Are You Afraid to Fail?

All the people I have met as a student and a classmate, I may classify them into three categories. One, by far the largest: the bourgeoisie: they are neither too optimistic about performing too high, neither having any reasons to be apprehensive about a possible disastrous performance. They are the middle class of the classroom, cocooned away from the extreme ends. Well, I always despised them for the characteristic indolence that they had inculcated in their nature over the times. But today, I write this blog with envy.

During my school days, I vividly recall the times, when one week or so after the examinations, one ominous period the teacher would enter with a bundle of white, threaded sheets rolled into an oblate cylinder; and welcomed with a collective gasp of nervous excitement from the class! Although I used to be the topper, I must confess that I silently uttered my prayers as the teacher undid the bundle and began calling our the names, one by one, glance by glance on that particular corner of the sheets as they appeared.

One particular event was common to all such sessions: tears would roll. Somebody or the other, girls especially, would burst into tears hearing her marks. A little crowd of her friends, who no doubt would have scored better, would form, collective in their generosity in consolation which often comes with happiness. What I failed to understand was, what made this news such a shock to her? This event lacked the element of unexpectedness, for example, in a stock market crash or a news of associated with some death; which might deliver such a shock! Deep down, she must be aware of the writing on the wall. Perhaps it was only her denial to face the state of reality as it hurled down; and hence the shock when it finally shattered in her face.

In past few years, I have had the opportunity to come across Failure rather on a regular basis, and as it happens with humans, I gathered more about it as we spent more time together. Here, I must remark that realists find it the easiest to greet Failure when they meet her. Realism is nothing but optimism kept in check. Failures won’t be as hard to swallow if you know that you’ve screwed something up and thus are prepared for the outcome; than waiting and praying for a miracle!

For somebody accustomed to a long trail of successes down his professional ladder, a spell of failures usually takes a hard toll. Why? 
I think, the very first cause, the biggest cause of all, is the social factor. It may be the parents, or the peers, or the society at large. When I had got 85/100 in Sanskrit once in 9th Std., I wasn’t shocked but almost dead with anxiety as to how was I supposed to go home with these! I was embarrassed to return the smile of the guy who got 100, and couldn’t face the teacher eye-to-eye for a few days! And later at home, it was a scene! For most people at college, CPI follows the same analogy. The toppers want to keep the respectable pedestal with them, the ‘nobles’ want to be consistent in fulfilling the CPI demands from the home. The social significance of success has begun to outweigh its spirit.

People are people, after all. It is common for them to underrate you after a series of miserable failures. This is a lesson I have learned in my life: never let yourself be flattered by applause, never let yourself be discouraged by criticism. In fact, the best one can do, if one can, is to remain indifferent to the general opinion and selectively picking and working upon the elements exposed by positive criticism. I got poor marks in 12th Std., failed to qualify JEE, got a modest rank in AIEEE, and so far have been unable to fetch laurels at college too, although the latter is a completely different ball game. My dreams appear incongruous to the dreams of the people around me, and I am rather sure that they’d laugh out aloud were I to confide it to them. But that has never dissuaded me from dreaming big.

The worst thing about a long, dry spell is that it begins to suck dry your self belief. Somewhere, that faith that you had in your abilities begins to go slack. Most of the times, without you realizing it, until its too late! I have been through this phase. The most conclusive symptom is, you begin to look at successful people around you as demigods, and success as a miraculous phenomenon! If you happen to think this way, it is sufficient for you to conclude that you have lost that strong self-belief, that confidence that used to be your propeller to success. You need to find it back. Unless you do, you shall only sink deeper with time.

Indolence nourishes failure, vice-versa. They prosper over a symbiotic relationship. I lost my ability to work hard during +2 years, and even today I find it an ordeal. Indolence makes the thorns which lay scattered on your way to success, and you have to pick them up by your heels. They’ll bleed, but unless you remove all those thorns, the road is never going to be easy. Did anybody say success and limelight comes easy?

Life is often like a cricket game. Despite a lot of hard work, often it happens that something or the other goes wrong all the time. One breakthrough is all that a seasoned bowler needs to set those slinging yorkers back into effect. One breakthrough is all that you need to trample the long, exhaustive line up of failures. Just the breakthrough. No matter how much people motivate you or tell you stuff from Plato or Aristotle, this would get you back in your old spirits faster than anything. It gets you buzzing quicker than a shot of vodka with fruit juice. Work for the breakthrough. Seek for it. Madly. It shall come, and when it does, just grab the line that hangs there. Its your ticket to fairyland.
Till then, keep your eyes open, your ears closed, and spirits ablaze. The society is such a tiny speck! The peers, the commentators, how do they matter! If success were to be determined by popular opinion, ah!

I just noticed that I drifted to the use of second person in my writing! It might be due to the fact that I was trying to talk to myself. A long session of struggle with Structural Design had left me weary, and I needed a little self motivation. What could be better than the long lost glory!

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?