I'm always a fan of those who go after their dreams and get things done - so when I first met 'Mo Seetubtim', I was impressed by her success and the vision that she held. Another thing about Mo that changed my perspective and how I view success was that for me personally, I had always been surrounded by CEOs or Business Owners in their 40s, in their sleek suits, or for women their red soled shoes but Mo, on the other hand has been amazingly successful, selling her Happiness Planner worldwide, running her empire from her AirBnB suite de jour somewhere on the planet - always mobile and wearing jeans. The one thing that we do all have in common is that we are both entrepreneurs and we get things done.
I never dreamed of being an editor or running an online magazine, but I always knew I wanted to be the boss of my life. I have a clear image of what I want to be down to a T. How did you come to know what you want? Was being an entrepreneur something you always wanted?
Mo: Yes. I knew from when I was a little girl that I wanted to have my own business and be my own boss. I didn’t know exactly what that would look like but I dreamed of becoming a successful businesswoman with her own brand that people love. I used to spend time on the computer, in middle and high school, looking for new business ideas. There were websites that update you on new trends, new consumer behavior trends, and new brands.
My dad is an entrepreneur. He was really my inspiration. Since I was little, he always encouraged me to look at things around me, think about problems I faced, and try to come up with solutions to those problems.
The real realization kicked in when I graduated and started working full time. That’s when I learned that I’m too self-motivated, too assertive, and too entrepreneurial to be an employee. I realized that I didn’t like being given easy tasks to do. I liked thinking on my feet, having the freedom to approach a goal however I saw fit, and learning something new or something that pushed me to grow every day. I felt like I was a bad employee - I just couldn’t follow orders and stay within the limits set by my boss. My direct boss said I was too ambitious and that I needed to slowly climb the corporate ladder. I hated that. I also didn’t like office politics. All I wanted to focus on was doing my work, advancing my skills, and being the best I could be. I just realized that I could never work in a big company. I could work in startups though, where roles are more open-ended and you get to be as innovative or creative as you wish, as well as working alongside the most senior or talented people.
When you started a blog and created happiness planners, did you have a fear of failing? Did you doubt yourself, thinking 'what if I don't sell anything, what then?' Did you have a plan B? How did you overcome self-doubt or fear of failing?
Mo: I can’t say I didn’t. But I kind of have this self-belief that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to. Determination is my secret power and somehow it comes easily and naturally to me to be determined and to persevere. I know how to train my mind to be obsessed with something until I’m good at it because that is really the only way to master something.
I learned from a young age from my father that self-doubt is what makes you fail because it sneaks up on you and quietly stays in your subconscious mind and directs your life. He told me that if I wanted to be a winner, I needed to have a winner’s attitude, and winners never doubt themselves. My dad is a lifelong athlete AND a top student academically. He won many competitions so he went through the process of self-mastery throughout his life and taught me what he learned. He uses sports psychology in winning other things in life. With this learning, every time doubts start to come up, I immediately shut them down before they can ever get into my subconscious mind. It’s something one needs to learn, and with practice, you can learn to block out any noises or doubts.
And I have seen how this has played out in my life. I participated in many school competitions. I got to see how, when I doubted myself, I subsequently didn’t get any prizes. But when I didn’t doubt myself at all and became obsessed or devoted to the task at hand, I always won. From winning school competitions to getting into selective schools, I learned that it’s all about how wholeheartedly devoted I am to something. If I let a slight doubt linger in my mind, it subconsciously affects how much effort I put into something, which subsequently dictates the outcome – and all of this happens subconsciously.
I also learned not to dwell on disappointments. A lot of people don’t give their all to something because they want to leave some space for disappointment. But that’s exactly what makes them fail to achieve their goals. I have learned to give my all to whatever I absolutely want to succeed in, and if I don’t succeed then I quickly pivot. I learned that spending time feeling sorry and sad is just wasteful. It’s better to focus on what you’ve learned and what you can do next to be better. Failures are not failures if you keep getting back up and getting better.
How do you deal with naysayers? Especially those close to you like your friends and family? I found that those people who are close to you tend to discourage more than strangers do.
Mo: I would honestly just block them out. I don’t listen to them. I stop talking to them about my project if they don’t believe in my project. Slowly, they’ll just learn that you won’t listen to their pessimism anymore and they’ll keep quiet. You can put up boundaries and people will slowly learn to respect them even if they’re annoyed or offended at first.
With new friends, I tend to be selective and only surround myself with positive people who possess similar mindsets and attitudes. For old friends, to be honest, I feel that friends come and go. And in order for you to have time and space for new friends, you need to let go of some old ones. It’s good for your mental health to remove people who don’t add positive value to your life anyway. And at the end of the day, as you get older, you realize what matters and what doesn’t. Family comes first. You can always make new friends if you’re open to making new friends - friends whose values and lifestyles align with your current self, not your old self. Sometimes we have attachments to past memories but if those attachments aren’t good for our mental health, then maybe it’s time to evaluate those attachments and cut some cords.
Why do you think it's hard for some people to figure out what it is that they want to do? What do you think stops them from doing what they want?
Mo: Fear. People don’t want to look deeper inside themselves because it’s scary. Because it means they might have to change. And change is hard. Think about changing a habit that you’ve been doing for a few years – that’s hard. Now think about changing the way you’ve been living your life for 30 years, and that is really scary! So it’s better just to stay the same instead of confronting yourself and having to make changes.
Even if the same old life doesn’t make you happy, pain that feels familiar often feels better than the unknown. There’s comfort in the suffering that feels familiar.
I think unless you hit rock bottom, which requires you to evaluate everything in your life and take a swift turn because you’ve got nothing to lose, or something dramatic happens in life to wake you up, you’re unlikely to feel the need to change your current life. Plus, people tend to surround themselves with people who are similar to themselves. So it’s hard for them to view life through a different lens unless they change their environment, or people close to them have personally transformed and they see the effects of that transformation on those closest to them and feel inspired to change too.
You’ll never understand the power of something until you have experienced it yourself. So it’s really hard to convince someone of something unless they reach that point themselves.