The next time you get angry, convert it into the brightest of your ideas

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Prakash Satyarthi chose the above statement as the title of his TED talk he delivered in California earlier this year. The talk inspired me to write this article.

A few weeks ago I was overcome by anger prompted by the front page news story published in the Star Tribune on October 19, 2015. I made me very angry. Ordinarily I would question myself for such an outburst, but somehow, that day I felt it was absolutely justified.


Because the news item read: ‘Teen driver on Facebook defied pleas, ran red light, killed dad and child’

Here it is 2015, and here is a distracted driving crash, an irresponsible act by a driver cutting short two precious lives. Exactly eight years later I was reliving that fateful evening of November 1, 2007 when another distracted driver had caused a crash and snatched away our daughter Shreya from us at the tender age of 19.

I was angry because distracted driving monsters had continued to run amuck unabated. It was like the dreadful creatures in Jurassic Park.

Prakash Satyarthi was angry because while growing up in India he saw the plight of a large number of young kids enslaved by bonded labor. But nothing was being done to fight it. He had been mentally conditioned by ‘…parents, teachers, priests, …to control and suppress our anger’. But he wanted to convert that very anger for the larger good of society, challenging the evils of the world.

He was relentless. He succeeded. The world noticed. In 2015 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in pulling thousands of young children out of bonded labor.

Satyarthi is not alone. History is replete with examples of positive outcomes coming out as byproducts of anger.

The young Malala Yousafzai who shared the Nobel Peace prize with Satyarthi was angry because radical elements in her country were not letting her go to school. She almost lost her life after she rebelled against injustice. But she prevailed.

Seventy years prior to that in the 1940s, a highly educated and successful barrister became angry when he was thrown out of a first class rail car in South Africa because of the color of his skin. That barrister returned to his native India. His anger turned himself into a revolutionary. A decade later he facilitated the demise of the British Empire. The barrister in South Africa became Mahatma Gandhi.