Over Thai dinner before our karaoke outing with other boot campers, my bootcamp instructor locked eyes with me, and said,
"If you ever need reminding of how awesome you are, just let me know. I will always be here to remind you."
It was said with the same intensity in which she pushed me and my fellow boot campers when we were struggling with that final sit-up, burpee, or just talking too much instead of working out (!).
A WEEK EARLIER...
Over Indian lunch with my bootcamp class, the almost-cool fall breeze was lightly lingering, "What's going on, kiddo?" my bootcamp instructor inquired with a note of concern in her voice.
I tried to hide what was going on with me by avoiding eye contact throughout class earlier. My logic was if I just avoided what was happening, it would eventually go away. I knew perfectly well, it wouldn't. I was in the AVOIDANCE phase of the AVOIDANCE ->SURVIVAL -> GROWTH paradigm.
"Well...it's just my book. I am terrified that no one will buy it... I guess I feel paralyzed by fear."
On the one hand it was such a relief to blurt everything out to these women I deeply respected, but then I worried what they would think of me and what I had just blurted out. I was doubly relieved when a barrage of concerned and thoughtful suggestions came flowing out like the fall breeze:
"You could hire a graphic designer for your book cover..."
"Don't worry, you have us! We will buy your book!"
"Have you had anyone read a draft? I am happy to buy one and read it!"
"It's just a small obstacle, you can overcome it!"
"If you just change one person's life, if just one person reads your book, and has their life changed then you've done something..."
Everything they were saying was true. It was hard to believe that I had just sort of started bootcamp on a whim the previous year, but each week, I grew closer to these women. One woman even began bringing me back little gifts with "HAPPY" on them whenever she came back from the U.S. Other women would make sure I had a ride (as I was the only one without a car), check in on me when I wasn't at bootcamp, and were just super supportive of my burgeoning coaching business.
Back at the Thai restaurant, "Coaches need coaches. I see how you are with everyone, Kyla. You give so much," my own bootcamp COACH continued. Hearing her say that, and looking into her deeply concerned eyes, made me want to cry. I truly respected her so much--not just as a coach, but as a woman, former marine corps vet, mother, wife, and all-around human-being.
BELONGING, MATTERING, AND SAFETY
I recently read the book Power Your Tribe. 3 things the author mentions that every corporate tribe needs to thrive: belonging, mattering, and safety. These past few weeks, I have felt deeply that these 3 things could extend to any community--corporate or not. Without belonging, mattering, and safety, we can't reveal our true selves.
After one of my Happiness Workshops last week, as we went around sharing our true selves, one of the participants found a mentor in another participant: they were both minorities in some way. Later I heard they exchanged stories at Dunkin' Donuts. If they had never felt comfortable enough to reveal their true selves, they would have never found belonging, mattering and safety with each other and the community of our workshop.
Research shows that when we carry around emotional burdens, they become physical burdens. I get it. During one of my workshops, I had revealed many of my own emotional burdens to the workshop participants. After that particular workshop, there was a line of people just waiting to reveal theirs to me: PTSD from surviving a car accident, a rape survivor, a parent's death, and the list goes on.
It is no wonder that participants in that research on emotional burdens -> physical burdens, would look at a hill and think it is steeper than it really is when they were carrying around heavy emotional burdens.
THE SECRET (TO LIVING LONGER)
Turns out, it ain't good air quality and exercise. In her TED Talk, Susan Pinker talks about the top two predictors of longevity: 1) Social Integration and 2) Close relationships. Social integration is all about the quality of the relationships you have throughout your day: Made me think about my fruit lady who makes her husband deliver my fruit and always gives me free ripened bananas knowing I use them to bake; or the guy who works at the glasses shop who gives me free contact lenses whenever I buy a box or two. Close relationships pertain to the people you can call when you're in a pinch: I immediately thought of how a friend of mine was in a pinch in the U.S. a few months ago, and I called one of the amazing ladies from my community who immediately came to our aid.
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
I am a huge fan of Shola Richards. He is a fellow overcomer of workplace bullying. He just came out with his second book Go Together. He talks about this concept of Ubuntu in his book: there's a legend of these kids in an African village. A man tells them that when he says "GO!" they will all run towards the tree where he has candy hanging (think piñata but more rustic style). Legend has it, the kids didn't try to out run each other, but instead, they ran TOGETHER holding hands. When questioned by the man, the kids said that it wouldn't be the same if one kid got all the candy.
In this world that is increasingly divisive, I am that much more grateful to be part of a community that embraces this concept of UBUNTU.
At another bootcamp lunch, I was talking to two newcomers:
"This community of women is truly exceptional. They are mothers, wives, daughters; they are talented and gifted fementrepreneurs; they give back to their communities, they donate. And some of the humblest, most generous giving women I have ever come across. All in one community."
*Dedicated to + Inspired by my Songdo Sisters: Thank you for supporting me, encouraging me, being my mirrors. I am eternally grateful to be a part of this incredible UBUNTU community.*
DEAR FUTURE FEMENTREPRENEUR,
I have always wanted to start my own thing. Perhaps I was inspired by my mom who ran her own successful real estate company in Hong Kong for decades. Perhaps I was inspired by my paternal grandmother who survived the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII, then went to night school, and became one of the most successful real estate agents in her area working into her 70s in LA.
Whatever the case, it was in my bones.
"How did you start your own thing," Andrea asked, in her thoughtful and curious manner. Andrea and Catrina and I had met in college. We had all been part of CORE (Community Outreach Effort), a group that volunteered at soup kitchens and helped the community at large. We had decided to spontaneously meet up in Denver for the weekend.
Lounging in the living room of an AirBnb, after getting spa pedicures, we chatted away about life, work, money, men, and everything in between. I thought about her question, deep into the night, and wanted to do it justice, as well as inspire her and Catrina to do their own thing.
Here's what I came up with.
1. Hit the PAUSE button
Ok, so I know not everyone has the freedom to hit that button whenever, but in whatever form that can take for you at the time in your life where you are, whether it is a weekend, an hour at a coffee shop a day, getting up a little bit earlier in the morning, create some space in your head to think about what it is YOU really want.
2. Align, align, align
So the question I get asked the most is "How are you so happy all the time?" Let's think about that question for a second: is anybody ever happy ALL the time? Ok, maybe the Dalai Lama, but other than him? Yeah, I don't think so. The question to ask is "How do you align your core values/purpose in life so much that you can live a balanced life?"
3. Reasons to not start your own thing -> Excuses -> Action Plan
When I was thinking about starting my own thing, I hired a life coach who was doing something similar to what I wanted to do. I thought I had come up with the perfect reasons as to why I shouldn't start my own thing: I am not good at numbers, my Korean is not fluent enough, I don't have business experience, and the list goes on. My life coach called me out on those reasons, and renamed them EXCUSES. Whoa. For every EXCUSE I had, she was like, "You can outsource that so you can be in your zone of genius (the stuff you're good at)." So turn those reasons into excuses, and then come up with an action plan of you how you're going to move forward with each one.
4. IT Savvy ≠ Business Savvy
I talk to a lot of women (including myself) who will say stuff like, "Oh, I don't know how to do X,Y, Z on a computer" or "I don't have tech skills, or social media skills..." I have definitely been there a time or two or gazillion. You know the AirBnb guys? Well, the original 2 founders were art students from RISD (The Rhode Island School of Design). They had absolutely no tech background whatsoever. And now AirBnb is a $30billion dollar company. What?!
5. Brainwash Yo'self
I grew up believing that I was not good enough. I went to Harvard. Not good enough. I won multiple teaching awards. Not good enough. And the cycle would inevitably repeat itself. On a call with my life coach one afternoon, I began crying. "What is that all about?" she asked in her usual tough love kind of way. "I have spent most of my 40 years on earth believing I am not good enough." Her advice? Brainwash yourself into believing that YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Whether you recite positive affirmations, journal how awesome you are, ask others what you're good at, a great business starts with a greater mindset.
6. Cheerleading Squad
Do you ever have those moments where you think: OMG, what have I done? I have gone so far outside of my comfort zone, and I don't even know... I think FemEntrepreneurs have those moments all the time. After you've brainwashed yourself into believing you are good enough, and you still have some moments (because you're human) where you think something you've done is crazy, make sure you have a tribe of awesome cheerleaders around to cheer you on. Not in an externally validating kind of way, but in a supportive/empowering kind of way. YOU CAN DO IT!
I often look to co-interview inspiring individuals for my FriYAYs WITH Kyla FB live episodes. I am always super motivated after speaking WITH these individuals: stuff they have overcome, stuff they continue to do to create change within, and how giving they are to others as well as themselves. Recently I chatted with someone who had come to one of my Happiness Workshops. She was an incredibly inspiring individual: out of poverty, she had overcome a plethora of career challenges all with grace, humor, and compassion. I was completely inspired. Then I thought, inspiration isn't just one way. It's two way, but we can also INspire ourselves WITH ourselves. Is there anything you've done lately that's inspiring? It doesn't have to be anything big. And remember, even though you may not think this is happening, you may just be inspiring someone else around you just by being you!
8. Tough Times + Purpose = STRENGTH
I once met this Finnish woman who told me she was going to run across New Zealand to raise awareness of IPV (Interpersonal Violence). What?! Then something she said struck me even more, "My purpose is greater than me. My body is just a vessel to carry this purpose out." Whoa. In tough times, because being a fementrepreneur is not always about rainbows and flowers, when you think about your purpose, it will help you stay the course. No matter how tough it gets.
9. 60% it!
A while ago, I read research in Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In that stayed WITH me: women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the job qualifications whereas our male counterparts apply for jobs when they meet only 60% of the qualifications. We assumed it was due to a lack of confidence, but further research suggests that it is about our perception of rules around hiring. Check out the Harvard Business Review article here. Whatever the case, 60% it!
10. Be Shameless about Help
I hear a lot of FemEntrepreneurs say, "Oh, I don't know how to do this or that." Well, in addition to outsourcing stuff (from No.3), shamelessly ask for help from your mother, your brother, your mother's brother, your cat--you get the idea. But also, GIVE help out as well. Once you master something that could save a fellow FemEntrepreneur time/money/tears share that. You will be surprised at how awesome it feels, but also how much you will learn/grow once you teach something you already know!
And never forget: YOU ARE FUCKING AWESOME!
*Dedicated to + inspired by my college buddies Catrina + Andrea, FemEntrepreneurs in the making.*
"Kyla, can I share an observation with you?" He asked.
Gosh, when people ask you that, you can't really say no, even though you kind of want to and just run away as fast as you can.
"Ok, go ahead," I answered hesitantly.
"Well, I have noticed that you are really externally validating yourself all the time..."
If that came from anyone else, I might have blown it off, but it came from someone I really respected--a next level happiness guru someone. I continued the conversation telling him that I had literally just had a conversation with my sister that morning telling her how after meeting him and his colleague, I was so inspired by how ego-less they both were (even though they were both such badasses), and how I was becoming less and less ego-driven myself as a result.
This past week, I had two conversations with two new clients. Both of them asked the question I often get wherever I go, "How come you're always so positive/happy?" I think that is a great question, but a better question would be "How do you accept yourself no matter what crazy shit is thrown AT you in life?"
I spent the week contemplating whether I was externally validating myself. The observation haunted me. I had spent much of 2017 working on myself, getting my life coach certification, working on my book (which deals with a lot of this stuff), and just taking a huge life pause. When I explained this to the guru, he said, "You know the difference between a foolish and a wise person? The fool thinks he/she is wise. You can never stop working on yourself."
I recalled the conversation I had had with the guru to my two new clients separately. They were both shocked to hear that he would say I was externally driven, especially since both had attended my Happiness Workshop where I literally open the workshop with all the external things that used to drive me, and how now I focus more on the internal ones.
The guru probably sensed my denial/defensive nature and simply said, "Don't think too much about this. You know, you can't think yourself out of this. Just feel if there is a lack over the next few days and when there is a lack, try to figure out where that comes from."
CONVERSATIONS WITH GIRLFRIENDS
Over lunch the next day with a girlfriend in my bootcamp class, over shaved ice, we traded over-critical mom war stories.
"Yeah, my mom would scold me for like 15 minutes whenever I spilled milk...talk about not crying over spilt milk," I attempted to make a joke to make the situation a bit less serious.
"Yeah, my mom would do that too," my girlfriend shared. It was the first time I had heard her talk about her mom in that way. It was the first time we were both talking about our moms that way.
"It took me a long time before I realized that my mom was extremely verbally abusive..." I continued.
"Yeah, my mom...(she began crying) was not only verbally abusive but physically abusive..."
Over an iced green tea latte at the last not-so-hipster cafe in Seoul, I met up with Youjin, a former prosecutor who had started an online magazine written by Asian women for Asian women. She was super animated in her facial expressions and body language--I felt immediately at ease around her.
"When I was in Europe, I realized Asian women experienced severe discrimination, and no matter whom I spoke to, they all had similar childhood experiences. They grew up with parents who were extremely demanding of them. But they were all serious badasses...super talented."
HOW TO MOVE FORWARD
To answer that question of LACK (asked by my guru and two new clients), we have to take a step back and figure out when life throws stuff AT us, whether we respond WITH our true selves or our EGO?
1. Feel the lack. Where is YOUR lack coming from? For me, it came from an over-critical mom, which then made me seek external validation.
2. Once you figure it out, don't judge yourself, or the other people that might have contributed to this LACK. Forgive yourself and them.
3. Have a little talk WITH your ego. Whenever someone makes an observation about you, or gives you feedback, how do you take it? If it is wrapped around LACK, ask yourself, is it really YOU talking or your EGO talking?
4. If it is your EGO talking, do some mindful breathing, until your EGO is gone, and it is just the REAL and true you.
5. Figure out an action plan. Are there triggers that bring up LACK? Can you use these to instead of bring your EGO out, bring yourself out?
6. Repeat steps 1-5 often.
And remember what the guru said, "A foolish person is someone who thinks they are wise."
Thank you, guru.
Connection and Purpose
At a Vietnamese dinner with two young Asian fementrepreneurs I had my blue Kate Spade sunglasses out on the table--the only Kate Spade thing I have ever owned, which was gifted by my parents in part to help distract my mom from a meltdown at the optometrist’s office (she doesn’t like dealing with doctors of any kind in the U.S.). At that point, we already knew of my mom’s dementia, and that perhaps it was triggered by her depression and living alone in Singapore after my Popo’s (maternal grandmother in Cantonese) passing.
That night at dinner, completely engaged in the conversation, I didn’t notice that when my sunglasses had fallen, a part of the hinge broke off leaving the sunglasses to bend funny.
In the days that followed, I would discover that Kate Spade herself had taken her own life because of depression.
At a workplace happiness bootcamp in Mumbai, whenever they played the iconic Star Wars’ themed music, all of us had to get together and connect to each other by placing one finger on the palm of whoever was closest to us…until we were all connected. Over the course of the three days, we talked about how to make workplaces happier. On day 2, I noticed a lot of people were getting frustrated: they wanted best practices, they wanted answers, they wanted a cheat sheet of what worked for other companies. It’s like when you take a course at university, and rather than learning and figuring out how to study, the importance of studying, you just get your roommate to give you all of the answers not ever fully comprehending what the course was about in the first place.
In an exercise on gratitude, I looked around at the Indian men at my table: they had come from different parts of India, from the north, east, south, and west. They were responsible for bringing back what they had learned from the bootcamp to their company, and in a way, I was somewhat responsible for helping them achieve that in the best way I knew how. In an exercise on gratitude, we had to go around the table and talk about what we were grateful for and this is what I said:
“Coming to India for the first time, I couldn’t be happier that you guys were the first people I got to meet, interact with, and get to know. You guys are like my Indian brothers.”
Then of course, I got all shy and nervous, and probably said something weird. We did end the session with a group hug, which was warm and fuzzy, and not-so-awkward.
It was in that moment, I recalled my own purpose and just how important it was. It wasn’t just about happiness. It was about saving lives. And if I could help them bring that back to their company, they could in turn save thousands more lives. I recalled a conversation with an Indian life coach, “Did you know that every hour in India, a student kills themselves? Every hour.”
And at the end of the bootcamp on the 3rd day, as we are saying our goodbyes, Anil turns to me and says, "Kyla, if you're ever in India again, don't hesitate to let us know. Between all of us we have got you covered, we will take care of you." I look up at my other Indian brothers' faces and they are all nodding in agreement. Prakash appeared with some gratitude gifts he had purchased for us and the Delivering Happiness book by Tony Hsieh for me.
Now, that's connection.
"You are pulling off a sari very well, Kyla."
"You look good in a sari..."
People were coming up to me throughout day 3 and shaking my hand while complimenting my sari--the sari. It was the closest I have ever felt to Bollywood royalty...
I briefly mentioned to Jaya, one of the bootcamp staff members who is a communications coach, that it was always a dream of mine to buy and wear a sari. She took this to heart. On our second night together, she took it upon herself to take me to Irya (a part of Mumbai where they sell saris), bargained for me, and the following morning, came to my hotel room to help me put it on. She even lent me her chori (sari top), some silver earrings, and placed a pink bindi on my forehead (!).
Along the way, in our auto-rickshaw, I learned about her extraordinary life view: helping others, spending time getting to know others, spreading happiness, educating others to communicate in a way that was purposeful and connected. I was completely blown away...I mean, it was like taking an auto-rickshaw with a spiritual guru.
About a week ago, a good childhood friend of mine encouraged me to reach out to our old middle school French teacher. So I did. Turns out he remembered me and was happy to hear from me. We connected on FB and caught up on almost 25 years of our lives on FB messenger. Recently he posted how he had actually met Anthony Bourdain many years ago, not even really knowing who he was, and was heartened by how down-to-earth and friendly he was after he found out that he was Anthony Bourdain.
I was struck by how many people I knew had actually met Anthony Bourdain. It was like the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon thing. Everyone began posting photos of Anthony Bourdain on their FB walls.
Gosh, we really are more connected than we could ever imagine…Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, heck, anyone and everyone who has ever been depressed my mom and I included.
The Cheat Sheet
Sitting at the table, our table #4, a table I had hesitantly walked over to on the first day of the workplace happiness bootcamp, and looking at the faces of my Indian brothers on day 3, I understood what that cheat sheet for not just workplace happiness but personal happiness would look like if there ever was one: connection + purpose.
In our increasingly tech-driven world, we are more and more socially isolated than ever. Our ancestors sought solace in communities: eating together, hunting together, protecting, and supporting each other. Those communities are now called workplaces.
But if you can create and sustain connection and purpose not only in your personal lives and work lives, imagine how many Kate Spades and Anthony Bourdains you could save? I thought about all of the rejections I had faced in the past with regards to my own purpose: “Kyla, who is going to pay you for happiness?” “Why would you try to make Korea happy? Wouldn’t it be easier for you to start your business in the U.S.?” “Corporations only care about ROI, not happiness.”
Beyond the data that I live and breathe about personal and workplace happiness and how employees are not only happier, but more productive, more innovative, sales increase, retention rates increase, sick leave decreases, blah, blah blah, isn’t it our moral obligation as humans to help each other be happier? Be more connected? Live our purpose?
And just connect WITH each other. Go on, may the force be WITH you.
*Dedicated to the Kate Spades and Anthony Bourdains we are more connected WITH than we ever thought.
*Inspired by everyone who battles depression on a daily basis. You are not alone. You are more connected WITH us than you ever thought.
It is said that by 2025 Millennials will be 75% of the global workforce, according to a recent survey by Gallup. Just 29% of Millennials are engaged at work, I guess that's better than the global average of 13%? But if we really are to create happier workplaces, wouldn't it make sense that we should start by making Millennials happier?
Recently a good friend asked me, "How do we engage millennials in the workplace?" As I pondered that question, she continued, "Well, I mean, you did that every day as a university professor. You won awards you were so good at it."
Then I thought, perhaps the workplace was not that much different from the university classroom, when done right. People still had to work on teams. People still had to work on goals. People still had to perform well in order to get to the next level. And after all, everyone wanted to be successful.
Last year, I was asked to inspire Merck Millennials in Malaysia. Some of the activities I did in my workshop were no different from the activities I used to use to inspire my former university students.
Maybe I did know a thing or two?
SET THE GROUNDWORK FIRST (CLEARLY)
In the first two weeks of each semester, I work really hard to: memorize names, make sure everyone is on the same page, make sure people respect each other, listen to each other, put their cell phones away, and the list goes on. I learned the hard way that when I didn't do that early on and work hard at it, I would lose people very quickly later on in the semester. Millennials (and employees in other generations!) need to know what is expected of them otherwise it is extremely stressful. In fact, 72% of Millennials who agree strongly that their managers help them set performance goals are engaged at work according to that same Gallup study.
CREATE COMMUNITIES (NOT WORKPLACES)
When students come into my classroom, they are always astounded that I greet each one by name. My classes usually maxed out at 24 students, so I was able to memorize each student's name by taking what my students would call "mugshots" with my cell phone camera. Even in my bigger Happiness Freshman Seminar that I created (150 students), I would sometimes go to class early, and just sit in the huge lecture hall of 150 students chatting WITH a group of students and getting to know them. In Power Your Tribe: Create Resilient Teams in Turbulent Times, Christine Comaford who has been coaching companies for 30 years, says employees just want to have 3 basic needs met: safety, belonging and mattering.
MAKE PEOPLE CRY (NOT WHAT YOU THINK)
Every semester, I have students come to my office hours. Not because they necessarily wanted to talk about academic stuff, but because they wanted to talk about life or some kind of challenge they were facing. I actually loved talking about this stuff--it was the beginning of my life coaching really. Great coaches will tell you though, when you elicit an emotional response, it means you have empowered your clients in the direction they needed to go in. So often emotional responses are frowned upon in the workplace or school place, but when you can make people cry, then you know you have made them realize something so much deeper that they couldn't have figured out on their own. In Shawn Achor's latest book, Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being, Achor proves that teams with high EQ outperform teams with high IQ (!).
As humans we compare. Social media has not helped with this obsession either. When I ran in my first 100m sprint as an elementary school kids with pigtails flying, I remember my mom's advice, "Don't look at the other kids. Just look straight ahead." Think about it: In this race we often call life, if you look at other people while you are "racing" will you be faster or slower? Actually, what I didn't know at the time is that when you compare yourself with someone else, you actually perform worse, because it is an impossible comparison--there is only one you in this world. You'll be happy to hear, that was the first and last race I ever won, but I've been winning at life a little bit more.
GIVE A LITTLE (OR A LOT)
I have always been a giver. Perhaps it stems from the fact that I was a people pleaser. I have always loved giving things away. When people come over, I pack them home with whatever I have in my fridge. It wasn't until later, I realized what I was doing had links to happiness. People who are generous are happier. But did you know that people who give are not just happier but more successful? In Adam Grant's Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, he proves that medical students who helped other students on their exam, actually outperformed those who didn't. Encourage people around you to give to each other, give back to their communities, give food to cleaners, give to themselves.
*Dedicated to my friend Amanda who asked how to create happier workplaces. Here's to creating more happy millennials together!*
It turns out the COUR in COURAGE comes from the Latin word COR meaning "heart." Back in the day, COURAGE meant "to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." (Read more here). Wow, it literally comes from the HEART. I saw a meme once and posted it on Facebook: "Happiness is a form of Courage." It really resonated WITH me.
This year, I feel like it has come up for me. A lot.
In June, I heard about this 3-day Corporate Happiness Bootcamp in Mumbai. I signed up at the last minute on a whim not knowing I actually needed a visa. I ended up getting my visa approved at the ninth hour (!), packing quickly, and getting on a plane.
Thank you, Internet.
During the bootcamp, I was inspired by an Indian guy named Hemal. (Incidentally his name in Korean means "seafood.") He and his wife had started OktoBuzz, a digital marketing company based in Mumbai. He would stand up during the bootcamp and share all of the cool things they had been doing to spark and sustain happiness in the workplace.
Gathering a bit of COURAGE, and full of giddy happiness, I approached him at the end of the 3 days and asked if I could bring The Happiness Workshop to OktoBuzz.
"I have a crazy idea..." I began and before I continued, he replied, "I love crazy..."
That's how you know it's the beginning of not just a good conversation, but a great one.
The day I was due at OktoBuzz, my own head was abuzz: I was texting back and forth with Neha, Hemal's wife and co-founder, I was prepping my human power point at the same time, trying to figure out how I would navigate my way there, cutting pieces of paper, and trying not to panic too much.
I ended up taking a taxi to their office. It's close to a bazaar which was jam-packed full of people, people on bikes, auto rickshaws, cars, the incessant sounds of honking. I remember looking out of the window and thinking:
What have I gotten myself into?
What if I can't find the office?
What if they don't like the workshop?
What if...what if...what if...
And then I thought about just how much I believed in what I was doing and just how courageous-- full of heart--I was and how my work allowed me to push the boundaries of COURAGE in the form of HAPPINESS.
"We have an open door policy here," Hemal said with his kind and gentle demeanor after I had hesitantly knocked on his office door. "Anyone can come in, even if we are interviewing."
"Would you like some snacks and tea?" Neha asked warmly. The other staff members generously offered me a plate of deep fried goodness in the form of Indian snacks and a tea guy showed up with chai.
"We can go outside and run around in the parking lot..." Hemal offered in response to my concern about space for a communication game I had wanted us to play.
It turned out to be one of those incredible workshops. In fact, one of THE most incredible workshops I have ever done. In that cozy, Harry Potter-themed, open door, snack + chai filled office, the OktoBuzz staff had done all of the activities eagerly, joyfully, and WITH full hearts.
In the organized chaos of the streets of Mumbai, teams went out to spread HAPPINESS full heartedly, unabashedly WITH COURAGE.
Then it dawned on me over the most delicious dosa dinner ever with Neha and Hemal, as they recalled how they had met, fallen in love, and then given birth, if you will to OktoBuzz, that they too were COURAGEOUS.
They had created this company from the ground up (which by any stretch of the imagination is tough enough) but on top of that, they had dared to HAPPIFY their workplace and workforce.
I have to say, they were all already super HAPPY before The Happiness Workshop even began.
"Yeah, a lot of our staff will shop around and go to other startups, but they will inevitably come back to us since we prioritize HAPPINESS in the workplace," Hemal explained humbly while Neha nodded.
After treating me to such an incredible dosa meal, and patiently explaining what each dish was, they drove me all the way back to my hotel--almost an hour's drive. Before I got out, Neha turned to me and presented me with a gift: "We hang this above doors to ward away evil spirits." It was a beautiful and ornate string of gold leaves. I remember thinking to myself after I profusely thanked them: How on earth did they find the time to get this gift for me? What an amazing couple.
That night, back in my hotel room, reflecting on the incredible day I had had, I thought: If I had not been COURAGEOUS enough to come to Mumbai for the first time solo, if I had not been COURAGEOUS enough to attend the Corporate Happiness Bootcamp, if I had not been COURAGEOUS enough to approach Hemal and Neha at the end of the Bootcamp, I would have never experienced any of, well, anything (!). And my HAPPINESS level would have not been at an all time high...
How many of us hold ourselves back from taking that COURAGEOUS leap: small, medium, or big?
Recently, I met a woman named Ai. She currently lives in Korea, but she is originally from China. This woman to me really embodied COURAGE. She left a stable job as a Communication Studies professor in the U.S., a job she had worked really hard to get, and had taken the leap to become a digital nomad/eduentrepreneur, as well as inspire others to take that same leap. She started from zero and today she is a top writer for Medium, a prolific blogger, live streamer, social influencer, and was recently featured in Forbes. Check out the article here.
In our first meeting yesterday, she said, "We need to empower our selves." That sentence stayed WITH me. I mean, we are always looking for empowerment externally. We see famous people, celebrities, we FOLLOW people on social media passively. Yet when it comes to our selves, we are constantly working on perfecting that next selfie.
So here's to taking just one step on that HAPPINESS journey. Whether it takes you to a "Mumbai," or an unfamiliar crowded bazaar, or to start your own thing--as long as you are empowering your SELF, WITH heart, COURAGE, you know you're on the right track.
*Inspired by and dedicated to the Nehas, Hemals, and Ais of this world who dare WITH COURAGE to be HAPPY.*
"You should go to this." It was a simple and short text with a HUGE message and attachment. A friend of mine from high school had suggested I attend the World Happiness Summit (WOHASU) in Miami.
I was in New York prepping for my first ever public Happiness Workshop (set for May 2018), so Miami didn't seem like that much of a schlep. Within minutes, I had rearranged my flight back to Korea, booked tickets to Miami, and was perusing hotels.com for hotel deals. Oh and I decided to apply to be a "Tribe Facilitator," in WOHASU speak means a coach who leads daily discussions with attendees.
I was psyched when I found out soon after, I would be able to attend my very first WOHASU event as a Tribe Facilitator--WOOOOOOT!
The event was everything it promised to be and more: positive psychology + happiness experts from around the globe who were humble, down-to-earth, and the kinds of humans you wanted to just hangout with when your plane gets delayed 5 hours (true story: I spent a few hours with one of the Google speakers who was on my flight to San Francisco). The people in my tribe were eager to learn, excited to create change, and had already done a bulk of the legwork themselves.
But it was the other tribe facilitators who were truly living and breathing their creed.
THE COACH TRIBE
On a whim, I decided to see if some of the other tribe facilitators wanted to grab dinner the evening before the event started. A handful responded to my FB post, and admittedly, I did have images of me eating alone in a Tapas restaurant...but everyone showed up, and boy did they continue to show up for me and each other throughout the conference.
3 HAPPY LESSONS LEARNED:
After the conference many of the coach tribers wrote messages of GRATITUDE, LOVE, THOUGHTFULNESS, KINDNESS + more on our FB group page. I was in disbelief. I mean, how much more amazing can a group of people be? Imagine if the world were full of people who did the EQ work, lived and breathed it fully, and then gracefully shared it WITH others?
Gosh, I'm just happy thinking about it.
*Dedicated to and inspired by my coach tribers. May you continue to love + lead with happiness, kindness, compassion, and everything else this world needs to succeed.*
"You are a great coach, but I get the feeling that people don't take you seriously with your Happiness Coach title..."
It wasn't the first time I had heard that. Hearing that from Szilvia, my tarot card healer in Bali, somehow made the gravity of it all sink in that much more.
Talking to old classmates about trying to bring my signature Happiness Workshop to their corporations was met with resistance similar to what Szilvia foretold:
"Well, we are about our bottom line here, unfortunately. Money."
"Our bank thinks that if we have a workshop like that, people in the company will assume that we are not happy..."
I wanted to scream from the top of my lungs or I guess in this case text in capital letters, HAPPY employees lead to:
I watched a documentary recently entitled "The Corporation," in which today's corporation was compared to The World Health Organization's checklist for its definition for a psychopath:
Before corporations were corporations, there were moral codes, values, traditions that did not allow us to wreak havoc on the environment, blatantly ignore human rights/suffering, do mind numbing work, meaningless work for profit and not purpose. We all lived in a community: we shared the land, the rivers, the crops, and so much more. Our social relationships based on our shared values created everlasting bonds of happiness.
Now we live online, hiding behind computer screens/the latest smartphone device, devoid of human contact and social relationships--
the very thing that feeds our souls. We work in cubicles communicating not face-to-face, but online. We live in cities far removed from nature.
Our brains were not built for this type of work either. Just as much as our bodies cannot process fast food, our brains were built for flight or fight responses. If there's a lion, we run. Then cortisol levels drop, and the stress goes. Now, if there's an angry boss, we stay, cortisol levels don't drop, and the stress never leaves. And we all know, chronic stress leads to increased risk for depression, mental illness, lower life expectancy, and the laundry list goes on.
So what now? We need a change. A change in a POSITIVE direction. A POSITIVE environment where people feel free to work on work that matters. POSITIVE co-workers: people who love what they do genuinely, because it benefits the greater good. POSITIVE outcomes: goals that change the world for the better, not built on profit. POSITIVE perspectives: finding creative solutions not problems, such that the majority will benefit and thrive. And of course, POSITIVE leaders who will lead all of this, elevate all of us (and themselves), and create a fundamental shift by putting others before themselves.
Gosh, now more than ever, I think corporations need to move from their psychopathic leadership to one of kindness, compassion, giving, and of course HAPPINESS towards a more POSITIVE (+) kind of LEADership.
Now I'm Kyla the Positive Leadership Coach, no longer Kyla the Happiness Coach, but what remains the same is my purpose, my vision of driving this change towards a brighter, better, happier, more positive society.
*This blog post is inspired by + dedicated to my husband: the most positive leader out there!
Over lunch somewhere in Incheon, I caught up with my friend Chris and told him all about my recent travels to Bali. I knew he would understand, as he was deeply spiritual himself and would often do meditations on me and as of late WITH me. As I recounted each story of healing, his eyes widened, his smile deepened, and as always I could feel him radiate warmth and calm energy.
The Balinese Healer
She was an 8th generation healer. I had first met her when she did a small blessing on each one of us at the retreat (see above photo). It immediately brought me back to childhood. Each morning, my Popo ("maternal grandmother" in Cantonese) would use similar incense to pray to her Chinese gods.
In our own private room, she chanted in Balinese. I wasn't sure what she was saying, or what she was doing, but I could feel my body ease into her healing. She told me I needed to breathe more, that my breaths were too shallow, and sent me home with a bottle of "holy water" she had blessed.
I left feeling a deep relief: knowing that the negative energy had left me, but also that somehow Popo was WITH me in that room too.
Suksma, Ibu. ("Thank you, Ma'am" in Balinese)
The Western Healer
"Breathe into your pain." When someone is dry massaging you, and you already have a low tolerance for pain, and you hear them say that, it seems like somewhat of an oxymoron.
"You know, in the western world, we are taught to run away from pain, right? That pain is a bad thing..." Malcolm continued. He was a massage therapist-meets-life coach. The staff at the retreat had told me that he could "see right through you."
"Yes, but it hurts..." I whined.
"What or who is telling you it hurts?" he asked.
"Well, I think my mind is..." I answered hesitantly.
"Yes, exactly. Go on, breathe into it. Another deep breath."
As the dry massage continued on my back, the pain dissipated just as he had said, as my breaths deepened. Malcolm asked me how I felt at the end of the session. I had so many thoughts running through my head: Whoa, I ran towards pain. Whoa, I have had this fear of pain most of my life until this very moment. Whoa, my mind has been telling me to fear pain this whole time.
"Gosh, I feel like, if you took this table out from under me, I would float here like a lotus flower."
I floated out of that room an inch taller.
Thank you, Malcolm.
The Tarot Card Healer
I first met Szilvia at the retreat. I must admit, even though Chris had done tarot card reading on me, and bought me my very first tarot card pack, I went into the 30-minute reading a little bit skeptical. Just to let you know, I came out of that reading with tears of joy, because there is no way she could have known what she did.
During a second reading a week later, I asked her why I was having nightmares and she pinpointed it to three reasons: 1) negative energy from clients/people I work with; 2) ghosts in my apartment (whose presence I have actually felt); 3) family stress I am taking on. She recommended I have someone do theta healing on me. I found out she was actually a licensed practitioner of theta healing and was overjoyed that she could do the work on me.
We sat in my hotel room across from each other, my palms on top of hers. I wondered with my skeptical mind, what I had gotten myself into, and what we were going to do. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. Almost as if she sensed my nervousness, she asked me to stand up and close my eyes.
"I am going to ask your body some questions--not your mind--your body," Szilvia instructed gently as we began the session.
"Ok..." I said out loud but my mind was going back and forth thinking: What does that even mean? How can she talk to my body? I don't even know. Whaaat?!
"Body, tell us..." and that is how she began each yes or no question she would ask my body.
In the beginning, my body would lean slightly forward for "yes" and lean slightly backwards for "no." I was astonished. How was my body moving without my mind telling it to? What was happening? Later, the same happened in the chair, sitting down, except the motion was even greater.
Thank you, Szilvia. You'll be happy to hear my nightmares are gone.
Thoughts on Healing
Ok, I admit, I was super skeptical. I understand why too. Our brains are hardwired to protect us from unknowns/change/differences but I think the more open we are, the more phenomenal, life-changing experiences we can have.
On my week solo after the retreat, I serendipitously ran into Eve. She is the diet/nutrition consultant my hotel hired. I went on to rave about Szilvia during our conversation and found out that the two were really good friends--small world. And then she said, "I think we all have that power to connect and heal ourselves. It's just some are more in tune to it then others." Yes, totally agreed.
And what if these healers were huge mirrors that reflected what was truly going on within, reminded us of what was going on within, and gently helped us move passed negative energy, blocks, blindspots, and so much more?
Over coffee with Chris, I showed him the video (below) I had made in gratitude for the staff at the retreat I had gone to.
He looked up from the video and glanced at me, saying, "Wow. You have really changed Kyla. You are like a different person. I am so happy for you."
"Chris, I feel like I am vibrating on a whole different level."
"Kyla, you certainly are. There is no doubt about it."
*This blog post is dedicated to my friend Chris. Thank you for always encouraging and inspiring me to dig deeper within myself. This blog post was inspired by Szilvia, Malcolm, Ibu, and all of the amazing healers out there--official and unofficial. Keep up your life-changing work.*
Thank you for choosing this year to diagnose my mom with early onset dementia. It has brought my family closer together both geographically and emotionally, and we have been able to help my mom get the help and attention she needs.
Side Note to Dementia: Thank you for choosing my mom. Although you are an unsolvable riddle and there is as yet a cure for you, you have given my mom the "power of now" as Eckhart Tolle would say. She no longer holds grudges or holds on to events that were negative, and she remains in the present. Thank you for allowing us to take care of her the way that she has taken care of us.
Back to you, 2017. Thank you for showing me that no matter the challenge, I have the tools within me to work through them. It is the path to myself, that leads to my inner self, that often is the trickiest path to find and stick to, but once there, the sky is the limit.
The Eraser Test: What would you erase from your life if you could?
Reading this part in Gawdat's book, Solve for Happy, my mind immediately jumped from event to event in the hopes of finding something to erase. As I read on, and as my mind went on, I realized, Holy cow, I can't. Those seemingly negative experiences led to seemingly positive experiences. And just as Gawdat says in his book,
"nothing is really good or bad."
If I erased my mom's dementia, I would also have to erase my becoming a licensed life coach, the sheer amount of depth added to my book writing/coaching, my pop-up cafe, learning how to surf, doing a ton of work on myself WITH myself, and the list continues. Whoa, game changer.
So 2017, you have been an extraordinary year for growth, change, self-awareness, and so much more. You have pushed me to become the best version of myself by actually helping me realize that I could do it all along. Perhaps I just needed that nudge, hey?
As Gawdat mentions in his book, 2017, you showed me how to see past one of the illusions called FEAR: Pushing past this, realizing that what was at the core of this FEAR was actually fear of rejection, I created this blog and an F-word FB Live Video Series.
Gawdat talks of blind spots like memories. I would hold on to memories that would keep me from doing something or moving forward. However, I recognized that my memory of surfing being scary was just that and not the truth. So I moved through fear paralysis and tried it! YEAH! 1-Kyla 0-Blindspots.
Finally, you showed me how to realize one of the ultimate truths: LOVE. Love does indeed cut through all of this Bull**** in our lives, Gawdat. And reminds us of what is truly important. I am so grateful for my hubby's unconditional love, my family's unconditional love, my friends' unconditional love. <3
Gawdat's Equation for Happiness:
HAPPINESS ≥ Events (Your Perception of them) - Expectations (Of How Life Should be)
Math was never my strong suit, but if ever there was to be an equation for HAPPINESS, it would simply be this one. To live your life happily, perception is everything. If you think an event is unhappy, your brain will tell you that. You will continue to think about that thought -> suffer -> inaction (i.e. not do anything about it), thus creating a vicious cycle. OMG, I used to do that all the time. Ok, I still do, but awareness is half the battle, right? If you expect your life to be a certain way, and it doesn't meet your expectations, you will also fall short of what really matters.
Ok, just stop to think about all of this and digest it for a second before reading on.
Let go of your perceptions, let go of your expectations, and just LIVE.
Gosh, 2017, it has been a roller coaster of a ride, but I don't think we would have wanted it any other way, right? I remain humbled, a life-long learner, open to even more growth/change/self-awareness, and whatever else your sibling 2018 brings me.
Farewell, 2017. I'll miss you, but I am looking forward to working WITH you 2018.
*This blog post was inspired by Mo Gawdat's Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy. (If you haven't already read it, I suggest you do! It is a game-changer.) This blog post is dedicated to Mo's son Ali, who is no longer with us, but smiling WITH us from somewhere in the universe. Check out Gawdat's video below. I am totally WITH you Gawdat on making 10 million people happier. Let's do this!
I am a Positive Leadership Coach. My goal is to try to make as many people around me + around the world as happy as possible =).