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How to Overcome Fear and Embrace Change

How to Overcome Fear and Embrace Change

Change and the accompanying fear it brings, are facets of life we all grapple with. In this episode of The Zista Podcast, we delve into this ever-relevant topic, drawing wisdom from someone who’s navigated significant life transitions.

Priya Hajela had a two-decade long journey in the corporate sector, playing pivotal roles at giants like Tata Communications, IBM, Reliance Communications, Tech Mahindra, and Qwest Communications in the U.S. But in a defining moment, she chose to swap the corporate maze for the creative canvas of fiction writing.

Through our chat with Priya, we unearth the inspirations behind her debut novel “Ladies Tailor”, discuss the intricate challenges of industry shifts, and ponder on how one can prepare for significant career or academic transitions. All the while, keeping in mind the delicate balance between pursuing dreams and acknowledging limits.

Join us in this engaging episode with Priya Hajela as we delve into insights that will empower you to navigate life’s crossroads with confidence.

Welcome to another episode of The Zista Podcast where we dive deep into an area that, while not a subject you’d find in textbooks, profoundly affects all our lives: the courage to overcome fear and embrace change. 

Our guest for this episode is Priya Hajela. With an illustrious 22-year career in the corporate sector, Priya’s legacy stands strong having associations with industry titans such as Tata Communications, IBM, Reliance Communications, Tech Mahindra, and in the USA, Qwest Communications. Her multifaceted experience spans product and project management, HR, sales, and marketing. However, the twist in Priya’s tale came when she decided to leave this well-trodden path to pursue her heartfelt passion: fiction writing. 

This episode promises valuable insights for students and professionals alike. Whether you’re deciding on a major, considering a career pivot, or pondering your life’s passion, Priya’s journey from a corporate powerhouse to a budding fiction writer resonates with the challenges, fears, and growth inherent in such transitions. 

In our conversation with Priya, we delve deep into the inspirations and backstory behind her debut novel, “Ladies Tailor”. We discuss the tangible challenges faced when changing industries, highlighting parallels to shifting academic interests. For students navigating unpredictable terrains, Priya sheds light on preparing for unforeseen changes in both academic and professional spheres.

Join us for a heart-to-heart with Priya Hajela, as we explore the underlying theme that in the unpredictable journey of life, change is the only constant. What you’ll gain from this episode is not just knowledge, but the inspiration to face fears, adapt to change, and to craft your own unique path in life. Don’t miss it!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Before making a decision, introspect deeply to understand the real reason behind it. Ensure that choices are rooted in personal interests rather than external influences.
  • Both in the corporate world and in creative endeavors, challenges are inevitable. Commitment and a never-give-up attitude can pave the way to success.
  • While it’s crucial to have role models and aspirations, it’s equally essential to understand and accept one’s current abilities without being overly critical.
  • In any field, rejections and failures are part of the journey. They should be viewed as learning experiences rather than setbacks.
  • Changing fields or careers can be daunting, but with a clear purpose, understanding of one’s strengths and limitations, and unwavering commitment, success can be achieved.

Q1. What inspired Priya Hajela to pen her debut novel “Ladies Tailor”?

A: Priya’s inspiration for “Ladies Tailor” is deeply rooted in her family’s history. The immediate inspiration came from her grandparents, who migrated from Pakistan to India during the partition. However, Priya emphasizes that while the partition era forms the backdrop of her novel, the central theme isn’t about the partition itself. Instead, she chose this tumultuous period as a setting because it represents one of the most challenging and intricate times in history. Her primary objective was to delve deep into the psyche of her characters and explore how they make decisions in times of crisis. Priya is intrigued by the factors that influence decision-making: intelligence, experiences, sensibilities, and the innate ability to handle stress and failure. The story focuses on characters faced with daunting choices, representing universal challenges we all face. The essence of the narrative revolves around the crucial decisions we make, which ultimately shape the course of our lives.

Q2. What challenges did Priya encounter when transitioning from the corporate world to the realm of creative writing?

A: Priya’s journey from the structured corporate world of IT & Telecom, spanning 22 years across the US and India, to the unpredictable landscape of creative writing, presented unique challenges. In the corporate arena, hard work often led to a predictable upward trajectory: promotions, increased responsibilities, and higher pay. But this progression wasn’t without its politics, which became more evident as she climbed the ladder.

As a writer, Priya’s approach is disciplined. She equates her writing routine to her work ethic in IT – sitting at her desk and dedicating hours to her craft. Yet, despite her prolific output, with three manuscripts under her belt and a fourth in progress, each writing day is a challenge. The writing itself is only the beginning. Once a manuscript is completed, the journey of finding a publisher, getting the book published, and then marketing it ensues. The odds often lean more towards challenges than successes.

The solitary nature of writing is a marked contrast to her corporate days filled with emails and decision-making meetings. This isolation, while challenging, emphasizes the importance of internal motivation. Priya credits two significant sources of support during these challenging times: the unwavering encouragement from her spouse, and her deep-rooted belief in herself. While external factors come into play post-publishing, during the writing process, it’s a solitary endeavor, driven purely by internal conviction. It’s a challenging journey, devoid of the regular feedback loop she was accustomed to in IT, but it’s a path Priya believes is worth treading.

Q3. How did Priya navigate the challenges and fears when transitioning from an IT profession to a writing career?

A: Priya candidly admits that her journey from IT to writing wasn’t without its share of adversities. While in her corporate roles, gender bias was a pressing issue she faced across different firms. It wasn’t so much about being denied job opportunities, but more about confronting subtle patriarchal stereotypes. 

However, entering the world of fiction writing amplified her challenges in ways she hadn’t anticipated. The notion that writers should cater to an audience’s expectations conflicted with her intrinsic desire to pen down her true sentiments. Her debut novel, ‘Ladies Tailor’, faced its share of rejections, as did two other manuscripts. These setbacks, magnified by her corporate experiences, felt exponentially painful.

Before diving into novel writing, she began with short stories, a journey that spanned almost a decade. Her initial submissions faced rejections, but she persevered, and eventually, many of her short stories found homes in various publications. This process not only fortified her resilience but also provided a platform when approaching publishers for her novels.

The uncertainties, however, don’t cease post-publication. Doubts about readers’ acceptance, potential criticisms, and the fear of harsh reviews persist. Priya’s advice to aspiring writers echoes her personal journey: Start small, build a portfolio, brace yourself for rejections, and most importantly, develop a thick skin to push forward.

Q4. What advice does Priya offer students when contemplating a career shift based on her own experiences?

A: Priya narrates an inspiring tale from her family that sheds light on the process of adapting to career shifts. Her 20-year-old daughter, after studying French for 9 years in Pune, India, made a pivotal decision to attend the United World College (UWC) in Costa Rica. Although initially skeptical about her daughter’s move abroad, Priya watched her transition from French to Spanish for her 11th and 12th grades, a choice she made at UWC. This linguistic shift wasn’t just academic; her daughter embraced Spanish culture, opting for a year abroad immersed in countries where English wasn’t the primary language and living with local families. By August 2020, amidst the global disruption caused by COVID-19, her daughter’s passion only intensified, leading her to major in Spanish.

Drawing parallels with her own career change, Priya underlines a crucial lesson: understanding the ‘why’ behind one’s choices. Is the decision emanating from a genuine personal interest or merely influenced by peers and trends? Recognizing the intrinsic motivation behind a choice can act as an unwavering compass during challenging times. Priya’s personal journey with writing is a testament to this. Despite facing moments of self-doubt, where she contemplated returning to her corporate roots, she constantly reminded herself of the genuine passion driving her to write, committing to “one more month” with each passing challenge.

In conclusion, Priya’s advice for students or anyone contemplating a career transition is to deeply introspect and recognize their core motivations. Once the purpose is clear, perseverance becomes natural, and the journey, though filled with hurdles, eventually leads to fulfilling destinations.

Q5. How can one find a balance between pushing personal boundaries and recognizing one’s own limitations?

A: Priya reflects deeply on her own experiences to illustrate this delicate balance. During her tenure in the corporate world, she consistently challenged herself, often stepping out of her comfort zone to counter the gender-biased comments and assumptions made about women’s capabilities. She wanted to demonstrate that she was as competent and resilient as her male counterparts. However, this relentless drive had its consequences. She realized that her commitment to work was overshadowing precious time with her family, leading her to reevaluate her priorities and eventually step away from corporate life.

Transitioning to writing offered a different perspective on balancing ambition with self-awareness. For budding writers, Priya believes it’s crucial to accurately gauge one’s skills. While it’s natural to have role models, like Priya’s admiration for Amitav Ghosh’s historical fiction, it’s equally important to accept one’s current abilities. She candidly admits that while she aspires to write like Ghosh, she also recognizes her limitations and doesn’t chastise herself for them.

In essence, Priya suggests that the key to balance lies in reconciling aspirations with self-awareness. For her, and likely many others, it’s a matter of embracing one’s strengths and accepting areas of growth without undue self-criticism. This, she believes, is the foundation of striking a harmonious balance in any endeavor.