Words of Wisdom With Author Soulaima Gourani
“I want to inspire us to understand we are #strongertogether and only when we work together can we can change things. I also want to inspire young girls to buy more books via #buybooksnotboobs. I am so sad young girls think happiness happens via getting a “boob job”. I want them to build a strong platform via knowledge, study more, work harder. That is much more of long term value than beauty. I started a movement called GLOBAL DIGNITY GIRLS to manifest this passion.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Soulaima Gourani, founder of Tradeconductor.com, Nerdy Speakers, and CEO of GETcapitalaid.com. Soulaima is also a motivational speaker and philanthropist with approx. 200 public talks/year around the world. She is an advisor to major companies on customer loyalty, strategic networking and change management and employee motivation and the future of business. Soulaima is the author of Busy Mum and Ignite Your Career, as well as a contributing author to many books about success in business and investing.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I have had many struggles, and as a result, have written and co-written more than 14 books on all the mistakes, failures and obstacles I have had throughout my life. My path started to come together in 2007 when I was fired while I was pregnant. It was the most challenging moment in my life. I was a mom to be and the breadwinner of the family, and I’ve just been fired from my job as a global sales director. It was at that moment that I decided never again to be in a position where anyone could fire me.
That same year, I decided to start my own consulting company. I had no idea what to do, but I needed to make a living. All I had was my skills in sales, sales training, strategic sales/strategic partnership, supply-chain management and strategic networking. Those are my “hardcore” skills and talents, and it was easy for me to teach others. So, I decided to start training others. That was the beginning of my consulting company, which led me to become a global keynote speaker and author. However, if it weren’t for my strategic networking skills and the ability and courage to speak out on topics that I am passionate about, I would not have been able to succeed. As a result, today I hold about 200 public talks/year around the world, in more than 33 countries, with some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Volvo, Siemens, Maersk, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Since then I also founded TradeConductor.com (world peace through Trade) and now with offices in Palo Alto and Copenhagen.
Avoiding adversity is impossible. What is important is how you tackle adversity. Do you give up, or does it make you stronger? Adversity made me stronger. Throughout my upbringing, I developed some qualities and survival techniques that still play an essential part in my drive for success today. I was separated from my parents when I was only 13 years old (in Denmark), I was kicked out of school in 7th grade, and went through the foster-care system. However, I still managed to succeed and have been recognized with various awards, such as, Young Global Leader (YGL; 2012, World Economic Forum); Top 100 Women, FEMINA, Denmark, 2012; Nordic Thinkers top 20, 2013; EUROMAN top 100 women, 2013; and “40 under 40” Europe, 2014, Inspiring fifty etc. Besides, I am still married to my loving husband for 23 years, a mom to our two loving kids age 8 and 10. My adversity and struggles have become important motivators for me. I cannot change my childhood, but I can appreciate that it is over. What’s important is not where you come from, but where you are going. Having a great career and personal life are all about having the courage and the ability to seize the opportunities that you run into. I believe that people can decide to become successful and reach essential goals through hard work and perseverance.
The foundation for my leadership, my values, my focus, and my sense of responsibility can be tracked all the way back to my challenging childhood, but my days of hardship have been transformed into something very positive.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Besides my childhood and being fired, there was a time where I took on a leadership role at a very large company. At that time, I very young and I was not prepared enough for the challenge. I had about 45 people on my team, and I was approximately 10–15 years younger than everyone else who has held similar positions. Additionally, I was also a woman; and they were all men. Today, I know I should have received some more guidance and professional sparring in that role. I was not prepared for the job, and I let my ego take over; additionally, I tried to manage this role while going for my MBA, at the very same time. That was not good. I want to embrace young leaders and motivate them to step up, but only if they get the right guidance and mentorship first.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I wish I had more fun and humor starting out. I learned as I matured to have more fun, to focus on positive emotions and positive relations. I was all too serious in my young years. I guess I was insecure. You live longer as an optimist, and if you enjoy life, all problems get smaller. I am learning to become more optimist these days.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am over the moon because I am building an online membership platform for people who want to learn how to design their lives (also called life-design) I can remotely impact and inspire thousands of people. It is the best and most positive project I’ve work on yet.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Women — strong women. So many women entrepreneurs and solopreneurs inspire me. I wrote an ebook called “Busy Mom” it is full of stories of busy moms. They all have inspired me. I am a mom and an entrepreneur. It has cost me sweat, tears, and friends to have the life I have chosen, in which I have both an exciting global career and a responsibility to be a mother. I do not think that you can find anything more controversial than to be an ambitious career woman with kids. It seems like they are two self-contradicting factors. I have faced a lot of criticism from both men and women. Why did I not stay home as a full-time mom with my baby? Years before I was thinking that being a mom and being a businesswoman could not co-exist. I’ve never heard a male discuss whether or not they should have children. That is my point. There is an old-school myth that having a baby is going to make it impossible to work. Since then I have given over 1000 interviews all over the world on how to combine kids and work. I am not an expert — but I am a working mom! While I understand the pressures of having a demanding job too well, the notion that we (women) have to sacrifice the pleasures of motherhood for the sake of a ‘career’ is just false. I opt for both motherhood and having an ambitious career. The debate on parenting and its best practices has been around for some time. However, we need to take it a step further and design our lives as parents in a new way.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I’ve been lucky to have many authors as friends. They’ve written some of the bestselling books in the world. Personally, I like books on how to live and understand life and people, and how to read and predict the future (through trends).
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
I like to provide inspiration, information, and impact via my stories. I travel and work in more than 35 countries, and there is a lot of inspiration out there for people. I like to show people around the world that even a school drop-out, a homeless child, and an immigrant can get to the top.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
If you have something you want to tell the world, then be passionate about writing and communicating. Additionally, build a secure network of people who can inspire and keep you on track. It can be a very long, lonely ride when writing a book. It’s almost like having a child. It takes time and effort.
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 want to inspire us to understand we are #strongertogether and only when we work together can we can change things. I also want to inspire young girls to buy more books via #buybooksnotboobs. I am so sad young girls think happiness happens via getting a “boob job”. I want them to build a strong platform via knowledge, study more, work harder. That is much more of long term value than beauty. I started a movement called GLOBAL DIGNITY GIRLS to manifest this passion.
“We need to give teenage girls a boost of dignity. We need to inspire them and make them believe that they can have a great influence on their future careers”
-Soulaima Gourani, Country Chairman, Global Dignity Danmark
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Money; Learn to like money. Learn to earn them. Learn how to negotiate and invest money.
- Understand your big WHY! (I found my “why” late in life).
- Be realistic. It always takes longer than expected to build a company, a brand, or a team; attract investments; develop a product; etc. things take time — and often much more time than you expect.
- Do not expect to be perfect! Test, make mistakes and try again. This way, you become better and better.
- Help others but remember yourself. Remember “the cabin exercise”! When the flight attendant goes on with the safety instructions, you are told that you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. Think about applying this in your life. It took me longer to learn.
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, especially if we tag them 🙂
Yes, I would love to sit down with Oprah Winfrey and join “Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations”.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
a. Instagram @soulaimagourani
b. Twitter @SoulaimaGourani
c. Facebook @SoulaimaGourani
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!
Originally published at medium.com