This question was asked by someone in Quora, one of my favourite social media platforms. Here is my answer:
In all my years of schooling, although I was considered a bright boy and I usually scored a first class with distinction sometimes, I was never a class topper. Marks never mattered to me. My favourite subjects were History, Geography, and Tamil, and I did well in those subjects. As you know, none of these subjects were considered important nor were they preferred because they didn’t lead one to pursue Engineering or Medicine later. I hated Science, and maybe because of my father being a great Maths teacher, I understood Maths easily and I still calculate without a calculator. I loved to play sports and remain outdoors so I continued doing that even during my exams. I also had a special gift of a photographic memory that I used fully to pass exams.
Life was good, until the day when the board exam results of my (late) elder brother were announced. Unlike me, Kannan was a topper and very studious. He would revise all subjects, do his homework in time and was a teacher’s delight. My father had very high expectations of him. He expected Kannan to top the state or the Chennai district or at the very least be a school topper. Unfortunately, none of that happened.
In a rare moment of anger, my father vented his frustration on me. He shared about the economic and social challenges that he had been facing as the eldest son of a big family for all these years. He was sure that without scoring high marks I would have no future. There was reservation for some communities and we didn’t fall in that category so he was very worried that without high marks, I may not even get admission into college. I was shocked and stunned. It was for the first time I realised the actual financial condition of our family. I decided right away to put in my best efforts and to do well in my B.Sc degree examinations so that I could land a good job. I got admission at D G Vaishnav College, Chennai in B.Sc with Chemistry as my major and Physics and Mathematics as ancillary subjects. Remember, that I hated science and wasn’t particularly fond of Maths. The college offered me just this one option. I took it up remembering what my father had said earlier about not getting a college admission at all. I also remembered my decision to work hard and score well so that I could get a good job. I did exceptionally well in my degree scoring above 85% in the main subjects. I used my photographic memory extensively and scored well. My father was right. My high scores got me interviews in good companies and I joined Cipla in 1980. That was my first job, right out of college.
For me the motivation to study well and score high marks, came from my father’s sharing with me about our family’s financial condition. The motivation to study well, varies from person to person. I happened to read Abhimanyu’s answer to the above question on Quora where he has shared the case of Peeyush Meena.
Peeyush Meena motivated himself to study under extraordinary circumstances … he studied in a jail !! Read about his extraordinary story on this link – What Motivates You to Study.