When I was 13 I knew I wanted to be a business owner, it was in my blood. Our neighbours owned a few small businesses and I got an early opportunity to sell flowers & fish at a market, candy and hot dogs in kiosks, and to wash dishes in a Chinese restaurant. I just loved it. I constantly thought about the margins, how things could be done more efficiently or what the product selection should be. At the age of 25 I had 12 years of work experience when starting in my first real management job and becoming responsible for 80 people.
I was always a straight A student at school. Not that I did not have to work for it, but everything came fairly easy since I was efficient. Efficiency meant not hanging out with friends during lesson breaks and not listening to music while travelling to my hobbies. I did all my homework during those moments, so I could have various hobbies and take part in interesting activities. I believe I did my A levels while travelling on buses and lying on the floors of sports centres, while waiting to my basketball or dance practice to start.
I could not wait to become an adult and to get on with my life. I wanted to start a business and make a difference. I did not know what it might be, but for sure I didn’t want to end up being mediocre or stuck were I came from.
My efficiency, strong drive to make things happen has always been my trademark. My slogan used to be ‘only deeds matter’. I couldn’t stand people who talked about all kinds of dreams, ideas and plans, if they never actually did anything to make them happen. This kind of behaviour made me quickly lose interest, be it a person or a company.
Dreams were not really for me, they seemed to be useless and illusive.
Innovative, doable ideas, however, were the trademark of mine. I sold doable ideas to my clients as a consultant, a specialist, a director, a manager and an entrepreneur. I really felt good about delivering something new and innovative to others and I didn’t want any appraisal for it. Excellent job was what I was paid for and my greatest reward. It was enough that I was considered a real professional.
As I had always been considered a tough woman, not many clients, colleagues or subcontractors thought their actions, words, or even threats influenced me much. Trying to prove myself I took difficult work challenges that came with politics and sometimes backstabbing treatment. But hey, being that irritating “Miss Right”, I must have deserved it. I did not feel I belonged anyway, so why care.
But it might not come as a surprise that all a long I was this little Tiia who wanted to belong, be accepted, understood and loved, but for some reason didn’t think she was worth it without all possible achievements and more. And when I did not get what I needed, I reacted with aggression – I went and proved myself right, regardless of what happened to me.
I had a heavy burden on my shoulders being a big sister to a severely handicapped sibling whose existence defined my childhood more or less since I was three years old. The whole childhood and teenage years I was under the impression that I had to take care of her when my parents would pass. I also thought, untill at the age of 27, that there was something genetically wrong with me as well and I could never have healthy children. Until a genetic test and nature itself proved me wrong. No wonder I felt pressure to cope with my own finances and establish myself.
So why dream?
In the last three years things have started to change. My long lost dreams started to haunt me after a lot of soul searching. I moved to the UK with my family and become a start-up entrepreneur with two disruptive business ideas. Last winter I felt quite alone with my business ideas. I was not moving forward as I should have been.
I didn’t dare to push forward as I couldn’t see the future past some of the failures I had encountered.
I end up attending DrivenWoman introduction session and the rest is history. I have really benefited from the structured work we do in the sessions and getting to know the life stories of these wonderful women who trust and share – together. I have built networks through the group. I have seized the opportunities brought to me. I have made spin offs from the failures, which have much more potential than my original ideas. At times I have felt I am on fire!
I have learned that you need to know who you are in order to truly appreciate yourself. Appreciation is followed by boundaries and the ability to say NO.
You need to understand what your strengths and drivers are in order to dream, and you must appreciate that failure is a big part of any success.
I am still on a journey to show my vulnerability and imperfectness. But I have already changed a lot as a person. I have never been so patient and forgiving to myself as I have been the past months.
And I am certain I will get there as I’m finally ready to dream.
And most importantly, I finally feel like I belong.
Tiia Sammallahti is a DrivenWoman member and a Group Leader opening a new group in Guildford, Surrey on 20th of September 2016.