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Rejection Diaries – My First Encounter

My first encounter with rejection happened when I was 14 years old. I had just completed my tenth grade and life seemed an open canvas where I could freely paint my desires and do whatever I wanted to. Little did I know my real schooling was about to begin.

In India, formal education is given an immense amount of attention in the family. The degrees which you possess, the schools that you attend and the grades that you get are seen as indicators which determine your chances of success or failure in life.

The IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) are a premier group of schools which offer engineering degrees which are highly valued throughout the world. They are one of the hardest institutions to get into with one of the toughest entrance exams in the world. Students who finish their class 12 appear for this entrance exam commonly called JEE (Joint Entrance Exam)

And because the exam is so hard, there are special coaching centres which promise extensive training to students in all the required subjects so that the students are prepped to ace the IIT entrance exams. One such coaching centre in the city of Bangalore was BASE where most parents hoped their kids would get in.

Not surprisingly, BASE had its own entrance exam! Thousands of aspiring 15- year olds and their equally ambitious parents ensured that the BASE exam date was prominently highlighted on their calendars.

When my dad first told me about the BASE entrance, I thought I could easily ace it. After all I had pretty decent grades in school and even managed to top my school exams once or twice.

“How hard could a few multiple choice questions on science and math be?” I thought to myself.

On the day of the exam, I was amazed at the number of kids who turned up at the venue. Everyone seemed to be carrying books containing previous question papers and were religiously scanning their formulae and notes. And here I was coolly laughing at them with a pen in my pocket and chewing gum instead of preparing.

And then it began. At 9:30 a.m. sharp! Lightning struck me pretty quickly after that.

school exam
By Rune Mathisen

I can’t seem to recall if it was a two or three hour test. My mind has pretty much erased the painful bits. All I remember now is within 15 minutes of seeing the questions, I was pretty sure the only way I could get in was if the goddess of luck and the god of gambling both decided to hedge their bets on me.

There were questions on gravity, probability and oscillations. Pendulums, weights and water seemed to be the theme of the test as many questions contained these phrases. I felt like Archimedes himself!

Minus the water-tub, brains and the Eureka moment. In short, naked and dumb!

So I used my imagination and luck and answered all the questions. I thought “Heck, I should get some of them right” and started with the ones I knew. These were about 5 % of the questions. For the rest, I relied on the tried and tested method of choosing the options: All of the above, None of the above and the longest explanation answers.

By the end of it I was thinking maybe, just maybe I can bag the last spot left in the center.

So I went home cheerfully and told my parents I had a pretty good chance at clearing it. They were of course happy and optimistic as parents are when their kids show over-confidence and excess positivity. They probably thought their doofus boy had it all figured out and was well on his way to becoming the next rocket scientist!

The results came in through post and was probably lying in our mailbox for a few days as we had all gone on a family vacation to our native village. We came back Saturday morning and dad left for his half-day of office.

I went down to play with my apartment buddies and on the way back peeked in the mailbox to find an envelope with BASE written on it.  I was both nervous and anxious as I quickly took it to my room and opened it in hurry.

Rank

That was the number which stared at me. I didn’t understand it at first. I thought they were referring to my roll number. But after staring at it dumbly for a few minutes I realized it was my rank. Not only had I got a rank which looked like a train number from the Indian Railways, it was probably a couple of ranks better than the person who forgot to show up for the test.

That was when I realized the questions had negative marking! In my enthusiasm to succeed through sheer will power, I had forgotten a fundamental principle of math. If you add a smaller positive number to a larger negative number, the result is still a negative bloody number! I must have answered so many questions wrong that whatever little marks I got by answering the ones I knew were eaten up by the wrong ones.

My dad was mightily disappointed and probably lost his appetite for a week. But being the eternal optimist that he was, he calculated that some kids might not want to go to BASE and there might be some seats left over. Of course some seats did get left over but they went to the kids who scored ranks in the early 600’s.

The rejection hit me hard.

For probably the first time in my life, I faced severe self-doubt and struggled to come to terms with the fact that there were thousands of kids my age who were better than me. My self-esteem was at an all-time low and for the next few months I just trudged along with my life as if it were a bad dream.

I got into a local pre-university college which had many people attending BASE as they juggled regular school and coaching classes. For them regular coursework seemed too easy as they were much ahead compared to the rest of us thanks to the advanced coaching they received.

So as I struggled with understanding calculus and organic chemistry, the college library became a place of solace for me. It wasn’t crowded as it consisted of dusty shelves and a musty odour but it gave me a chance to be with people and stories from books I loved so I didn’t really mind.

For a teenager struggling with rejection and shaky self-worth, fiction can be a comforting friend.

One day, in the middle of my 11th grade, I was browsing through the library after classes. I stumbled onto a book called Swami Vivekananda – Collected Works Vol. I

swamiji

I had heard a little about the heroic monk and his inspiring journey of uplifting people back in the days before India achieved freedom. So I borrowed it for a week and started reading it at home that evening.

For the next few days, day and night merged into a series of forgettable moments as I plunged into the book with the fervour of a madman. The speeches of Swami Vivekananda were electrifying and inspiring. They beckoned to the hero within each soul as he urged everyone to ‘Arise, Awake and stop not till the Goal is reached!’

I could imagine him standing in front of the rejected masses of Indians back in his days roaring

 “My countrymen should have nerves of steel, muscles of iron, and minds like thunderbolt!”

The book shook my being completely and made me realize what a self-pitying idiot I had turned into!

The possibility of making something of myself through my own genius and not having to depend on others for assessing my worth gave me immense strength. I realized that the more I tried to fit myself into the patterns of other people’s expectations, the more miserable I would become.

Rejection in this case had made me turn to what I had always loved to do. It set me on a path where I read more, imagined stories and fueled the hunger to acquire more wisdom through deep introspection.

Had I not been rejected, I would have desperately tried to fit in with the others and would have probably never ventured into the college library. All the literature on physics and advanced chemistry would have not given my soul the nourishment it desperately needed to blossom and evolve.

Over To You

Rejection is something we have all faced at different points in our life. I have faced it many, many times and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult. The key to handling rejection, however is your attitude towards it. Rejection if handled properly can provide a sense of direction and a renewed purpose which might drastically alter the direction of your life.

Rejection taught me an important lesson which I will always be thankful for. To never let a momentary setback get in the way of a larger vision. To not let fear and ridicule rule me, but rather stare rejection in the face and move ahead confidently past it.

As Swami Vivekananda brilliantly put it, “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”

So, how has your experience been with rejection? What has it taught you? Would love to hear from you.

Cheers!

Published in GetMotivated Life-Hacks

27 Comments

  1. Rohan Chaubey (@TechBluemoon) Rohan Chaubey (@TechBluemoon)

    You are so correct, Here the marks of degrees are given so much importance as if they are something you that will decide your entire life. My college teachers give horrible speeches saying the marks you get are going to decide your entire future.

    Why include the “Entire” word in it? haha You are so correct. I wonder how a single entrance exam decides the whole admission process. Are practical skills aren’t really important?

    And your post scares me as in the next academic year, I am myself going to hunt for admission. I loved the way you found an inspiring book and got your enthusiasm come back. This is so inspiring!

    I wanna share my story with you, I am currently pursuing Diploma in Computer Engineering and I will be getting direct second year admission in Degree college this July.

    During Sem 2 of my Diploma course I got ill and was hospitalized and scored really really poor marks. And I am sure you know about C and C++ programming languages, don’t you?

    So due to my illness I missed studying C but still I was passed with a bad score. Being a ranker I was always asked for opinions by our department head but after that semester I was told that I would never understand C++, Java and then Advanced Java if I don’t considered learning C first.

    And with the grace of God, I prove everyone wrong. I never studied C, I directly jumped to C++ and naturally I understood the concepts of C too. And I even scored well in Advanced Java and I think I have shared my score with you. 😀

    So yeah, Failures are indeed stepping stone to success. And as Dr. Kalam says – if you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning”. 🙂

    Thank you so much Niks for sharing your story. I feel so much motivated. And as I always say – every thing you write is so relatable and implementable for real life. Thank you. Keep writing!

    Shared. Bookmarked. Submitted to Stumble Upon. 🙂

    Best,
    Rohan Chaubey.

    • Hi Rohan!

      You have a natural aptitude towards programming and technology 🙂 awesome story about C++. My grades in both the languages were C and C- (I’m sure the prof would’ve given a C – – if there was such a grade 😛 )

      Loved the Kalam quote it’s so true! Always glad to share story crumbs from my crazy adventures 😀 Thank you for your really kind words and good luck with your studies!

      Cheers!,
      Nik

  2. Alisha Alisha

    Hi,
    You have shared wonderful thought with us, I do completely agree with your thought.
    I believe rejections are part of our life and give us new chances to learn new thinks.
    Thanks to rejections.

    • Thank you Alisha and welcome to SUL 🙂

  3. awazieikechi awazieikechi

    Hi Nik

    Loved your personal story and like you have mentioned, I can relate to rejection. You are right that it is so stupid to allow others to define who we are. We should believe in our ourselves and dare to be different.

    Talking about your test, I couldn’t help but smile because I have faced such situation too which me made me lose my confidence. In fact my parents called me a local champion because I was so overconfident. 🙂 and did not meet their expectation.

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Haha local champion 😀 that’s a nice one Ikechi 🙂 I am glad you were able to relate to the story and it made you smile!

      Have a great weekend!
      Nik

  4. Naveen Kumar Naveen Kumar

    Hi Nik,
    It is my first time on your blog and happy to read your story. It is really a inspiring. As rohan said that there is only value of marks and degrees not talent and job. But it is most clear that if you have good knowledge and talent then marks and degrees are not important to get success.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us.
    With Regards,
    Naveen
    F5 The Refresh

    • Hi Naveen,

      Welcome to SUL! Pleasure to have you here 🙂 Thank you for the kind words and I am happy you were able to find some inspiration!

      Cheers,
      Nik

    • Rohan Chaubey (@TechBluemoon) Rohan Chaubey (@TechBluemoon)

      Hi Naveen,

      Thanks for the mention. I agree, in India a lot more importance is given to the grades and scores than talent and hard work. Can’t comment about western countries as I am not much aware of their patterns.

      I am sure you enjoyed reading this post as I did. 🙂 Have a nice weekend. 🙂

  5. simplyilka simplyilka

    Hi Nik!

    Thank you for sharing such a personal experience with us! I am glad to see that this one rejection was an eye-opener for you. You might not be who you are without it.

    All the best, Ilka

    • Hi Ilka!

      You’re right, every incident does change us in some way or another doesn’t it? 🙂 I’m glad you liked it…

  6. priyanka priyanka

    Hi Nikshep,

    I could relate to this story because I had also given my IIT and AIEEE papers in the same manner you did 🙂 .It reminded me of my days back then and yeah you’re right I think rejection is the first step to success.Thanks for sharing.

    • Haha yup, a lot of us Indians can quickly recall the dread of those entrance exams! Thanks for stopping by Priyanka! Would love to hear ur thoughts often 🙂

      Cheers,
      Nik

  7. Donna Merrill (@donna_tribe) Donna Merrill (@donna_tribe)

    Hi Nik,

    What a wonderful story you have shared. It touched my memory of rejection and I’m sure every person who reads this will think back to their own stories.

    Rejection is a funny thing, it is all about how we handle it. Being young as you were, you did have family counting on you to ace this test. That’s a lot of pressure especially for a young boy.

    I think back to my youth and the many rejections I had faced with my family’s expectations of me.

    But like you, I found a book that taught me what life is really about. I could remember the day when I was 15 years old and reading Kahlil Gibran. AHA..from that moment I did find a deeper sense of life.

    After reading all his books, I looked at rejection in a different way. It was a lesson to me that there was another road ahead …. one I must look for.

    Thank goodness you picked up that book Swami Vivekananda that helped you change your life around.

    Have a great week

    -Donna

    • Hi Donna,

      Yes, many readers have come back and told me this brought back memories 🙂 Khalil Gibran is a great author indeed! I’m happy you enjoyed the post! 🙂

      Have a nice weekend!
      -Nik

  8. Yatin Yatin

    Hi Nikshep
    You are absolutely right. Rejection is the most important phase in everybody’s life. We are always busy in the number game. The quality of the person cannot be judged by sheet of paper only.
    Till now, I have realized one important thing in my life. Degrees and certificates are not everything. I was pursuing economics from Delhi university. Everything was working great for me in the first year. Then, series of odd events took place and I was not able to diagnose the whole incidence, as everything was going perfect from academics side.
    At last, I decided to quit my regular degree and moved on. It was very tough decision.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • My pleasure Yatin. Glad you could relate to it 🙂

  9. Harleena Singh (@harleenas) Harleena Singh (@harleenas)

    Hi Niks,

    That was a lovely post, and the best part – you shared a part of you with us 🙂

    Yes, rejection is never easy, yet you get to learn so much from it. I think most of us go through different phases of our lives, where we fall and rise again, so rejections just make us a better version of our previous self – they teach us such a great deal.

    I was nodding my head in agree as I read through your experiences about the exams you gave – reminded me of my time! You are right, a lot is expected by our parents and teachers too, and somehow the theoretical education system prepares us just partially for the real life we have to eventually face. The real practical life- is so different. I guess we need to do a lot more in this aspect – even those dreaded coaching classes – where do they leave you any time to do anything more than just study!

    I say this because I have my kids going through this phase now, though I am just happy that we as parents want them to take it easy and not really stress themselves out. Do your best, and leave the rest to Him! After all, you have just this one life, and each one of us comes here, with a purpose.

    Perhaps giving that exam wasn’t meant to be. Your purpose was meant to be different, thus you were led to that library and found reading several books as your hidden passion, which made you meet your higher self. One can just connect the dots….

    Inspirational indeed – keep going, and I think life is all about the choices we make – you surely made a nice one to be here, and thus we can read and learn from each other.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend 🙂

    • I am sure you will be a much much cooler mom since you naturally get these things 😀 You’re right, our choices determine who we are 🙂 thank you for the lovely comment and the shares 🙂 means a lot! Have a great weekend!

      -Nik

  10. arpita arpita

    Hey Nik,

    I think most of us, especially those with an “Indian “upbringing would relate to this. We are still so much into the clutches of the “numbers, ranks, degree, academics” that we forget our real self. Children and parents are equally affected by this and believe it or not it is very much also linked to our “social status” these days.

    But the more important part you brought out with your writing was that rejection truly makes us a stronger human being. Someone has rightly said” Failures are our true teachers, success are just lousy ones” Don’t remember the source now.

    Off late even I suffered from my most recent rejection: my blog not doing good. When I started writing, I was over confident that within few months I would become a shining star, but then lighting stuck when I realized that my blog was ranked 59 lakhs something in google search…I was devastated…but here I am back again after 2 months of self realization, with a new zeal and enthu..I will not take writing lightly this time for sure….

    Thanks for sharing such a true and important part of your life and learning with us

    • Hi Arpita!

      Do you know most bloggers quit within 6 months? 🙂 That’s because it’s hard and takes years of effort. I am happy you decided to bounce back! Keep going! All the best 🙂

      -Nik

  11. ajaybpai ajaybpai

    HI Nik,

    I do share the same thought in line with Arpita. I started blogging 4 months back, and I thought I could daily contribute, but, I realize now that it takes effort to be a serious blogger. Your everyday tasks keep you so busy that you seldom get time to blog. Each day I have the urge to quit. Because, one need to develop the idea to write. In this rat race, the easiest way is to quit. But then, something within me stops me and here I continue.. This could be because of the people I am associated with in different networks. You being one among them.

    Thanks for the share.

    • Never ever ever give up! 🙂 That should be the motto! Keep going Ajay, you’ll definitely succeed!

  12. balaka balaka

    Beautiful post…and so true…I am glad that I came across this post

  13. Gautham Gautham

    Nice…keep going!

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