As a single mom living in one of the most expensive cities in the world: Tokyo. I have gained enough experience to share with other parents. My experience is especially helpful to parents that are struggling to advance in their careers (by pursuing an MBA or equivalent degree) and take care of children at the same time – or just trying to connect the dots at the end of the day.
A full-time career in a leadership position, a toddler and an MBA – and let’s not forget that this all happen before, during the height of, and in the current COVID-19 days! I will tell you why it’s worth it: gaining new experiences, fulfilling the drive of self improvement along with maintaining the perseverance required for self motivation and completion.
The next question — how do you do it - and - why am I sharing my journey?
One of my favourite quotes from Dale Carnegie, the author of ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’ wrote something that goes like this “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no more hope at all.” How you do it will depend on your determination, perseverance and fortitude, the usual hard work, self motivation and your network.
People usually say, when I make a decision, it is almost usually difficult to go back. Before making a decision however, I take my time, almost following all the steps necessary and weighing positives and negatives, like in any business or something that we value and find important.
After attending a graduation ceremony I was curious to start the journey of Graduate School. I was confident, excited, and really excited to talk about issues that make the world abetter place for many others who do not have the same opportunities that I do.
Whatever that came after this could not stop me from pursuing my dream — whether it was a pregnancy, death of a loved one or even a chain of many lost friends who were tired of not seeing me at birthday parties, weddings and other important gatherings. Your determination is the first thing you need to have and make peace with otherwise stop reading this article.
Perservance and Fortitude
I faced a lot of challenges while on this journey. My best friend who was one of my cheerleaders passed away with multiple cancers, and as a result I lost my excitement and flunked a few classes. Being a single parent comes with many challenges in and of itself. Including day-to-day obstacles such as the cancellation of babysitter, just a few hours before class, or my daughter crying all night and taking away my Case Study time, and the sleep needed in order to properly perform at work the next morning all came in dosages.
People who believed in me took time to meet me, talk to me, encourage me and push me to “Not stop!” “Not now, not when you have come this far, you are half way there,” said one of my Professors at Graduate School. In reality I was not half way there, I was barely nowhere near middle of it. My takeaway here, and I invite you to try it too, is something I read somewhere, “There is no failure except in no longer trying”.
I hadn’t failed until I decided not to keep going or keep improving and learning from the failure. I now think perseverance is only hard if the motivation behind it is to prove something to someone else. It is harder when you are competing with someone else, as well as very frustrating and heartbreaking. However, if the only competition is to become the best version of yourself, perseverance can be a positive and beautiful skill to acquire. Also, every obstacle in your journey will make sense later on — your obstacles will be your story, your strength after connecting the dots backwards. That will be your “aha!” moment.
Self Motivation and Hard Work
My daughter was born right in the middle of pursuing my MBA. I stayed home to give birth to her and returned to Graduate School when she was 8 months old. Was she ever an hindrance? I remember a few times when I told her, “If you think this timing was the right timing for you to come then I believe in your choice for choosing me to be your mother.” I told myself, it shouldn’t matter the pace I take everyday, what should matter in the end is, no matter what, I will not stop taking that step. My toddler was my biggest motivation to wake up and give people 100 percent at work. To make people happy at school and at home, where all that hard work pays off with a single smile or a giggle. But one size does not fit all — Decide what is your pillar of courage and depend on that 100 percent. Whether this may be your immediate family, your lost loved one or just your past history.
Maybe you feel motivated to change for the betterment of your life and the lives of others that you will help in the future. I remember many times when my daughter wouldn’t sleep at night so I would just read my Case Studies to her instead of waiting for her to fall asleep. Always trying to find little solutions can help you reach a bigger goal or target. I sometimes felt like… I was teetering on a balance beam — looking back or down would make me fall off and looking sideways would distract me and I would lose my balance — my only way was looking forward.
“Your hard work and motivation is your core strength — your bridge to your destination. Just like me, I wavered when challenges were overwhelming. When I seemed to have lost control of my life. Yet one thing that did not tremble was my hard work. This I knew because of the sleepless nights and the decision to choose reading Business cases every weekend and every night instead of partying with friends or watching the coolest shows on Netflix.
Your network is your oil. Investing and interacting with people should be a skill that we all should acquire — really understanding others and giving them time to also know you. It is worth learning about interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence — know what others really want. You don’t need to know everybody to succeed, you only need to know a few people who have the same values or at least support your values, same hunger or at least support your hunger, and the right attitude.
When you connect with people genuinely — they are always ready and happy to lend a hand or two or even three. Your network is what will make you, create you, grow you, and help you succeed in whatever you do, whether it is an MBA journey like me, or pursuing a new career, or searching for a dream job or just trying to find a great place to eat with your family. There were many times I wanted to give up, many, many times! Each time a friend, family would find a solution or just listen to me yammering about how hard it is — and the answer would always be, if it was easy every other person would do it. Sometimes, after an inner voice asked me, “why are you putting yourself through this?” I would feel guilty of the many people who have sacrificed for me so far.
Like my daughter who have cheered me on to keep going. So I would get up, dust myself off and keep going no matter the obstacle, no matter the exhaustion. The network you create will be the most important factor of success. This will be your key success factor and give you smooth sailing to reach your destination. At least, for me, my network’s support and extra push has made it possible for me to work full-time, raise an infant who is now a toddler and finish my MBA, in one of the most expensive cities in the world. If I could do it — you too, can do it. One day at a time, one small goal at a time.
We can all be inspired by others to succeed in whatever we have put our thoughts into.
My story does not fit all but my story will help others remember to try challenging new things and not to be afraid of the hurdles that will come along the way. These hurdles are just little bumps to help you take your time and not drive too fast to your destination and miss all the learnings and takeaways.