My academic scores are not good – what can I realistically do?


This article is a long one, and has been broken into four parts.

Part 1 described the formation of the expectations and the attitude with which I start my graduate and post graduate academic journey. This is important as it sets the tone of expectation management that is necessary later on.

Part 2 described  my shock at the mismatch between expectation and reality and its psychological impact.

Part 3 talked about how I react and try to deal with the shock – trying to overcome it or succumb to it.

Part 4 (this blog) suggests various realistic measures that I can take in order to resolve the situation. It may be tempting to go directly to this section, but it is important to understand and identify with the other sections. By doing this, I create detachment, and I see myself as a third person undergoing trauma, and with this detachment the solutions make sense to me.

Part 4: what can I do

I am a smart person and I know that I can fix this problem. What I need is to examine all the options and determine the right one. For this I need to do the following:

1. Understand that I am not alone. Ask for emotional support.

There is no shame in asking for help. I cannot do it alone. Especially when I am in the middle of trauma and my emotions have taken over my brain. There is no way that I an capable of rational decision making.   

Many of us have similar problems. If not in one subject, then in another. All of us are traumatised but afraid to ask for help due to shame, ego, guilt and fear.

There are two types of help that I need:

  • help me handle my emotions
  • help me handle the actual problem in academics

There are a large number of persons who are willing to help. Let me examine who can help.

Parents are the last person I am willing to ask for help. This is because we believe that they do not understand what we are going through. We think that we will bring down their hopes and aspirations if we do not put up a brave and confident front. We also think that they treat us like children and give us the same advice which we have heard so many times and even tried to do. If we tell them what we have done to fix the situation, they will ask us to try harder. Anyway, they do not understand the subject, and therefore they are useless.

Having said that, mothers are better than fathers in terms of understanding and giving emotional support. Fathers tend to give generic solutions, mothers tend to understand the education. However, both tend to fix the problem by offering platitudes. To be fair to them, they have not been trained to be counsellors, and they too are learning to deal with my emotional ups and downs.

Peers will give us emotional support by saying the following things:

  • Don’t worry, this is not necessary for placement
  • It is not my fault
  • The teacher is a horrible one, and he has taken something personally
  • Students have cheated, and I was morally correct not to cheat
  • Let us distract ourselves by movies / sports / books / internet etc.

All the above help us alleviate our current emotional turmoil but do nothing to help with the future. There are other well-meaning peers who will tell me what to do by describing what they do in such situations. But I am not the same as them and this may not work.

I can form a group of like minded people who are bad in certain subjects and we can help each other. However, the spectre of relative grading comes up and such groups disband pretty quickly, specially if one seems to be doing better than others.

It is better to ask for professional help. Professionals are trained to help me handle my emotions and they are pledged to secrecy, unless I am a danger to myself or others. As I said before, there is no stigma attached to asking for help. Most educational institutes have counselling centres and guarantee anonymity. If they do not have such facilities, I can go to the internet and look for emotional counselling. Much of this counselling is free and it helps me  by having someone not connected to me look at my thoughts and challenge them. The fact that I have to respond to these challenges helps in dealing with the emotions.

Such professionals have also dealt with similar situations and therefore can empathise as well as offer me various alternatives that others have taken. Good professionals do not offer alternatives on problems that they do not know much about, but they can help me go through the process of finding alternatives.

In India, people think that if I am going for counselling, I am incapable or mad. That is not correct. I am unable to deal with a situation and am asking a professional (not an amateur) for help. I call a plumber to fix my taps, not a friend who has never done this before. Nor do I try to deal with it myself. I do not put my head under the pillows and hope the problem will go away.

If I am not comfortable with a counsellor, I can always ask for another reference. Most good counsellors understand that if a rapport has not been built, solutions will not be forthcoming. Therefore they will gladly refer me to someone else, without taking umbrage. If they get upset, all the more reason for me to get another person.

2. Run the numbers

When I am doing badly and am emotional, I tend to over-exaggerate my academic failure. When I do badly in one subject, I assume that I will do badly in all subjects. If I do badly in one exam or one assignment of a subject, I assume that I will do bad in all exams and assignments of that subject.

Sometimes I can be overly optimistic in the first term. I may believe that the first term is a hiccup, an aberration and that I can get very good grades in the second term. Maybe so. Sometimes we are late starters, sometimes we take time to adjust to the academic level, the language, the food etc. But if after the second term, I have not got good grades, then it is time to be realistic and realise that maybe the competition is such that I cannot get good grades, specially in relative grading. I need to do risk mitigation.

In order to mitigate risk, I need to look at my subjects and analyse them. I need to know that some subjects have more credit than others and therefore impact grades more. If I make a spreadsheet of all the subjects, expected grades and then look at my CGPA, I may realise that by focussing on improving my grades on some subjects by one point, I can actually get a decent result. If I am in the second semester, and there are 6 more semesters to go, I can deal with each future semester at a time, and focus on those subjects / electives that can bump up my grade.

Within a subject, I need to see the relative weight of assignments, class participation, exams and group assignments. I also need to ask the right seniors (who did well in that subject) what is required to get a good grade in that subject. Armed with that information, I can figure out where I can do better and where I cannot control my result.

A relative grading means I need to to figure out who are worse that me, and ensure that I am better than a certain percentage of people. So instead of focussing on being the best, I have to start with being in the middle and slowly work my way to the top.

3. Focus on my strengths: academic or social

What are my strengths? That is determined by what my goals are. For certain goals like higher studies, good CGPA is a strength, for other goals it is not. For example, if I plan to go for civil services, or an MBA which is based on an entrance exam, the focus is on getting a good score in that entrance exam, not the CGPA.

The purpose of graduation determines how I look at academic results. If I plan to go abroad for higher studies, I have to know which colleges to target and the basis of getting admissions / scholarships. If the basis is purely academics, I focus accordingly. if it is work experience, then I get as much experience I can, while studying.    If the basis is an entrance exam, I focus from day 1 on scoring well in that exam. If the basis is recommendations, I focus on that. I need to be goal centric.

If I plan to get a job, I see that there are 2 types.

One is the cerebral type, which requires brainwork. These are jobs like programming or research. By the way, programming has been made into a factory and therefore may not require brains, as algorithmic creativity may not be important. It depends on the company I join.

The other type of jobs require social interaction. If I want to become a manager, it is not my technical expertise, but my ability to get things done that is important. For such jobs, evidence of leadership and project management are more important.

CGPA is not a goal. CGPA is the means to a goal. There are many paths to a goal.

If I make CGPA as a goal, it achieves nothing except ego satisfaction in the short term.

Note that I talked about strengths. Enhancing strengths take less effort that getting rid of weaknesses. If I know what is my weakness, I can work around it, or surround it with strengths. By getting rid of weaknesses, I may simply be opening the door for other weaknesses. Better to have familiar enemies around us and focus on increasing our friends.

4. Manage expectations of stakeholders

There are many persons who are interested in my success or my failure. They can actively help or prevent us from being successful. Sometimes they may be passive and do not give help when needed. They all want something. When we do not give them what they want, they become angry at us. I myself want a lot of things from myself. When I do not get it, I get angry with myself. Since so many entities are wanting different types of results from me, I need to juggle all these expectations.

It is important to list down all the stakeholders who want something from me and determine if they will help us or stop us. For example, a peer may help or stop us getting the grade I want.

For each stakeholder, I need to list down what they need from me. Parents may want us to study for many reasons. They may want to feel good in front of their peers. They may want you to get a good job. They may want to get a good life partner for me. I have to understand what they want and why they want from me. I also need to determine whether they will help me get what I want, or they can prevent me from getting what I want.

Based on this, I can make a list of the top 3 or 4 stakeholders who are important to me. With each of them, I need to understand and negotiate what they want and what I want from them.

If I know what they want, I can determine if CGPA is the only way to achieve that goal. If not, then evidently there other other ways to achieve the same goal.

I need to also remember that an agreement done today does not mean it is written in stone. All of us are subject to influence and all agreements can be changed, sometime without our knowing it. Therefore confirmation from the stakeholders is needed at various times.

5. Find choices

The goal is the most important thing. Once I know what the goal is, I have choices. For each goal to be achieved, some sub-goals have to be achieved. For each of these sub-goals, other sub-goals are needed. Once I have the list of sub-goals, I can determine many ways to achieve a sub-goal. When I have choices, I am not depressed, because I have action items.

For example, to get a scholarship, I think a good CGPA is important. So a good CGPA is a goal. In order to achieve a good CGPA, what do I need?

I need to determine:

  • what defines a good CGPA (now the stakeholder here is no longer my parents, but the college I am applying for. So parents reaction is no longer relevant)
  • a list of all of the courses, their credits entered into a spreadsheet
  • a list of all the electives, their credits and how easy it is to crack that subject
  • the possible minimum target scores that is required to  get the target CGPA
  • List of those seniors who cracked the course
  • List of professors and their grading methodology (are they hard or soft, what weight on assignments, mid term, end term etc, what expectations in terms of answers)
  • Past papers by the professors on those subjects

This is only a partial list, but even by doing this, I suddenly have a lot of choices as to how to approach my studies. have a better strategy to focus my studies, rather than randomly reading lots of books and notes). My chances of improving my grades become higher.

6. Connect the dots

The above topic is also a url to the definition of connect the dots. I cannot determine the future as a certainty. Whenever we do an action and it impacts people, they react in unpredictable ways – sometimes to help, sometimes to prevent. Therefore, any action done to reach a goal creates a series of reactions, and we have no idea how that helps or impedes in reaching a goal.

Steve Jobs said in the 2005 Stanford commencement address,

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.”

If I look at my past,I realise that everything that I have done ultimately brought me to this point. Therefore, everything that I do today will impact the future, somehow.  The question is, what should I do. And two answers  comes to my mind.

a. “Maximum benefit to maximum stakeholders”. This means that if good CGPA leads to something that will give maximum benefit to maximum number of stakeholders, I should focus on CGPA.

b. break down the goals to sub goals and connect the dots. If I want a good CGPA, I need to connect the dots so that whatever I do will lead to a good CGPA. So I need to look at all the actions I did as a reaction to a bad CGPA, and figure out if these actions helped in getting a good CGPA. If not, these dots do not connect.

7. Meditate

The benefits of meditation are numerous. Meditation is not connected to religion, but to becoming aware, at all time, of what is going on inside me and outside me. The more I know what is going on, the less will be my knee-jerk reaction. Meditation also improves focus. The benefits of meditation can be found in this article.


I have moved from short term solutions focussing seeking help to long term solutions of meditation to formulate a strategy for dealing with academic angst. I hope this set of articles has been useful. Please give me feedback as to what has been your experience in dealing with academic angst.

My academic scores are not good – I try to fix it and fail!!!


This article is a long one, and has been broken into four parts.

Part 1 describes the formation of the expectations and the attitude with which I start my graduate and post graduate academic journey. This is important as it sets the tone of expectation management that is necessary later on.

Part 2 describes  my shock at the mismatch between expectation and reality and its psychological impact.

Part 3 (this blog) talks about how I react and try to deal with the shock – trying to overcome it or succumb to it.

Part 4 suggests various realistic measures that I can take in order to resolve the situation. It may be tempting to go directly to this section, but it is important to understand and identify with the other sections. By doing this, I create detachment, and I see myself as a third person undergoing trauma, and with this detachment the solutions make sense to me.

Part 3: My reaction to the bad results

I start to deny that there is anything wrong. I assume that this is a fluke and I can fix this problem. I feel guilty about the parents who are funding my education. I put in additional effort in studies, sacrificing sleep, all social interactions, games and sports, etc. and give my 100 per cent to studies. But the results do not come up to expectations. I copy other successful students behaviours and mannerisms, study like them, make notes like them, look at their assignments, and try all means to do well academically.

I negotiate with everyone including myself. With friends to teach me and to give me support. With faculty to give me some hints on how to crack the course. With God to provide divine intervention and give easy questions in exams. I butter everyone, threaten who I can and try to use the stick and carrot approach on others and myself to motivate everyone to make me better.

I see others copying, doing illegal things and wonder if it is worth doing it. If I am afraid, I do not do it and hold them in contempt. If I accept the risk, I do it. Sometimes I get away with it, sometimes I do not.

I withdraw more and more from the support circle of well meaning but judging peers and parents, as I do not trust them to give good advice or support. They always seem to be judging me or making my life harder. I turn towards and seek the support of those who are similar to me, or worse off than me, or who do not judge me and who accept me as who I am, and use them as a standard to support my self esteem. I imbibe their attitudes and standards and deteriorate further.

Being alone brings negative thoughts in my mind, so I distract myself with friends and activities. I depend on these to stimulate me and keep me occupied.  If they are not there, I have the internet, the movies and the social media. Along with these, I do substance abuse, (cigarettes, alcohol, glue, soft drugs, hard drugs) which either make me feel powerful and socially accepted or make me forget my worries and grind my thoughts into oblivion.

I sometimes make an effort to pull myself together, because I feel guilty and I cannot see myself as a failure, but I do not know how to prioritise, as so many things have to be done and all of them seem equally important in my mind. So I try a few things,  without much effort or motivation, therefore fail and move into the same negative spiral. Ultimately, I give up and live life from day to day, doing the bare minimum to survive.

I feel ashamed of myself. Apart from parents, teachers and peers beating me up, I, too, beat myself up. I have conversations with myself about all my faults. I tell myself that I am no good, an imposter, a liar, incompetent etc.

I  become paranoid, and believe the whole ecosystem is conspiring to thwart my intentions and I withdraw from others as well as myself, and try to sink into oblivion or distraction. I extrapolate my academic failures, predict bad future scores and start fearing the bleak future I have created for myself.

I hide my scores from my friends and family and lie about them. I give reasons for the bad scores and promise that I will do better.

I focus only on those things that I can do well, be it academic subjects or extra curricular activities, in order to keep myself busy and to recover some semblance of self esteem. I justify the inordinate amount of time spent by saying that these activities make me a well-rounded individual. Gradually, I lose all focus on academics. I also use arguments like “Most entrepreneurs did not do well in school or college” citing examples of people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

I look for support and answers on the internet, looking at sites that promise to make me smarter, that justify my failures, give me excuses, asking me to accept myself. I look at self help sites that promise to improve my memory, teach me time management and those that give me summaries of subjects. I look for instant solutions, since I have wasted so much time. Hypnotism, Visualisation, Meditation – all these promise great results. I try them for a time, but since they do not give me the results as promised, I ditch them all. I move from one experiment to another, and none of them work. I read motivational books, watch motivational movies (specially the Hollywood ones where one brainwave makes a difference to everyone’s life in 2 hours). Sometimes these give us some motivation, but for a short time.

I do not ask for support or help from real people near us. This is considered an admittance of failure, that I am not capable of dealing with my problems. It also brings to the notice of the administration that I have a problem or can be a problem. There is a social stigma attached to asking for help, either with the peer group or with a professional.

I reach out to anonymous people on the internet, asking them for solutions, and reading their answers, looking for something that will dramatically change my life overnight. Most of the answers seem like platitudes and none of them give the answer we seek. I have heard them all and read them all.

Nothing works. I swing between frustration and anger, anxiety and fear and depression, sometimes all these emotions at the same time.

Part 4 suggests various realistic measures that I can take in order to resolve the situation. 

My academic scores are not good – The reality shock and the trauma


This article is a long one, and has been broken into four parts.

Part 1 describes the formation of the expectations and the attitude with which I start my graduate and post graduate academic journey. This is important as it sets the tone of expectation management that is necessary later on.

Part 2 (this blog) describes  my shock at the mismatch between expectation and reality and its psychological impact.

Part 3 talks about how I react and try to deal with the shock – trying to overcome it or succumb to it.

Part 4 suggests various realistic measures that I can take in order to resolve the situation. It may be tempting to go directly to this section, but it is important to understand and identify with the other sections. By doing this, I create detachment, and I see myself as a third person undergoing trauma, and with this detachment the solutions make sense to me.

Part 2: The Shock

When I come to the new institute, the following things happen:

  • The teachers are teaching a bigger crowd. Their focus is not just on teaching, but promoting themselves in the academic field. They are focussed on writing papers, doing research, completing their doctoral / post doctoral thesis, getting projects and being part of committees. I am not saying this is wrong. This is needed, as the professors have an academic career in front of them, and they need to do all the above to progress in their professional life. The teachers have neither time, nor the inclination to personally look after my needs. They do not behave like my school teachers (now I miss my school teachers!).
  • The subjects are all new, and the standard suddenly goes up by a notch or two. The method and speed of teaching changes. There is an expectation that I have to study a lot on my own. The number of courses go up, the type of assignments and exams are no longer mug-and-vomit and require a higher level of thinking and reasoning.
  • Instead of a subject being taught in one or two years, there is a semester or a trimester system, and each subject is taught in its entirety in this short period. Furthermore, each of these subjects become a building block for subsequent subjects. So incompetence in a subject may lead to incompetence in subsequent subjects.
  • The same subject, depending on our capability and the teacher’s capability, can become boring or tough. Either way, there is a tendency to avoid the subject and focus on others which are interesting or easier.
  • I am an young adult and do not stay at home. So there is no monitoring. There is complete freedom and I overdo the freedom. I spend time with friends, pursuing whatever catches my fancy. My habits change, I eat differently (read junk food), sleep later and less and get side tracked with other diversions. There is no one to motivate me by “Saam” (explaining), “Daam” (bribing and cajoling), “Dand” (punishing) or “Bhed” (comparing with others). Since I can escape all these methods, I gleefully run away from all methods of motivation. When things do not go as per expectations, I live in denial or in hope for a rosy future.
  • Parents are also not there to support and help in structuring my productivity. I am becoming an young adult, and I mostly refuse their support as I want to find my own path, and I believe that I can handle my own problems. Furthermore, parents treat me like a school child and use the same methods of motivating me. I can see through their strategy and do not like their attitude.
  • In school, a board exam means comparison with hundreds of thousands of aspirants. There may not be relative grading. So, in school, I do not have a tendency to compare or worry about my academic ranking. In college, I am compared with at most 150 other competitors and I know where I stand. If there is relative grading, there is an automatic comparison and hierarchy. Be it professors or parents or peers, everyone judges me  in terms of my academic ranking.
  • If the class is smaller, because of my specialisation or electives, then the comparison becomes more apparent. If the bottom rankers are automatically failed, I may get a “Failed” score, and I will be judged on this result by the entire universe, including the recruiters coming to campus. I will have to explain to everyone, why I am dumb.
  • I was a “frog in a well” in my home town. I compared only with my peers in school and I did not realise that there were people in the world who are smarter, who have been taught better, what have better strategies of studying, who are better motivated. Suddenly, I am not good enough. My home town thinks I am  brilliant, but here I am nothing.
  • A lot of changes are happening to me and to the environment and I am overwhelmed. I am going through adolescence, with hormones changing the body, and the emotions. The opposite gender has its attractions. Friendship change. Peers pull you down. Support comes from unexpected places.  Respect of the peers is very important to me, and I change my habits and my thinking to be accepted by them. I may get “bad” habits.
  • My time is not my own. At home, once I am home, my time is controlled. Here, peers can come to my room any time, distract me any time and force me to change my habits. They do things behind my back, and disturb me and distract me and make me do things I do not want to do.
  • I joined the graduate / post graduate course in the hope that this course will help me get a job or determine my future. I find that I am not doing well academically, socially, emotionally and therefore I doubt my capability to determine my future. I hear horror stories from my seniors about placement and the job scene. The professors and the parents add to the clamour by painting a bleak future if we do not study. My parents have a lot of expectations from me, they are paying for my education and they expect some decent returns on their investment.

In short,

  1. I have doubts about my capability
  2. The environment is more competitive and no longer conducive
  3. My attitude towards academics, peers the teachers and the future is not positive.

Part 3 talks about how I react and try to deal with the shock – trying to overcome it or succumb to it.

My academic scores are not good – What were my expectations when I joined?


This article is a long one, and has been broken into four parts.

Part 1 describes the formation of the expectations and the attitude with which I start my graduate and post graduate academic journey. This is important as it sets the tone of expectation management that is necessary later on.

Part 2 describes my shock at the mismatch between expectation and reality and its psychological impact.

Part 3 talks about how I react and try to deal with the shock – trying to overcome it or succumb to it.

Part 4 suggests various realistic measures that I can take in order to resolve the situation. It may be tempting to go directly to this section, but it is important to understand and identify with the other sections. By doing this, I create detachment, and I see myself as a third person undergoing trauma, and with this detachment the solutions make sense to me.

My Expectations

When I join an academic institution, be it undergraduate or post graduate, I expect the following:

  • If I were good in academics in the past, I expect that my previous academic excellence and habits will continue to help me in the subsequent years
  • If I were NOT good in academics, I expect that I now have an opportunity to start with a clean slate, and not allow the past to determine the future.

If I were good in academics:

  • I had good teachers / tutors. I maybe lucky to have a teacher who could explain concepts very well, have patience and understanding, sometimes force and sometimes cajole me to give my best. The teacher created a scaffold and gradually removed the scaffold as I became more competent. I was therefore motivated.
  • I liked the subject and found it easy or not boring. Therefore, I gave more time to the subject that I found competent to handle.
  • I had good parents, who motivated me, pushed me, cajoled me, gave me structure and showed the future. They also held my hand
  • I had good peer support, who did not pull me down, who gave me respect, accepted me as I was and did not compete.
  • I had good genes, and I was able to think well, grasp concepts, have patience, could strategise and plan my academics.
  • I could see how academics would lead to a rosy future, and I believed that I could achieve it

In short, I had

  1. the ability and capability
  2. a good environment and
  3. the right attitude

If I were bad in studies,

  • I could blame myself, the teachers, the parents, the subjects whatever.
  • I could accept that I was good in sports, socialising, but not in mugging for exams.
  • I know that my history of academics in my home town, possibly the same teachers and the same school, same peers and their beliefs about me also determined how I was treated and examined. Now I can create my own persona, without any past references.
  • I believe that since the new college is a different location with different friends, and since I am not stifled by the environment, I can do better and start afresh.
  • I can develop new abilities, I can adapt to a new environment and can motivate myself.

Part 2 describes  my shock at the mismatch between expectation and reality and its psychological impact on my performance.


The sins of the father


Today, I read this article – “In the name of the father” The gist of the article is that our parents want to cast us in their mold in order to perpetute their view of the world.

If they were happy with their world, they wished the same to their children. It also perpetuated something familiar so that they can continue to help and guide and not feel useless as age crept on.

If they were not happy, they decided what else you should do – based on the success of relatives and friends. A proven path was better.

So it is the limited knowledge of “good” choices that govern such decisions. When a young person expresses a desire to do something a parent has not heard of, the parent casts far and wide to figure out the success of such a venture. If he cannot, he discourages his child.

Can this knowledge and therefore decision making be improved? Yes. By reading more. Books carry scenarios and experiences of people we have not met and can give us more information and may create additional beliefs,  beyond the parochial set of beliefs created by our life and the lives of our friends.

When we live in a hostel,  we learn from others and their past. When we read, we cast our net wider, beyond our shores.

When we convey our new beliefs to our parents,  they are confused because our view of the world is now different from their view. We should have compassion for them and help them understand this new view, instead of fighting with them. Remember,  both of us have my interest at heart. It is simply two views of the same interest.

I deplore the advent of social networks to the extent that it does not create in-depth relationships that may result in experiential learning.  Such network also foster fake profiles, which is nothing like reality. It also takes time away from people – time better spent in reading fiction and non fiction that add vicariously to their experience and help in creating more beliefs and better decisions.

Even classical music can be reinvented and sold


I has posted on monetising our passion. I gave some examples too. Here is another such example of how Western Classical music can be monetised.

“How Category Creation Is Reinvigorating Classical Music” from chandu

Another reason for following your passion


You ask “what career should I choose”. Any one who is an entrepreneur,  or with more than 7-10 years of experience will invariably tell you “Follow your passion and the money will follow.”

The logic here is that you should enjoy what you do or do what you believe in.

Both are sometimes not practical due to financial and social pressure.

For example, when I left corporate life to teach, I heard a lot of comments. Preachy ones – “Men should not stay at home”;concerned ones – “How will you survive?”; and sarcastic ones – “”Could not cut it in corporate life, eh?” or “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach!”

However there is one more logical reason that you should encourage your passion.

Your job is at risk if you can be replaced by technology, a cheaper person or your work can be consolidated under someone else. Your rank does not matter. You may be a fresher or a vice president.

I just received a mail from a friend with 22 years of experience who has been downsized. His skill set is so specific and special that there are not more than 20-30 jobs available in this country.

Most of you are at risk unless you are the employer. There is always someone willing to take your job for less pay. Technology is replacing intuition, experience and brain power. Outsourcing is accepted as a better way of managing by numbers and better operation efficiency.

How do you de-risk this? The same way as financial planners de-risk. By having a portfolio of products that you vary based on market conditions. So we invest in debt,  equity, commodities and their derivatives; monitor the overall value and move investments around to maximise returns.

You need to do the same with your portfolio of skills and traits. Let me give you an example:

I know software, around 16 programming languages and have a background in electrical engineering and computer science. I am also an mba, and have experience in a variety of jobs.  So I can utilise any of these to get a job or teach subjects in an mba or engineering college.

I can be a corporate citizen or a freelancer.

I keep updating my knowledge and skills.  I am a certified counsellor and can capitalise on that. I am a certified NLP practitioner and again use that during counselling.

I am a woodworker and I make gifts to give to people or if I want, sell them.

I have 13 years experience in campus infrastructure management and can start a company to provide this service to educational and residential campuses.

The point is, sacrificing corporate life allowed me to invest my time in other skills which allows me to have a cash flow the way I choose.

A friend of mine is a programmer by day and a guitar player and teacher ny evening. He monetised his passion. He has decided not to take a promotion or a salary hike. He mentors other programmers in the office and he can, later, monetise those skills.

I have students who have done the same. I see potential in some of the recent batches. Two current students are passionate about Hindustani and Carnatic music and they can create a fusion school. An ex-student is passionate about dance and he can do both sales in the day and monetise his dance ability at night. I see another ex-student in FB participating in a dance competition and I am very happy that she has a monetizable skill.

To summarise, corporate jobs have become riskier. Specialisation makes you an expert but creates a risk similar to investing in only one stock. You need to have a portfolio of services that you can monetise. Your passion is a monetisable skill.

9 Mistakes you are making on Linkedin – From


I had earlier written a blog on why LinkedIn should be used. has published an article on the mistakes that you may be doing on LinkedIn. Please do read it.

I have two additional comments to make.

  • The essence of networking is to give before you receive. Further, giving should be done way before you ask for something in return. I recently visited an alumni meet and I found 2 glaring oddities
    • People of a batch cluster together, as if:
      • they do not meet on facebook or face to face
      • they are afraid of meeting others
    • People meet only those who they think can be of help immediately

I was reminded of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment about delayed gratification. I believe that a similar correlation exists in networking. Persons who invest in the future are more likely to succeed, not the ones who spend immediately to satisfy current needs. Giving should be without conditions.

  • The last point in the article, “You go Generic” is very pertinent. I have had people trying to connect to me by sending a generic “Chandra I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Okay, so those persons are busy, but they initiated the connection. Half the time I do not even know them or remember them. They want something from me, want to access my connections, but do not have the courtesy to send me a slightly personal note? 
    • The best part is when my students send me a ‘generic,’ calling me Chandra. Umm, okay, maybe that is fine in the US, but here, I still call my teachers, Sir or Ma’am. I expect a similar salutation.

What do you think?


What can help me find an ideal job?


When people quit after working for only a few months in a job,  some of the reasons they cite are listed below.

  • I was bored!
  • I was overworked!
  • It was not what I was promised!
  • The organisation is not good!
  • I did not like the profile!
  • I could not handle the job!
  • My boss was not good!
  • The culture is not good!
  • The salary is too low!

Typically we join a company because of 3 reasons:

  • Job Profile (what we do in the company now and will do in the future),
  • Company Brand (which improves our personal branding and provides longevity in employment because the company is doing good)
  • Salary (which allows us to satisfy some of our needs).

We give “salary” the highest priority when starting our career, then “brand” and last, the “job profile”.

Most of the reasons listed above for quitting are emotional and related to what we are expected to do (job profile). We are capable of hard work if we are motivated. If there is a future in the job, we remain motivated.  We find something to do if we are bored. We can tolerate or handle our boss if we want to stay. We will take a low salary (within reason) if I enjoy the work and there is future growth. However, hard work is not s substitute for enjoying our work. We stick around if we enjoy our work.

What creates enjoyment at work?

If I look at the reasons above, I also see issues of personality clashes. For example,

  • when the job requirement does not fit my personality
  • the company culture does not fit my personality
  • I have a personality clash with my boss.

The clash is also about what I do, compared to the expectations by the company and by my boss about what I am supposed to do.  What I do is determined by what I am… in terms of my personality.

The Myers-Briggs Test (a simple version of the test can be found here) analyses us in terms of our extravertism or introvertism, whether we use our 5 senses to gather data or our intuition, whether we use logic or emotions and how much data do we need to make decisions. Evidently, certain jobs require certain personality types.

For example, I am an INFJ. By definition:

INFJs are idealists. They work hard, but are stubborn about their ideals and the type of work they would like to be doing. They’re also often unconventional, complex, and warmly interested in people. They are insightful, perfectionistic and principled. Typical careers for such people are: teachers, counselors, artists. They are the rarest type in the population.

Here is another site that explains more about MB personality types.

More details of personality type, careers and relationships can be seen here. The same site talks about careers related to each personality type. Another site that talks about careers for certain personality types is here.

So according to the analysis, I am good in advisory roles and am good as a consultant. If I am asked to execute a project within a given deadline, I may not do a good job. Similarly, I can help in a sales process, but cannot be made directly responsible. I can theorise, understand others’ issues and can give advice, linking a lot of possibilities and perspectives. I would be successful in such careers.

A stakeholder may tell me to go into Information Technology Sector and run a software project because the company profile is good or the salary is good. It does not mean I will do a good job at it.  I may be technically capable of fulfilling my duty, but that is what it will be: a duty, not a joy.

Nor am I a chameleon. I may be a good actor, but actors change personalities for a short period, not 8-12 hours a day for the rest of their lives. hence, we cannot say that we will behave in a way that is contrary to our intrinsic personality. That is very strenuous.

To summarise, if we do not know who we are, and therefore what is it that we would enjoy doing based on our personality, can we really adjust all the time to the environment and live a life of “quiet desperation?”


Myers Briggs Test is one way of looking at personality. The way we see the world (that is, the filters that we have) is another way of looking at our personality. Such filters comes in the ambit of Neuro-Lingustic Programming (NLP.) An example of this is given here. Taking some aspects of this methodology:

If I are motivated “away from” which means avoiding pain / “stick” rather than “towards” which means going towards pleasure / “carrot”…then I cannot be a sales person, because a sales person is motivated by what he will get, not what he wants to avoid.   

Time referencing is about whether you remember and stay in the past or we are more focussed on the future. Again, people who focus on the future tend to be better sales people than those who stay in the past – who are better in operations since they remember the mistakes or past precedences to determine what to do next.


The Cattell’s 16PF personality type also gives some indication of our personality in 16 aspects. An on-line questionnaire can be filled here. However, its relationship to careers is not readily available in the public domain.

Love after Marriage?


Question: “What should I make my career in?

Answer: “Follow your passion!

Me: “What Crap!

The suggestion made by most well-meaning ‘advisors’ is “Do what you love…

There are abundant books and articles written around this theme. If you are a cook, start a restaurant. If you like watching films, become a film critic, even make films. If you like doing plinkity-plonk on a guitar or a keyboard, start a band. It you are creative, write a novel. If you like hiking, start an adventure sports academy.

Running a restaurant is a difficult business and requires cut-throat (maybe the chef’s knife will come in handy here!) business practices. Ever wondered why no one listens to your witty criticisms about the films, or reads your facebook updates about the film you saw last night? Managing an outbound sports program requires the ability (among other things) to handle a lot of logistical uncertainty including propitiating the weather-gods. Ever wondered about the average lifetime of such businesses? Ever considered that low barriers to entry means too much competition? And, believe me, doing your own thing is harder work (with longer hours) than your current job.

We will probably not be able to do what we love…because:

  1. If what we love is spending money (consumerism) then it seems crazy to earn money by spending money.
  2. If we love wasting time, we will not earn money doing that.
  3. We will also not have too many choices of a job.
  4. Being an entrepreneur requires a different set of guts (not the belly that most of us have because we love drinking beer).
  5. If your business is successful, others will follow.
  6. You may burn your bridges and not be able to return to a position of safety (your previous job).

By now you must be thinking, what has all this to do with the subject of this blog entry?

I will digress a bit into the debate about ‘love’ marriages versus ‘arranged’ marriages. Arranged marriages have been given a bum rap in recent times, but face it, most of the couples of our generation are happier, more accepting, more adjusting, take time to understand each other, share issues and problems, fight and can live with our differences. Most of the couples in my children’s generation are quite the opposite. There are fewer permanent relationships.

Maybe we should just blame it on technology (internet) and the knowledge explosion. Maybe it has to do with more available choices.

But the point is, we fell in love after we got married, and we have remained married. And we are happy. Youthful passion may not endure, but love does.

Another interesting aspect of an arranged marriage is that families have to adjust. There is a lot of emotional investment and that creates a support system. Since our beliefs are based on our past experiences, and our future responses are based on our beliefs, it is highly possible that our backgrounds may determine how we deal with an uncertain future. The support system also gives us the courage to take risks.

Put it another way, the chances of success are higher as there is more background analysis, more emotional investment and a better support system.

So to return to the topic and drawing a parallel between successful marriages (with your spouse or with your career)

  • A career should be like an arranged marriage, not a ‘love’ marriage based on youthful exuberance and passion.
  • We can love what we do. Fall in love with your job, with what you have been given…like in an arranged marriage. Be more accepting, more adjusting, take time to understand your colleagues and your boss, share issues and problems, fight and live with your differences.
  • Do background checks on similar businesses, talking to people in the industry you want to be, researching the culture of the firm you plan to join makes the chances of loving your job better. 
So in short:
Don’t do what you love…Love what you do.

I am sure I am raising the hackles of a lot of persons right now. I would welcome your comments.