How I found the easiest shortcut to achieve even the hardest goals

In my IIT days, I was a total slacker, perpetually lagging in assignments, quizzes, and projects. I would neither go to classes on time nor take notes. 

The only time I would be focused was the night before the exams. That is when I would photocopy borrowed notes from my friends and read them till the wee hours of the night. 

In particular, one of my friends was very methodical. So before every exam, I would be in his room asking him to clarify one thing or another. 

However, sometime in the second year, my friend had a death in the family and he missed classes for almost ten days. Naturally, when he came back, he was far behind. And the next mid-semester exam was just two weeks away. 

This time, I thought that I will get a chance to help him and repay the favor. After all, I now had a huge headstart over him. However, I kept ignoring my classes while he diligently caught up with the backlog. 

And in a week’s time, he had not just caught up but was ahead of me. So when the exam came, I was back in his room, clarifying portions taught when he was not even on the campus. 

What this shows is that if you keep making progress, you will get ahead of someone standing still, no matter how much headstart they have. 

Let me give you another example. 

Let us say you join the Civil Services. In just a few years, you become the equivalent of the CEO. I was heading a 3,500-strong police force barely four years into my IPS job. At that time, my classmates in the private sector would have been going through the entry-level grind. 

The headstart you get in the Civil Services is massive. And yet, in 10 to 20 years, things look very different. 

In the IAS or IPS, the nature of work doesn’t change all that much. But the folks in the private sector keep growing and one day, their profiles look as much if not more impressive. Some of my classmates have headed the biggest businesses in India. 

It is once again ‘the hare and the tortoise’ story. Anyone who keeps moving will overtake someone who is standing still, no matter how much the headstart. 

In fact, making steady progress is not just efficient but also way easier.

When I finished my BTech at IIT Kanpur, I barely had 6 months for the Civil Services Exam preparation. Normally, it takes a year to cover the vast syllabus. 

So I had two choices: 

  1. Keep thinking about it and get overwhelmed. 
  2. Just get started. 

I just got started. And as I made steady progress, somehow, the syllabus mostly got covered and I succeeded in the exam. Had I just kept thinking about it, I would have been paralyzed with fear. 

No matter how big the challenge, if you get started, you will reach the destination way more easily than you imagine. But if you just sit and think about how hard the journey would be, it will overwhelm you. 

I hope that if you ever face uphill struggles in life, you will remember this saying I heard from a Buddhist monk – “Thinking about things is the hard part – doing them is easy.” 

So stop overthinking it. Get started. Make steady progress. No matter how hard the journey looks, it will get over sooner than you realize. But do get started. 

I appreciate your taking the time to read this. Thank you. 

Rajan

HabitStrong Newsletter by Rajan Singh

In this fortnightly newsletter, Rajan shares inspiring lessons and stories from his career as an IPS officer, McKinsey consultant, investor, and now, as a startup founder. Join 25,000+ subscribers.

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