When you should stay patient and when you should quit

Apr 23, 2021

The hardest thing to do when you go for CA exams, various entrance exams (for engineering, medical, science and MBA) and government exams is to be patient and persistent.


Most people who take these exams don’t pass on their first attempt.


Some even take up to 10 years to clear them (like in CA).


And some never find the good fortune to pass these exams.


Every time we don’t clear the exam, our parents tell us to try again. Even we tell ourselves, “one more time”.


The logic is that since you don’t know when you will pass, you don’t know if the next attempt is the one you finally clear.


I know someone who’s been trying to crack the CA final for the last 5 years. 


And every time I ask him why doesn’t he just quit, he says, “What if the next attempt is the one I would clear? If I quit now, I wouldn’t write that attempt.”


He has been saying this for the past 3 years. 


What would you have done had you been in his place?


Would you quit? Or would you continue trying, thinking that the attempt that you would clear and finally make him a CA is the next one?


If you have written any of these exams and failed a few times, you would have definitely asked yourself these two questions.


See, quitting can be the best thing to do. 


Some of the most successful people in the world have quit multiple times.


The moment they realise that their time, energy and resources are being wasted in an endeavour, they immediately quit and move to more fruitful things.


But unlike them, we are not usually sure if you should quit or continue. We don’t have their experience to make this decision.


Asking your parents for advice isn’t going to be helpful.


Your parents, friends and relatives would keep pumping you with the hope that the next attempt could be the one, and if you quit now, you will regret it for the rest of your life.


They might also say that only those who persevere and are determined to clear it no matter how many times they fail are the ones who actually clear it.


But the truth is that they aren’t the one’s writing the exams. They aren’t the ones whose self-esteem and self-confidence gets shot every time you fail to clear the exam. 


That’s why when you want to find the answers to these two questions, you must search somewhere else.


Here’s the process you must use to determine whether you should quit and do something else or you should keep trying to clear these exams.

Figure out if it’s really worth all that time and effort

I get it. You want to clear the exams and become a successful CA, engineer, surgeon, doctor, or the best in whatever field of study you are in.


But ask yourself this, is this really what you want to be? 


Is this the career path you imaging yourself spending forty or more year in?


This is the time to be honest.


Our career decisions are influenced by our parents, teachers, friends, relatives, and in many cases, the guy who delivers the milk every morning.


That’s why we often tend to believe that we are on the right career path.


But is it?


Because you don’t want to spend years trying to clear these exams, degrading your self-esteem and self-confidence in the process, only to realise that this isn’t what you want to do.


That’s the worse.


I know so many people who reattempt their CA exams over and over again and fail every single time.


And for many of them, it’s been over 6 years in this process.


Now, they are almost 30 years old and wonder if CA was what they wanted to be in the first place.


Were all these years of failing and trying to clear these exams worth anything?


Could they have had a different career path after their graduation? 


Would their professional life look brighter by now had they taken something else after graduation instead of CA?


On the other hand, Walter Disney pursued his dreams for decades before they became a reality. 


During that period, he suffered bankruptcy, depression, legal battles and more.


But he kept following his dream. His tenacity is led him to success.


So, it’s great to be tenacious. It’s great to be determined to crack that exam.


All that is fantastic, but only when it’s put to achieve your real dreams and pursuits. Like Walter Disney.

Do you have what it takes to succeed in your chosen career path?

Every profession requires you to have specific skills, abilities and personality traits.


If you are going to be a mechanical engineer, you must have all the skills and knowledge related to mechanical engineering.


But you must also have high levels of spatial abilities and numerical abilities.


Management level job roles require you to have good communication skills, patience, leadership skills and the ability to work in teams.


Moreover, your interest in certain activities also determines whether you will do well in that career field or not.


Because ultimately, every profession is made up of a set of activities that must be done with interest, passion and intent if you want to be successful at it.


So how do you find out whether you have the abilities, interest and personality traits to be in a particular profession?


Two words – Psychometric Test.


Psychometric tests assess your abilities, personality traits, interests and aptitudes to determine your strengths and weaknesses.


Based on that, it would suggest the professions would you succeed in. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful in other professions.


This only means that you would be a good fit for certain professions, given your current levels of interest, abilities, and personality traits.


If you work on improving these factors, you could be fit to go for other professions as well.


A psychometric test gives you an unbiased assessment of your strengths and weaknesses so that you can make better career choices.


Once you have this information, you could then identify which of your weaknesses prevents you from clearing these exams.


Any profession related to finance requires you to have a high degree of numerical ability. 


If that’s weak, then you won’t do very well in the finance profession. So, wasting time trying to get into that profession wouldn’t be wise.


It would be better to quit and pursue a career path that plays to your strengths.


On the other hand, if you love finance and want to get into a profession in this field, you must first improve your numerical ability and then get into that profession.

Fight through The Dip

Let’s say that you are absolutely sure about your career choice.


You have researched various career options, taken psychometric tests, identified what you are great at, taken your interests and passion into account, and finalised on a career path.




You know what? That still doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to get into that profession.


When you learn a skill, build a career, build a business, work towards a big goal or dream, you would have to go through a particular process.


If you are trying to become an engineer, you would have to take various entrance exams, undergo 3-4 years of college, do internships and probably do your masters.


Then you only start at your profession. From that point onwards, you have to work hard and smart to make a mark for yourself.


Now, every process starts off with a ton of excitement.


After this period of excitement comes a long and tedious period of pain.


In his book The Dip: The extraordinary benefits of knowing when to quit (and when to stick), Seth Godin calls this painful period The Dip.


This is where the initial excitement dies out, and you must tap into virtues like tenacity, determination and willpower to sail you through.


Let me explain using an example.


If you have ever tried to learn to play the guitar or master a sport or create art, you would have experienced The Dip.


Let’s take guitar playing for this example.


When you start to learn to play the guitar, you are filled with nothing but excitement.


All you can think about is impressing people with your guitar playing skills and playing on stage for your fans.


You walk into the guitar store and buy your first guitar.


You learn the first chords. In a couple of weeks, you probably even learn to play a song.


Everything is working like a charm.


And then comes The Dip.


You don’t improve as quickly as you have been so far.


You take time to build speed, coordination between both your hands and eyes, learn music theory, learn the basics, etc.


Everything seems boring during this period. You are so impatient to become a rockstar and play the guitar like your favourite guitar player that you can’t stand this slow process of learning the core concepts of music theory.


You just want to play as amazingly as your favourite guitar player.


Most people drop out in this period. They give up and pick up another hobby or dream.


The same guitar that saw so much excitement from its owner when he/she bought it now sits in the corner of a room collecting dust.


The most successful and skilled guitar players strived through this period.


They just didn’t survive it. They took it as a challenge and worked even harder during this period.


At the end of this period, they emerged as skilled guitar players… the ones you admire.


Like Seth Godin puts it, The Dip is the secret to success. The Dip is the difference between good cricketers who play on the streets and the likes Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.


They may or may not have inborn talent. But they definitely had the grit and perseverance to push through The Dip.


Where most people stopped working hard or outright gave up, these people saw it as a shortcut to become successful and went at it with everything they had.


You will come across The Dip too.


You will desperately want to clear that exam, finish college and become the best in your industry.


But for that, you would have to go through that boring, unexciting and unglamorous period called The Dip.


You would have to learn the important concepts, practice challenging problems over and over again, put in a lot of hours of work and study, identify bad study habits and replace them with good study habits, follow your study schedule in a disciplined way, and everything you need to clear your exams… even when you don’t want to do them.


And if you love what you do, you desperately want to turn your dreams into reality, play on your strengths, trust me, you will sail through The Dip in no time.


Your time, energy and resources are limited. You can’t afford to waste them on the wrong endeavours.


If you are doing that, you must quit and reallocate your time, energy and resources to better and profitable avenues.


But it’s easier said than done. Most of the time we don’t know if we should quit or not. 


The best thing to do at that moment is to take a step back, take your time, sit down, take a deep breath and work things out as I have mentioned in this blog.


You will find your answer.

What are your goals and would your current endevours help you reach them?

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