“What do you want to be when you grow up?” A good question that many of us as kids had to answer repeatedly. I know I did. People would ask me often and I never felt comfortable with my answer. It’s a great question for young people to ponder, but it’s also a loaded question. We might as well be asking, “Hey kid, what do you think the most important thing in life is? What do you think you could commit yourself to in order to find meaning in life?” I am not sure about other kids, but I was not ready for such weighty decisions at the ripe age of 7.
That said, it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. My life course took me from a small farming community in West Texas, where becoming a farmer would have been a natural fit, to taking pre-med classes and getting a bachelor’s degree in Clinical Laboratory Science, to a master’s degree in Intercultural Studies, and finally finding myself joining forces with others to open a textile manufacturing business in a crowed city in North India. When answering those questions as a kid, I could not have even told you what textiles were and I definitely had no plans or desire to move to India.
I have given a lot of thought to what happened between my childhood in the open fields of West Texas to my adulthood in the hustle and bustle of India. At some point along my journey, I was no longer drawn to becoming a professional of one kind or another as much as I was drawn to becoming the type of person that was a part of positively impacting the people and communities around them both through their profession and simply through the way they live their life. We have all met plenty of lawyers, doctors, and engineers that have the skills to do great work and are extremely competent. They win cases, they fix heart valves, they design needed equipment that we all use, and for many of them, their competency is rewarded with a higher salary. For companies, it’s about the bottom line and competency makes companies more money. Yet, isn’t there more for us in our life’s purpose? Can’t we be more when we grow up?
That is the question that left me and the rest of our team looking for more, and that ultimately led us to open Ziyada. We imagined a place where we would make beautiful pillows and blankets and table linens, but we also imagined a place that would bring honor to our employees, that would foster love between people, a place where honesty was valued, and ultimately, a place that would bring people hope. So, for me personally and for the Ziyada team, this is who we want to become, who we are becoming. That is what I want to be when I grow up: a person whose presence gives honor to those around me and whose work is contributing to the good of the world, one pillow at a time, one interaction at a time.