Why 18 year old Shan inspires us all…

Why 18 year old Shan inspires us all…

Imagine a three year old left on his own, deserted by his mother in the aftermath of his father’s funeral.

Little Shan packed his school uniform, wore the other and set out in search of a shelter, leaving behind his coir mill home for good.

He was alone.

It had been no home – but it was the only one he knew and he didn’t mind the dust. But now it was no more because he was alone.

What happened as the three year old started his journey on his own, is history.

He remembers waking up in hospital soon afterwards and  being taken in by a kind bus conductor and his family. They took care of him until he sat for his O/Ls.

Shan had to cook his own food and do chores in the home they gave him but he didn’t mind.

He went on to get prizes for his talent in singing and other extra curricular activities.

Soon afterwards, his foster father dies from a cancer – knowing that he would become a burden to the the foster family, Shan sets out, determined to build a life on his own terms.

One goal is to get his birth certificate – he didn’t have one.

Because he did not have a birth certificate, the school had not allowed him to take part in any activities.

He didn’t mind – every time this young man was dealt a blow in life, he used it to become stronger.

He was able to get a birth certificate after much persistence, time spent and great efforts undertaken – but thanks to archaic laws that govern such documents, his birth certificate states that his parents are unknown.

Just like in Kenny Rogers’ song, where they called Jimmy the coward of the county, people called Shan the fatherless child in less flattering terms.

Shan didn’t mind – he had goals to attain.

Shan then gets a job with a restaurant – and a place to stay with a salary.

He learns cooking and all of its craft here – after working from dawn until evening, he believes he has finally found a place he can call home.

Things change when Shan is fired for not waking up on time one day – he has only one passion in life and that is music.

After work, he would stay up to watch the music sessions going on in a close by place.

And then one day, he oversleeps.

Out of a job and back on the street, Shan is no longer alone.

His friend, the pastry chef earning a salary of LKR 75,000 per month along side him in the restaurant, chooses to walk out with him.

He refuses to leave Shan to face the world on his own.

In a true test of sincere friendship, Shan and his friend set up a restaurant, along with another friend in the Kuliyapitiya town who gives up his ambition to join in the venture.

The three friends are soon joined by another – they work like a team and the result is a restaurant with a booming business in Muthukuda Plaza Kuliyapitiya Town.

Shan is more than an example to the young generation of today – and to all of us.

Just eighteen but wiser beyond years, Shan has formed his own line of defense in the face of insults, refusals and rebuts.

His strength is his quiet resilience – and a steely determination to fine tune his art and emerge not just a dynamic entrepreneur but also a musician.

The many certificates and awards he has recieved stand testimony to his tremendous talent in music.

Today, helped by his friends and well wishers, he has recorded an album of 05 songs in it.

How does a young man, rejected by his family, ostercized by society and left to fend for himself, manage to hold it all together, so courageously, so well?

At a time when all around him, young men with families, parents, much loved and nurtured, are making wrong decisions and wrong choices, Shan stands tall, a beacon of hope to us all.

Shan bears no ills, no grudges against those who called him names, those who sneered at him.

His eyes shining, his hopes high, he tells of his ambition to qualify in music and eventually, to save enough to buy a plot of land, build a house and invite his mother – if he can find her – to live with him.

Among restless young men who wear anger like some sort of a jewel to consolidate their position in society , Shan could have easily turned the rejection, the pain into a weapon he could have thrown back at those who opposed him.

Instead, he has perfected the best weapon to fight injustice – success.

Shan and his friends run their restaurant with perfect precision – and share the profits on an equal basis – a true band of brothers, if there one ever was.

So what does this courageous young man with his eyes sparkling with hope, his voice so rich with talent, tell us?

That every rejection can be turned into a powerful weapon of hope.

That being fatherless and motherless yet knowing the right path to trod on is richer than having all the family in the word and yet feel lost and hopeless.

That taking inspiration from what you possess instead of lamenting over what you don’t possess, is greater than mourning what you never had.

That when all is said and done, if there is courage, determination and talent, the only limit you have is the one you impose on yourself.

May Shan be truly blessed – may his band of brothers who gave up their comforts to stand by him, be blessed as they stay a beacon of light in a world of darkness.



Zuckerberg style paternity leave..is it relevant?


Reading about one of the world’s busiest men running the Facebook empire wanting to take paternity leave got me thinking. Does this mean that Silicon Valley is officially recognizing paternity leave as an important step in encouraging and empowering men to share the responsibilities that come from a new born in the family? If so, it certainly sounded good.

Tech companies have always encouraged maternity/paternity leave in the hope of retaining talent. Yet most have not made much use  of the facility, it seems, for fears of missing out on the pace of work. Even in the case of Marisa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who chose to take minimum time out with both of her pregnancies, worked throughout.

Comparisons aside, Zuckerberg’s statement is a powerful one and highlights the importance of giving family due time. In tech driven businesses, this can be a tough call. Not that it is easier elsewhere. Careers have been put on hold for those wanting to go all the way in caring for children. In the case of Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, it is even more poignant because the couple miscarried earlier. The significance of wanting to spend time with the new born and be around the new mother in a role that both empowers and assists her,must mean considerably to the Facebook founder.

So, does this mean that paternity leave is important for all men whose wives are due to give birth? Or is it just more of the politically correct statements and standpoints to show the world that gender is a key issue in Silicon Valley?

Paternity leave, I’m certain, does help. I remember the aftermath of having my daughter, recovering from a bleeding fibroid and facing the post natal depression blues. Having my husband around helped. It was not just sharing the work – it was also being able to share the fears, the uncertainties, the complications and being able to be comforted and soothed by the person closest to you and the family. Sometimes, what matters is the fact that your husband is around – not even doing anything but just being there so that you can be assured everything is alright. New mothers need an extra hand in reassurance, as we all know.

Undoubtedly, Zuckerberg has set a new standard for all the young, tech driven fathers out there. As a parent who is also a millennial, his decision speaks much for the restoration of faith in families, in fathers wanting to spend time with children and in giving family priority over work. It tells the young generation that work could never replace family, which in itself is a strong delivery. It puts the concept of getting married, having children, raising a family in a new light – for the better.

Now that the founder of the social media giant Facebook confirms paternity leave is ok, we should see the concept gaining momentum at places of work. Argued, evaluated, thought over, mulled over – call it what you may. Every new mother would benefit from an extra pair of hands – especially from the one  who is closest to her.






Busy lives often means tight careers and even tighter personal spaces. It’s a tough battle to keep everything on the burners all at once but that’s the standard formula for today’s busy woman – whether she is powering a rewarding career or is an entrepreneur who must put in an insane amount of hours per day. Still, children must be taken care of, home chores done and family held together through it all. When all is said and done, the one last on the list is the woman of the house. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It is perfectly alright to consider yourself important too. If you are not up mentally, physically and spiritually to meet the challenges of life, then chances are that no one around you , whether family or colleagues will be, either. Over-worked, depressed and demotivated women (or men) are likely to take wrong decisions, break easily and allow themselves to spiral downward in face of adversity. There is no better individual to be taken care of once in a while than you yourself. But for most women, that’s the hardest thing to do.

Experts recommend that you spend some time on yourself everyday – they call it the ‘Me time’ to recharge, regenerate and recover from the daily hum- drum of life. The ‘Me time’ can be spent in prayer or meditation, reading, sitting down, being pampered in a salon or simply sitting down by yourself with a good cup of tea. The idea is to unwind and give your systems a chance to clear the clutter and calm down.  Some companies and organizations encourage the concept of “me time’ where top executives actually get some time off during the week to engage in ‘me time’.

Finding the time to spend doing nothing is also considered vital in keeping the work sanity balance. A Saturday afternoon can be set aside for the doing nothing session. Ideally, this portion of time must be totally unplanned and kept for spontaneous activity such as watching a movie, going shopping or just hanging around. Although we can and often do get into a work mode by default, it is important to keep this part of the week to do nothing on purpose. It can be rewarding once you fit it into a busy week and before long, you begin to enjoy the stress-free half a day that really enables you recuperate from an insanely busy week.

Spending time talking is also a key therapeutic element in achieving the successful work-life matrix. Whether it is the kids, ageing parents, the spouse or colleagues, spending some amount of time connecting is important, especially in today’s highly entertaining environment of social media , smart phones and the internet. With all those communicative devices, we increasingly find ourselves checking our smart phones while waiting for the bus or our turn at the doctor’s or the supermarket counter.

We no longer make polite small talk that used to turn strangers into friends and acquaintances into colleagues – we can easily be content with our speakers connected to our smart phone playing You Tube videos or music. Or check Facebook status. Making conversation is a dying art – I remember reading that following the power outage caused by the infamous storm in New York, a mother discovered that her children actually could not make conversation with other children of the same age when they had nothing to do when their electronic gaming devices and smart phones went out and could not be charged. In fact, we would do well to realize and discover that those who could make conversation an interesting choice are likely to make new social and business connections easily than others.

Do we spend time recharging, researching and updating ourselves in our chosen field of work? This is an important area – for an example, doctors are expected to update themselves regularly on status of research findings on various relevant illnesses and other heaps of information that flows steadily from on-going research projects. For professionals and others, updating today is no longer a tedious task given the plethora of information available on line at the click of a button. But it is vital that we choose to find the time to update ourselves regularly. Otherwise, we can become like software that is not updated – we lose track of the new developments, the new trends and innovations and thereby, lose the edge in keeping ourselves relevant.

We should find the time to challenge ourselves by never giving up on thinking new ideas and concepts. There is something fundamentally powerful about innovative ideas whose time has come. If not for brilliant ideas, half of the most successful products and services would not have been created. From Facebook that started out as a social network among friends to eBay and Google, some of the web’s most powerful companies and of course Apple, among others, ideas evolved into a powerhouse of growth and financial success.

In a nutshell, keep looking for ways in which you can allow yourself to stay as sharp as the knife that has been consistently sharpened. That’s the only – and the smart way to stay on top of things.


They are no longer manning desks in plush offices but are in front of computers located in kitchens, store spaces, living rooms and bedrooms. They work hard but also have time to spend with the kids and take care of family chores. They run successful businesses from home but have had no need to attract venture capital funds or angel investors – their capital requirements are typically small but the businesses they have built are successful and are adequate for their needs ; money in the bank and time on their hands. They are the entrepreneurs of a new kind – the lifestyle entrepreneurs who form a new wave of women who want to run their own businesses and also manage their home fronts at the same time. 

Lisa Griswold is one such woman in Atlanta. Forbes recently cited her as one of the growing breed of lifestyle entrepreneurs. She runs Pixie Vacations, a travel agency that offers Disney destinations. Lisa works from home, is successful and has plenty of time to spend with her daughters and participate in their growing up.

Women like Lisa typify a new breed of women who seem to have a totally new take on entrepreneurship. A totally different view to that held traditionally, mostly by men. These women want entrepreneurship on their own terms,  that of a blend achieved between home and work.  

Enter lifestyle business. From Martha Stewart, the original lifestyle guru who built an empire on the strength of it to Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow whose web site Goop has become a major lifestyle force on the web to reckon with. I recently read that the Trump heiress Ivanka also wants to get on board the lifestyle wagon and was creating her ‘own’ recipes on line. Mega stars aside, lifestyle ventures are relatively easy to start in your own home and has the potential to turn into a financially viable venture.

Typically, a lifestyle business will yield a decent income for the founder and not much beyond that – not many have a focus of going public or growing into a powerhouse. But then again, not many women who start lifestyle ventures want to go there, either. They are comfortable and happy with the level of success that still allows them to earn a decent income and manage their homes and be on hand to participate actively in the growing up of their kids.

Erin Albert , author of Single. Women. Entrepreneurs , Director of the Ribordy Center for Community Practice Pharmacy at the Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is one such woman who started two ventures herself and has spent a lot of time researching entrepreneurial women. Erin believes that women want their lives to fit to the flow of their lives. They want to be there when the kids come home. They need to be home to help with the homework so they may not be able to sit in at meetings round the clock but they can and will get the work done. Even if it is at the kitchen table, once the dishes are cleared. 

More and more women believe that working long hours does not automatically translate into success. The majority of women engaged in entrepreneurship of this kind feel that striking a decent balance between work and home is not only important but also is central to leading successful lives.

According to Erin Albert,  many women entrepreneurs are able to take bigger risks because they are self-funded. They need to hold both sides of the candle so to speak and want to be able to be in control of the growth of the business and their personal lives. Erin says that women entrepreneurs who are successful do not want to build businesses that rule the world or grow into a mega house of success. Their model is not necessarily Apple or Google. Just a successful business that empowers them financially, while fulfilling their dream of building a successful career.

According to statistics in the USA, the growth of women owned firms during the past 16 years is supposed to be 1.5 times higher than the national average. More and more women and entering businesses on a regular basis. And their efforts seem to be paying off.

Nina Hale, CEO and founder of  Nina Hale Inc, a social media and search engine marketing agency in Minneapolis , says that women who are building businesses that reflect their own interests are growing.

Nina prefers to work with local companies so she can reduce travel and find time to spend with her family.  She is committed to a 40 hour week for herself and her staff and when the limit is reached, they pull back. Her model differs from the typical social media and SEO agencies who put in 60 hour work week but she says she is content with her success. Her company is financially sound and turns in a regular profit and is debt free – she does not plan on fuelling growth with risk and big loans.

Lifestyle businesses or not, many women would jump at the opportunity to be able to build a career that allows them to work while spending adequate time with the family. Making money is vital but so is being hands on for the kids. Striking a balance between the two is old and dated as a concept but still valid for women everywhere, not just the ones cited here. And can it be done? Yes it can.