Desperate and Determined

By Krishna Pamidi

It’s what drives success.

Illustration by Junyu Guan.

Illustration by Junyu Guan.

If you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
— President Theodore Roosevelt

Ponder this: You wake up every morning, feeling the same hopeless rage towards your alarm clock. You spend hours which feel like minutes in the shower and you spend minutes which feel like hours at work. Plagued by a routine of drudgery, is there much of a life in you? Yes, there is. Ponder further this: we live in a cutthroat world today, one which is entirely fueled by progress and furtherance, and the biggest factor in this world of advancement is desperation. Desperation to climb that ladder, corporal or innovative. I argue that if you are not desperate, you are simply an empty shell. Desperation makes a human alive.

As Merriam-Webster defines it, desperation is a state of hopelessness that would lead to rashness. Rashness is subjective but let’s explore the first part: a state of hopelessness. To be hopeless is to accept defeat. It is at this time when you truly know who you are, when you make decisions and are forced to stand by them.

Alina Ganem, a sophomore student from Amman, Jordan studying international relations goes through something similar.

“Back in Amman, I wasn’t particularly in a bad place. There just wasn’t any future for me,” she says. “I didn’t want to end up like my mother and my aunt and my grandmother with the lack of the extensive opportunities available. It isn’t nearly as bad as it was once, but I knew that if I wanted to be somebody, I just had to somehow make it to the United States”.

Ganem dreams of being a diplomat representing Jordan at the UN one day and is working towards achieving her bachelors degree followed by a masters in the United States. For Ganem failure wasn’t an option. She was desperate for success and scared of failure. She convinced her family to send her away from them and the friends and community she’s grown up around. She convinced herself that success comes from living in a foreign country, to which she has only been initiated by the wonders of Home Box Office and Netflix.

Nonetheless, according to her, it was imperative that she do this to herself because she was desperate. She was desperate to represent her land, her people, her culture on the world stage and to her, it was her aspirations and life’s sole goal.

“It was pure desire and I wanted it more than I wanted my next breath,” she says.

As is the case with Ganem, desperation made for life-altering decisions. But desperation is more elemental. It is more enduring and strengthening than just fundamentally life-changing. Take the case of the citizens of St. Martin in the Caribbean. As one New York Times article writes, there is quite literally chaos on the streets. The aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which killed over a dozen people and leveled about 90% of the entire island’s buildings, was an overnight catastrophe for the Caribbean people. But alas, tragedy doesn’t end there. With the end of the food supply, people have taken to the streets to loot and steal from others in broad daylight to keep themselves going. This is desperation in its truest form and is keeping people alive. This is where we explore the negative connotations of the word. They have resorted to stealing and thieving for basic human rights like water and a few biscuits.It is truly an unfortunate site. Help is supposedly on the way from many European nations ensuring that they are dispatching as many troops as they can to control the situation, but even this, according to some, is insufficient. It is the feeling of desperation which is keeping them going. As far as they know, they are stranded and abandoned by their government, with no prospect of hope and the best they can do is hang on. Desperation is quite literally keeping them alive. They’ve reached the end of their rope and have tied a knot to simply see the sunrise the next day.

It is imperative that we draw parallels in our own lives from this. In my case, it’s drawing parallels to success in the professional world. You see, no competent executive ever, has gotten their position without desperation. As Steve Tobak puts it in his article on CBS News, desperation drives success. That feeling of wanting to prove oneself more than wanting the next breath is almost poetic. He talks about Howard Stern, the accomplished radio personality and how the only reason he is as successful as he is today is because he was eager to prove to his father just what he was worth.

On some level, this all may seem generic:The sort of thing that goes on a motivational video lost in the endless stream of facebook feed, but I am here tell you that desperation is as real and as true a source of success as rice is to get water out of your phone. Steve Jobs certainly wasn’t successful just because of his technical knowledge. Forbes magazine puts desperation as a key driving factor in the success of Apple and consequently Steve Jobs. “He was desperate to change the world and eager to prove to everybody, the vast untapped possibilities of this electronic industry,” said Steve Wozniak, a long time friend and associate of Jobs in an interview with “Steve was always Steve: narcissistic, temperate, visionary and desperate.” Today, over a quarter percent of phones all over the world have the famous half bitten apple logo on the back of them.

There are countless other stories which prove the exact same point: Desperation makes for success. But on a more micro level, it helps us live. It helps us achieve more quantifiable day-to-day goals. It helps us better ourselves and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Desperation gives us something definite to strive towards. It is the edge that makes us human. We must, at some point, tie a knot at the end of our ropes and simply hang on because, to let go is failure and to be so scared to even go near the end is death.

Krishna Pamidi is a sophomore studying Finance in the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University.