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Seeking New Experiences

By Sindhujaa Kumar for The Economic Times

Sam Kass is a deviant.

He was White House Chef to the Obamas – the guy who cooked for the First Family and all their high rolling guests. He is also a food activist, eventually becoming a Health Policy Maker for America. Born middle class, he chased after his seemingly unrelated interests in culinary arts and history/ policy. In exchange for boarding and sustenance, he travelled to fascinating corners of the world as a chef (it all started when he had volunteered as a sous-chef for a friend’s restaurant, just for fun), while silently delving into his books on policy in his free time.

He did not do it with the intention of joining the world’s most powerful man one day- to usher in a revolution in nutrition and anti-obesity activism for the country. He did it because he found it fun. These subjects captivated his interest and imagination, and instead of stumbling along some well-beaten professional path that society asked him to pursue, he simply went in search of himself. Look where it led him!

He relied less on predicting his career path, and threw himself into new experiences. Instead of climbing a set ‘career-ladder’, Sam just followed his own artistry and essence, treated life like the adventure it is, and showed up for what he loved!

Life is too rich to spend in a box of rigid career expectations. We owe it to ourselves to explore the breadth and depth of human existence.

Are you a multi-passionate, multi-talented individual with multiple facets to your personality, and therefore managing or converging multiple careers? Think Richard Branson – who has made a mark in about 40 different industries from aerospace to music to cola! Or Oprah Winfrey, the media queen who is also a business tycoon, dabbling in a legion of varied ventures. Or are you like the laser-focused boxing king Mohammed Ali, born knowing your passion and purpose- with a single point of concentration to drive after and master? Are you someone who swings between both these quintessential paradigms, during different phases of your journey? It’s all fantastic. And more so- it’s all acceptable. Its OK to splash about in different realms, and it’s also OK to dive into the delicious depths of a single passion. Do not sway with people judging you – either for being too obsessed with your art OR for being too explorative of a range of subjects. Claim your creative freedom. Claim your love for everything that tugs at your heart. This is what makes life worth living.

Where passion flows, money grows! Your DEEP SUBJECT EXPERTISE adds to your personal and professional value. Your COMBINATION of passions and knowledge ALSO raises your game. Smartly leveraging, showcasing and tying up your strengths coherently- tailored for each project you undertake- will help you impact people in each of your ventures, and build a professional life on the foundation of your authentic personality. Life becomes a joy ride, when we are not trying to fit into external career moulds!

I recently gave a keynote speech at a major business conference. As they ushered me in, the young woman introducing me read out my profile- words and titles that I knew only too well. Words that make me sound like a success story that fell out of the sky! It was like listening to the description of a stranger. I sounded like a sophisticated, polished business robot! It wasn’t what they said that made me uncomfortable. It was what they left out. They listed off my wins very sassily, but what wasn’t mentioned was my actual hilarious story- my embarrassing trip-ups at work, working hard to hold it altogether, tempered by a tempest of wild imagination, determination and balancing goof-ups with daring strokes of genius (a.k.a summoning the courage to step out of the line of expectations and go after some romanticized vision) to get to where I was. From being a nightmare to the HR department of companies where I worked to being a dream-come-true, from being a rabble rouser to a game-changer, I’ve scoured the entire range in my experiment of life.

I started out as a highly promising software engineer from a leading engineering college. One year down, I switched out of my engineering career to become a PR and Media Relations Specialist in one of the world’s top PR firms with blue-chip clients on my portfolio. Side by side, for over 3 years, I attained my credentials in Lifestyle Medicine with a focus on fitness, nutrition and emotional health. I had to do this because I realised that well-being was a core interest to me. I had zero qualifications to make that career transition. So while I built those up, I leveraged my strength and interest in Communications and People Relations. All of this finally led me to starting my own ventures that tie all these skills up. Without my grueling engineering competence, I would not have my analytical, left-brain skills. Without my PR experience, I would never have had the relationship-building capacities to launch on my own. Without the U-turns and maze-spins, I’d never be the person I am today.

We are not straight lines, but many-sided, many-splendoured, multi-dimensional masterpieces! And for all the non-conformists out there, my messages is: be an epitome of sovereignty, soulfulness and untethered power. Go against the tide of convention, if that’s what it takes for you to play all out. Attain completeness of being. Try new things and take risks. But also, don’t spread yourself too thin. When you spot your pearl, dive deep… and truly put in efforts to attain mastery where it matters. Focus periods are crucial for expertise.

There are infinitely many types of beautiful and successful lives. Life is a dance between manic focus and playful exploration. It is important not to let the tide of habituation, societal normals and professional lethargy take over our lives.

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