I was recently invited to do a lunchtime talk on International Women’s Day (March 8) to share my success and challenges as a woman leader, specifically my “inspiration and mantra to balance well being and professional life”. While being extremely honored, I eventually turned down the invitation as I was scheduled to be out of town.
As fate would have it, I ended being stranded that weekend at the Delhi airport for over 10 hours due to a cancelled flight. The delay gave me ample time for much needed self-reflections. Somehow, I was meant to pen this.
The importance of mistakes and failures in life
The road to success is pathed with failures and mistakes.
I was really fortunate that I started my career doing what I truly love – my first job was in the advertising industry. In order to effectively service my clients, I had to be educated on their respective markets and competitors, which had me exposed to the working of different industries and brands. The life that followed for more than a decade was to be ridden with long hours and being underpaid, all for the sake of passion.
I missed birthdays, anniversaries, gatherings and some part of my daughter’s toddler years.
My life took a turn when I discovered that I had goitre and had to remove a large part of my thyroid. The condition was attributed to irregular hours and long neglect of my health.
That was a loud wake up call for me when I stayed home for close to a month, recovering with a big gash across my neck. I was hit by the realization that I had almost squandered away my life, potentially leaving behind my loved ones including a young child.
I eventually made the decision to move out of the ad industry to be the “client” at a leading local grocery retailer. There were so many fun, colourful people from the ad industry which I missed, but I certainly did not miss the hours.
The life at the client side was, by no means, easy. I had to prove myself, and at the same time, build new credibility and relationships.
Being able to leave for home where there is still daylight and having dinner with my daughter was a big deal.
The importance of being grounded
My life challenges are not uncommon compared to many of the working women out there. I do not see myself as a “super woman”.
My aging mother who tirelessly worked multiple jobs to bring up 4 kids as a young widowed parent taught me a lot about grit and being accountable for my own life.
My child helps keep my feet on the ground – she is a constant reminder to me of what really matters in life. I learned that it is a true privilege to give – giving life, love and guidance.
I was lost for a long time and had only learned to appreciate these in the last 10 years.
The importance of humility
Someone asked me how I have changed since I have started my career. I replied that I have grown to be more humble. As I uncover new things to learn, I realize how little I know.
You need to keep your cup empty so that you can be filled with new things.
The importance of friendships
Life is richer with angels who journeyed with me and cried with me, in the valleys and different seasons of my life.
I am blessed to have a few of these lovely ladies. They would not hesitate to stand in for me should something happen to me.
The importance of good mentors
Some of the best lessons in life are learned outside of school.
I was fortunate to have good mentors at different points of my career. They were instrumental to my personal development and extended their cares like close family members.
They inspired me to do the same for those that come behind me.
I want to show them it’s important to have dreams and they should not shy away from any opportunities. Sometimes we may fail but we should always be courageous and persevere.
The importance of living with a purpose
In my line of work, when we set out to define the purpose of a brand. We often ask what the world would be like in its absence.
Likewise, I wonder what will be inscribed on my tombstone. I wonder what would my peers and my loved ones speak of me, and the legacy I leave behind.
For Mahatma Gandhi, the defining word for his life is “freedom”; for Jesus, it’s “love”.
In an earlier soul-searching phase of my life, I was inspired to “make a difference”. I had decided that I want to be known as one who touches the lives of those who crossed my path.
As I reflect on my life and the things that are important, I count my blessings and conclude that the key to success is simply being present to these.
I believe that success in life should be measured by the number of lives you can touch and inspire, not by the number of people you have to step on to get ahead.
What do you define as success in life? What inspires you?
*This post was first published on Linkedin on March 22, 2019