As we danced to the music, I looked out at the women: they may have looked different on the outside, they may have had different experiences in life, but what brought us together last night was our calling to EMPIRE (EMpower + insPIRE).
Allow me to explain.
A few months ago, at one of my Happiness Workshops, I met a fellow Happiness + Success Coach named Dom. She had arrived in Seoul just a few short months ago, but was bursting with energy and excitement to create change in the burgeoning coaching space in Korea.
I thought this could play out one of two ways: 1) I could wish her well and see her as "competition;" or 2) I could collaborate WITH her, EMPIRE her, in the way I wish I had had a mentor in Korea when I first started.
I chose the latter.
On the phone before the workshop, she was her usual effervescent self:
"Kyla!! Are you excited? How are you feeling?"
"Yeah, I am feeling pumped!"
"Hey, let's come up with like a slogan or something we say before we do our workshops!"
"Ok...what did you have in mind?"
"You know...maybe we could combine EMPOWER + INSPIRE"
Silence as we were both in deep thought.
"How about EMPIRE!!" Dom shrieked excitedly.
At our very first W.E. (Women Empowering) Women Workshop last night, we were living and breathing what we had wanted to create for the women who attended the workshop: we trusted each other, we respected each other, we gave each other the space to EMPIRE, and we were ourselves.
After the workshop, two good friends commented, "It was so smooth. You guys worked so well together." Another workshop participant was surprised to learn that Dom and I had met just months ago. She thought we had been friends for years because of our rapport.
Over lamb BBQ dinner, Dom and I talked about the highlights of the workshop:
A friend who had come even texted me this after the workshop:
"Thank you for an empowering and brilliant workshop. I am so happy I came. It was a really wonderful, insightful, positive, and nurturing workshop. Loved absolutely every minute of it. And you were just so amazing and fantastic. Keep on moving forward!!! You are a superstar and my inspiration."
On the walk from dinner to Starbucks, I felt relieved. It was as if I had been one of the participants. I had struggled alone to create change in Korea. It was as if I had been facing my own judgment within. It was as if I had needed that EMPIREment just as much as they did. And I finally had a partner-in-EMPIREment in Dom.
Waiting for a taxi near some corporate buildings, Dom dropped the last EMPIRE bomb of the night:
"Kyla, what is it that YOU really want to do? I mean, I am grateful that I get to work WITH you, and you EMPIRE the heck out of me, and I wanna be like you in a few years, but what really gets YOU pumped up and how can YOU level up?"
I was stunned. I mean, hadn't we just walked out of an awesome collaborative workshop? You know, like that music video where Taylor Swift has all of her besties star in? Bad Blood? Where they walk out and their hair is blowing, their skin is glowing, and they just blew up a building...
I blinked to buy myself some time. She smiled as she always did, excited about my response.
"Well...I have this thing that I wrote on this long piece of paper covering the desk in my bedroom...it's just three words: travel, speak, inspire->empire..."
"Then do it! Make it happen, Kyla. You can do it. Level up!"
And just like that, when you think you have empired someone, they empire you back.
EMPIRE strikes back.
Thanks, Dom and all of the amazing women who helped EMPIRE us last night.
On my recent FriYAYs WITH Kyla, I asked a favor of the awesome bootcamp ladies in my class while working out: Would you mind answering this question on my FB Live show: "What do you love about yourself?" I could immediately feel a shift in the room-- a discomfort if you will. They worried about what to say, how they would look on camera, and that they may appear arrogant. I probed further as we were warming up: "Why do you think you would come across as arrogant?" Some women said that society had imposed impossible standards for us to live up to, and that when you talked about yourself in that kind of way, you appeared arrogant. It just wasn't socially acceptable. Having said all of that, the women used class time to thoughtfully come up with one outside quality and one inside quality they loved about themselves. And they nailed it. You can check out the video here for some inspiration. Not one to shy away from de-stigmatizing hushed topics like these, I thought I would take on the challenge and add it to my 100 things list. So here it is in a non-arrogant way:
1. I am thoughtful
2. I am creative
3. I can teach/coach the heck out of most things related to life
4. I have a knack for picking up languages
5. I am a pretty good connecter of people
6. I am less afraid of public speaking than I was as a teenager
7. I am super open to learning/growing
8. I've become pretty good at baking without processed sugar
9. My cooking skills overall aren't too shabby
10. I get to do what I love for my job
11. I am getting better at forgiving myself and others
12. I get to inspire people to be their best selves
13. My multicultural upbringing
14. My travel adventures
15. My unique and different perspective on life and most things
16. I haven't had to settle on life, love, relationships, career
17. I am grateful/thankful
18. I love giving
19. I am becoming more positive (thanks to my positivity coach, my hubby)
20. I am speaking my truth more
21. My relationship WITH my family is getting better and better
22. I get to work on myself for my job
23. I get to meet amazing people for my job
24. I get to be inspired by and WITH extraordinary people and inspire others
25. FriYAYs WITH Kyla
26. My website (I created)
27. I am generous
28. My idiosyncrasies
29. My LOUD laugh
30. My '90s hip-hop dance skillz (!)
31. I get to live in Korea
32. I am married to a phenomenal human
33. Working on not judging myself and others
34. Evolving everyday
35. Learning and growing as a human
36. I get to hangout WITH awesome women in my community
37. I laugh at and WITH myself
38. I love being a kid and refusing to grow up
39. I am open
40. I am easy to get along WITH
OUTSIDE: (Wow, this was hard!)
1. My freckles (especially my first noticeable one Fred on my nose)
2. The color of my eyes
3. My skin because it tans easy
4. My thick hair
5. My second toes (as they are longer than my big toes)
6. My 4-pack (still working on my 6-pack)
7. That I don't wear make-up
8. That I haven't had any plastic surgery done
9. I don't spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning (prefer sleep)
10. My hair is pretty easy to maintain
11. I don't have to use a lot of sunscreen
12. My nose hairs are not long (!)
13. My ear lobes don't stick out
14. My thick eyebrows that I haven't plucked or tweezed
15. My arm hair isn't too thick/bushy
16. When I don't shave my legs you can't really tell that much
17. The mole on the bottom of my left foot
18. My collarbone is sexy (!)
19. My legs and arms (they help me swim)
20. My knees (they help me sit cross-legged on the floor)
21. My body in a bikini (believe me this took a long time--most of my 20s)
22. My naked body in a mirror or a spa
23. My double-jointed fingers
24. My thighs
25. My smile
26. My non double eyelids
27. My stretch marks
28. My tan lines
29. My booty
30. My nose (where Fred lives)
31. Pretty comfortable being naked in front of strangers (thanks to boarding school!)
32. My bottom half in skinny jeans (I was quite late to the skinny jean trend--wait, is it over now?!)
33. My top half in tighter tops
34. My breasts (this has taken me most of my 20s as well)
35. My height (most people think I am taller than I actually am!)
36. My weight (a good friend of mine once told me it's not about the number on the scale, but how you feel)
37. My face
38. My feet
39. My hands
40. My hips
1. I don't beat myself up over stuff I can't control as much
2. My first name and my middle name (Hana which means flower in Japanese)
3. I am a strong, independent woman
4. My humor
5. My constant commentary in my mind and outside of it
6. That I talk to myself out loud sometimes
7. My quirky personality
8. I am not superficial
9. I try to be as authentic and genuine as possible
10. I can be vulnerable
11. I cry often
12. I have accepted a lot of my "flaws"
13. I am ok with who I am
14. I say "I love you" quite frequently
15. I don't hide who I am
16. I am friends WITH people across generations/races/ethnicities
17. I am understanding
18. I am working on being patient
19. I am a writer now!
20. I am a work-in-progress
It took my friend and I walking around and around Dongdaemun Design Plaza in circles before we finally happened upon the line to get into the actual show. As we walked passed people in the general seating line, we flashed our VIP tickets (that had been generously gifted to us be another dear friend), not knowing where we were headed or what to expect when we got there.
We were virgin fashion week goers.
It was a scene out of Vogue: lanky models walking up and down the catwalk to the beat of loud drum music and the never-ending clicking sounds of flashing cameras at the end of the catwalk.
I was captivated and drawn to their stoic facial expressions. I thought if I looked closer, I would catch a smile or even a smirk...but these were trained robots. The only movement was ever so slight eye contact to make sure they headed back when the next set of models were walking down. If you blinked, you could have missed it.
The experience was completely void of human connection.
CARING ABOUT THE INTERNAL > EXTERNAL
While watching these seemingly perfect humans walk back and forth with different designer clothes, seemingly perfect skin, and seemingly perfect hair, I looked around at the people who had come to watch. From my third row seat, I could tell everyone was as captivated as I was.
Then I thought, what if we took the time to care more about what was going on in our insides? Like our emotions, how we spoke WITH ourselves, our inner critic, accepting ourselves for who we are on the inside, and we actually had an entire show about that? Each season there would be a different emotion showcased? A different strategy to reclaim our inner lives?
IT'S JUST LIFE
In a psychotherapist's office, just hours before heading to Seoul Fashion week, I sat and had a conversation WITH Eunice about how to tackle mental health issues in Korea. We had met at another event she was speaking at about "How to Manage Stress." With her tiny frame, calm and listening demeanor, I could see how clients could sit for hours in her office. Not to mention she had been practicing psychotherapy for more than 20 years. She specializes in Sandplay therapy (a therapy involving toy figurines), so one of her shelves is completely covered in tiny toy figurines.
"Our clients are 90% foreign and 10% Korean. The Koreans don't really come out of fear that someone will find out. You know, I see a therapist, I wrote an article in this magazine about it. I mean, I want people to see that it's not a big deal. We all need to take care of ourselves. It's not even about mental health, it's just life."
We went on to talk about how people hide their emotions and their feelings for fear of people finding out that somehow they aren't perfect.
Wait, we are ALL not perfect. We are imperfect humans. IT'S JUST LIFE.
With that, she hands me the magazine and tells me I can take it with me. I leave feeling like I have just had a therapy session WITH her and hopeful that together we can create change around...LIFE here in Korea.
SUNDAY MORNING SURPRISE
It was a typical Sunday morning: I slept in, did some laundry, just got back from exercising. Then I saw the notification I had a voicemail on Whatsapp from my friend Gloria: "I was just thinking of you...you inspire me a lot with your sincerity, genuineity, and Kylality." She went on to say she was at the beach and thinking back to when we met at the swimming pool in Mumbai, while we were both there for a Corporate Happiness Bootcamp training in June.
During an activity in which we had to see (through movement) how much we thought we were creating change in our own organizations at the bootcamp, I could feel my body physically hesitate. I didn't feel as if I was really creating change yet. Gloria firmly took my hand, and led me to where she was standing: the firm "YES, I am creating change" section.
It was hard to not fall madly and deeply in love WITH Gloria: she had the kind of warmth that made you feel like you had known her in a previous life. She gleefully stood out because she didn't fit in to any social norms. Whether she was sitting on the floor cheering, or hugging participants she had just met, or singing and dancing to her own tune (literally and figuratively), she truly embodied HAPPINESS.
Whenever I spoke to the Indian gurus, they would inevitably bring her up: "You know, think about Gloria. She doesn't really care what others think of her. She has really done the work to get to that stage of oneness."
On Friday night, I invited some new coach friends over for dinner. Over pork adobo and stir-fried bok choy, we eagerly chatted about everything we had worked on (and were still working on) to get to where we were as coaches. I confided in them that I was at the 25 mile mark with my book. I could almost see the finish line, but I wasn't sure if I could make it to the end. I further admitted that I had had a mini breakdown WITH my hubby about it all a few days ago. Both coaches talked about their parents and how their parents had made them feel "Not Good Enough." Everything they shared, I felt like I had experienced the exact same thing in my own life.
I nodded, inhaling deeply, sipping on my ginger tea.
After a story I shared about how I had met my hubby, one of them said, "Kyla, you're such a great storyteller. I should bring you home so you can tell some stories to my kids!" Nobody had ever said that to me before. The other coach chimed in, "Wow, I have goosebumps."
After they left, my apartment felt re-energized, heck I felt re-energized. We (the apartment and I) were glowing with a new found possibility. My stories meant something--not just to me--but to others.
BEFORE GETTING TO -ITY
As the Indian gurus mentioned, Gloria did the work on herself. You have to do the work on your SELF, WITH your SELF. An old high school friend put it to me like this when I was going through my quarter-life crisis, "It's like peeling an onion, Kyla. You have to keep peeling, and it may smell, it may make you cry, you may not like the process, but once you get to the core of who you really are, that's where the real you is."
And I would add, that is where the -ITY begins.
What is it that makes me, ME? I used to be a people pleaser, and a whole lot of other things, because I always felt I was not good enough. But what is this Kylility that Gloria spoke of? The question lingered in my head well after she sent me that voicemail. I think it's a turning inward to see who I really am, rather than running away or finding external validation. It's a mindset of being kinder, more loving, more compassionate toward and WITH my SELF. It is my true vulnerability: the tissue on my face when I leave the house, my unbrushed hair, my imperfectness, the uncomfortable sometimes awkward things I write about and speak about, it's a gumption (my friend MK likes to say that I have a lot of it) to create change that is so necessary but so hard at the same time, it's speaking unspeakable truths, it's the audacity to want to lift an entire country's happiness set point (look out, Korea!), and bring myself up, up, up WITH it as well.
Can be found not neatly wrapped in a gift box, but through inward work, struggle, tears, and everything in between. It is in those moments where you believe you are at mile 25, and you can see mile 26, and it is an uphill climb. When you feel as if you really don't know who you are, your -ity will be just waiting to be found, discovered, uncovered, again and again. It will evolve as you do, as it should.
And just when you thought you couldn't climb that last hill, just remember the data from positive psychology: when you look at a hill alone, it seems steeper than it really is. However, when you look at a hill WITH friends or other people, it seems a lot more manageable.
Thank you, Gloria, and my new coach friends for making that "hill" seem that much more manageable.
Last week, I wrote a letter to all men in the form of a blog post. If you haven't read it, feel free to check it out here.
In light of the Dr. Ford case and its verdict, I thought I would write a letter to all women, something I haven't seen out there. So here goes.
First and foremost, I adore you. Life begins WITH you. I am empowered by you, WITH you, no matter where you are from, no matter what experience you have had, and no matter what anyone else says. I just love being around you and your energy.
WOMEN WITH BOUNDARIES
Don't get me wrong. I love Doctors WITHOUT Borders, Teachers WITHOUT Borders, and any other organization WITHOUT Borders. I've coached a bunch of women who begin with, "Well, I just ended up saying yes to this person/situation/event and now I am super stressed out." It's like that nagging thread on a sweater. You think if you just pull it a little, it will come off, but actually what ends up happening (or at least to me) is that it just unravels even more, and before you know it you're walking your sweater to the tailor. Beyond your sweater that needs to be taken to the tailor, the result of not drawing boundaries is a total burn out, which is no bueno. So rather than going beyond your boundaries, if you create them WITH people, you may just be pleasantly surprised that they respect you MORE not less, and you'll have a lot less sweaters to take to the tailors!
SPEAK YOUR TRUTH
One particular session with my life coach, I lamented, "My friend is making me feel bad..." She asked a few coachy questions and then she asked the question that now plays in my head like a repeat song that won't stop: "Why don't you speak your truth and just tell her how she is making you feel?" I thought of a long list of excuses, you know, kind of like Taylor Swift's "long-list of ex-lovers": She would hate me forever, she would never talk to me again, she would hang up the phone, and the list went on.
Don't worry, I did speak my truth, and none of those things came to pass. In fact, I think our friendship is only stronger for it.
I think it takes practice though. We are taught to accept the unacceptable, keep quiet and look pretty, don't disturb the peace from a young age. So what I often tell clients, and what I do myself is I start SPEAKING MY TRUTH to people in customer service: Yesterday afternoon I was in a taxi and needed to go pee really badly. I knew it would be a pain for the driver to pull over, I didn't want to inconvenience him, but I decided to SPEAK MY TRUTH and he obliged by pulling over at a hotel. *Phew, crisis avoided.* You'll find once you get going that speaking your truth isn't all that bad, especially when you realize if you don't, it could escalate into a UTI! TMI?!
SAY THANK YOU
Last night, at a women's networking event, (the second I have put together since starting at WeWork), I noticed when I would do my usual Kyla-Goes-PR-Mode of introducing women I already knew to other women something like, "Oh this woman Gigi is such a badass, she has her own company," the woman I was complimenting would shrink down. Inevitably the response would be, "Oh, I am just a one-woman company," "Oh, I haven't really started it yet," or nervous laughter. One woman had a single out on iTunes, which caused quite the stir (in addition to her many other accomplishments), so we attempted to listen to it on someone's iphone. The songstress/fementrepreneur literally turned around and covered her ears. Ok, before you say anything, I'm not saying you have to be that Cocky asshole who says, "Yes, I am the best X in the world," but remember when you discount what you're doing you invalidate yourself. So just say "thank you." And if you need a little gentle reminder/good chuckle, check out Amy Schumer's hilarious parody of all of this on YouTube.
SORRY -> THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE
When I lived in Japan for three years, I felt like I was apologizing for everything: things that were not my fault, things that were beyond my control, for being single, not Japanese enough, for being too early to an event, and the list goes on. When I studied abroad in China, one of my best friends was Japanese. When we were getting off a public bus, the bus door slammed in her face, and she apologized. Meanwhile, the bus driver scolded her and told her she should have gotten off the bus quicker. Wait, whaaaatt?! Last night at that women's networking event, a woman showed up and apologized for not having dressed up enough, another woman apologized for not bringing snacks (even though that wasn't a requirement), and I found myself apologizing for seemingly interrupting a conversation. To break out of this Sorry Syndrome, how about replacing your Sorrys WITH "Thank you for your patience" instead?
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL
I'm about to give you some shocking statistics. Are you sitting down? Maybe grab a cup of coffee/tea before reading on. In a Dove global study of beauty it was revealed:
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
When I began talking about my depression after my mom's dementia diagnosis, I was so terrified at being judged. What I found instead was a bunch of women in my amazing community here in Songdo who reached out to me, came over and talked WITH me over tea, shared their own stories of depression, and continue to support the heck out of me.
You know how we idolize celebrities? Well, recently, Gisele Bundchen was asked by her son, "What is a celebrity?" She answered that they are no different from others, but they just live their lives more publicly. Yes, and they struggle with the same challenges we do. Can you imagine the highest paid super model in the world would struggle with mental health issues and even contemplate suicide? I know, let that sink in a second.
She even recently wrote a book about it all: Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life. And of course, because she is so awesome, she is donating all proceeds from the book to a charity. In an interview on Good Morning America she cries talking about that moment she was out on her balcony contemplating suicide. If you need even more evidence that you're not alone, two journalists wrote this book called The Confidence Code. They revealed that the likes of Hilary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, and other global leaders also self-doubt just like us. WHAAAT?! I know. See? You're not alone.
If you've made it to the end of this letter, thank you--thank you for your patience (I won't apologize for writing a long blog post). And if you could pass this along to a woman you adore, then we have done something together. We have created an incredible movement of women who support each other, work WITH each other, lift each other up, and help each other create those much-needed boundaries.
Oh and don't forget, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!
Wishing you Happiness,
"What are some Happiness tips?" This is one of the number 1 questions I get on a regular basis, whether at my workshops or from my clients. So I decided to include some of my happiness tips here WITH a caveat: they have worked for me, they may or may not work for you; create your own though, you know? May these inspire you to create not just happiness tips, but happiness in your life on a daily basis.
Oh also since we remember things in 3s, each tip combines 3 words.
1. COMPARE + DESPAIR
We have all been there: Compare and despair land. Well, social media helps us get there faster. We all have that one friend who travels all the time, has a seemingly perfect life, never has to work, yada yada. When I ran in my first 100m dash as an elementary student, my mom gave me some of the best race advice and life advice I could have asked for: "When you run, Kyla, don't look at the other kids. Just look straight. You'll run faster that way." Boy, did I run. My pigtails were flying behind me, and that was the first race I ever won! Now that I am an avid researcher on happiness, what I have found out from neuroscience research is that when we compare ourselves to others, (because there is no one out there quite like our unique awesome selves!) we actually perform worse than if we were to compare ourselves WITH ourselves. Whoa.
2. DO NOT LABEL
Right before I was due to leave Japan after having lived there for 3 years, at a night club in Roppongi, I had my handbag stolen. I will spare you the details of all the drama that ensued. However, one curious thing that happened at the police station when I reported it went something like this:
Me: My handbag was stolen tonight.
Police Officer: Ok, what brand was your handbag? Like Louis Vuitton? Prada?
Me: No brand.
Police Officer: What?
Me: There was no brand. My mom bought it in an alleyway in Hong Kong, I think.
Police Officer: Wait, so what brand?
And so it goes in life, we have this obsession with labeling things: tall, short, ugly, beautiful, black, white, sad, happy, and the list goes on. With situations that come up in life, we tell ourselves, this is terrible or this is depressing. What if we just accepted it for what it was neutrally, and called it a day?
3. AVOIDANCE | SURVIVAL | GROWTH
This I learned recently in my Happiness course online: in every situation we face, we can choose these three ways to face it: avoidance, survival or growth. Most of us usually spend our time in the AVOIDANCE zone. You know, when you decide to go shopping or binge watch that Netflix show instead of addressing what's really going on? (No judgments. I got wayyyy into Narcos.) Then there's the SURVIVAL zone where you're kind of just treading water. The zone to strive for is GROWTH. How do you GROW in every situation you face and help not just yourself GROW but as many people around you as possible?
4. INHALE + EXHALE
So breathing is FREE. We all know about meditation and mindful breathing. There are numerous benefits of both: increased attention span, reduces stress, helps to control anxiety, and the list goes on. I had always imagined that I had to live in some remote village, sit cross-legged in that village and meditate for hours for any of this to even come to pass. Turns out, just 10 minutes of meditation (anywhere) can do the trick. There is a way to breathe properly, I learned at the World Happiness Summit in March this year. Imagine there is an elevator going from the bottom of your abdomen to the top of your head, breathe through your nostrils (not your mouth), and repeat as often as possible!
5. SHIFT YOUR FRAME
"My boss is an asshole, my boss is an asshole, my boss is an asshole..." I often hear clients repeat the same thing over and over again. I hear myself in them. I get it. One of the tools from the Science of Happiness is called Frame Shifting, where you start looking at your challenge/issue from a different angle/perspective. So for example, rather than focusing on "my boss is an asshole" consider "why is this coming up for me and what can I do about it?" Try zooming out of the challenge/issue and seeing the bigger picture as much as possible. It will help you move from the WHAT of the challenge/issue to the WHY.
Three new words for you here. Hygge is the Danish word for "coziness." Did you know that Danish people use more candles per capita than any other nation? It is this obsession with hygge. Lagom is the Swedish word for "balance" literally means "just the right amount" in all things: work-life balance, health, gender (they are always in the top 5 for gender equality in the world), and they even created something called "plogging" (jogging + plucking) where you jog and pick up trash as you go (!). Sohwakhaeng in Korean means "small but certain happiness." In a recent movie called "Little Forest" a girl moves out to a more rural town in Korea, grows her own veggies, and starts enjoying the "small but certain happiness" in life. So why 3 new vocab words? Well, it turns out that when we learn new words we actually sharpen our mind, boost brain power, enhance decision-making and much more! You're welcome!
7. DON'T BELIEVE THOUGHTS
You know that famous expression, "You are what you eat"? Here's another one for you: "You are what you think." Did you know that the average human has 60,000 thoughts per day? And of those thoughts 80% are negative and 95% of those negative thoughts repeat? Yeah, that's why whenever you're in a situation, you believe the worst will come true. As much as we would like to believe that we have evolved with our ever-changing society fueled by the latest tech gadgets and gizmos, we are actually just hunters and gatherers in brain: if there is a lion, we run. If there is no food, we hunt somewhere else. Nowadays we are primed for lions, but not the dull daily stress of that nagging boss, or that toxic co-worker, so the stress just stays with us.
8. JUST DO IT!
I realize this slogan from Nike is more controversial these days than ever thanks to Colin Kaepernick. Whatever the case, one way out of #7 is to literally get out of your head and JUST DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING. At the end of my workshops, we come up with H.A.P.s (Happiness Action Plans)--incidentally, the first 3 letters of the word HAPPY! Thank you for indulging the inner word nerd in me. But in all seriousness, what's that one thing that you have been meaning to do? That one thing that you have been meaning to start? You've got this!
9. YOU ARE ENOUGH
You may recall a blog post I wrote about these three words that pulled me out of the depths of my depression and keep me from going back there. Everyone needs a mantra, daily affirmations, what have you. These three words sit right in front of me in my home office as a reminder that I am enough, that I was brain washed into thinking I wasn't enough by society, by family, by everyone, and most importantly my thoughts kept those thoughts swirling in my head for decades. What's your mantra?
10. SUCCESS -> HAPPINESS?
So in life we strive, and strive, and strive until we get things like a promotion, a car, a raise, whatever. Sometimes at the expense of our own mental/physical health. Do you ever play the "I'll be happy WHEN" game? I'll be happy when... I get the above-mentioned things? Well, don't. What we know from research is that contrary to popular belief and what we are told, the equation looks more like this: HAPPINESS -> SUCCESS. What are you waiting for? Go get your HAPPINESS on!
I have never fit in.
Attending British schools in Hong Kong, I was never quite British enough. During summer vacations in the U.S., I was never quite American enough. Once I got to boarding school in California, I quickly shed my thick British accent, wanting to fit in. But then I found myself feeling more Asian than anything else given we were in the minority there.
Over lunch with the Bootcamp ladies the other day, we talked about how "home" has taken on a whole new meaning for them as they have created lasting friendships and bonds, like the one we have here in Korea as opposed to back home. They continued to share how neat it was watching their kids grow up as Third Culture Kids (TCK), a term I kind of wish was around when I was growing up, or maybe not because it would have confused me even more?
I love Korea's cafe culture. There is nothing I love better than whiling my afternoon away over a beautifully curated matcha latte--you know the Instagram-worthy kind. Yet I don't drink coffee. In my late 20s and throughout my 30s, I stopped drinking alcohol, because my body just couldn't handle it, but I would go with friends to bars to dance/socialize and have a good time. *wink*
I always longed to be able to say, "I'm from ______." Just a one word answer. I looked up to people who had grown up on the same street, knew all of their neighbors, frequented the same establishments akin to The Brady Brunch. In the same way people looked up to child prodigies and math geniuses.
I never really seriously dated in my 20s. I mean, I tried, but nothing really stuck (no errr pun intended?!). In my 30s, before meeting Edgar, I was always that one friend who showed up to house parties alone; the friend that people would say, "Ohhh, you'll find someone soon...you're so nice and such a catch" to. My mom thought I was a lesbian.
I think I spent a good chunk of my life trying to just fit in.
When I first started my job as a professor at Yonsei University, I wore suits, high heels, and pretended to be organized. I wanted to emulate the few other female professors that were around. Truth be told, I was far from it: I would often leave rosters and other important papers behind in class or on my desk, I would show up to class with toilet paper remnants on my face, and I would sometimes wing activities when other activities didn't quite go the way I expected them to.
After my first semester, there was a change.
It was a tipping point: I started feeling super accepted by my students without really having to try to be someone else. It was when I stopped trying to be someone I wasn't, (which let's admit, is super tiring) that my students were less stressed, because I was less stressed. I began teaching in my quirky style. I began wearing more comfortable clothes and shoes. I began bringing a lot more creativity to whatever we were learning.
I could breathe again.
You know how you kind of identify yourself with your work big time? Well, that was me. After I left Yonsei, and took 2017 off, I realized it wasn't about fitting in with others. I mean, heck, I was like that weird-shaped peg trying to squeeze myself into a square hole...over and over again. And each time thinking: why doesn't this work? Why isn't this easy? What?!
I realized it was more about fitting in WITH yourself. Accepting yourself for the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything else in between.
Then something even more magical started happening.
The more work I did on myself whether it was through my life coaching work, or my research/work on happiness, the more I began fitting in WITH myself. Then, I started meeting these awesome coaches who had done similar work on themselves and WITH themselves. First, at the World Happiness Summit in March in Miami, and then more recently here in Korea.
Over Vietnamese lunch yesterday under a perfect fall sun, one of my new friends remarked, "Gosh, I just wanted to tell you guys, this is the first time I can say I have found my tribe."
The fact that she was able to say that, having known us less than a month, spoke to just how much she not only fit in WITH herself (and all of the work she had done on herself WITH herself), but that she had mirrored that very same work that we had done as well--back to us.
And just like that, we were 3 weird-shaped pegs not fitting into square-shaped society, but helping each other STAND OUT more.
I've never been a guy's girl. You know, the kind who will go to a sporting event with the team's jersey, drink beer, and yell in support. Once in grad school, with my friend Christie, after the Red Socks won the World Series, we were wondering what all of the fuss was about.
Yeah, we called ourselves Fake Fans. A high school friend of mine even bought me a Red Socks visor for fear I would get in trouble for not having any Red Socks gear during my time in Boston.
I've never really had a ton of guy friends. At my wedding, a few years ago, I remember looking around thinking wow, there's only one guy friend on my side. The rest were on my hubby's side.
I've always been a feminist: I grew up in a household that whatever a boy could do, a girl could do as well. That was just that. My mom was a working mom, my dad was a working dad, and when my mom went to work, my maternal grandma came from Singapore to live with us and take care of us in Hong Kong. My paternal grandma was the bread winner, supporting my grandpa (who was a gardener/painter) as a real estate agent retiring at the age of 72. My maternal grandma was the only one of her four sisters to fight for and get a high school education.
My dad now in his 70s cooks, cleans, and takes care of my mom who has early onset dementia. For her birthday, he made her a woodwork replica of her grandfather's 1940s Packard car with the license plate "DAISY" on the front (!).
In that bubble I grew up.
I have wanted to write a letter to men for a while now. Even my editor thought I should include a letter to men in my book, but I don't think I was quite ready to write one. Perhaps I was scared, nervous, worried about being judged?
Then I realized, I had to take my own advice that I give fellow fementrepreneurs:
SPEAK YOUR TRUTH!
So here goes:
Let me preface this letter with: We need you. We need you to move forward WITH us. We need you to create change. We need you to work WITH us.
EMPATHY > EGO
Sometimes when I walk home alone late at night, I tend to look over my shoulder more often. I quicken my pace, my heart beats faster, and I put my iphone away so I can be aware of my surroundings. I cannot assume that you have never had that experience, but perhaps you have come close? Well, that is how most of my female friends and I feel on a regular basis. We just ask that you empathize WITH us a little bit.
I think a lot of what happens when we are blamed for something is our EGO steps in: "Hey, I didn't do anything, I'm innocent!" I wonder if rather than REACTING to what our ego says, if we all actually took a mindful breath, and RESPONDED WITH empathy instead how that would look?
We might actually be able to move beyond the WHAT to the WHY and more importantly HOW to move forward WITH solutions.
A few months ago, I was having a lunch meeting with the then WeWork Community Manager of Gangnam Station and some of the other Community Associates, as it was his last week there. We started talking about hobbies:
Male Staff: Oh, I enjoy going to hotels and eating good food.
Another Male Staff: Haha. Do you go with HER?! (Pointing to female staff who looks bewildered and embarrassed)
Community Manager: Don't say that. You can't say that. That is considered Sexual Harassment.
And with that, the male staff who had inadvertently dropped a sexual harassment bomb stopped. I also stopped in my thought tracks, because this had never happened to me in all of my 8 years in Korea. I wanted to jump up and give the Community Manager a huge hug, but thought that might not be appropriate (given he had just called out sexual harassment) so I sent him a gratitude email instead. Sometimes in the moment, when a comment is made, or an inappropriate action is made, we women FREEZE. If you see that, please help to say something.
You may just save a woman's life.
A lot of what has been said about the #MeToo Movement and the recent Dr. Ford case have been in defense pessimism: #NotAllMen #BelieveWomen. This assumes we don't believe women and that not all men are well, you-know-whats. And although both may be true, how helpful are the hashtags to moving forward? What if we reframed all of this. Cue Science of Happiness music. What if we could inspire greatness in ourselves and each other? What if we could create change both WITHin first and then WITH others?
We could change those hashtags to #InspireGreatnessTogether #MenAndWomenTogether
What if we could sit down and have a hard conversation about:
BE A MIRROR and REMIND HER
Early on in our relationship, I would complain to my hubby about how I felt chub or I would put myself down/self-doubt; I would not take his compliments when he called me "beautiful." So one night he sat me down and said,
"Honey, I honestly mean it when I say all those things--I'm not just trying to flatter you. You're a badass. Stop putting yourself down."
I remember crying because I was so touched. Then he said something else:
"The focus of your work, your book should not be me. It should be YOU."
Drop the hubby mic.
Thank you for reading this letter and for being willing to work WITH us women, empathize WITH us, stand up WITH us, inspire greatness WITH us, and be a mirror WITH us.
Wishing you Happiness,
*This blog post is dedicated to ALL men out there. I believe you will work WITH us to create much-needed change.*
100 Things I am Grateful for
At the end of one of my recent workshops, two U.S. Embassy-related participants looked at me eagerly after they asked this question: "Well, your workshop was great and all, but the real question is how do we maintain and sustain happiness in our daily lives?"
I nodded in complete agreement. Having been to a women's retreat last December, I was struggling to keep up my meditation rituals, yoga for beginners, and all around zen-ness. I wanted to come up with an eloquent and inspiring answer, but all I could muster at the time was "I do these monthly workshops in Seoul at WeWork, would love to have you join!"
They walked away most likely as dazed and unsatisfied as I was. I knew all of the research around GRATITUDE, I kept my own daily GRATITUDE log, yet it was something I rarely if ever shared with others, especially clients and workshop participants. It wasn't as if I was hiding it nor was I ashamed of it, but perhaps it become so ingrained, like brushing my teeth that I didn't think it would be a big of enough thing to mention?
I need to think about that more.
Regardless, there are so many benefits to GRATITUDE:
Ok, I have never been a fan of long lists, but have always admired and respected deeply the effort in which it takes for people to create these lists, so I thought I would create my own Gratitude List pulled from my own Gratitude Journal. So here goes:
The Basics (to me)
1. Drinking Water (More than 40% of the world's population does not have access to drinking water)
2. Electricity and how affordable it is in Korea
3. Hot Water (In 2012, I went to visit my sister in Rwanda where she was living in a tiny village: there was no hot water and intermittent electricity)
4. Clothes (Even though I probably only wear 20% of my closet, it's nice to be able to have a closet full of clothes to choose from)
5. An Oven (In my studio apartment where I lived the first 5 years of my time in Seoul, I didn't have an oven)
6. Furniture from Ikea (Additionally grateful that my hubby helped assemble most of our pieces while I was away speaking at a conference)
7. A washing machine (When I lived in Beijing during the summer of 1999, my roommate Dessi and I did not have a washing machine, so we washed all of our clothes by hand)
8. A built-in dryer to the washing machine
9. A roof over our head
10. A/C (This summer was one of the hottest recorded summers in years)
11. A working toilet (Having lived in Beijing and traveled to countries with squat toilets, I can appreciate a nice working not squat toilet)
12. T.V. (This is the first time in my adult life where I have actually owned a T.V.--well, part-owned with my hubby)
13. Plates/Bowls/Utensils (When I lived in my studio apartment in Seoul, I literally had one bowl and plates and utensils that were kindly donated to me my friend Katherine's mom)
14. Shampoo and Conditioner
17. Contact Lenses
18. Glasses (You can get them made super inexpensively here in Korea)
19. Things to write with like crayons, pens, pencils, colored pencils, etc.
20. Lots of paper to write ideas on and brainstorm on
21. My community here in Songdo, Korea (some of the most generous and thoughtful women I have ever met)
22. My bootcamp class
23. My hubby who is the most loving, positive, inspiring, intelligent, encouraging human I have ever met in my life
24. All of my friends around the globe (thank you for all of your support, encouragement and love)
25. My family (thank you for always being there with unconditional love and support and encouragement). In particular, I am grateful that my sister has been more supportive of my parents, my dad has thoughtfully stepped into his role as my mom's caregiver-hubby, and my mom has become a super grateful person!
26. My fruit lady (who always gives me the best fruit, delivers fruit for free, and updates me on the neighborhood happenings)
27. The Eye Glass Shop Guy (who always gives me and hubby a few free contact lenses when we buy mine)
28. The Barber Shop Peeps (who patiently listen to how Edgar wants his hair cut in English)
29. The Paris Baguette Owner (who has the warmest smile and always asks after Edgar whenever I go in alone)
30. The Staff at My Gym for always being super polite, kind and helpful
31. Strangers who Smile
32. People who are changing the world
33. Any public transportation driver who drives safely
34. All of my former students who have inspired me to be my best educator self and continue to do so
35. My colleagues (former)
36. My WeWork "colleagues" for inspiring a different way of working and for believing in my Happiness work here in Korea
37. My collaborators around the globe
38. My Coach friends around the globe for having done the work on themselves WITH themselves and inspiring me to do the same
39. Every single woman out there who has overcome some societal expectation of her
40. #MeToo women
41. Savings in the bank
42. My laptop
43. My iphone
44. My iphone battery-charging case
45. My chargers
46. Being able to travel for work + pleasure
47. Internet Access at some of the fastest speeds in the world and even underground!
48. Food delivery without a delivery fee
50. Onsen/Jijimjilbang/Spa time
51. Vacation time with my hubby
52. Being able to visit friends + family in the U.S. as often as we do
53. Baking with Almond Flour
54. Access to baking supplies on iHerb
55. Getting books sent to me through Amazon
56. Extremely reasonably priced public transportation
57. Nearby Parks, outdoor areas, rivers, and other nature options
58. Not having to have a car
59. Living in a relatively safe neighborhood with low crime rate
60. Feeling safe walking alone at night as a woman
61. Chicken delivery
62. Being able to eat out inexpensively and healthily
63. You can get free additional side dish orders
64. If you become friendly with some shop owners, they are likely to give you some free stuff here and there
65. I can speak enough Korean to get by and survive around Korea
66. Korea has some of the best cafes I have ever seen
67. Green Tea from Jeju Island
68. O'Sulloc (A green tea cafe chain)
69. Jjimjilbang (Korean spa)
70. Convenience stores everywhere--I recently bought a pair of socks in one!
71. Noraebang (karaoke rooms)
72. The Ajummas (Aunties) who carry your groceries on the bus when you give up your seat to them
73. Little Korean kids who wave to you
74. Clean and efficient public transportation
75. You get gym clothes and socks at the gym here so you don't have to bring your own!
76. Many Millennials here now speak English and are open to speaking to and meeting foreigners
77. A good conversation with a Korean taxi driver: Usually consists of a little bit of politics, the latest in Korea, where to eat the best kinds of Korean food, and why I am in Korea
78. Customer service is super efficient and the people in the industry are usually polite
79. You don't really ever have to wait in line for a long time anywhere
80. My Korean neighbor (she is a grandma, often gives me hugs, and we have been exchanging letters and gifts in Korean recently)
81. Sunny days
82. Being by the ocean
83. This ocean side cafe in Songdo
84. My Dream Jar
85. Lobby and my other stuffed toy animal buddies
86. That my life, work, purpose, core values are aligned
87. That I get to do the kind of work I do
88. That I get to meet the kinds of people I do because of my work
89. Summer Vacation
91. Learning how to surf
92. Horse-back riding
93. Learning new recipes
94. Learning new languages
95. The combination of good home-cooked food, good conversation with good friends
96. I don't have to work under anyone anymore (except for myself)
97. I get to work on myself WITH myself
98. Writing as a therapeutic process
99. People who are humble
100. My life
*Dedicated to and inspired by all of the people who have come into my life, inspired so much GRATITUDE around it, and continue to do so.*
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.*