People Shape People

Becoming Self Reliant

Nyla Pirani
5 min readMay 27, 2021

In 2018 my life changed forever. And that is because of people.

As I started grade 8 in 2018 September, I also joined the most life-changing program for young people (The Knowledge Society). In one sentence, TKS is a program for high school students that teaches the skills, mindsets and networks needed to create the future. But it’s so much more than just that.

It’s a lifestyle and a second family.

The community was one of the best aspects of this program. It was an environment like no other. Everyone is simply working together to become the best version of themselves and change the world for the better.

Being surrounded by these people and having the incredible opportunity to collaborate with them allowed me to work on projects like creating a carbon-neutral future for protein production (lots of love to Adara Hagman 💜 ) and understanding the global water crisis (huge thanks to the entire Activate community and mentors💜).

I developed mindsets, was constantly learning, and we always had the most interesting conversations.

I got to meet incredibly cool people (Chris Hadfield being one of my favourites!) and get Facebook, Google, and Uber tours. I’ve worked at some beautiful offices around Downtown Toronto and attended huge conferences like Collision and Elevate.

None of that would've been possible without other people. That includes not only the TKS community but also all of the TKStaff from over the years (thank you to Jen, Dan, Roberta, Fareen, Mia and more!)and the incredible directors (huge thank you to Navid, Nadeem, Micheal, Hayley, Amna, Steven, Noel, Ian, Kim, Harrison and Kelle). 💜

Just a few of the many memorable moments 🤍

You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with — Jim Rohn

Before being in TKS, I was just a regular 12-year-old kid. The reason I was another regular kid was that those types of people surrounded me. I knew I wanted to be someone who tackles the world's biggest problems, but I couldn’t become that person until I was in a corresponding environment.

After joining TKS, I started to become the person I wanted to be.

🔑 You need to understand the type of person you want to be and put yourself in an environment that will help you get there. 🔑

But you won’t be in the same environment all the time for the rest of your life. So after developing yourself with the help of other people, you need to continue doing that on your own.

Forcing Functions

This coming June, I’ll be officially leaving the TKS Program and becoming alumni. As I reflected on my journey through TKS and what comes next, one of the most significant aspects was creating forcing functions.

I’ll still have the community surrounding me but not as closely. I won’t have the 1–2 weekly sessions 1 on 1s with mentors as I needed and required deliverables.

As some people leave that environment, they lose some of the best qualities and practices set in place.

After learning about these best practices and developing them with other people in a close-knit community, you must create forcing functions for yourself.

Being able to rely on yourself to maintain these qualities and mindsets throughout your life is incredibly important because people won’t always surround you.

There are two things essential for me when I’m creating these forcing functions and developing self reliability:

  1. Having an organized layout of my goals + priorities
  2. Reminders to keep me in check

Having an organized layout of my goals + priorities

Visually seeing my top priorities and goals every day ensures that I’m actually doing what gets me closer to my goals.

At the start, I have my top 3 goals, which I look at every day. By looking at these goals every day, I’m constantly reminded of the things I’m working towards, and they’re always kept in mind as I’m working.

I then have a priorities section where I have projects, personal and knowledge. I’m always working on something in these 3 areas. Having those sections set is another forcing function for me because if I have nothing I’m actively working on in that section, it’s a call to action to fill it in and allocate time there.

Those top priorities change week to week depending on what I’m working on, so I’ll re-order them as needed.

Finally, I have my more specific tasks related to my priorities. This allows me to double-check that the general number of tasks per category matches up with the way my priorities are numbered.

For example, I have projects on the top right now, so most of my tasks are project-related.

If it doesn’t match up, I reevaluate and either edit the priority ranking or edit the tasks list.

There is also a date assigned to each task(unless it’s a pending item), so I know when things need to be done. Then at the start of my day, I break down each task on the board into the specific things I need to do, becoming my to-list for the day.

This system has worked amazingly for the last few weeks and makes it super simple to break down my larger goals into smaller tasks and align my priorities with how I spend my time.

Reminders to keep me in check

One of the most important aspects of my week is thinking time. Every week I spend at least 30minutes reflecting. Each thinking time session is different from the next, but the intention is to actively look at where I can improve or evolve my thoughts.

Some general things I would think about during this time:

  • How I’m spending my time and if I feel overly busy / overwhelmed
  • If I’m maintaining certain habits, mindsets and values, I want to focus on
  • Playing devils advocate with my own thoughts and beliefs
  • Creating new opinions and expanding my worldview
  • Reevaluating areas of my life to see what I’m doing well vs what I can improve on

At the end of the day, it’s really about staying grounded, not getting caught up in all the chaos of work and ensuring I’m keeping myself in check.

I hope you found this article helpful. Start to put yourself into the environment that aligns with who you want to become, or start creating your own forcing functions and accountability systems.

-Nyla Pirani