Cover Story

Plan your future: Act now!

Happy student thinking about her future
Photo: © Aryaadhi / 123RF Stock Photo

Life occurs in a series of events. The “actions” you take today will form your future tomorrow. Most of the time, if not always, you can be the master at directing the series of events in your life to occur in your favour. Here are two inspiring stories of youngsters who did just that.

Neha Gupta, founder of Empower Orphans

Neha Gupta, Founder, Empower Orphans
Every time her family flew to India from the United States, it was a tradition to distribute food and gifts to orphans. The realization of the brutal reality that there was no one to care enough for the orphans left a lasting imprint on the tender mind of the 9-year-old. What made her different from any other child her age who emphasized with the less fortunate was her willingness to turn things around for these children. She began her journey towards empowering orphans. By the age of 17, she has raised more than $1 million so far, and is the founder of the non-profit organization Empower Orphans.

What “actions” did she take to achieve her objectives?
She began by selling handmade wine charms door to door in various neighbourhoods, to friends and family, and at community events. Corporate organizations took notice of her efforts to help the less fortunate and donated gifts in kind. With these efforts, she raised money for school books and other educational expenses for the orphans.

Her extraordinary vision not only helped the underprivileged but also won her numerous awards for her efforts that include: World of Children Award, Kohls Cares, Prudential Spirit of Community Award, Huggable Heroes, Caring Institute Hall of Fame, Power Of Children Award, Gold Level President’s Volunteer Service Award; Great Friend to Kids Award; Wachovia’s 2008 National Philanthropic Award; Bronze Medal for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award; Philadelphia 76ers Hometown Hero Award; as well as becoming a finalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2008 and 2009 Citizen of the Year.

Anshul Samar, founder of Elementeo and CEO of Alchemist Empire

Anshul Samar, Founder, Elementeo, CEO of Alchemist Empire
Anshul Samar, a seventh grader back then, loved playing games. Like most kids his age, he too would lose interest in a game once he mastered it. He wished for a game that would not only be challenging but would also be fun and educational all together. With an entrepreneurial zeal and the willingness to persevere, Samar created Elementeo, a chemistry card game that teaches chemistry to everyone from ages 9 to 90! His game was officially released at the National Association of the Gifted Conference in Tampa, Florida, on November 1, 2009. Anshul, now 19 and a Stanford University student, continues to update the game, has launched the Elementeo App on the Apple App Store and has also created a grant fund for other young entrepreneurs as well.

What “actions” did he take to achieve his objectives?
Elementeo took about three years to develop. It started as a simple card game of attack and defence. He later created descriptions and drew pictures by hand for each chemical element making the game a visual treat for its players. As the project grew, he found professional artists to draw concepts for his game.

Since the conceptualization of his game, Anshul has won himself various awards and accolades like the 2009 Davidson Fellow, Recipient of $25,000 Scholarship 2008 Presenter, American Chemistry Society Conference 2007 Presenter, National Academies of Science, Washington, DC 2006 Recipient of California Association for the Gifted Grant Award.

Moral of these stories?

The difference between you and these two youngsters is that they took “action” to achieve their aspirations. They devised a plan and worked hard towards achieving those goals and most importantly did not deviate from their ambitions and goals. We often make resolutions to get better grades, or be more organized, or to better utilize our time and life, but often these resolutions never get accomplished.

Let’s look at how you can start afresh and achieve your resolutions. Here is a roadmap that could help you do that.

1. Embrace discomfort and make perseverance a way of life.
Most goals and resolutions are achieved by putting in undeterred hard work and dedication. Hard work is never easy. Focusing only on your dream goals and shutting out distractions does not occur easily. What does not come easy requires you to break free your comfort zone. You must embrace discomfort and accept difficulties on your path to achieving success.

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Prof. Sherene Aftab is a passionate counsellor and enthusiastic lecturer. Her expertise lies in the areas of personality development, career and relationship counselling and stress management. You can reach her at

Prof. Sherene Aftab

Prof. Sherene Aftab is a passionate counsellor and enthusiastic lecturer. Her expertise lies in the areas of personality development, career and relationship counselling and stress management. You can reach her at