The racing bulls are running full-tilt on the streets of Pamplona, scattering all-comers under horn and hoof. As they round the home stretch, we meet Abhay Deol, flying around the corner, head held high, eyes twinkling, and a ghost of a smile on his lips. Likewise, Farhan Akhtar and Hrithik Roshan also crank up the gears and, face-forward, race towards the gates.
This final sequence of the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD) is probably one of the best metaphors for how life — personal or professional — can be lived successfully.
So what's that all-important metaphor? It's not that they're running fast, and are in the right physical shape to do so. Yes, that's important. But the key is that they are looking forward. Yes, the demons from past mistakes will always be behind you. But the future holds that success, the achievement that you are constantly aspiring for. So focus everything, confidently and joyously, on that prospective goal. Then the past will hold no importance nor fear.
ZNMD has many such lessons, especially for the corporate world, if one wishes to imbibe them. One can say with a lot of certainty that this was definitely not Zoya Akhtar's aim when she made this wholly entertaining movie — to reduce it to training material for a corporate workshop. But we are all richer for the material it provides us, as reminders for a better way of life, professionally.
Let's take the issue of coping with fear and anxiety, for instance. We face this at all levels. And a lot of times, this is our biggest enemy in meeting our goals. Each of the three protagonists in ZNMD take turns to vehemently profess their fears — of deep-sea diving, of sky-diving, and running with the bulls. And yet, the strategy they use to overcome the fears is one we would do well to inculcate in the corporate world.
Acknowledge and announce the fear to those around you.
Give yourself no choice but to overcome it.
Enjoy the life-changing perspective that follows afterwards.
A crucial part of the strategy is to have people who understand your fears around you, and are there to help you overcome it, rather than ridicule you for it or take advantage of your fear to their own benefit. Trust and teamwork, therefore, become paramount.
ZNMD also reminds us that we're often stuck in the past or mindlessly pursue a distant future. In the process, we ignore the immense possibilities of the here and now.
There's a sequence after the Tomatina Festival when our heroes have left Buñol (Valencia) and are motoring along towards Pamplona (or Seville?). Katrina Kaif chases them down on a bike, just to tell Hrithik Roshan, Mujhe afsos karna nahi aata (“I don't know how to regret”). For Hrithik, it's a double whammy when Katrina tells him at another point in the movie, “Yes, but what if you don't live to see 40? Live now, live for now.” It's a turning point in self-discovery and mindfulness for Hrithik. And a reminder to us in the corporate world that goals are good and history can be a good teacher. But what matters is how we tackle each day, and make the most of it. When we passionately immerse ourselves in what we do today, productivity and success take care of themselves. And we enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
There is also a metamorphosis in the characters of the three protagonists as ZNMD progresses. Farhan Akhtar acknowledges the angst beneath his frivolity, and ultimately overcomes it. Abhay Deol confronts a forced circumstantial choice and reverses it. And Hrithik Roshan comes face-to-face with the near-farcical chase his life has become, and turns over a new leaf. In doing so, they all ably demonstrate — in different ways — the inevitability of change, and the innate ability to transform that each of us possesses.
We always acknowledge that change is a constant, and yet are afraid to transform — ourselves, our circumstances, those around us, and our decisions. And yet, true progress and success lie in just that. In going beyond the comfort zone of familiarity. In recognising what constrains us, and moving beyond them. To recall another powerful line from an altogether different movie, “It doesn't matter that we fall. What matters is that we get up again.” (From Batman Begins, if you must know the movie name.)
When it comes to that, perhaps the lesson of freeing ourselves from constraints is the one we can most easily take out of ZNMD. The world offers us a plethora of options to shake off our everyday shackles, and experience real, intrinsic freedom.
We don't need to dive among the sea urchins, draw figures of eight in the sky or have near-death experiences among bovine companions. But we can still find ways to be creative, and inspire ourselves on a daily basis. With music. With games. With not being slaves to habit. With just this singular perspective, that we have this one life to make the most of. Let's go seize it