The next time I’m looking at a mountain of work and feeling sorry for myself, wondering how I will ever get through it all, I’m going to think about Dashrath Manjhi, quit my cryin’, and dig in. If you’re not familiar with his story (the details are slightly different in various sources), he was a fellow in India whose wife was injured on the rugged 300 foot hill that isolated his community, and was unable to receive medical treatment in time because the same hill blocked the path to nearby medical facilities where she could have received help. The shortest path otherwise skirted the small mountain, and turned what could be a 10 km journey into a 75 km journey.
In 1959, Dashrath decided to fix this little problem himself. Being a Musahar (amongst the lowest of India’s Scheduled Castes), he knew it was pointless to petition the government in any way to change things, so he grabbed a hammer and chisel, and got to work. Twenty two years later, working day in, day out, he had carved a 360 foot long, 30 foot wide road through the mountain. This shortened the distance to medical services and schools by anywhere from 10 to 50 kilometers, allowing kids to walk to schools they previously couldn’t, and easier access to critical health resources.
I wish I could say I’ve accomplished the same with my pile of work today, but as I said, I’ll be thinking about Dashrath as I work, because his accomplishment relied on four classic success principles:
Note that Dashrath did this ON HIS OWN. Most of us would look at a similar situation, decide that we don’t have the resources, and turn this challenge into a complicated legislative process or lament the lack of resources available. This dude just grabbed a hammer and got to work!
Yeah, yeah. We’ve all heard about Edison’s 1000 failed attempts before creating a successful light bulb. I wonder how many thousand hammer blows it took to accomplish this herculean task? Dashrath apparently kept his eye on the goal, and stuck to the steps to get there.
Keep in mind that it was already too late for this project to help his wife, and he certainly wasn’t getting union scale for the work. He did this largely for the benefit of his community, and driven by the knowledge that it was “the right thing to do”.
Questioning Authority, Ignoring Naysayers
I often joke about how I feel like I live in Horseville, but this guy was REALLY surrounded by naysayers. He was considered a madman for quite some time. Until he ACHIEVED THE GOAL of course. Even then, although his efforts were acknowledged by the government to some degree, the landlords for whom he worked said there was “nothing great about what he was doing – it was the duty of Harijans to do such work”.