The most amazing thing for me in becoming a thought leader is when I receive messages and emails from readers sharing their stories of how they overcame some trauma or obstacle in their life because of a blog I wrote, a Facebook Live I did or an inspirational poster quote that landed in their feed at just the right moment. When I get these messages, I always get goosebumps and a little tear in my eye. This is the power of helping others. This is the power of believing in yourself and knowing you can help change the world, one thought and one person at a time. When people know, trust and love you, you essentially have everything you need right there to make a difference in people’s lives. This in itself is such an amazing feeling. To know that what you say, the things you share, your heart and stories, is changing lives. There is no greater feeling in the world.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Iva Ursano. Iva is the owner of the Amazing Me Movement website and popular Facebook page of the same name. A former hairstylist from Ontario, Canada, Iva traded in her 25+ year career, became a freelance writer and thought leader, got rid of 52 years of her life and moved to Guatemala where she helps feed hungry bellies while writing and inspiring people around the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Absolutely! Thank you so much for giving me the chance to share my story with your readers. My entire life up until 6 years ago was filled with abuse, trauma and severe hardships. After I left my last abusive relationship I realized then I was no longer interested in living a life of such negativity and torment. I spent the next two years immersing myself in self help books, listening to and reading inspirational material from many other thought leaders. As my attitude and life started changing for the better I started sharing my story with others who are suffering in order to help them see that they too can change their lives when you take the steps necessary to break generational cycles and make the conscious choice to have a better life. I finally understood that we help others heal by sharing our stories and giving them the courage to share theirs too.
I started my Facebook page and website about 5 years ago, sharing motivational and inspirational blogs and quotes in hopes of reaching people around the world, giving them hope for a better tomorrow.
I eventually wrote my own self help guide detailing my life story and sharing tools and tips with others so they can live the life they deserve.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I don’t think people realize the power and influence they can have over others, in a good way, of course. The world is changed by our example but too many of us are too afraid to be that example. I was not afraid and I sincerely wanted to empower and encourage people around the world to step into their vulnerability and power and be the change.
As I mentioned, I spent two years on my own self discovery and healing journey and it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. At the time, I had no idea where my path would take me until one day I realized that I was slowly becoming a thought leader. 5 years later I am inspiring millions around the world and I couldn’t be happier.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I read an awful lot and take lots of courses. Everyone should do this. Knowledge is such power. As I was growing and learning how to run a successful personal development blog and build my writing skills, I came across an interesting article by Neil Patel. It was about the power of collaboration and reaching out to even the most unlikely people.
So I did. I wrote an inspirational blog, linked to one of his blogs, emailed him and told him about it and he tweeted it out that very same day. That’s the power of learning, growing, believing in yourself and pushing boundaries. You have to constantly push the envelope and not be afraid of failure, ever.
Even though Neil Patel isn’t quite a thought leader, he’s a powerhouse in the blogging world. But this is just an example of how you have to be open to every single opportunity that presents itself in order to grow and make a difference. It’s things like this that proves to people that you can’t be afraid to do the big scary things, regardless of how ‘out of our league’ people may be or how scary something is, you have to go after it, no matter what.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I remember when I first started doing Facebook Lives, I would experiment with different tools to do Lives with. One day I did a Live, couldn’t see any comments and realized that there was no sound at all, for the whole thing. Ooops!! What did I learn? Don’t fix what isn’t broken. It’s nice to try out different fun things but I’ve learned to stick with what works best, which is doing the Live right from my Facebook page.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
I believe a thought leader is someone who looks at life and obstacles in a totally different light and sees the good in everything. We can take the toughest things life throws at us, turn them around to find either the good or a lesson and help others to see life through this same lens. A thought leader puts a different spin on life, and challenges, and inspires others to adopt the same mentality.
We truly want people to change their thoughts from “this sucks” to “what can I learn from this and how can I grow from this”.
I’m not sure there is much of a difference between a thought leader and an influencer. Maybe just the messages we are sharing and our missions. I believe that any leader or influencer simply want people to grow and evolve into the best version of themselves, whatever that looks like to them.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
The most amazing thing for me in becoming a thought leader is when I receive messages and emails from readers sharing their stories of how they overcame some trauma or obstacle in their life because of a blog I wrote, a Facebook Live I did or an inspirational poster quote that landed in their feed at just the right moment.
When I get these messages, I always get goosebumps and a little tear in my eye. This is the power of helping others. This is the power of believing in yourself and knowing you can help change the world, one thought and one person at a time.
When people know, trust and love you, you essentially have everything you need right there to make a difference in people’s lives. This in itself is such an amazing feeling. To know that what you say, the things you share, your heart and stories, is changing lives. There is no greater feeling in the world.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
I’m still blown away at how my business has grown but I do have to say the number one thing everyone should keep in mind is this: do what you love and the money will follow. Do not go intothis business just for the money. That will never work and people will see right through that. Self help gurus or ‘thought leaders’ seem to be a dime a dozen and no one knows who to trust anymore. Put your heart on your sleeve. People want to know, love and trust you.
Go into it because you genuinely want to help people. When we do things from a place of love and sincerity, nothing but good will land in your lap. Trust me on that.
You also have to offer value. You have to give your readers and listeners practical advice and share your life experiences with them. People will always be able to relate to someone who has gone through something similar to them. People want to know that you totally get them.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
First and foremost, it’s not easy. It’s not impossible, but it takes time. Think of it more like a marathon than a sprint.
Strategy #1, stay the course and remember why you’re doing this. Why do you want to do this? What’s so special about you? What can you offer people that holds great value? There are a million questions you have to ask yourself before you decide to become a thought leader but you must stay focused, get clear on your mission and vision and don’t let anything sway you.
Even when you feel like giving up don’t. It took a really long time for my Facebook page and website to get recognized but I had to stay true to my vision. I knew one day I would reach millions with my voice and I now do. Don’t give up.
Strategy #2, what do you have to offer? Your story and your life has the power to change other people’s lives, so what is it? You have to not be afraid to share it and be raw and real. I ran into a situation where many of my family members stopped talking to me because of a blog I wrote on a very sensitive topic. You have to be prepared for that and don’t let it stop you. You kind of have to have thick skin.
We all have a story or something that happened to us that has the power to transform lives. Don’t be afraid to share your story. You have to believe in the power you have within you.
Strategy #3, write, tell stories and collaborate. Reach out to other thought leaders either through email or simply sharing their work on your social media accounts. No one is going to know who you are if you hide behind the keyboard and never network. It’s a must. Even to the big guys! Don’t be afraid of rejection. I heard the word NO a million times but that didn’t stop me from doing what I had to do.
Getting tweeted by Neil Patel is nothing to laugh at. That’s the power of collaboration and believing in yourself.
Strategy #4, get out of your comfort zone. You have to do things that will make you very uncomfortable. Do them anyway. You may lose people along the way. Those aren’t your people. I lost many members of my family but I have to stay true to my voice and my mission. If they can’t accept and understand that, there’s nothing I can do about it. I send them love and hope they heal on their own.
You have to be completely vulnerable. People want to love and trust you. They can’t do that if you hide behind things that make you uncomfortable. They want all of you and there’s nothing wrong with giving it to them.
When I do my Facebook lives, sometimes I even cry depending on the topic. I am 100% myself when I do my Lives and I would do them no other way (I’ve even been known to do them in my jammies!). They want a real person, not some made up character who’s just blowing smoke.
Strategy #5, learn, learn, read and learn more. You have got to keep learning, reading and growing. Watch other thought leaders. Listen to their IG stories or their Facebook Lives. What are they talking about? How are they getting their message across? Find out what works and what doesn’t but you have to keep learning and growing. Social media changes all the time. You have to stay on top of the changes in order to reach the people who matter, the ones who need to hear your message.
I tried experimenting with IGTV but that’s not where my audience is. I’m constantly learning (even yucky techy boring stuff) so I can be successful and find out where my peeps are hanging out. You need to do that.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
I’m a huge Gary Vaynerchuk fan. He’s a no BS kinda guy and tells it like it is. I’d have to say I’m probably the female version of him. I’m not afraid to drop f bombs and be in your face about how to snap out of whatever you are going through and pull up your big girl/boy panties and get stuff done!!
He doesn’t sugar coat things and he’s very much in your face and real, kinda like me. Many people are offended by his no BS approach but I love it. It’s raw and real and that’s what we need sometimes. Tough love.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I believe it is overused unfortunately but I honestly feel it really is the best term for people like myself who are making waves in the personal development field. Self help guru is another term that is overused but the fact of the matter is, that’s what we are. We force people (in a good way) to change the way they look at and think about things in order to change their lives.
Sadly, many people still don’t take us seriously enough and think that we are simply new age thinkers who see life through rose coloured glasses. That’s not the case at all. We like to see things in a more proactive way, a more loving way, if you will, so that we can maintain inner peace and happiness because let’s be honest here, we all want to be happy, no?
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
I totally had a burnout my first year in. I was working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, only focusing on my goal or purpose. I was so wrapped up in reaching people around the world and helping them, I forgot about myself. Truth be told, I also really do suck at planning and my time management skills are lacking. I reached a breaking point one day and realized I needed to slow down and stop and smell the roses. I finally decided to take a couple of hours a day just for me. A break if you will.
I would shut down the computer and go outside. Sometimes a simple walk to the lake or the market to clear my head and get some fresh air made a world of difference. I’m not a TV watcher so in the evening, I would find something light to read or listen to. You have got to take a step back from your business and nurture yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. You’ll grasp the magnitude of that statement when you burnout. It’s no fun.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Great question. As you know, my website is named Amazing Me Movement. I named it that to create just that, a movement. A movement of people who believe in themselves and find their personal power. A movement to spread far and wide to help people get their lives back on track and pay the knowledge forward and inspire others too.
I want people to be able to shout off the rooftops that because of this movement, and everything I share with them, they can now say they are happy and their lives have never been better. That’s a movement!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Oh! My quote (if I may) which has been shared hundreds of thousands of times by many high authority Facebook pages:
“The person I am today would like to thank the person I was 5 years ago for not giving up. You’re awesome”.
Even though I was scared and totally beaten down I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it wasn’t the end for me. I desperately wanted a better life and was going to stop at nothing to get it.I fought and cried and pushed and didn’t stop ever! That’s the key right there. Don’t ever give up, no matter how hard it gets. Keep going!
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Brendon Burchard. I saw him and a few other thought leaders at the Growth Summit in Arizona and I was amazed by him and his sincerity. He’s such a fun and amazing man. I love his authenticity. He’s so real!!
How can our readers follow you on social media?