“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nada Lena is the founder / CEO of Rise Up For You, a two-time TED speaker, a #1 bestselling author, and a leadership and career confidence coach. Nada’s time as both a college professor and a former top executive for an education corporation gave her an intimate understanding of how education, empowerment, and leadership fuse together for massive transformation.
She has toured the world as a singer, has a Master’s degree in Administrative Leadership, and has coached and mentored 50,000+ individuals around the world on self-empowerment, career strategy, and soft skills.
Nada has been featured in media all over the world, has spoken on some of the most renowned stages, and her company, Rise Up For You, has been featured in and worked with brands such as CBS, LA Fitness, and Google.
Nada believes that in order to create change within our communities, companies, and households, we must first create change within ourselves because the world needs all of us at our best.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Nada Lena does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about her favorite quote, what advice she’d give her 18-year-old self, the one thing on her bucket list, and a whole lot more. 🚀
In this interview, we’re going to talk about:
And, if we have time, we might even be able to ask Nada about how she found herself performing in the Russian circus.
Before we get started, remember that the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one who needs to hear this episode, share it with them right now.
Let’s WIN THE DAY with Nada Lena!
Nada, it's great to see you! Thanks so much for coming on the show.
Thank you for having me!
To get started, why don't you take us right back to where it all began? Is there a particular memory from your childhood that's still so vivid for you today?
Wow, that's a huge question. Honestly, my parents and my background has been so amazing, and I would say that all of it really contributes to who I am today. One thing that really stands out that I write in the book is my mom always did affirmations with my brothers and I. So when we would drive to school, she would be in the front saying, "Today, you're going to be amazing."
And my brothers and I would sit in the back, "Today, we're going to be amazing." We would repeat all of these affirmations, which at the time, you don't know, "Why are we doing this, mom?" But as we got older, we recognized that it was really countering the negativity from the outside world.
It's very easy to latch onto something and just believe it. He really encouraged us to go do research, find the answer, figure out what fits for you.
So when a teacher or somebody said to us, "You're not good enough," we already had that affirmation on our mind that we were amazing. We said, "No, that's not true." And we would move that belief out of the way. So that was really, really important for us.
Your father came from a small village in Lebanon, and I know you've had a great relationship with both your parents. Are there any lessons, particularly from your father, that are still so strong and that you still apply today?
Yeah, there was two that I really apply today. The first one is that he always taught my brothers and I that, "No one's better than you and you're not better than anyone." It didn't matter if they were a teacher, it didn't matter who they were. And so he always taught us to love ourselves and put our best foot forward; to always treat everybody kindly, and you should always get kindness back. It doesn't matter who the person is. And that was really, really important.
Then the second is that he always had us question the world. Whenever we asked questions, he never said, "This is the answer." He really encouraged us to navigate, to explore, even when it came to questions about God and religion, like, "Dad, what's heaven?" He always gave us this very philosophical answer that really made us curious and wonder, which I think is very important today, especially with all the consumption. It's very easy to latch onto something and just believe it. He really encouraged us to go do research, find the answer, figure out what fits for you. And that was a game changer.
The power of independent thought.
And teaching children the ability to solve problems seems to be so much more practical than the simple comprehension of facts.
Yeah. And it created conversation — conscious conversation — and that's something that we had a lot of growing up. If we asked a question, then we ended up having a conversation about it. It was never a, "This is the answer, black and white. Now do." There was always something going back and forth, which was, I think very important.
What did success look like to you when you were young and what career paths did you naturally gravitate toward?
Success for me, even when I was younger, I really resonated towards kindness. I didn't know what that looked like in a career when I was younger, but when I got into high school, I really took to music and I started singing in choir. And so instantly, I was like, "Okay, I to be a singer." That was my first career that I wanted to take. Now, I wanted to be Britney Spears at the time! But that didn't happen. So I went to college, I got my bachelor's in music because I wanted to follow that path. And then that catapulted me into my first career, which was as a performer internationally.
At 19 years old, there you were, ready to tackle the world stage as a performer. What did that career on stage teach you about the power of the mind?
Everything. It taught me everything about emotional intelligence that I talk about today. And people skills came from performing, because there's a discipline to it, a really strong discipline. So what I realized and hopefully the audience and everyone that's listening resonates is, at some point, everyone's technique is the same. You walk into a room, there's 1,000 singers, and I'm like, "Well, they're all really amazing singers, so who's going to get the role? How do you determine who gets casted?"
People skills came from performing, because there's a really strong discipline to it.
And so the art of discipline was really, really honed in at a young age. There would be times where the other performers would be partying and doing all this stuff, and I would be in my practice room till 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM, practicing the songs, memorizing the songs, looking in the mirror and trying to critique myself as if I were the audience member.
I would watch myself sing and then say, "If I was in the audience, I don't know if I would like that or if I would be entertained by it." So discipline was a huge thing that it taught me, but also just that emotional intelligence, because there were so many times where I was performing in an audience that didn't speak English. Therefore, what I was saying out of my mouth or singing didn't necessarily connect because the language wasn't connected. So then how do I make an impact? How do I create any inspiration or change, simply by using my eyes, body movement, tone of my voice, or the emotional connection? That was really critical.
Yeah, the ones in my experience who have the most charisma and confidence come from a background in performing. In an earlier episode, we had Emily Fletcher [founder, Ziva Meditation] who — like you — has this amazing presence. The discipline of doing those reps for many years behind the scenes provides those skills that you can then take to so many other areas.
Yeah, and you have to be on all the time. If I do a show 100 days in a row, it's the same show, but I have to remember that my audience is different every single night, so I can never be on autopilot, because I have a new audience, a new energy, something new that's always going to happen, whether or not I'm singing the same song. And so that was really important to understand like, how to show up.
You're a walking billboard. I learned that as a performer, I was a walking billboard. Especially in Japan and Russia, I would walk and there would be a huge poster of my face on the circus building, which I'm sure we'll talk about later. And I'm like, "Wow, everyone in the city has seen my face for the past month." So you just have to be really conscious of that.
Let's talk about it now! How did you find yourself in Russia performing, and what was the craziest thing that happened?
The performing arts organization was invited to go there and perform. It started with a really small group. There's only about six of us. Typically, we tour with a group of 40, but only six of us were invited to go and perform. And we basically did a two-hour show with six people.
That was the hardest show I've ever done! I was singing and dancing and changing. It was intense. But when we got there, they booked the show in a circus that was a full-time circus, so we were the act. We went in there and we performed. But it was so wild because as we're standing there getting ready, there's tigers and cages right behind us and we're just looking around and I'm like, "What's happening?" All the animals were still there in the cages and we have our microphone getting ready to go out and perform. So it was super interesting.
You started your TED Talk singing a song, which I thought was very cool and certainly unique. That TED Talk is called ‘Commit to Workplace Transformation: People Versus Profits’ — we've included a link to that in the show notes, so everyone reading this should check that out.
Even with your extensive career as a performer, how nervous were you to walk on stage singing a song to begin your TED Talk?
I have never been more nervous, honestly! Doing a TED Talk is like a marathon for runners — you really have to prepare and prepare and prepare because you have to stay on topic. It's being recorded. You get one opportunity to make sure that you're getting that message across. So it was pretty intense.
But I had to really channel my dad and remind myself when I was a performer when I was younger. He taught me that whenever you are nervous, people may or may not disagree with this, that it's actually a selfish quality. And I remember asking him, "Why is that?" And he said, "Well, the second you go out on stage, it's no longer about you, it's about the audience. Otherwise, you can speak and sing by yourself at home. But now when you're making that conscious decision to say, 'I want to step out on stage and deliver my message and impact people,' now it's about people."
The second you go out on stage, it's no longer about you, it's about the audience.
And so I remember doing that TED Talk, I was really, really nervous right before I went on, because they chose me to be first out of the 14 speakers. They were like, "You're going to be number one." I'm like, "Okay."
My legs started shaking, so I started doing squats. Then I just remembered what my dad said. I was like, "You know what? This isn't about going online, this isn't about anything other than the 150 people who are in the room right now. I want them to really understand this message because it's so needed." Instantly, the nerves just calmed me.
I remember when I started speaking years ago — which was after my performing career — I would get nervous to speak. I'm like, "Why am I getting nervous to speak but I never get nervous to sing, never?"
So I thought, "You know what, when I speak, I'm going to start by singing: a) Because it'll be engaging. People are going to wonder what the heck is happening; and b) Because it's an instant nerve reliever for me." So it's like another strategy for me to really get in the flow of speaking.
How interesting! I never would have thought about that. And most people sing in the shower or in the car, everyone is comfortable singing, so that's a really great tip.
Obviously, you do a lot of work on stage, speaking, appearing on podcasts. And when you're approaching a situation where the stakes are very, very high, they could be very influential or significant moment for you or for your career, what is your routine to get in your optimal state for that beforehand?
First, I always remind myself that it's about value. I never want that value to go away, that it's about serving and adding value. So I really try to take away any unnecessary pressure and remind myself that it doesn't matter what the outcome of it is. What matters is that in the moment, I'm going to provide as much education, as much service as possible to give back. That's the thing that's always on the top of my mind.
The second thing is, I do a power mantra, and it's something that I teach my clients. I'll look in the mirror before I walk in. I was in the car before I came in here, I looked in the mirror, I was like, "All right, you got this. Be your best, put your best foot forward, add value." That's it.
And I do that all the time. I talk to myself all the time in the mirror, whatever I need to do. I'm not afraid of that.
Yeah. It's really, really powerful. I'll do something similar where I take a deep breath, think about what success looks like, what energy I want to bring in, and what the optimal result is from the situation.
Obviously, success leaves clues, and there are themes for people to pick up about taking that pressure off you and instead transmuting that into the value and service that you are going to have for the audience. It's just so powerful.
Yeah. Well, at the end of the day, that's what it's about. And I think that when people can really shift that mindset to be an educator, that's how I think about, I'm coming in and providing education, and hopefully it adds value. That really makes a shift on how you deliver. Again, it takes the lens off of you onto, what do you need right now? And whatever you need is what I'm going to do.
So much of your confidence seems to come from your upbringing and your work as a performer. If you were working one on one with someone who had literally zero confidence, what steps would you take them through to get them heading towards creating bulletproof confidence?
That's a great question. The first thing I would do is something called reverse engineering. See, most of us, our thoughts about ourselves and our confidence, it's an accumulation of our life. And we know that. It's our experience as a child, it's the first job that we had, it's the first relationship that we were in, it's the teachers, it's the people that surround us.
What we forget sometimes is that, over time, all of those experiences and people, they've had thoughts about us. And a lot of times, we believe those thoughts and then we carry them as we get older. In order to rebuild confidence, because we're all born with it, we have to peel back all these different layers to understand: where did these thoughts come from that hinder our confidence? What are the different experiences that we've had that have impacted us today?
In order to rebuild confidence, because we're all born with it, we have to peel back all these different layers to understand: where did these thoughts come from that hinder our confidence?
Then we need to break those down. So the first thing we need to do is reverse engineering. It's not easy, but it's really important for us to understand that this journey is evolving and it's not meant to be easy. It's meant, for you to really have that self-awareness and understand, "Why do I have this thought? Where did it come from? Is it still serving me or is it hindering me now?"
And now I get to make that conscious decision of, "I don't want this person, place or thing to keep affecting me," and then break that down.
People from the outside looking in might think you have this amazing confidence and that you never have any bad days. You and I know that every single person on the planet has bad days. How do you handle it when you wake up and you're just feeling off or there's something in life that's knocked you off course? How do you handle those bad days?
You've got to have expectations for yourself that are okay. So I acknowledge it, and I allow it, but I have a standard. I say, "Okay, if I wake up one morning and I don't feel great, fine, I'm going to take the day off," but I'm not going to allow myself to take three weeks off or a month off or a year off of where I'm just constantly waking up that way. So I really acknowledge how I feel, I figure out where it's coming from, then I try to make the shift if I could pinpoint why I feel the way I feel, but I wake up once a month and I'm like, "Oh wow. I just feel really tired. I feel really beat up today." I'm like, "Great, I'm not going to do anything today. I'm just going to relax. I'm going to maybe watch a little bit of Netflix or go get my ice cream," whatever I want to do.
And I think that's so important for people to allow that to happen. I know people that go for years without doing that for themselves, and it's just not realistic. We're all human beings, we're not robots, so we need to have those self-care days and we need to be able to acknowledge them within ourselves, and that's totally fine.
There's a word that you mentioned there: standard. It's about setting that standard and living by that standard. Even if you do have a bad day, as you said, one day does not turn into three weeks because for a lot of people, if you have that bad habit and you don't recognize that higher purpose for you, it's so much easier for that one day to turn into three weeks. But because you're extremely specific and clear on your mission and how many people you want to impact, which for you is 50,000 people through coaching and mentoring.
Yeah, more than that now. That was about three years ago, but we've done so much great work in the past couple of years with the company. But even with my thoughts, I do the same thing. We all have negative thoughts. It would be ridiculous to say that people don't have self-doubt, everybody does — Tony Robbins, Oprah, it doesn't matter who it is — but it's being able to, again, set that standard of, "I'm not going to let that negative thoughts sit in my brain all day long."
Even if I get upset, it's like, "All right, Nada, you got one minute, feel the feeling, get upset, throw a pillow, do whatever you need to do." But then after a minute, it's like, "Move past it. Find a solution. What are the next steps?"
In your book — I'm holding it right here, so you can see it if you're watching this on YouTube. In your book, you mention that the greatest tragedy is wasted human potential. Why is it that so much of our potential goes to waste?
It's really about confidence. So it's that question, how come some people are more successful than other people? Well, again, at the end of the day, at some point, your knowledge and your technique cap. But what makes you push beyond that? It's your ability to take action.
I know so many people, and I'm sure you do too, James, that are super qualified, they have 10 million degrees, a ton of certifications, but they're still stuck, there's resistance when it comes to action. Ask yourself, professionals that are climbing the career ladder, entrepreneurs, people that want to build their own business, so many people that want to do things, but they don't. It's not because they don't have the knowledge, it's not because the strategy is not there.
It's being able to set that standard of, "I'm not going to let that negative thoughts sit in my brain all day long."
Anybody can go on Google right now, there's a ton of books. You can figure out how to take action and do something, but why aren't we taking the action? That's the resistance that we need to find out, and it typically comes from a lack of confidence, self-confidence, or fear.
I know a lot of people will say, "Well, just jump into it and do it. You just have to motivate yourself, or you're lazy." But that's not actually it. When people don't take action, it's because there's something there that's resisting them to move forward, and that's what we have to figure out. And in most cases, that resistance is a thought of, "What if I'm not good enough? What if I fall short? What if I fail? What if someone makes fun of me? What if I don't do a good job?" And those are the things that hinder us from taking action.
When I ask people, "How come you didn't build your business that you wanted to build that you told me three years ago?" They say, "Well, I don't really have time." I'm like, "Yeah, what's the real reason? What's the real reason that you don't have it, because you can always make time?" They say, "Well, what if I don't do well?" It always comes back to that confidence piece — that self-confidence factor — and that's what we have to master so that people can take more risks and really start to take more action.
And what I love about the work that you do is, it's going back to the root cause of all those things, which enables that sustainable change.
Sustainable change, yeah. And I call it macro versus micro confidence. And I talk about this in the TED Talk, and I actually talk about the greatest tragedy is wasted human potential because we don't push ourselves forward: a) Because we have blind spots, so we don't know what we don't know; and b) There's that fear that stops us from taking a step, even though we know it can be such a powerful step in our life, we stop ourselves because of 'what if?'
I always say that many of us live in the past or we live in the future. When we do that — when we have one foot in the past and one foot in the future — we piss on the present. We sabotage the moment to really take action, and it really comes back down to the thoughts that we're feeding ourselves. When I first started building my business, I didn't know anything about business, nothing, zero. I didn't run a business, my degree wasn't in business, but I still took action because of that confidence that I had in the inside that said, "You'll figure it out. You'll figure it out. And if you really want it, it'll happen.
How does someone recognize how much potential they have and what can they do to unlock their full potential?
Yeah. The first thing that I would do is, you know this, is, who you surround yourself by a super, super important. I always talk about having a personal board of directors or a counsel — five people in your life who you can trust that are going to give you honest feedback. So the first thing that I would really recommend is, first figure out your assessment of yourself. Is it accurate or is it not accurate? So there's a lot of people, for example, that think that they have really low confidence or that they're not great at what they do, but then you ask five people that know them well, and it's the complete opposite. So I think the first step is understanding what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses, not necessarily from your perception, but from five to seven people that you really trust, because you're going to be surprised what they tell you.
When we do that — when we have one foot in the past and one foot in the future — we piss on the present.
There's going to be things about yourself that you wouldn't have recognized. And so that's the first step, is understanding, "How do other people view me?" Of course, they have to be people that you trust, otherwise it can go south really fast. And we do this with the leaders too that we work with as an accurate self-assessment. We actually do a 24-point emotional intelligence assessment. They take it on themselves on empathy, confidence, coaching, mentorship, motivation, all these different competencies, and then they pass it on. And you'd be surprised when they get the results back, they think, "Wow, I didn't know I was that great of a coach. I gave myself a four, I got 10s across the board."
And that's really the first step to understanding what are some of those hidden gems that you have that you might not be able to see?
The second thing is really having an honest conversation with yourself and then building that self-awareness. So if I were to ask anybody, "Write down what your ideal day is and what you want in your life," and then what they're actually living, it's quite different for many people. The first step is knowing what you want in your life, and writing that down. Then asking yourself, why do you want it? And then how do we take steps to get there? And what are some of those little comfort zones that we have to break through in order to get you there? And I think that's really important.
That's where that self-awareness comes in is, if I want to build the business, but I'm not, why? Because building that business might be that extra push in your potential, because you don't know how to do it, you've never been there, but why aren't I doing it? And that helps us push our potential.
Awareness, relationships and feedback. You can do incredible things in the world with those three attributes.
The personal development industry is one that's morphed into different variants over the years. Is there anything that personal development industry as a whole should be doing to start creating more sustainable transformations for people?
I love this question. Strategy. It's all about strategy. And I think that's one of the reasons why we've resonated so well with our community and just with our team, is that self-help, we have to make it tangible. It can't just be "Wake up in the morning and be your best, just be motivated" because we know that doesn't work. It doesn't work for the average person, but there really has to be strategies and clear steps and tools. I like to call it a toolbox that you can go into to really change the behaviors, to change the cognitive behaviors. And that's really going to be critical with self-help. So it's, "Okay, great. We have this morning routine one, two, three and four that we do every morning, but then how do we stay accountable to that morning routine?"
For me, I really think of self help and anytime we deliver self help, I also deliver it in the same way I would a business strategy or a marketing strategy is, what are the actual tools and tips that we can use to implement, to make a shift in confidence, to make a shift in emotional intelligence to really move forward? That's how you build sustainability with self help.
And I always do it in threes. Everything that I do, there's always an empowerment part to it, because there's be got to be an emotional connection. There needs to be an educational part to it, because people have to understand the knowledge and the process. And then there has to be a strategy or an action plan attached to it.
So what are we talking about and how does that connect with you on an emotional level? Here's the education around it to you understand it, now, what are your next steps, so that in a week from now, the empowerment doesn't die down, or in a week from now, you don't have all these notes, but you're like, "What do I do with all these notes?" So it's really bridging them together and now having a plan that says, "All right, here's my step one, my step two and my step three."
There's something I wanted to share with you. On the show, in Episode 33, John Assaraf said, "Help the people who want the help, not the people who need the help." And in Episode 51, Yuri Elkaim echoed that. He said, "Often, those who need help the most often want it the least." And that's been a hard thing for me to try and understand over the years where naively, you think that you can go out there and help everyone.
How do you manage people who need help but you can tell through their lack of commitment that they're not willing to do the work or make the sacrifices to truly change?
This is such a great point, and I say this often in a similar way, that it's hard to change when you don't see the change that you need for yourself. Change is the hardest thing when you don't recognize that you need it. It's easy to say, "This person needs to change" and "This person needs to change." And then we can't see that we also need it. And I always say, you can't force anything, and that's the truth. You can't force, but you can always provide resources and hope that one day they meet you halfway. Everybody has their own process, and I think that's really important, especially in this industry with coaches and trainers as well, is that we also have to look with the lens of empathy.
Change is the hardest thing when you don't recognize that you need it.
So whenever we have a client or whenever we have somebody that wants to work with us but they don't want to, we know that they need it, but they're like, "Ah, not right now." There's always an empathetic lens of, "Okay, they're not ready yet. That journey isn't ready yet." And we see this with companies too. So we do a lot of work with corporations and we see team members that are like, "Oh, this is so amazing. We can't believe this is happening." And then we see team members that have resistance, "Why do we have to do this training on EQ? Why do we have to do this training on confidence?"
And it's not because they don't like it, it's because they might not be ready to do that deep dive. That's what we have to remember, is everybody has a different journey and sometimes it might just be not the right time to jump into that painful journey, or maybe they're not ready to admit that there's some things that have to be shifted and we have to allow that process to happen.
I think they're really good points. And also leading by example is something that clearly that you have done very well. Plus, if you keep one or two people in your network or in your circle of people who aren't willing to make that change, then rather than you falling down to their level, you can just continue to set that standard. Then when they're ready, they can open up and ask for that help.
Absolutely. When they're ready, and always just continue to provide value, even people that aren't ready, it's like, "When you're ready, let us know. But in the meantime, continue to grow yourself through these free resources or through these platforms?" Hopefully they come back. And most of the time, they do, and they say, "You know what, I wasn't ready a year ago, I am now. Let's do it."
You built your company with only $100 in your bank account. If you were dropped in a random city today with only $100 and a laptop, so we'll give you a laptop and a good internet connection, and you didn't know anybody, how would you spend that $100? And what actions would you take to grow your business as quickly as possible?
Wow. How would I spend that $100? Honestly, I would probably spend it on croissants and coffee!
I was going to say, "I'd probably start with a good coffee!"
Croissants and coffee! And cafés are the best places to build relationships. That's probably where I would start. I would probably bounce around from café to café, connect with people and meet people. I built my company with $100, but with thousands of relationships that I built.
I will never ever forget when I first started building it, I didn't have a name in this industry and I didn't know anything about business. I launched the podcast and I just sent these emails and I said, "I'm new, I don't have any followers. No one's listening to the podcast, it's just launching, but I would love if you can just share your message and add value."
99% of the people, and they were big time people, I wasn't just picking anyone, they said, "Yes!" They said, "You know what? Yeah, we're going to support you." So I would probably spend that $100, again, being in coffee shops and maybe buying a croissant and a coffee for someone here and there and just building relationships.
You've been able to achieve so much personally and professionally, but is there a particularly dark day that stands out for you on the life journey or the entrepreneurial journey that you're open to sharing with us today?
Yeah. The company came from it. When I was a performer and I got tired of performing, I came back and I was an executive as you mentioned earlier. And I was 27 years old when I was an executive. I had 200 people under me, and I did that for many years. Then when I got a little bit older, about four years later, I decided to resign. I resigned from the company, I sold my house on the lake, I had a brand new luxury car, boats, all the things that we think are success, I sold it all and I moved out of the country to get married. After two weeks, my husband decided he wanted a divorce and I lost everything.
So I went from a high functioning executive to $100 in my account and two luggage, is all I had. And I remember coming back on the plane and I was just shocked, embarrassed, crying, not really sure what just happened. All I knew is that I was going back to California. And I didn't tell my mom because sometimes parents, they feel more pain for their child than their child feels for themselves — I'm sure you can probably connect with that.
When I came back, I didn't have anything, I had to start over, but I had to remember, again, going back to that confidence is, "Well, I still have my mind, I still have my health, 10 fingers, 10 toes. I still have my two brothers and my mom. I can do a lot with that."
My father has passed, but he came to me when I was coming back on the plane and I was crying, and he said, "Everything you need is already inside of you, you just have to rise up for you." That is now the name of the company: Rise Up For You. So when I came back to California two weeks later, I started building Rise Up For You. I was like, "All right. I don't know what it is yet, all I know is that I would just want to help make an impact." And I've already been doing it before that with performing as an executive, but I did it in my way. So I started building the company.
After two weeks, my husband decided he wanted a divorce and I lost everything.
But what most people don't know, James, is that three months after building Rise Up For You, three months after coming back, three months after billing the company, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer out of nowhere, and she passed away nine months later. So the first year of building Rise Up For You, I built it in a hospital, and I was taking showers at the 24 Hour Fitness across the street because I didn't want to miss anything. And I literally would sit in the hospital with the laptop up all day and all night sitting next to my mom and just building the website, interviewing people in the podcast.
I would run to the car and just do it there. And that was obviously a really hard and difficult time, but you can push through. If you have a bigger vision and you use your pain as fuel for growth, and you understand that confidence in you, that everything you need is already inside of you, you will survive.
Thank you for sharing that. I know that's obviously been a very difficult journey. Did that phase in your life give you an enormous amount of empathy for other people that you're able to help today?
A ton of empathy, because I'll be honest with you, empathy is something that is not a natural for me. Coming from a Middle Eastern family, my father from a third world country, I grew up with more of a mindset of, "Just do it. What's the problem? Make it happen. Why are we complaining?" But that's not realistic. So, really empathy was a huge component that built with me. But another thing is really understanding what success is. I remember when my mom passed, I'm the only girl in the family, the next day I was cleaning out her closet, and all these Louis Vuitton bags, all this jewelry, all this clothes that was passed down to me.
And it was that moment that I said, "I'm 31 years old, and I just lost my second parent. This means nothing to me. So what is success? What does it mean to build a life that you're proud of?" And that was the biggest shift for me. They say that sometimes when you have a breaking, there's an awakening. That was the biggest thing for me is, what does success mean? Is success the cars, the house, all this stuff that we think that so many of us work towards and then we get there and we're like, "I still don't feel happy. I still don't feel fulfilled"?
It was really understanding what success means on a whole level, a whole level. So career, self-worth, relationships, your community, building a lifestyle that you love, health and fitness, all of these areas, what does that mean? And I think that was really important. So I always ask that question is, what does it mean to live a life that you're proud of? And are you taking steps every single day to live in alignment with that?
Organizational culture is huge for you, can you give us an example of what it looks like when a company gets it wrong from an organizational culture perspective?
That's a big question. Well, the first indicator is employee turnover. When we work with companies that say, "We keep losing people," well, there's a reason why you're losing people, there's a reason why employees are turning over at a fast rate. We once worked with a company and they were losing people left and right, and I said, "Do me a favor, go to HR and ask them how much you spend on employee turnover." And they came back and they said, "HR stopped counting years ago because it was in the millions." I'm like, "Well, that's the problem! There's the problem is that if you have that much employee turnover and it's costing you so much money, you got to get to the core of why they're leaving." That's the first indicator that a culture isn't working the way that it should be working, and it's actually costing companies a lot more money than they realize, millions and millions of dollars every single year.
If you have a bigger vision and you use your pain as fuel for growth, and you understand that confidence in you, that everything you need is already inside of you, you will survive.
The second thing is if they're not developing and mentoring their people, a lack of communication is the biggest thing where you say, "Just do." There's got to be modeling, there's got to be wellbeing. We really have to grow our employees. We're no longer in this time period where the person comes in, they punch in, they clock in, they work and then they leave. The reality is that the professional is the person and the person is the professional.
So every day, whether you're a CEO or entry-level position, the human being is coming to work and human beings have a ton of stuff that they're dealing with, stress, kids, bills, medical things. All of these things come into the workplace, and as a company, if you're not acknowledging it or at least trying to support it, then you're really doing an injustice to the whole entire culture.
There's a Robin Williams quote I read recently, "Everyone that you see is fighting a battle that you know nothing about, so be kind."
What's an example of a company, or anyone that stands out of someone who's really nailed that organizational culture that really gets it right today?
I'm not going to say their name just for disclosure purposes, but there's a technology company that we absolutely adore that we work with. What they've done is they have actually infused it into their culture. It's a non-negotiable. For example, every single month they do an all-team training that has nothing to do with their technical skill. So it's emotional intelligence, confidence for the individual, how to have conscious conversations, stress management, all things that just have to do for the own personal individual to make them better. And all the team, it's mandatory, they come like clockwork.
Then they invest in their team with coaching. So then their individuals get one-to-one coaching. Then the executives also get consultation and coaching. What they're doing, which is the most important thing that we don't see a lot, is every single person in that company is getting developed. It's not just my leaders need coaching, or let's just start with the leadership team. Every single person feels like they matter and they feel like they're being developed in a way that's beneficial, not only to them, but also to the company.
When companies only invest in training that's only beneficial to the bottom line, to that dollar, team members don't do well with that. We have to also let them know, "Hey, we care about sales, but we also care about your mental health, we also care about your wellbeing, we also care about your confidence." And they're really doing it right. Every one of their employees is speaking the same language. They talk about EQ, they talk about confidence. They're able to keep each other accountable. They say, "Hey, let's try to be more empathetic." They're adopting the language and the strategies.
For many years, the prescribed definition of a company was to maximize profits for all its shareholders. How do we align individual interests with corporate interests? And is it possible that by focusing on people first that you can actually increase profit well above what you did previously?
That's the key, and that's the motto of Rise Up For You, is where people come first. Because when you pour into your people, your people pour into you. It's just like when you are a teacher, when I was a professor, when I was an executive, whenever I poured into a student and I was like, "You can do this. What do you need? How do I help you," they wanted to work harder for me. They wanted to get the A. And I didn't want them to do it for me, but they did because they saw that as a teacher, I cared, so they were like, "You know what, I'm going to do my best in this class."
What they're doing, which is the most important thing that we don't see a lot, is every single person in that company is getting developed.
And I had students all the time that said, "You're the only teacher I do all my homework for, or that I'm getting straight A's in." I'm like, "Why is that?" "Well, because you care and you give, and then that makes me want to give." It's the same thing in the corporate environment. When a leader pours into their team beyond just the numbers and the benchmarks, how are you doing? How can I support you? What do you need to grow? That employee is more susceptible to come to work feeling motivated and excited that there's a growth journey for them. People want growth, whether they're in their own company or whether they're in a corporation.
The reality is there's a lot of people that don't want to build their own company. I work with a lot of clients that are like, "I have no interest in building a business. I want to work for somebody. I just want to work for somebody that's kind to me, that grows me. I don't want to feel stagnant." And that's really the key.
How does someone in a massive company find meaning in their work? And is it up to the company to be able to initiate things, or should it be done at an individual level?
I think it's individual. And I talk about this a lot: personal leadership. You don't need a title to be a leader. Every leadership title I've ever gotten was because I was a leader before I got the title. When I became an executive, I didn't start as an executive. I walked into that corporation and I was just a normal team member, but I thought like a leader. I would walk into meetings and raise my hand and say, "Have we ever thought about this? What about this strategy?" Two months later, I was promoted to an executive. Two months. And so it's not about the title, it's just about you making an impact, so how can you make an impact?
Every single person can make that impact even when they're in a big company, you just have to start by raising your hand, and also by understanding your values. One of my values has always been just to contribute and add value. So even if I was a new team member, that was my value. So in a meeting if I wanted to say something, I would raise my hand and say, "Can I ask you a question? Can we talk about this?" And that initially it makes you a leader. It's all about the mindset.
From all the lessons that you've got on confidence, career, and organizational culture, is there anything that's applicable of it can be transferable to success and happiness in the home?
All of it. And that's the biggest thing is that we sometimes live in a world where we separate ourselves. We're like, "This is the workplace, this is my home life." But they're all the same, they're all connected. That is really the key. That's what success is for me. It's building a lifestyle where everything is in alignment. What I do at work, I'm the same Nada when I'm at home, I live the same type of life. And I think that's really important. So the values that you have as an individual, you have to have those same values when you're in the workplace.
You've coached and mentored now more than 50,000 people around the world. What's your process of helping your clients step into their best self and start getting some big wins in business and life?
Clarity first. I always ask these five questions. First, what do you want? And specificity is key. Second, staying power, which comes from knowing why you want to do this. Third, how are you going to get there? Fourth, who do you need to help you get there? So that personal board that I was telling you about, that council. Then, finally, what do you need to say "No, thank you" to in order to get there? So what do we need to remove out of our life to help us stay on track and stay focused?
You've worked with young people who have been in juvenile facilities for committing, in some cases, some very serious crimes. How has your perspective changed since you began that work?
Yeah. I have done a lot of volunteering in juvenile detention centers and working with unfortunately young men and women 13 to about 19 years old that have committed murder, really, really harsh crime. For me, it's always been about humanity, and the one thing that I can really affirm too, is that people will rise to the occasion when they're treated with kindness and like a human being.
That was the biggest thing. We would go in there and work with these kids and there was no hope, and they would act really tough and be like, "Argh!" and try to scare you. But then the second I was like, "How are you doing?" And I just connected on a human level, you'd be surprised, instantly consciously they would be completely different. And I cannot tell you how many times I've left the jail and a young man has stood up and said, "Thank you for treating us like human beings, because we don't feel like animals right now."
Every leadership title I've ever gotten was because I was a leader before I got the title.
When we treat somebody that way, whether they're in a jail or not, they're going to continue to act that way. When you treat somebody with kindness and you show humane kindness to them, they're going to act like a kind human being back. There's going to be hope, and they're going to see that there's more to their life, and they're not just some animal caged up in jail. And I'm pretty resilient when it comes to working with people because of these experience, because I'm like, "Hell if I can help a young kid who committed murder shift, then somebody that is living in a house with a job and a car and has A, B, C and D, I can help them too."
We are in an increasingly digital world, where things are moving faster than ever. What are the top skills required to succeed in today's world? And what is the role of soft skills in this new world we're in?
I would say the number one skill above all is emotional intelligence. And the reason why I say that is because part of emotional intelligence is something called AI, which is adaptability intelligence. And you're right, the technology's moving so fast, but the reality is that in five years from now, technology is going to look very different. And so the thing that's going to keep us moving forward is our ability to adapt, which is a soft skill, it's emotional intelligence. I know so many people right now that have amazing technical skill and they're like, "Oh my gosh, I have to go get this new certification because everything is changing and it's going to continue to change."
That's why I believe that the soft skills are more important than the technical skill, because when you have soft skills, you can learn the technical skill. You have that adaptability quotient or that adaptability intelligence to say, "Growth mindset. All right, I have to pivot, I have to make a shift."
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Nada Lena does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about her favorite quote, what advice she’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on her bucket list, and a whole lot more. 🚀
What did you learn about yourself in the last two years, with the world shifting from covid?
That's a great question. What have I learned about myself is that I'm an activator, and I think I always knew that, but I guess I didn't know how fast I can work at making that happen. So when covid hit, for example, we were doing everything in person with so many people, and then everything shut down. And I think he was in the matter of two days where I said, "All right, let's go online." Just remember staying up and creating all these programs and building all this digital stuff within a matter of a week, and then it just took off and it continued to grow and launch. So I think that was one thing that shocked me is how fast I made the switch. Literally, within a matter of week, everything was functioning online.
How do you balance that hunger for future achievements with happiness in the present?
It's all connected for me. I really believe that we are put on this planet to elevate the human condition. And so everything that I do that's work, it's not really work for me, it's part of my lifestyle, and I really, really love it. And again, for me, there's not a number at the end of the outcome. It's not, "I'm going to do this TED Talk because I have to hit a million viewers." It's, "This is a great opportunity to share a message and hopefully somebody can resonate with it and make it impact from it." I'm also like that at home, I'm like that with my brothers, I'm like that with my fiancé, it's all the same.
When I walk into a market, I try to be as kind as possible. And sometimes if I'm not, I'll go back, I'm like, "Sorry. That wasn't my best." No one's watching me, there's no camera on me, but I think for me, happiness is all connected and it's being free here and being free here, and no matter what you do, you're going to have that happiness because of it. And also your values, what do you want in your life? And I've always been really, really clear that I want to live a life where I can explore, I want to live a life where I can help people, and I want to live a life that's in alignment with me.
And I do that every single day. If somebody comes into my life and asked me to do something that's not in alignment. I say, "No, thank you."
Having the courage to say no enables you to have the right energy and focus on the things that you really need to do.
Yeah. Even with corporations and clients, even when we have clients and corporations that aren't in alignment, if it doesn't feel right, say, "You know what, I really wish you the best of luck, but we don't have the same values, and we can't treat our employees the way that you are right now. So when you're ready to make that shift, come back."
Final question, what's one thing you do to win the day?
Every morning, I have a success routine. I wake up, I enjoy a cup of coffee in silence, I don't do anything. Then I write in my journal gratitude for the day and my intention for the day, I sit in silence, meditate and I exercise, and it really helps me jump into the day.
Remember, it doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what you DO with what you know, so get out there, step into your brilliance, and take some purposeful action.
That’s all for this episode! Remember, to get out there and win the day. Until next time…
Onwards and upwards always,
Resources / links mentioned:
⚡ Nada Lena website.
✔️ Nada Lena on LinkedIn.
📝 Nada Lena on Facebook.
📷 Nada Lena on Instagram.
🎤 TEDx Talk ‘Commit to Workplace Transformation: People VS. Profits’ by Nada Lena.
📚 ‘Rise Up For You’ by Nada Lena.
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