All Izz Well : What I learnt from 3 Idiots


For the longest time I had heard about how wonderful the movie 3 Idiots was. This started way back in 2010 after the movie was just released and I remember alot of my friends telling me that its a brilliant movie and I should watch it. Surprisingly most of these people who told me this were non indians and they were colleagues from my work. Can you imagine your chinese friends telling you to watch a hindi movie?? And it didn’t end there. A couple of years back I was involved with a project and I was assigned to work with this bubbly indian client who always used to laugh, smile and tell me ‘ “don’t worry, all is well!” and while I would appreciate the positive outlook she had, and I knew she was referencing to the movie, I never quite appreciated it.

That is until I finally decided to see the movie over the weekend and figure out what’s so great about it.  And wow what a great movie it was. I guess like most people, I too made a mistake watching this movie – I watched it abit too late. Had someone told me about the life lessons that were embedded into this movie, I probably would have watched it early. But in any case, I think I couldn’t have picked a more apt time to embark on this movie:

I found this movie to be so amazing because in some ways it reminded me alot of my own life – taking off the beaten path, looking at life with “uncanny” lenses and not just going with the herd mentality. In fact, alot of what I have written here in this blog are based on my own  observations in life, and like Rancho, I too slowly learnt to develop them over time and share them with my friends. And that is why for today’s entry, I am going to share 3 important lessons I learnt from this movie:

Lesson # 1 – Follow Excellence and Success will Chase you…with your pants down

This is the first lesson that really spoke to me as the movie unfolded. It was referenced many times when Rancho provides advice to his friends when they were mindlessly cramming for their exams and yet they failed to comprehend that. When you have a passion for something, and you give your heart to following your passion, success follows suit. I have this time and time again before even in my own life where I had once my career counsellor tell me – “if you love your job, it doesn’t become work any more”.

And when I look back and reflect at my own life, I can’t help but smile at that maxim because it has worked for me so well. Ever since I was in my final year in high school, I developed a passion for learning and just found it pure joy to learn and study. That’s when I actually discovered I had a talent for learning. I still remember how I would make extra effort to make my own study booklets for Biology where I would hand-draw cells and organs and label their parts diligently. It was my way of studying and I did it because I enjoyed the learning process of it – of understanding how things work, why these specific parts were there and how they contributed to the entire organ structure. It was an enjoyable time and as a result my teachers started to pay attention to it and would offend compliment and commend me for my diligent efforts.

This continued on with university in which I remember when I got appointed as a teaching assistant for one my business classes. I was so passionate and dedicated in my work that I remember the professor being very impressed when he found out that I had created a very simple website for my students to download their tutorial materials and my own handout notes for them and also to post their case study results which we had throughout the semester. I remember doing all this because I loved my job and I pursued excellence. As a result, my professor and I bonded over time and till this day we are still in touch. In fact he even once told me when I visited the school last year to give a talk in consulting, that among all his students, I am one of the few foreign students he is still keeping in touch with.

Even now at work, I still find that same passion and dedication for my work. I like to tell the story of how I got my first international assignment. It wasn’t because I was the best guy or the most clever person for the job. What got my supervisor’s attention (as he was my supervisor for that international assignment and the project before that) was the fact that I actually rented a place closer to the project site so that I can be nearer to the job. This really impressed my supervisor and he was very taken up by that. As a result when the opportunity came for the international assignment, my supervisor wanted me to join him in that project and at jumped at the opportunity as it was so rare to get such chances like that.

Why am I telling you all this? Well its certainly not to blow my own trumpet, but its to highlight that the maxim holds true – follow excellence and success will chase you…even when your pants are down!

Lesson # 2- Learning is a lifelong pursuit

In the movie, we see that Rancho learns, not to get high marks, but for the sheer joy of learning. The joy is found in the  learning itself and yet many of his peers didn’t get it. Most were just keen to pass and make their families proud, but not for themselves. And sadly that’s a reflection of our society today also – many don’t choose to continue their learning pursuits after their college or university education. Most instead choose to make money, which is not a bad thing, but it’s certainly not living life to the fullest.

I never did realize this, but I actually grew up in a household of learners, and for that I am truly thankful. I still remember finding my dad at nights reading a book before going to bed. These days, Wikipedia is his best friend and I am told that he spends alot of his time reading up articles on wikipedia just about anything. The same can be said about my mother – she always had  a talent for languages and would often like to learn languages. I remember buying for her a french CD language set and she would go through the material each hour every other day. She would also read the books that I would buy and would tell me “this is a real nice book, where did you get it from?”. I think reading and learning truly runs in my family.  My grandmother, who was a graduate herself would tell me the importance of books while we were growing up and was a strong advocate for lifelong learning.

Maybe that’s why I too now enjoy my adult learning pursuits – whether its completing my long distance MBA program or just watching documentaries on Youtube, I am consistently learning something, bet it at work or at play and I think this is one important lesson that I took from the movie – never stop learning!

Lesson # 3 –  All Is Well – What’s Your personal mantra chant?

The phrase All is well was apparently the most popular phrase in India in 2009, largely due to this movie. And if you look deeper into it, its more than just some mindless platitude. It’s more than just a phrase. In the ancient days, using mantras were a way of calming the mind and soul to invoke inner peace and tranquillity and if you look at it, I think in our day and age, people could use a little bit of hope in their lives. All is well gives that hope, that peace and assurance that all will be well.  It reminds you and grounds you so that you do not freak out at life’s challenges. It also strengthens your mind and changes your disposition to one that is more positive and life-giving rather than cynical and miserable.

In my own life too I have my own mantra – “If He puts you through it, He will see you through it” – this mantra gives me alot of hope and strength. That there is a higher being that is looking out for me in whom I can trust, no matter how bleak and dark the future may be. Having you own mantra is important. It grounds you, it’s your life jacket that helps you stay afloat in stormy seas when you can’t do anything else but ride it out.

Life is really funny sometimes. It teaches you so many things and its designed to help you grow and survive. I do not believe life is meant only for suffering and hardships. In every angle and outlook we can always choose to see the silver lining in our every day life.

The real question is : are we receptive enough to detect, understand and learn from them?


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