Excerpts from a speech given at Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, Scotland, together with my son, Siddharth Suchde / July 2017
Roy T. Bennett once said, and I quote, “You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone”.
Let me begin by telling you my story. I grew up in Mumbai, India, in a traditional Indian family. My dream as a young graduate was to become a lawyer, my family disapproved of their daughter practising in court. I then made a choice to go to Management school, but, this too was ruled out. And so, with little choice, I decided to start my own business and became an Entrepreneur, creating high-value fashion garments. Wanting to expand my knowledge in Fashion as my business grew, I decided to take a bold step and enrolled in Parsons School of Fashion, in New York city (NYC). This time around I was ready to challenge the status quo.
The year was 1990 and I remember landing in NYC to a culture shock. Coming from a protective family background, NYC seemed overwhelming and Culture was making me infantile. (Just to give you an idea of the times, back then we still made long distance phone calls over landlines; the iPhone launched in 2007).
It would take a full 8 weeks before I learnt to walk and talk the NY way. NYC created a shift in me by pushing me out of my privileged, comfortable lifestyle into an unknown zone. Taking the step from familiarity into newness, instilled in me a sense of self-confidence, and liberated me.
No doubt, it is certainly easier to do what everyone else is doing. However, there is a far more insidious danger to such a life. That’s because it isn’t adversity that knocks us on the head; rather, it is the tedium of life within the comfort zone that chips away from the inside. When we allow the world to give us a template where our choices are already made and defined for us – whether it is an illustrious career, a socially advantageous partner or the expectations of a particular lifestyle, we are allowing other people to take over our life.
The world we are all living in – is in a phase of accelerating change, and in such a scenario there’s nothing more dangerous than holding on to what we know. And yet, despite whatever talent, education or achievements, I can count on, I still don’t have all the answers. But, the minute we take responsibility for our own life and actions, we cross the expiry date of blaming anyone else.
I wrote earlier that I had not been allowed to go to management school? Well, 35 years later, I challenged myself and made a choice, to go back to study. In 2016, I graduated from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, with an MBA, achieving another curve of personal growth in my journey.
Each and every one of us has the privilege of choice, and that is the biggest advantage that life can ever give anyone. And even if it isn’t apparent or seems difficult, we still have the privilege; to choose an automatic, templated life, or to use our privilege and choose a live a life of achievement!