I was sure I’d fail all my B-School interviews.
I was living in a small town when I got my interview calls with no access to coaching classes or the Internet.
On the day before the first interview, I went to a coaching expert in Calcutta. He told me I spoke too fast and my answers didn’t have any management substance at all. I’d have to work with him for at-least a month to develop the “X-Factor”.
I had one day. So I skipped coaching altogether.
In the first interview, the IIM guys asked me who my role model was.
The coach had told me to say JRD Tata or Andrew Carnegie or something like that.
I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
If you have to fail, fail with honesty. I said Ruskin Bond. He lives in society yet he’s out of it. That’s what I want to do. Give it my all but hold on to nothing at all.
The interviewers looked puzzled. They asked a few more questions. It went in the same vein.
I bombed it.
Only I didn’t.
I cleared the interviews and later I got to know I’d managed to scrape into the Top 10 Aditya Birla list or something.
Be your own unapologetically weird self.
I kept forgetting it despite the B-School interview experience. For years after, I’d apologetically explain the gaps in my resume for time spent backpacking, writing, and learning yoga and meditation.
“Umm…my family wanted me in India.”
“Actually…my publisher wanted me on a book tour.”
Sometimes I’d want to start a presentation at work with a thought from a novel I’d read. Instead, I’d open with the usual strategy update slide.
Then, I went on to more senior roles at work.
I began to realise I’d be a fraction of a professional without the creative energy of writing or the curiosity from years of drifting. I stopped hiding large parts of me and talked openly about my experiences in interviews and work. The right kind of people and jobs began to come my way.
All of you is you. Like that old Floyd song, “There’s no dark side of the moon. As a matter-of-fact, it’s all dark.”
The world works hard to conform and blend in. Don’t. Stand out. Kayak to work, compose a presentation to music, talk about lessons from hiking the Himalayas in a business meeting. Or don’t.
Just be your own unapologetically weird self with your quirks, your wounds, your passions and your idiosyncrasies.
The one way to become weird tomorrow.
Haven’t you run into people who are so passionate about something that they fill the whole room when they talk about it? The best way to be interesting is to become interested. Deeply. In something. The quest for mastery in any field—art, sport, technology, business, anything—is an epic battle of a man against himself. It simplifies, transforms, liberates.
I wasted years of my life dabbling in a little business, a little writing, a little this and that, until I chose depth. Don’t make my mistake. Choose mastery, choose excellence early, and you’ll become obsessed and a little weird. And that’s a wonderful thing.