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MOTIVATION: An open letter to those who couldn’t clear Prelims – Mittali Sethi, Rank 56, CSE-2016

An open letter to those who couldn’t clear Prelims

Mittali Sethi, Rank 56, CSE-2016


In the September of 2015, when my result for Prelims came out, I did not know how to go out and face the world. Around me were people who wanted to judge me right, left and centre. There were those who were waiting for an opportunity where I get weak- so as to challenge my core beliefs of life, there were those who were ready with “I told you so” comments, there were those who were indifferent.

Fortunately,  there were also those who constantly believed in me and pushed me. But the people whom I truly cherish today were those who taught me that achievement can go either way – you can win or you can lose –  that is the whole point of competition anyway. Not everyone can go through the little hole. However, what we must learn is how to fight for the fight itself and not its consequences. When you do that, the consequences take care of themselves. In many ways, it is like the philosophy of nishkama karma.

At this point, I might sound ridiculous to you.

A year back, looking at the PDF of my result, I felt crushed, defeated and inadequate. And all of this talk sounded ridiculous to me too. But, honestly, failure does not leave you with many choices. It makes you stronger – no matter whether you like it or not. I leave it for you to decide whether it is a good or bad thing!

At the time of my result, I was teaching a girl who hadn’t gone to school. And a few days after my result, when I was taking her class, she asked me a question. She said: “Why does the moon change its shapes each night?” I looked at her with wide eyes – how did she manage to think and observe so deeply? Did I play a part? At that point, I took up my diary and wrote something I have never forgotten after that – You don’t need an achievement in life to make a difference to someone’s life.

I am sharing this because it changed the way I looked at things. I realised that ultimately, my motive is not to become an IAS officer – the job is only a way to doing something meaningful. It is an instrument and not the object in itself.  The ‘where’ is much more important than the ‘how’. Life must be goal centric and not path centric for it to be meaningful. What happens if you become an officer but don’t have the courage or the maturity to deal with things around. Maybe you prepare yourself with this failure? Maybe you become stronger – for a purpose that you cannot see as of now.

I had studied tirelessly from the past one year, and I thought it is unfair that I couldn’t clear the exam. But, in the next year that I prepared, I came to understand how much my preparation was lacking. It was only after writing next year’s exam that I realised that there was so much that I hadn’t done in the past year. Many of us fail to actually see clearly that our preparation is not enough. We blame the competition, UPSC or destiny. Of course, none of these are truly or perfectly fair, but the point is that this blaming exercise does not serve any purpose. It will be much better if you use the energy actually preparing for the next battle.

I can totally understand how you must be feeling right now. But the only reason I am writing this today is to tell you that there is going to be a better tomorrow for you. Tomorrow, you might clear the exam and then today will become immaterial. Tomorrow, you might be doing something so meaningful in life that you will laugh back at today. Tomorrow, happiness will be your companion and you will be writing your experiences and giving back wisdom you gained from today.

Be a visionary and see that tomorrow. Never, ever, give up.

You don’t fail in life, you only experience. Life is not made of concrete, it is made of foam. Get up, my warrior, and bounce back!

The universe is full of new beginnings. This universe is standing right there, cheering for you as your audience – waiting for you to make yours. The question is – are you listening?