When I grow up, I want to be... by Marlous Teh

Do you remember those good ol' class mates books or what we in Dutch called "vriendenboek" (friends book) in primary school? The book in which you had to write all your personal details in including your colour of eyes, height, favourite book, band, why you liked the friend whose book you were writing...? One of those questions was what you wanted to be when you grow up.

 "♪ ♫.....when I grow up... I want to be famous.... ♫♪"

"♪ ♫.....when I grow up... I want to be famous.... ♫♪"

Other than the obvious pop singing, heat swinging Pussy Cat Dolls envy, I was one of those kids who'd go through phases simply based on the cool people I'd meet. One week, I noticed how fabulously skilled my hairdresser was, so I decided I wanted to be an amazing hairdresser. Then I'd see my mum sparkling and being so dedicated to service and happy chatting to our guests in the restaurant and I'd decided wanted to be a restaurant owner too. I'd notice how amazing it was that my school teacher would help us learn new things and the amount of respect my school mates and I had for him, which then made me I want to be a teacher. 

Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? Would you say you wanted to be in the career of what you are doing today?

Even though some of those careers were quickly out of sight, out of mind, one idea seemed superbly glamorous and followed me throughout primary and high school into University was the life of travel across the globe.. Quite possibly through the influence of a migrant family, cultural concepts of "success" and western tv..

...When I grow up, I want to be... "An international business woman"

I wanted to be working and flying across countries, utilising my love for languages, cultures, and engaging with people.

Over the last 7 years or so, somehow I tried let go of that idea, because every step I tried to take towards it, didn't quite seem to fall into place. Actually, it was freaking hard on many levels. Then fast forward to now, I recently took on a role that came rather unexpected, but basically incorporates everything I wanted to do as an international business woman and more..

  Hello from stunning Hong Kong :)

Hello from stunning Hong Kong :)

Woohoo! Whilst I've done my little celebration dance on these new and exciting changes... I want to share what I learned upon reflection..

I didn't get to where I am today by simply going through a smooth linear path of success starting with the right choice of studies.

Simply choosing what to study in high school, let alone in Uni, was horrifying and felt like my life was depending on it. And that's not even accounting for the fact that I changed studies half way through University and, like I couldn't get enough of studying, then graduated with two more diplomas after I completed my Masters.

The truth is that after graduation, I had a very hard time settling into a role, especially being a foreigner in country. A lot of people around me would always tell me: "someone like you, should easily land a job with the big corporates, in this space, etc etc...".

The truth is that it wasn't easy. It was either timing, visa restrictions, not enough experience... And a good dose of imposter syndrome didn't help to motivate me to aim high either...

I went from temp job to temp job, doing call service, hospitality, recruitment, receptionist jobs.. Then taking internship roles for a few hours a week just to get the experience. Very often I was working two or three jobs at a time to be able to pay for my studies, Sydney's ridiculously expensive rent and cost of living... Going into most jobs, I didn't know how long they'd last for. All I knew was that I had to do my best and make the most out of them while they lasted.

It was often trial and error, bad and (mostly) good people, false promises, grateful recognition of my talent, and lots of luck... Riding the waves that life would throw at me created this journey. Not actually with the goal of being an international business woman, but simply to trust that I will, and work to, where I need to be, one step at a time.

Whilst at the time I sometimes really felt the world wasn't fair, thinking why I wasn't landing that job, or wasn't given what I was promised... I now look back and see that I was so so lucky and blessed, and it was exactly how things were meant to be. As a vivid planner, I think plans are great, but also think life is meant to "get in the way" of your success...

So rather than asking myself, have I become who I wanted to be... Have I been successful, have I made it yet... I'd like to ask myself..

How can I make the most out of this situation? What can I learn from this experience, right here and right now.. How will this serve me, others and the world around me? How can I use the experiences that I will gain to get closer to how I want to live my life?

These are the burning questions many of my coaches, mentors, friends and beloved have planted with me and I hope they serve you just as well as they've served me.

The other exciting thing I've discovered is that all those fabulous things I noticed from people around me in different professions, is that you can carry those out in simply being human. My hairdresser who was amazingly skilled, my teacher who was highly respected, my mother who loved to serve and be an excellent host.

Can I build a little bit more skill in learning about myself, languages, dance, yoga, business, building teams, collaborations? Can I learn about respect and character from the teachers, mentors, the greats that have come before me? Can I adopt the passion and dedication in service to others? The answer is yes :)

How do you want to define success and how do you want to live your life?
 Have fun while you're at it :D

Have fun while you're at it :D

Marlous xoxo.

Working hard was simply survival.. by Marlous Teh


I started writing this blog post as a way of reflecting on the many nuggets of wisdom I'd taken away from Arianna Huffington's Supersoul session, including finding her mentioned four pillars of life (wellbeing, wisdom, wonder, giving) which I found to be very similar to my personal framework for life harmony (learning, vision, curiosity, community). But I found myself reflecting more on the concept of work ethic and where mine came from.

The first time I heard about Arianna Huffington was probably on the Oprah show where she talked about her incident at work where she collapsed from exhaustion onto the table, waking in a pool of blood and having to go into hospital whereafter her life drastically changed. What goes through your mind as you imagine this happening in your environment? 

I think that moment I saw the video and how Arianna spoke about her tragic incident but magic awakening, I saw my family's multiple generations of rice-field-workers's and restaurant owners's work ethic reflected in that same kind of thinking before she collapsed, including my own.

From when I was young, there wasn't a thing more important than work, making money, which meant sacrifices.

Fun time? Family time? Other than school time, hm not really. I think I was lucky to just get an hour with Mum making a speedy trip to the shops to get stuff (often for the restaurant) to then head back to get ready for the restaurant rush. Dad was always in the kitchen from day to night and there was no questioning about his presence.

When I was nine, Mum and I were out to the shops again and as we were walking back to the restaurant, I upsettingly asked why we couldn't stay out longer. (You could say I was throwing a little tantrum.) It was 4pm then, which meant just an hour or so before rush hour, and we were in the middle of the streets in the city centre.

Mum stopped walking and looked at me very upset and almost conflicted.. I can still remember how I felt and I could see the pain in her eyes. I knew it was not an option and from that day, I didn't go there anymore.

I'd accepted to put the task/work/business over our family time and had the expectation that others would do the same. I followed Mum closely in my training and therefore also in this work ethic and mentality, and we were like a dream team working together.

I think the luxury I grew up with is that at least I knew and tasted that there could be a different life. At least I knew what real family time looked like, what a family vacation was, what play time was. I couldn't see my mum asking for those things when she was ploughing away at the rice fields back in the days merely to have the family put food on the table..

"Working hard is a status thing", according to Arianna's talk and I agree we've very much adopted the 'busy-ness as a life style' applicable to our generation. However, for my family, the belief was that working hard was simply survival.

Having my great grandparents and family being born in a country where scarcity was the norm, and not abundance, does that to you. Having a family that were the first generation to be doing something different in a foreign country, meant that we needed to work harder to "get there". It meant we had to work so hard that we sometimes "didn't have time" to eat or drink throughout the day. We also had to scout out the biggest savings on supplies (without sacrificing quality and value) because to make money we had to know how to save money.

I volunteered to scout all the supermarket deals every week and reported back to Mum what we could get cheaper, when and where. For some reason, I loved contributing in this way.

Even though I accepted that this was my life growing up, I still questioned and compared.. Why didn't we get the family time or dinner time with desserts together like normal kids, rather than the pre-rush-hour chow down of our foods in the restaurant. Why didn't I get the help with my homework like my friends in school? Why didn't I get to spend Christmas together lighting candles and signing cheesy Christmas songs whilst we stuffed ourselves with way too much food? Well, because we were always working. (I also later found out that this was a classic case of the grass is greener...)

Upon reflection, I really feel that all those things and many more, including being the first generation to be a University graduate, have been my privilege and the origin of my appreciation for resourcefulness and opportunities. And I wouldn't want any of it to be different.

What I find beautiful now is that with the years, letting go, and the ability to have an adult conversation with my family, I can say, I'd love to spend more quality time with you because it's important to me, rather than throw a tantrum and say "I want this now!".

I think the other side of the equation of working hard is that we look a the results we are trying to produce. The simple > If, then... < And how the belief is that hard work equals the (deserving) result. Whilst I want to reserve the self worth conversation in another post, I always want to make stuff happen and so I do stuff. I'm one to often say "you get what you put in". But the truth is that my biggest awareness to date has been to constantly realise that my efforts don't always equal my desired or deserving result. Sometimes I invest so much time and effort into something that I truly believe is to be valuable and important, often to find myself be disappointed. Sometimes shizzle just hits the fan and things don't work out... Whether this is a battle between my ego and faith in life.. I think this ties in well with what Arianna shares as the lesson that has taken her the longest to learn...

"I don’t make everything happen. Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen. I do my 100% and the rest I leave to faith and go free. We cannot be attached to the result, cause is not up to us. As long as we do our part, we have done it." - Arianna Huffington

I've found this to be more true for me too. It doesn't mean that I'm going to give up sooner just because I know things aren't in my control. But it means that I'm trying to be more conscious.

The more I try to be present and choose to ride the waves and paths that life throws at me, the more trust I put in the dance. And that's scary sometimes. (AKA Freaking not-being-able-to-sleep terrifying sometimes)

As we're talking dance, it reminds me how much life actually is like dancing. When I started doing salsa dancing and ballroom dancing, I was always one to try and "control" (where normally the man leads the dance), with the result it always feeling clumsy and not natural or flowing. As I got better with letting it go free, I started loving dancing so much because I truly experienced the flow and the dance.

As I experience more of life (and its dancing!), I'm also appreciating more that mistakes and so-called failures are part of that dance that sometimes make it a fun learning experience.

Happy dancing.

Can you relate to my reflections? Have you ever thought of your family's work ethic and how that's influenced your life? What were your grass is greener moments when you were younger? How's that working for you now? Please drop me a note :)