"You have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first"
He meant to say something to the new college entries, but the statement means something more.
- Is it better to run the race with the marble, knowing that the marble might fall off somewhere?
- Or is it better to have the marble and not run the race?
I think case 1 makes sense: run the race, lose the marble, but it is important to figure out that your spoon is empty before you end the race. It might fall a hundred times, but everytime, if you realised that it fell, gain it back and re-run the race. I think you are then making a decent progress than running the race with an empty spoon and coming out first.
But that needs a lot of guts. The race is not to be run by the 'weak at heart'.
"Na Ayamaatma balaheenena labhyahah"
You alone are responsible for the loss of the marble, and you alone can gain it back. No one will run the race for you. You have to run it yourself.
"Uddhareth Aatmanaatmaanam Naatmaanam Avasaadhayet"
But irrespective of whether you lose the marble or not have it or have it, the nature of the marble remains the same all the time.