“Hold the vision and trust the process.” With Ming Zhao & Robin Erler

 Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. As a part of our series about Stars Making a Social Impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Robin Erler. Robin has a diverse skill set at the intersection of strategy, creativity and operations. She’s worked at top brand […]

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 Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.

As a part of our series about Stars Making a Social Impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Robin Erler.

Robin has a diverse skill set at the intersection of strategy, creativity and operations. She’s worked at top brand strategy and creative shops developing business-building ideas for partners that include: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, General Electric, McKinsey & Company and Nike (among others). Today, as Chief Marketing Officer of All Hands and Hearts, Robin shares the stories that define the disaster relief nonprofit and fuel the mission to build resilient communities.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Iwas born and raised in Newburgh, New York. This is the place, in April 1783, Washington “declared a cessation of hostilities, formally ending the American Revolution and effectively declaring the birth of the United States.” There have been many iterations of “the once-grand American city” since then; when I was a kid, Newburgh headlined as, “the murder capital of New York” and now it headlines as, “A Gem of the Hudson Valley.” It’s where I learned everything is possible.

My story is one of a working-class family in a depressed urban environment. My parents split before I reached the age of two, my grandmother looked after me and my mother worked several jobs to support the family. My mother taught me you have to take responsibility for creating the life you want to live.

The plot twist, the person who owned the restaurant where my mother worked also owned a horse farm. They offered me the opportunity to go to a two-week summer camp and, for the decade that followed, I spent every hour (outside of school) working at the farm. This, without a doubt, changed the trajectory of my life. It gave me purpose and I didn’t have time for trouble to find me.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? Can you share the story with us?

Well, I wanted to work on a horse farm. However, my mother insisted I’d be the first in the family to go to college. In school, when I was on an economic/finance track, I read case studies about how creativity could be used to solve business problems. From there, I switched my focus to marketing and began working at an advertising agency. Over the years, my work, travel and volunteer experiences led me to All Hands and Hearts.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

The funniest, now looking back on it, was being laid off. The advertising agency where I worked lost a major account and layoffs are inevitable when that happens. At the time, I felt like I was playing a starring role in my own drama. My ego suffered greatly. Beyond the “business is business” lesson, I learned not to build my identity around my work.

In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

Myword of the year is water. I’m in awe of water’s ability to create and sustain life, it’s magical shapeshifting and sheer power. It’s also the most important part of my self-care practice, which is to play outside every day and stay hydrated. Seriously. It seems too simple to be true, but drinking the right amount of water is a game-changer.

I also have a gratitude practice I share with one of my best friends. Every day, we text each other what we’re grateful for, proud of and our intention for the day. I’m at my best when I’m hydrated and moving from a place of gratitude.

Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I’m doing the most meaningful work of my career today as the Chief Marketing Officer at All Hands and Hearts, a volunteer-powered nonprofit committed to effectively and efficiently addressing the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by disasters around the globe. We communicate directly with local leaders and community members and then deploy our unique model of engaging volunteers to enable direct impact, helping to build safer, more resilient schools, homes and infrastructure.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

Sustainable development is one of the greatest challenges of our time. As a nonprofit committed to serving communities after disasters, All Hands and Hearts is uniquely positioned to demonstrate action and positive impact at a global, local and individual level.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

15years ago, the Boxing Day Tsunami, which is often referred to as the deadliest tsunami in history, struck the west coast of northern Sumatra in Indonesia. Its impact was devastating, killing more than 250,000 people across 14 countries. All Hands and Hearts’ co-founders, David Campbell and Petra Nemcova were both indelibly changed by this disaster. Petra barely survived the tsunami with a broken pelvis and the loss of her partner, while the news propelled David to fly immediately to Thailand to understand how he could offer support. Both were powerfully inspired to take action.

All Hands and Hearts has now impacted more than 1.2 million people. In 2020, we’re committed to long-term recovery programs in eight different countries and poised to respond to the as-yet-unknown disasters ahead. Check out the All Hands and Hearts YouTube channel to hear stories from around the world.

What are your 5 things I wish someone told me when I first started and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Invest in your personal development. Google “Brooke Castillo + The Self Coaching Model.”
  2. Hold the vision and trust the process. Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.
  3. Your value as a human and your work are not related.
  4. Talk about mental health often and do not normalize burnout.
  5. Try to lead with love. That is enough.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

I’d encourage stillness and reflection, instead of starting a movement. The most profound journey you’ll have is the one into yourself, beloved.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Instead of a quote, I’d like to offer my favorite book. All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks is a must read.

What are the best ways our readers can follow you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn and learn more about the work we’re doing at All Hands and Hearts on our website.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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