IIT Delhi: The effect of repeated failures on the self

Acharya Prashant
8 min readMay 10, 2022

Following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Questioner (Q): In this age of competition, we try very hard for various types of exams, and sometimes it is possible that we come very close but may still end up on the losing side. If that keeps continuing, then won’t the repeated failures hamper our self-confidence? If they do, then how to deal with them?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Dealing with repeated failures is not a problem provided you are failing at something worthwhile. The more important question is, what are you failing at? Equally, the more important question is, what are you succeeding at? We just say, “I am successful” or “I am a failure” — why don’t we complete the description? What exactly are we successful at? What have we obtained? Or is it so that we didn’t bother to go deeply into that and we just went by the commonly, socially accepted definitions of success and failure?

Do what is worth doing and then failure would not mean so much to you. Equally, success too will not mean so much to you. It is the doing that will matter. You will say, “I am grateful I am getting to do what is worth doing. Success or failure depends on a thousand factors, some internal, some external, and I have no handle over all those factors. I may succeed or I may fail; I may have a great role in my success, or I may have no role in my failure.” All these permutations are possible. Sometimes, it is possible that you might be the architect of your success; sometimes, it is possible that you are a failure despite all your brilliance.

And you cannot really make this thing deterministic because the world, in that sense, is an open-ended system in which there are not only an infinite number of variables but also a constant flux of interdependent variables. How do you really control them or manage them? You cannot. The only thing you have some authority over is your own self. That self must choose what to do and what to pick. How does it decide what to pick? By seeing where its own incompletenesses lie.

“If I must be complete, if I must be restful, if I must be genuine and authentic, then what should be the nature of work that I choose for myself? Not work that makes me feel happy as I am, but work that challenges…

Acharya Prashant