Zebras are one of the most beautiful animals – elegant and mysterious. Their unassuming grounded gait complements their sensible wildness of encouraging human interest by the way of neither aggression nor affection. Safe to say that I have observed zebras attentively for both, their stand-out attractiveness and their intriguing aloofness.
Zebras standout for their stripes, and much has been researched about the purpose of their stripes. There are scientific evidences of fly-deterring ability of the zebra-stripes. Apparently, these low-resolution-sighted flies cannot make a marked landing because of the black and white confusion. Fascinating!
But zebras have been striking to me for another reason altogether. It is their close resemblance to an ass and that to a horse. If there were a spectrum with asses and horses on either side of it, zebras would fall in, but with a difference. Just when you thought you could call this a family of four-leggeds, the stripes blind you, like they do to the flies! You cannot land entirely on to a conclusion – atleast not easily. Even if you do club these three together on a darwinian theory, one wonders who is a zebra closer relative of – the majestic horse or the humble ass – both adjectives but mere perceptions.
We all have been asses and horses throughout our lives. You work hard and seek appreciation- an ass; you are appreciated and you work to impress – a horse. The life of us animals revolve around achieving goals and targets so we can justify the rewards and punishments. This circle of reward-driven performance is the easiest kind of performance driver. You can either choose to see the carrot or work towards an invisible one. What we often forget to acknowledge and elevate are our magical stripes.
Performance when driven by an external agency (of carrot) will always go through crests and troughs. While working indelibly hard, the memory of the carrot fades into the dilemma of survival and that of immediate joy. This creates the tension between expectations and reality, leading to stress. Reward-driven performance when goes through troughs, it scrapes the bottom of self-motivation leading to a sense of emptiness and lack of purpose. Reward can never be the purpose, it can at best be a milestone. Therefore, it is essential that performance be driven by something more constant than an external impetus.
When we were young we knew how to play, everyday. Games could differ, but we knew how to play and how to have fun. It was this joy of enjoying ourselves that led us to the playground everyday. This play had elements of competitiveness and emotion too, and it made us better at what we did – each passing day. That magic of play was never outside of us but ‘within’. These good memories of our childhood feels unbridled but they were not uncorralled even then. There were limits to what you could do while you played, there were boundaries that you couldn’t cross and then there was the matter of time! So, while it was neither entirely entrepreneurial nor intrapreneurial, play was still magic and fun with the constant of self. This ‘self’ always remembers how to play and how to have fun. It is when you try to fit a zebra into becoming an ass or a horse, it is then that the magic of the stripes seem to fade behind a screen of ‘categories’, ‘families’ and ‘groups’.
Before we idolise the effort and action towards transformation, it is the self-becoming that needs beckoning. An ocean of learning goes into growing up into somebody, it is this vast knowledge that needs finding oneness with, before one starts the unknown journey to become another. The drivers of joy in each one of us may be different and it is here that the key to performance lies. Open that chest and find your talisman – your centre of gravity.
Performance driven through the joy of self-expression and play will be consistent and rewarding.
Therefore, become yourself!