Three Life Lessons I Learned from a Special Project

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I am an engineer by trade and I have done several projects in my career so far. This story I am about to share with you is about a special project, a very personal project I started working on 5 years ago. I learnt a lot of valuable lessons through this project, some of them were life changing lessons.

5-years ago, my wife was pregnant with twins. At 23 weeks into the pregnancy, Swetha was admitted in the hospital for a premature delivery (that’s about 3 ½ months earlier). My kids, named A and B were born on the 4th of June 2012. Why A and B? We haven’t even thought of their names yet.

Both my kids went through hell, with close to 5 months of extensive stay in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), many surgeries, major complications, imported medicines, couple of heli-rides to different surgical centers, and at the end one baby was discharged home with weak lungs requiring oxygen for at least 5 years and the other baby with a major intestinal post-op care.

The doctors took CT scans of my children’s brain and the report was not all that positive. We were told that our kids may have mental health issues, developmental disorders and such.

I am now 5 years into this project and I taking this opportunity to reflect on my experience with this personal project. I will be sharing the top 3 lessons my kids have taught me that I am able to apply in my business today.

1. Be Vulnerable

“Vulnerability is not a weakness. Vulnerability is the birth place of innovation, creativity and change…” – Brene Brown

Story: In a typical NICU daily meeting, you have around 10 people including doctors, nurses, surgeons, assistants, students, social workers etc to discuss the action plan by the hour, day and long term and as a parent, I was trying to process this information. I felt so unprepared. I felt like I didn’t own my own child. I couldn’t contribute 1 bit. I was helpless. Infact, I couldn’t identify my own kid without the label on the incubator.

Personal Lesson: I stretched my arms and welcomed any advice and help that I can get from others. I relied on forums, doctors, nurses, social workers, friends and parents for support. My learning antennas were up, my ego was non-existent and I was learning the medical lingo like a 3-year-old learning a new language. We maintained a journal to write down our questions, thoughts and ideas about the daily nursing and management of the baby and in a month, got engaged with the daily activities and when we were standing in that meeting, we felt very good about ourselves, our family and our babies. I finally felt like I know my kids.

Business Lesson: In business, if we are able to transfer this dynamic, by embracing vulnerability, we will be able to drop our egos, open up our learning antennas, help each other, be honest, speak up with courage and thus expand into new areas, creating a birth place for innovation, creativity and change.

2. Stick to your decisions  

“If you always make the right decisions, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else” – Paul Arden

In our situation, there was no looking back. We couldn’t reverse a single decision. We made and signed around 10 life critical decisions in 2 months and around 100+ important decisions in 4 months. We had to accept whatever the consequences were. We debated about our decision and even regretted some, but the interesting part was that there was always another decision waiting to be made…which kept changing our story (for good). One social worker said, stay strong, don’t spiral into negative thinking and switch your mind to active thinking.

In Business, shift to active thinking – active thinking leads to action, and in order to get yourself out of a negative situation you need to act. In order to shift into active thinking, ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • How can I contribute and help?
  • How can I increase the potential upside of this event?
  • What aspects can I control?
  • How can I best respond?

Certain decisions in life and in business are not reversible. So as much as possible, think about your decisions carefully, dispassionately and with as much valid information as possible. Look to sources you normally would not. Question your own beliefs and confidence, and then go for it. Once you make a decision, stick to it. Give it life, and…If you regret it, well, there’s always another decision waiting to be made.

Be resilient – if a little baby can do it, we can. Visualize a positive outcome.

3. Learn to Trust

“A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other” – Simon Sinek

From my kids perspective, they absolutely trusted the support system to stay alive. There were 30 or more people involved in saving our babies, and by learning to trust them, we developed a stronger bond which lead to a stronger commitment from the team saving our children. There were days when the doctors came on a public holiday, just a few hours before their son’s game to check on my kids. That was awesome.

In Business, we always work together as a team. In order to become a high-performing team, we should learn to trust each other – this will result in amazing outcomes.

Conclusion

My kids are doing great today. Even though they are slightly developmentally behind the general population, my wife and I are so happy, grateful and humbled by their presence every single day. This opportunity to raise funds for children’s mental health is a god send opportunity for me and my family and I really appreciate your donation for this noble cause. I would like to convey my sincere thanks to the doctors and staff at Alberta Children’s Hospital who perform such miracles everyday saving the lives of so many children in Canada.