“I feel very strongly about meditation.” with Beau Henderson & Alka Dhillon

I feel very strongly about meditation. It is the foundation of my life. My bedrock. If every child, every teenager, every young adult, every adult, every organization were taught to meditate in a way that they could feel comfortable doing every day — it would be a movement that would change the world. Literally. As […]

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I feel very strongly about meditation. It is the foundation of my life. My bedrock. If every child, every teenager, every young adult, every adult, every organization were taught to meditate in a way that they could feel comfortable doing every day — it would be a movement that would change the world. Literally.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Alka Dhillon. Alka is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TechnaLink, Inc., one of the leading technology companies in the Washington Metropolitan area. She is a Conscious Leadership Expert and an International Speaker. In addition to her responsibilities as CEO of TechnaLink, Ms. Dhillon uses her passion for technology as platform to give back. She is a keynote speaker to various organizations and corporations globally at their conferences on Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and STEM. Ms. Dhillon is actively involved in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and serves as a board member. Ms. Dhillon’s book, The OM Factor, has received the Bronze Medal from Axiom Business Book Awards as one of the Best Business Books of 2016 in North America. She’s earned multiple honors, including the Top 100 Women leaders in STEM award and the Global Technology and innovation leaders award of the decade presented by the Women’s Economic Forum. She holds B.A. degrees in Economics and Spanish from the University of Virginia. She contributes to The Huffington Post, Today.com and NBC Universal, and she blogs at AlkaDhillon.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us, Alka! 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?

Plato’s quote “Necessity is the mother of invention,” pretty much sums up what brought me into the IT Solutions and Services world. I was 23 years old working for Baxter Healthcare in Chicago selling heart pumps to hospitals when I realized that it wasn’t the right fit for me. I quit my job without having another one and came back home. I happened to meet a woman at a networking event that was a headhunter and she pitched me on the idea of working for an IT staffing company. My first question to her was, “How much money can I make in my first year?” She replied, “Well, that’s up to you…the potential is limitless.” That was all I needed to hear. IT was booming in the mid 90’s. If you wanted to make money quickly and were business savvy, this was the industry for you.

I knew I wanted to make a lot of money, but little did I know how much that want would turn into a need.

In early 1996, 7 months after I started my new job, my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack. He was the primary earner of our family at the time and I knew I needed to pick up the financial slack as at the time my sisters were 16 and 20 years old respectively and still had to graduate high school and university.

I through myself entirely in my work and ended up being the number one salesperson in that 550 Million Dollar Company. I worked for them for 5 years and then in 2000 started Technalink. The rest is history.

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

Some of the most interesting stories happen in the most serendipitous ways. I met one of the most influential people in my life, one of my most impactful mentors — Edie Fraser — in just this way. I was told two years prior to actually meeting her that I needed to meet this particular woman. I did what most do and filed that away thinking that I would get to it when I could. Honestly, I couldn’t even think about how I would be able to meet her. We didn’t have any common connections at the time, and she was one of the most prominent people in Washington, DC. So, I went on about my life. Two years later I was attending a women’s conference and she was the keynote speaker! I still had no way to speak to her as she had just come to speak and was probably going to leave directly afterwards. About an hour after she spoke, I went to the bathroom and then was heading out to a meeting. There was one escalator going down and guess who was standing in front of me? Yes, Edie Fraser. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her that someone suggested I should meet her two years ago. She said, “Well, what took you so long?” She then handed me her card and said to come to her office two days later. The rest is history. My life’s trajectory changed as she gave me access to speaking opportunities, gatherings with heads of state and other people of influence, and sage advice that has helped me in my career. So, take a few minutes and think back on where you are and how you got there. Chances are, it’s not so much by chance.

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

The most humorous mistake I made when I first started Technalink was not humorous at the time. However, in hindsight you are just left shaking your head and laughing after hearing it. Remember, I was the golden child at the company I was working at before I started Technalink. Everyone said I had the Midas touch, and I did while I was there. So, I thought after I gave my resignation and started Technalink that I would go and rent class A space so that we would have shiny new digs that all our clients could come to and also hire a full staff to support all the “upcoming” business we would have. I completely assumed that everything would just follow me in lock-step and nothing would skip a beat. How wrong I was! I started Technalink in 2000, the year the IT bubble burst. It was the WORST time to start an IT company. I, of course, didn’t know that was coming. I thought I had everything so meticulously planned out. On top of that I had all of this overhead. I learned after about 3 months of being shell shocked that when life gives you lemons, or if you make choices that are lemons, you must make lemonade. We decided to be there for our clients and develop deep and meaningful relationships so that when they were able to pursue their projects again, we would be the first call they made. After 2 years we pivoted and started to go towards Government Contracting as that was virtually unscathed by the IT bubble burst. In fact, there was so much opportunity! You must be both flexible and agile when in a business and in life for that matter. The universe challenges you where you need to be challenged and when you need to learn certain lessons. When you are flexible and agile you can wax and wane in harmony with the universe instead of fighting against it.

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 get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I completely agree. I don’t have any one particular person to thank. My list is very long. It is also one that has names of people that I may not even have met for more than a minute. You see, you never know whom will cross your path and why. Sometimes the most happenstance and seemingly chance encounter can change the trajectory of your entire life. Most of the time, it is the encounter that feels the most negative or challenging that actually shapes you. My father, whom was one of the most influential people in my life helped me achieve success even more with his tragic passing than he did already so significantly while he was on this earth. You see, I had to grow up very quickly and the 23 year old young woman became solely focused on making as much money as possible, learning the IT business as fast as possible in order to start her own firm, and taking care of her family who was left behind. Would those things have happened if he were still alive? Maybe. I was always very driven and ambitious. However, the velocity and fervor with which this happened was something I know with great certainty wouldn’t have happened.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Go on a date with yourself. I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post a couple of years ago on this. Check it out: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/when-are-you-going-to-hav_b_6728918

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

My advice would be to stay out of your own way and check your ego at the door. Realize that it isn’t about you — at all. True leadership is aligning your vibration with that of the person in front of you and creating a collective road map. Not creating clones of yourself. Let people not only feel that they are a part of something greater than themselves, but also be that in your organization. Everyone has something valuable to contribute. It doesn’t matter what role they play or what title they have. When people feel vested and that they are of value and are valued, they don’t look at coming to work as a job. They look at it as an extension of themselves where they are making a difference. That is the key. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

The three words I hear most from people whom have retired are, “I wish I…” My advice would be to not leave anything unsaid, give everything a go at least once, and really listen to your inner voice. If you do these 3 things, then when retirement comes you will have that inner peace that is necessary when you have more idle time on your hands. This way, you can navigate through this next phase in a way that is not fight or flight or reactive, but rather responsive to all the wonderful possibilities that lie ahead.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

A wise man once said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” I wish I would have really taken that to heart in my pre-teen and teenage years. So much of our mental wellness at that time is dependant upon our self-esteem and self-confidence. Sadly, during these years, we let other people’s opinions determine our worth which then contributes to our self-esteem and self-confidence. I would suggest really taking that statement to heart and the next time someone says something to you or about you that is their opinion or observation, know with complete certainty that it isn’t fact and also none of your business.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

I have two that stand out.

Wayne Dyer’s The Power of Intention had a tremendous impact on me. It taught me how to set my intentions and how to be in flow with the universal energy. I got to a point where I would know when a choice I had made was right or wrong way before the outcome manifested as I learned how to be in tune with myself and my source. This allowed me to sometimes course — correct, and if it was too late, I could start to figure out my next steps and hopefully make a choice that was more in line with the universal energy. I know that seems really out there, “universal energy.” But, it very much exists. The universe always conspires to manifest your deepest desires and intentions. When they are in line with the universal flow they manifest with ease, when they are not they will either not manifest or you will learn a lesson that may not be one that isn’t very pleasant. We know when we make a choice how we feel in our gut. We get an actual physical feeling. That is our inner compass. When we ignore that, which we have every right with free will to do, things don’t always go as smoothly. Think back to your choices that may not have had the most pleasant outcomes. Were you at peace with your choice when you made it? Chances are, you weren’t.

Deepak Chopra’s The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success is the second book. This book is one that I carry around with me and refer to often. It acts as guide to me and I try to practice one of the laws each day. Each one is so powerful and I find that something meaningful and positive in my day manifests from practicing them.

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 feel very strongly about meditation. It is the foundation of my life. My bedrock. If every child, every teenager, every young adult, every adult, every organization were taught to meditate in a way that they could feel comfortable doing every day — it would be a movement that would change the world. Literally.

The key is to make it accessible. In my book, The OM Factor, I provide tools that you can plug and play and use in the moment to bring yourself into the present moment and to a place where you respond rather than react. I also teach you how to meditate effectively for 2 minutes every day. You don’t have to go to a class. You can do it anywhere. It is almost free. The cost is a little of the finite commodity of time that we have, but if you want a movement that will bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people and is accessible to everyone — regardless of your social stature, it is meditation.

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

A quote from my late father…”Do not let anyone rent space in your head for free.”

He said this to me when I was in 6th grade and I didn’t quite get it then. I had come home crying because a group of girls that I had wanted to be friends with were purposely excluding me from an upcoming slumber party and made sure that I knew about it. They would always whisper behind my back and made me feel like I was not good enough to be a part of their group. For an 11 year old girl, this was truly devastating. I spilled my guts to my father as he wouldn’t leave until he could find out what was making me so sad. He was quiet for about five seconds and then nodded his head slowly and then those words came out of his mouth, “Don’t let anyone rent space in your head for free.” I looked up blinking back tears and said, “What?” I didn’t understand at the time. Years later, I found those wise words to ring true in so many aspects of my life in various instances. It’s true — that space is prime real estate. Don’t give it away for free.

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

Instagram: @thespiritualceo

Facebook: Alka Dhillon

Linkedin: Alka Dhillon

Twitter: @thespiritualceo

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

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