Going beyond the comfort zone and taking risks is not everyone’s cup of tea. It takes killer instincts, real courage and rare self-confidence to succeed the way you planned. Quitting a senior slot in a fulltime job to follow one’s instinct is very rare. Transitioning to being a writer, a poet, a transformation architect for individuals, a spiritual teacher and balancing everything while being a philanthropist is trying in the extreme. Managing all this with aplomb, heeding that little voice inside her, gave her the values she steers life by. Neelam Tewar shared her journey, views and life-story and we believe it will help to transform other people’s lives and perspectives.
Neelam, schooled and brought up across 4 continents – Africa, Asia, Europe and North America (U.S) by her father (Engineer) and her mother (a teacher). A global nomad much before it became cool, she credits her upbringing hugely for giving her the confidence & poise that are a part of her persona. Speaks about her parents’ beliefs, she says, “My parents always emphasized on education and this is the reason I work today to help students out of their curriculum to ensure an all-round development so they can be the excellent contributors to the world.”
Having started professional life in New York, primarily working for pharmaceutical advertising, she was responsible for global clients. But, she confesses “I realized 5 years ago that I am not doing the work that I am proud of. I was pretty disconnected with my job and told people around that I feel almost clinically depressed.” The same time she recalls “I had my awakening and started questioning my life.” That was the turning point in her journey. She started questioning everything and made some lifestyle changes like quitting meat. It was around 3 years back when she decided to “pack my bags, sold what I could from my apartment – wrote my first book of poetry and bought a one-way ticket to Asia. I came to India for a short break in February 2017.”
While she planned her India trip for a short while, one thing led to another and things started to change drastically for her. Recollecting, Neelam says “I got my first TEDx invitation in less than 2 months of coming to India…. Some of the best things in life are usually not planned.”
Challenges and Lessons
One of the biggest challenges she mentions was “to quit my job, to leave New York City and getting out of the comfort zone to be a better version of me.” The challenge was internal than external, it was too, as she puts it – “settling myself in the unsettling state of life.” There were quite a few people who asked her about her plans for the future. She decided to take the non-conventional approach – deliberatelychoose to not play safe and challenge herself by preparing for the unplanned life to follow after making that decision.
Of course, there were questions and more than a few raised eyebrows. That too, was a path to some insights – “I learned about what people think and also what holds them back from breaking the norms.” Though she was expecting her dad to convince her to pursue what she was doing, he had a conversation with her and understood what she’d like to pursue in life. So she explained, “I’d love work with people I enjoy working with. I want to take on projects that help to build communities – be it business owners or individuals, to facilitate their life and business.” Neelam just wanted to be the facilitator for the change in people’s life. And that’s precisely what she is pursuing currently.
When Neelam experienced a change in life with her single decision and without having to plan things out especially she suggests “be more comfortable in not knowing than knowing.” And when most of the people around her are puzzled by her decision to quit a ‘set’ life. Though she affirms that she did work toward making that life but, she adds “when I got more information and started questioning things within myself, I realised 2 things: first, that I should have the courage to listen to answers and fifty times the courage to act on it”. It goes without saying how Neelam acted on her thoughts to create a location-independent consulting firm which keeps her thoroughly busy with hosting workshops, consulting with companies, individuals, startups and educational institutes. She advises people to not try to be in a situation that boxes them. The key is to be open and accept to any situations that arise.
On women’s contribution to society
Neelam Tewar has a clear opinion on women and their contribution in the society, she calls them “the unsung heroes.” And she acknowledges that women in India are coming out, getting noticed and people are listening to them. She also says that “women need to be able to stick to their values and play by their own rules by defying logic.”
At a global scale, she mentions, women are paying more attention to inequality in wages. And there she cites a recent speech by Alex Borstein on receiving an Emmy for the best-supporting actress where she mentioned how her great grandmother was lined up to be shot in a Nazi camp. She asked the German officer who was supposed to shoot her, “What happens if I step out of the line?” The officer said that someone else will shoot her then. But still, she steps out of line. And just because she stepped out of the line, Borstein said: “I am here, holding this Emmy.” Neelam, , echoes Borstein’s message, urging women to “step out of the line.”
Life moments and message
Though she emphasises “I don’t have any Eureka moments in life as such…”, she adds “But, I do have a series of events and stories of people who have crossed my path that has changed my life. It can even be a random conversation with a stranger who made me feel alive or had me filled with joy.” She emphasises on how interacting and dealing with different people with different background has made her “more tolerant.”
Be it human or corporate experience, touching lives and being aware of other people’s emotions can, as Neelam says “it makes you more empathetic towards someone else. And this enables you to look at the things at other person’s way. I can step into their shoes as an empath and as a result of this journey, I can help them better.”
She considers herself as “work in progress”. And to women, she advises to “Keep shining and go for it. There are no errors in life, there are only lessons.” She adds, “Be open to growing and don’t be hard on yourself.” She points out that women these days are hard on themselves and she urges to keep things simple, relaxed and take up one day at a time.