Self Development
In the Race for Numero Uno

by DP Sabharwal
Everyone wants to succeed in life. Most of us, most of the times, do not even think or realize that success is not the end of the road. There is something ahead of it too! What?
Everyone wants to succeed in life. The desire for success is a basic human requirement which forces a person to put-in extra effort.  The word ‘success' in fact, is a stimulant. It puts each one of us on a lofty pedestal. That in all probability is the reason that a majority of us are quite satisfied if we succeed in our endeavors. Most of us, most of the times, do not even think or realize that success is not the end of the road. There is something ahead of it too!
To be successful is no doubt a big thing in itself. But to be the best amongst the successful contemporaries is undoubtedly the ultimate in life. This special aspect of ‘being the best' is what the whole game is about: The pinnacle of success, the dream moment of being number one, the Numero Uno.
The history is full of such people who reached this summit of success in their endeavors. Even after centuries, Columbus is known as the first one to go around the Earth. Hundreds of men and women have succeeded in scaling Mt Everest, but hardly any one would remember their names. Yet everyone remembers that it was Tenzing & Hillary who were the first ones to set their feet on it. Who can forget Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the invincible moon? Records have been broken and will be broken in future as well, but little master Sunil Gavaskar shall ever remain the first batsman in the world to have scored 10,000 runs in test cricket. Well, the list is endless, but the fact is short and sweet: Numero Uno in any field is a respected and revered individual for all the times to come! Such people attain virtual immortality. And that is the ultimate reward for being number one in the chosen field. And it is this recognition, a place in the history books that has propelled men and women, ever since the human race has evolved, to be number one.
It is common knowledge that extreme hard work is required to be successful and number one in any field. No one ever doubts it. But that is not all. In fact there is no simple formula to achieve number one position in any field. A study of biographies and autobiographies of such great achievers throws light on various aspects of their personality and training in addition to the sweat and toil they put in. The main points that emerge from the in-sights into the lives of few of such all time greats are as summed up hereafter.
A Vision 
‘It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness', said Seneca. No doubt in it. Situation at times can, however, be even worse. There might not be any road at all to start with. Such is the situation in most of the cases, most of the times. To cite few examples, well, there was no defined route to the Mount Everest the first time. Wright brothers, the pioneers of aircraft flight, did not have any scripted knowledge about it. Jehangir did not have any Taj Mahal type of structure to inspire him. Yet, they all succeeded and reached Numero Uno position in their chosen areas. Well, all such people did have something special yet something basic: the ‘Vision' to achieve the aim, to reach the invisible yet, well conceived and well defined goal. So it is necessary to have vision, the essential first step for the first position. Think and chalk out the route you are going to have before you actually take the first step.
Hard work is essential for success, but perseverance is the key to open the door to the pathway of Numero Uno lamp-post. It is rightly said that ‘Rome was not built in a day'. Once you have decided to be in the race for number one position, go for the goal in a steadfast manner. Keep striving for it. It is said that courage to start and willingness to keep everlastingly at it, are the requisite for the ultimate success. IAS toppers, year after year, confess that main feature behind their success is ‘perseverance of effort'.
Burning Fire
It is necessary to have a goal to be number one. But it is just not sufficient to have this goal pasted on the wall of your room. Let it not happen that so long as you are looking at it, you are reminded of it, but the moment you are out of the room, you lose sight of it. It has to be there in front of you at all the times. It has to be like a burning fire, which you should be able to see as well as feel at all times. It was such a burning fire that enabled Kapil Dev to become the highest wicket taker of the day that too coming from a country that had wickets suited for spinners and not pace-men!
Killer Instinct
Every thing being equal, it is the killer instinct that decides who will stand tallest on the victory podium. It is something like the feeling of ‘do or die' when survival is threatened and life is at stake. It is like that condition of Arjuna, when he is oblivious to everything around him and can only see the eye of the bird at which he has taken aim at. It is the moment of concentration of all energies, the moment when others around you should not matter at all. It is the moment to ‘go all out'. This unfortunately is one area where we Indians are known to have a soft belly. It is quiet often stated that we lack killer instinct. Living examples of sufferers from the lack of this vital quality for being Numero Uno are the all times great athletes Milkha Singh & PT Usha, who missed Olympic medals by fraction of seconds.
The Other Factors
Ours is a jet age. Everything and everyone is moving at break-neck speed. The name of the game is to reach the top quickly, well ahead of others. Now, to be a winner in this race, one has to have the qualities mentioned above. There are, however, few other equally important aspects of this race, which one has to be aware of. It will be worthwhile to know and remember these points.
  • Be Fully Equipped - Before starting, ensure that you have everything you will require on your way up as well as while being on the summit. Be fully equipped, as they say. Ensure that the foundation on which you are going to set your foot is strong. Make sure you won't have to come down from half-way to fetch something you hadn't thought of earlier or had left behind. In such a case you are bound to miss the race for being number one.
  • Un-earth Deficiencies - In the race for Numero Uno, it is no disgrace to finish second. But if that happens, then there is a lesson in it. Try to find out what and where you lacked vis-à-vis the winner. Get over these so that next time is your time.
  • Be Fair - In your endeavor, be fair and honest. Remember that once you get to the top slot, you are bound to get into the public glare and scrutiny. Any wrong doings will eventually come out in the open. What follows next is simply disgrace. Try to recollect the Olympic medal winners who were later dethroned and stripped of their medals. What a humiliation!
  • Accept Failings - No one is perfect. Everyone is likely to make mistakes. But once you make a mistake, learn to accept it, because only then can you correct it. Putting your failures to others account will not help. Don Wilder has rightly said, ‘Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failures'.
  • Give Credit - While climbing the ladder to success and number one position, recognize and remember all those who had given you a helping hand. The good words spoken by you will spread and as a result many more will be there to help and cheer you up all the way and hold the ladder for you in case the need ever arises.
  • Have a Time Frame - In every aspect of modern life, records are being bettered almost every day. Thus you must have a clear idea as to how long you are going to be in the race. In today's world, King Bruce & the Spider approach will not work. Try, try again may not be the ideal solution.
  • Change is Inevitable - It is easy to reach the top, but very difficult to stay there. This law of nature must be understood and respected. All energies must not be exhausted in reaching the top and all efforts must not stop once being there. Remember, others are trying all the time to occupy the Numero Uno position. So be guarded and be fully prepared to stay there once you reach there. The great tennis player Pete Sampras is the ideal case to follow in this aspect.
The Final Words
Life is not easy for any one of us.  But then, so what? Doesn't that mean that we all are in the same boat to begin with? In such a scenario, the winner is going to be the one who has the perseverance and, above all, tons of confidence! "We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this something, at whatever cost, must be attained" said Marie Curie. Well, this describes the best way to attain the Numero Uno position. Explore yourself. Find out your strongest area, the area in which you feel you are gifted. Once this is accomplished, you are already halfway to the top-slot, having covered the most difficult first-half. The next half shall not pose insurmountable problems. That would relatively be easy.
Wg Cdr DP Sabharwal (Retd) is a post-graduate in Aeronautical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He worked in the Indian Air Force for 25 years on fighter (Hunter, MiG-21, MiG-29) aircraft and helicopters (Chetak, Cheetah, Mi-8). He sought voluntary retirement in 1995 to pursue a career in teaching and writing.
A Fellow of Institution of Engineers and the Aeronautical Society of India, Sabharwal is visiting professor at engineering and MBA institutes and a Corporate Trainer on behavioral skills. Author of 22 books including 'A Finer You' a book on personal grooming, manners and etiquettes; he is settled in Bangalore (India) and can be contacted at