Believe in yourself. There will be many folks who tell you can’t do something or simply point out the negative. What matters most is trusting your abilities. You will not always be right, but remaining true to your beliefs is essential.
As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Alan Hoffman, Executive Vice President of Global Affairs at Herbalife Nutrition.
Overseeing Herbalife Nutrition’s global corporate affairs operation, which includes communications, public policy, government affairs, CSR, community relations and philanthropy, Hoffman drives this premier global nutrition company in over 90 countries. In addition to his role as EVP, Hoffman also serves on the Company’s Executive Committee that is responsible for guiding the Company.
Hoffman has more than 25 years of public policy, communications and government experience, which makes him uniquely suited for this position. Prior to joining Herbalife Nutrition Hoffman served as senior vice president for global public policy at PepsiCo, where he oversaw policy development, external relations, and government affairs.
Before joining PepsiCo, he served as the Deputy Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden and Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama and played several key roles in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?
Asfar back as I can remember, I have always been drawn to situations where I can affect change; to situations where I can improve communities and improve lives. This is what motivates and animates me. So, whether it was in government or the private sector, I sought opportunities where I can make a difference. I am also a big believer in the motto that to whom much is given, much is expected. When you combine these two elements, government service and public policy are a natural fit.
I saw this first hand beginning in high school when I served on our school board. Having the ability to impact policies at the local level at such a young age truly had a lasting impact on me. I continued serving in similar positions during college and law school and then was fortunate to work for our federal government in a variety of positions. They were all challenging, rewarding and stimulating leading me to a life of public service and policy.
Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Like many young professionals, I struggled with finding a job that excited and challenged me. I started my career practicing law then moved to health care. While both professions were interesting, I did not have a passion for them. While I tried to make the best out of the situation, it was challenging to go home each night knowing that I was not happy with my choice of profession. More disconcerting was thinking that I still had 50 years of work ahead of me. It took me several years until I found the right job which back then, seemed like an eternity. Yet I had confidence in myself and knew that if I was going to be successful, I had to be passionate about what I was doing.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My parents were big believers that you had to put your best effort into everything you did, no matter what the task. I am in turn trying to teach my son this important life lesson. My parents also believed in me and gave me the confidence to tackle any task. These two motivating forces are extremely powerful and can propel anyone through the choppiest of waters.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?
- Challenge yourself. Always strive to learn new things and push yourself to take on more responsibility. You might not always succeed, but the lessons learned will make you more resilient the next time. One of my colleagues at the Department of Justice had suddenly resigned, and we needed someone to take over. I volunteered and spent the next several weeks developing a knowledge base that resulted in my leading the Department’s efforts and ultimately enacting meaningful legislation involving economic espionage. While there were many stumbles along the way, this was the first time I took an idea from inception all the way through the legislative process, making the process less daunting the next time.
- Challenge conventional wisdom. Don’t always follow the same path that others have charted and continuously question whether conventional wisdom is the best answer. By doing so, you might be taking a risk, but the ultimate outcome may be better, more effective or efficient. Always learn from others but remember that new frontiers have never been tackled by simply doing what someone else did. Working in government gave me a rare opportunity to affect change and by challenging conventional wisdom about topics such as criminal justice reform and corporate governance, I was able to help enact legislation benefiting millions of people. For example, on the eve of passing the landmark Sarbanes Oxley Act, I contemplated a world where CEOs and CFOs were required to sign off on their financial filings. In a matter of hours, we were able to draft legislation and get it approved by the US Senate. This legislation ultimately became law, allowing for greater transparency and accountability in corporate America.
- Work hard. There is no substitution for hard work. None. I remember working on my first Presidential campaign back in 1988. There were many volunteers working in the office, but I was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. In fact, the campaign staff grew so tired of seeing me out in the cold waiting for the first person to show up that they eventually gave me a key to the office. Out of the 100 or so college volunteers that were working that winter, I was the only one that received a full-time job offer. I was not the smartest person in the group, but I was definitely the person who worked the hardest. And that matters.
- Take advantage of the opportunities that are presented. A big part of life is luck — being in the right place at the right time. It just is. And anyone who tells you differently is not being honest. Yet another part of life is taking advantage of opportunities that are presented and doing your best with each opportunity. By chance, I happened to be assigned to campaign headquarters in the 1992 election. While there, I found that I had time on my hands and offered to assist in any way possible. The Chief of Staff had a stack of phone messages that needed to be transcribed. There must have been 3,000 messages. It was a mundane task but important to her. Instead of simply writing them down, I stayed up all night creating a searchable database. The combination of luck, taking advantage of the opportunity and gong beyond what was required led to my first job in government.
- Believe in yourself. There will be many folks who tell you can’t do something or simply point out the negative. What matters most is trusting your abilities. You will not always be right, but remaining true to your beliefs is essential.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough?
My wife has been my biggest champion, believing in me and supporting my decisions. She also knows me the best and understands what motivates me. In the end, she is looking out for my happiness. Knowing that she is in my corner, loving me unconditionally and supporting me, is critical. Moreover, she is fierce and my strongest defender and ally.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have been extremely fortunate to have had an opportunity to affect change in all of my jobs. Whether in government, the non-profit world or in global corporations, there are many opportunities to change people’s lives. At times you might be impacting one person’s life, while at other times you are changing the lives of millions of people. All of these opportunities are important.
One of my greatest accomplishments is in the area of criminal justice reform, trying to bring about a more just and sound system. Having been a federal criminal prosecutor, I brought a unique perspective during my time in government about some of the areas in need of reform and when presented with an opportunity, I took it. While the process was long and daunting, I am proud that I was able to bring about change that has impacted hundreds of thousands of people.
Since joining Herbalife Nutrition over five years ago, part of my role is overseeing our philanthropic efforts, including the Herbalife Nutrition Foundation, a global non-profit foundation dedicated to improving communities around the world through access to good nutrition. We provide grants to organizations in more than 61 countries to nourish and care for people, so they can thrive.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I’m incredibly proud of Herbalife Nutrition’s recent launch of the Nutrition for Zero Hunger initiative which addresses key pandemic problems. Malnutrition encompasses three different problems: undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, and obesity. As a result, one in nine people globally is undernourished, one in three is impacted by some form of malnutrition, and one in ten is obese. Nutrition for Zero Hunger tackles global hunger through a pledge of $2 million over the next three years including key commitments to increase access to healthy foods and nutrition education for vulnerable populations around the world. Through our work with our local, national and global nonprofit partners, such as Feed The Children and The Hunger Project, we hope to build a world where everyone has access to quality food and nutrition.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
You need to create an environment where everyone is empowered and feels like they are part of any solution to moving things forward and affecting change.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
One in seven households with children in America cannot afford to buy enough food for their families. This is unfathomable.
With everyone’s help, we change this harsh reality — and that movement in our company is Nutrition for Zero Hunger. Hunger or malnutrition looks different to many people in different situations. It’s something that is felt in rural areas and large cities. Having access to good nutrition and understanding how to take care of their health and wellness allows adults and children to function at their highest potential. We believe tackling this particular area of hunger will in turn also help people to succeed in other things in life that are important to them as well.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“To whom much is given, much is expected.”
I have been extremely fortunate in life and was provided with every opportunity to succeed. I believe I have a responsibility to help others.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.