If deception cripples the spirit temporarily, ‘Almost’ maims the soul permanently.
Milkha Singh almost won an Olympic medal. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Usain Bolt wins Gold”, does it?
Exactly why India’s incredible ‘Flying Sikh’ eased off in the 400 meters final at the 1960 Olympic Games – after leading till the 200-meter mark – potentially trading a ‘historic’ Gold for an ‘inconsequential’ fourth spot, remains a national mystery to this very day. For those who believe it was complacency, there’s a simple explanation: The ‘poison of Almost’ was busy doing its deadly job.
If deception cripples the spirit temporarily, ‘Almost’ maims the soul permanently. That’s because of the habit of saying “Almost done”, “Almost there” and “Almost through” are amongst nature’s most dangerous toxins. Practise it daily and it becomes a part of the lingo. Endorse it in everyday behaviour and it will lodge itself in the bloodstream.
It won’t just numb the muscles. It will do something much worse – it will numb the mind. By creating a superficial world of make-believe, miles away from reality custom designed for defeat. A universe where we are forever giving ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done, a little too prematurely. Where we start imagining applause, a reward, a celebration a tad too early.
And finally this bubble pops and we realize the prey has escaped from in between the canines.‘Almost’ is a world where the critical gap between the lip and the cup exists. It is this gap where all perceived accomplishments fall out in a mere blink. The fraction that spells the difference between the victor and the also-ran.
This misplaced sense of reality can come from arrogance. It may be a result of belittling the opposition. It can be fanned by the confidence of precedence, where we assume something is bound to happen again simply because it’s happened before. It can be a sheer sloth, where we brandish the ‘Almost’ sweepingly, to escape the laborious task of explaining micro details.
But in most cases, ‘Almost’ is really an armour. A blanket of self-delusion we sew for ourselves. To keep the bogeyman of reality at bay. Because as they say it really bites. And that can hurt. No matter what triggers it, one thing is guaranteed: ‘Almost’ will take us straight to the dungeon of Neverland. One that doesn’t exist on the map.
When we fall victim to the ‘Almost’ syndrome, we score what in soccer parlance is called the ‘Same Side’ goal. We punch a hole in our own defence mechanism, silencing the voice of reason that reminds us to ‘double check’ and ‘make sure’. When we suppress that voice and volunteer to walk the dark side of delusion, we take a firm step away from redemption. No, the unkindest cut of all isn’t deception: It is the self-deception that ‘Almost’ proliferates.
Almost doesn’t just blur the chasm between aspiration and achievement, but makes it wider. It breeds the most popular sense of accomplishment: The false one. It begets gratification that’s sad because the bubble can burst anytime. It generates security that’s gossamer and vulnerable to the lightest breeze.
No manager got a raise for a deal that was ‘almost’ done (several lost their jobs, though). No scholar almost topped the exam. No scientist almost made the discovery. The idea is either a hit or inconsequential.
Let’s do it, or move on. There’s no play in the middle. There’s no ‘Almost’.
It ain’t done till it’s done.