Eli Bajet: Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life
An Interview With Pirie Jones Grossman
Pay attention to these little things that make you happy. They are never too small and they are never too stupid to be pursued. They are the signs of the gifts that are in you. I love this quote from Paolo Coehlo — “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure”.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their lives. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50's.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eli Bajet.
After 25 years traveling the globe as a Senior Executive in Air Logistics, Eli Bajet turned artist/photographer, creating art with clouds. She now translates nature’s dance into a source of serenity and calm confidence for the home. She inspires us to embrace our uniqueness to find true happiness.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in France in a little town in the countryside an hour North of Paris.
My dad left our home when I was young. I grew up in an all-female household with my mother, my grandmother, and my sister. That served me well in my career working in a male-dominated industry. I never saw any difference between what they could accomplish and what I could; I felt equal and confident I could achieve anything I wanted.
One thing that I remember vividly as a kid is that I wanted to travel the world. Somehow, I knew that I would live abroad one day. I remember watching many TV series dreaming that one day I would live in North America.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The quest for my second chapter was truly inspired by a speech I heard from Jim Carrey. I remember the moment exactly. I had just turned 40. I was at the airport in Atlanta. It was 10 pm. My flight was delayed for 3 hours. I was exhausted and just wanted to go home. I was browsing the internet and I saw a video of his speech. I believe it was a commencement speech and Jim Carey said:
“I’ve often said that I wish people could realize all their dreams and wealth and fame so that they could see that it’s not where you’re going to find your sense of completion… How will you serve the world? What did they need that your talent can provide? That’s all you have to figure out.”
That resonated with me. I realized I was successful but not happy.
I felt empty within the shell of my accomplishments. That started my quest to find my true happiness
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Know where you want to go: I am naturally goal-oriented. I understood early on that to be successful you need to be clear on your vision. If you work in corporate, you need to understand what your boss wants and what your boss’s boss wants and have a clear vision for where you are going.
When I was asked to launch the company’s eCommerce platform for North America 10 years ago, I immediately got the vision of what that represented. It was not about just having a website where clients can place their shipping orders. It was about doing a first step toward digitalization and that could change logistic industry. Nobody was doing this at that time. Think about Amazon selling its first books online back in 1995. You have to have that kind of vision and communicate it to your team for them to understand why they are doing what they do.
Non-conformist Leadership. Be a leader, but do it your way. Don’t wait for people to motivate you or for your boss to praise you. You have to learn to be self-driven. Do things your way but do them with passion and stay committed to giving 110% to everything you do. Inspire your team by your attitude more than your big speeches.
I don’t remember who said, “Your actions are so loud that I can’t hear what you say.” That’s true.
People will connect to your energy and how you behave more than what you say.
When I got promoted to Director of Digitalization for North America, I was very self-conscious about my French accent. “Who is this French girl with a thick accent coming to lead this big project in the US?” I imagined people saying. But people respected me because they could feel my energy and my passion.
When you show up and are committed to doing your best, it is like a magnet for people.
Be clear on your priorities. Many people confuse being busy with being productive. Many people confuse urgency with importance. Knowing the difference between both is critical for your success.
You can answer emails all day and be the fastest only to realize that you did nothing productive at the end of the day. Get clear on what is the next little thing you can do, then the next little thing, then the next little thing. And do them!
Every Monday the first hour of the week I have an hour blocked into my calendar. This is where I plan my week. I reflect on the big goals and list the actions for the week. What’s important now? What are the actions ( small or big) that will contribute to moving forward?
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
My work was my identity. I’m Eli. I have big responsibilities, I am good at my job, I have a North American title and I travel the world.
I started as an intern and followed the dream of the little French girl who wanted to work in the US.
You just do what you think people want and what looks like success to the eyes of the people around you.
With my work, I got to travel the world. Paris, Dubai, Singapore, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, Zurich, Hamburg… Looks like a glamourous life, doesn’t it?
I will let you in a little secret. In reality, it’s not so exciting. Most of the time you just see the airport, the office, and the hotel. You are sleep-deprived, you feel lonely, and have zero work/life balance.
I am still grateful for my travels because I’ve been exposed to so many different cultures. And the best part was always that moment when I could look through the plane porthole and realize I was above the clouds.
I think that’s where I fell in love with the immense beauty of the clouds.
When I turned 40 I realized I had climbed the ladder. “Now what?” I thought. I had everything to be happy but I felt something was missing. I think that what was missing was the real me.
I felt smart and successful but strangely empty, so I started my personal development quest to find what was missing. Spoiler alert: What was missing was the real me but I had no idea who she really was because I was too busy to listen.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I became obsessed with finding the answer to this question: “Who am I and what makes me happy?”
I first thought I was meant to be a life coach because of my passion for self-development. I studied to get my coaching certifications for two years and then started my own small coaching business in 2019 in parallel to my day job. Coaching was great because I could help people AND it looked like a viable second chapter career.
However, deep in my heart, I could feel that was not it. Something was still missing.
With COVID, being in quarantine at home was actually a good thing for me. The fact that I could not travel gave me a lot more time to reflect without being influenced by others’ opinions.
It helped me be still and listen to my body and my soul. I realized I was exhausted and burned out. Continuing my career and having a coaching practice on the side was too much. So, I closed the coaching practice and ask myself the question again. What makes me happy? What feels easy and fun?
Finally, I heard a little voice speaking very softly. “I want to be home, do long walks with my dogs, take pictures of the clouds, and play with colors to create art with the clouds. “
The funny thing is that I had started taking pictures of the clouds 10 years earlier, but I immediately dismissed it as stupid.
My second chapter had actually started 10 years ago but I hadn’t realized it.
But with the pandemic things were different. When you have nobody around to judge you, you’re more open to your own intuition. I tried painting and It sucked but it reminded me of my love of colors and nature.
This thing I had completely dismissed several years ago.
I dusted off my camera and started capturing clouds again. That felt so authentic and peaceful.
I used a lot of patience, self-compassion, and focused on following what feel easy without judgment. No goal, no pressure. If it feels good, let’s explore that and do more of it.
I believe that everybody is unique and we all have special gifts to bring to the world. Nothing is too small. Nothing is too stupid. Pay attention to these little things that make you happy. They are never too small and they are never too stupid to be pursued. There are the signs of the gifts that are in you.
My gift is to take pictures of the clouds and create art. I translate this feeling of serenity and peaceful confidence into my art. This is how I touch people and bring beauty and serenity into their homes.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
The clouds actually inspired me to “take the plunge.”
When I look at the clouds, I see beauty and uniqueness.
The clouds are all different and that’s what makes them beautiful to me.
Like our soul, no two-cloud formations are alike.
By creating art with the clouds, I wanted to mirror the individuality and beauty within us.
I’m going to be my very best unique self and that allows you to be your best unique self too.
We don’t want a world with the same people everywhere.
We want authentic happy people using their talents to serve the world.
Find your thing. Even if it was never done before.
My thing is that I pictures of the clouds and I dress them with colors. Nobody is doing that. That is my unique talent.
When I do that, I also help people bring serenity into their home and transform their house into a calm space that reminds them that being unique like a cloud is good.
When I made the plunge to start sharing my clouds on Instagram, I had some fear about what people were going to think. Keep in mind nobody knew my passion for the clouds. They only knew me as the senior executive.
But what really pushed me to share my art with the world was the desire to be a leader at heart and inspire others to embrace their uniqueness and follow what makes them happy no matter what it looks like.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I realized I the skill set that served me for my corporate career could also help me for my second chapter.
Self-confidence and being able to solve any problem were big factors in my career. Why not use them also for my second chapter and apply that to Art as well?
There is one particular accomplishment that is dear to my heart.
I remember when I was in France and wanting to immigrate to Canada so badly. That was my dream but nothing seemed to work. I was feeling desperate, sad, and overwhelmed. However, I never gave up on my dream.
It took me 2 years to make the dream happen. But the day I landed in Canada with my 4 suitcases was one of the proudest moments of my life.
So when start to doubt myself, I remind myself this story . It may take time but if you don’t give up then it is just success in progress. Just keep walking, trust yourself and solve one problem at a time.
The skill sets you used for your first chapter can serve you for your second chapter too. It’s a good thing to keep in mind.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
When I started to share my art on Instagram, I was very surprised by the positive reactions to my art and its ability to touch people. Nature-inspired art is the best way to bring mindfulness and serenity into your home.
Now I’ve opened my own print store and have customers in the US, Canada, and even in Europe.
I just love the fact that when you raise your vibration it also raises the vibration of others.
By doing what makes me happy I now see how I can inspire others to do the same but also contribute to bringing the beauty of clouds and their peaceful confidence into the home of people all over the world.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful to my husband Pierre for always supporting me and giving me unconditional love. His wisdom and his relaxed perspective on things have a calming effect on me. And he has the most contagious laugh too.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
A few months after I started to post my art on Instagram, I was contacted by an art gallery in Milan to exhibit one of my pieces. I started my own online shop and started to sell my art in the US, Canada, and even France.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Yes. I started taking pictures of clouds 10 years ago but I realize now that I dismissed it because of my limiting beliefs.
I would tell myself. “I am not an artist, I’ve never been to an art class, you can’t make a decent living as an artist…”.
I see now that all these thoughts were not true and were unconsciously mind-blocking me.
That motivated me to work on my mindset and my self-confidence.
Nothing is impossible unless you think it is.
Let me repeat that:
Nothing is impossible unless you think it is.
Your mindset is the most powerful tool you have. It is worth working on it every day.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I don’t think you should wait for encouragement or support from others to follow your second chapter. Your loved ones and your family may not understand that new part of you.
I encourage people to be their own support and learn how to manage their mind through self-coaching or with a coach to help them overcome their limiting beliefs.
Follow your bliss and let it guide you one day at a time. All the answers are in you.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
The second chapters require some bravery because they will feel uncomfortable at times.
You may be an expert in your field in your career now but it took you 15, 20, 25 years to get this knowledge. You built your confidence with time.
Now as you are starting your second chapter you have to expect to feel insecure at times. That’s perfectly normal. There is nothing wrong with you. You will build your expertise with time too.
Think of it as being the first year of a new job. You have to build new neuropathways, new experiences, learn new tools.
I knew nothing about art when I started and I felt like an outsider many times. But I just told myself that it was ok to learn and take my time.
Be patient and know that there is nothing wrong with you. You are just learning something new.
When something feels scary and uncomfortable, ask yourself:
“Is there a part of me that believes that I will not be able to do it or does it feel scary because I’ve never done that before?”
Replace the word “scared’ with “excited.” I am excited to do this because I’ve never done it before. It’s ok to learn and to do mistakes. This is an opportunity for growth
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- It’s ok to have fun. What if the second chapter is about having fun? When it comes to happiness, there is not “The Way.” There is only “Your way.”
Be unapologetically you. It’s ok to do things differently and to carve your own path. Just follow what feels joyful and follow your bliss regardless of how it looks like or what people might think.
There is tremendous power in being authentic. It is like a magnet for people because it invites others to be themselves too.
The people who matter will love you for that and those who don’t love you are fine too. Nothing wrong with them either. We are just all different and everybody has the right to follow what makes them happy.
2. You don’t have to make a living from your passion. ( at least not yet). People often think that once you find your true passion you should quit your day job and make a living from your passion. I thought that too for the longest time and that’s exactly what held me back from doing anything for years because it looked too scary and too risky.
Putting the pressure of money on your passion is a lot. The truth is, you need to protect that gift and nurture it.
Make peace with your day job. Play your role well and be grateful. Protect your gift and nurture it before exposing it to the pressure of money especially if you are an artist.
3. It’s ok to go slow. I always had the thought that the more you do the better the chances of success. You need to hustle, you need to be busy and work hard. I chose my second chapter to be slower and more focused on my own needs and my own rhythm. It’s your life. You are in control. Do what works best for you.
4. The underrated power of small steps. Choose progress over perfection. It is best to do small steps with consistency rather than trying to do everything perfectly and be overwhelmed. That is the best way to progress. For example, I create a piece of art every day. As we are writing this, I have created 772 pieces. Some days are good and some days are not so good. But, it’s not about perfection. It’s about progress and consistency. Small things add ups if they are repeated every day.30 min of art every day doesn’t seem overwhelming. But repeat that every day for many years and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.
5. Pay attention to these little things that make you happy. They are never too small and they are never too stupid to be pursued. They are the signs of the gifts that are in you. I love this quote from Paolo Coehlo — “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure”.
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?
Be unique as a cloud.
Embrace your uniqueness.
Your uniqueness is your strength.
Your uniqueness is your path to happiness.
Your unique gifts are hidden gems that the world needs.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)
That’s hard. If I could, I’d love to have a private chat with Jim Carrey just because this sentence in his commencement speech is what triggered my quest to find my own happiness.
“How will you serve the world? What did they need that your talent can provide?”
I’d love to thank him for the impact that had on my life and discuss consciousness too. I found this topic fascinating.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Online gallery: www.elibajet.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!