What IF ?

What IF ?

October 17, 2019

By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC

An interesting anecdote as told by Gaur Gopal Das. Very thought-provoking and hence sharing it with SOM readers:

It can be fun once in a while to revisit your childhood days and relive them. One day I saw a remote- controlled helicopter someone had and decided to give it a try. As it was a long time since I had used the joy stick, it was tough in the beginning. But  after a few attempts, I thought I was becoming a pro in flying it.

It was then that I remembered how a friend of  mine from London had taken me for a ride on his private plane. As we were taking off, I recollect sharing an inspirational quote with my friends on that flight. I had said, “When everything seems to be going against you remember that  an  airplane takes off against the wind and not with it.”

Well, the tiny Cessna we were flying in definitely gave us a real time experience of that quote. It was super wobbly during take off, but fortunately we had a  very smooth landing.

Don’t they say all is well that ends well?

Recently, I decided to try a real adventure, the one in which you take off in a plane but do not land in it — sky diving! The night before, I am lying in bed, visualising myself jumping off the plane, thinking what if the parachute does not open ? What it opens and malfunctions when we are in the air? What if I have a free fall straight into the ground? So may questions going round and round my head.

Ladies and gentleman, do you know what stops us from taking the plunge ? Do you know what stopping us from growth ?  Two words. “What if.” What if I fail, what if I lose, what if people mock me, what if she says “no”? What if, what if,  what if…

Frankly, these two words  have the power to stop us from realising our truest and fullest potential. That night I decided to confront my “what if” and shut my mind up. I asked myself “Do you want the experience of jumping off the plane?” Yes, came the answer from within. Then no “What ifs, whatever happens be ready  for it,” I said to my mind.

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To make sure it was not an uncalculated risk, I decided to evaluate the risk factor. When I checked the stats of sky diving casualties on google, it was just 13 fatalities in 3.3 million sky dives last year, way less than that of car accidents that took place. But what if I happened to be the one amongst the unlucky 13? 

My mind protested again as I drifted away into sleep, crossing the crippling boundary of “what ifs.” I remember telling myself “our sky diving support tomorrow is an experienced sky diving instructor with thousands of jumps and not a single casualty to his name. Relax, take it easy. The next day as the door of the plane opened at 18,000 ft above the ground level I was ready, telling myself, “I want to do it, I can do, I will do it.” I remember standing at the edge of the plane floor now fearlessly looking down and then we jumped. That free fall was the most liberating experience of my life. Liberation from the two  paralysing words “what if.”

As we floated in the air feeling light like never before, the parachute opened and I thought to myself “today the parachute opened and so is my mind.”

Open your minds, face those things that are holding you back. Cross the limiting boundaries of your “what ifs.” Believe me, an amazing life waits ahead on the other side of “what ifs.”

So true, everyone in his or her life has this “what if” problem sometime or the other. Every one has a phobia, family pressure, peer pressure etc., which prevents them from doing what they want to.  Have you noticed, why all bright kids from Mysuru always opt for either engineering or a medical course? The number of courses on offer nowadays is awesome and one can make a career out of so many options. Moment a kid tells that he or she wants to make a career out of dancing or singing, all hell breaks loose. Time has come for a change of mindset of “what if” both for the parents as well students. There was a time when cine actors used to be  uneducated lot, but the current crop of actors  have many  an engineers too !

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 So many times I have been asked by my friends as to why I stuck on to work in a public sector and did not opt to work in a private sector where the perks and salary on offer was much higher. Every time I got an offer from some private sector, the same problem came up before me, “what if I fail, what if I am kicked  out?” So in hindsight I never crossed the boundary in my mind and stuck on with the public sector. When I see my friends still working in private sector, I do regret that I did not cross the boundary when it mattered.

Once on return from Vaishnodevi, I was walking down a trek of 14 kms. After 10 kms, I almost gave up because of an acute numbing pain in my toes.  The same problem of “what if.”  Suddenly I saw a  man with just a single leg climbing up the hill. Looking at him, I felt so ashamed  and started my descent and finished it too.

I have talked to several youngsters in Mysuru who never want to cross  the  boundary of this city and are ready to work in this city for half the salary. Why? They are in a comfort zone which they never want to cross and hence  miss all the opportunities  which  awaits them in this vast world.   Yes, there is a possibility of a failure too but one always learns from failures. Infosys  was started in a garage and now is one of the top IT companies of the world. Of course, it is also true that  majority  of people  do  not have the entrepreneur spirit and  are  happy with a steady and decent job. But the truth is that all those who have succeeded well are the ones who have crossed the boundary of “what ifs.”

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  1. swamy says:

    Thank you for this article. My ‘what if’ is still haunting me. I will try to stop asking ‘what if’ question as much as possible.


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