When you hear that an alumnus of your University has received exceptional recognition for their achievements, it can be in equal parts inspiring and intimidating. On one hand, if one of your fellow students can end up in a 30 Under 30 Forbes list, why shouldn’t you?
But to many, seeing others’ extraordinary success can lead them to put even more pressure on themselves. It’s easy to trap yourself into thinking that you’re not good enough, or not doing enough, especially if you are already struggling with a challenging degree.
However, reaching the highs of success doesn’t always indicate a smooth journey upwards. What the prestigious Forbes list doesn’t show is the ups and downs of the journey and how the person has dealt with the lows.
University of London alumnus Mohammad Taqi Yasir reached out to the University and its current students to share his story and, hopefully, reassure those of you who may be struggling with the pressures of studies.
In 2022, Forbes Asia included the Footsteps initiative co-founders Shah Rafayat Chowdhury and Mohammad Taqi Yasir in 30 Under 30 list for their Social Impact.
Mohammad was already involved with Footsteps when he applied to study Law at the University of London. Having watched his father help those in need in Bangladesh, financially and with legal advice, Mohammad pursued this challenging programme with passion.
I was not an excellent student throughout my life. I was more into sports and all that; so when I started studying law, it was my passion which pushed me through it.
Mohammad recalls that in his first year he went beyond the syllabus and thanks to that exceeded in his first year, getting two first class marks and two second class marks.
“I was the best in my college at the time, whereas I wasn't the brightest student at school.”
With great achievement came the pressure to keep it up. Throughout the second year, Mohammad struggled to deal with the weight of expectations as well as growing his charitable organisation, Footsteps.
That was the first time I was regarded as a very good student. As a result, I did not do as well as everyone thought I would in my second-year exams. That’s when Footsteps and my other engagements started growing, so I felt pressured both in terms of work and academics at the same time. Because of all that I was not exactly depressed, but sad.
Mohammad is not alone in feeling this way once life gets busy and studies become increasingly difficult. Many University of London students choose our programmes precisely because they allow them to work full-time, take care of their families or build a business at the same time. While distance learning allows for the kind of flexibility and accessibility that not every higher education institution can offer, it comes with its own challenges.
Finding the motivation to keep going can be difficult, especially when you’re not seeing your hard work pay off. Achieving lower grades than expected at the end of a difficult year can take the wind out of your sails, make you doubt yourself, or even make you feel ashamed – especially if others in your life have high expectations of you.
“That was one of the lowest points in my life,” Mohammad recalls. “That’s when my friend, Tasnuva, said an amazing thing to me. She used a boomerang as an analogy for success:
‘Don't forget, you are on a boomerang: you are being pulled to your lowest so you can rise to your highest. You can either let the string break and fall down, or you can let it take it to your highest, and I want you to do the latter.’"
Mohammad’s friend found exactly the right words to get him into the right mindset. After that conversation, instead of worrying about people’s expectations of him, he focused on one thing only: giving it his best. He decided to look forward and focus on what was in front of him instead of constantly looking over his shoulder, living in fear of his past successes and failures.
As it turned out, that’s exactly the attitude that helped him exceed his expectations once again. In his own words, Mohammad expected to get a 2:1 or a high 2:1 in his final year, yet he graduated with a first class degree in 2017. And only five years later, his name was in Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs in Asia.
I just want to tell everyone who is reading this that it is up to you, how you want to shape your failures. You can either let it get to you and pull you down, and that’s when the string breaks, or you can get back up. Trust me, once you have the strength to do that, you will be at your highest.
Remember, you can find a wealth of resources to help you take care of your health on the Wellbeing page of your Student Portal, as well as details on how to sign-up to TalkCampus, your mental health peer support network.