The School of LIfe


This is an annual paradoxical period at CH ( the institute where I teach). On one hand we, as faculty members, are triumphing at the success of a substantial number of students who got calls from various prestigious B-Schools in the country including the IIMs. We are also gearing them up for the various GD-PI rounds that they would be attending in these institutes. On the other, we are consoling a bunch of students who couldn’t make it big in CAT and other exams.

I have to admit that the latter part is an extremely painful process. More painful I am sure for the students. But I always think that those who couldn’t do well now learn some great lessons that remain with them throughout their lives. They closely realize some unproductive habits which they couldn’t chuck during the year. They recognize intimately where the areas are that they still lack. A common feeling that I often hear from them is, “You warned me before. I wish I had taken it more seriously.”

Most people regret for not listening to useful advices. Others candidly admit that they hadn’t followed the process of learning. And so now they are determined not to repeat those mistakes. Hence now they end up learning more than most successful students.

Failure, if I may call it so, is a Core Subject in the School of Life. And nothing teaches you better than that. Everything in this school is full of learning, it all depends on how we wish to perceive it.

Last month, I met two of my pet students who had studied at CH. Both of them are working in India’s two prestigious IT firms. The three of us make it a point to meet once in a few months’ time during their visit to the city. The topic of our discussion happened to be the importance of a positive attitude in life.

I quoted to both of them a small piece that I had read in the Reader’s Digest years ago. It was written by a young woman in her late twenties on how she coped with her teenage crushes and heartaches. She candidly shared that she learnt guitar simply to impress a guitarist who dumped her later. She pursued calligraphy to win the heart of an intelligent boy who topped her class. She discovered the joy of jogging because she had a crush on a fitness freak. All this despite that none of these relationships worked for a long time.

This woman then concluded that had she not experienced these crushes in her teen years, she wouldn’t have explored the little things that became the biggest joys of her life. Most importantly she refused to be let down by her heartaches but moved on in life with what she learnt from each relationship she had had.  Life is really how we look at it. I am sure you might have heard that most of our life is composed of what we think and how we perceive things.

The best part about setbacks is that they are never sugarcoated. They are blunt mirrors who show you frankly how you really look like. And this is an integral part of healthy intellectual growth. I am tempted to mention my friend who is today a Construction Manager in an Architecture firm in Houston, USA.

He always hated the theory part of his architecture studies. As a result, he would always carry some subjects in each semester. Whenever I would visit him to console on his failure, he would refuse to be consoled. So I would give him my pet dialogue on the importance of studying during exams. He would say, “You don’t understand, girl. Unless you fail a subject a few times, you can never fully understand the essence of it. I promise you, nobody in my class would learn from Architecture History as much as I would.”

Of course I am not saying it is always good to fail your main subjects. What I am implying is there are ways of looking at things more positively. We should never pursue failure but if it happens to us, we must use it for learning. We must fully explore the entire curriculum of failure.

I remember how much I had cried when I had got a supplementary in Math in Standard VIII annual exams. My consolation came from a bunch of failing students who had become accustomed to their failures. Many of them today are successful managers in firms like Accenture, Idea and Airtel.

These friends of mine encouraged me to join a special class conducted for students with supplementary exams in school. They made me believe it was no big deal to be sitting among the failures as long as the objective was to pass the year. That’s what I did and for the first time in the entire year I found myself enjoying Math. And even though I did not choose Math in higher classes, it always remained a subject that helped my overall grade.

It is both ironic and strange that this failure instilled in me a spirit to fight against failure.

All those students who have got calls from B-Schools are actually preparing themselves for a tougher battle ahead. Very soon they will realize that maintaining a good position throughout the PG years and then bagging a decent job later is much more difficult than passing a management entrance exam. This struggle is no different for them from their counterparts who couldn’t get good marks in the entrance this year.

Such is the paradox at the School of Life. And believe me, it always pays to be a student throughout our lives. Learn to learn from failures. Failure is not final. And neither is success.

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