Reliving Third Grade

It was first day of school after second grade summer holidays. Late Mrs. Anthony was our class teacher. I knew that I had to get her attention to let her know my intent to become the yellow house leader. We didn’t have class leader back then to oversee the red, green, blue and yellow house leaders. At an opportune moment in between two classes, I went up to her desk hurriedly and asked her if I could be the yellow house leader. And that I’d make everyone proud if I were elected. Yes! I said exactly that.

She laughed. I could see all her pearl like teeth with a light stain of lipstick and the big red bindi on her forehead become wide enough to scare me. I looked at her wondering if she was going to shut me down but she didn’t and asked me to go back to my bench that I shared with three others. I still remember many glittering eyes of my classmates staring at me while I tumbled through the school bags double our size blocking the narrow pathway to my bench.

At the beginning of the next period she announced that we will need to elect our house leaders and she started with the yellow house. And very softly asked the housemates if they’d like me to be their leader. I vividly remember that I couldn’t breathe for few seconds anticipating opposition from my housemates. All that one of them had to say was, “Miss, I don’t like her.” That would have been the end of my leadership pursuit even before it began. To my pleasant surprise, all my housemates nodded in agreement that they’d be just fine tolerating me as their house leader for an entire academic year.

I don’t remember how the other house leaders were elected because I was too happy to even listen or be part of those conversations. There was a certain sense of gratitude and responsibility that soon overcame my little mind. All I wanted, was to ensure that my house mates and class teacher never regretted their decision of electing me. Within a week, the badge ceremony took place and below the round yellow school badge, I had another round yellow badge that said ‘Leader’. It was the first time I had executed on a development plan, marketed myself and explained my ROI successfully. And it was a fantastic year with no trouble in my little paradise.

As I grew older, somewhere, somehow, I forgot those tenets of being the leader I was. Success meant different things at different times. Especially, after becoming a working woman I struggled few years feeling stuck, not being able to market myself, in establishing my brand, and simply being able to move my needle. Then one day, a mentor told me that I have to ask to receive. I was reminded of who I was in third grade and what I was truly capable of. Since, I have not looked back. Besides building an amazing support system not just in my personal and professional life, I was able to work towards my aspirations. Each time I invoked my third grade self, I realized my full potential.

If there is anything that I share with those who are willing to listen to my story is to never forget to go back to basics. If you feel you deserve something, prepare a business case, present the facts and explain the benefits of investing in you. At the end of the day, all we need is a Mrs. Anthony to believe you are ready for the next level. That sponsor or group of sponsors like my housemates who took the leap of faith. After nine glorious years as senior manager across various business units in the organization, I became my third grade self again recently. And I got promoted! Oprah Winfrey once said, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” That’s my truth.

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