Family plays an important role in shaping our identities, and today’s adults owe a lot of their success (or failures) to their childhoods.
Knowingly or unknowingly, we imbibe qualities that make our family who they are. And fortunately for me, the qualities that help me be a better professional are the same I learned as a boy.
Both my parents grew up in tough situations in the growing yet uncertain economic conditions of post-independent India. My dad was one among 7 kids raised by a single mom on my grandfather’s meagre government pension. He had to leave his small town and travel to Mumbai (then Bombay) at age 20 to earn a living and provide for the family. My mother was also raised in a middle class family, and was one of the first few women in the family to even have a job, working in insurance in a big city.
These life experiences taught them the importance of brotherhood, resourcefulness and kindness, especially in the face of adversity. They say if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime. On Mother’s Day, I wanted to reflect on my childhood and what I learned from my parents.
Always have a backup
There’s a nobility to venture into the unknown without a plan, which is what startup life is like. But humans thrive on predictability, and having some semblance of a plan helps us make decisions more confidently.For my parents growing up with meagre resources, it made them understand the importance of having a plan should things fail. After all, the stakes are a lot higher when you’re living paycheck to paycheck and have many mouths to feed.
Coming to my childhood, I was always ambitious and had wide ranging creative dreams, from becoming a film director to working in comics. My parents supported me through all of these quirks, but had one simple rule – have a backup. They taught me how it was okay to try as many things as you can but have a plan B should I fail.
This led me to pursue engineering while maintaining loads of creative side projects creating multiple short films (DM if you want to watch them for laughs), designing memes and t-shirts, and doing stand up comedy. These artistic pursuits led me to realize that what I truly enjoyed was bringing ideas to life. This eventually put me on the path of engineering product management down the road where I could do this for a living.
This flexibility to know was possible because I had the backup of my engineering degree.
Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate
When I was 12, my father told me he was going to leave his job and start his own financial consultancy service from home, while also taking care of his aging mother who had just moved in with us. This was work from home in a time when there was no Zoom or Skype, and no self-help guru with blog posts on effectively working remote.
Having to start and run a new business, take care of an elderly woman, and manage a family, all in the same environment is no easy task. And the secret to compartmentalizing all of these responsibilities according to my dad? Concentration.
He fully immersed himself in the activity at hand, and tried his best to make sure they didn’t trickle into his other responsibilities.
His one mantra to me, a kid with the attention span of a goldfish, was “concentrate, concentrate, concentrate”. He would ask me to say this every time I felt my attention waver at the task at hand, be it studying or playing cricket.
It’s a lesson I carry to this day on focussing on the task at hand and give it my best for a period of time before moving on to the next.
Appreciate your mentors
Teachers shape our world, and play an integral role in our childhood. Growing up in a country with 1.3 billion citizens meant stiff competition for any lucrative spot, be it in the local cricket team or a seat at a decent university. It was quite common for us to have 2, or even 3 sets of classes to take – regular school lessons, after-school tuitions and weekend sports or arts classes.
Teachers made all the difference to help kids learn to navigate this complex, competitive world, which is probably why gurus are so revered in South Asian cultures.
In our family, we made it a point to always appreciate teachers and mentors growing up, inviting them to family events, celebrating them on Teacher’s Day or just giving a hand written note during their birthdays. As a rule, I’ve tried to maintain this as an adult, doing check-ins with mentors who’ve helped me in my career and personal life, and trying to help upcoming professionals in their journey.
Upon introspection, most of us realize how our childhoods shape our adult identities, and taking time to appreciate the role your parents and extended family have had to make you who you are can help strengthen your bond.
2 thoughts on “Business Skills Learned From My Parents”
Great blog. Enjoyed reading it
You wont recognize me since you were too small when i saw you ,i m Anu,your mom n dad know me.
Infac t your father alwsysused to motivate me when I used to approach him for any help trying fr job after my father’s sudden demise.In fact he filled up my form fir d job i m holding today,when i was very reluctant.
Very few youngsters of today’s generation imbibe what you have ,first n foremost the humbleness you have,the respect for your parents and gurus,yes its d legacy you have earned from your lovely parents.
And your mom is another person who is so simple,frank ,intelligent and modest.
My regards n love to you all.
Keep up d good qualities you have.
God bless you.Eager to know how you look now.Share your pics