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Aruna Krishnan of OPTIM: “Believe in yourself”

Believe in yourself — This was my biggest drawback in the early years. My tentativeness made me lose out on opportunities that I was more than capable of handling. Reflect on your achievements and strengths and use that knowledge to overcome Imposter Syndrome. Once I learned how to recognize Imposter Syndrome, I could stop it in its […]

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Believe in yourself — This was my biggest drawback in the early years. My tentativeness made me lose out on opportunities that I was more than capable of handling. Reflect on your achievements and strengths and use that knowledge to overcome Imposter Syndrome. Once I learned how to recognize Imposter Syndrome, I could stop it in its tracks. This allowed me to open up to so many growth opportunities.


Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aruna Krishnan.

Aruna Krishnan is a Management Consultant, Best Selling Author, and Podcast Host. Her “Busy Mind” book series, and Podcast “Lead That Thing!” cover topics that help women lead in their lives, businesses, and careers. Her company OPTIM LLC works with businesses to define, design, and deliver high-quality products for their customers.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in India and moved to Africa about 45 years ago when my dad got an opportunity to be an Accountant. When I reflect on this, I am in awe of my dad. He was bold and courageous to go to a brand new continent without even knowing what to expect! My dad has always been a role model for me. I have seen him come from a very humble beginning to become very successful through hard work and bravery. His story inspires me to work hard and stay focused.

Growing up in Africa, I had exposure to multiple cultures and the enrichment that came with that. My parents kept me in touch with my roots through the Indian community, and I learned more about the local culture through my friends, and interactions at school. I lived in Africa until I graduated with a Business degree from the University of Botswana in 1994.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is “Live in the moment”. This captures the shift in mindset I had about 10 years ago. That shift helped me get out of a dark place, become a force, and start to celebrate life. The lesson I learned during my spiritual transformation was not to worry about the past, or be anxious about the future, but view today as a fresh start. This outlook helped me let go of a lot of baggage and helped me mend relationships that were broken.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

The top three qualities I would attribute to my success are:

1. Determination

2. Persistence

3. Strength

Aside from progression in my career, which traversed many industries and roles, I have stepped out of my comfort zone many times to pursue new opportunities AND challenges. I have finished a marathon, completed four triathlons, written three self-help books, and launched a podcast on leadership… all in the last 5 years! I could not have achieved these things without the three qualities listed above.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

I started my career as a Software Engineer in 1997. I worked on a variety of technologies, companies, and industries. Once I had kids, I needed a role that wouldn’t require me to be available 24×7 for application support. This made me opt for more functional consultation roles within the technology industry. I eventually progressed into Project Management roles.

Although I was successful in each of these roles, there was always a little bit of self-doubt, and I preferred to play it safe. This prevented me from going for opportunities that would have provided growth and fulfillment. I had a lot of untapped talent, partly because I didn’t put myself out there, and partly because I wasn’t sure if I was capable. Imposter Syndrome was a big factor in my lack of courage!

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

My reinvention came in two phases — a spiritual transformation, and a physical transformation

The spiritual transformation came in the form of embracing mindfulness. This enabled me to let go of a lot of baggage, and start over. It also gave me a lot of clarity about my strengths, and the factors that affected me adversely. The inner reflection associated with mindfulness allowed me to develop a new and healthy mindset, and more importantly, belief in myself. This also helped me value myself over wanting to please others. It made me calmer, and more empathetic.

The self-confidence that came from the mindset change enabled me to try new things. The training I did for my athletic events showed me how strong I was, mentally and physically. It proved I could do whatever I set my mind to.

This gave me the courage to write and publish my self-help book trilogy, start my company, and launch a podcast for empowering aspiring leaders!

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

I was in a state of despair, and depression. I did not have the support system to understand or help me get out of that state. I knew that I did not want to live with that feeling. I took it upon myself to find answers on how to heal. That is how I came upon mindfulness, which was the start of the change for me, and has been a lifesaver in so many ways.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

The biggest problem that I had was self-doubt. Imposter Syndrome was debilitating. There was always hesitation in going for new opportunities. I was not confident that I was ready or if I would be accepted. In retrospect, I realize this was my inner critic stopping me. The moment I embraced a new mindset through my transformation, and let go of the “fear of failure.” I was able to take on leadership roles, with confidence. Additionally, the feedback and appreciation I received from my teams further allowed me to let go of that inner critic. As I navigated new territories with a new mindset, I grew more confident in myself. I recognized my talents and abilities. I stopped trivializing my achievements.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

Things are going well!

All three of my books in the Busy Mind series were featured as #1 on Amazon’s Best Seller List! This is so exciting and helps me own my gift and role as an Author.

I have completed three seasons of my podcast, “Lead That Thing!” with significant growth in my engagement, and audience.

My business has started earning revenue with the Management Consulting work I’ve been doing for a large company.

Most importantly, I have inspired others to write books, and go for career opportunities they were previously hesitant about.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The person I give credit to for making the transition is my personal trainer. I worked with him to train for my first triathlon. I started out with no swim experience and at the end, I was swimming half a mile! The recurring message he had for me was “It is all mental”. Every time I would say I can’t, he would counter and push me to dig deep and persevere. After training with him for nine months, I completed my first triathlon. His lesson of, “It is all mental” really stuck with me. The fact that I upped my swimming endurance from half a lap to half a mile was proof enough that I could do anything if I simply believed!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

Being able to define my identity and be my authentic self has enabled me to strengthen my relationships with family and friends. I used to spend a lot of time seeking validation or approval and often felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Once they witnessed my drive and my achievements as an author and athlete, they understood the real me. They were inspired by me. I wasn’t afraid to try new things, defy cultural norms, and put myself out there. I had so much growth as a result. That growth made me exude confidence, which in turn drew people to me, and I garnered a lot more respect as a result.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

Yes. This was the theme of the first 35 years of my life. A lot of it came from feeling like I had to fit a certain mold or follow a predetermined path. I didn’t take the time to reflect on my talents, and what was important to me. I thrived in every job but never felt as though I was bringing my full potential or being recognized for that. I played it safe for a long time.

After I completed my first triathlon, I realized, I was done with people determining my fate as far as career progression went. I was determined to take matters into my own hands and put myself out there. The fear of rejection wasn’t going to stop me; I wasn’t going to wait to be given an opportunity. This was great because it led to me an amazing job, where I could lead a large effort with a company-wide impact. The teams I built and the clients I connected with all enjoyed the new, fearless, confident me!

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

Once I started my company, I needed to build my network, be around other entrepreneurs, and have a support system. So, I joined two networks, the eWomen Network and the Polka Dot Powerhouse which allowed me to create strong relationships, and gave me a lot of inspiration.

Similarly, I joined a podcaster community as soon as I launched my podcast, “Lead That Thing!”. This helped me fine-tune my production with built-in support from my peers.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

Podcasting was a brand new realm for me. I did not have any experience in audio or video media before launch. In fact, like many, I used to be uncomfortable hearing recordings of my voice. When I was gathering information for my third book, “Lead That Thing!”, I recorded interviews with leaders and heard them back to transcribe the information. I realized that I had to share this valuable information in its audio form.

It was scary to put myself out there but the value I could potentially provide outweighed any hesitation around my voice. The fear of being a “public figure” was calmed by my purpose i.e. inspiring other aspiring leaders. I simply told myself to try and see where it could take me, without having any expectations. Having the support of my fellow podcasters made the embarkment less daunting.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1) Believe in yourself — This was my biggest drawback in the early years. My tentativeness made me lose out on opportunities that I was more than capable of handling. Reflect on your achievements and strengths and use that knowledge to overcome Imposter Syndrome. Once I learned how to recognize Imposter Syndrome, I could stop it in its tracks. This allowed me to open up to so many growth opportunities.

2) Don’t wait for anyone’s approval — I often fell into the trap of looking for validation either from family, friends, or colleagues. It was a way to settle my inner insecurities. There have been a few instances when I’ve spent time waiting to be promoted believing that my manager would see my talent and reward me for my hard work. I learned after a lot of lost opportunities that if you don’t make yourself and your contributions “visible”, your potential will go completely unnoticed. You have to be your own advocate!

3) Eliminate your fear of “failure”— We often don’t take up opportunities because we’re afraid of the outcome. We think we might embarrass ourselves. I stayed in my comfort zone for a long time. I learned new things in terms of work-related skillsets but nothing beyond that. I was risk-averse in many ways. I had a misconception around “failure”. I thought of it as an end rather than a chance to reflect and refine. The moment I understood that “failure” was a learning opportunity, I was fearless in all my ventures! I started giving myself room to experiment in increments and learn from both my successes and “failures”. This came in so handy as I navigated authorship, podcasting, and entrepreneurship.

4) Own your destiny — Through mindfulness, I learned about an especially important process flow:

Thoughts -> Actions -> Habits -> Personality -> Destiny

This taught me that I can control the end result if I am aware of my thoughts from the onset. Knowing that you don’t need to blame others for negative or adverse situations puts the power in YOUR hands to rectify or resolve issues. I stopped depending on others to help me move my agendas forward. I chose the collaborations I wanted and shed the ones that brought toxicity.

5) Live in the moment — I had a lot of anxiety prior to my transformation. I fretted about the past. I worried about the future. Mindfulness taught me the importance of staying present and in the moment. I let the past go and used it to inform me on how to move forward. I learned to focus on what to address today to move towards that “future state”. That has tremendously reduced my anxiety. It has made me more focused and calmer. It helps me lead with calm energy, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

You are a person of great 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?

Women Empowerment. As a woman that did not feel empowered till her late 30s, I feel it is my purpose to help women believe in themselves and find happiness through a change in mindset which ultimately leads to empowerment and freedom! I want to do this by sharing the knowledge I’ve gained in my journey, and from those with similar stories.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

Oprah! I love her story of transformation. It truly shows character, strength, and perseverance. Mindset played such an important factor in her story. This is exactly what I am trying to help others understand so that they can make their transitions from, “Fear to Freedom” and would love it if she would come on my podcast to share her story and insights!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can connect with me on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/aruna-krishnan2021) or on my company website at https://www.optim-strategies.com

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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