This traces way back to 2004 when I used to live in a hostel inside the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association campus for a program called “Mission Olympics”, where we trained everyday, hoping to become the next generation of tennis stars of the country. Well everyday except Sundays. I hated Sundays because the courts were closed and we weren’t allowed to play. Being just a small little boy back then (some people would argue that), though I used to manage getting inside the closed courts through a small gap in the fences, but the problem was, I couldn’t play a game alone. The only thing I could do alone was to hit services – flat, top spin or slice – and try to perfect it. But with just around 1 tennis ball that I had, it was too much of an effort to get the balls back after hitting just one serve. I needed at least 20 balls in a basket – just like the pros – for this Sunday effort to be worthwhile. So I devised a plan for exactly that. One day, I went inside the big store room inside the big center court arena, stole 3-4 balls, and hid them inside the bottom shelf of my cupboard deep into the dark.
I was scared to death when I did this misdemeanour, but I really wanted some more tennis balls. I did this for around 4-5 days more, stealing around 3-4 balls each day, and with time, I got the balls I wanted (see what I did there). Mission accomplished! From then on, I saw myself standing on the edge of the service line on every Sunday in the scorching sun at 12PM, picking a ball from the basket, and hitting them one by one stealthily, taking advantage of the deserted campus. I managed to do this for at least 3-4 months, improving a lot in the process, before the head coach caught me on one fine Sunday afternoon. He asked me how I managed to get this done, and I couldn’t answer, but he knew what I had done. I remember getting scolded for it and me apologizing like a cute little kid, but of course I got away with it in the end.
Whoever said that the little kid inside you always remains alive couldn’t be more right! Around 10 years later in 2013, during the tech fest at IIT Roorkee, me and a couple of friends started selling T-shirts – with “IIT Roorkee” printed on the back – to the participants who had come from outside colleges. We bought these T-shirts from Civil Lines – the local market right outside our college – for Rs. 80-100, and sold them at Rs. 300. But here was the catch.
Nobody was allowed to sell T-shirts like that without the approval of the committee, something which was impossible to get because the committee itself had the same business of selling T-shirts during the fest. We knew we could get into trouble but we did it anyway. And in just 2 days, we made a profit of Rs. 10,000 by selling at least 50. We got caught in the end (why wouldn’t we? We were selling t-shirts, which wasn’t allowed, in open campus like morons!) and it was a scary situation to be in for the student head of the committee threatened to report us to the management. We apologized to him with our sorry face on, told him we didn’t know we couldn’t do it, and promised to not do it again. And we were let go.
Stay with me for one more paragraph before I tell you what I’m going to. Here’s another small incident which happened very recently in office. My boss and I had a difference of opinion about a script for a teaser video I was working on. He wanted to include an extra paragraph in it, and I was completely against that idea for it would have spoiled the entire thing (that’s what I thought). I tried to convince him 3-4 times but in the end he just wouldn’t listen to me and told me to get it done. And this was probably the scariest of all of the examples I have given till now. I told him I would, but still didn’t include the paragraph in the final script and sent it for recording, hoping that the final output would turn out to be really nice, and my boss either wouldn’t notice the missed paragraph (because he had a lot of other things to deal with) or would just realize I was right. The final video did turn out to be really good and everyone appreciated it including my boss (I think he didn’t notice). But I was so relieved. Because trust me, I would have gotten into shit load of trouble for defying my boss. But yeah, turned out to be pretty cool!
Anyway, so what’s the lesson that I learnt in all these situations? It was this lovely quote in the photo below.
Many times, you’ll be in a situation where you have to make a choice against the ‘rules’ and ‘conformities’ that the society expects of you, but if you think that you should do it anyway, without causing any real harm to anyone, then may be you should. In the first case, I wanted to be the No. 1 player in the world, and for that, I needed to practice extra on Sundays for which I needed more tennis balls, and I figured out a way to get them. I know it was slightly unethical, but I wouldn’t trade practicing at least 10,000 serves on those Sundays for anything else. Similarly, I wanted to have my first experience doing business, even though if it was as small as selling T-shirts. The risk that I took could’ve had bad consequences, but I didn’t care. I knew I could get out of it later. And finally again in the third example too, my boss forcing something on my work that I completely disagreed with did not stop me from defying him. Because I knew it would benefit everyone in the end. What I’m trying to say is that sometimes, try to get over your fears and do things what you feel are right – for otherwise, you will miss out on these things that may change your life. Figure out a way to bend the rules. Find opportunities on your own. And don’t be afraid to take risks. Because even if you get caught, you can always apologise and get out of it in the end.
And you want to know a secret? I didn’t mean it at all when I apologized any of those times.
“Because if I had to, I’d do it all over again”