How Big Can You Be?


This is a question I keep asking myself, on a regular basis. How big can I be? Am I playing a game worthy of me? Am I growing? What can I bring forth in me so that I can create a bigger impact?

I am reminded of a quotation by Sam Keen stating “What shapes our lives are the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never think to ask.”

Over the years that I have spent in business, I can say now with a fair degree of confidence that these and other similar questions are questions that have the potential of stopping you in the rush of your day to day life and get you to observe important aspects of your life which otherwise miss your attention.

So, let’s start – How Big can you be?

But before that, the question to be asked is how big am I being right now?

For you to answer this, we will need to understand what ‘big’ means. ‘Big’ has a different meaning for different people. Let me relate an interesting Akbar-Birbal story that I was reading for my daughter last week that I see is relevant to this conversation.

In the great Emperor Akbar’s court, it happened one day..

He came into the court. He used to have a blackboard in his court, just as you have blackboards in Universities, because he was himself a learned man and his court was full of learned people. He had collected from all over the country all the geniuses in different dimensions.

Drawing a line on the blackboard, he asked the wise men of his court: ‘Can anyone make this line small without touching it’

Now how can you make it small without touching it? You will have to touch it to make it small; you will have to erase some part of it. So, all the wise people were at a loss.

Finally, Akbar said to Birbal, who was the most intelligent person in his court: ‘The court seems to be silent. Have you some idea or have you also accepted failure?’

Birbal went to the blackboard and drew a bigger line above the line that Akbar had drawn. He made the line without touching it. Just with the bigger line, the whole context had changed. Now, in comparison to the bigger line, the first line had become small.

You decide the context of ‘Big’ that works for you. You know the life that you have lead and the games that you have played or are currently playing. The question is, like Birbal, do you want to draw a line bigger than the one already drawn up by you?

Playing big games is a matter of practice. We associate discomfort with fear. You can be standing in the discomfort of the unknown, and yet not be scared. And this takes practice.

I know of several people who would love to play big games, but are simply terrified to do so. The comfort of inertia makes it further difficult for them. The key is not to try and make it large, or much bigger. The key is to draw a line of a length that is slightly bigger than the one drawn earlier, and that’s when you are playing a big game, bigger than the one played earlier by you.

And as you start to practice this regularly, the emotion of fear will change to that of wonder (aha, let me explore this unknown territory..) and that of excitement!

You are what you have practiced till today. You are becoming what you are practicing now. Each one of us faces breakdowns regularly, and when a breakdown happens, according to my coach Bob Dunham, “you do not rise to the occasion – you sink to the level of your practice.”

I have begun writing a book, which is totally out of my comfort zone. However, I have taken on a practice to write a few lines every day, and I can see this is making a huge difference in the way I am now approaching my book. This project does not seem as daunting as it did earlier.

And yet, I am drawing a bigger line right now! Are you?

Sameer Dua, Founder Director, Institute for Generative Leadership, India