Saturday, January 04, 2014

Happy birthday, Michael

It's his birthday. On this day, 45 years ago, he was born in Germany as were perhaps several kids around the world. On this day though, 45 years ago, no one knew what this man was capable of achieving. And he for sure, could not have imagined what his life would come to mean to millions of human beings worldwide.

Several people and events have significant influences in one's life. For me, Michael Schumacher, or Schumi, or Weltmeister or Rainmeister or any of the typical epithets he personified, was a constant source of inspiration, throughout his career. Every Formula 1 race, till the time he raced used to be a celebration. An event I would look forward to all week. Sundays without a race would be dull. Come October and Suzuka, a new gloom would set in until March and Australia. People who grew up with me would know that the Monday after a Michael victory would see an ecstatic me clad in red at school. And a Monday after a Michael loss would see me crabby for two weeks! I cheered when he cheered. I despaired when he despaired.

While one may argue that it was in vogue to support Michael, since nothing succeeds like success, I idolized his attitude towards his chosen line of work. And I believe that this commitment was what produced his stellar success. Whether it was the way he practiced, or the way he dealt with unexpected situations, what came through was his commitment to perfection.  And the willingness to go that extra mile to push and achieve what he set out to achieve. In the book 'Driven to extremes', there is a section that talks of how his arrival into Ferrari transformed the team into a championship winning team. Not just because of his talent, but because he would talk engineering-speak with his team and be involved in that common goal of getting Ferrari to victory, by providing that key input to help build that perfect car. Something hardly anyone had ever done before. 

Sport, they say brings out the truest of human qualities. It provides non-verbal clues of what lies beneath the veneer that a man puts on. And by all accounts, one accepts that man is not perfect. He has his positive attributes and he has his flaws. So when several detractors keep at criticizing some of Michael's ruthless behavior on track, or even his seemingly brash squabbles off it, the only rejoinder I have is that everything is always fair in love and war. It is all about tact. On hindsight, maybe Michael himself might regret some of his actions, which then appeared to be under the guise of an indefatigable killer instinct, only to now look, for lack of a better word, cloaked in an immature need to win. But then who isn't guilty of wanting that position of supreme success? And how many of his colleagues wouldn't have done anything to be where he had been? Why how many of us wouldn't want to fight for what we really really want? At the end of the day, we are all human. And the typical foibles of mankind apply to us all. How is he any different?

I admired his spirit, his will to win, and his attitude to commit his all to that goal. And to me, that is a quality that shines through and success verily follows. Many say he was lucky. Some say he was blessed in that he had talent. Some others say he had his team's biased support that was wrongly skewed towards him. Well, granted. He did have talent. But then the wheel of fortune is never biased. And in any team or organization, someone who has consistently shown results will always find perennial backing. Everyone of us, let's not even go to a sport, is guilty of having accepted such biased treatment.

So, when I look at MSC, and what his existence has meant to me, I see a personification of all things human and an application of what I call quintessential human faculties - determination, a will to succeed, diligence, commitment and the willingness to go above and beyond what is required - to that which has been ordained as our task in an effort to achieve the highest possible quality in executing that task. So seeing him win, was like seeing the perfect recipe for achieving success. Watching how he went about his occupation was a life lesson.

So today, as he turns 45, lying in a coma in a hospital in Grenoble, I wish him Happy Birthday, and I pray for all those human faculties that he had perfected throughout his career, to shine forth and pull him out of this mess, and give us back, his simple admirers, the Schumi we have known and loved! 

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