Thank you for hosting an annual conference for 40,000 people in Orlando (the only place that can hold such an incredible and massive undertaking). Thank you for trusting me WITH your pre-day Diversity + Inclusion track. I was humbled to share the same stage WITH some of your own incredible leaders in the field of Diversity and Inclusion like Haben Girma (the first deaf blind African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Law). Thank you for buying 400 copies of her book and mine for all of the pre-day participants.
TO BE HEARD
After what happened at Microsoft in March, where women came forward in droves to report various levels of sexual harassment in a mass email (more than 90 pages), it was heartening to see there were sessions addressing not just how women can be heard but how every human irrespective of color and ability could be heard. During the pre-day, there was a standing ovation for just such a woman. A Muslim woman who shared WITH us how she had overcome depression. I was moved to tears as well. Depression is near and dear to my heart. You can read more about what happened at Microsoft here.
TO BE HELPED
Haben Girma said in her inspiring talk, “No matter how abled we are, we will all need help at some point.” That point struck me. She talked about how as we age, we will need help. Even buying coffee from a coffee shop, nobody expects us to grow our own coffee beans and grind them. That’s why we go to cafes. We are all inter-connected and inter-dependent. We need to help each other more.
TO BE SEEN
I must admit, after my workshop, which was the largest one I’ve done to date, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was living the data of how when women are in the minority, they tend to speak less in meetings and events. Having spoken at the Amsterdam and Seoul Microsoft Ignite events earlier this year, I was also outnumbered by white men. During the pre-day event, I realized white men want to be seen too, and not in the way we think they do. There were white men who were autistic, gay, LGBT+, and many others who felt just as “left out” as the rest of us. Whoa.
TO BE LOVED
I found a little bubble tea place called Bubble & Co. in which to balance out my feelings of overwhelm. The owner Jenn, manager Anthony and I became fast friends. They totally work hard to make ever single person who walks into their bubble tea store seen, heard, and loved. One night, I get a text from Jenn saying, “Get your butt downstairs. We are coming to pick you up.” She and Anthony ended up taking me out for supper at a Turkish restaurant. I was so taken by what they’re doing for their community and their staff members, I wrote an article about them: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/creating-community/
So when I did Microsoft Ignite Seoul in May, I was terrified. I knew I would be outnumbered by middle-aged Korean men. And well, I was. I assumed they would judge me, they would look at my outfit, my pink crocs, my wild body language, and think: why is she a speaker?!
Fast forward to the last night of the conference when you shut down Universal Studios for all 40,000 of us, my friend Olivia ran into an MVP she knew. He was hanging out WITH some other men. We ended up going on a couple of rides WITH them. They totally knew the lay of the land because some of them had been with their kids before. Then it dawned on me: I had done it again. I had done to the men at the conference in Orlando, Amsterdam, and Seoul, what I hated they did to me: pre-judged them, assumed the worst, and didn’t give them a chance. Whoa.
Thank you dads and Microsoft for reminding me of these lessons in Diversity and Inclusion and well...life really.
Thank youuuuuuu Hailey and your amazing team for running logistics like a boss. You always make me feel loved, seen, heard and helped while remaining calm as a cucumber. #girlcrush
Thank youuuuuuu Shona for organizing a 40,000 person conference like a boss. Thank you for giving a platform to people like me and countless others so that we may shine a light on and WITH incredible humans who are just waiting to be seen, heard, loved and helped. You’re my #shero.
Wishing you Happiness,
Rolling around my hot pink suitcase all over COEX (conference center in Seoul) and clutching my human PPT in my other hand, I was seeking answers to whether my workshop for the Microsoft Ignite Tour was going to be held in the Vivace Room or Room 105. It seemed simple enough.
A FELLOW SPEAKER
After chatting with a volunteer and asking him where the speaker lounge was a fellow speaker walked by. The volunteer asked him if he could show me/escort me to the speaker lounge. Walking about halfway through COEX, we chatted about what we were speaking about respectively. He was going to speak about some Microsoft techy stuff, and I was going to speak about Happiness. He remarked, "Oh? I had no idea we were going to be having that kind of workshop here."
AT THE REGISTRATION BOOTH
Upon finding the registration booth, I was asked at the speaker booth, "Are you a speaker? Participant?" After I registered I asked them to help figure out which room I would be speaking in. As they were trying to text someone else, I wondered what about me was not speaker-like? Was it that I was a woman? Was it that I was Asian? Was it that I was rolling around a bright pink suitcase? Was it my brand new Marimekko outfit (cropped flowery flared pants with matching top)? Was it all of the above?
"Ohhhhhhhh, YOU'RE the speaker for this room?" One of the room aids asked rhetorically after I had been asking them if I was speaking in this room. They were super helpful and polite but I think they had assumed I wasn't the speaker, even though by that time, I had a speaker lanyard around my neck.
As part of the diversity and tech track at Microsoft Ignite I realized that I was part of this wave of creating change around what a speaker looked like. I found my ego wanted to be externally validated by the fellow speaker, the registration booth people, and finally the room aids. All to no avail. Then I happened to be on LinkedIn adding a contact and glanced at my profile. Nowhere in the description of myself was the word "speaker." I was actually doing what I talk about in my intro with the two cups: I was filling my external cup rather than my internal cup.
In order to really be that change, I had to create that change WITHin first. You'll be happy to hear that I have since changed my LinkedIn profile to read: Keynote Speaker.
*Dedicated + Inspired WITH all of those speakers out there who look different and therefore promote diversity not just in tech but in all aspects of life.*
"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!
We live in a world of binaries: Winners and Losers, Successes and Failures, Givers and Takers, and the list goes on. Reflecting back on my third WIN (Women's International Networking Conference that brings together women and a sprinkling of men from all walks of life for a 3-day annual global conference) experience, I wanted to share just how amazing, empowering, inspiring, and life-changing it was. This year, we celebrated 20 years of WIN in Oslo, Norway. 20 years of empowering women around the globe. What does that even look like? Well, I thought I would frame it in WIN's very own 8 Guidelines:
1. Be Open
This year in Oslo, and last year in Rome, I was asked to moderate the Young Leader Forum. Usually there are a handful of speakers. Each speaker takes turns and shares her own inspiring story, and then the audience has a chance to ask questions. We had a few minutes at the end of the forum, so I thought I would ask the audience to take turns and share some words of advice for the speakers. With each turn, the advice grew deeper and more introspective, "Don't live your life with regrets," "Don't worry about your age, it doesn't matter." Then the mic stopped at a woman and before giving any advice she began crying. The crying spread. Pretty soon we were all crying. Then I shared how I had thanked a friend of mine for believing in me so strongly and then cried. At any other conference, I am not sure how this would have played out, but at WIN, nobody judged each other for crying, instead, we ended our Young Leader Forum with a group hug. Now that's a WIN!
2. Be Ready to Connect
On the last night of the conference, we celebrate with a gala extravaganza. We come together, many people wearing their own traditional costumes from around the world, we eat, we dance, we chat, enjoy live musical performances and we dance more. On my way to the bathroom, I ran into a woman from Malaysia who had come to my Happiness Workshop. I had wanted to connect with her, but between my one-on-one Happiness coaching sessions, catching up with old friends from last year's WIN, and not to mention the array of fabulous workshops/plenaries to attend, I wasn't able to. Our eyes met, and we soon carved out a tiny bit of space to connect. During that brief time we had together, we imagined a place in Asia where young people could be inspired, a place where they could feel empowered, and see other women doing things they dreamed of doing. We imagined WINSingapore (!). On my way to the bathroom after our inspiring chat, I thought to myself: Only at WIN do you dream up these kinds of ideas in a 10-minute conversation. Now that's a WIN!
3. Be Quick to Contribute
After the Young Leader Forum, I reconnected with a young woman from Kenya. She had also spoken at the Young Leader Forum last year too. She told me about all of the progress her NGO was making and how blessed she felt to be able to do the work she was doing in Kenya. Then I decided to ask her, point blank, "How can I help? What can I do to help?" She welcomed me to Kenya (WOOHOO, always wanted to go to Kenya!) and told me that she needed about 350 Euros for a new project they were working on. I immediately opened my purse and gave her the remainder of cash, which was close to what she needed. She hugged me and walked away with a smile. I smiled too knowing that my small donation would change the lives of orphan girls in Kenya. Now that's a WIN!
4. Be Ready to Take Risks
In life and at most conferences they tell you to "play it safe." Not at WIN. At WIN, you are encouraged to try something you have always wanted to, be someone you have always wanted to be, do something you have always wanted to do. Last year, for my Happiness Workshop, I wanted to have people go around the conference and make as many people as happy as possible, but I didn't, because I was afraid nobody would do it. This year, I decided to take a leap of faith, and just do it. I ran it by Dominique (the fabulous woman in charge of speaker relations), and she said to just check with the other workshop speakers. So I did. There were some bewildered looks, but most were open and curious to see what would happen. So was I. What unfolded was absolutely something I could have never imagined: participants put up signs in the bathrooms, handed out chocolates to people they came across, hugs were shared, announcements were made, and risks were taken by all! Dominique later in her usual unassuming manner said, "I noticed there were more people in your workshop this year..." Now that's a WIN!
This was my first year doing one-on-one coaching sessions. Yet another fantastic thing that separates WIN from other conferences is that you can sign up for free one-hour coaching sessions. Usually the slots are gone within an hour of being released! I decided to add three more slots to the two already planned, and after a ton of schedule re-arranging, they were set for Friday morning beginning at 8AM. Friday morning came around and I was exhausted. I didn't feel like going. I had to go. This was my opportunity to create change in someone's life and in my own life. This was something I had wanted to do for a long time now. So I met with the three women who had signed up, and over breakfast, I learned, listened, and grew. Thank you ladies for that amazing opportunity to work WITH you and commit to you. Now that's a WIN!
6. Never Accept the Unacceptable
Having worked with overcomers of human trafficking and domestic violence, I take this particular guideline to heart. At breakfast each morning, I noticed that there was a male manager who would yell at the other staff in front of the hotel guests. On Friday morning, during my one-on-one coaching sessions, when everyone else had left for the conference, the manager yelled at one of the kitchen staff for talking to me, in front of me. It was a very uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. Later that day, I struck up a conversation with a man on a stationary bike. He was biking for change: the more he biked, the more the hotel would donate in water to a developing country. The man turned out to be the General Manager of the hotel. I decided to tell him about what I had witnessed over the three days, and how something needed to be done, such that this manager did not yell at the staff anymore. The General Manager nodded solemnly saying he knew all about his behavior and would have a talk with him. He thanked me for bringing it to his attention along with other things I had noticed around the hotel. An hour later, he even sent up a bottle of wine and some chocolates with a hand-written note to my room. Now that's a WIN!
7. Be Light and Have Fun
Some of the best moments at the conference came during a tiny conversation here, a walk around the park there, a jaunt to the local coffee shop for a cinnamon roll, or getting caught buying a ton of scarves in the hotel convenience store. Sometimes in life, we take ourselves too seriously, or we worry too much about things we actually don't have to worry about. I worried whether people would show up to my Happiness Workshop, I worried whether people would sign up for my one-on-one Happiness coaching sessions, I worried about making the right impression on people, but when I let go of all of that, when I let the light in and had fun, that's when things started organically falling into place. Now that's a WIN!
8. Expect Magic
When you are at a conference with hundreds upon hundreds of people who are open-minded, ready to connect, quick to contribute, ready to take risks, committed, don't accept the unacceptable, are light and fun (basically guidelines 1-7), how can you not expect magic? I got to meet so many incredible women and men who were so talented, humble, and willing to not only move mountains to help me, but move mountains to create social change around them. I felt extremely honored and humbled to be able to meet all of them. On the last night of the gala, I was asked to get up on stage in front of the entire WIN conference and talk about how WIN has changed my life. Looking out at the sea of sparkling WINners, I took a deep breath, smiled, and shared how I became a WINner, and got to thank the WIN team personally (with all those scarves from the hotel convenience store!). Now that's a WIN!
On the 21st floor of our hotel, the view of Oslo was absolutely incredible. I went up early to meet some friends for drinks at The Summit Bar and to just soak in everything that had happened over the past few days at the conference. As I looked out at Oslo, I couldn't help but feel completely alive. I wondered if we lived in a world where every woman and man used WIN's 8 guidelines for work, love, life, and everything in between, wouldn't the world be full of WINners? Givers? Successes?
And we could then once and for all just do away with any binary bullshit (!).
Now that's a WIN!
Happiness coach, Theta Healer®, author, WITH Warrior in Chief <3