One of the most important lessons I have learnt from Robert Schuller’s book: “Success is Never Ending; Failure is Never Final” is the need to exit gracefully. Setbacks come and in every person’s life there are times of being ‘out’. It could be that the period of our peak performance is over, or we suddenly lose a loved companion, a marriage may end in divorce, separation from near and dear ones can happen, we may cease to be in demand for our services, we may lose friends, we may run into monetary problems or some other misfortune may come our way.
Schuller talks about exiting from many such situations gracefully, and then at some later stage making a comeback in another area of life, field, sphere or position. To exit gracefully means that we do not cling to our positions when the time is over or circumstances change. We do not end with bitterness or adopt a defeatist attitude when things go wrong for us as they obviously will, from time to time.
Tennis players like Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff bowed out of the game after winning many grand slams and becoming almost impregnable players. In cricket, master players like Sachin Tendulkar called it a day.
There is a time and season for everything. In the political process too, some exit gracefully while others cling to their positions of power. In the business world, changes in management, can be a fairly smooth transition; otherwise they can lead to acrimonious debates and mudslinging.
Retirement can be one such occasion when we suddenly find that we are ‘out’. Or downsizing in banks and offices can lead many people to be ‘out’ of a job even if temporarily, on a measly compensation package. Ill health can also be a setback that forces people to retire prematurely.
When there is serious competition for a job, a few may land a job and others who may be as talented find that they have to look for other, less attractive options. Students who do not have the required score cards and marks may have to forego professions that they had set their hearts on.
We will all have to go through some experience of being ‘out’ at some time or other, because life is about change and uncertainty. The young experience this change more intensely than others. They don’t have to behave like passive victims but actively explore other options.
Exiting is our every day experience. When a second child is born in the family and when the focus of parents shifts from the first child to the newcomer, the older child may experience the feeling of being left ‘out’.
Exiting could also be necessary when we are caught with the wrong job or have to leave because the company we work for is no longer viable. When going through the stresses and strains of being without a job for a while, the aspirant, instead of becoming negative about himself and future prospects, could instead, search with calm and quiet confidence for another opening.
And finally, when it comes to the grand exit and death beckons, we must leave this world gracefully because what matters is not that we die but how we die. Having a peaceful death is one important manifestation of exiting gracefully.