Cultivate balance — One can’t pour from an empty cup or adapt when exhausted, which is why resilient people know to cultivate balance to keep their passions lit and drive alive.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Maegan Lujan.
Maegan Lujan is a strategist, storyteller, and a thought leader on a mission to motivate and inspire others. Her journey has taken her from high risk to high potential in the boardroom of Toshiba. Maegan is also referred to as a digital thought-influencer. She brings her corporate expertise to the masses through her book series, A Million Little Clicks, which launches in October 2020.
Her tenacity has earned her a nomination for the 2020 Women in Business Award from the Orange County Business Journal and recognition as a 2016 Young Influencer and 2019 Woman of Influence by The Cannata Report.
To learn more about Maegan and all of her digital products, visit her knowledge hub at maeganlujan.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
If you looked at my past, you’d see I wasn’t supposed to be in the role I am today as my path moved from high risk to high potential. I’m now a director with Toshiba and am also getting ready to launch the first book in my series, A Million Little Clicks, around getting clear on your brand vision. This shows that the definition of who you are on paper doesn’t determine your path forward. You can change the narrative, albeit your brand, at any point in time that you choose.
Thanks in part to my personal journey, I’m passionate about helping others learn how to chart their own path. I want to assist them in determining their “why,” finding their passion, and communicating their story. Whether it’s brand strategy positioning for companies, portfolios, or business professionals themselves, I know I can help define and build brand foundations that make others take notice.
All in all, that is why I am now helping others become the CEO of their own brands and chart their own paths through my digital community and book series, A Million Little Clicks.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In a previous role at a different company, I recall winning the largest deal the company had attained at the time. As we were leaving the final appointment with a large corporation, the VP and CEO of my company were high fiving about how well things went. The CEO said, “Let’s have a drink to celebrate,” to which the VP of sales replied, “She’s only 19.”
The CEO went off, screaming down what felt like 100 floors, “YOU MEAN TO TELL ME YOU TRUSTED MY BUSINESS TO A KID?” Then, as we got close to the ground floor, he turned to me and said, “Who gives a f*** if you’re a kid. You earned this client with your knowledge! Good job.”
We then went across the street to the Hilton and I instead had a gloriously sliced, cooked to perfection steak and wedge salad. I’ll always crave that taste after a big win.
In fact, that’s when I became a project manager. I was the only one with the domain experience required to execute the project requirements. Even though I was without a degree, it didn’t matter at that moment. Over time, I realized my experience meant more than education as I was able to deliver the results. I became empowered to trust myself which gave me the confidence to grow my skill sets.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Toshiba stand out to me, is our values.
Your values are the foundation that your brand vision is built upon and act as an anchor to your strategy. For this reason, it’s important to choose clear values as these sets of beliefs determine what you stand for, explain behavior, and demonstrate how your brand will do business.
Toshiba practices the following values:
• Agile — Being nimble makes it easy to do business with us.
• Bold — We courageously think outside the box.
• Creative — We believe constant innovation leads to better products and partnerships.
• Determined — We focus on doing what’s right, no matter how big the job or client
• Empowered — We have the authority to make quick decisions.
I think these values make Toshiba stand out because they aren’t aspirational like, “what we wish we had done. “ Rather, they’re more core, natural, and inherent to the brand as a whole. Toshiba’s values encompass authenticity and you can’t help but feel connected and grounded too. More importantly, these strong values serve as guideposts for the company and help us connect with customers who align with similar values.
As you can see, I’m passionate about working for a company with strong values that are aligned with my personal values, so it isn’t surprising that the two overlap.
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?
Over the past year, I’ve been participating in a mentoring program, Executive Leaders Tomorrow (ELT) with Toshiba, where I was selected as the protégé and mentee for our CEO, Scott Maccabe. Not only am I grateful for this opportunity — and Scott’s guidance — but he’s also sponsored me for opportunities that have allowed me to contribute to projects outside of my functional area.
Next on my journey to be a well-rounded business professional is shadowing key executives at Toshiba to gain working knowledge in critical areas of the business; Human Resources, Operations, Finance, and Japanese Business Model Management.
I’m also grateful for the knowledge I’ve gained from the international team I put together that has helped me with maeganlujan.com. KJ Blattenbauer, for example, is my publicist and thought partner who has shaped my personal story. Plus, there have been other key people I’ve worked with on graphics, design, social media, and digital strategy — they’ve helped me pull this entire project together. I’m passionate about empowering others so that they can have their side gig or passion project while still doing amazing work in their day job. With the help of my team, I’ve been able to do both.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
The definition of resilient is someone or something that bounces back into shape or recovers quickly; like someone who has fallen ill but rapidly returns to perfect health.
I believe resilient people are aware of situations, their emotional reactions, and the behavior of those around them. To manage feelings, it’s essential to understand what is causing them and why. By remaining aware, resilient people can maintain control of a situation and think of new ways to tackle problems.
If I had to select the characteristics of someone resilient, I would say that they are flexible and adaptable. A resilient person also has a personal vision that helps them navigate above the noise. Plus, they are organized, possess the ability to problem-solve, are proactive, and incredibly connected.
Resilience is something I also touch on in the first book Brand Vision and Strategy of my A Million Little Clicks series. I talk a lot at the beginning of the book about how this was not my path. I was always resilient and able to persevere because I was aware. This also helped me create my brand’s purpose, mission, vision, and positioning.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
When I think of resilience, a few greats come to mind — each for a different reason.
The first would be Albert Einstein. Even if he failed time and time again, Einstein was a critical thinker and one of the greatest inventors of all time. For this reason, he’s resilient.
Another person who comes to mind as resilient is Henry Ford. He’s one of the most famous industrialists who ever lived and helped bring transportation to the masses in America. However, his start was far from noteworthy with bankruptcies and partner disputes. But he kept at it because he was resilient.
Then there’s Walt Disney. He faced many failures, and his first company went bankrupt. But his values, creativity, and business-minded future-proofing are a shining example of resilience leading to success.
Steve Jobs is another person I’d consider resilient. Before fame ever graced him, he suffered through enormous amounts of setbacks. He felt unwanted after being put up for adoption. He dropped out of college. He even left Apple after a failed plan to oust the CEO. Jobs’ innovation, simplicity, and reinvention of hardware, software, and services is the epitome of resilience.
Finally, there’s Thomas Edison. He failed more than 10,000 times, trying to invent the commercially-viable electric bulb. In the end, he made a significant impact on society and ended up holding 1,093 patents to his name. Now that’s genuinely resilient.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
For years growing up, I’d felt like my past was a list of liabilities and things that would stand in my way towards achieving my dreams or living the life I wanted. Like I was an unlikely candidate because I didn’t start with standard childhood privileges that most kids do. As if I didn’t have the golden touch of the kids who seem to come from Norman Rockwell paintings.
If you had looked at my past and my stats on paper back then, you would have seen someone who is labeled as high risk. You’d never envision the high performer you’re speaking with you today.
It turns out, what’s on paper doesn’t define me. It doesn’t define anyone. I have an extreme desire to make life meaningful for myself and others who face similar situations like me.
Early on as a child, I decided that nothing would stop me from creating a life that looked entirely different from the one I was growing up in. I also decided that the path presented to me as a statistic in the foster care system wasn’t going to be the journey I’d take.
I genuinely believe that our most significant challenges can fuel our biggest successes. So, I decide each day to leverage the liabilities in my life, to transform them into the exact things that propel me forward. And it’s paid off.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I grew up without a mother or father. My basic needs weren’t met. I was a foster kid — and I experienced everything that went along with that stigma. I didn’t get tucked in at night with a bedtime story and kiss on the forehead. I wasn’t treated to family dinners and birthday parties filled with presents.
Yet, I bounced back. I’m currently at the top of my game, employed at a major corporation, and successful in ways I never dreamed possible.
I’d say what helped me bounce back from those earlier days stronger than ever was being in foster care. It was then, right as I was striking out on my own, that I made the conscious decision never to let the stigma surrounding my upbringing define me. Rather than fall victim to the instability of my surroundings, I decided to take control of my journey and channeled my energy towards positive growth and self-improvement. This is one reason why I am so passionate about driving others towards those same values and success.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
As you’ve gleaned thus far, my life has been both peaks and valleys. As you grow up and age out of the foster care system, so to speak, there’s still a cargo ship full of memories and feelings that cast a shadow in some form or another.
Thankfully, the peaks can be life-changing. One of them changed my life. It was a week before Christmas 1997, and my group home was over maximum capacity. So, the administrators began reaching out to extended family in hopes that they could house some of the kids during the holiday. My amazing grandparents jumped at the chance and flew my sister and me out to Orange County.
The level of excitement (maybe some anxiety, too) we had in anticipation of visiting could only be overshadowed by the West Coast view from our plane window upon approach into John Wayne Airport. The ocean, the shopping malls, the tennis courts, and swimming pools in so many backyards were awe-inspiring. To say it was love, at first sight, is an understatement. Little did I know, those images would lock into my mind and become a driving force to my success as a local business leader in Orange County.
During this trip, I was able to experience Disneyland for the first time. My Grandfather told us stories about his work over the years with Walt Disney directly and how much fun his career was. This was another driving force for me to have a rewarding career and life path. We went shopping and got new clothes for the first time at a shopping mall, South Coast Plaza. I was completely enamored in this immersive experience.
It was this trip — the experience — I was so blessed with that lit the blue flame of hope inside my soul and turned me into a California dreamer!
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
If I had to pick five steps someone can take to become more resilient, I’d choose the following:
- Having a purpose — If we don’t have a purpose, we don’t have an inner fire driving us. Purpose is crucial to being resilient. It keeps you going when times are hard, or things get rough.
- Growth mindset — In order to be resilient and stay that way, one must embrace a growth mindset. Without this mindset, and the willingness to change that comes with it, one will break, not bend as challenges arise.
- Accept change — The ability to accept change and roll with whatever life throws at you is key to being resilient. Without embracing that things will change, one becomes rigid and unable to move forward.
- Optimistic attitude — The energy you put out is the energy you receive, which is why resilient people focus on optimism. Always in all ways.
- Cultivate balance — One can’t pour from an empty cup or adapt when exhausted, which is why resilient people know to cultivate balance to keep their passions lit and drive alive.
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. 🙂
I’m a firm believer that who you are on paper doesn’t determine your path forward. Rather, you chart your own course.
I’m living proof you can come from all walks of life, feel comfortable in your own skin, do things you’re passionate about, and succeed. No matter where you came from, what obstacles stand in your way, or what the data says about you as a child on paper.
If I could spearhead any movement, it would be to help others learn how to chart their own path. I want to assist them in determining their “why,” finding their passion, and communicating their story. Whether it’s brand strategy positioning for companies, portfolios, or business professionals themselves, I know I can help define and build brand foundations that make others take notice.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Gary Vaynerchuk! I appreciate the grit and work he puts in. He is all about making this world a better place by provoking happiness, encouraging people to take ownership, and making it happen.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Visit my Website and sign up for my weekly email list with key resources: www.maeganlujan.com
Access a free checklist to help you start your personal brand here!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!