Priya Chopra: “Life is what happens when you are busy planning it”

Rule number one in my books is to put away my phone. I love spending time with my children on the weekend without having my phone on me — I find it allows me to be much more in the present. As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” […]

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Rule number one in my books is to put away my phone. I love spending time with my children on the weekend without having my phone on me — I find it allows me to be much more in the present.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Priya Chopra. At age 22, Montreal native, Priya Chopra had already made her mark at global companies like L’Oréal and Campbell’s Soup. Following a stint working in fashion in Milan, Priya returned home and launched 1Milk2Sugars in 2012, an agency specializing in PR, Social Media and Influencer Marketing. 1Milk2Sugars has now tripled in size, both in terms of employees and client roster, and has picked up industry accolades by winning PR Daily’s Social Media Awards. With a coveted client list, including brands like Pfizer, NIVEA, L’Oréal and Marriott Hotels, 1Milk2Sugars now has three offices covering the key eastern hubs of North America: Montreal, Toronto and New York. Priya is an elite member of the Forbes Agency Council, an invite-only organization for executives in fast growing agencies. Members of this world class community are hand-picked by Forbes, one of the most iconic media companies in the world. Priya has been featured on, Bloomberg TV, Globe and Mail and others, to share thought leadership as well as how she balances a growing career while being an active mom to three young children. In March 2018, Priya was also awarded the PR in Canada, Women in Communications Award in the “Founders” category.

Thank you so much for joining us Priya! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I’m a child to immigrant parents. Both of my parents are from India and came to Canada in the 70s. Seeing them having to struggle to re-establish a life here was something that truly shaped who I am today. Since my parents were new to the country, we had to balance keeping our Indian heritage strong while adapting to Canadian culture. I would say my parents did this well as they were fairly liberal, however Indian values were still very prominent in our household. This was evident when it came to hospitality, hard work and honor which were all very important principles growing up.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

That expression “life is what happens when you are busy planning it,” certainly applies in my case. I was working for various Fortune 500 companies and climbing the corporate ladder at a young age. I was self-assured and had it all mapped out in terms of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I had just finished my master’s degree and was evaluating a return to the workplace. I had this gut feeling that I should do something else — so I didn’t return to corporate. It was a radical choice since I was doing well and had several promotions, so success was inevitable. I knew what I would be losing (stability, salary, security and more), but I decided to go the road less travelled and start my own company in communications. I had very little experience working in PR at that point, maybe only 6 months or so, but here I am over a decade later.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

Every day is different, which is a breath of fresh air for me because I hate monotony. The day almost always starts with my morning workout. The rest is a mix of emails, phone calls and meetings. It could also involve some travel, either to my Toronto office or elsewhere, for a new business pitch. The evenings are always jam packed being on mommy-duty and juggling the schedules of my three little ones.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

In my personal experience, I actually didn’t get to spend that much time with my mother. She was a single mom raising us and working two jobs, so unfortunately, that meant long working hours and not being around much. Despite this, my brother and I were able to stay on track and always excelled academically. The respect that we had for our mother kept us on track. Even in her absence, her presence was felt immensely and we always made decisions with her in mind. So, if you ask me, I may have a different opinion. While I do feel we need to invest in raising our children with a solid foundation of values, I do feel it’s also important not to be overbearing. This is my personal opinion, take it or leave it.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

Given my previous reply, I agree with this study. I strongly believe that children can pick up on their parents’ energy. You especially feel this with babies — it’s quite typical that if mommy is stressed, the baby does not stop crying. Thus, quality time in the right mind frame is more important than quantity of time. One thing I do with my children is eat dinner with them; sitting around the dinner table as a family. This is something simple, but I often hear how parents don’t always have time for this. The other thing I have started doing is asking each of my children to share a ‘story’ about something that happened in their day. It’s become something they look forward to sharing with me and of course, I love being on the receiving end and listening. They play a lot of sports, and not only does that keep them off electronics, but it allows us to spend a lot of time together in the car, for long rides, traveling to games or tournaments. This uninterrupted time spent with them is great.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

Rule number one in my books is to put away my phone. I love spending time with my children on the weekend without having my phone on me — I find it allows me to be much more in the present.

Something else that I highly recommend is getting outdoors and experiencing nature with your children. I am a very active person and ensure that my kids are equally as active. It could be something as simple as taking a bike ride together, skipping rocks by the pond or having a picnic lunch — I notice these precious moments are something that they bring up weeks or months later.

As parents, my husband and I often organize activities that we can do as a family. We carve out time to do something special and enjoyable. We love to try new things with the kids — even being tourists in our own city, why not!

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I find this is relative. Every individual is a product of their own heritage, upbringing and life experience. For me, I revert to how my mother raised me as she is a benchmark of someone that raised kids in a challenging environment. I think a good parent is someone that allows their child to explore and make their own mistakes. One that is not too overbearing; allowing room creativity and freedom of thought. One thing that I remember clearly is that my parents never put pressure on me to follow a particular career path. Keep in mind how unconventional this is, given that we are from India — the only acceptable job to Indian parents is a physician! In my home however, if one week I wanted to be a fashion designer, and the other I wanted to work at my favorite restaurant; they would laugh and instruct me to follow my heart. Perhaps this is what led me to become the creator of my own brand, and owner of my own shop.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I am all about this! I have always been big on goal setting and firmly believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and are willing to put in the work. I speak about this a lot with my children, or at least with my older ones that can understand the premise. I share my own story of the hard work and long hours it took to succeed as an entrepreneur and finally make it to the other side. I always tell them to set goals. At the beginning of every school year, I encourage them to write down their personal goals for the year. Once complete, I ensure they stick it somewhere they’ll see it daily to hold themselves accountable!

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I often look to Indian philosophy that speaks to living a life of balance. This means to choose a life of moderation over an extreme. Rather than running too fast, I have chosen to take a medium pace. I believe in making my dreams come true but not at the expense of my health, happiness or time with my family. I have learned to be content with my progress and never measure my strides against someone else’s.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Character is destiny” — this is one of my favorite quotes, and in fact went into my high school year book as my mantra! I firmly believe that you don’t need to be born with a silver spoon to be successful. Your character is all you need — positivity, resilience and willingness to work are the fundamentals I believe in, and what I teach my children as well.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think we must remember to think of children that are less fortunate. I support a multitude of children’s charities. I’ve been supporting SOS Children’s Villages for almost a decade. Nothing breaks my heart more than to think of children that are living on an empty stomach. There are several simple ways we can give back. Even by providing support for one child, we can make a difference.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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