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  • Shamila Gopalan

Life Lessons Learned in My 40’s That I Wish I Could Tell My 20-Year-Old Self




These past few weeks I have been sitting on panels, speaking and conducting workshops and lunch & learns in conjunction with #IWD - International Women’s Day/Week/Month. I am a little tired but I feel honoured and grateful to be able to share my entrepreneurial journey with other amazing women on these panels and in the room.


I get a lot of young women, either recently graduated, or finishing up college, or entering the workplace, that comes through after with various career, entrepreneurial, and life questions.

With these discussions and events, I started thinking back to my 20s and 30s (I am in my 40’s now) and the lessons that I have learned. So as part of the #IWD2020, I’m sharing my life lessons learned in my 40 that I wish I could teach my 20-year-old self.


Prioritize Your Passions

Just a heads up, this might be a slightly long vlog, so just bear with me.


The first point is to prioritise your passions. I always knew I wanted to be media, television, advertising and, content and in the creative scene, even when I was young. Even though my parents wanted me to be somebody else or do something else. They wanted me to be being a lawyer actually, or an accountant. And that wasn't really what I wanted to do.


So I always made sure I kept my dreams in sight. And my first job out of college was actually advertising and then I moved into media and then television.


So for those of you, even if you can't build your career around your passions in the beginning, you can always carve out time to work on them each and every day. So either finds different outlets or different, I guess a side hustle, or even in the beginning, you can actually start maybe learning stuff online.


There's so much information online these days that you can become an expert at anything.


Even I saw a video the other day where you could be an expert at being a woodcutter and you wouldn't even know how to cut wood. I mean, that's phenomenal.


And always remember that your goals, your dreams, your passions, it will change and it will evolve. And that's okay, just go with it.


You don't have to get it right straight away, but at least, focus on them and be aware that there are certain passions that you want to prioritize and you want to pursue because as you get older, it actually really benefits you.



Focus On Flow

The second thing that I actually totally have come to realise as I got older was to focus on my flow. If any of you guys watch Oprah or follow Oprah, she talks a lot about this. And it's really around, focusing on not things like when we were growing up watching the Disney shows, we were always shown that you're gonna marry the prince or you're gonna marry the rich guy or the rich girl and live happily ever after. That's not true. Disney got it wrong, I hate to break it to you.


So getting rich and retiring is not the ultimate goal in life. That's definitely something I realised.


Retiring or getting older and not having any dreams or any passions or even hobbies is really an inevitable decline to be quite honest.


I believe a life well lived means purpose, and we should strive for flow because that's how we find our purpose.


A famous, psychologist and author of the book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience defines flow as


“A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

And you see this in creative people, in artists, in actors, in people who wanna pursue their passions.


So I guess the question that I will ask you to think about is, what activities bring you into a flow state?


How can you spend more time in the state of clarity and excitement?


Flow activities really nourish your soul. It gives you inner satisfaction and is infinitely more valuable than the outward appearance of success.


Become Financially Literate

The third point that I think is really important, and this has been a subject that I think has been in discussion throughout a lot of the conversations, and panels that I've been on this past few weeks is to prioritize and become financially literate.


My number one regret was that when I started my first job, or even when I was in college, I wish I had learned more about investments and money management, and learn how to grow my portfolio and be able to understand how to make my money work for me, instead of me working for my money in my nine to five job because that's what a lot of us are doing, especially women.


I think we have a fear of wanting to talk about money, and I think that needs to stop.


We need to start in a lot more open and having conversations with our girlfriends about it, about what our supers are, how do we do this? How do we save? Who do we work with? Where do we invest at the beginning of our careers?


And I think we have to learn about saving and investing wisely because these are the things that will help you achieve the financial goals that you would need in order to pursue your passions, whether you're at a slightly older stage, in your mid-30s or even in your 40s and you decide, you know what, I wanna go out and pursue my passion and become an entrepreneur.


You would have a platform or the fundamentals that allow you to do that, and you need money to survive. We all need to keep the lights on and pay our bills. So that's the realistic part of it.


So I think we need to start having more conversations around money and not be afraid to do that. So that's really, really crucial.


Travel & Experiences Not Stuff

Point number four, is invest in travel and experiences and not stuff.

Because when you spend your hard-earned money on experiences, these are the things that you will remember and you will look back on in nostalgia when you're older. I remember, when I went off on a three month holiday to New Zealand, when I was 20, I went on my own and it was my one and only backpack holiday, and I chose the safest country on the planet. But the biggest thing I remember that I did was I skydived. I am so afraid of heights, and till today, I'm so glad I did and experienced that because it's something that I'll never forget. Even while I'm talking to you about it right now, I still remember that feeling.


So don't go buy stuff that you don't need in your 20s and 30s. Because you'll spend your 40s decluttering, oh my god, that's what I did right before I moved here two years ago. And you realize that you've got all this crap that you don't actually need.


So invest your money or invest in experiences.


Don't buy crap.


And travel, how does that tie into this is, I think travel's really important because that's part of how you build your experiences. But travel actually opens up your mind. It allows you to be more empathetic towards things, and you will gain a lot more confidence. I remember when I first started travelling and travelling on my own from that trip that I did to the US when I was really young, right up to when I was working and travelling on my own for work. It really helps you build that confidence that you need.


Because when you're in a foreign country, and they speak a foreign language, and you need to make arrangements order or do something, and you do it, you feel like you can do anything, so bingo. Definitely, definitely do that.


Know Your Personality Type

The fifth point - definitely have an understanding of your personality type. I think it's important to start evaluating what kind of person you are, become more self-aware of who you are.


When I was younger, I thought I was an extrovert. Only because of my past, I thought I always needed to be open, and I always needed to be friendly with other people to be liked and accepted.


But then as I got older, I realized that actually I'm an ambivert. And an ambivert is actually someone who is a mixture of an extrovert and an introvert.


And I think a lot of us feel the pressure that we need to be extrovert because that is the western ideal. If you're an extrovert, it means you're successful, you are driven, you're really articulate, you are someone that people want to be around.


Hence I think you need to actually come to the realisation of what you really are because then, you make the right choices in your career, and in your life, and even in the businesses that you want to pursue. And that just needs you to be a happier person.


Perfectionism Is Bad

I used to wear perfectionism like a badge of honour. I was like, I'm a perfectionist, and now I need things done 1,000% right. And that stems from my upbringing because when I was growing up, I felt I needed to be perfect or do things perfectly, to get my mother's attention and love. And that just carried on into my adult life.


And I remember in my previous business which was in television and entertainment, I used to actually work really long hours trying to make sure everything was done 110% right. It was all or nothing. Unfortunately, this led to me burning out.


And I just knew that it was just not good for me because I didn't have the balance that I needed to live a happy life.


So you know that sometimes you might miss an "off" or "too" in your social media posts, in your sentence. It's not a big deal, it happens. People would still know what you're trying to say. Of course, strive to make sure your grammar and your Ts and Ps are all crossed, but it's okay if they're not sometimes because we're all trying to get things done, we're all trying to put things out there and you don't beat yourself up for it.


Trying to be 100% perfect all the time is not sustainable, and it's super unhealthy.


And most of all, it actually paralyzes you from taking action, and that's the worst.


So the only way to get better is to do it, fail and move on and learn from it. If you do this enough, you will be ahead in the game of life.


Appreciate Your Healthy Body

Last but not least, appreciate your healthy body.


When I was in my younger days, I always compared myself to the prettier girls, the thinner girls, the fairer girls, and I always wanted to be like them. I never used to leave my house without any makeup on in my 20s but today, it doesn't bother me. If I don't have a meeting or on the weekends, I leave my house fresh-faced - this is who I am - wrinkles and all!.


And you got to stop looking at images on Instagram or of Photoshoped people who look perfect because it's Instagram, and it's not real. It's gonna make you miserable if you keep comparing yourself to them because it's not real.


And I'll give an example. So I was traveling once and I was in a hotel room, and I was flipping through the English channels. And I came across E! Entertainment which had "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." And it's a reality show about the Kardashian, the family. And these were all women in full makeup, fantastic, well-dressed, skimpy tight clothing, plastic pads parading around their mansions, driving big cars, having big parties.


And then on BBC, they were airing "Gardeners' World." And this was hilarious because there were two muddy, older women in baggy trousers and they were covered in mud, which is why I say muddy, wearing absolutely no makeup, no jewellery, and we're so enthusiastic about digging in the garden and talking about flowers.


I was just like, wow. The contrast between these images on the two channels will forever be ingrained in my head. It was so refreshing to see women enthusiastically engaged in an activity they loved without having any expectations of looking good for a TV audience.


So I will leave you with this, this Friday is that when you start feeling bad about your appearance or that you haven't done anything perfectly, or you know, you're not, you're not sure what your passions and your purpose is, don't worry. Flip on to "Gardeners' World," and remember rule number one, prioritize your passions.



#PursueYourPassion #PrioritizeYourPassion #FemaleLeaders #LifeLessons


_________________________________________________________________________


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