Need to stop waffling between flip & flop

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Need to stop waffling between flip & flop
Vithal C Nadkarni

In his new movie, I Am Legend, Will Smith plays the last human survivor in virus-ridden New York. Real life is different: with four of his most recent movies — The Pursuit of Happiness, Hitch, Shark Tale and I, Robot — each grossing more than $300 million, the actor has already become a legend in a notoriously fickle industry.

What’s more, his trademark artlessness on screen is said to be the result of “one of Hollywood’s most meticulously planned and executed careers”. But it wasn’t always so. When he was 16, his first girlfriend walked out on him. That turned out to be a defining moment, he recalls, “In my mind, she cheated because I wasn’t good enough. I remember making the decision that I will never not be good enough again.”

His very first album as a rapper went on to win the first Grammy for a hip-hop act. At 21, when a friend suggested that they should probably have a goal now that they were going to LA, Smith replied without batting an eyelid: “I want to be the biggest movie star in the world.” He also backed his resolve with the notion that education was “the elixir for all problems”.

For all that initial success, “in the first five years in Los Angeles, Smith couldn’t get a meeting with a director or studio,” reports Time. They just didn’t seem to care. Here he was, a rapper who had gotten a most lucky break on the charts and a luckier run in a successful TV sitcom; if that was all he was supposed to be good at, wasn’t it time he resigned himself to a graceful exit euphemistically termed ‘Plan B’? “I don’t want to get too metaphysical,” Smith replies, “but by even contemplating a Plan B, you almost create the necessity for a Plan B.” Which is another way of stating his original resolve: take no survivors; don’t ever admit second-best options or the so-called parachute clause. Paradoxically, only when you deliberately cut off your exit thus do you stop waffling between flip and flop.

That’s when you hit upon that wonderful clarity of mind former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger extolled, which he said was born out of an absence of alternatives (or excuses). The Bhagvad Gita calls it atma-vinigraha the mental resolve necessary for attaining even satvic goals. But resolution backed by persistent present action is absolutely not to be confused with living in the future or hankering after the results. As a student of ‘universal patterns’, Smith knows this better than most.

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