There have been several occasions in recent days when the thought of writing came to mind, but, somehow, it did not happen. The usual inertia, perhaps.
It has been a challenging period, one of relative inactivity, and myriad emotions have passed through the mind during this period. I would have thought that one’s senses are at their sharpest when one is busy and fully occupied. It is strange, then, that realization also dawns when one is comparatively idle. The mind has nothing else to do, I suppose.
It has been decades since I have had time on my hands. Time when I have done absolutely nothing worthwhile. The daily routine has changed, and is not a desirable one.
I thought I would use the time to do all those little things that had been kept on the backburner all these years. Go through old papers and get rid of all the accumulated stuff that one had saved thinking that they would be of use some day; old acquisitions that had no utility and had not been used for years; unmarked CDs that would, perhaps, never ever be played.
Did this happen? Sadly, no.
This has also been a period when one gets on the nerves of people close to you. You have time on your hands … and assume, without consciously thinking about it, that they have time for you as well. And, you wonder why they get annoyed when you demand attention and time.
This is a period when one gets cranky, crotchety, unreasonable, irrational, and a lot more.
It was during one of those “letting the mind wander while doing nothing” periods that I was reminded of the song “Pressure” written by Billy Joel. This has been one of my all-time favorites, since it drives home a very fundamental message – the message that when you are under pressure, you are unable to handle it, but have to do it alone.
You have to learn to pace yourself
You’re just like everybody else
You’ve only had to run so far, so good
But you will come to a place
Where the only thing you feel
Are loaded guns in your face
And you’ll have to deal with Pressure
Don’t ask for help
You’re all alone
You’ll have to answer, to your own
Nowhere to look but inside
Where we all respond to Pressure
I’m sure you’ll have some cosmic rationale
But here you are with your faith
And your Peter Pan advice
You have no scars on your face
And you cannot handle pressure
I turned on the CD player and listen to this song. It reverberated in my mind.
And, I told myself, “You have to handle the pressure …. Alone.”
Like millions around the globe, I keenly followed the 2010 World Cup, too. The event, but for occasional sparks, was a bit of a disappointment. Exciting matches were few and far between. And, the hype surrounding some of the big names turned into a damp squib. Advertising and marketing gurus must surely have been wringing their hands in despair when watching high ticket players such as Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres, Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, etc. fire blanks instead of conjuring up goals.
The early exit of the finalists of the previous edition – Italy and France – would have been a let-down in normal course, but their performance was nothing short of embarrassing, and the teams’ early flight home would have come as a relief to even their most ardent fans. As for the English, there will be deliberations for years to come about how different their fortunes would have been had the referee not disallowed the Frank Lampard goal, but the fact remains that the team’s weaknesses were ruthlessly exposed by a young, well organized German team.
The best team won, despite the hard tackling by a Dutch team desperate to put two previous finals losses behind them, and the final was a let down.
The exit of Brazil in the quarter finals was a shock, yes, but it opened my eyes to some important lessons that one would do well to absorb. The South Americans are the top ranked team today, and were expected to win the World Cup this year. When the Brazilians step onto the turf, they instill a sense of fear into their opponents, and an important psychological battle is won even before the referee whistles for the start. This fear causes opponents to freeze, almost under-perform. The same fear is in evidence in other sport, too, such as Tennis (Federer or Nadal), Cricket (Sachin Tendulkar), or Athletics (Usain Bolt).
The Dutch looked beyond this, displayed no sense of awe, and showed no fear, while clinically dismantling the Samba Kings. The reputation of the legendary yellow shirt did not matter. They planned, plotted, and meticulously executed a strategy that worked, and it was the Brazilians who, reputation in tatters, looked a beaten and frustrated lot.
How often in life do we get intimated by someone who appears to be, or conveys the impression of being, more knowledgeable, aware or superior? How often do we kow-tow to someone just because they are senior in their professional capacity, or more experienced? The answer is obvious.
What we fail to realize that each one of us is possessed of certain unique qualities, abilities, and skills. When confronted by a challenging situation, we get overawed by the image, reputation, stature or name of the person we are dealing with, and ignore or, indeed, forget, our own inner strengths and capabilities. We refuse to stare down the person we are dealing with, and adopt a somewhat docile and accepting posture or attitude. The battle is lost in our minds even before it has begun.
We lose sight of the fact that we, too, have a sensible and logical view, we, too, have something to say or contribute. No one is superior merely by way of reputation, position, aura or title.
The Dutch did not, ultimately, win the World Cup, but they did give Iker Cassilas a few anxious moments.
More importantly, through their performance against Brazil, they taught us an important lesson. The lesson that reputation that precedes does not necessarily demand a meek response.