I was walking down the lake one day when I found an old man standing right at the end of the lake. He saw me and asked: “What happened, young man? You seem a bit upset.”
“Yes, the pressure of life is pushing me down and I have got no answers.”
“Oh! Well, I have an offer for you. If you succeed in the challenge I give, I will give you enough money that you can retire today itself.”
The offer seemed too good to believe but the man looked genuine. I asked him about the challenge.
“You need to cross this lake in just one hour and the retirement is yours.”
“1 hour! Let me think. Can I use this canoe?”
“Yes sure. No conditions. Use any means that you want but 1 hour is a strict deadline.”
I saw the lake. It wasn’t that big. And I had a canoe to ride as well. At first, I thought that this man must be dumb that he gave me 1 hour to cross the lake and is also ready to lend me his canoe.
I agreed to the challenge.
The time started and I jumped into the canoe, held the bow in my hands and started rowing.
With my back turned to the old man, I was smiling. I was sure that my life’s problems are going to get solved today. I wasn’t wishing to be filthy rich but stable enough that I can retire and do things that I love to do.
5 minutes passed.
I had 55 minutes to go and I was 5% into the lake. I kept the energy high and kept rowing.
The hands started to shake and the breath was rising already.
There was water coming in on my canoe.
The smile was disappearing. That old man was not that dumb. He sure knew that the canoe was licking. Now inside the lake, I was stuck with a ride that was not behaving as I was expecting.
The hole. The water getting in bit by bit. But I didn’t lose courage. I had no time to do that. I kept rowing. Bit by bit.
15 minutes had passed. I was just 10% in the lake and my speed had decreased drastically. The canoe was filled with more and more water and it was making it hard for me to move ahead.
I had watched a SEAL documentary and I remembered that singing an inspirational song can boost the energy and confidence on the path. So I did that. I started singing songs that would help me focus and try harder.
“Lakshya ko har haal mein paana hai”
“Roke tujhko aandhiya, ya zameen aur aasmaan, paayega jo lakshya hai tera….”
But all in vain. 5 minutes more passed and I was right where I was.
I looked back. The old man was laughing. And I am not dumb to not know the reason behind that cunning laughter.
I was starting to hate this man. I felt like taking a U-turn and run behind him with the same bow that was not doing anything to help me stay on my path.
The canoe was filled with water but luckily it was built to stay afloat and not sink. But what shall I do now! Will I fail in this too? Just like all my other recent pursuits in life?
Shall I give up? Shall I conclude that this is not my cup of tea? Shall I keep trying harder and harder for a small outcome at the end of it?
Shall I continue exhausting myself for no valuable results?
I didn’t want to give up nor I wanted to torture myself. I dropped the bow in the canoe. It didn’t sink. (Obviously) It kept floating.
I looked ahead. 70% of the lake was yet to be covered.
I had thought that this was going to be an easy win and it had turned into this. I looked down. I saw my face glittering in the rays of the setting sun reflecting on the water. Then I saw that floating row and that was when I realized.
I had to jump.
Oh my God! I. HAD. TO. JUMP.
And I jumped.
I had to swim. And I started swimming.
I heard that old man laughing hard. I kept swimming.
“You didn’t tell me that I HAD to use the canoe. I can just swim to the other end.”
He continued laughing. I continued swimming away from him.
60%. 65%. 70%. 80%.
It was tiring. It was torturing. But it was satisfying in the background music of those laughter. That NOW encouraging laughter.
I was working hard and I was able to see the results of my efforts. That was satisfying at the least.
I kept swimming.
95%. My eyes were teary. I was about to reach the end of the miseries.
I was about to win.
Just a few more seconds and I was there. At the other end of the lake. The old man followed me to the end and told:
“Congratulations young man. That canoe that you were using was designed to fail. It was designed to slow you down, hold you down and not let you move ahead. And I am so happy to see that you succeeded in a quest that many others failed. The retirement is yours.”
In life also there will be many such sinking canoes that we will encounter- be it a job or a person or a bad experience, it’s up to us to stay in that or just JUMP THE SHIP.
At times, the opposite forces will want you to stay where you are and not move ahead. They would want you to progress at their speed and not yours. You might reach the goal in those cases as well but the time required will be as per their plans and not yours.
So, the next time when you look down upon yourself, don’t look for pity. Look for the sign whether the canoe is licking or not. If it is, you know what to do.
JUMP. PADDLE. SWIM. WIN.