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My Grandmother And Her Gift of Discipline

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Success has been one of the most abused, miscommunicated and thus misconceived terms celebrated throughout history and even more so today, in an era of technologically enabled, limitless and unquestioned self branding. Running a Today I Failed At Facebook attempt to inspire people to strategize their way out of failure and to synchronize their life's circumstances with a coveted and highly anticipated version of themselves, I am here to dispel you from the misconception that success is a blessing bestowed upon the few by charisma and luck.

Success is not the by-product of inherent charm and fortune. Yes, these are both attractive embellishments but they do not guarantee achievements. Yet, success is still a product; It is the product of discipline.

I am fortunate enough to have interacted with greatly inspirational personalities in my early years of being, but if I were to pinpoint to the one person who directed me towards the character I am -and will continue to- pursue, that would be my maternal grandmother. Thanks to serendipitous laws of nature, I found my way into Maria Michalopoulou's life- Manina's life- when she was 58 years old. Up until I was in 4th grade I only thought of her as the coolest grandmother in the world. She would lecture us on healthy dieting and then buy us pizza, she would set up her garden for my brothers and cousin and me to tear apart and she would admonish us to always place the word "me" in the end of a sentence for maters of gentility.

A mediocre grade report in 4th grade was a turning point in our relationship and a pivotal one in my forthcoming future. She found me hiding in my room after a phone call from my dissatisfied mother who had just spoken to my commensurately disenchanted teacher. As I heard her climbing the stairs my instincts were to runaway. After all, she was a woman with exhaustive academic background and a medical plus a dental degree and I was a skateboarding tomboy who found school moderately appealing.


Manina at a coffee shop in Paris last year, where we celebrated her birthday I always say that a preacher scolds but a mentor transforms. And my grandmother's approach was truly rebirthing. Shame, she told me, is a magnifying lens. No one should feel ashamed of not succeeding because success is a site accessible to all. There is absolutely no magic and no secret recipe. Success is a matter of synchronization. You synchronize the circumstances to allow your enhanced version to come forth.

In just a few sentences she was able to disabuse success of its intimidating adjectives. She was able to grant me access to a path of unanticipated growth. And to do so, she broke goals down to something so simple yet so empowering: repetition with incremental benefits.

In other words, she drafted a study plan for me. And then she told me that all I had to do was get through that plan one day at a time without losing hope and perseverance. Simple and reachable as that.

So here are three things that Manina taught me about success:

1) Selectivity of success is nothing more than an assumption ossified by word of mouth. It is a mold based on practice and not on validity. Everyone can in fact succeed.

2) Fixating on successful outcomes exhausts one's physical and emotional infrastructure and is also not worth it. So choose the process, trust the process and follow through with religious deference.

3.) Discipline is repetition with incremental benefits, unveiling new places of access. Why choose a landing district beforehand, when effort can shed light to unforeseen trails? Discipline gets you to unexpected places.

If I were to ask her today, I don't know if she would identify repetition as the greatest door opener of all times. But as I notice her every day as she studies with my younger cousins, I know that she has given me one of life's greatest gifts: prospects through something as reverent, yet as predictable as recurrence. By giving away her drum sticks, my grandmother has introduced me to rhythm. And without rhythm, no symphony can be born.

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