THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME
As I sit on this hot and humid June evening, I’m reminiscing about the experiences of the last couple of years, which have been tough and definitely far from ideal. But without those experiences, I would never have been what I am today. When I left my previous job in December, 2011 to study for my CA Final exams to be held in May, 2012, I thought that my journey of becoming a Chartered Accountant was near its sweet end. But what I failed to realise was that life rarely went according to plan. In those months of study leave, I barely studied and as a result, failed.
Since I had been working continuously for a good part of the previous five years, spending six months from January to June in the confines of the four walls of my home was torturous. Someone rightly said that “an empty mind is a devil’s workshop”, and I had learnt firsthand the kind of havoc an empty mind could create. In those circumstances, just working somewhere was a priority, as I realised that it was important to use my time productively. In early July, 2012 I got a call to join a reputed Steel Manufacturing Company, as a part of the Treasury Department. When I got this opportunity to start afresh, I promptly grabbed it without any reluctance.
After joining my job, challenges began to mount right at the initial stage since I was working in a completely new area. When I again appeared for the exam, I had to again taste failure.
The result came as a shock to me since I had studied this time. I was depressed for several days and wondered whether I would ever pass or not. A thought going on in my mind in those days was, “will I always pursue Chartered Accountancy and never become a Chartered Accountant?” That failure together with the tough work environment really challenged me. However, after a few days, when the sadness went away and I could think straight, I realised that I had not studied well enough even though I thought that I had.
Unlike other examinations, CA requires a lot more effort and I had not put in the required effort, it was natural that I would not succeed. I believe that was the turning point in my professional and academic career. I had failed numerous times before in CA exams, but no failure had hurt the way this one did. And when failure hurts, one out of the two things happen, you either follow on the path you had set out on, or you quit. As I knew that I could do better, I decided to give it another shot and registered for one Group, which comprises of four papers. By then, most of my friends from school and college had become Chartered Accountants and I was one of the few people left in my batch still pursuing the course. At times, this feeling of not clearing the exam filled me with sadness and jealousy.
The months from February to April 2013 were one of the toughest of my life. I had to leave home at quarter to nine in the morning and on an average, I used to work in Office till eight. After reaching home, I would have dinner and study till about one o’clock. The next day, I would get up at six and study till about eight after which I would get ready for office. The first few days of this routine were tough, and I cribbed my fair share, but later, I settled into the groove and the schedule became second nature to me. Since I had a heavy workload, I only had ten days leave. However, the ideally CA exam requires minimum two months of rigorous hard work.
People had now started asking me to quit giving CA and instead concentrate on the job.
Initially, all these advises disturbed me, but as the time passed, I learnt to deal with it. I believe that is better to deal with our detractors tactfully rather than wasting our energy in trying to convince them of the merits of our plan.
The first paper didn’t go well and I missed thirty marks. Even though I felt bad about that momentarily, I didn’t let that deter me. I would study for about 18 hours for the remaining exams, not letting any stone go unturned, even if it meant that I would become sleepy while writing the paper. That was my third attempt and somewhere in my mind I knew that this was a make or break attempt. I had a feeling that if I didn’t clear that time, it would damage my confidence irreversibly. Inspite of that, my focus was not on passing, but instead it was on putting the most amount of effort I could. During those six days, I was focused only on revising the portion before the exam began. In the previous attempt, I had failed because I had not studied well a day before the exam. This time, I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake.
On the day of the results, I was surprisingly calm. When the results were declared, my father called me up and told me that I had passed. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders since I had passed with exactly 200 marks. To be honest, I felt more relieved than happy as I realised that I was on the right path, and that if I continued doing what I had done before I would succeed.
But fortunately or unfortunately, life is a collection of peaks and troughs. As I had succeeded in the examination when everybody thought I could not, it made me feel overconfident. I became cocky and did not study well for the last Group.
This exam was also historic since as opposed to pass percentage 10-30% in the previous few years, this time it was only 3%.
Once again, I had to taste the bitter medicine called failure. Unlike the last time when I had failed, my reaction this time was of acceptance as I knew that given my inadequate efforts, I did not deserve to pass.
Before joining my current job, I was impatient, irritable, hot tempered, looked for the easy way out and gave up easily. However, the experiences of the past years have taught me to work hard, control my temper and most importantly, to never give up. Every time we don’t succeed in an endeavour, we tend to point fingers at a particular person or event to deflect the blame for our failure.
One of the most overused excuses we have when we fail in our endeavours is the claim that we didn’t have enough time. The difference between successful people and the unsuccessful ones is that the former are willing to put in the effort required of them instead of worrying about the supposed lack of time or cribbing about other unfavourable conditions. When I gave my first attempt of CA Final in May 2012, I had four months to study – January to April. However, instead of studying, I wasted my time watching television and videos on the internet. I make no bones about the fact that I failed because I was lazy. The prospect of sitting in one place and studying for hours on end terrified me. The fear of not understanding what I was studying also increased my fear factor. I believe that everybody has fear, but the people who end up being successful are the ones who are able to control their fear and not let their fear control them.
Another thing I learnt during my experiences was that one must not pray for getting something like passing an examination or getting a promotion. I analysed that if I had passed in May 2012 when I knew I had not studied well, I may have been selected in a much higher position than what I have today and there would have been numerous people answerable to me. On the flip side, these very people would ask me their doubts and queries expecting me to answer them, by virtue of me being in a higher position. As I would then have been sans the required knowledge and experience, I would not have been in a position to answer those queries, thus degrading my impression. But now, because I have worked at a lower level for the past two years, I have learnt things in a more detailed manner and hence, am in a good position to guide my colleagues, should the need arise.
One more important thing I have learnt is that we won’t achieve or get anything before the right time. I realised that whenever I have failed in an examination, it was not only because I didn’t study well, but also because I would not have been able to handle the success. Looking in hindsight, if I had passed in May 2012 or the subsequent examination, it would have filled me with a sense that it is not necessary to work hard to achieve something. That would have given me a wrong message.
Success is not guaranteed in every situation. There will obviously be times when we would fail. When approaching a problem or challenge, instead of worrying about the outcome, it is always better if we go in with an attitude of giving our best. At the end, that is the only thing that is really in our hands.
Knowing all such things really helped me as I could control the controllables and not ponder about things which were outside my control. To be honest, the thought of the result of my actions did cross my mind, but I tried my level best not to obsess about them. In hindsight, I believe that failure has been one of the best things to have happened in my life. It was like a bitter medicine needed by a sick patient in order to become healthy again. Failure was the kick which woke me up from my slumber. It silenced my ego and mellowed my temper. It made me do things which I didn’t believe I could do, made me push myself beyond my self-imposed limits. It made me look for a solution, instead of cribbing about the problem. There will no doubt be many more battles in my life and it is unrealistic to assume that I will end up victorious all the time. There will be times when I will fail. In those situations, I wish to not take success to my head and failure to my heart.
We imagine ourselves to be the agents of our destiny, capable of determining our own fate. But have we truly any choice in when we rise or fall? What is the optimum mix between hard work and luck which ensures that we end up victorious? The secret to success has been debated for centuries on end without a unanimously agreeable answer. To sum up, I will give a quote from a song sung by the Irish Band ’The Dubliners’. “Don’t give up till it’s over, don’t quit if you can. The weight on your shoulders will make you a stronger man. Grasp your nettle tightly, though it will burn. Treat your failures lightly, your luck is bound to turn.”