Penguins are one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. Quirky, odd, and yet always well dressed. What inspires me most about this flightless bird is their resilience.They make the best of a difficult situation with what they have. Penguins may be better suited for the sea than the land, but on the land they must also navigate if they are to survive. Life ain't easy, but they keep at it anyway. Far more graceful in the water than on terra firma, they push forward nonetheless. They make mistakes (See BBC video below). They slip, they slide, they bump, and they fall. And yet, even after these little blunders they do not seem to care at all what other people—I mean penguins—think. They simply get up, shake themselves off, and try it again. As far as I know, penguins do not blame others or dwell on their slips and falls. They simply move on and do not care what others in the crowd think of their little slip ups. We should do the same. In this regard, we should be more like penguins.
When you are learning anything, or testing something new, mistakes are inevitable. That's OK, of course, for how else can we learn? The problem is, perhaps as a result of our schooling, or perhaps just as a consequence of being human, we too often feel so discouraged by our mistakes that we fail to push on. There is no shame in honest mistakes. They are the things that move us forward. This is true no matter our profession, and it is certainly true in the case of science. “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.” — Jules Verne.
We all stumble. This clip of bloopers from the BBC's Penguins - Spy in the Huddle may inspire you.
Fall down seven times, get up eight (七転び八起き)
There is an old saying in Japan that captures the spirit of getting back up after a mistake or a setback. Nana korobi ya oki (literally: seven falls, eight getting up) means fall down seven times and get up eight. This speaks to the Japanese concept of resilience. No matter how many times you get knocked down, you get up again. Even if you should fall one thousand times, you just keep getting up and trying again. You can see this ethic reinforced in all facets of Japanese culture including education, business, sports, the martial arts, the Zen arts, etc. It is especially important to remember the sentiment expressed in this proverb when times are dark. There are no quick fixes in life and anything of real worth will necessarily take much struggle and perseverance. Success does not have to be fast—what’s more important is that one simply does their absolute best and remains persistent.
Never give up!
A concept related to the saying Nana korobi ya oki is the spirit of gambaru (頑張る). The concept of gambaru is deeply rooted in the Japanese culture and approach to life. The literal meaning of gambaru expresses the idea of sticking with a task with tenacity until it is completed—of making a persistent effort until success is achieved. The imperative form, “gambette,” is used very often in daily language to encourage others to “do your best” in work, to “fight on!” and “never give up!” during a sporting event or studying for an exam. You do not always have to win, but you must never give up. While others may encourage you to "gambatte kudasai!" — the real spirit of gambaru comes from within. The best kind of motivation is intrinsic motivation. For the benefit of oneself — and for the benefit of others as well — one must bear down and do their best. For many people, public speaking or presentations is really something they struggle with. It comes naturally for some people, but for most of us it is a journey of hits and misses and something we must always work on to improve. Sometimes we slip up, sometimes we fail. It's OK to fall down, the key to success is in bouncing back again.
• Be Like the Bamboo. A presentation about resilience.