitasking is a myth. No, these topics aren’t going to create a world-changing vision by themselves. But they might clear enough space in your calendar for you to dream up a world-changing vision.
In other words, you might not be walking the wrong path after all. It’s just that there is so much dust swirling around you that you can’t see the path. Figure out the right tactics and strategy—clear the dust from the air—and you’ll find that the vision often reveals itself.

Quotes from ‘On the Road’

My favourite quotes from On The Road  By Jack Kerouac.

On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across America.
Like most legends, the story of the whirlwind composition of On the Road is part fact and part fiction. Kerouac did, in fact, write the novel on a single scroll in three weeks, but he had also spent several years making notes in preparation for this literary outburst. Kerouac termed this style of writing “spontaneous prose” and compared it to the improvisation of his beloved jazz musicians. Revision, he believed, was akin to lying and detracted from the ability of prose to capture the truth.


“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk–real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”

“Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life”

“Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven.”

“This is the night, what it does to you, I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

“It made me think that everything was about to arrive–the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever.”

“we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move.”

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?–it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

“the car was swaying as Dean and I both swayed to the rhythm and the IT of our final excited joy in talking and living to the blank tranced end of all innumerable riotous angelic particulars that had been lurking in our souls all our lives”

“we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”

“the sight of his uneaten food made me sadder than anything in years. I shouldn’t have said that…he likes to eat so much…He’s never left his food like this…”

“‘Nothing in this lousy world is my fault, don’t you see that? I don’t want it to be and it can’t be and it won’t be.'”

“‘He’s mad,’ I said, ‘and yes, he’s my brother.'”

“‘Oh a girl like that scares me,’ I said. ‘I’d give up everything and throw myself on her mercy and if she didn’t want me I’d just as simply go and throw myself off the edge of the world.”

“It was remarkable how Dean could go mad and then suddenly continue with his soul–which I think is wrapped up in a fast car, a coast to reach, and a woman at the end of the road–calmly and sanely as though nothing had happened.”

“Her great dark eyes surveyed me with emptiness and a kind of chagrin that reached generations and generations in her blood from not having done what wascrying to be done–whatever it was, and everybody knows what it was. ‘What do you want out of life?’ I wanted to wring it out of her. She didn’t have the slightestidea what she wanted.”

“‘What is he aching to do? What are we all aching to do? What do we want?’ She didn’t know. She yawned. She was sleepy. It was too much. Nobody could tell. Nobody would ever tell. It was all over. She was eighteen and most lovely and lost.”

“All the cigarette butts, the bottles, the matchbooks, the come and the gone were swept up in this pile. Had they taken me with it, Dean would never have seen me again. He would have had to roam the entire United States and look in every garbage pail from coast to coast before he found me embryonically convulated among the rubbishes of my life, his life, and the life of everybody concerned and not concerned. What would I have said to him from my rubbish womb? ‘Don’t bother me, man, I’m happy where I am. You lost me one night in Detroit in  August nineteen forty-nine. What right have you to come and disturb my reverie in thispukish can?'”

“anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven?what’s earth? All in the mind.”

“‘What’s your road, man?–holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road,any road. It’s anywhere road for anybody anyhow. Where body how?’ We nodded inthe rain.”

“and you know that it doesn’t matter and we know time–how to slow it up and walk and dig and just old-fashioned spade kicks, what other kicks are there? We know.’ We sighed in the rain.”

“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actualnight, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance.”

“Suddenly he bent to his life and walked quickly out of sight. I gaped into the bleakness of my own days. I had an awful long way to go too.”

“‘Howd’y’do. My name is Dean Moriarty. Yes, I remember you well. Is everything all right? Well, well. Look at the lovely cake. Oh, can I have some? Just me?Miserable me?’ Ed’s sister said yes. ‘Oh, how wonderful. People are so nice. Cakes and pretty things set out on a table and all for the sake of wonderful little joys and delights. Hmm, ah, yes, excellent, splendid, harrumph, egad!'”

“He had no idea of the impression he was making and cared less. People were now beginning to look at Dean with maternal and paternal affection glowing in their faces. He was finally an Angel, as I always knew he would become”

“I had finally found the castle where the great snake of the world was about to rise up.”

“Here were the three of us–Dean looking for his father, mine dead, Stan fleeing from his old one, and going off into the night together.”

“Here we were, heading for unknown southern lands, and barely three miles out of hometown, poor old hometown of childhood, a strange feverish exotic bug rose from secret corruptions and sent fear into our hearts.”

“We passed Walsenburg; suddenly we passed Trinidad, where Chad King was somewhere off the road in front of a campfire with perhaps a handful of anthropologists and as of yore he too was telling his life story and never dreamed we were passing at that exact moment on the highway, headed for Mexico, telling our own stories. O sad American night!”

“On the horizon was the moon. She fattened, she grew huge and rusty, she mellowed and rolled, till the morning star contended and dews began to blow in our windows–and still we rolled.”

“‘Yes I heard what she said, I certainly damn well did, oh me, oh my, I don’t know what to do I’m so excited and sweetened in this morning world. We’ve finally got to heaven. It couldn’t be cooler, it couldn’t be grander, it couldn’t be anything .”

“As essential as rocks in the desert are they in the desert of ‘history.’ And theyknew this when we passed, ostensibly self-important moneybag Americans on a lark in their land; they knew who was the father and who was the son of antique life on earth, and made no comment.”

“Life was dense, dark, ancient.”

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down   river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land thatrolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West coast, and all 

that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

As a Young man.

“I wish I knew then what I know now” was not the feeling  I had when I  thought of writing this article. Life is a tremendous experience if you view it as such, nothing happens as an accident or a mistake, its for a reason and its  all a lesson. Thirteen days back I celebrated my birthday, though in my earliest twenties along came with the realization that I am not as young as I used to be (ack!)  And some meditations on the life lessons I’ve learned so far (or not learned, as the case may be). As part of that process of introspection, I found myself wondering what I learnt and what I wish I had heard (and taken to heart) as a young boy, and how different my life would have been as a result.

I decided to try to write a letter to myself at the age of 15 – giving myself the advice I didn’t have the ears to hear 8 years ago. From that exercise, I came up with a list of things I learned, and I hope that it serves to help some young man in his path to manhood .

Life Advice to Myself as a Young Man

What other people think of you isn’t nearly as important as what you think of yourself. It’s common to seek the approval of others, which can lead you down the path of doing things just because they want you to. It isn’t so common to follow your heart and believe in yourself. Learn to love who you are, not who others would have you be. Rebelling against the status quo leads to burnout. Instead, boldly forge your own path. Many things about the world will make you angry. But unless you come up with an alternative, your energy is wasted in simply being against something. Find out what you stand for, deep inside, and instead of pushing back against the world, use your heart and mind to become an agent of positive change .

Real men do cry.

Forget that macho bullshit that you hear in the locker room, in the hostel or even with your friends. Learn to be comfortable with your feelings, no matter what they are. Some men cry from joy and some cry from pain, but sooner or later, we all do. Holding your feelings locked inside is not healthy, nor is it manly . Don’t be afraid to feel deeply and to express it to the world. Memorizing the answers isn’t as important as finding your own. Most schools teach us to memorize the answers and to spit them back out on demand. They don’t necessarily teach us to think for ourselves, and they don’t teach us what’s really important in life. This isn’t to say you should ignore your teachers and drop out of school, but it is imperative that you question everything and make your own decisions. Never stop learning –every day brings a new lesson, if you are open-minded and not too full of yourself.

Mind your own business.

Gossip and mean-spirited talk about others is a bad habit, and one which leads to small thinking. It’s all good fun until it’s about you, and then you’ll wonder how people could be so mean. Friends that spend their time talking down about others will talk about you sooner or later. Drop them and find positive ones. Let others live their lives as they see fit, and concentrate on living your own. Stick up for the weak and the small and the innocent.True strength lies in knowing where and when to show it. Picking on the small, the weak, and the less fortunate doesn’t take strength. Standing up for them does. Be a champion of the underdog, the young, the old, and those who are struggling. 

Having a girlfriend isn’t as important as having friends who are girls.

They sure are beautiful, and movies, music, and TV all tell us that we need to have a girl by our side to be whole. What they don’t tell you is that if you feel that way, you’ll always be looking for the next one, a ‘better’ one. If you really want to know about women, make friends with them, talk to them, and listen to them. You’ll learn more that way than you will from any Hollywood movie, and chances are, you’ll have a much richer relationship than one based on how she looks in short shorts.

Sex isn’t conquest.

Again, pop culture will lead you astray, especially when it comes to sex. You won’t be any more of a man if you sleep with lots of girls, but you will have a much bigger chance of getting one pregnant or picking up an STD along the way. Abstain and focus your energy on more productive pursuits, I am saying that you do need to consider that every girl is someone’s daughter or sister, and to respect them as you would your own sister. 

Anyone can imitate, but it takes a brave soul to think for himself. 

When watching the coolest kids in school, or the best jock, or the most popular guys, it’s tempting to want to be just like them. But if you were just like them, you wouldn’t be following your own true nature. It’s great to learn from others, but to simply imitate them is cheap and fake. Listen to yourself– to what values and dreams are important to you, and live your life in accordance with those, not someone else’s.

Winners do quit, no matter what the cliché is.

If your heart isn’t in it, then it doesn’t serve you to continue doing the things that people think you ought to do. And if you want to be the best photographer ever, you might have to quit the chess club or the Young Farmers Club, or whatever it is that is taking your time and attention away from photography. In fact, you might need to quit everything else. But that’s up to you and your dream. Don’t let anyone tell you that persevering through something you can’t stand is of a higher moral imperative than quitting. There’s value in pushing through the tough parts, but suffering for someone else will never be fulfilling or productive for you.

Making lots of money isn’t the point, but neither is it evil.

It would be wonderful if money solved everything, but all it takes is a quick look at a newspaper to see that those who ‘have everything’ also have whole worlds of trouble that you don’t. Don’t be a slave to money but also don’t let yourself stay poor out of a moral judgment. Strive to gain financial independence and make more and more if you can.

Follow your muse, even if it doesn’t seem practical to your family, friends, or teachers.

People will always try to tell you what you should do with your life, most of it based on what they want from you. Sometimes it’s based on what they wish they could have done, sometimes it’s based on what they did do, and sometimes they simply want to live vicariously through you. Most of the time it is out of love for you, so don’t be angry at them. But at the same time, remember that you’re the one who will have to live with those decisions, so if you are being pushed to go to school, and all you want to do is draw or paint, don’t let others decide for you. Not everyone needs to go to school. There are plenty of trade schools, apprenticeships, and alternative education experiences available to you – and college will always be there for you if you wish. If your heart tells you to play guitar and write music all day, then getting a degree in accounting isn’t going to be fulfilling to you. Listen to your heart.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Nobody really enjoys being laughed at by others (well, perhaps comedians or clowns do). However, learning to laugh at ourselves is an important skill to have. If we’re so hung up on always being right, or always winning, or always being ‘perfect’, we’ll miss out on a lot of experiences in life. Making mistakes is how we learn, and the more comfortable we are with failing, the less we are afraid to take chances. And the more chances we take, the more we’ll learn and grow.

Love who you are, not who you think you ought to be.

All of us are born with something special to share with the world. Don’t listen to those who would tell you otherwise. You count. You’re amazing. You’re perfect just as you are. Don’t try to be someone else, and don’t try to be something for someone else. Follow your own counsel always, and trust your heart.

Above all, be honest.

Be honest to your friends, your enemies, your parents, and most importantly, to yourself. If you have the slightest hesitation about your actions or words, think twice. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you want to be proud of yourself and the choices you’ve made. That won’t be the case if you’re not brutally honest with yourself. A true man takes the consequences of his actions and doesn’t try to get out of them or pretend they didn’t happen. If you make a mistake, admit it and make it right. You’ll always have to answer to the man in the mirror, so do yourself a favor and do right the first time.

“We are either men or monkeys-and the choice usually lies with ourselves”

                                                                                                          Dale Carnegie