Every once in a while, humans need some form of external motivation to refresh and edit parts of their lives. On that note, a new decade seems to be particularly interesting. We reflect and continue our journey with new hopes and fears.
In 2010, I don’t think my maturity levels allowed me to introspect. I try to remember my decade younger self and first thought is often on the lines of OMG I cannot believe how stupid I was, or, gosh, I cannot believe I did that! I guess ten years down the lane, I would feel the same way for the 2020 me. But in 2020, I am definitely more self-aware than before. As I look back over the past decade, I grew from a teenager to an independent adult. I find it fascinating to note the changes that have taken over me. Changes majorly in my way of thinking, my worldview and even my goals.
I planned to write some learnings that I had over the past few years through personal experience. As I started writing, I felt there is so much that I could write on just one bullet. So, will focus on only one learning in this post – being authentic and true to yourself. Might write more if there is audience interest 🙂
Being authentic is difficult, requires lot of courage but brings the most satisfaction. This means accepting yourself, your thoughts and your choices that everyone around you may not necessarily respect/appreciate. It means not adopting a lifestyle or behaving a certain way simply to fit in. It means not doing things simply to please people. It means being comfortable in your own skin in any situation.
For me, my career choice was something I struggled with for a while. I was an A+ all-rounder type of student and there were strange level of expectations from me. I have always been quite driven as well. Society dictates that good students should always aim for the top. Inherently, not a bad advice but the problem is that young minds tend to form ideals based on various labels created by society that may not apply to everybody. Anyway, I got admitted into the top college in my country for my undergrad education in business management. The ideal career path involved getting some work experience in investment banking/PE/VC/management consulting firm and then going for a top-tier MBA. That was a sure-shot way to “making it big” for any achievement-oriented individual. My goal after undergrad was to build a profile that would make me eligible for a top-notch MBA program. Most of my college-mates followed a similar route. So, I started off with an investment banking internship hoping it would help me land a full-time pre-MBA role. Simultaneously, I cleared all three CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst Program) exams hoping it will supplement my profile as I apply for finance roles. However, soon enough I realized that the path I was seeking was not a good fit for me at all. Maybe I was too young or it was too early to decide – I will never know. I have my reasons that I could not explain at the time.
I desperately wanted to switch my career path and I did. I did not want to chase an MBA anymore. So what did I want to pursue then? I had single-mindedly focused on one goal all along and it felt frightening to let go of that. What I chose next was totally unconventional for someone in my career path. I decided to study Human Resource Management in the US, from a non Ivy League university. That is when my identity crisis started. The very first time I uttered HR, I was mocked at and ridiculed. I was not used to that. The common perception of HR as most of you would know is not very optimistic. As long as I was pursuing the hot career options, everyone would take a lot of interest in me. As soon as I mentioned HR, I felt I no longer got the same respect. Instead, I would get quizzical looks and demoralizing questions of the nature “Why do you even need to study to be in HR?”. Of course, I saw it very differently. Studying HR was an entry into the world of organizational behavior and psychology for me, not straying too far from my management education thus far. I followed my intuition to a large extent. At the time, it was hard for me to explain and it made me question myself incessantly. Now, I realize I shouldn’t have bothered to explain!
I was used to being appreciated for my choices. Then, I experienced the reality. Now, I recognize the human urge to win others’ approval and I try to be more mindful of that. Confronting your own ego is also a part of the process.
For a while, I felt I lost part of my confidence because my education and career define me for the most part. The struggle was about my identity in this world. But I am glad I went through the intense period of self-questioning because it helped me better understand myself and the society. I found myself asking questions that have no easy answers. It actually ignited my interest in philosophy…
- If there was zero recognition involved, what type of work would still keep me engaged and motivated?
- If I had no career, what else can define me?
- What is our collective attitude as a society towards those in so-called unskilled or menial jobs? Why are they not equally respected?
- What creates status differences? Why is status so important to humans?
- How do we make sure everyone can harness their full potential?
- What is the best way to utilize human abilities?
- Do we need everyone to use their full potential?
Looking forward to reading your thoughts in comments!