The work day ended for everyone but him. Paul began his work after going back from work. While everyone else considered it as a time to relax at the end of a hectic day, Paul had to slog harder in the evenings and late nights and he enjoyed it. Paul was confident that one day he would make it to the big league.

Maggie asked him, “Take some rest. You cannot go on like this. It’ll lead to fatigue.”

Maggie was his girl friend. She visited him every evening to check if he had his dinner. In the last few months, he has been so preoccupied in studying that he did not bother much about his food and sleep. It was obvious in his health. Dark circles started appearing underneath his eyes telling the world that his eyes needed more sleep and his body needed more rest.

But, Paul wanted to appear for the civil services exam and become a government officer. He knew that his current job as a software engineer was good enough. But, he wanted to earn the respect of a government officer. He knew he could get that respect only after appearing for the civil services exam and clearing all the exams. His father always dreamed to see his son as a government officer. His father, being a farmer, did not know much about the jobs and software. All he knew was that government officers demanded a lot of respect.

Paul wanted to become a government officer and prove to his father. Since childhood, he always did everything that he could to make his father happy.

Paul’s job as a software engineer was not an easy one and he did not get time to study during office hours. He had a nice boss. But, his boss made it clear that Paul should not study at the workplace. It was one of the rules the team has enforced after one of their team mates studied hard during work hours and cleared GMAT exam and left to pursue MBA in another country. The team mate hardly did any work and it cost the team a lot in the name of reputation.

Paul’s boss, Nitin Mahadevan, did not want it to happen again. He gave Paul full freedom to come late and leave late. But, he should not use the time at work to pursue his personal goals. Paul had to complete the mandatory nine hours at work. The rule was same for everyone.

Nitin tried to be complacent and said, “I will never ask you to work for extra hours. But, you need to complete those mandatory eight or nine hours at work. You can come late. But, you have to stay late and finish your work and those hours. If you are able to do more work in the initial days of the project, I might even waive off the nine hour rule. You have to manage your time effectively and complete your assignments.”

Paul felt glad he had a supporting girl friend and an understanding boss. He appreciated the support and worked hard.

When Maggie came to him, Paul seemed to be happy and content. It was a pleasant surprise for her. She asked, “Are you happy? Is it you? Did you clear the exams already? I thought your exams were after four months? Isn’t it a miracle to see a smile on that almost always discontented face of yours?”

Paul chuckled a laugh and said, “I’m always when I know that I’m doing well in my preparation. I’m on the right path today after all my efforts for the last eight months. If I continue to go in this mode, I will meet all my goals with ease and comfort. I have calculated the amount of effort required and the number of hours left till my deadlines and I’m at the right place now. I have programmed my schedule and it was very difficult to reach here. I can sleep for an hour more everyday from today. I can work for an hour more at work if necessary. But, I have managed my work well enough, I needn’t work for more hours at all. Overall, I have reached an optimal state.”

Maggie said, “I’m glad you can relax now.”

Paul said, “Wait. You didn’t get what I said. I still don’t have time to relax. I have work for almost nineteen hours every day. A deviation of few hours can still upset my schedule badly and I might have to reprogram my schedule completely. So, there is no room for relaxation.”

Maggie tried not to convince him to take some rest. She realized he would not give up until his exams are over.

The next day, Paul was happy things were going according to his plan, finally. On his way to the workplace, he would recollect all the things he learned the previous night while riding his motor bike. He had the knack of riding safe while keeping his mind occupied to practice his exercises mentally.

After crossing a signal, Paul felt glad that everything was going in his favor, until some car from the opposite direction jumped the signal and rammed into his bike. His bike was literally dragged behind for a few meters. He felt severe pain in his leg. Thanks to the helmet, his head not get injured and he did not feel unconscious. But, his leg hurt badly. He was rushed to the nearby hospital. His leg suffered from a major fracture. The doctors told him that he would need at least three months to recuperate fully and walk normally.

Maggie moved in to stay with him until he recuperated fully. He felt glad he had such an understanding girl friend. After his exams, he would marry immediately, he thought.

When Maggie asked about this schedule, he said, “In spite of the accident, I got a couple of hours at home. And, I needn’t drive to work anymore. I can take a cab or bus. That should give me more time to study.”

Maggie was glad he took this accident in the right spirit. Paul prayed to God to let this be the last trouble in his journey towards his exams. But, he knew that troubles always came in a sequence and no trouble ever came alone to him.

Paul got back to work the next day with his clutches. It took more time than usual to walk to his cubicle. And, he had to spend more time with people describing them about the accident and its aftermath.

Nitin, his boss, called everyone for a sudden meeting.

Paul felt something was going wrong.

Nitin announced something in the meeting that really worsened the situation for Paul. Nitin said, “Listen, folks. I’m moving out of this country. The management has offered me a bigger role in France. I have to assume responsibilities immediately. Beginning tomorrow, Jaya will be your new boss. She should come here this afternoon.”

Paul wondered if Jaya would be as understanding as Nitin was.

Unfortunately for Paul, Jaya turned out to be a disciplinarian. She believed in having meetings in the morning and she did not allow anyone to come late. Though Nitin told her Paul’s work and his requirements, she took no heed and gave him no special permissions.

Working with Jaya seemed to be tough and he had some problem with her everyday. The entire team faced issues with her. But, the others had a chance to go home, forget about it, and relax for a while. For Paul, the stress at the workplace was eating into his productive study time at home.

He had three more months for his exams and one month before a major deadline at work.

A couple of weeks before the major deadline, his computer broke down. He expected Jaya to understand the situation and thought she would help in accelerating the process to get him a replacement for his computer.

But, Jaya said, “I knew you would do something like this. Nitin told me to beware of you and your personal goals. I cannot help you with the replacement request. You have to fight this on your own. It is only then that you will realize the importance of not playing with work. ”

Work at home also kept piling up. He was too stressed out. Paul wondered if he had to give up his struggle.

That evening, Maggie said, “You look so worried. You were stressed out earlier. But, you enjoyed preparing for your exams and completing your work. But, now, the passion is missing. Is everything alright?”

Paul realized his mistake and decided to get his passion back. He ignored his schedule. He ignored the timelines. He just wanted to enjoy preparing. It was a breakthrough.

Jaya also noticed a positive change in his attitude. He successfully completed his assignment at work despite the hurdles.

Paul cleared all the exams.