Important lessons for the 21st Century!

First of all, a big thank you for reading and sharing my previous article. You all are extremely kind and encouraging!
A very warm welcome to the second part of Two cents from Akansha!

I am turning 25 next month (which is a significant number in one’s life for some reason) and I can’t help but ponder on how my life has been so far.. the kind of person I am!
I am honestly quite proud and happy with who I am, and I am extremely grateful to the experiences I’ve had so far — both good and bad — that have made me the person that I am today. I am quite excited to see how the next 25 years will unfold.

I took this picture of my brother when he decided to climb this muddy hill, all alone while it was raining, just to get a better view of the Quiraing during one of our family trips in Scotland. I still can’t exactly wrap my head around what he got from doing this, but he came back stoked, saying that it was a great experience!

Experiences are what make a person who they are. Through this article, I want to share a few of my experiences and learnings that have been indispensable to my personal and professional journey, hoping that they would add some value to your own journey. So here it goes —

Lesson 1 — Find a mentor!
You must have realised that all successful people have one thing in common — a mentor! Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs; Bill Gates had Warren Buffet; Richard Branson had Sir Freddie Laker; Christian Dior had Yves St. Laurent. So why is it that when we look around, we seldom find people having mentors?

I think it’s important to have two mentors — 1) one outside of work 2) one at work. The outside of work mentor keeps you relevant in this fast changing world and provides a different perspective while the at work mentor exactly knows what you’re doing wrong (and right) and is able to provide an inside out view. 
A mentor will help you navigate through this very confusing life and just maybe will keep you away from making some avoidable mistakes. 
Quick Lesson — A mentor should be someone who truly believes in you, resonates with you, invests in you, pushes you to pursue things you don’t think you are capable of, inspires you and most importantly gives it straight to you when you need it.
Finding the right mentor can be tricky though (especially at work) and personally, it took me a few pit stops to get to the right one (so don’t give up easy and make a conscious effort!) My at work mentor has not only created opportunities for me that I didn’t know existed but he is also very transparent with me. He is my mirror when I need one (which is very often).
My at home mentor (outside mentor) is my elder brother who pushes me, calls me out on my sometimes lazy attitude and on my bullshit, celebrates my smallest victories and is the google maps of my life. He is my constant second opinion.
I learn something new from both of them every single day! They make my life and my decisions much easier and sometimes more difficult (but in a good way). With so many things going on simultaneously at any given point in life, its necessary to have someone who helps you to make sense of things and give them some perspective.

Lesson 2 — Network.
I feel networking is the most under-rated yet most vital skill in our society. Yuval Noah Harari in his famous book ‘Sapiens’ attributes the survival of homo sapiens to their innate nature to gossip and form social circles. 
I am not so sure about species survival but I do know that to grow professionally and personally, it is imperative to network. Networking not only creates new avenues for you but it also puts you on the map! 
Quick Lesson — Don’t network for the sake of it, instead network to build relationships. Business is all about building relationships (yes, even when you work for a capitalist), so start early; It’s simple — You get what you give (atleast that is what my mother told me).

I started a speaker series called Barclays Speaks in 2017 with the sole purpose to educate and spread awareness about life outside of work. What I didn’t realise then was the avenues it would open up for me. Through this initiative, I’ve interacted with some phenomenal people such as Ankur Warikoo (CEO, Lila Poonawalla (PadmaShree recipient), Gladson Peter (India’s one man band), Stefan Haves (Director/Actor at Cirque Du Soleil), to name a few. I have also met some most wonderful and talented human’s who I can reach out to any time of the day (Elstan, Siddharth, Raja, Manish, Ajay, Harry, Bhaskar, Aditya, Sri, Virendra, Sameer and everyone else who has been a part of this). I have gotten the opportunity to interact with my entire leadership at Barclays in India through this initiative and it has truly given me an identity and unmatched opportunities, outside and inside of Barclays! 
I cannot even begin to quantify the learning that I have had by starting this initiative.
Quick Lesson — You can create opportunities for yourself anywhere as I did with Barclays Speaks. All you need to do is to take the plunge!

Lesson 3 — Be Yourself!
For those of you who are adulting, it’s pretty easy to lose your way and often lose yourself in the sea of opportunities available to you. Therefore, its important to understand what you truly stand for and to be your authentic self. So be it at work or outside, don’t try to impersonate someone because even if you succeed, that’ll just be temporary. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to be our better selves everyday but ensure that you don’t compromise on your basic values and ethics during the process.

Quick Lesson — Stand up for what you believe in (right or wrong), ask stupid questions and challenge the status quo! You will be surprised to witness how refreshing people find this. At the same time, don’t just disagree for the sake of it. 
Especially when you start a new role, the whole experience or situation can be daunting. Lay low and try to understand the entire landscape first by asking questions. Once you get more comfortable, start challenging the process. Every good leader is looking for people who aren’t afraid and have the ability to challenge the status quo and bring something valuable to the table and that’s one reason why they love our generation!

Lesson 4 — Make friends outside of work!
Companies, Schools, Colleges are focusing more and more on diversity. Why?Because research has proven diversity to be beneficial for the business. Diversity brings different perspectives, thoughts and ideas to the table and it helps people learn from each other’s differences. But do we really experience true diversity at work?
When I think about my peers at work, we all are engineers from a great institution with similar interests and thought-process who work a similar 9–10 hour job at the same company and face similar challenges at work. Some of us even live together. Even when we socialize outside of work, 90% of the time, we talk about work with a similar view-point. Don’t get me wrong, I love these guys but is this giving me the whole experience?

I have friends outside of work and across the globe who are part time DJs and full-time consultants, restaurant/bar owners, doctors, fashion stylists, full-time DJs, sports managers/football players, photographers, tech entrepreneurs, Salsa instructors, robotics engineers, and trust me there is no better learning than by having a simple conversation with them. They challenge me and make me re-think my decisions by asking the most basic questions, they always provide an unbaised opinion, and most importantly they make me think outside-the-box. They keep me relevant and also keep my sanity in check. 
Quick Lesson — Build your tribe and spend time with people who inspire you, who you can learn from. In the end, you become who you spend your time with, so choose wisely! Spend time with optimistic people who motivate you, believe in you and your dreams. Mark Manson in The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck talks about how by focusing on the worst case scenarios, we end up spending our energy on the negatives. Instead, we should concentrate on the positives. For the world to believe in you, you have to first believe in yourself and if you truly believe in something, sooner or later, it will happen! Quick Lesson — Be compassionate and appreciate people around you, especially your tribe. 
The other day my other brother was talking about how he’s so lucky to have his wife, me, my brother and my brother’s wife (I will talk about them sometime later) in his life and how we inspire him everyday to be better and to do better! Such an easy thing to say, yet I think about it everyday.

Lesson 5 — Spend your time wisely and judiciously! 
Ever had the feeling that time is slipping by or moving too fast? You need to take charge of how and who you spend your time with. Remember, now is the time to go out there and give it your best shot to make all your dreams come true and you’re NEVER going to get this time back.

Quick Lesson — Invest time in yourself. Read that book, write that blog, join the gym, make that song, learn that thing you’ve been wanting to for so long, start that company, have that conversation, catch that flight or train and explore the world. Discover yourself and Prioritize yourself!
Being the kind of person who can kick off a conversation with a total stranger within a few minutes, I find it extremely difficult to be alone. In-fact being alone is probably one of my biggest fears! As life would have it, last year most of my friends moved to the US for their masters. I was kinda forced to spend time with myself (well, at least for a week or two before I made new friends). It made me realise how wonderful and essential it is to be by yourself; how important it is to comprehend your own thoughts to attain clarity and find some direction.
Instead of socialising every weekend and exhausting myself in the process, I have now learned to strike a balance between the two. I have been more productive, thoughtful and relaxed since then. I now have the time to do things I really care about such as helping the community, writing and discovering myself in the process, and it is absolutely amazing! I have time to concentrate on my health, cook and eat healthy, and hit the gym. I know this is what is going to help me in the long run.

Quick Lesson — Reduce your screen time. I am myself trying to be better at this. It’s great to have someone to talk to all the time, being connected with your friends across the country or the world all the time, but don’t compromise on your me time while doing so. Instead just call them once or twice a week and meet people over a meal, coffee or a drink in real life. It’s a much better experience!

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to feedback. I will come back with more stories and learnings. I am grateful for your generous feedback and comments on my previous post, and that I am able to add some value to your lives!

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