Acharya Prashant: Choosing the Right Profession

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Acharya Prashant: Kaustubh is saying he wants to be an IAS officer, and there is a huge burden of expectations and that is just draining away his life.

Kaustubh, do you want to be an IAS officer or is it out of expectations of others?

Please understand this: You are just beginning your second year of a B.Tech programme, have you really seen life? Do you really know what it means to be a bureaucrat? What makes you come to the conclusion that you must be an IAS officer?

If it is the expectations of others then you are condemning yourself to a lot of suffering.

You see, I was born in a family of bureaucrats, from both my mother’s and father’s side, and as providence would have it, I was a topper, topped the state, stood all India third rank.

When I cleared my class ten exam, and the result was declared, and the NTSE result also came and I was a NTSE scholar, I was asked to choose, ‘What do you want to do in class eleven?’ Now, as the time come to choose your stream, I was being brought up on the diet of these journals — have you read of Competitions Success Review (CSRs) and all? —  they would carry the picture of the IAS topper on the cover page, and my house was always full of bureaucratic discussions and such things, since class five I had been reading the interviews of IAS toppers. After class ten, I took up science only because I saw that the last five to ten years toppers were all from IIT, so I said I will go to IITs, because IITians go to IAS.

That was the kind of process through which I decided that I will go to IIT.

Alright, I went to IIT; prepared hard and cleared the IAS entrance exam also and what do I see, the day I reached training academy — I had cleared the CAT exam in the same year so I had to take leave from Ahmedabad to go there — I reached late, by the time I reached, the rest of my cadermates were already there, when I reached there, what do I see?

I see that the reality is so very different; and this had been brewing even in the process of preparation when I was reading for general studies — that’s a paper in IAS exam, or that used to be a paper in an IAS exam – when I was reading for that paper I came to know the real nature of the polity, of bureaucracy, of how governments operate, what is meant by a controlled economy and such things. I reached there and find things are very very different. This is not what I thought, but that meant that more than a year of effort could have gone in some other direction, that meant that I had to go through a difficult process of choice, I asked myself am I going to live to fulfil the expectations of others?

My mother regrets even till this day that, ‘Why did you leave that read beacon car even after getting it?’

She is fascinated by power, ‘Son could have been a comissioner today; but now he keeps traveling from colleges-to-colleges to interact with juveniles who don’t even understand what he is saying!’

That’s her assessment of my position today: ‘Son could have been a comissioner today; but now he keeps traveling from colleges-to-colleges to interact with juveniles who don’t even understand what he is saying!’, these are her words.

But I have also seen the fate of those who have lived to fulfil the expectations.

I have seen my batchmates, I used to be proud of them, radiant, superbly-talented, gifted and what did they do?

They worked to fulfil expectations, they married to fulfil expectations, they are living to fulfil expectations and they are dead today. Absolutely dead!

I look at them and I ask, ‘Is this the same cheerful boy that was there in the campus?’

That boy is dead. Here we have a dull, weary, bored man who has no energy, no enthusiasm left.

I might not have fulfilled expectations but I have done a lot of good to many others.

And remember when you say that you want to fulfil expectations, you want to fulfil an expectation of a loved one, right?

Someone you say you are in a healthy relationship with.

If you want to give you to someone you love, you must first have joy, right?

If you yourself are not joyful, you will always give bitterness to everybody around.

Why does one rush towards a government job?

For the sake of security?

For the sake of name?

For the sake of power?

These thing appear big, sitting, where you are sitting but you cannot live on these, you will feel supremely frustrated.

Work is life.

You spend ten hours, fourteen hours a day working, if you choose a field that is not really your calling then you are condemning yourself to a life of torture; six hours, eight hours you sleep, two hours or three hours eating, and other miscellaneous activities; the rest of the time you are just working; work is practically the hundred percent of life.

Do not choose your vocation out of expectations. You will not be happy and those who are advising you, even they will not be happy. Nobody will be happy.

You know there is this leadership course that I teach and that looks at really-really successful people, and what made them successful, case-studies of the most famous CEOs and also little known entrepreneurs, all kinds. One of the case-study is of Richard Branson, the owner of the Virgin brand. When he last came to India he made a beautiful statement, he was asked, ‘How did you start-off with this? How did you generate such a great business on your own?’

He said, ‘If you love to fly kites, then fly kites with all your energy and love, do not bother about what will happen next, money will come on its own, but then you should attain near perfection in flying kites, give yourself to it.’

All of you will soon be confronted with the question of a livelihood, ‘Which direction to go?’

Some of you will go for higher studies, some will have to decide between a software job and a core job, if your decision is coming for miscellaneous pressure and expectations, too bad, just too bad.

Find out what is it that you can do even without money, that’s the trick!

Can I do something, even if I am not paid for it?

If you can find such a thing, that ought to be your work.

‘Can there be something so deeply satisfying that I am prepared to pay money to do it? If there is such a thing that is my calling.’

And remember calling is not a job, that is my life-work.

My life-work.

Find that out.

That is what will make life worth living.

Not by choosing this or that, everybody is writing for Civil Services, do you know how many people write Civil Service prelims exam?

Ten lakh.

How can ten lakh people have the same calling?

It’s like saying ten lakh people have the same girlfriend!

How is that possible?

One company comes to the campus and the entire fourth year runs to apply for it. How is that possible? What are you doing?

Have you ever tried to find out who you really are? Because from that answer will emerge another answer – What should I do? Where should I go?

That’s an important question, right?

For any young man it’s an important question.

What should I do? In which direction should I go?

You can get the answer to that question only when you first ask yourself – who am I?

What I am trying to be? What I am pretending to be? Am I just a son?

If you are just a son, then all you will do is fulfil the expectations of parents.

Who am I? An unemployed man searching for a job?

If you are that an unemployed man searching for a job, then you will go for whatever employment you get.

Who am I?

And make these decisions extremely wisely, I am cautioning you, I come to campuses and I see cheerful people, I see them walking around, chirping light, and three-four years later when they are in their jobs, and you look at them, and you find them dead, so very dead!

Here you smile on little things, here you want to crack jokes all the times, where do those jokes disappear? Where do they go?

They get crushed under the pressure of expectations.

And jobs are jobs; worst is when you marry under pressure of expectations!

That is soul sapping. Do not do that. Live a little freely, only then the life is celebration.


Excerpts from a Shabda-Yoga Session. Edited for Clarity.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Choosing the Right Profession


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Acharya Prashant Books and Merchandise are available on Amazon and Flipkart.

To explore: http://studiozero.prashantadvait.com/

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