Last week, my school Principal asked me if in my capacity as the President of the Alumni Association, I could give message to the graduating class 12 (A Level) students who scored 88% and above. I feel that the message I had for the students may be equally relevant to others and hence am sharing it below.
Congratulations! Today you stand tall and have made this school & your parents proud! The journey ahead will be DIFFERENT.
While school prepares you for end term exams, life unfortunately is a collection of unannounced surprise pop up quizzes with questions which are “out of syllabus”
I want to leave you with three thoughts
1) Whose CAR are you driving?
Education system as it is, was largely designed to mass produce obedient workers for the 19th century factory and the 20th century desk jobs. The 21st century is about knowledge workers, about ideas, about innovation.
So far, probably most of you have been driving someone else’s car – May be your parent’s or may be the school’s or may be your society’s. You have been toiling hard to make your parents, school and society proud. Was being a school topper your dream or your parents’? Whose car are you driving? Soon you will enter into adulthood and very soon into the work force. Before you realize it, you may find yourself driving someone else’s car – Working hard for someone else’s luxury. Millions of people toil day in and day out to make a handful of individuals enjoy the fruits of their labor. Do not be part of that million!
Find a car that you want to drive. A car that belongs to you. A car which is fueled by your dreams
In general to “excel at school” one needs to be good in subjects as diverse as history to music to physics. This is at odds with what is required in general to “excel in life”. Generally in life in order to excel one needs to be passionate about one or at best a couple of things. Do you know what is it that you are truly passionate about? Think of what you wanted to be when you were say 6 years old.
There is a beautiful Japanese concept called Ikigai meaning reason for being. Ikigai is doing what you love, using the unique skills you have to solve a problem such that people are willing to pay money for it.
What is your Ikigai? What skills do you have? What is it that you truly love? What problem will you solve?
And lastly, as many of you would have realized – whether you spend time playing PUBG or find pleasure in solving a pesky math problem – everything we do is because we want to be happy. If you ask enough whys, you will ultimately know that the bottom line is to be happy.
Why do you need high grades?
To get an admission in a good college
Why do you want admission in a good college?
To get a better job
Why do you need a better job?
To earn good money
Why do you want to earn good money?
To be able to afford things that I like
Why do you want to afford things you like?
So that I can be happy
Unfortunately, we may be finding happiness in all the wrong places including the above dialogue. Ironically enough, the root cause of unhappiness is getting fixated with the result. Result of what? Result of our actions - Including the desire of getting 90% marks in an exam!
I once heard the following lines at a karate class for kids. The kids recite this after the teacher at the end of every lesson.
1) Be sincere
2) Respect others
3) Develop self discipline
4) Put maximum effort in everything you do
The last line is key – Put maximum effort in everything you do.
This question is to you NOT to your parents or your neighbors or your society
Do you feel you gave your best?
If the answer is yes then you have achieved it. If the answer is NO, then even 100% marks in exams will not save you in the long run despite acing the exam.
100% or 90%, Fail or Pass is external
Yes and No is internal
Those who hinge their happiness on external things such as Pass or 70% or 90% or 100% will forever be unhappy if that desired result is not achieved. REMEMBER, the result is not in your control. There are multiple factors that go into making a result including how bad the examiners mood was J. The only thing you can control is your efforts! To be happy one needs to have attained more than what one desired. If you got 95% when you desired only 90% you will be happy. If you desired 95% and you only got 90% you will be unhappy. Attaining more will lead to delight while attaining less than what we desire, will lead to misery.
The happiness mantra is Happiness = Attainment – Desire.
We cannot guarantee what we will attain. So, the only way to be happy is by controlling desires. One needs to be effort driven and not result-driven. That is the key to happiness. By attaching desires to one’s efforts, say desire of getting 90% for studying hard, one is getting fixated on the result. If the desired result is not attained, one will be unhappy. Rather a better thing to do is to do something where one enjoys the journey itself – In this case, the joy of learning. If you enjoy learning, whether you get 50% or 90% will not matter because you will be enjoying the process itself! If you don’t enjoy learning then looking for happiness in getting 90% for something you hate will not help. Life is long! Rather find something you really like – Is it music? Is it being stand-up comedian?
Similarly for job or career, if all your happiness is hinging on getting the next promotion then you are setting yourself up for misery if you for whatever reason don’t get that promotion. Rather than focusing on the next promotion, get a job that you like and you shall never work ever again in your life! And that my friends was a message not for you but for your parents.
All the best in your life and career ahead. Remember – Put maximum effort in everything you do. Decide what you want to put maximum effort into.
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