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India has one of the brightest student population and there are millions who attempt various entrance examinations every year. The race to reach the top spot, which constitutes hardly 1%, of these competitive examinations is a tough one. Some come close to their goal, and many have to wait for another year to try again. Then, there are the chosen few who pocket the top notch rank; some have to settle with a mediocre rank and some who just manage to clear the cut-off marks. So, what separates the top rankers from the others? Is it luck? Well, luck favors a prepared mind. Is it hard work? Mostly not, as most of the students who pass the exams are aware of the perks like studying in institutes like IITs, AIIMS, etc. and the launch-pad these institutes provide for their career growth, so almost everyone puts in their best effort. So, what makes the race to top 1% so intense? More often than not, it is observed that the ones who emerge with the shining crown of success, actually prefer doing smart work rather than only hard work.

The Race to Top 1%

How do you define smart work?

Smart work is a champion cocktail of hard work, interaction, and planning. Hard work should be accompanied with detailed planning, which provides the right direction to your work. This approach gives you ideas like when to start, what curriculum to cover, how not to overlook your health, how to focus on extra-curricular activities as well so that your mind doesn’t feel fatigued. It leads us to the very important next step: interaction.

Mix it up!

Interestingly, children grow up hearing stories of students locking themselves up in rooms to study. You will definitely find some distant relative or family friend who expects you to blindly follow these stories as a sure-fire means to success. The question then is, ‘Is limiting interaction with society and friends required and does it work?’ The answer in today’s world is a big ‘No!’. When you’re preparing to serve the society, why not use it as a strength rather than thinking of it as a hindrance in your path? Interaction with those who have been successful as well as those who haven’t, will help you understand what to do, as well as what not to do. Let us not use the word failed for these not-so-successful candidates because every lesson in life is a stepping stone. Let’s talk about Sachin Tendulkar as an example. He had not passed his 10th standard exams in 1988, but he is a legend now. Students who haven’t cleared an exam may have simply failed in an exam, but not in life.

You only live once!

Let’s face it: our life is too short to learn about everything on earth as it takes time. We have to bank upon the experiences of others and interestingly, a lot of books can provide amazing insights into these experiences. You have to remember that learning from others also comes from interaction and socializing – you never know whom you can learn from as none of us is self-sufficient. Learning from others’ experiences is good, but getting biased or bogged down can also take a toll on you. Remember that your strengths and weaknesses are not the same as others’, and learning from others’ mistakes can help you form a unique strategy to success. Be sure of yourself and don’t think negative; don’t develop thoughts like ‘If my seniors could not do it, how can I?’ The best possible solution is to talk to a lot of people before you decide to take up a course or exam so that both success and failure stories can give you a picture of the reality.

Don’t give up, but don’t sweat it either!

It’s good if you are in the race to top 1% of the IITs and AIIMS, and there is no doubt that they are some of the best education institutes. But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t clear the entrance tests with flying colors. Don’t sweat the small stuff; life is full of things to be thankful for and bursting with opportunities that need to be stumbled upon. Unfortunately, extreme anxiety is becoming more common among students these days. Last year, Kota, the coaching institute hub, witnessed 18 suicide cases. In this high-pressure environment, it’s important to understand that we get just one life and running away from it helps no one. In retrospect, all your choices will lead to a more fulfilling end, and if you don’t learn how to cope with defeat and setbacks, the larger challenges in life will seem even more insurmountable. Look at every move and result as a stepping stone. Good or bad, you have to learn from it and move on with even more determination.

Don’t compete blindly in the race to top 1%. Every child is blessed in one way or the other. Thanks to the digital era, creativity is at its peak, and there’s no dearth of career options. It’s best to hone your skills along with a formal education, and who knows, what you think of as a setback may make you the next Sachin Tendulkar!

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