How I Thrive: “There is a lot of power to feeling grateful, not only for the good times but also for the bad ones”, With Ming Zhao & Jessie Medina

The other thing is practicing gratitude. There is a lot of power to feeling grateful, not only for the good times but also for the bad ones. It helps me stay positive and calm by focusing on all the things I can be grateful for. There is always something we can be thankful for, so […]

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The other thing is practicing gratitude. There is a lot of power to feeling grateful, not only for the good times but also for the bad ones. It helps me stay positive and calm by focusing on all the things I can be grateful for. There is always something we can be thankful for, so it’s important to focus on those instead of dwelling on whatever isn’t working out.

At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s well being, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep, preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body, and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving women who have gleaned and are practicing their own philosophies on maintaining their wellbeing.

As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessie Medina. Jessie Medina is a social entrepreneur, gender equity advocate, immigrant, dreamer, and creator of the social movement FEMX (Female Empowerment Movement & Experiences). She is the founder of FEMX Quarters, a feminine coworking and event space that is inclusive, collaborative, and safe. Jessie is also a speaker, consultant, and host of FEMX Podcast and FEMX Summit.

Thank you so much for doing this with us, Jessie! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?

Iam who I am today because of my life experiences and my desire to create an impact and make this world a better place. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur whose mission was to help people, but I didn’t know what exactly. After college, I joined a company where I was able to climb the corporate ladder and become a marketing executive just a few years later. I loved my job but I felt something was missing. After three years of employment, the company was acquired by a VC firm that brought in a new president. This person introduced a pervasive culture of sexual harassment that affected me and many other women in the company, but despite complaints, he was untouchable.

I started to experience symptoms of anxiety and I dreaded going to work knowing I’d be seeing this person. I started to notice all the ways in which society still treats women differently. As the months went by, I became more passionate about gender equity and female empowerment. I thought, “if this is so tough on me, I can’t imagine what single moms or other women with fewer resources are feeling!”

I knew I had to leave but I was afraid of not finding another comparable job. I had bigger dreams that contrasted my reality and the culture I was in. What I truly wanted was to start my own business and make the move to San Diego, CA. One day, I finally decided enough was enough and that no matter what happened I was going to quit for my own health and sanity! I put in my two-weeks-notice and moved to San Diego where I then started my business.

A few months later, my mom and I founded FEM Latinas, a female empowerment movement for Latinas. Our events grew substantially almost immediately. We had women from all walks of life join us, especially women of color, and this is how our FEMX movement was born. These series of events were an inclusive experience for all women and the brand took off.

I then started the FEMX podcast to reach even more women around the world. The podcast reached the top 25 ratings for new podcasts along with Soul Sunday within the first two weeks of launching. After 2 years of hosting women’s events, nurturing the content and reach of the podcast, while simultaneously growing my branding agency, I started to crave the need for a coworking space that was feminine and purpose-driven to make more connections that mattered. What I discovered with the process of hosting events was the difficulties in locating venues and the process of securing the spaces to host the events. I and the others in the FEMX community found it to be overwhelming.

I started to find myself wishing there was a beautiful space to do both, to host events not just for ourselves but for community organizers, and for women to come together to work and connect with one another. One day, it just clicked, and I decided to create the FEMX Quarters to offer coworking and an event space for creatives and entrepreneurs in our community. After a year of research, pitching, and dreaming, I can proudly say FEMX Quarters is now open in San Diego and we have seen beautiful things and connections happen here within just weeks of opening.

Our FEMX brand is a social movement that strategically creates resources for women to thrive and get closer to equality. Today, I feel fulfilled in knowing that the pain I experienced has helped me realize my purpose to empower women around the world. We are now in planning mode to open franchise opportunities to bring FEMX to many communities around the world.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The way that I found the space for FEMX Quarters was so unexpected. I was in the works with another space and had just sent in my signed agreement to the landlord who lives in Canada. However, I was feeling a bit uneasy because he would take forever to respond to any communications we had and we had been in the process for two months already. But this place was in a desirable location and within my budget which wasn’t easy to find.

That week, my fiance’s car got stolen out of our underground, 24-hour security garage! The next morning when he noticed and after reporting it to the police, he insisted that we drive around in case we could spot it. I reluctantly accepted and ended up driving around in my car to help him. I decided to take smaller streets and venture out to areas I never drive through. Eventually, I was ready to turn around and as I turned into a parking space, I noticed this building that had a beautiful view and was vacant.

I didn’t know why but I felt the urge to take a picture of the phone number and before even driving away, I decided to call. I remember thinking, “why am I calling? I’m already in a contract with another space.” However, I talked to them and asked if they could show me the space on the same day. I said, “if I like it, I’ll close by Monday,” and of course the landlord was very pleased. I came back with my fiance and we absolutely loved it. I knew this was it, so I called the broker from the other space and asked if the landlord had signed the lease agreement. He said it would take another week because he was busy. I confidently replied, “it’s okay, tell him not to bother, we won’t be moving forward with it” and immediately went to my bank and voided the check I had sent him.

By Monday, we signed the leasing agreement with the new space and my fiance’s car was found by the police the same day, within minutes of us walking out of the office! I honestly feel like the car was an instrument to help me find this place. I know this is where the first FEMX Quarters was meant to be. Not only does it have a beautiful view of the San Diego Downtown Skyline, but the ease of closing on it was surreal. I’ve had many experiences like this happen in my life and I think it reminds me to follow my instincts while being flexible and adaptable.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

I wanted to steer away from titles and thought I could tell people on my team to pick whatever title they wanted. I didn’t want to feel corporate, however, I realized that wasn’t a good idea and drama quickly developed! I learned titles are there for a reason and some structure isn’t all bad. Now, I’m working on building a non-corporate culture but keeping some of the structure I learned from it.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work-life?

A healthy work culture starts with whom you hire because no matter how good the training and culture is, you can’t teach people to care about your values unless they are already aligned with them. Start by hiring the right people with positive attitudes and initiative. Look for the people who are driven and passionate about what the company is about. Once you have the right hires, it’s all about the team. I believe that the team creates the culture which is why it’s important to put together the right team. Another very important aspect is to lead by example and walk the talk. I can talk all day about teamwork, but if I’m not willing to be collaborative, then I’m just wasting my time. Get to know each person in your team, what’s important to them, and be an example for your managers to grow and nurture their teams.

It’s important to understand that work isn’t life. People have dreams and concerns. They have families to support and personal battles to fight. Treat them as people and not just an instrument for your company or just a number. Encourage work-life balance, personal growth, and fitness, and offer perks for those surpassing expectations.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. 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 two self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

To make my body thrive I love to dance! When I was going through my corporate sexual harassment season, I was experiencing anxiety and wanted to find something to do to manage and release some of the stress. I found a salsa dancing studio and started taking lessons. I love it because it’s a great workout but it doesn’t feel like work. It’s fun, you meet new people, and it’s even healthy for your brain. I’ve been dancing ever since, even if it’s in my living room while preparing a meal in my kitchen, or even grocery shopping. Even taking one hour of class a week can make a huge impact.

Another thing that helps my body thrive is being mindful of what I eat. I don’t follow any specific diets but I do avoid processed foods and I’ve been leaning towards more plant-based meals.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

I have a morning routine where I do a few things including prayer, reading, working out, and showering. However, one of my favorite things is going to the sauna at the gym after my workout. This is a time to quiet my mind and relax. I know that no one is going to talk to me and that I won’t get distracted. During this time I like to meditate for 10 minutes. I’m not the type of person to do long meditations, so having that quiet time is amazing for me and attainable.

My second favorite thing is my shower time. I used to listen to podcasts while showering but one time someone brought to my attention that the shower is the perfect time to cut down on brain overstimulation. We are always on our phones, computers, or listening to something. She challenged me to just close my eyes and feel the water, to be appreciative of my body holding me up, to just be in that moment. Now I overindulge in the shower. It truly made such a difference. I also always take hot showers but then make it super cold right at the end so it can make me feel energized in the morning.

Finally, can you share with us two routines that you use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

I love praying and prayer to me is connecting with God. It helps me trust in something bigger than myself and know that all things work out for good somehow. My faith has been able to sustain me in the darkest of times.

The other thing is practicing gratitude. There is a lot of power to feeling grateful, not only for the good times but also for the bad ones. It helps me stay positive and calm by focusing on all the things I can be grateful for. There is always something we can be thankful for, so it’s important to focus on those instead of dwelling on whatever isn’t working out.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

My hot shower time is an easy part of my routine to keep. I mean, we all have to shower anyway! So, using that time to feel my body, to feel gratitude, and to look inward is perfect! The key is to make sure you aren’t thinking about your meetings, what someone said the day before, etc. Be present at that moment, feel, and try not to think.

I also love to cook so it feels therapeutic to me. I think it’s important to find joy in the things that no matter how busy we get we can’t avoid. We all have to eat, so make an experience out of it! Whether you are cooking or eating out, indulge in something you love. But, don’t mindlessly eat or consume unhealthy things. When I’m cooking, my mind isn’t thinking about work, relationships, anything! I think it’s the only time I’m effortlessly present just thinking about what I’m making. Or if I don’t have time to cook, I’ll go to my favorite sushi restaurant. I also don’t think while I have sashimi in my mouth! Some people may find this type of experience playing an instrument, painting, or finding a hobby that fits their busy lifestyle; but like I said, we’ve all gotta eat so it already fits into my schedule.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar, what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

I jump out of bed at 5 am, head to the gym, have my morning tea, read a chapter of a book, and get dressed up for work. Then, ideally, leave work early and enjoy time with my fiance, my mom, or a friend. I like to wind down early and I need to be in bed early to feel rested the next day.

In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?

Down-days are days where I don’t feel rested or something on my mind hijacks my day. I try to identify what’s happening and not give it too much space, but also try to show grace for myself. On days that I would wake up early and missed my workout before my day started, I would feel bad. Now, I have a deeper understanding that I am human and it’s okay to miss a day or two, as long as it doesn’t become the new standard.

Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

I haven’t done anything crazy in wellness per se but I do love outdoor adventures and would see it as an escape for my mind. I used to go on a lot of risky hikes, backpacking adventures, etc. I did have a few near-death instances nearly falling down the cliffs and such. I never assess the risk at the time when it comes to these things because it is my way to feel courageous at the time. One time, I tried to swim behind Havasupai falls and I nearly drowned, but thank God someone saved me! I’ve become a bit more judicious since but I still enjoy adventure and the outdoors.

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

My love language is quality time and physical touch, both of which require being with loved ones, so I feel compelled to spend time with them and express affection naturally. I love spending time with my fiance and my family. I love having dinner with friends and sharing stories. The one thing that suffers when I’m super busy isn’t relationships but the tidiness of my home. Thankfully, I can hire someone to help with that but I do notice my place becomes cluttered when I’m stressed or down.

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

There are so many but I feel like every time I’m listening to the EntreLeadership Podcast, whatever episode I’m listening to is exactly what I needed to hear that day. It’s crazy! Even when it’s things that I need to correct about myself as a leader, it usually comes through from that podcast! I don’t have one specific story because I literally learn from it every time I listen to it.

You are a person of great 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 have already started a movement to empower women, however, one facet I haven’t developed yet and would love to is to somehow be involved in or creating more funding opportunities for businesswomen around the world. Even when I was starting out, funding wasn’t as accessible for women and especially Hispanic women. I believe helping women is helping the fabric of our families, therefore communities, therefore countries, therefore the world. I do want to create a ripple effect on the advancement of women that truly reaches other countries around the world.

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

I think sometimes it’s easier to play small because owning up to our greatness takes courage, persistence, and growing pains. It’s scary to step up to the plate, to take the leap, to be vulnerable. For me, taking risks has always paid off, but it wasn’t easy nor comfortable. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way. “If we want to influence change, we’ve gotta be willing to get uncomfortable, to take risks, to have difficult conversations, to be vulnerable, and to lead by example.” -Jessie Medina

What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Jessie Medina’s Instagram: @JessieMedinaOfficial

FEMX Quarters: @FemxQuarters

FEM Latinas: @FemLatinas

FEMX Podcast: @FemxPodcast

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

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