My time at Harvard Business School was one of the best times of my life in recent years. It give me time to reflect, introspect and learn more about myself than I could in the entire last decade of my life. It also made me aware, how, as women, we tend to ignore our self-growth in the name of other roles and responsibilities that we assume in our lives once we complete formal education.
I had one burning question to bring back home, relevant to all my fellow women- what are the keys to success for a woman of today? How can they achieve their true potential? Here is what I learned inside and outside the classroom at Harvard Business School.
Invest in Education
Almost a decade and a half has elapsed since I left college to pursue the career of my dreams. Life came a full circle when I got a chance to attend a program at Harvard Business School . That I was nervous would be an understatement. I was actually seeing the interiors of a classroom after so many years, let alone studying in one. But when I stepped into the campus and then took confident strides towards class, I couldn’t help notice the spring in my step. I loved each and every moment of my time there. Doing homework and answering questions brought back so many college memories. If I could go back in time and tell the younger, carefree me not to bunk her engineering classes, I wanted to tell her how much she would miss her time gaining knowledge when life’s responsibilities like earning for a living and nurturing her family would take a toll on her quest for finding her true self.
It is rightly said that “there is no age limit on seeking knowledge” . So what , if you are a mother to a school going child now, there is no denying the fact that breeding ground for new concepts and ideas is definitely at school. Learning something new will keep you going. Invest in your own education for a better future. It is daunting and challenging, but it is totally worth it!
Don’t be afraid and embrace risks
Sometimes, our routine becomes our cocoon where we want to spend our life in comfort of the known. To break the shell and come out and face the world was the most challenging task ahead of me. Though I applied for the program, I was full of self doubt and kept reasoning with myself. When I was accepted for the program, I was at my lowest confidence level about going back to school, I kept questioning if its was worth the money , time and effort. Like Karl Max said famously- “You have nothing to lose but your chains.” After discussions with lot of people and self evaluation I asked myself -“If not now, then when?” I took the plunge and went ahead and I am glad I did as I now have memories that I am going to cherish for life. The knowledge I gained has opened my mind in many ways and I am looking forward to applying them in my venture over the year.
So if you too are scared of rocking your boat, sceptical if the small opportunity knocking at your door could be the next big idea? Don’t worry, you are not the only one to feel that way! Go ahead, and take a chance. Take risks and sometimes give your heart a chance over your head. Go with your gut feel rather than logic. The worst that could happen is that you might fail, but again, you will be a gainer of experience. So go ahead and embrace the unknown. Who knows, your success might be waiting for you .
Network and Connect
QWEEN , our venture, has taught me that networking and connecting is the key to success. There were a zillion opportunities at the program for me to put my head together with experienced professors and classmates, with 80 participants from 28 countries it was just an experience that I couldn’t have obtained anywhere else. Travelling solo also gave me opportunities to talk to strangers on the plane, airport, bus rides and restaurants. I am confident that these connections I have built are going to help me succeed in the coming years.
To succeed in life, talk to complete strangers and seek their opinions about your ideas. Speak to random people and fish for opportunities. Exchange ideas, experiences, good and bad both. Talk and talk and keep talking to everyone you can, everywhere. Make new connections. Join forums like Qween, where you get a platform for showcasing your ideas, learning from others and also honing your skills. Do not let any chance of networking go waste. Whether you are travelling or chilling out at home, keep your network antennas always on search mode and keep searching for more!
Selfacation- ( Self- Vacation)
The self imposed learning break turned out to be my first solo vacation in many many years. It was all about me and myself. Where instead of thinking about others, I was able to think for myself, reflect on my joys and sorrows, my family, my career, and make plans to have a better future for myself, my daughter and my family!! As women, we are hard wired to put others before ourselves. Our desires, thoughts, everything is pushed aside to make space for family and children. Some just dream of taking some time out for themselves, and some just do it. Be that someone, spend some time on yourself. Cut off from your usual routine, go out on your own and take a break every few years, or at least every 5 years.
Utilise this time to reflect, retrospect and find new ways to improve on yourself. This is the least you can do for your own sake. A solo holiday is sometimes the perfect remedy for your cluttered and tired mind. Refresh and rejuvenate yourself so that when you get back, you are super charged to take on new challenges.
Create a support system and trust it implicitly
When it came to my daughter, I was always doubting everyone, whether they will give her medicines on time, will she miss me? Will she sleep at night? But when I decided I wanted to do this program and everyone including my husband, sister, parents and in-laws rallied around to share the responsibility of taking care of her,I decided to go ahead and trust them fully. I didn’t call them and ask them if they were managing well. She did well, she missed me, I missed her but we did ok!! I am still her favourite person and she is still my princess! Nothing changed!!!
As mothers, all of us have our kids as our supreme responsibility the moment they are born. More often than not, it’s we who are uncomfortable leaving them in others’ care than our children themselves. Children are very resilient and adapt very easily to change. Mothers need to learn to cut the proverbial umbilical cord and leave them in others’ care. If you have to go, by all means trust your support system to take care of your kids.
There is a famous song loved by almost everyone from the animated movie, “Frozen” – Let it Go! It might very well be the anthem for today’s woman. Women really are chained and held back only by their self-created inhibitions. The day they decide to break free, will be the day when they can achieve their goals and make an identity for themselves.If you want to create an identity for yourself, you have to leave your past behind and let yourself free.
So Invest in yourself and Let it Go!