475. Trusting Her Own Resourcefulness
Tediously unraveling an old sweater and reusing the yarn to knit a new one, Anna learned resourcefulness and how to express her creativity. Leaving the Ukraine behind and moving to the United States, she eventually built a thriving career at Accenture. But she also held on to her artistic side. Now, she’s well into a new frontier.
Anna Balkan grew up in the Chernobyl area of the Ukraine when the culture was gray and resourcefulness was a necessity. At age 20 she emigrated to the United States as a political refugee– alone, unable to speak the language, with a hundred dollars in her pocket. “It was an unexpected opportunity, but I knew from within it was the right thing to do. I had to let myself be vulnerable and trust, then keep trusting, no matter how difficult things were at times.” Delivering the unexpected is still part of Anna’s journey. After 14 years building a thriving career at Accenture, she returned to her true passion–her love for color–and started Anna Balkan Jewelry. In 2010, she opened Anna Balkan Design Jewelry Gallery. She is personally committed to hiring locally, making all her jewelry locally, and giving back to her local community.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
In the waning days of the Soviet Union, scarcity brought out the resourcefulness in Anna and her family. Westernized now, she calls herself MacGyver, the TV character constantly improvising a solution in the nick of time. “We weren’t starving but we weren’t wealthy. If I wanted a new sweater, we patiently unraveled an older one and knitted a new one with the same yarn. Creativity was just part of daily life. I learned that you can figure anything out. We didn’t grow up seeing commercials so I didn’t know I was restricted.” When Anna had the opportunity to emigrate to the United States, she even made her own suitcase.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“Without a lick of English, I totally immersed myself in the language. I didn’t speak a word of Russian for the first year and a half or two years in the U.S.” Her crash course in language and culture enabled her to enroll in City College of New York (CCNY) in Manhattan, then transfer on scholarships and grants to Michigan State University. With her degree in economics, she accepted a job offer from Anderson Consulting, now Accenture, and ascended through a 14-year career. “I enjoyed being thrown into new projects, sink or swim, and figuring out the project I was on, proving my expertise to the client. That was very exhilarating.”
The Most Powerful Lesson Learned?
“Be open to life. I truly feel when you are open, you see and hear what you need. It’s not listening to the voice in your head that would have you doubting everything. Some people say it’s naive. I feel it’s not so much being naive as it is just being open. And being kind. Kind to yourself, kind to the people around you. Trust that the world around you is for your good. I knew from the moment the opportunity to come to the U.S. presented itself that the minute my feet touched America’s ground, I would figure out what to do.”
Steps to Success from Anna Balkan
1. Learn to depend on yourself and trust your instincts.
2. Face your fears honestly. Don’t see them as one big obstacle. Break them down into bite-size pieces.
3. Ask the Universe for guidance. Lay it all out and listen for answers.
4. Practice kindness and patience, both with yourself and the people in your life.
On Her Bookshelf
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
Connecting With Anna Balkan
Facebook: Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery
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