Sari Ratsula, president of Seychelles Imports, reflects on a life’s journey filled with opportunities, unexpected challenges and the sweet rewards of overcoming them.
Dear Sari, Life is a funny thing. You think you know who you are when you’re young, and then you end up looking back on your last 30 years only to realize that while your core is still the same, you sure have evolved.
What might feel unfair at the time will lead to the biggest, most positive opportunity of your life, so believe that things happen for a reason, and always be open to opportunities. You might want to plan everything in advance, but you never know what the next door will reveal. Remember how you decided to apply for an AIESEC internship (a global platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential abroad) just before you finished your master’s degree in Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration? The German newspaper you applied to rescinded their offer and bruised your self-esteem horribly, but it led to you landing a position at Vans instead. English wasn’t even your first language, but your mom was so proud of you when you went to California for your six-month internship in 1989. That internship led to your first job. Now, almost 30 years later, she is still wondering why her grandchildren are American and living almost 10,000 kilometers away! You never know where life will lead you. If you hadn’t been open to changing your plans, you would have missed this amazing shoe industry journey, from Vans to Seychelles.
As you grow older, you will realize how little control you actually have on anything other than your own effort and attitude. You are in charge of yourself and your actions, so always be responsible. Don’t let things slide or blame others. You are straightforward and direct, which can sometimes be hard in relationships, so remember that being kind goes a long way. On that note, be kind to yourself and give yourself time to figure things out. Very little happens overnight, so it’s OK to be patient.
There will be obstacles in your life, and unfortunately a few big ones with your health. You will face Type 1 diabetes right after graduating and have to shoot insulin for the rest of your life. But it will not stop you from doing what you love; it will just make you stronger. You will also battle cancer and realize the importance of self-love when, prior to your surgery, you write a letter to your young children telling them about yourself to make sure they’ll remember you in case the worst happens. That’s the moment you will understand that regardless of your faults, mistakes and craziness, you actually love who you are and want your kids to know that. It will be a sad yet beautiful moment to remember and, from that point on, you will care less what people think of you and more about staying true to yourself. What matters to you most is your own integrity; doing the right thing and treating people with respect, regardless of who’s watching.
When people ask you why you are so intense in everything you do, it’s OK to tell them that intensity goes hand-in-hand with passion, and that’s what drives you. Don’t try to be anyone else; just be the best version of who you are. Believe in yourself and your gut. It will lead you in the right direction.
How lucky you are to be able to do what you love in this challenging yet super-exciting industry while working with your amazing team at Seychelles!