I didn’t go to school at Neev. But I spent 12 years in school and 5 years in college. And my work for a company that has hired somebody every 5 minutes, for the last 5 years but only hired 5% of the kids, who came to us for a job forces me to recognize that two most important decisions a child can make are; choose your parents and pin code wisely. Neev students have those two choices covered but have many social, academic and career choices ahead and must realize the huge wisdom in Dumbledore’s advice to Harry Potter in Chamber of Secrets “It is our choices more than our abilities that reveal what we really are”. As you think about your choices, I hope you will think about these five things I wish I knew when I was in school:
LEARNING IS LIFELONG READING: As my wife says, in a world where Google knows everything, knowing is useless. The IB learner profile that targets being creative, confident, curious, risk takers, and team players in a 21st century education. Reading has been my tool for lifelong learning; I have read a book a week for 20 years. And diversely. The biography of the Duke of Marlborough by Winston Churchill is my favourite primer about mergers, acquisitions and alliances. I remind myself why India is poor by re-reading ‘India after Gandhi’ by Ramachandra Guha. And ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ by Salman Rushdie seems like a fairy tale because the land of Gup and Chup go to war because Princess Batcheat is kidnapped but it is a wonderful mediation on tolerance, communication and transparency.
YOU CANT DO ANYTHING IMPACTFUL ALONE: Sometimes in school we give you the impression that getting ahead needs you working alone. In fact we have another word for teamwork in academics; we call it cheating! This is amplified by the toxic myth that successful CEOs, Chief Ministers, Popes, Principals or Generals are one man armies. Life is a team sport and nothing meaningful is accomplished alone. The easiest way for you to think about this at Neev, is move away from a best friend to many best friends. Because the older you get, you will realize that keeping friends is harder than making them. In fact some people believe that you can’t make new friends as adults. Your friends will be very important as you journey through the agony and ecstasy of life (I started my two companies with friends from school and college). So be caring, generous, forgiving and fair with your friends.
THING BIG AND TAKE MORE RISK: The days are long but the years are short. I recently went for my college reunion and I submit the saddest phrase of middle age is “I wish I had” because you can always change the things you did but you can never change the things you didn’t do. We are all scared of big goals but courage is not the absence of fear, it the persistence in the face of fear. For the first five years in school I was an average student uninterested in music, art, or games. But in the last two years, I lost 10 kgs, edited the school magazine, and aced my Grade 12 exam. So run towards your fears.
BE DIFFERENT: When you are young, being cool means doing what everybody else is doing. When you get to my age, you realize being cool is doing what nobody else is doing. The warmth at the centre of the herd is comforting but hardly a highway to impact. In school there is always a pressure to fit in, of conformity, of fear, of public opinion or even hostility to those who are different. But Rajputs don’t have to ride horses, Chartered Accountant’s kids don’t have to do Commerce, and Doctor’s kids don’t have to do Biology. Of course opening balances matters; My parents were civil servants and I carry the gifts and wounds of a civil service upbringing, and as Tagore’s song that deeply influenced Gandhiji says, “Jodi Tor Dak Shune Keu Na Ashe, Tobe Ekla Cholo Re” (if you call and nobody comes, walk alone).
TREASURE GREAT TEACHERS: Do think about the difference between a popular teacher and a good teacher. At your age, the teachers who push you the hardest will be those you will dislike. But at my age, these will be the ones that you remember most fondly. There is an element of eat your vegetables in education and good teachers expect more because they know you can be more than you are. Samar Bhaduri pushed me hard in English and without him I would not be writing a column for the Indian Express. Ramesh Shah taught me the value of hard work – after flunking Math in grade 7 I aced grade 12 – without that I wouldn’t be on the Board of RBI. So seek out great teachers.
Education can be a shield or sword. A shield is a weapon of defense; it will keep you safe but won’t build the Mughal Empire or Infosys. A sword is a weapon of boldness and creation. Education at Neev is a sword. You have a chance to find a cure for cancer, clean up politics, write a book, win an Olympic gold medal or build a huge company. Don’t take this for granted. Malala Yousufzai fought many years in Pakistan for the right to go to a school. For that, the Taliban put a bullet in her 14 year old head and spine. You don’t have to worry about that so use your luck and choose carefully.
P.S. Life is lived forward and understood backward so don’t worry if much of this didn’t make sense yet 😉
Parent of Noor Sabharwal, Grade 8 A & Dhruv Sabharwal, Grade 11