Connections Life Lessons: Future Leaders Share Their Stories
One of the greatest aspects of my career, education, and life in general has been meeting people. I love meeting people and getting to know their stories, what makes them tick and how they handle life challenges. I have met several young leaders over the years and I want to give voice to their stories. Thus, I have asked a few of them to share their stories as part of my Connections blog. I will not set a schedule but will share these when I receive them. I hope that by sharing their stories, you get to know a great young leader but also perhaps see a bit of your story in theirs. Perhaps we can learn from each other in this manner.
The first Story comes from Sunny Joshi. I met Sunny when he reached out to me at Aon. Interested in business and technology, he wanted to introduce himself to the CTO and offer any help he could provide with regard to our many ongoing initiatives. Over the months since that introduction, he has connected with me for lunch a few times, actively follows me on twitter and has connected with others in the network. I am excited about his future and honored to be a part of his present.
I hope you enjoy reading his story and encourage you to also follow this young leader as he charts his future toward success.
Be well! Lead On.
Adam L. Stanley
When Life Gives You Lemons
Guest Blog by Sunny K. Joshi
I think it’s safe to assume that many (if not all) of us, are who we are today because of the experiences we’re faced with in life, be they negative or positive. When life gives us lemons, we make a choice to become sour or make lemonade.
I remember the time when I was young and got sick; my mom would force me to take medicine whether I liked it or not, because it was good for me. I’m now an adult and things haven’t changed much, except the context. When I’m faced with a challenging situation, I have to make a choice and act. Either I can throw a fit or I can do what’s required with the right attitude. Either way I’ll overcome that challenge, but it’s the attitude that dictates whether I’ll do it with a smile or a frown on my face. On occasion, we all regret the choices we make and want to turn back the clock, but that’s not possible. If not managed properly, these traits can continue to haunt us in our lives and as a result, we may miss great opportunities that may otherwise be presented to us. For those of us that achieve results with a smile on our face, we tend to look beyond the natural constraints and begin to have a buoyant outlook on life, regardless of the situation.
Developing this kind of attitude doesn’t come easy, especially if our surrounding environment holds us back. Nevertheless, this is something I personally continuously strive to enforce as I interact with my peers, colleagues, and family on a daily basis. I may even have come up with a simple formula to having a positive attitude.
Positive Attitude = (Hope + Vision) x Influence
I like to think of my attitude as a sum of many years of hope and vision, multiplied by surrounding influences. I constantly take steps to ensure I am not losing track of my vision and constantly surround myself with people that support me. I believe that having the right support that motivates and encourages you at all times is the key to having a positive attitude, which then ultimately leads to success. I can have unlimited hope and vision, however if my surrounding environment is not influential or negative, I will fall short of my vision and ultimately lose hope.
Growing up, I came very close to losing that hope and taking a different path than the one I am on today. Had it not been for the positive influences in my life, I would have been another man.
About 15 years ago, my parents left everything they had in India and migrated to Chicago so that I could have a quality education. When I was ten, life threw a few curve balls at me. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was separated from my parents a few days after landing in the U.S. and was forced to move to Canada with my relatives. My parents struggled holding jobs in Chicago, each working 16-20 hour shifts daily to make ends meet. After a few months of savings and getting their own apartment, my parents called me back and I brought 50 more pounds with me, just in time for school. They say when you’re worried, turning to food is the greatest comfort, and right they were. Talk about an awful time to gain weight ….
A rough Junior High experience almost made me give up.
For those of you that have gone through the educational system in the United States, junior high is an extremely critical time. It will either make you or break you. Everyone is part of a clique or a special group. (Forgive my stereotyping, but imagine this from the perspective of an awkward youth…) You have your athletes, some of whom are “jocks” that are the arrogant types and tend to rank highest in popularity. Then there are the preps, the rich types who care less about what anyone thinks of them. And, alas, you have the nerds that have no fashion sense, are typically deemed unattractive, often have braces, and are notoriously teacher’s pets. You can look at the picture of me as a youngster and may just put me in one of the three categories. Hint: I remember not smiling in the picture so that I could hide my braces.
My first day of junior high I was labeled as a “f.o.b” (fresh off the boat). How do you get such a prominent title you ask? Well for starters, you have to have a heavy accent in the English language. Each time I would say “Thank you” to someone, I would hear another kid yell the infamous quote from The Simpsons Quikee Mart character Apu, “Thank You Come Again!” Another requirement is that you have to eat and smell like curry 24/7 if you’re from India. I actually don’t blame the kids for calling me out on that because in all honesty, Indian cuisine does have strong smells that take some getting used to. In addition to being the new (maybe the only) “f.o.b” in my school, I was a nerd in the making. Even after attending classes for a couple of weeks, I somehow managed to have no sense of fashion. I wore dress pants with sneakers and had prescription glasses with maroon frames. I had also just gotten braces for my extreme overbite (picture Bugs Bunny).
Did I also mention I was overweight and had no friends? I had two people that I could call friends because they were in the same class with me and would try to engage in a conversation with me periodically. The computer became my best friend and I kept myself busy with piano and drawing lessons to avoid thinking about school. My home remained my only sanctuary, until a few students found my number from the student directory, called my house, and made racist comments. I remember one of them calling and saying, “Go back to India, Gandhi!” I was a victim of bullying, both physical and emotional. I’ll spare the details of the vulgarity I dealt with. I started to develop a sense of anger and rage towards those individuals but there was nothing I could do about it. Then there came a time where I almost gave up and was getting ready to go back to India.
When I decided to make my lemonade…
My biggest turning point was when my mom told me that I should learn to face my problems rather than avoid them. At this very early age, I began to realize that prejudice is part of life. Rather than run from it, I should learn to accept it and move forward. I decided to be proud of who I was and make a difference being me rather than simply trying to fit in. Since then I’ve been making lemonade out of the lemons that life occasionally throws at me. Oh yeah, I’ve also taken care of my physique since then. Nevertheless, I can never forget my time in junior high because I constantly look back on those people that almost pushed me off the edge and thank them for ultimately making me believe in myself. Had it not been for the influence (negative and positive) and support I received early on, I can’t begin to imagine where I would be today.
Spreading the Positive Attitude
What about you? Who has influenced you the most to have a positive attitude in life? Whether you’ve been a victim of bullying or have had a similar experience that pushed you to your limits, I hope the decision you made then is something you are proud of today. Life somehow manages to throw all of us a curve ball every now and then, so it’s best to be prepared and have the right attitude to take on anything life throws.
As I meet people that come from all walks of life, I try to give them the same support I received that made me who I am today. A common advice I give to everyone with whom I build relationships is never underestimate yourself. Your potential is more about what you believe in and not what others see in you. Having a positive attitude about life and your surroundings are a start.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs
Be proud of who you are, always be willing to accept criticism, and use it to emerge as a better individual.
Wishing you all the success in life,
Sunny K. Joshi
Follow me on twitter @joshisunny
If you would like to guest blog as part of this series, please contact me via twitter, linked in, or by posting a comment on this blog. Thanks, Adam