The strongest memory of my alma mater is that of feeling like I was inside a pressure cooker for two years. The panic, the self-doubt, the tears, the mad dash to meet deadlines, the successes, the failures, and then, every now and then, the whistle of the cooker that would release the pressure only to build up again. It felt like torture. But in hindsight, how to deal with being inside a pressure cooker was perhaps one of the most valuable learnings I took away from IIM-A.

As you go through your journey, if you are having a blast, don’t think, just enjoy yourself! But if you are facing a dilemma, if there is noise in your head, what are the four questions that you can ask yourself that might help you navigate your journey:

a. What exactly is my mantra, what exactly is my core and what exactly is my mojo?

b. What goal am I taking aim at? Am I sure that this is the goal I want to shoot for?

c. Is my mantra a match for the goal that I am aiming for ? If yes, great. If not, maybe I need to rethink my mantra or rethink my goal.

d. Lastly, all this analysis is for a point in time and this aspect is often the most important because the goal you want to reach for will change over time as it should. When you are 25 you will have a different set of goals, at 40 different at 55 quite different. Or, when you are single, when you are married, when you are a parent... all quite different. And the only thing I can say is that you have plenty of time over a working career that could possibly span 40 years or more. There is plenty of time to achieve what you want if you bring your A game to it.

Let me share 2 short stories with you. The first relates to when I was running the client side treasury business for ICICI bank. This was around 2006-07. I had just taken over and I really didn’t understand the world of fx derivatives at all! For about a month I took tutorials from a young officer to get to grips with the basics. Then I graduated to sitting in the dealing room and listening in on the telephonic confirmations that clients gave for their deals. Now, this really worried me! The deal confirmation script was so full of jargon; I couldn’t believe that any normal CFO on the other side understood a word of what he was confirming. I mean, I had taken tutorials for a month and I barely understood half of what was being said !

I took a decision and rewrote the script in simple English on what exactly was the upside and downside of the deal that the client was agreeing to. Now remember, this was a time when the most popular deals were where exporters sold options on currency pairs. Their upside was the premium they earned while the downside potentially could be anything!

The team was aghast This is not the market practice they said; the clients will run away to competition they said; we won’t meet our ₹1,800 crore profit target they said. I had only one answer: what is the right thing to do? Simple. And if we do the right thing, will we have to work harder to meet our targets, perhaps, but that is what we are going to do.

Cut to 2008, the global financial crisis hits the world and the most popular currency pair of Swiss franc to US dollar is in ‘deeeeep’ trouble. Our clients have 10s of crores of losses, some of them 100s of crores. Globally, law suits are flying left right and centre while banks are struggling to collect from their clients. And one large diamond exporter walks into my office, red in the face, raging. The bank mis-sold these options to my CFO; I will sue you he says!

I politely request him to hear just one call recording: the bank officer is saying, Sir, you are selling an option for 100 million. If the Swiss franc vs USD crosses x threshold, you would lose ₹5 crore. If it crosses y threshold, you would lose 20 crores and so on. Would you like to proceed? And the CFO says yes. I look at the client, he looks at me, and in the most gracious manner I have ever seen, he says, how much time can the bank give me to pay for my losses. Doing what is right is just that, right! It is usually the harder path and it take a lot to traverse that path, but it is the right thing to do! By the way, that year, we almost got to our ₹1,800 crore profit target!

My generation got to ride the wave of the dawn of a new India. You will get to see the high noon of the new India. Everywhere, there is opportunity for growth, for inclusion, for entrepreneurship, for breaking the mould and for leading the world. It’s a wonderful time to be 25. Interestingly, it is also a wonderful time to be 60!