Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Prelude to an Awakening
Life is funny. Not in a humorous way - although I have thought that a few times. It's funny in a 'you never know what's going to happen' way. The uber-aware may scoff at this thought with the 'well of course you're never going to know' attitude. But seriously, every time something happens and I'm caught off guard, I think, "How could I have not seen that coming?"

When major life events happen and we think about our next move, more often than not we come up blank. As much as we think we can plan our life, it often takes over and says 'check'. No-one is immune. Even wealth and fame cannot provide protection. However, what separates those who live their lives from those who merely exist is the search for and subsequent awareness of The Awakening.

It was designer Tom Ford who first told me about The Awakening. After more than a dozen years at Gucci, building it up from virtual bankruptcy to multi-billion dollar business, the decision to leave was a hard one. Differences of opinion and vision between Ford and Gucci's parent company, PPR meant something had to give and Ford made a dramatic exit.

The fashion world was stunned. Tom Ford was the man women wanted and men wanted to be. It wasn't just his talent that had made Gucci a desirable luxury brand, his ability to direct the timing of fashion is something he describes as a gift. The irony is, while he was able to dictate the timing of his industry, his work dictated the timing of his life. He expected to be at Gucci for much longer, but Life had other plans.

"I felt lost. Whenever you get to a point when you can't see your future, if you're someone like me who always has to have a plan, and always has to know where they are going, oh my god, if you can't see your future, you start thinking, well maybe I don't have one."

Talking to him, it's hard to ever imagine such a strong, confident man has ever felt lost. The dramatic gear change in Tom Ford's career was all over the fashion and business worlds. But when you strip it down to its bare bones, Tom Ford's own life changed. Sure he was in a comfortable position financially but for him, as it is for all of us at some point, it was about "what now?"

"It was really terrible. I think it came at a time in my life when I was possibly due a mid-life crisis anyway. I worked so hard all my life to get to a certain point and there's a wonderful quote about mid-life crisis that a mid life crisis is when you get to the top of the ladder only to find out that it's against the wrong wall...Even though I didn't want to leave Gucci at that time and it was quite traumatic for me, I tried to learn something from it. The thing I learnt was that I never ever in my life want to retire."

Ford told me that once he realized what he wanted to do he started mapping out his vision and his plans. Sheer determination is what led him to where he is now. But the one thing from our conversation that stands out for me is his belief that life at Gucci was a prelude to life now. There is something we can all learn from Tom Ford's experiences. It's a comforting thought that even someone as successful as Tom Ford can have tough times and feel lost but come out of it bigger and better. Most important for me was the notion that Gucci didn't ruin his career or, ultimately, his confidence.

But it's not easy. We all can't take time out to find ourselves. We have bills to pay and mouths to feed and are dependent on that paycheck.

Perhaps though to ease the sense of frustration and the loss of direction is the knowledge somewhere deep down inside that all will be well. I'm learning to have faith not only in Life but also in myself, that I too will have an Awakening when I need it.

I just hope I'll remember that when Life decides to have some fun at my expense.
Posted By Monita: Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Hi Monita

It's "funny" how sometimes when you find yourself in a sticky situation, you find answers in the unlikeliest of places.

I suppose you can say I'm at a crossroad in my life, and by sheer coincidence I stumbled upon your insert on Tom Ford today. Naturally I sat hooked in front of the TV and afterwards read your blog. While I found the CNN insert entertaining, your blog hit home hard. I'm finishing my law degree in November, and I've just realized I've wasted 5 years of my life mostly due to the fact that my personality is at the opposite spectrum of my degree.

So what to do, should I continue down the path that was chosen for me, get to the top of the ladder, just to realize it's the wrong wall? Should I stay in touch with this hidden part of me by redesigning and redecorating my house once every 5 years, or do I hit that other road I've been dreaming about afresh, taking the biggest gamble of my life hoping it will all work out?

So, while life is currently having some fun at my expense, at least after I've read your blog I'm living with the faintest little ounce of hope that one of these days my own awakening will dawn on me... hopefully soon!

Kind regards
Abraham Botha (Cape Town, South Africa)

P.S you and Max make the best team, I get up so early every morning just to catch it!!!
Posted By Anonymous Abraham Botha, Cape Town, South Africa : 8:22 PM, August 01, 2007
Hi Monita,
One goes through both good and bad phases in life. Unquestionably the challenging feat is the ability to standup, manage and overcome the bad ones as reflected in Tom Ford's successful comeback to the fashion industry.Through his self confidence and faith in himself he has proved the adage,'Where there is a will, there is a way.'
Posted By Anonymous SriVidya K, Canada, Toronto : 10:25 PM, August 02, 2007
Hi Monita, I come from china and glad to read your blog. Everyday we all need an Awakening to inspirit oursleves for the beautifull future. Come on, Monita!
Posted By Anonymous sunny : 3:25 AM, August 03, 2007
Dear Monita,
I agree with you and think we often waste time in complaining instead of reacting. Nowadays, being resilient is one of the best properties you can have in a world which cares no one. So what Mr Ford did is very remarkable and he deserves my admiration. On the other hand, in your nice interview, he said something often repeated by many famous fashion designer " I hate marketing, sales operations etc".
My credit card doesn't agree.
Greetings from Sardinia.
Posted By Anonymous Valter : 7:52 AM, August 03, 2007
sounds like hype to me. give me somehintg real Tom

Give us sonething real.
Posted By Anonymous cj : 10:49 AM, August 03, 2007
Every day is full of life around the world.
Posted By Anonymous Thomas Pirovano : 4:36 PM, August 03, 2007
Spot on. We're all human after all, so self doubt is natural....as you point out...the key is to realise that it's temporary. That realisation alone can help the process run it's course a little more smoothly.

Great show...Tom Ford is a really cool guy! (and you 2!)

Posted By Anonymous Anthony King : 12:34 PM, August 04, 2007
as we know,if you can imagine it,you can acheve it;if you dream it,you can become it.so, let's do it!
Posted By Anonymous chaliesong : 3:42 AM, August 08, 2007
Hi Monita,
Your stories are creative, it must be wonderful to experience so much doing your job. Keep up the good work, I love reading your articles.
Keep up the great work girl.

PFC Durham.
Posted By Anonymous delmar durham : 2:11 PM, August 08, 2007
Hi Monita,

Is it not a question of what you make of life whether we talk professionally and personally. Tom Fords exit from Gucci was probably meant to be, look where he is now, he seems very happy about what he made of the change. Why would Gucci ruin his career, Ford had already made a name for himself, so no risk there, even if they had tried. I do believe it is entirely up to ourselves what we make of our lives. Financially comfortable does not necessarily mean happy, I rather be happy and enjoy what I am doing.
Posted By Anonymous Hans Henrik Friis, Bonn : 1:16 PM, August 09, 2007
The fashion industry is an ugly business. Its factories in the third world are criticized for their abuse of employees, the use of child labor (after all, little fingers can be very useful for certain factory jobs and little workers can fit into smaller spaces), rotten working conditions, zero employee benefits, and low wages. Its marketing geniuses persuade men and women that they will be shunned by society unless they spend unreasonable amounts of money buying the unreasonably priced garments produced in those grimy, dreary sweatshops. My wife showed me a flimsy piece of lingerie, priced at about $100 (in which she would admittedly look fantastic). She would have bought it if I hadn't pointed out to her that while we would be paying about $2000 a pound for the garment, the poor woman or little girl who made it probably got a dime or less.

To praise the fashion industry for anything except the bold and unconcealed exploitation of its workers and its absolute contempt for its consumers is insane or is financially motivated.

The fashion press, however, makes its money by ignoring those realities and treating the leadership of the industry as if they were bold cultural heroes saving us from the sin of tackiness and punishment of social ostracism.

Next fall we will be throwing out last fall's clothes, for which we paid a fortune, to make room for this season's overpriced junk, for which we will pay another fortune.

The only praise I have for the fashion industry is that it is not as bad as its even more evil twin: cosmetics industry.
Posted By Anonymous terry : 2:55 PM, August 18, 2007
Funny that I used to feel I was the only one without a plan for my life.It's good to know other people go through the same phase.The key thing is to take time out from chokey situations to re-evaluate your life.What Tom Ford did was brave.However,in Nigeria,due to the sorry economy,it's highly discouraged as most pple would tell you not to leave your job for nothing.But one has to take risks right?Life itself is a risk...Thks Monita
Posted By Anonymous JydaGirl,Lagos,Nigeria : 9:45 AM, August 20, 2007
Hi Monita

This is just to say that I watch your programme like a prayer and at times watch the repeat of it as well. Your interview with Tom Ford has been my all time favourite as I have much respect for the man who revolutionised and re-invented the House of Gucci. And this was the first time I saw him doing an in-depth interview about himself. So, thanks again for a great job done and keep up the good work! I envy you at times though, it must've been pretty cool to sit with Mr Ford at his residence and then go visit a gallery with him. I'm sure it's every girl's dream, and sure is mine.

Your biggest fan in Sri Lanka
Aruni Abeyesundere, Colombo
Posted By Blogger Aruni : 6:05 AM, August 26, 2007
Monita ,your stories are creative.It's the good work.I love reading your articles.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 3:51 PM, December 29, 2007
Great blog Monita....enjoyed your stories alot..
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 11:01 PM, March 02, 2008
CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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