SELINA MAN KARLSSON
Founder of Curious Courses
Céline Chatti : Thank you for accepting this interview. What is your activity ?
SMK : I am the founder of curiouscourses.ch which I created 4 years ago. I aim to make people curious, to help them discover new hobbies or passions and develop new skills. I want to show people what is out there in the world. When I was working in the corporate world, I was completely focused on my job and I was not aware of what was going on around me. I didn't realize that there was actually a bigger world out there. I am amazed with what I see now. There is always something new to be discovered and it never fails to surprise me.
CC : What do you like the most about what you do ?
SMK : I love working with speakers and experts who are really passionate about what they do. They believe in it with all their heart and it is wonderful to see. I love it when people attend a course with few expectations, yet leave feeling inspired and invigorated. They go away feeling different in a positive way. For me, there’s also something special about creating something out of nothing and creating a space for people to come and discover. This enables them to be more creative and expressive.
My own life used to be very mainstream; going to school, obtaining my diploma, getting a job. I felt that I was following society's expectations. In the corporate world, I realized I was still conforming to expectations. I had to find the courage to try new things and I came to realize that I didn't have to conform, that was a choice. Nowadays in my own business, I define my own role and my own game. It gives me freedom and that is something that really works for me personally. It is not always easy, but different and rewarding. It has opened my eyes more and I find it easier to express myself from a place where I feel comfortable. The lesson for me is to become more conscious and aware.
CC : What is your personal goal in your life ?
SMK : It is changing. Now that I am pregnant, I really want to be a good role model for my child. I want him to believe that anything is possible. I really want him to know how important it is to get to know himself, because then he will be able to choose what is best for him, better serving the world. I believe that kindness in our everyday life is very important, being kind to ourselves and others.
CC : What is your experience of kindness in the Corporate world ?
SMK : In the corporate world kindness does exist. Yet in the last few years, I saw that when people were scared of losing their jobs, they became defensive. They became less kind to each other or willing to share, often retreating into their shell. However losing your job is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, facing such challenges can make you stronger in the long run. It may give you the opportunity to find out what is really important for you. At the time, it may feel as if your world is falling apart but everyone comes through it in the end. It gives you the opportunity to ask yourself 'Where can I go now'? On a personal note, it took me a long time to work this out. It is funny how we all ask ourselves the same questions but work through them in different ways.
CC : Are you saying that you need to get fired in order to understand what you really want ?
SMK : For some people, that is how it happens. But you don't have to go to this extreme. You don't have to lose your job. The more aware you become, the more you can influence your life. You can make changes more gradually, be more in control and have more fun. Don't be afraid of change because it is normal. You can ask yourself « What can I do in this situation » ?
CC : If you had to start again, what would you change ?
SMK : I would still study computing however I would consider a job that was more people-related straight after university. I didn't do this originally because I didn't know enough about what I wanted. I was reacting to circumstances around me. I would have liked to get to know myself better and my preferences much earlier on. To be fair, its all part of the journey : it sometimes feels that it takes me a long time to learn things and that's okay !
CC : What have you learnt from your experience ?
SMK : That there is no such thing as failure. On the contrary not always succeeding is a powerful learning experience, even though it is not always comfortable. I think I was always afraid of failing. It probably comes from my Chinese background where success is related to how much you earn. In many ways, I didn't want to challenge this concept, but nowadays I am less afraid of being my own person. I want to be true to myself. Knowing who you are is key! It’s about finding your balance. If you are not really happy with the way you earn money then it’s just not worth it.
CC : How do you find out who you really are ?
SMK : There are many different ways and its a long term process. You can question yourself regularly to find out what you like and what you do not like in your life because many things we take for granted or do out of habit. Using the services of a coach certainly speeds things up as they can show you a mirror and highlight areas you may not be able to see yourself.
Another way is by looking at people around you: do they inspire you, challenge you and support you? If they don't, why do you spend time with them? Those around you can have a big influence on what you do and how you do things. For example, if I hang out with sporty people, I will most likely become more sporty.
I often ask myself whether I should challenge friends or whether I would want to be challenged by them myself. Personally I believe that being a real friend means also being able to challenge the ones you care about. For their sake and for your own. I have grown as a person because of the people in my life and because they have challenged me or I have challenged myself. Every time we get out of our comfort zone, we develop as a person. If we don't, we go backwards. Whatever situation you find yourself in, take the path that stretches you.
CC : What advice would you like to give to young entrepreneurs ?
SMK : Just get started! When I started out I often asked myself: what about this idea? Do I like this or that? Am I capable? What if I fail? There were a lot of questions in my head. The best way is to learn from experience. Once you start it becomes easier, otherwise its just thoughts that continue to go round and round in your head. I started things simply and things evolved over time, bit by bit. I learnt to understand that it doesn't have to be perfect! Just get started and put something out there. Only when you do things will you be able to figure out if something will work or not and if it doesn’t work, you can always change it.
CC : What was the turning point that enabled you to make your decision ?
SMK : My job situation changed. I still had a job but not the one I wanted. I then started exploring what it was I wanted to do which led to creating Curious Courses which I ran part time for 3 years. It wasn’t until a few years later after a conversation with a friend, that I left the corporate world. My friend had always wanted to have his own business and suddenly he quit his job. He told me that he had some savings, didn’t have any dependants yet so if he didn’t do it then, then when would he? This got me thinking, I was in a very similar position. He then told me about a friend of his that was winding down a startup. This friend had now gotten a new job that he would not have been able to get, had he not had the startup experience.
This was the turning point for me. My friend's story helped me not to be as afraid any more! I didn't know where it would take me but I felt more relaxed about it. Being self-employed is not easy but it is so rewarding. There is always some insecurity being self-employed, something that a lot of people are afraid of. But nowadays, even if you have a job, there is no guarantee of long-term security, even in the corporate world.
CC : Anything else you would like to add ?
SMK : Yes. It is important to have balance, something in your life besides work. If you don't, and you lose your job for example, then you may feel you have nothing. Thinking ahead will enhance your work and allow you to find energy from difference sources.
CC : Selina, we are reaching the end of this interview.
What do you take away from it ?
SMK : It has been challenging and insightful, so thank you for giving me the opportunity. You have made me reflect on what I have done so far in terms of achievements and learnings. Thank you Celine.
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