How often does a dad write to his daughter in this, the 21st Century? Not often, and so it feels kind of weird yet good to pen this short one. Most times when you or I have something to say, we just end up at home or office and chat it through. This note is about my thoughts now, in early 2017. Our advice and shared learnings evolve and change and grow each year, but right here and right now I want to share two thoughts.
First is that life is about choices. It’s always the choices that we make that allow us to become the person we are. And choices are always your own; many can advise you and some question you but at the end you have to make your choices and that is what defines you. I am so proud of the choice you made to leave India at a very early age and to study overseas, as you personally felt you were not learning enough and wanted to widen your exposure. Those first two years changed you as a person–your thinking, your level of confidence and the way you communicate.
And then you pursued your higher studies all the way to your postgraduate education in film because you wanted to focus and use the powerful messaging tool of films and documentaries to create change and make an impact. Then, as you realized this was not to be, you did not think twice about the many years of studying and working in that sector and you moved away from it, albeit with many learnings, only to move into something even more rewarding and long term: starting your own not-for-profit organization, Lighthouse.
You did this all on your own. Yes, you did have your parents to give you their continued support in whatever it was you wanted to do, but each choice was your own. And now, just recently, you made another choice–in your partner and husband–and I think the clarity with which you exercised your earlier choices in life helped in this one. Continue on this road, remembering that choices define you.
Secondly, I would say live life on your own terms, do what makes you happy most, and do not see yourself though the eyes of others. When you do things for yourself, not others, and you become your best critic, life cuts through the clutter and gives you laser-sharp clarity. This is not about being selfish, but instead living life with compassion and empathy, but no guilt at all for what you do and why you do it.
With lots of love,
Ronnie Screwvala is a first generation entrepreneur who built media and entertainment conglomerate UTV, which was sold to Disney. He is the co-founder of UpGrad – India’s up-and-coming online learning company- and, along with his wife, is the founder of the Swades Foundation, whose goal is to move a million people out of poverty in rural India every five to six years. Ronnie is also the author of Dream With Your Eyes Open.