We lead fearful lives. Day-in and day-out. We're afraid to lose, to fail, to cry; afraid of pain, of rejection ,of sorrow, of heart-break, of theft, of death..The point is, we lead fearful lives.
And to what end? Is it that, by being afraid of these things, we overcome them?
NO.. In fact, we spend so much time pondering about the various negative effects, that formulating a sure-shot way of achieving positive results is something we often never get time to do.
And we more often than not, end up facing the very things we're most scared of.
No more. I think it is time that ,we as individuals realize that fear of failure is the biggest obstacle in our path to success.
My friends will know of this incident. I have bored them with an overview of it many times. But I'd like to repeat it here,because it was an incident in my life that was truly a humbling moment for me. It deals with failure , how I hoped never to get there ,how that's exactly where I got and how I got out of it.
It was in my 5th semester of engineering. It was a subject I told myself I loved (haha). It was also the subject I neglected studying the most because frankly, the textbook seemed voluminous by itself. (The fact that the contents were utterly boring is a different thing) . So, days became months, and I procrastinated . So much so, that it was 0000 hrs 14th December 2009 and I had covered half a chapter out of the 14 chapters I had in my portions for the exam that very same day at 1400 hours.
I felt brave. Now I know that was just stupidity masquerading as bravery masking practicality.
And surely as the rest of the semester had passed with me disinterested in the subject, the remaining 12-and-a-half ours before the exam faded. And there I sat in the examination hall forced between a topper and a genius (not exclusive),the idiot who did not know yet that bravery was not about writing an exam with absolutely nothing in mind. The question papers were distributed and I remember a zillion thoughts racing through my head at that point (none of them related to the subject..how helpful) . I remember thinking how wonderful it would have been if I hadn't wasted time celebrating my birthday just two days ago. I remember thinking how helpless I felt when I saw words on the paper I had never encountered in the subject (That was pretty obvious..considering..) . I even remember fantasizing about how awesome it would be to just fly out of the examination hall on the broomstick that lay by the classroom door, Harry Potter style.
SO, I resorted to the one thing all helpless students do.. "Psst..", I called out to the guy in front of me, desperate that he hear me, hopeful that the invigilator wouldn't. That was the only point of time I was successful at in those 3 hours in that examination hall. Because try as that helpful guy in front of me might, I could not, for the life of me , fathom what clues he was giving me on his answer sheet for three reasons :
a) I was not skilled at the art of copying just yet.
b) I hadn't worn my glasses and could not distinctly make out what he was writing
c) I wasn't really familiar with the subject enough to unravel the seemingly complex clues he was trying to pass me.
I soon got bored of unsuccessfully trying to finish the exam by the only means that seemed obvious just then..unfair..I left the exam hall in 40 minutes, with my classmates staring at me in awe. If only they knew how pathetic I felt just then.
To be fair, I was the only moron right then and there. Because as stats would soon show, around 99.8% of the department had passed in that subject . The proudest moment of my life (Surely you can read the sarcasm there :/).
The results soon came and needless to say, there it was. The alphabet that continues to mock students around the globe ,had made an appearance on my report card. It's almost like it said ..'F' YOU!, serves you right.
The amount of shame I felt in those days was insurmountable. Because in my culture, you do not go by the motto "If you've never failed, you've never lived." . My parents had never heard of that .(Or at-least they pretended never to have). And I had failed. For the first time in my 14.5 years of academia, I had failed. And I felt miserable.
I spent days after that flipping through the haunted pages of that book that I had neglected, hoping for a glimpse of valid explanation for why I hadn't paid more attention to those pages. One besides the sorry excuse of "It's boring". I found none.
I even applied for a re-evaluation of my paper,telling myself they must have been valued by a bunch of tea-sipping idiots who took out their anger at their wives by drowning our fates in those tea cups (trying to buy my way out of the shame, as it were). Turns out they were pretty resolute about unwittingly wanting to teach me the price for not studying enough.
The sixth semester exams arrived .My second battle against the same enemy . This time I was prepared ;or rather better prepared than the last time. I cleared the paper, and my name. ("Too little, too late" ,my mum maintained . But I was relieved.)
I learnt a very important lesson from the whole incident:
Bravery isn't about performing an act of rebellion or about breaking the rules.
It's about not being afraid to do the right thing when such an occasion calls for it.
I thought studying just 12 hours before the exam was a warrior-like thing to do. Almost God-like. Most students still do that. Heck, I still do that.
But it doesn't work out all the time. If only I had been brave enough to face it ahead of time and not shirk away like a coward till the last moment, perhaps I could have avoided the whole situation altogether. But I do not regret learning from my mistake.
That said, fear of failure should not be a reason to not attempt something. Except in the rare case of an academic exam where failure is sometimes inevitable when you are not prepared, there are other cases where adversity brings out the best in you . And you should be brave enough to take that chance. "A leap of faith".