I grew up in Sri Lanka at a time when the civil war was still raging. My youth was not spent celebrating the triumphs and mourning the losses of my favorite sports team, nor lounging at the park with carefree abandon, or any of the other things that teenagers tend to take for granted.
My days were affected by worries about the safety and well being of those around me as they went about their daily lives, and whether the conflict on the news would arrive on our street on any given day. I could not just ‘pop out for a while’ when the fancy took. It would have been easy for me to become immersed in these kinds of concerns, and let them take over.
But for my father…
He told me that I could not, nay must not, let them win. Those fighting on both sides of the civil war operated on the premise of fear. He told me that if I conducted my life in fear, then I would always be the loser.
One day, after a family friend was badly injured during a breakout of hostilities, I was feeling wretched. ‘You must be resilient,’ he stated, ‘you must be strong, you must be determined… and above all this Selva, you must demonstrate character.’
I took my father’s message to heart that day and those words remain imprinted on my memory.
Some years on, our family relocated to London and I got married. I knew I wanted to make something of myself but I was new to the UK, I was trying to adjust to a new environment and a new culture; it certainly wasn’t easy but I knew I had to persist.
I was fortunate and found a junior role in the investment-banking sector but I struggled to pay all the bills. The responsibility to keep the family afloat was on me. My father’s words reverberated in my mind. I left the house that morning, promising my wife I would find a solution: I went from place to place, handing in my CV, until I found myself a part-time job for the weekend.
In 2000, I started offering tuition to accountancy students to earn extra income. With time, and the support of my wife and father, the business developed and we opened a school. I asked my father to do me the honor of choosing the motto for the school. Almost twenty years on, it still stands today, ’The end of education is character.’ It was perfect. Those same qualities that my father had instilled in me as a young man, I knew I had a responsibility to instill in others. This was my opportunity to give back.
The organization, which became known as Regent Group and in 2019 operates across a number of education sectors within London, retains that same motto in each and every one of its divisions. Sadly, I lost my father in 2006 in a terrible accident. There is not a day that passes that I do not think of him and the wisdom he shared with me.
Yet, in a way, he lives on – through the way I approach life, through the way we have raised our two daughters, and of course, through the principles and values that we impart to every student that crosses our threshold.
Experience has taught me that no matter the circumstances you are placed in, no matter what challenges life throws at you, no matter how tempting it can sometimes be to shrug your shoulders and give up, if you stand firm and pursue your goals relentlessly, you will always emerge as the victor.
Dr. Selva Pankaj
Dr. Selva Pankaj is a very special man that gives back to the world daily. He has built several successful businesses around the model of Thinking Into Character. If you are ready for a voyage of self-discovery then check out Selva’s latest book by going here: https://www.tic.uk.com/buy/