When I first set out on the journey of entrepreneurship almost three years ago, I was not myself.
My every idea, statement and movement was fraught with anxiety, self-doubt and insecurity. My days were chaotic and my thoughts were mired in what seemed to be a constant state of disarray. To my young son, I was expected to be a non-stop mother, housekeeper, cook and butler all rolled into one! And that job never gave way to the parallel pressures of supportive wife and accessible daughter. Oh, and did I mention that I continued to have a day job at a prominent international financial institution which demanded a steely work ethic and pin-point precision with every interaction?
There were days when I felt that planning a new venture -- let alone engineering its formal launch -- were nothing more than pipe dreams washed away in the rough waters of an unrelenting sea. That sea was the cascade of everyday tasks rushing down on me from the break of dawn until the dead of night when my child’s head finally nodding away in slumber.
Fast forward to today and I would be lying if I said that the acute pressures of the past have been stripped away. The naked truth is that life unapologetically moves on, plowing forward like a bullet train. I now have two small children. My family has relocated to a different country. And life has been thrown upside down due to the dystopian lockdowns and quarantines that cast a weighty shadow over even the most benign of motions.
I do not have an indefatigable spirit. I am not a mega-mom or super-wife. I am wired the same exact way you are, with the same vulnerabilities and limitations. So what has kept me going through all this? What energy has kept my motivation alive and my instincts sharp, you wonder?
My reality is that there is no secret solution to de-cluttering the mind or to balancing the vagaries of daily life. But one constant, recurring theme throughout my personal and professional trajectory has been reliance on the thoughtful and steady guidance of mentors. These have been individuals -- more often than not women -- who have been kind and empathetic. People who have been active listeners and sounding boards. Individuals who have inspired and instructed, lending their own growth stories in success (and failure!) as blueprints for my own journey in business.
When on the receiving end of advice, it can often be second-nature to be dismissive, underestimating or disconnected. I’ve always sidestepped these traps, instead training myself to listen with intention and implement with purpose. But being mindful is only half the explanation. The other half lies with paying it forward. That is to say, being fortunate enough to be the repository of knowledge and experience is only truly fulfilling when one can transition those benefits to others in need of direction.
And that’s what keeps me going. The empathy and sympathy of others, coupled with my genuine desire to elevate those in my periphery. They say that rising tides raise all ships. I’ve found that when I integrate this ethos into my communications with mentors and mentees alike, my purpose and vision is placed in perspective and infused with a sense of humility, gratitude and satisfaction.
Sushmitha Pidatala is the Founder and CEO of Arjuna, a South Asian décor and home goods designer and curator, producing carefully crafted artisanal items and accent pieces for the contemporary home. She is also a mother, wife and daughter who has been intentional in seeking out the wisdom of others and paying it forward.
You can follow her journey on Instagram and facebook @arjunadesignstudio.com