Sri Amma Bhagawan Sharanam
Sri  Amma Bhagawan Sharanam

Chapter 7: Know your strengths and weaknesses: Use your strength to succeed.

An elderly, fellow passenger near the window coughed continuously and struggled. Paramanand stretched himself forward and opened the window to relieve the old man from the suffocation inside. When he felt better, the old man said, “Thank you, brother… In fact, I wasn’t asleep, and I was hearing your conversation with that boy. You are a good story-teller, brother. Your story on Veerapandia Kattabomman reminds me of my father, who had spent some time with V. O. Chidambaranar in the jail at Tirunelveli. V.O.C stood for the self-dignity of the Indians, as a whole.…..” He coughed intermittently once again.

Paramanand quickly retrieved a bottle of water from inside his backpack and extended it to the old man to drink. When the old man seemed relieved, Paramanand said, “Yes, their conviction is one of their main strengths. They understood their strengths and built their life around their strengths.”


Then, he turned to Sakthi and told him, “An important element of Personality Development is your awareness about your own strengths and weaknesses. Most of us remain just wanderers in our life, not knowing where we stand and where we want to go – the worst of all, how to go about it. Or, we are just confused about it. The worst part is many of us assume that it is okay to be not aware.


Great leaders have exceptional clarity about who they are and who they are not. They have learnt to focus on their strengths rather than on their weaknesses. When Albert Einstein failed a French exam, if he had concentrated only on his language skills, which was one of his weaknesses, he might never have transformed physics. When J.K. Rowling, the renowned author, realized that she was highly disorganized, if she had focused solely on becoming more orderly, she might have never written Harry Potter. 

If we manage our weaknesses, instead of focusing on them, we will be able to build our strength.” Paramanand took a break here.


Sakthi was quick to raise a question. “I have a doubt. Like I said, I play cricket, well. Is that my strength too?”


Paramanand replied, “Now, you are really applying one of your talents. You are able to think critically. Doubts will arise naturally, and you don’t mind getting them cleared. If you learn to do this consistently, your ability to apply your talents can become your strength. To elaborate the point…If you have been playing cricket well, you have a talent in you. It could be your natural inclination, or you have learnt it by hard practice. But, if you are able to apply your talent consistently, your consistency in playing cricket well becomes your strength. Do you get me?


Let me put it in another way. Talents are naturally recurring thoughts, feelings or behavior. Strength is the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a given task. A talent is a potential strength.   Build strength by identifying your dominant talents and refine them with knowledge and skills. “


Sakthi again intervened to ask a question. “So, strength is much more than mere talent?”

“Absolutely,” replied Paramanand. “There are three ingredients to strengths: 

  1. Talent. Generally, you are born with it
  2. Knowledge. You acquire it by learning and practicing
  3. Skills. Something that you develop over time by learning and practicing

You need to use all the three to feel effective and fulfilled. So, use your strength to succeed. Fixing weaknesses prevent failure while building strengths bring success. “


Once again, Sakthi intervened to ask one more question. The subject of personality development was heightening his interest and curiosity. “So, how does one go about it?”


“Spend most of your time in areas of strength. Use your strengths to overcome obstacles, and invent ways of capitalizing on your strengths in new situations.


We mentioned about Albert Einstein, right? He carried on his life-pursuits on the basis of the strength of his conviction and passion for science.


“Einstein’s curiosity about how things worked grew from his very young days when he was only in the primary schools. He had marveled at a compass his father presented to him and wanted to know how the compass worked. From young ages, he was keen about building models and mechanical devices. Initially, this he did for fun.  His father had to move out of Munich when his business failed. However, Einstein decided to stay back to continue his education. Soon, Einstein discovered that he was getting disinterested in the kind of education he was receiving. He believed it was more of rote learning, giving very little scope for creative thinking. He didn’t mind openly talking about it, and there was a clash of ideas between him and the school. He persuaded the authorities to allow him to leave the school to join his parents in Pavia in Italy.


He was so passionate to know how things worked in nature even at that young age, and, he wrote a brilliant essay on “The State of Ether in a Magnetic Field.”


When he was 16, he appeared for the entrance examination for joining the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich. However, he failed in the examination, though he had a very high score in Physics and Mathematics. So, he went back to his school to improve his general standards. Only during the next year, he succeeded in the general examination with decent scores. Again, he got very high grades in physics and mathematics.


Einstein’s father, who was earlier in the business of making electrical equipment while in Italy, desired that his son became an electrical engineer. Much against his father’s wish, Einstein chose to enroll himself for a 4-year diploma course for teaching mathematics and physics, which were his core strengths. During the same year, he took up Swiss citizenship to avoid the compulsory military service in Germany. When he completing his studies, he struggled to get a teaching job. Ultimately, he landed in the Federal Office for Intellectual Property (the Patent Office) as an assistant examiner.


In the meantime, during his relation with Maric before a marriage, he had a daughter, about whom very little is known. It appears he never saw his daughter. During the next year, he married the same Maric and had a son, Eduard through her. Eduard was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was put in asylums for treatment for several periods. Unfortunately, his marriage with Maric too didn’t last long.


Thus, in his early life, he had a number of setbacks and failures. Yet, in all these years he never focused on his failures and weaknesses but carried on passionately about his interest in science. Besides science, he took a lot of interest in music. His mother, who played piano wanted him to learn violin and introduced him to music even when he was only five. Initially, Einstein wasn’t so much interested in music. However, when he was only thirteen, he discovered the renowned violin sonatas of Mozart and suddenly, became passionate about it. He started learning violin on his own without a systematic training from a teacher. By the age 17, he could play the violin like any professional, and he even played Beethoven’s violin sonatas remarkably well. Though he never aspired to be a professional violinist, he had been playing violin regularly in chamber music, where on several occasions he was accompanied by a few other professionals too, including another scientist Max Planck. He used to comment that his passion for music is a better teacher than a regular one. He had said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in terms of music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music... I get most joy in life out of music.” During the time he was conceiving his Theory of Relativity, one morning, he seemed lost in his thoughts and ignored his breakfast. He sat down at his piano and started playing. As he played piano, he also wrote his notes. After about half an hour, he went to his study in the upstairs and locked himself up for nearly two weeks, at the end of which period, he came down with his theory written down on a couple of sheets.


He had been constantly on the move in Europe. People revered him as scholar and thinker in Science. When he returned to Belgium in March 1933 along with his wife Elsa, he learnt that their cottage was raided by the Nazis, and his personal sailboat was confiscated. Feeling upset, he formally renounced his German citizenship and returned his passport.


In April 1933, he came to know that the new German government had passed laws barring Jews from holding any official positions, including teaching at Universities. That meant he wouldn’t be able to work in any university in Germany and German-occupied areas. Some time later, he also learnt that the Nazis had targeted his work for burning and that he was even included in a list of enemies of Germany. However, as a renowned professor and scientist in the entire Europe, the Nazis couldn’t do any harm to him.


Einstein didn’t hesitate to take advantage of his popularity to help the fellow Jewish German scientists. He met Winston Churchill in England through a common friend and pleaded with him to protect the Jewish scientists. As a consequence of his efforts, several German-Jewish scientists were taken out of Germany and placed in the U.K. Universities.


He also contacted leaders of other nations, especially Turkey, for rehabilitating the unemployed German-Jewish scientists. Though he didn’t consider himself a Jew in its strictest sense when many other scientists too fled to America and worked side by side with him, he wrote, “In my whole life, I have never felt so Jewish, as now.” Later on, he even helped raise funds for Zionist causes. After the State of Israel was born, he declined an offer by Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, to be the second President of the State.


Though a scientist himself, he feared that science could cause more damage than bringing good to humanity. He also disliked wars. Surprisingly, he never considered the possibility of making an atomic bomb. During the peak of the Second World War, a few of his fellow scientists cautioned him about Germany’s efforts in building it and its dangers and they urged him to take it up with the U.S.A. Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt of America and also met him subsequently, endorsing America to make an atom bomb. Eventually, America made its own atomic bomb under the Manhattan project. As someone opposed to war, he confessed later during his death that writing to President Roosevelt urging America to make bombs was one of his greatest mistakes.


A significant prediction he made as a corollary to his Theory of Relativity was that the universe was static. He also created a cosmological constant, ‘Lambda’ to support his notion of a static world. However, there were increasing scientific evidence showing up to support the notion of expanding cosmos, which he didn’t accept. Finally, he had to disown his own concept of a static, unchanging world. It is generally believed, he confessed later that creating the ‘Lambda’ was his biggest blunder. Einstein was also very critical of Quantum Theory and Mechanics, the very theory, he only helped to create, and he tried unsuccessfully to disprove. The Bohr-Einstein debates on Quantum Mechanics are still remembered for their importance to the development of the philosophy of science.


Einstein was also a passionate anti-racist and he actively joined several campaigns for the civil rights of African Americans. Privately, he favored socialism and he was critical of capitalism though he had highly commended Americans. He considered himself an agnostic. He was awarded the coveted Nobel Prize in Physics for his theory on photoelectric effect only, in 1921 and not for his Theory of Relativity which was still considered controversial.


He died on 17th April 1955 in Princeton Hospital when he was 75, suffering from an internal bleeding. During hospitalization, he carried with him an incomplete draft speech for his television appearance to commemorate the 7th birth anniversary of the State of Israel, but he couldn’t complete it. During the autopsy after his death, the pathologist removed Einstein’s brain for preservation without his approval, hoping to discover what made Einstein so intelligent.


Towards the end of his life, Einstein was so preoccupied with his own unsuccessful theory of ‘Unified field’ and became increasingly isolated.”


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