OpEd, Politics

Why motivational advice sucks


Sometimes it gives you healing to realize that the motivational speakers or gurus are some kinds of people like you who are seeking validation from others. Every word from them has a price tag. By just watching some of those videos, it is a smile to the bank. “Never give up, it is always the darkest before dawn.”  Sometimes the dawn never comes, some other times, it comes but with a boatload of problems.

“Keep going, you are almost there” They will tell you every single time you seem to hit the give-up button and you think, maybe these people don’t really have an idea where you have been and what you have been through.

Maybe for most of your life, you have never seen heaven. You push with hope each day that it will be alright, and it keeps getting harder every single time you try. You nurse your wounds each day and prepare for the new battle.

Your goal is to reach there, what you can’t understand is if you will get there or not. Sometimes it can be a few steps to the destination, then you get the shocking news of your life, diagnosed with cancer or a life-threatening ailment.

It could also be years of prayer requests and sleepless nights, then suddenly you lose your life in an accident or maybe the gods say you still have more assignments to do, there is no rest. You must work hard for the rest of your life with little or no success at all.  Now the choice is yours to either give up or to remain in there.

This brings us to the story of one man whose story sucks, Shao Ling Li. Let us consider a man who has been punished by the gods to a lifetime of failure. When you are cursed or punished, nothing you do to revoke the curse won’t make sense. But having started as a young man, Shao had some great plans and each day, he would wake up to chase those dreams.

Shao had this confidence in him that he would succeed. The gods condemned him to a lifetime of no success. The gods never lied, and the sad part of the story is that the young man was not aware of his darkening future. But whether he was aware or not, he was willing to prove the gods wrong and claim his seat at the table.  Shao didn’t force the process; he actually went through it all and faced the fight.

The gods on the other hand were secretly laughing at him. In his country, he tried everything he could to succeed, and all went in vain. He thought that his country was not ripe enough to give him all the opportunities he needed. He thought of America, maybe, the dots will connect there. It has always been fertile land for those who give their best shot at life.

Shao Ling (l like his name) was willing to risk everything including his life to enter America. He made his first attempt through a consulate, and it was rejected. He might have remembered a word from some of the motivational speakers who would encourage you to keep going once you are rejected.  This time, he was high-spirited like never before. He could see his future written in America.

He made another attempt, and he was rejected, then another and several others with other young men, and out of these young men, he was the only one rejected.

Mr. Shao Ling was not discouraged, who knows, maybe his country has something better to offer him (I wish someone was there to tell him that he was finished).  Shao had this deja vu feeling that one has to experience failure before one makes it.

He was right and wrong at the same time, but one would imagine Shao as a successful person already because to never give up in the face of impossible odds is success itself. Maybe the story of Shao is exceptional with a rather painful end.

After all the painful experiences, this young man had to sell everything and take out some loans. (If you don’t take risks, you won’t be able to smell success) Shao was not actually taking risks, he was unknowingly surrendering himself to the police. The young man started a business, and everything was gone just like that. He is now serving life imprisonment in jail, but he is so hopeful that everything will be okay.

I don’t know how you will judge this young man, but I have discovered that Shao Ling found happiness and meaning in his Sisyphus struggle to succeed. There is no greater joy in life than that which comes from waking up each day to fight your Goliath. The joy is not in the end; it is in the chase. I have discovered the same thing in the story of a man named Sisyphus.

Just like Shao Ling Li, Sisyphus had been chained to death by the gods, so that for many years, no human could face death. It means for him to die, most would live. But why him?  Sisyphus says no and cheats death and escapes from the underworld.

As a result, the gods choose to punish Sisyphus for all eternity. For the rest of his life, he would have to push a rock up a mountain. Upon reaching the top, the rock would roll down again and Sisyphus would have to start over again.

Camus then writes; “One must imagine Sisyphus Happy!” In that moment as Sisyphus treads back down in this futile purpose, what thoughts go through his mind, knowing it still leads nowhere? Yes, Sisyphus is happy!

And that’s life for all of us. We are all like Sisyphus. A writer spends hours crafting a creative piece. It is consumed within seconds. Then it’s done. But he rolls back and starts to churn out the next article. What at that moment drives that writer to get down to write again, to face this futile attempt?

We set different goals, we achieve them, sometimes not, and then we set others. We achieve. We keep setting one after another. We solve one problem after another. There never comes a point in a man’s life when his life is empty, when there is no problem.

And therein lies the purpose of life. The purpose of life is not to have a life devoid of problems, it won’t make sense. Instead, the purpose of life is to be like Sisyphus or Shao, find a rock worth pushing up a mountain, find problems worth solving. The thing that sustains a man in life is lifting a worthwhile burden.

At the end of the day, you want to be like Sisyphus, trekking back down to the bottom of the mountain to once again begin pushing that rock. One must find a worthy rock in life, some push the rock of looking for a job, partner or a rock to get the degree, some push it in hospitals, saving lives, some push it in music, releasing song after song.

When you wake up in the morning, you want to have a worthy rock to push up the mountain. Once at the top of the mountain, there’s that brief moment of happiness, a quick break. But that’s not the meaning of life, the destination is not the end goal, the real goal is to find a journey worth taking.




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