The Importance of Failure

As I write this, I lie dejected and heart-broken. If there is one thing that Walchand taught me, it was to aim higher, be fearless and take that proverbial first step towards whatever it is that you wish to achieve. And that is how I have been trying to live my life. Towards the end of my second year, I had started questioning a lot of things- the pedagogy here, the way knowledge is disseminated and the things that could be changed to make this college a better place. But I realized that to form an opinion about what was ideal and what wasn’t, I had to witness it first-hand. And that is when I changed myself. I didn’t curb my curiosity but my questions changed. From thinking about the world, I started thinking about myself. How could I improve myself? How could I do something remarkable, something that would help me prove my worth?

Like most students, I was clueless about things. I knew I wanted to do something that would set me apart but I couldn’t decide what. The simplest and most feasible way to go about it was to try and pursue post graduation plans. And I knew that if I had to study further, it had to be at an institute of repute. Walchand is a pretty decent college, but one must always try and pack a punch above one’s weight! And so it was, that I started thinking about what my post-graduation plans could be. I knew I was academically sound in my subjects. I loved electronics and I still do. But was a post-grad in technology going to help me as much as I thought it would? On closer inspection, I realized that a Masters in Technology would probably impart great technical skills, but was I really research-oriented enough to put these to use? It would even place me in companies performing some really cutting-edge research in innovative fields or maybe a world-class lab engaged in path-breaking work. But was that what I really wanted to do all my life? I have always wanted my profession to be less of a ‘profession’ and more of ‘a pursuit of passion and interest’ (I know that sounds vague :p). I wanted to do something that makes good use of all the skills I have so far acquired. I liked speaking, analyzing, taking decisions, handling people, leading them. One can always point out that a Masters in Technology would have given me these opportunities as well. But would it have been fun enough?

That was also a time when I was a part of the core committee of the Rotaract Mega-event, Blitzkrieg. The couple of months I spent working in that committee, designing the event, working on the actual execution of plans, studying world history, geography, economics, political science and a myriad other subjects, were some of the most exhilarating months in Walchand for me. Designing the event not only required us to be well-versed with the subject ourselves but also to be well-versed enough to make others understand it. As Albert Einstein put it – “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. Understanding Excel, creating a problem statement that didn’t have any loopholes, designing the framework under which teams can be judged fairly and impartially, doing the actual field-work of arranging the seats for participants, instructing them about the rules and guiding the juniors who were there to help us, all of these activities were learning lessons in themselves. All in all, the mega-event experience piqued my interest in things other than engineering. The task of maintaining decent grades along with this extra-curricular activity was a lesson in time management. I faltered at times, but I took the setbacks in my stride.

At the beginning of third year, I had made up my mind. I wanted to aim for the IIMs, get a post-grad in management and join a company where I could work areas that interested me. Looking back, I was pretty naive in my thoughts, naive in making decisions. Reality dawns in the final year and you realize that companies, job profiles, packages and the idea of getting to do what you want are exaggerated beyond belief. Of course, working in a decent company, earning a decent salary, maybe working hard and getting promotions early on are good indicators of progress. But the most important rubric for measuring success, isn’t how successful you are, but how happy you are. Happiness is definitely affected by human emotions. Today, studying engineering interests you and you hop on to research hoping that it would be as interesting. But tomorrow, managing people, making money might seem more lucrative. Happiness is a way of life and a profession rather than being the highlight of one’s life should be a facilitator of happiness.

I think I have rambled on for far too long without delving into what I had set out to write. I worked hard and prepared for the Common Admission Test. I ended up scoring 98.43 percentile, which sounds good in itself, but it seems that it wasn’t good enough. I have landed calls from Indore and Shillong. Of the two, only Indore seems to be a decent choice. But this was not what I had expected. I also gave NMAT, the entrance test for Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies. I scored 99.67 percentile but since I hadn’t filled the institute form I have no hopes there. I gave the XAT, another entrance test for XLRI Jamshedpur. I ended up scoring 99.823 percentile, but I failed to cross a sectional cutoff. So as you can guess by now, my journey, my aspiration to get into a premier b-school has been one filled with despair and despondency, not to mention a fair bit of misfortune.

Obviously, I am heartbroken and in despair. But while writing this, I was compelled to think about the situation I am in. I have a placement in a decent company. I have options. The only thing I needed was belief in myself. And so, having poured my heart out, I get the feeling that this failure shall only be a minor obstacle. Of course, I will work hard for Indore and hope to convert the call. But even if I fail to do so, I shall have learned the importance of failure. Failure isn’t defeat, it is but an experience. An enriching experience.