Be Brave, in Business and in Life.....
A big statement I know, often said and seldom followed through on. As humans we tend to err on the side of safety, safety can come in the form of monetary, safety from ridicule, fear of failure or judgement by others and so on.
Since we were children we’ve been taught to colour within the lines, do this, don’t do that, and as soon as you’re old enough to speak being asked to choose what you want to be when you grow up. And my absolute favourite, the word no which, by the time you’re an adult you’d have been told thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of times.
Our schooling system is great at making sure people keep to their lane or conform so to speak, selecting from the menu of careers which are ‘acceptable’, better known as safe and secure jobs. However, I don’t believe this is intended to brainwash us into becoming vanilla, what I do believe is that this rigid structure of conformity squeezes the life out of creativity and courage in the way one thinks about their future, particularly what their passionate about.
The one size fits all curriculum does prepare you for society in very broad terms but once you’re out in the wild it can be a scary place, and this my friends is where I believe the majority of us revert back to that safety zone because we have been taught to feel secure and safe. Our entire lives have been spent in educational systems where our minds have become conditioned and we are most comfortable staying within the boundaries set.
In the same breath, our own families, well mine at least were on the same path in a sense of go to university/college, get a degree, become a doctor and the most common in the immigrant families, get a secure job for life. All of this is about conformity and security, I can understand that families want you to be a as safe as possible on your journey through life, I completely understand that and commend their intentions.
For me, I mostly went along with it and was on my way to studying at university or college with a view, ironically, to getting a secure job in the schooling system itself. However, throughout my teenage years I started to question myself around what I wanted out of life, what did I want to spend the next 40 years or so doing for 8 or more hours a day, and would my chosen field make me happy. When you’ve been conditioned to err on the side of safety and you start to question your pathway it can really make you feel conflicted, and I must say I certainly was.
What rung true for me though was that key word, happy. What would make me happy, and that’s when I realised that being a teacher wasn’t it, sure I’d get 10 weeks of leave a year, have stability in employment and an unparalleled maternity leave policy if I chose to have a child. But rather than come straight out and tell my family it’s not what I wanted to do, I continued on the pathway and kept to my lane as I had been taught from a very young age, most likely because I didn’t know what I was going to do, so how can you counter an argument when your family then asks, so what do you want to do.
That conditioning, the years of spoken at and told what to do or what you will become even before the time you develop critical thinking skills, I believe really sets fear boundaries, and in the family sense, guilt boundaries as you are programmed to not disappoint your family.
The turning point for me was when I was working at a local supermarket and my second job waitressing where I really stopped and thought, is this what working for a wage feels like, clocking on and off like an automaton and existing rather than living. During this time of my life I was saving up to pay for my degree and buy myself a car so I had some sort of financial freedom when I left high school. I continued to study and was well on the way to sacrificing my secret desire to follow my passion, I didn’t even know what my passion was at the time, I just knew I didn’t want to be stuck in a job where I didn’t really love what I was doing. Ultimately, it didn’t make me happy.
I finished school and passed, the next step in this ‘follow the bouncing ball’ life was to receive offers from universities, I was actually disappointed that I passed, had I failed it would have given me reason to just go get a job until I figured out what I actually want to do. The offers started to come in and I ended up choosing a university and setting the date.
Now, going back to the conditioning of our minds, this is where the pressure of not disappointing my family really started to torment me. Add to this the years of schooling which also told me to get that secure job and follow the bouncing ball through university, internship and career, and this is where we all need to make a choice. Do you succumb to societal and family pressures and your own mental conditioning, or do you make a stand and be brave enough to choose your own path in life?
The time came and I went to enrol, standing at the registration desk with my mother, pen in hand I just stopped. The staff member looked at me blankly and I dropped the pen on the enrolment form, this is it, this was the moment where I chose to be brave. I advised the university that I wanted to defer for a year knowing full well I’d never be back, I made the decision to take charge of my own life and it was the bravest decision I had ever made; it wasn’t a popular one but it’s served me well.
Making these sorts of decisions to take control of the steering wheel can be difficult, and of course there was fallout, particularly from my family who had all expected the pattern of school, job, marriage, kids and life to continue. These are the challenges that I faced, by being brave.
For me, it was the most liberating decision of my life, because now I’m here running my own business in an industry I love, designing and making sneakers for my own brand. That courage, the brave decision I made to break from conformity has set the tone for the way I do business today, in the lead up to launching KALON Sneakers I held several jobs all the while knowing that my destiny lay elsewhere.
Knowing where you want to get to gives you laser like focus, it gets you through every day you’re working for an employer and allows you to enjoy it as much as possible, because your destiny is in sight, and your roadmap to that destination includes working for someone else. Let’s be honest, at 18 it’s unlikely you’ve got the financial resources to just up and launch a business so the reality is that you need to gather those resources through traditional means, it’s called being employed and that’s perfectly ok.
So every penny I earned, every sacrifice I made led me to being able to launch my business, on my terms, and I am now happier than ever. I would rather spend the next however many years doing what I love and making less, than to be confined in an institutionalised way of working.
I’m happy, happy because I chose to be brave, in life and in business.