Growing up, I was very lucky to have two extremely well educated parents who both had strong entrepreneurial spirits.
But I often felt that my brain was not “smart” enough…
My Mom was the adventurous type who took me to every type of dance class, every museum from the Louvre in Paris to The Met in New York, who made sure to buy me Barbie dolls of every different race when I got too attached to the blonde ones, and who encouraged me with excitement to fly alone to London by myself at the age of 7 when my parents had forgotten to renew my passport so I could not make it onto their flight.
But it was my Father that I secretly wanted to be like.
All the adults in my life told me epic tales of my father – how he grew up in Uganda with no money with 9 brothers and sisters and no formal education.
I was told the tales of my young 8 year old father sneaking off to steal books from a library and climbing up Mango trees to read and absorb knowledge. I was told how his high IQ and ambition ignited his drive to get a Physics PHD, Law degree and eventually go to Stanford Business School while I, his first child, was growing in my Mother’s womb.
Every Saturday was math day with my Dad. I dreaded Math Saturday. Numbers had always stressed me out and they frankly always looked so boring to me. I would have given anything to be playing dress up with my friends or painting colorful pictures then looking at numbers for hours.
My Dad LOVED droning on about his favorite math theories, explaining that the most important thing for me was to also get a Physics PHd and make sure I successfully completed it by the age of 27..
(ONLY then would I be allowed to go on a date).
I learned various strategies for getting through Math Saturday.
I would encourage my Dad to go off on tangents, getting very good at asking sooooo many questions that I never actually had to do math problems.
I had perfected the art of manipulation… perfected my excuses for multiple bathroom, snack, lunch, and dinner “breaks”.
But deeeeeppp down in my soul I was VERY worried. I was convinced that my Dad would one day realize I was a fraud. That I was a failure. That I was not the math genius he always wanted me to be.
How would I ever be seen as successful or smart?
In high school, when my focus shifted to wearing juicy couture and being seen as the most popular girl (while my grades in physics declined) , my Dad sat me down and had one of the most powerful conversations with me.
He said, “Where is your FIRE? You know all these celebrities you love? Why are you blindly following them? Don’t be a sheep. Don’t follow the herd. Where is your AGNI? Where is your inner FIRE? I don’t care what you do. I don’t care if you ever get a PhD. But I do need you to show the world your fire.”
My Dad died from his battle with Leukemia a year or so after this life changing conversation. I realized that he never cared what I would become or do, about the letter grades, or about me achieving the titles of “success”.
But he did desperately CARE about me living a life of purpose, Purpose driven by intention. Purpose driven by curiosity. Purpose driven by an inner desire to always be learning and never allowing “group think” to control me.
Whenever I have felt lost in my life, I reflect back on this conversation and feel my Dad’s impenetrable eyes staring into me and his voice filled with passion saying the words “WHERE IS YOUR FIRE?”
Whatever you inner talents – whether it be colors and creativity like me or numbers and physics like my Dad, you must always be striving toward your full, deep potential.
If you also have a deep drive for something great, but aren’t sure how to go about creating a path for yourself, please start with daily CURIOSITY and self education. My Dad had the fire within him and the curiosity to teach himself how to read in those mango trees in Uganda which eventually lead to a successful life as a Silicon Valley CEO.
He had the vision that he could make his life better with what little tools he had.
I encourage you all to keep your mind CURIOUS and keep your eyes and ears open! Learning takes place in all forms, not just school.
If you have lost anyone who touched your life like my Dad did mine, share this post and ignite their fire!