What I learnt from Stanford

Stanford University. One can say only so little about the richness of its history and its exceptional contributions to society at the global scale.

It had been a dream of mine to be a part of its richness. When I was applying to college last year — and I applied only to two schools, Stanford and where I am right now, Maryland — I had gotten on to its waitlist.

Then, over the course of the past year, I thought deeply about it and concluded it was something I had to try for again. So I tried as a transfer applicant. This time, however, the probability of my acceptance had diminished significantly: only 20 students out of 1800 are admitted as transfers every year.

I just received my admission decision yesterday. It wasn’t the news one would like to hear. A rejection letter, even so with praise, is no consolation. The decision has been uneasy to swallow.

At the same time I have had realizations that, even though obvious at first glance, come only with stark out of comfort zone experiences. Certainly, I have been fortunate to experience these early on, and it is only just of me to share this knowledge. Just, in hope that what I share is useful to you in your future decision making, or as another view point that may help broaden your horizons.

Have faith in yourself. Know that you are a champion. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Each and everyone of us has the potential to do the greatest of great things. Its only a matter of self-belief that takes us to materialize this stellar potential.

I’m not the smartest one around here. But I know I can make big things happen. And that is all that is going to help me make those big things happen.

The problem is that by the time we realize this potential most of us are not young anymore; we have fixed, sometimes inflexible, world views and values. Counter-intuitively, some studies by renowned academician Vivek Wadhwa reveal that those above the age of 35 are more efficient innovators than those under-35. Fine-tuning my own argument, the earlier you start, the better advantage you have at creating more value out of your realized self belief; or in Wadhwa’s words, better advantage at innovating when you’re 35.

Most people rightfully cautioned me when I shared the decision of applying to Stanford, at such odds. They said it would be a waste of time, and that I should focus on what I have in Maryland. Should have I thought similarly? No. I’m proud that throughout these two months — of application and of wait — I never once lost self belief. In many ways, this has tested and therefore helped me gauge my will and self-belief; now I know where I stand.

Take risks. If you can, take big risks. If you can’t, take smaller risks. But take risks. Taking risks puts you ahead of most risk-averse people. And most people are risk-averse. This Stanford risk — risk by virtue of time, money and energy — was a good move despite the results. The potential upsides were much, much, larger than the downside. The downside? Only some opportunity costs — time and indirectly tuition money.

It is essential not just to try, but to try by taking at least some amount of risk. That makes the results even more rewarding.  Listen to your heart as much as you would to your mind. Your inner self knows what direction is best for you. Your mind does the driving.

Now that I know for sure Stanford is not where I’m headed, I can progress with full focus on my present work without any provoking distractions. Something that will be more precious than gaining admission itself.

Sometimes, things don’t go your way. Its alright. Keep trying. Try for the joy of trying. The journey is much more enriching and enjoyable than the destination itself. You never know what, maybe another path, you like along the way. Another path might lead you to a place better suited for you. Thus, there is hope as long as you are moving along your path, and learning with each step. Keep going. Karma theory suggests, those non-believers please be with me, that the effort is more important than the result. The results ultimately end up as a function of the effort.

On the other hand, there are examples of those who always tried, and were never successful. Or those who tried, and took ages to achieve targets. The bottom line? There is no other bottom line: sometimes, things don’t go your way. Its alright. You keep trying. Try for the joy of trying. Not in expectancy of the result.

Lastly, rejoice failure. Smile. And move on to the next challenge. The biggest take home through this experience has been dealing with the ego. There have been moments where I have been sucked into it, and there have been others where I have been stripped off it. I have realized to acknowledge mistakes, apologize if necessary, and move on. You win some, you lose some. But you win all, if you learn more each time.

My  own future plans. Life is an exciting river. I just want to go with the flow. There is a general sense of direction — guided by the spirit of learning and effort. The rest, we shall see as it comes. I hope to continue to make the most of my time at the University of Maryland, and in the Washington DC area, meeting great people, learning from my surroundings, and influencing the direction of (good) change wherever possible.

2 thoughts on “What I learnt from Stanford”

  1. I'm proud of you Anand, and am loving all of your writing and pieces on this blog. On this one, here is what I have to say: by putting it all out there you have shown a willingness to stare failure in the face and not be cowed by it. Excellent!

  2. Anand Its so Nice to See you trying Hard what one feels impossible. I believe you will achieve many accolades in your Life with the energy and aspirations you carry on in your Life. Wish you all the best and Keep writing. It inspires us to strive and do better.


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