Thirty years in the blink of an eye. Who would have thought they’d go the way they did?
On the 7th of April 1991, I left Belgrade, Serbia, then Yugoslavia, on the wings of excitement and trepidation to join a company in Tokyo, Japan. Their job offer came as a delightful surprise that had crowned the years of hard work and study as a graduate of Japanese and English language, in let’s say, very basic conditions – photocopied textbooks, lower ground floor language labs that were cold and not so clean, not much opportunity to practice my Japanese….I had no clue about business or corporate life. All I knew was that I was a hard worker, I had a huge drive and ambition, a thirst for knowledge and new experiences…I’d left my tearful parents and a pre-war Yugoslavia with innocence and naivety of a twenty-something from a socialist country, who has after all, lived a sheltered, though modest life.
I had my baptism of fire in a Japanese corporation, in a bustling megalopolis – Tokyo, where oceans of people were always around you, where trains ran with clockwork precision, where food and people were delightful, but workdays were as long they could possibly be, merging into one indistinguishable flow of packed train rides, countless meetings, business trips, corporate entertainment, and the list goes on…
My natural sense of responsibility and drive for excellence ensured that I embraced Japanese ways of working, especially client relationship building, loyalty and care, with open arms. I had managed, somehow, to overcome the 3 biggest challenges that you could face in a Japanese corporation – being female, young and foreign!
My career accelerated and at 29 I was made the managing director of the London office and was actually responsible for European operations of the company. I have certainly learned a lot and went through yet another baptism of fire, without any formal business training – I had to pick up an awful lot and also find some trusted advisors to help me.
In the last 25 odd years I’ve been in London, I have also had a number of challenges, but also many highs. If someone asked me to sum up my best tips from my life and career, working with people from around the world, running my career coaching business for the last 5 years and everything that preceded it, I’d say:
-Awareness is key. Learn to check in with yourself if what you are doing and whether where you are heading is true for you – in sync with your true self.
-Keep your mind and heart connected. Don’t forget about the spirit! Once you engage your physical, mental, emotional and spirit body, you will have a wholesome life.
-Never stop learning and growing. Learn from the best, learn from your own mistakes, but also from your intuition.
-Ask! Ask for help, get trusted advisors, mentors, coaches, teachers – whatever works for you. Believing that you don’t need help and there’s nothing to learn – is not only arrogant, – but guarantees that you will be stuck and you may not even know it!
-Be brave. Only by stepping out of your comfort zone, can you grow. When you feel discomfort, even fear, – rejoice! This means you are growing and expanding your experience base and your outlook on life.
-Be humble, but celebrate yourself. Love yourself, honour yourself.
-Be generous – with your time, love, ideas, help, thoughts, inspiration…
-Be patient, but also persistent. Never give up on your dreams and goals! Never! You may need to adjust, regroup or figure out another way, but giving up Is not an option! That is – if you want to honour yourself and live a fulfilled life.
-Know what you love and then do it! Do the work that you love. Follow your path, not someone else’s!
-Be resilient. Take FULL responsibility – this means, you are the only creator of your life and whatever happens in your life, you have created it!
-Be kind. Compassion is the true healer and carries life force. Start with yourself! Be generous and compassionate towards yourself. Then, expand this on to others.
-Last, but not least – be in JOY! This is in a inside job. Learn how to create an energy flow within you, that will sustain you even in the most difficult moments. Embrace every moment with joy. Remember – sometimes you may not be able to change things or people around you – but you can always change how you respond. You can always choose love and joy.
So, here’s to another 30 years of adventures, may they exceed my wildest dreams! I wish you the same – and remember – pause from time to time, reflect, take stock. You will be surprised with what gems, pearls of wisdom you may discover.