When I observe students studying, a lot of them tend to start chapters and concepts with a lot of zest but soon their attention diminishes. They want to jump from one subject to another, from one unfinished chapter to the next, and from one book to the one that their friend is reading. This tendency to hop without reaching some form of completion is a serious one.

A Zen story goes something like this:
A student was having a meal with his Master. When they were finished eating, the student asked his Master, “What should I do now?” The Master replied, “Clean your bowl.” At that moment the student was enlightened.

This story illustrates one of the most important ideas that we all should take to heart. In simple and straight-forward words: Complete what you start! Leaving a task undone, unfinished, or incomplete is the surest path to failure. Success in life can be summarized as ‘completion of a targeted task’. Aspirants who crack CAT in their first attempt or manage to reach a top B-school are the ones who have understood this concept of completion of tasks!

It’s amazing how few students fail to do those two seemingly simple things. That is what separates the winners from the losers.

Modern Psychology tells us that when we start something and do not complete it, or make a resolution and do not keep it, we are forming the habit of failure – absolute, ignominious failure. If you do not intend to do a thing, do not start. If you do start, see it through even if the heavens fall.

Not completing something forms within a person the habit of failure. Once a person begins to quit the things he endeavors to do, he finds that it becomes easier and easier to quit the task at hand rather than complete it. In the end, then, what does he have? Zilch!

A CAT-topper is one who diligently went from one concept to the next. If man stopped at the launch pad rather than launching and landing on the Moon, would we have that amazing accomplishment to inspire us? If Jonas Salk never completed his investigations into disease, we would still be suffering with polio (and probably other illnesses) to this day.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. It simply means that a serious aspirant never leaves a difficult concept to be done some other day!

Some readers will ask: “It is one thing to talk about completion of tasks, but making it really happen is never easy.” True. Let me tell you of a neat little trick. Open a savings account for yourself and divide your entrance curriculum into easily divided parts. As you complete each section, reward yourself by depositing money into your account. You become richer – both in terms of savings as well as your preparation! Your life becomes fuller. You have bettered yourself. Importantly, you will stand a better chance of reaching your dream institute and also be able to finance at least a part of your stay there. Isn’t this a great idea?

Remember, when you leave something incomplete, when you quit before you’ve attained your subject-goal, then money is removed from your account. Thus you make your efforts accountable.

Success, when all is said and done, is about the knowledge a student has gathered and the tests they’ve cracked. Complete your tasks. Achieve your goals. Attain all that you can. Life might be a race, but it is a race of endurance, not speed. It does not matter how we finish something nor how quickly. The fact that we finish is all that we need to be a success.

[Arvind Passey]
Written for PT Education