Henna Pryor

Executive Coach, Pryority Group

Dear 13 Year Old Henna

You are the product of two incredibly hardworking immigrant parents. I know at 13, you’re too absorbed in your own life to really understand what that’ll mean for your future. You’re going to learn so much more about your parents as you grow older: your father was born in India, and never knew his parents. He was raised by an aunt who had little to no financial resources to raise him and his siblings. Your mother was born in Pakistan, and while her family was a bit more well-off in comparison, her financial cushion dwindled away when she moved to the US at the age of 17 to marry your father. Your parents started their lives in the US with very little and are quintessential, self-made success stories. You don’t fully appreciate any of what they’ve created for you and your sister… not yet, anyway.

I want you to really pay attention to your parents over these next few years. Being a first generation American who is eager to spread her wings and push boundaries, you’ll moan and groan at the decisions they’ll make for you. (Early curfews instead of late night parties and science books instead of MTV.) They will push you to work harder than you want to and you’ll sometimes feel resentful of that. Your friends don’t seem to endure the same pressure to perform. But even though that pressure can be challenging, your natural wiring helps – being a high achiever runs through your veins. You like to be considered “one of the best,” so you push on. You don’t mind busting your butt to make your parents proud… but you haven’t learned yet that there’s more to success than blood, sweat, and tears.

Fast forward.

You’re turning 39 soon and have achieved professional success beyond your wildest dreams. Your path here was interesting.

You made your parents’ dreams come true: You got a great scholarship to attend the University of Delaware, got a job at Ernst & Young out of school, got a Masters Degree from UVA, and earned your CPA. On paper, you made all of your parents’ dreams come true.

But you were miserable.

You made some amazing friends in public accounting but hated your job, and couldn’t shake this feeling there was more you could offer the world. You discovered the world of staffing the way most public accountants do – you were recruited. A former EY manager had gone to Kforce and you enlisted her to help with your job search, which quickly turned into you sitting across the table from her and declaring, “Man, what you do for a living sure looks like fun!”

“Why don’t you try a career in staffing?” she’ll ask.

Mom and Dad will flash through your mind.

“I can’t do that.”
“I have a CPA, for goodness sake.”
“I spent my entire educational life preparing for a certain thing, I can’t just abandon that now.”

“Why not?” she’ll push on.

Why not?

At the encouragement of your wonderful new fiance (who will become your husband and father of 2 beautiful kids), you’ll decide to take a leap. You’ll push through your fears and go on to spend 14 phenomenal years in staffing on the inside, and are now entering your 2nd year on the “outside” as a successful Executive Coach and Trainer to the staffing industry. You’re happier than you’ve ever been in your life. You’ve found financial success and work that genuinely fills your tank everyday. You’re fulfilled in the truest sense of the word. You’re exactly where you should be. Thank goodness, because you almost didn’t enter the industry at all.

13 year old Henna, please listen to me on this: I don’t want you to play small or safe. The world will try to push you in a certain direction and you’ll have to push through that resistance. You’ll have to zig while others zag, but I promise you… it’ll be worth it.

If I could tell you a few things now, they would be:

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Not everything has to be a zero sum game. Give yourself permission to try things – be playful, experimental, and willing to fall on your face. Make small bets. If something works out, double down! And if it doesn’t, newsflash – no one is paying as much attention as you think they are. (They never are.)

You’re capable of more than you know. Don’t be your own bottleneck.

You’re relentlessly stubborn and don’t like to give up easily, so let that work to your advantage. You’ll find your way to success, so don’t let fear and hesitation be the reason you hold yourself back. Lean into your strengths, be bold and open about them to others, and you’ll be amazed at the opportunities that come up for you.

It’s ok to want to please other people, until you stop pleasing yourself.

It feels good to make your parents happy right now, and that’s ok. They’ve worked hard to give you opportunities in life and you are eager to maximize them. Just don’t forget to start to building awareness as early as you can of what makes YOU happy. Start to know yourself well enough to know when something you’re doing has stopped serving you and you’ll avoid a lot of drudgery and pain down the road.

Embrace failing forward.

Growing up as a high achiever and a perfectionist isn’t always a good thing. Failure feels hard right now, but as your life continues, you’ll learn there’s so much power in failing forward. Start to ask yourself:

What was this failure trying to teach you?

What was the gift in this experience?

What did I learn?

Starting to appreciate your failures now will help you even more in the future.

I’m so proud of you how far you’ve come. Your parents are proud of you now AND they’ll be proud of you later. Continue to believe in yourself, lean into your edge, and aim high – the world is yours for the taking.

Thank you Henna Pryor for writing A Letter To My 13 Year Old Self

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