I came to this country, I came to the U S when I was nine years old. Both my parents worked a ton of blue collar jobs. I did not come from money. We had a small one bedroom apartment. I shared a room with my sister. For someone who came from humble beginnings, to me, what felt like that much success, I was amazed and I was just thinking, wow, how could I ask for anything more? I was so grateful for everything that had come my way. Just felt unbelievable. Making my first hundred thousand and then making my first million.
Hey everyone, it’s Shama Hyder here and I am turning 35 this Saturday, so it’s a, it’s sort of a big number, right? I guess when you’re younger, 35 definitely seems big and, you know, it’s been making me think a lot about what I’ve learned over the last few years. Last, well, quite a few years I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 22 when I started my company then. I was probably an entrepreneur from a lot younger than that even, I mean, we’ve been entrepreneurial since I was about nine or ten years old. I was always doing something entrepreneurial. But I started my company Zen Media when I was 22 and in the last, you know, the last 15 years from my 20 to 30 35 I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit, which is good, right? One would hope that as you get older, you learn and you grow.
And I often get asked this question by media publications and on podcasts and things about what advice would I give to someone in their twenties? And so I thought about, what if I could go back in time and tell myself something in my twenties like what? What are the five lessons that I have learned? Just being reflective and wanting to share with you guys in full transparency. what are the five things that I learned as I built my business, as I built my brand as I’ve gone through so much personal turmoil up and down. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost loved ones. I, I’ve gained loved ones. I’ve gained friends. And so, you know, part of this of course is what we call life. And so here’s what I’ve learned. Here’s five things that I’ve learned in my twenties that I wish I could go back and tell myself now.
The first thing would be to, to think bigger, I think. I wish I could go back to my 20 year old self and say, think bigger. And what I mean by this is when I started my company, I had a lot of success right out of the gate and a lot of it was right time, right place. Here I was helping people understand social media when it was such a relatively new thing. And I think that gave me a lot of credibility in the industry. It led to very quick successes, especially after we had some really cool client wins and it just sort of, it grew from there.
But I came to this country, I came to the U S when I was nine years old. I was an immigrant. I am an immigrant and so to someone who came from that world and both my parents worked a ton of blue collar jobs. I did not come from money. We had a small one bedroom apartment. I shared a room with my sister, well until I actually, I always shared a room with my sister until I went off to college practically. So for someone who came from humble beginnings to have that, to me, what felt like that much success I was amazed and I was just thinking, wow, how could I ask for anything more? And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized there was a great balance between being grateful and wanting more and thinking bigger.
My work back then impacted thousands, tens and thousands of people. But if I’d maybe gone gotten funding, if I’d created more tools beyond just offering services, if I had scaled, right? If I taken that momentum and scaled and gotten even the right people on board, it’s like you don’t know what you don’t know. I could have probably scaled even faster, grown even faster and reached millions of people. And so I do wish if I went back, I would have really told myself, you know, think bigger, think bigger than where you come from. And again, I was so grateful for everything that had come my way just felt unbelievable. Making my first hundred thousand and then making my first million. Maybe I’ll do a video on that if you guys enjoy these videos on what it feels like to make your first million and how you get there. But it just felt like so much money and it felt like so much success.
And I made that mistake of thinking, oh my God, who am I to have all of this? Right? And remember I was working for it. So it’s not like someone was just giving me this and yet I felt like, wow, I’ve been given so much opportunity. I just felt so immensely grateful and I’m now realizing, right, and realized over the last few years it’s good to feel that way and think about how you can make a greater impact. How I could have reached even more people. So I do wish when I went back, if I could go back to my 20 year old self, I would say think bigger.
There’s a lot of studies that show that women don’t get as much VC funding. They actually get very little of VC funding compared to venture capital funding compared to guys. I think part of it is because women often do think smaller. They think in terms of of of succeeding, of getting something out there where guys are the ones that often go in and pitch an idea that seems absurdly crazy big and I think that’s something that women can learn. I think we can take a page out of the book for from guys. And some guys think small too, so it’s not a huge generalization, but I do think from the female entrepreneurs that I met compared to the guy entrepreneurs, they tend to stick more to lifestyle or this is my lane or wow, this is so cool and I would urge everyone to think bigger.
So if you’re watching this and in your twenties thirties forties it doesn’t really matter where you are in life right now, but definitely think bigger than what you’re thinking now. Think about how you could reach even more people, how you could scale your vision.
The second thing that I’ve learned is it is lonely at the top, but it’s only lonely at the top if it was also lonely at the bottom. And what I mean by this is so many times people feel like they’ll blame money or success for some of the downsides, right? Like, oh, but the truth is the people who’ve had those friends who had that success, were good with relationships then are able to be good with relationships now. And so I find that to be a funny thing where people say it’s lonely at the top and it can be lonely at the top if you didn’t work on yourself. Because what I think is funny about making your first million too is it’s not about the million. When you make that million, you realize it’s not actually about the number of the money, it’s much more who you became in the process. And that’s not to say that you should keep all your friends and nor to say that the friendships that you have should continue to evolve. It’s just you want to make sure that you are working on yourself as well as you work on your professional ambitions, that you are continuing to be the type of person that brings the community together, that type of person that you could look in the mirror and feel good about, feel proud of.
And I think that’s really important. I think at some point part of me was scared of success because I thought, oh man, it’s supposed to be lonely at the top. People don’t understand. And that’s not really true. I think it’s a lack of your ability to communicate, but hopefully you get better at that. As you get better, you build different relationships, different friendships, and you grow as a person, so I think that’s something that I would try to explain to my 20 year old self.
The third lesson that I’ve learned, and again, I wish I could go back and tell my 20 year old self is that fear is the killer. So many of the things that we do and more often don’t do, are a result, a direct result, of us being scared, right? And fear’s an emotion. I think everybody feels fear, but if you hold onto that fear, you become scared. And when you become scared, you let yourself get scared, you lose. You lose opportunities because you’re scared what people might think, what friends might say. I’m amazed at how many people I meet who care what strangers say. To me, I think one of the most freeing things, and one of the things I feel like I got right about my twenties is that I just didn’t care what people thought. I still don’t. Not many people’s opinion really matters to me because I’m so busy doing the things I’m doing and loving what I’m doing and I’m learning from it all the time. But fear is the killer.
I remember distinctly when I was in college, actually, this was when I was in high school. I was taking some community college courses to help get credits before I graduated high school and I had two other friends. They were the two other friends taking these classes would mean, and we all three of us, all three girls, all three of us were in a dance class. And I’ve always loved dance. I’ve never been the best dancer, but I enjoyed it. It’s one of those things where, again, I don’t care. I just do it for myself. I think it’s fun. So I took this dance class and it was an art credit for fine art credit. So I took this class and I showed up every day. Again, I wasn’t the best but I definitely showed up every day and I gave it my best. Well my two other friends didn’t exactly take the class very seriously. So they often missed out on class or they would hang out in the back. They wouldn’t show up.
Well long story short when the report cards came out, when the class ended, I found a major discrepancy. I had been given an F in the class. Oh, I’m sorry, I’d been given a C. That’s right. I got a C in the class and they both got A’s, which I thought there’s something really fishy here because I know I showed up to class a lot more and I’ve definitely made a lot more effort. And then I realized what had happened. The teacher had confused the three of us. So all three of us being brown girls, Indian, Pakistani, South Asian descent, and the teacher I figured had really just gotten confused. She’d seen three girls hanging out together couldn’t keep their names straight, whatever. And then I was convinced she had just switched our grades and I thought, if I just go to her and explain this, this should get sorted out, right? I should be able to get my grade.
So I told my friends, I said, guys, I’m going to go talk to her because clearly this isn’t right. There’s been a mistake. I shouldn’t have gotten a C. And they said, well wait a second. If you go tell her the truth, this is what’ll happen. What’ll happen is she will realize her mistake. You will get the A and then we will end up with Cs. And you know, it’s really funny because real good friends wouldn’t do that. They would never stop you from going out there and correcting a mistake in getting an A. And because I was so scared of that time and I thought, oh, I don’t want to lose these friends and I don’t want to upset them and I don’t want to hurt them. And who knows? The teacher might not even change their grades, but I was so scared I never tried.
Now, okay, so I got a C on my record now, I guess not a huge deal. I was getting it for college credit. But low and behold, a few years later, these girls were no longer my friends. We were not friends. It was one of those high school friendships that fades. I was in college, I was getting ready to graduate and I was called into my admission officer’s office and she told me, you’re fine arts credit short. And I thought, how can that be? I’d taken the fine arts class. And she said yes, but as C doesn’t transfer over.
And as you can imagine, I was livid. I was so upset that I accepted the C and it wasn’t even a fair grade and I hadn’t spoken up for myself. I’d been too scared. I’d let fear rule the day and I had to retake a class. I had to retake a class in community college all over again just to get that one credit. And it was hours of my time wasted. It wasn’t anything to do with my major and it was just to fulfill that credit, and had I actually stood up for myself, had I not been scared about what my friends would think or how it would impacted everyone, I would have gotten the A and I would have been able to keep the credit. So I would say fear is the ultimate killer. And that’s just one small example in the ways that fear can hold you back.
So the fourth lesson, the fourth lesson I’ve learned is real confidence isn’t [inaudible 00:13:01] don’t be fooled by any of these people who say fake it till you make it or pretend like you’re confident. No, I think it’s actually good to embrace not feeling confident all the time. Real confidence isn’t a given. It’s not something you’re entitled to. It’s something that you earn over time. I can tell you that when I first started speaking, for example, or doing videos or any of this, I wasn’t confident, but I didn’t pretend to be, nor did I think that I should somehow magically feel confident. I hadn’t created value yet. Now today when I’m on a stage and I’m speaking to thousands of people, I feel good. I do feel confident. Why? Because I’ve earned that confidence. I’ve shown up. I’ve shown up when I’ve been scared. I done it. I’ve done it enough times where those butterflies don’t bother me that much anymore, right? It’s really been a game changer to realize that confidence is not a given. It’s absolutely earned and it’s something you can earn too. It just takes practice and it takes overcoming those obstacles one at a time and doing it even when you’re not confident until you’ve done it enough to feel confident.
Number five, this is something that I’ve learned about relationships. This is the most important part. Just because you understand what’s wrong, the opposite of that doesn’t make it right. I’ll say that again. The opposite of what you think is wrong isn’t necessarily right. And here’s what I mean. If you’re anything like me, then chances are growing up, you saw your share of dysfunctional relationships. When you looked around, you just saw people who weren’t in great relationships. And oftentimes when you’re young, you make the connection that just because they were X, Y, and Z, if you do the opposite of that, then you will be happy.
But that’s not necessarily true. And I wish that I’d known that in my twenties. So for example when I was growing up, I often found that in a relationship where it wasn’t great, there’d be a lot of conflict, right? And the conflict would come because people would fight. Someone would say something one didn’t agree with and they argued. So to me, in my young mind, I took that and they saw the opposite and I thought so that means that conflict free relationships are good relationships. But turns out that’s not true either. See, a lot of times when you grow up seeing dysfunctional relationships, all you learn is what not to do. But it doesn’t mean it automatically teaches you what to do.
I’ll give you a small example. I adore my parents. One of the things they often argued about was having separate bank accounts. As in, my dad wanted separate bank accounts. My mom wasn’t a fan, so they always argued about this and it was a small argument. But as a child it bothered me. And so as I got older and into relationships, I decided that I was never going to have this argument and I would let my partner do it however they wanted to do it and I’d be fine with it. But the truth was I realized I wasn’t fine with it. As time went on, I realized no, there’s certain things that I feel good about and I don’t feel good about, but just because I’d seen the wrong way to do it, it doesn’t mean the opposite of was the right way to do it.
Now as I’m 35 and married and in a, knock on wood, a very happy relationship, I can look back and say part of it is because I’m able to speak my truth. I’m not scared. I’m able to say I’m comfortable with this, this feels good and this doesn’t, and it’s made a huge difference. Part of relationships I think is as you learn those lessons, you have to be comfortable in speaking up and not being scared and not being afraid to lose someone just because they might not agree with you.
Anyways, those are some of the lessons I learned guys as I celebrate my 35th birthday this Saturday. I’m wishing you were all here with me and we could celebrate, but of course times are challenging right now. Leave me a question. If there’s something that you wish that I would expand on or share, or things that you want to learn about entrepreneurship or relationships or friendships or whatever it is. I’m happy to help answer. I’m hoping that you guys are enjoying these videos and if you are subscribed, stay in touch. I look forward to reading all your comments. Bye.