I have three boys, Sahib, Rohan, and Shaan. All of them are very different in their personalities. Not surprising, but their choices don’t always line up with their habits or attitude.

Four years ago, Sahib was getting ready to go to school and making the decision on which university he wanted to apply to. He had a very set list in his mind. You see, Sahib has always been very organized and knows exactly what he wants. He made a list of the different schools, most were Ivies, and he took his dad to visit the campuses. This is the child who in 8th grade came up to us and said that he wanted to be an invasive cardiologist!

During the summer before his junior year, he studied all summer and took his SATs, scored a 1530 and was one and done. When we went to visit the campus of Cornell, he fell in love. It was the school he wanted and was on a mission to get there. For him, the campus, the caliber of education, and the networking opportunities were really important. He’s now in his third year at school and he’s learned that what mattered to him four years ago is probably not as important as what he needs today.

Now you’re probably thinking, what do you mean, Kam? He’s going to an Ivy League school, Cornell has a wonderful reputation, what could be wrong? Culture! You see, our kids have grown up in a home where we really value culture. The happiness of the home, a supporting family, laughter and community ― it’s all key. Sahib is a very social child and the Kaila home has always been, and even today, is the central meeting place where Sahib and his friends all come together. During the summers, it’s Grand Central station. The boys are always here playing basketball outside, sleeping over, it’s where they come to be loved, fed, and they know that they are always welcomed day or night. So, going from this environment to Cornell was a wakeup call – how you ask – I’ll get to that.

Now let’s meet Rohan. My middle son is by far my kindest soul. His mission in life is to be kind to people. From the age of 10, when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s, to today, he doesn’t let adversity bother him. He uses an “Oh well” mindset. He may not be as book smart at Sahib, and Lord knows his room is definitely not as organized, but surprisingly he is more focused on knowing what he wants. They say you can tell a lot about someone from their room. If it’s clean and organized, it’s a lot like their mind. They have to have things in their proper places. If it’s cluttered, probably a little bit like their life. People operate in different ways. My children, similarly, are very different. For Rohan, a senior this year, choosing a school was a much different process.

He didn’t want to go to an Ivy League school; he was very focused on finding smaller campuses that had a closer community. He knew that big schools with a lot of people cause him anxiety. He wanted a school where there was a good culture. So when he made his list of schools that he wanted to attend, it was very different than his brother’s. Now Rohan is an athlete, varsity swim captain ― woot woot proud Mama! ― but athletics had nothing to do with it. He decided that he wanted to go into tech. Finally one child, but he had a completely different focus. He started looking at the different cultures of the schools. Did they offer a Co-op program? If they’re part of a larger city, was the campus private? He did campus tours, met with students attending the school, found a friend who was already enrolled and discussed college life. He knew he did not want a school that was so focused on credentials that he didn’t get to be himself. And so, this past week when he got accepted into Boston University, he was ecstatic.

No matter the clutter that seems to make up Rohan’s life, he knew what was really important to him. He made a list and he was adamant about it. He refused, not going to say temper tantrum ― but pretty close, to apply to Cornell. He was legacy and could have gotten in, but he knew that was not what he wanted. This child of mine who rarely gets upset is so “go with the flow”, wear your T-shirt backwards just because, who loves to work out and took up crocheting just so he could make his female friend (don’t get this Indian mother started😊) a bracelet, knew exactly what he was looking for in his school.

Now I’m already tearing up about this because pretty soon two of my babies will have left the house. But I could not be prouder of them. They both knew exactly what they wanted. Now going back to Sahib for a moment, he’s learned that what he wanted four years ago is not as important as what he needs today. His need for community in a dog-eat-dog, highly competitive, sliding scale grading structure of the Ivy’s is not for the weak of heart. So he found a community by becoming a volunteer firefighter. He focuses on school, but also giving back to others. But it’s his friends at the station and the work that he does there that gives him purpose.  Sahib is strong and he’ll make it in a cutthroat environment, but Rohan knew from the very beginning that it was not something that he wanted in his life. And so what can we all learn from my two big boys when thinking about ourselves, our companies, and careers:

  1. What’s important for you may not be as important to me. What Sahib wanted from his school was very different than what Rohan wanted. Make your list before you start looking and then don’t compromise.
  2. Know what values are important to you. Remember, in a work environment, you’re part of this culture for the majority of your day. Make sure it’s somewhere you can be happy and grow. Maybe you want the rush of the Ivy culture, it gives you an adrenaline boost – great – or maybe you want a culture of community – fine, too – just know which one will make you thrive.
  3. It’s okay to admit you made a mistake and share your experience with others, like Sahib shared with Rohan. We all make mistakes and being able to be open and honest about them can help both you and others grow.
  4. Do your research. Find people within the organization like Rohan did and ask them the questions that matter to you. For example, make sure you come prepared with a list of meaningful questions to an interview. I find it funny when we do interviews for candidates and people don’t ask me about our corporate culture — hmmm…. Are they here to stay? If you were committing to someone for at least three years, wouldn’t that be important to you? I like to think anyone we hire will eventually die with us, not scary die, but work with us and love what they do so much that they never leave. Wink, wink, Javid Khan 😊
  5. And make Lemonade when you don’t get what is expected. Sahib didn’t have the community he wanted at school, so he found a community outside of it that supported him and filled that need for social and mental support.

I know, long article, right? You can tell I’m a proud Mom because I could go on and on about my boys. They truly are the loves of my life – with Sunster of course. But more importantly, I think we did a really good job in raising men who know what values are important to them and are decisive enough to make the right choices ― but also admit their mistakes. Shout out to Sunny Kaila for the assist 😊.

I’ve definitely learned a lot from our boys, now this doesn’t mean I’ll pick my dinner order any faster (sorry Sunster), but I’ll definitely walk into that restaurant knowing what is on the menu. Do they have something I like to eat, at least two options, and I’ll ask the waiter what they recommend. And if it doesn’t come out just right, I’ll switch plates with my husband and “share our meal😊.”

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