When a colleague of mine, recently called me a “numbers queen”, I conspicuously squirmed and smiled uncomfortably. Even after many years of accomplishment in Investments, a pretty intense numbers field, the complement felt erroneously misplaced.

The origin of this disbelief in the complement dates back to my high school days.

My coronation into math club or someone who was even remotely comfortable with it didn’t happen until one of my biggest failures or what at that time seemed like THE failure.

For all those who are familiar with Indian education system, it happened after I failed my pre board math exam. For those who may not comprehend the gravitas of the statement, Indian education system puts the onus of deciding a person’s future on their 16 year old self’s high school examination. So failing a pre-high school examination was an ominous sign that I would have to be terminating all the fields which had anything to do with mathematics.

To make matters worse, my mother at that time was the vice principal of my school and my father was a mathematics professor at a university. Talk about insult to injury. Talk about bringing shame to one’s parents.

As someone who had been a straight A’s student and was vaguely imagining a career in finance, that felt catastrophic. The pain and humiliation that stemmed from the event felt like it had the potential to lasso and foreshadow everything in my distant future.

At that moment the only thing which made sense to me was to give up Math and subsequently all the fields which were related to it.

When I told my mom about it, claiming that I didn’t think I had the aptitude or acumen for it, she refused to buckle in.

She said two things to me which have stayed with me over the years, entrenched in all my endeavors:

1) don’t let the fear of failing be the reason to give up something.

2) whatever you think you have missing; aptitude or skill, you can always make it up with hard work and resilience.

The she added, “now that you have failed, should you fail again, no one will bat an eye but should you succeed, you will feel victorious. the downside is pretty limited but the upside, vast. So chin up and cheer on!”

I won’t lie at that time, those words did very little to assuage my bruised self esteem. I begrudgingly conceded to her, only on the condition that she wouldn’t tell my dad. I couldn’t take the disappointment in his eyes.

Next three months, she got me to work copiously and arduously. She would get me to practice like there was no tomorrow. In those few months, I must have inputted 12 months work and shed my years of fearing the formidable subject. Through the entire time, like a pillar of strength and deluge of motivational push, she stood like a force.

Needless to say, I passed my high school exam with a rainbow of flying colors. After which, I went on to not only loving the subject, but making a successful career in the investment world, centered around it.

Moreover, I learnt the most inextricable tenet of life; as said best by Winston Churchill –

“Success is not final and failure is not fatal, it’s the courage to continue that counts.”

By not letting me give up, my mother taught me this most valuable lesson. The learning which inescapably becomes the strongest ballast for me every time life throws a curveball.