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40 Life Lessons I have learnt from my 4 decade Life Adventure

40 Life Lessons I have learnt from my 4 decade Life Adventure

…This post is a good fifteen months late. I was hoping to publish it just after my 40th birthday, but never mind! Life always has other plans, and I have to work harder and fight fiercely to continue making time for the things that matter to me, and not let life take over. Nevertheless, we are here and we are going for it. 

This post is a curation of my thoughts and lesson I have learned through this journey called life, and you don’t have to agree or disagree with it, I am just publishing them here to have a record of it. Maybe I will read them again after another decade and be more proud or roll my eyes at how silly I was. We will have to wait and watch. Or if you are confused about something, reading this might give you a new perspective to think about which is how we grow in life.

So grab a cup of your favorite beverage (you will need it cos its 4000 words)  and read along. And I have included some beautiful frames from my home to keep you company.

Jharokha wall mural with a carved floating shelf in the home of Preethi Prabhu

1. Be driven by passion.

I don’t know how I developed this passion for home decor and Indian crafts, but I did. I was obsessed with it for as long as I can remember. I have magazine cutouts and DIYs from my teens when I was 12 – 13 maybe. Even now it consumes my entire life in a way I cannot explain. Despite the worries of life, my mind picks up all the beauty around me and fills me up with ideas. Boy, I am so grateful, for that because it gives purpose to my life and something to look forward to every single day. On bad days when I really should be worried about something, I look at something and my brain will be like “that is fantastic, I should paint that in the same color as the background and distress the edges.”(worries of the world, thrown away in the wind)

If you’ve found your passion, please please pursue it like a maniac, it’s why we are born. If you haven’t, keep looking like your life depends on it, because it does.

2. The Purpose of life is to serve!

Yes, it is. No matter what job we do, if we look at it as a form of serving people and doing it well, it’s a life well lived. When I examine the work I do, I have the following observations.

I decorate for a living, but if you look closely I change people’s everyday life for the better. I give people a better lifestyle. Work is not a transaction, not for me. I have the best interest of my clients at all times, if something isn’t right or safe for them, I will prevail and they see it. My intention, while I take on a project, is to give my clients the best home they can have in their budget. And the result of that is amazing.

I also create content for people who want to decorate on their own. My intention, while I publish content, is that people find inspiration and be able to execute my ideas with ease and it is safe in every way. And they get to experience the same joy that my paid clients do.

Anyone can earn money with a career. But to look at it as a form of serving others to the best of your abilities is what creates a fulfilled life.

3. Define your success and then chase it. The world will adjust.

Unfortunately for the majority of the world, how much you earn and what you own defines success. And all that parody on “it’s better to cry in a Mercedes than on a cycle” is utter bullshit. 

What is success if you had to step on someone else to get ahead, cut corners, or put a stone on your conscience? What is success if it costs you your inner child? It is not a dog-eat-dog world. If you think so, I feel so sorry for you. 

For me, success is being able to do what I love doing and earn a living out of it. Being able to say no to clients I don’t want to work with.  Being able to take time off and travel when I want, go to an art gallery on a Tuesday morning, without worrying about work or compromising the quality of lifestyle I want to have. Be able to fund all my crazy projects, without having to depend on anyone. Be able to generously tip when I receive good service. 

You don’t need to hustle 16 hours a day all day every day to be successful. Define your success correctly and measure it only with that.  

4. Be the center of your universe

You cannot pour from an empty cup. To bring out the best in myself and the people around me, I need to care for myself first. I do put other people first when there is a need, but I don’t put myself and my needs last every single time. If I did that, I know I would be angry, unhappy, and bitter, and that’s not good for anyone.

5. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

This is something I discovered first-hand. There was a time I wished life was fancier and I was living my dream, blah blah blah… I am one of those who cannot stay put in one place. So while I was busy daydreaming, I was also putting in the work(which I realized much later) and keeping busy. 

While at first, it did feel like it was getting nowhere, all of a sudden one day things started to fall into place. The years I had put in started to show results. Once you taste blood and realize how sweet it is (metaphorically of course), you are addicted to working harder to see what more you can achieve. And true enough, the harder I worked, the results were bigger, meaning I was luckier.

6. Invest in yourself.

One person who you have full control of – yourself. One person who will never leave your side – yourself. One person that should love you the most – is yourself. So the one person whom you need to invest your maximum time, energy, emotion, and money – YOURSELF! Get it?

7. Be original and authentic. Fake is too old-fashioned.

Social media started the fad of trying to prove to the world that you have a perfect life. For what? I don’t see a reason why one should pretend to be someone else or try to have someone else’s life. It’s a lot of unnecessary stress. 

One of the comments that I have got when I meet people in person is that I am exactly how I am when they read me on social media. Which is exactly how it should be. I speak my mind, I do what I want to do and I am doing just fine. My friends and family know they get what they see and they can be themselves without pressure. Having fake people is just so much stress in life that one can surely avoid. 

8. A humble beginning is a privilege.

I was born in a middle-class family. Both my parents worked, we always had enough, and we never felt a lack of necessities. But we did not splurge. My mom would save the piece of sweet someone distributed in her office and bring it back home and give it to dad and then dad would make five tiny pieces of it and we would all get one piece. And that would be the tastiest piece of sweet in the whole wide world. 

As a kid, I did wish I had fancier clothes and school stuff, but today I see what I was given was far more valuable than all the world’s wealth put together. What I have built for myself is entirely out of my own capacity and if I were to lose it all, I have the confidence that I can always build it back up because I did it for myself in the first place. And that is huge. And that is something people who come with privilege won’t have. 

Imagine a person whose parents had all the money in the world and will make things happen for their child, that child will never know what it is to build something entirely out of their own capacity. How terrible!

9. Integrity is everything

What you do when no one is watching you makes a lot of difference in how you see yourself. I feel when you do the right thing even if it means putting yourself through some discomfort, it gives you the kind of confidence that no other thing can. 

People say “Don’t worry about what others think of you, what do you think of yourself is more important”. And I think, when you are a person of integrity, you respect yourself more.

10. You are not as good as you think you are, you are much better.

My mom always thought that if she praised her children, they would get too overconfident and arrogant. So you were never good enough. My dad however was a total softie. He loved every silly DIY I made. He distributed sweets when I passed with distinction which by the way was 72%. He would puff his chest out and say “tu sher ka baccha hai”(you are a lion’s cub) So I think I found a balance.

I work hard and do my best and I also appreciate every little thing I do and give myself a pat on the back. And I puff my chest and say I am sher ka baccha. 

11. Your light will not shine any less if you help light another.

I love sharing my knowledge and experience if someone can benefit from it. Someone once asked me “What is in it for you? Be selfish and keep your knowledge to yourself” and I was like “I am being very selfish here!” you have no idea how. 

For one, what you give comes back to you multifold, Which means I never run out of help when I need it. Two, sharing knowledge only increases it and now there are multiple ideas and sometimes exponential. And if I consider myself a knowledge worker, seeing someone succeed with your help is the best gratification ever! And once you’ve experienced that, giving is more a selfish act than charity. 

12. Done is better than perfect.

This is a lesson that I have to remind myself of every few days. This blog post for that matter has been sitting in the drafts for months and months and I finally had to kick myself to publish it. Perfection is more a hindrance than an aspiration. It makes you stagnant. So yes, done is better than perfect. 

14. When in doubt, don’t do it.

It has never been a happy ending for me when I have ignored my inner voice and moved ahead. Life is very simple and everything can be figured out if you put your mind to it. But if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. I don’t do things unless I am 100% convinced about it, if there is doubt, I don’t do it! 

15. You are never alone.

My mentor once told me this. YOU WILL NEVER BE ALONE! And I truly believed that and now I see and fully acknowledge, whenever I need help, the universe sends help in some form or the other. There has never been an instance where I needed help and help did not arrive. 

 16. When doing it for free, give 110%

I have seen people do substandard work, and give substandard products when they are giving them out for free. I think it says a lot about a person when someone does that. 

When I am volunteering and giving my time, I want to be the best volunteer they have had. I will flash my 100-watt smile at every person walking into the event, whether it is 10 am or 6 pm. That when I am not volunteering, they miss me. 

17. Make good friends

What kind of friends you have will define the quality of your life. When I was younger, I was an “adjuster”! If you know what I mean. I hung out with people who wanted to be friends with me. And some of them never did anything productive other than go to cafes, and clubs, and some constantly complained and whined about how life was so unfair. Looking back, I now understand why my life was so stagnant. 

For the last decade or so, I have focused on making friends who I want to be. And when we meet, we are high on energy, we are constantly talking about ideas, art, social change, business, and how something can be done and things that enrich your life. And trust me, life has made a 180-degree shift. 

18. Take things at face value.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my dad because my mom was working and my dad ran his own business so he had the flexibility to take care of a baby in the crib. We had a great bond. And I think that where I got it, I don’t overthink.

If someone called me an idiot about something, and I dint do anything to cause that reaction, I would simply assume that the person was having a bad day and move on. I won’t even waste my time trying to analyze it or overthink it. 

19. Give people the respect they don’t deserve.

And chances are 95% will rise to the occasion and want to live up to it.  They might be ignorant at first, wondering why you are giving them so much respect, but eventually, they will think “oh this person thinks I am worth this respect” and it will elevate the respect they have for themselves and act that way. 

There will be 5% who will take things for granted and think you are a fool. You know they are not your people and do this next thing.

20. Distance yourself from people who disrespect 

..you, your family or your work, or things that matter to you. If a person is being disrespectful, it is a choice they make and that is a very loud statement. They chose to disrespect. And by allowing them access to your life, you are choosing to be disrespected again, which means you are disrespecting yourself. And no one should do that. 

How sad for the person you think? Every person is responsible for what they say and how they behave and should be willing to accept the consequences of their behavior.

21. Ask and you shall receive.

Works! I recently wrote to the team of a large social media company asking if they will help me build a strategy to do well on their platform and they replied and booked a session with their expert. As simple as that. 

22. Nothing is in control

Says a control freak herself! There is a lot we don’t control and in fact, I have come to realize that a lot of “adults” don’t have their basic shit together. But yes, doing what you control and leaving the rest to the universe is the best way forward. 

23. What goes around comes around

We are Indians, we know exactly what this means. It’s called Karma. The best quote I’ve read is “Karma is a bi*** if you are”, and I think it nails it. 

24. Celebrate every little success

I know the joy of building something from scratch. It’s painful, it’s hard work, it’s a battle with self every single day. But it’s worth it. I strongly feel that if you don’t appreciate the things you have, you don’t get more of them. My ebooks sell at 99/- and I charge six-figure service fees for my work. I celebrate both with the same enthusiasm. 

25. Face your problems head-on

Well, we all wish problems went away when we ignored them. Problems are like dead bodies, they must be disposed of as soon as possible, or else they will rot and stink and create bigger problems. So facing them head-on and attempting to solve them is the wisest thing to do.

26. Intentions don’t matter, actions do. 

Kevin Carter was a South African Photojournalist who won the Pulitzer prize for his photograph “The Vulture and the little girl”! Which he took in Sudan during the famine, it was a picture of a child that had collapsed to the floor 50 meters from the feeding center and a vulture in the background waiting for it to die so it can eat the corpse. It’s a disturbing photo, google it if you want. 

Kevin won the Pulitzer in 1994 for that photo, he also committed suicide the same year because the pain, suffering, and death he saw were haunting him. A source said Kevin told him he took photos of that child from every angle possible and a lot of photos and then chased the vulture away. He might have wished well for the child but he did nothing. He might not have had the resources to end the famine, but he could have transported the child to the feeding center. 

27. Take action.

Seeing a child collapse 50mts from a feeding center and doing nothing but taking photos and moving on is a huge burden on the conscience. And doing the best you can in any situation means you don’t have to live in regret. In his suicide note, he mentioned that he could live with all the pain that was caused to him by seeing all the suffering and death. 

No matter what situation I am in, I strive to do the best I can, so I don’t have to live in regret that I could have done something about it and I dint. It’s a lot of weight off your shoulder when you do the right thing and take action. 

28. It’s not what you say that matters, it’s how you say it.

Do you know the story of the king who invited two astrologers? One said all his relatives will die before he does and got hanged and the other said he is going to live longer than all his relatives and got rewarded. They both essentially told him the same thing. So ya, how you say it matters. 

P.S. Some people need it raw and straight to the face, so this doesn’t apply to them.

29. If there is an earth full of problems, there is a universe full of solutions.

Yes. And every problem is manufactured with its solution. You just have to find it. Life is very simple and easy if we humans stop complicating it. 

30. You will outgrow some friends and relatives. 

I read this quote that said: Life is like an elevator. On your way up, you need to stop and let some people out”. You are indeed the average of the people who you surround yourself with. And life is a journey of constant growth, but some people like to stay in their comfort zone and if you are someone who wants to grow rapidly, then there is a clear difference. Over time you will see you have very little in common with them. You have to let them go and move on, it might seem selfish, but your growth is your responsibility. So you thank them for their journey with you so far and then move ahead. 

31. Hard times are a blessing in disguise

I sometimes wonder how I go through life with so much ease with all the things that are thrown at me. Then I realize that every hardship has made me stronger which actually makes life easier. 

32. Delegate. You cannot do everything.

Doing everything yourself is a clear path to burnout. Yes, others won’t do it as well as you. Yes, they will need to be told the same thing over and over again. Accept that it is the way it is and delegate.

33. Have everyday zen moments

I don’t like living for the weekends and vacations. I want a weekend every day and a vacation at every opportunity. And one way to do that is by building a few things into your daily routine. As simple as having a beautiful table lamp and turning it on for the evening and spending a few moments admiring it. Or looking at a painting, or brushing my hair for 5 mins while I listen to some soft music. It costs nothing but improves the quality of life so significantly. 

34. Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her. – Lao Tzu

Oh yeah! You are you and no one can be you’er than you. Owning your authenticity makes you so unique that there can be no competition because there cannot be another you.

You might be the best at what you do with a decade of experience, and there will come a kid fresh out of college and do it better than you. Thats life! But what cannot be replicated is the uniqueness of your authenticity.

35. Let yourself off the hook, it’s not your problem.

I find that this is a woman’s problem. The nurturer in us thinks that it is our responsibility to care for everyone around us, fix things when they fall apart and sacrifice our peace of mind to single-handedly hold something together. Been there, done that! Learned the lesson! It’s a lot of emotional stress and its suicide for a person like me who runs a creative business. 

Until, one fine day, when I was out in the sun for too long and it messed with my brain chemicals, I realized, It was not my problem! I am responsible for what I say and do and other people should be responsible for what they say and do. I can discount children as children, but fully grown adults have to behave themselves. And for most people, it’s easy to blame things on others than take responsibility for their actions. And that is simply unacceptable. 

36. Collaborate! Together we can grow a better tomorrow.

One tiny brain can only think so much. Add a second brain and the two can multiply the thinking multifold. It is so easy to think for others but difficult to do for ourselves. That’s why collaboration is a gold mine if done the right way. I know I have said this before, the best way to collaborate is to think about what I can do for the person I am collaborating with. If both parties think of doing the best for the other, it is not only a recipe for a magic potion, but also the beginning of a lifelong relationship.

37. Never stop learning

It is my dreaded nightmare to be one of those people who have nothing else to do but gossip and complain. I fill my free time with listening to books, reading, DIY, and even dusting and cleaning. All of which teach me something new every single time.

38. Smile

How do you feel when you go to a store and the salesperson or owner greets you straight-faced? Honestly, I don’t like to buy from places I am not greeted warmly with a smile. And when I meet people, I think the least I can do is greet them with a smile. So SMILE people!

39. Protect your energy

There are 8 billion people in this world and you cannot be the same to every one of them. There was this sentence I read that described me the best. It went like this ” Some people may tell you I am the warmest person they have met, and some people may tell you I am a cold-hearted bitch. Believe them both!“. Bang on! You cannot give the same energy to everyone, you will be exhausted with nothing left for yourself. That’s why people pleasers are always so unhappy. 

Every human has a limited amount of energy and we need to choose wisely where we want to spend it. If talking to someone who constantly complains leaves you drained, it is a good idea to avoid that activity. because in everyone’s life, there are a few things that suck the energy which cannot be avoided, so choosing to avoid what you can is a smart way of managing your energy.

40. You don’t get what you deserve, you get who you are.

Read that again. YOU DON’T GET WHAT YOU DESERVE, YOU GET WHO YOU ARE! What do you think that means? I would love to know.

 

 

XOXO

Preethi

 

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