Successful people who chose what's true to their hearts

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Three people successful in their respective fields talk about how they diverged from the paths laid out for them to choose their passion. Illustration by JL JAVIER/FILE

Choosing what's true to you is like selecting a "companion" in your real life choices. Just like GSM BLUE, "real" flavors can just be chilled and enjoyed.

Career paths can be long-winding, tortuous roads. It is not always convenient to follow one’s heart, especially through uncharted territories. In this article, three people successful in their respective fields talk about how they diverged from the paths laid out for them to choose their passion.

Choosing to be a true fashionista

When celebrities seek highly specific, hard-to-find fashion goods, they go to Aimee Hashim. Knowledgeable about the full spectrum of labels, the lifestyle consultant has turned her oniomania into a successful empire. A regular at Paris Fashion Week — she posts about her travels on her verified Instagram account @itsaimeehashim — one can hardly imagine that only a decade ago, Aimee trained as a nurse.

“I was forced to shift into nursing,” she recalls. “I was never really interested in nursing but didn’t have any siblings. The pressure not to disappoint my family was too strong.” Regardless of her strong objections, she attended all her classes — but in high heels.

While waiting for the results of the board exams (which she passed), she submitted a CV to Rustans on a whim. She interviewed in sexy heeled boots and got hired as a VIP personal shopper.

“It was so hard for me to convince everyone in my family that fashion can turn to something really lucrative,” she said. “[Yet] I was sure my stars were aligned and I was being directed to my dream.” She recounts telling her mom: “One day, all the famous people you know would come to me for my expertise in shopping.”

As Aimee transitioned to independent consultancy — which involved building her own network abroad and building her own clientele from scratch — she had to deal with a new set of hurdles such as dealing with scammers or building an empire without much financial support. At one point, she sold her old bags on eBay for capital.

“When I finally saw myself on CNN and all the magazines,” she says, “I knew more than anything that all the stumbles, curveballs, the sleepless nights and the hardships I’ve been through were well worth it.”

Today, her company Loveluxe counts celebrities like Kris Aquino and Marian Rivera as its clients, among a long list of clients.

“Nursing taught me how to care for people genuinely. To connect deeply. I learned how to assess people’s needs and wants without them having to say much,” she says. “It is like an innate characteristic — that background of building relationships worked to my advantage. I know my loyal clientele to the core.”

“It’s all about knowing yourself well,” she says. “When you have a will so strong that’s driven by passion and ambition, you have to follow it. When you know what it is that you like, you know deep down that you won’t stop until you get it.”

Choosing to succeed despite failure

Surrounded by stethoscopes, sphygmomanometers, vitamins, and pharmaceutical merch all her life, Maxine Rodriguez dreamt of studying at Harvard Medical School. “Both my parents are doctors, whose parents, in turn, also wanted them to be doctors,” she says. Maxine broke the pattern when she decided to take English. “I’m the weird one in the family who, despite having all the resources to survive medical school, chose the road less traveled.”

Her plan was to take up law after getting her bachelor’s degree at University of the Philippines. But on the day that the results of the law aptitude exams were released, she was invited to teach with the Department of English and Comparative Literature. A few hours later, she didn’t find her name on the list of passers.

She returned to the department, went through the whole application process – exam, teaching demo, interview – and passed. “I’ve been teaching for seven years now, thus far the first and only job I’ve ever had, and that one job I don’t mind retiring from.”

Her role as assistant professor at the University of the Philippines has allowed her to study abroad to earn a master’s degree at the National University of Singapore — on scholarship. Apart from teaching, she also gets a number of other opportunities: take on editorial roles for academic publications, do side hustles in translation and cultural research, host online interviews with professionals from the sciences and humanities, deliver talks, and present in international conferences.

“All these explorations validate my career choices,” she says, “but it’s still the look of wonder and awe in my students’ faces after a one-and-a-half hour class that give me the highest form of validation.”

She gives the following advice: “Explore available career choices in front of you. Figure out which ones can be a life-long career, which can be pursued now, which ones can be done simultaneously with your current job, which ones can be done later on in life.”

“Accept change. Our worldview changes based on our own experiences as we age. As my mom would always say, we can’t always change things in this world – the pandemic, our career path, life in general – but what we can control is ourselves.”

Lastly, “Embrace failure. Accepting change does not come without mishaps. Of course, things wouldn’t always work out well. We’re not good at everything every single time. I didn’t pass the law exam. I don’t have a degree in Education. But isn't it in trying and failing and eventually succeeding that we find ourselves anyway?”

Choosing what’s true and passing it on

Gab hails from the illustrious Pangalangan family. “My lolo, my parents, my titos and titas — all lawyers. You’d think my parents would pressure me or my brothers to take the same route, but they didn’t.”

Instead, they were taught to pursue their own interests, which led to a long journey for Gab. Since graduating in 2011, he has worked in different industries, with each new job different from the last: he has dabbled in banking, written for sports publications, founded a multimedia start-up, and ventured into digital marketing. Today, he has found his niche at TikTok Philippines, where he manages its sports community.

While his parents maintained a safe distance from Gab’s career decisions, he sensed a healthy amount of skepticism at first. “After all, I was entering unfamiliar territory, and their formula and metrics for success did not match my career choices,” he said. “But like they taught me to, I was determined to find a career that would provide personal — and financial — fulfilment. I understood that for me to have any career longevity, I had to find something that gave me a sense of purpose.”

Gab’s chosen vocation — a unique combination of sports and communication — allows him to make a meaningful impact on a large scale.

In 2017, he launched the “Fight Like A Girl” campaign to empower women through sports and to showcase the prowess of female athletes. This was particularly meaningful to him because he has a daughter. “I felt like I was making a difference for her,” he said.

Gab did not follow in the footsteps of his lawyer parents, but he is continuing their legacy as parents.

“That reassures me that I’m on the right path.”

In everything you do, make sure to choose what’s true.
Choose to be true. #ChooseGSMBLUE.