“Be unapologetically authentic: You can’t unlock your full potential if you don’t embrace all parts of yourself. Be the hero of your own story.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Barua, a leading woman entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of BeyondCurious — an award winning digital transformation consultancy that helps companies like Toyota, Sonos and Miami Heat unlock growth and innovation. She is also the bestselling author of Beyond Barriers , a book that inspires readers to turn adversity into opportunity. Nikki is a motivational speaker who shares her expertise in transformation with audiences around the world. She has been featured in national media including Forbes and Fortune.
What is your “backstory”?
I was a young girl from India who came to the United States in 1997. I had admission to business school, terribly unfashionable clothes in a suitcase, and $250 in my wallet. The first thing I realized was I am not one of them. I am an immigrant, minority, woman, and gay. As the poster child of diversity, I was clearly different. So, I did the only sensible thing I could think of: I imitated the people around me in the hopes of fitting in. My fear of not being accepted by others didn’t allow me to accept myself.
I blindly followed well-meaning advisors who said I have to learn to play golf if I have any ambition of making it big, who said I must wear pantyhose and pearls to look the part, who said I should follow sports so I can make small talk with clients. Well, I hate golf, I don¹t like wearing pantyhose and I have zero interest in sports. But I did everything they said I should. But as I became more of everyone else, I became less of me. My world kept shrinking and I became infinitely less interesting even to myself. I had reached my lowest point fearful, inauthentic, and miserable.
Then in 2008, at the height of my professional career, I experienced the greatest loss of my life — I lost my partner to suicide. My world fell apart and I lost everything I valued my partner, my home, my pet and all my assets. And I felt really alone. I didn’t have any resources - just myself. Except I didn’t even know who I was any more. Through my grief and suffering, I discovered my real self and liked who I was. I had learned my lesson in order to connect with others, I first had to connect with myself.
After two years of grieving and depression, I woke up one day and made a decision — I can choose to be miserable or I can choose to be happy. I chose the latter. I realized that happiness is a choice. It comes from hope. Hope comes from belief in something bigger than ourselves. I wondered about my purpose and there it was — right in front of me the whole time. I found my purpose — to be a change agent that unlocks potential in people. Ever since I’ve followed my path of living my purpose and passion. This was my journey from fear to freedom.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I spent a lot of time trying to be like the big powerful men at work. I didn’t see a lot of women to emulate or learn from. When I finally learned to embrace who I am and how I lead, I recognized the importance of being visible to inspire others. If you can see it, you can be it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are in an age of transformation — technology has disrupted our way of life, work, society. Businesses have to adapt and so do people. BeyondCurious Consulting is actively involved in helping companies adapt. I’ve also launched BeyondCurious Academy to help people gain the skillset and mindset for innovation. I’m also in the process of launching BeyondCurious Media to transform perspectives through books, podcasts, and events.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Sarojini Naidu — all pioneering women that broke the rules and became strong powerful leaders that broke the glass ceiling.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach — a book I read as a young child that left an impression on me about dreaming big, being bold and going relentlessly beyond barriers.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
I wrote the book to empower people that feel stuck. It’s designed to be concise, conversational and actionable so that the reader can go from dreaming to doing, turning obstacles into opportunities.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Writing a book requires focus, discipline and dedication, so write something you care deeply about. Throughout the process, you will learn just as much as you teach. Be open, vulnerable and authentic.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It’s been such a privilege and a responsibility to have this public platform as a result of my success. The bigger your platform, the more influential your voice. I am a tireless advocate for women, minority and LGBT business owners to get growth opportunities. I am also grateful to be able to inspire women to dream bigger, be bolder and never give up.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Tony Robbins — I am fascinated by his energy, passion and sense of purpose. His personal story is powerful but his ability to transform others is even more awe inspiring. I’d love to know more about his daily rituals that help him unleash his personal power.
Originally published at medium.com