Sometimes I wonder how an average, mischievous middle-class child rose up to become one hell of a global leader with experiences working for various international organizations and be successful academically too.
To be honest, I wasn't academically brilliant, nor was I a pearl that rose from acute poverty. From a young age, I was passionate about giving back, which inspired me to take up a social work diploma foundation course at a local college. At first, it was not easy given the many upheavals along the way. After high school, I did not qualify to go to a government university which is way cheaper than private ones, and you get sponsorship as well. I was more than ever determined to succeed. I did not let the lack of admission to university get to me. I promised myself that I would do something worthy with my life.
It is this promise at the age of 18 that sowed the seeds of my dream career years later. My first life lesson was that my failure was my key to success. It is important to use failure as a motivation to get a clear vision and enable yourself to pursue your dreams with more potency.
I always knew what I wanted to do and be when I grew up, and I learnt that if I focused on the goal, then it would be easier to achieve success. At the time when I was getting my degree, I balanced two part-time jobs; I discovered many important lessons along the way that gave me a good footing for the future. I picked up the tools of the non-profit world very quickly which helped me get started on my journey to becoming a development worker. There are two things that my aptitude and interests have demonstrated: one, you are nothing if you don't have a vision; two, the focus is always worth chasing when it is driven by motivation and zeal to encourage you to be on the path of achieving life goals.
The Key Rule: Prioritize
I left home at a really young age and I struggled to balance my time between work and studies, but I always remained vigilant. I learnt how to multi-task. I was determined to be better at my job and achieve academic success. I would work at night and go to class during the day. Days that I didn’t have class were not off-days, rather, they were a time to take on a second job. While I put in a lot of work to make money so that I could pay my bills, I made sure that I prioritized my education above all. The key lesson here is that in circumstances such as this where erratic sleeping hours are the toughest part of managing a job and school work, it is important to not plan excessively. Take each day as it comes, as life can be very unpredictable.
Realize: There's more to Life
Many times, we invest a lot of time building careers or businesses and we fail to realize that there is more to life than work. We stop taking care of ourselves. Late hours with an overwhelming workload end up becoming poison to our health. Most often than not, we rely on food for comfort. I know that I have struggled in the past with overindulging in food and I did not realize how this manifested itself into my physical well-being.
In order to balance life, it is vital that one makes time for extra-curricular activities. Choose a sport you like, go for adventure and try new things, have fun and reenergize so that you can be more productive next time.
See failure as a chance to learn
Life lessons are a chance to realize that negative or painful experiences makes one stronger than ever. Often times, failure is seen as the reverse of success, yet it can essentially be a stepping stone towards achieving success. I believe that over the years, I have been able to learn how to tackle my setbacks head-on and as I continue to grow, I am able to deal with failures that come along the way.
A summary of some of the key lessons that have helped me become a better leader and balance the same side of the coin personally and professionally are:
- Focusing on a growth mindset – This means that no matter the obstacles I face, I view them as an opportunity to grow. I refuse to quit, give up, or have a fixed mindset - that I am not good enough.
- I always take a problem-solving approach – My parents taught and guided me on the good, the bad and the ugly. From a young age, I gained skills in problem solving that enabled me to try various solutions to a failure, while questioning myself on lessons learnt from that situation. The most important lesson that my parents instilled in me was that failure does not matter - what matters is what you choose to do to recover from those failures.
- Appreciate and value failure - One of the key lessons here that I have learnt and continue to learn is that embracing and celebrating failure is the most effective way to respond to situations. Fearing the possibility of not making it only gets in the way of success. I have had opportunities to admit my mistakes and talk about what I learned from them. I have read success stories from successful people that interest me and encouraged me to follow a path to success. And I have become a role model in dealing with failure by sharing my experiences throughout my life.
To end, I strongly believe that one grows with every challenge. Dealing with and overcoming challenges helps widen your horizon and cultivates a better understanding of life in general. I am here now, still trying to balance my professional and personal life, but my failures have become my stepping stone to success. In this life, you stumble, you discover, and then you move forward!