When it comes to healthy eating, my philosophy is everything in moderation. I don’t believe in imposing our ways on anyone else. If you want a glass of wine and it doesn’t affect you negatively, then don’t make up stories that it will. I firmly believe that deprivation leads to depravity. When we deprive ourselves, we are ignoring what our hearts might want and we are not listening to ourselves. We forget that what we want may not be wrong. Don’t torture yourself. If you want to eat ten bags of chips, just eat one bag instead of none at all. I like wine, I love chips, and I love poutine, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Hum.
Susan Hum is a thought leader in the space of conscious leadership and a successful entrepreneur, with more than 25 years of international business experience in a variety of industries including health, fitness and financial markets in North America, Hong Kong and Singapore.
In 2003, at the age of 34, she made the scary decision to walk away from a thriving career in Singapore to return to Canada for the potential of love. She returned home with no job, went back to school, took some time off and recreated herself from scratch.
In 2016, after 10 successful years as a business development professional in one of Canada’s bank brokerage firms, she retired from the corporate world to pursue her passion of helping people transform and break through self-limiting beliefs. Her acute ability to be attuned to her clients’ unique strengths and core truths has been the major contributor to her success in taking people through shifts and massive transformations very quickly.
In 2020, she was called to pursue her mission on a mass level, to contribute towards positive change in the world by creating the Steel Rose movement, a conscious leadership platform for all women who are inspired to create the life of their dreams and collectively elevate each other to become better versions of self.
She has repeatedly made the impossible possible in her own life and she has the simple formula to guide people to do the same!
Susan lives in Montreal with her husband and stepson.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am a first-generation Chinese-Canadian, the eldest of four children. The first years of my life were consumed with struggle. My father earned minimum wage as a waiter for a Chinese restaurant. He worked hard to support our stay-at-home mom and four children under 5.
As a family, we lived in a small two-bedroom apartment within a public housing unit before moving in with my grandmother when I was 5. Being the eldest, I was largely ignored because the attention was on my younger siblings, all of whom needed more care and attention. I learned early on to take care of myself and took on a lot of responsibility. At 7 years old, I read government letters because my father didn’t feel confident enough in his Chin-glish.
Because I was quiet, my father always thought I was strong. For that reason, my parents didn’t focus on taking care of me. But it didn’t mean I didn’t need to be taken care of. I remember my father always said, “you are the strong, smart one, and you are going to make it in life.” But I didn’t feel all that strong. I would just let myself be pushed aside so that others could be heard instead. I also needed to be heard. However, my siblings were louder and I was quiet. I now have such empathy for those who don’t have a voice. Being a voice for the unheard is what drives me.
One thing I learned from my childhood is that when someone tells you that you are smart and powerful, you have to carry that with you. Don’t fight or reject it. I carry those words my father said to me to this day. When I heard it, it was hard to accept, but it made me believe in myself. Telling kids positive things early on can help shape their reality.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My father was a huge influence on what I did later in life. He believed in my independence, and that inspired me to always want more. I became addicted to positive results. My parents worked day in and day out, every day of the year. This generational pattern of struggle is something I sought to break. I worked hard to create my circumstances and not be defined by them.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
When I first moved to Hong Kong, I didn’t know anyone. Someone gave me a contact, and that was Patricia Hutton. This was before cellphones and the internet. So, all I had was her address, and I didn’t even know if she still lived there, but I still wrote her a letter. She gave me a phone call two weeks later, and she became a mother figure to me.
Patricia and her husband Allan Wong mentored me into becoming the person I am today. Allan was an IT professor at the University of Hong Kong and a doctor of Chinese medicine, and Patricia was an acupuncturist. They showed me unconditional love. Like my father, Allan would always tell me about how powerful I was.
I remember that Patricia was allergic to everything. I wanted to make her laugh every day even if I looked ridiculous. When we went to a restaurant, she would have to eat tofu without any sauces or anything because of her allergies, and I would order the same thing, just to support her. I told her that when we were together, we would be as one.
Both Patricia and Allan accepted me despite my crazy lifestyle at the time, and they taught me a lot about self-acceptance. Allen taught me about perceiving people outside of their behaviors. He was a Taoist, and he also taught me about spirituality. He always treated me like a good human being.
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?
For my first job in Hong Kong, I served as a bridge between the management and local Chinese staff. They hired me without even asking whether I spoke Cantonese, and I didn’t share with them that I only spoke English. This put me in the most vulnerable position three months later where I was about to be exposed. I had to wake up to the fact that I couldn’t learn Cantonese in three months, no matter how strong and smart my father told me I was. When I had to go up in front of hundreds of people, I failed in my first translation assignment in front of the entire company!
But facing imminent public ridicule and potential rejection was merely a fear. I did not lose my job and everyone respected my courage to even put myself in that position in the first place. I ended up staying with that company for nearly four years. What I learned is that the saying “it is not what you know but who you know” is actually very true. I built trust and relationships with people. With trust, you will always win, and trust really is the best of gifts.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I would have to say The Soul’s Gift, which I read 9 years ago. Coaches have the tendency to soak up the feelings from their clients and carry them around. This book was a game-changer in how I do my work as a coach, and it taught me how not to become consumed with the unfairness of life. How come some people have to go through so many traumatic events, and I don’t? This book explains it. It is about past and future lives and explains that our soul chooses our life and the circumstances we are born into. It’s all predetermined. This has helped me give people faster results without falling into their story. If you fall into the darkness of your client’s story, you won’t be in a position to help them. I don’t need to jump into the water to save my clients. I can send them a rope to pull them out of it instead.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” I am a result-oriented person, and I always try to see what will get me the results I’m after. It’s the difference between perseverance and pivoting. Of course, you need to persevere in your goals, but don’t go about them the same way every time they fail! That’s where you need to pivot and find the way to get where you want to be. If you hit a wall and it is not moving, stop yourself. Look for the exit instead of trying to bring down the whole damn wall!
In my circles, I am known as the slapper. I will slap you in the face if that’s what it takes to get you to wake up to the fact that what you are doing is not working. You need to come up with alternatives, otherwise you’re just wasting your time and energy.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Right now, we are collaborating with the Code Red Foundation, a large-scale initiative to protect our children from school shootings, human trafficking and online predators through the use of media and influencers. A percentage of proceeds from Steel Rose go to Code Red and they provide resources in return. I am also in talks to create the first women-led professional sports agency to bring more fairness and positive change to young female professional athletes.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Keep life simple. I am selective on the type and quantity of information I take in. Ultimately, you don’t need raw information without knowing what you want out of it. Don’t get sucked into the FOMO. Ingesting raw information without processing it leads to self-doubt. It becomes information overload, and it saps you of your energy. You will never know everything. A sales person once told me, “I only need to know what I need to know. I didn’t become successful at my job by ingesting a ton of information, and I don’t need to know everything about my product to sell it. People buy the product because they know I stand by it, and they trust me.” That completely changed the way I see things. Every course I took, I didn’t learn much from the course itself. What I learned came from networking. I would rather understand people and what moves them. Every self-help book essentially says the same thing, and the perspectives are the only things that differ.
- Surround yourself with friends and relationships who respect you, love you, elevate you, and contribute to your personal growth. Learn about their perspectives, and follow the examples of those you admire. My job requires me to be in constant contact with people every day of the week. There are not enough hours in a day to accommodate everyone who wants or needs to speak to me or spend time with me, so prioritization is key to successful time management. In the last few years, I have made a huge effort to bring more balance into my life by making more time for my marriage. Although my husband is fully supportive of my mission with Steel Rose or any project I embark on, I have taken our relationship for granted in the past. My clients and career endeavors are priority. However, my family is high up there as well. I then have very little time left for socializing which means I will only choose to spend my free time with people who are like-hearted and who appreciate real connections.
- Laugh and live with joy. I have a serious job as a coach. Everyone’s pain is serious. Therefore, I have to be serious when dealing with their pain. My clients are going through past traumas that they can’t see through, so they hire me to drag them through it. Personal growth is pain, but I still try to make it fun for them. I have a client who is a teacher, and she overcomplicates everything. She needs to understand every layer of an issue and reads a hundred books about a subject. People like that, who are too smart for their own good, tend to entangle themselves in their thought processes. We talked about the analysis-paralysis concept, and she went into a long rant about how she always falls into the rabbit hole of overanalyzing. Through her rant, she was doing just that: overanalyzing. Then she looked at me and said, “Are you okay? You haven’t said anything in the last ten minutes.” I looked at her and told her, “Do you realize you pay me a ton of money just for me to tell you how stupid you sound?” She immediately cracked up. We both laughed. I had effectively killed her story. That’s what I do. I work with modern alchemy. I turn your crap into gold. Personal growth only works when we are able to laugh about it.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
I used to practice Transcendental Meditation. I learned it many years ago. It was the only thing that allowed my thoughts to go through my mind without processing them. There are types of meditation used as a medication; they numb you and keep you passive. I don’t like those kinds of meditation. TM allows you to clear your mind, using a mantra to bring a calmness to the thoughts, not to repress them.
Now, my form of meditation is with music. I call it Walk’n Mind Dance. Instead of listening to podcasts, I listen to music and dance while walking. The music takes me away from the internal chatter and information overload. It gives me the ability to dream. When do we allow our mind to actually stop receiving stuff and take a break? If I listened to a podcast, I would have information always going in, with very little processing.
I also practice the art of pausing to allow myself to just be, and not to be something. I practice what I call Magication. I create my intention, and I let it go. It is a way of checking in with myself and asking: Am I doing something I really want to do?
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Physical movement is super important. I make it a habit to walk at least an hour a day, about five kilometers. An hour a day of physical movement allows you to process things and get back to our center. It keeps you on an even keel of physical health.
- When it comes to healthy eating, my philosophy is everything in moderation. I don’t believe in imposing our ways on anyone else. If you want a glass of wine and it doesn’t affect you negatively, then don’t make up stories that it will. I firmly believe that deprivation leads to depravity. When we deprive ourselves, we are ignoring what our hearts might want and we are not listening to ourselves. We forget that what we want may not be wrong. Don’t torture yourself. If you want to eat ten bags of chips, just eat one bag instead of none at all. I like wine, I love chips, and I love poutine, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that.
- Breathe. Yes, you heard right. My breathing is not regular. This has been something I have struggled with since childhood. I am someone who is ALWAYS on the go. I have always struggled with stopping and taking that moment to breathe. It was not until my forties when I started running that I realized I regularly stop breathing for abnormally long periods of time. I would get really bad stomach cramps very quickly into the run and my sister-in-law told me that I needed to breathe. No wonder I was never able to run long distances when I was young. I just thought I was not meant to be a runner. Once I consciously enforced my breathing, I succeeded in running a half marathon. Today, I stop regularly during my day to do breathing meditations for 2 or 3 minutes. This helps me to rejuvenate and ground myself. It helps to reduce stress and puts me in a more loving, peaceful state of being.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
What keeps us from integrating that information is that french fries are delicious. It’s that simple. I’m not gonna deny that veggies are good for you, but I’m not a fan of them myself. I only like them hot or sauteed. I’m not too fond of salads or raw vegetables. I could go a whole year without it, if it weren’t for the fact that my husband loves veggies. He sometimes jokes that I have three major food groups — alcohol, salt, and fat. He’s not exactly wrong.
I do everything in moderation, and I force myself to eat the things I don’t like because I know they’re good for me. I love cooking because I love knowing what I put into my food. But my plate doesn’t look like the average nutritionist’s idea of a wholesome meal. I know what I love and don’t love, and that’s the most important thing. You can eat what you love in moderation and be healthy. That’s what I do, and I continue to live a healthy life.
You shouldn’t obsess over healthy eating if you are not in poor health, because that obsession is unhealthy in and of itself. Why are we afraid to say what we actually love? Are we scared we’ll be judged, and called a junk food addict? I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: eating junk food every once in a while doesn’t make you a junk food addict, and most importantly, it doesn’t make you a lesser person. Be honest, and be okay with being honest. You shouldn’t live in fear of judgment of what you eat.
Now if you are 200 lbs overweight, that is a different issue. I was once 190 lbs (I am 5’8). When I walked on the scale, I was shocked, and the first thing I thought was that I needed to go on a diet, which I really didn’t want to do. I never ended up doing it. Instead, I incorporated more exercise (I hiked) and more moderation (I still ate french fries, but not every day). If I changed all of my habits abruptly, I would have failed, and I would have spiraled. You have to build that change into your lifestyle, step by step.
I think two main reasons keep us from sticking to our commitments. The first thing is that what we think we want may not be aligned with what our heart truly wants. If you’re doing it for a fad or to please others, it won’t stick. And the second thing is that we lack the clarity of why this is important and how the lack of moderation affects our health.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Me-time for an hour everyday. My me-time is in the morning before everyone wakes up. I have my coffee, and I watch soap operas — that’s the only source of drama in my life. The morning is the best time to set your day with the right mood and the right intentions.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. We all need motivation from one another. We are all communal beings, but it is not about surrounding ourselves with just anyone. We are always surrounded by a bunch of people, especially when we live in the city. I’m talking about properly selecting the people you choose to spend your precious free time with. Choose people who will serve you on your path to achieving your goals. Subconsciously, we tend to imitate the behavior of the people we spend the most time with. That’s why I choose to spend my free time with solutions-oriented people, instead of people who choose to stay miserable.
- Be present in your relationships. When I play pool with my husband, I will not check my phone. Often, he asks me to watch a movie with him. I could be doing so many things in the time it takes to get through a movie! But it is important for him, so I do it. Nothing annoys me more when I go out for dinner with friends, and they just look at their phone the whole time. It is so important to be present with the people you love. That is how I practice gratitude. I cherish the people around me, and I am thankful for them. No double standards.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
This might not be the answer you expect, but I challenge smilers to smile only when they actually mean it. I know a fake smile when I see it, and it is empty. You should smile because you are happy and grateful. But the smile should be a result of your happiness and your gratefulness, not the other way around.
My natural expression is pretty neutral, and when people tell me, “You should smile more,” they are usually projecting their insecurities on me. They are trying to hide their own inner darkness from themselves. So I challenge smilers to take a look behind that fake smile.
On the other hand, once when I was walking downtown, I tried the experiment of smiling at everyone. People were kind of taken aback. I believe that smiling is a powerful way to send a positive vibe to someone and help them feel good. But it has to be a genuine smile. A fake smile cheapens the positive effects of an authentic one.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Regularly check in with yourself to make sure you are coming from a place of compassion and not ego. Remember that you are not always right. What works for you may not work for another. People need to come to their own conclusions. If you bluntly tell them what to do, they won’t listen, and even if they do, it won’t stick. Make sure you listen to what others are expressing. What someone is saying is only a portion of what they are expressing. What is left unsaid, what is expressed through body language, what is expressed through action, are all equally important. But these are things you cannot see as clearly if you don’t check your ego at the door.
- Reframe your attitude towards obstacles. We get hit with reality 24/7. That is just how life is. How do we not get buried in it? I use affirmations such as “opportunities are everywhere” to get myself to look at things the right way. You can train your mind to see the gift of opportunity in everything, even (or especially) in the failures, and in the things that appear to be negative. When you slam into a wall, remind yourself that you can pivot and find the opening somewhere else. Don’t spend your energy trying to kick down the wall. Keeping our minds open and maintaining trust is how we can stay in our faith.
- Be one with nature. I am a city girl at heart, but I have grown to truly appreciate the magical effects of nature on my spiritual well being. When I first tried it, the tranquility drove me nuts. My thoughts seemed so loud. Now 15 years later, I regularly need that time in the woods and in the mountains. Most of the vacations I take with my husband are spent hiking big mountains, biking through the countryside, or skiing in the Alps.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
I absolutely love nature, but it wasn’t always this way. I grew up as a city girl, and I have lived in Montreal, Hong Kong and Singapore, which just reinforced my unhealthy addiction to the hustle and bustle. My husband loves nature. He grew up in the country, and he literally hugs trees. When I met him, I was so used to city noise that going into nature was unbearable. The ringing in my ears as I sat in that external calmness drove me nuts. It took me two years to realize the importance of nature to my well-being. Today, I need to be in the country regularly. It’s the only time I can reconnect with my heart and my inner voice. It’s my time to rejuvenate. Going into nature allows us to decipher through our own internal noise and make it a little quieter.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
In 2020, I decided to pursue my mission of creating positive change in the world by starting the Steel Rose movement. Steel Rose is a conscious leadership platform for all women who are inspired to create the life of their dreams and collectively elevate each other to become better versions of themselves. Our purpose is to elevate love consciousness globally by narrowing all divides in society, whether between women, men and women, races or cultures, identity preferences or personal beliefs. A Steel Rose woman leads with the strength of steel, with the grace of a rose, and loves with dignity. I deeply believe everyone deserves to be heard, to be seen, and to belong. This is our way of bringing more peace and harmony to the world.
I want to evolve the idea of like-minded people into the idea of like-hearted people with different minds. That is my underlying philosophy. We are all like-hearted. Accepting the diversity of thoughts and viewpoints is what will bring us together in the end.
We are very blessed that 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 just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Brene Brown is someone I would love to have coffee with. She is huge on vulnerability and I speak more on creating healthy boundaries. I would love to talk about how we can both help women to build up the ability to create healthy boundaries for themselves, after they have embraced the vulnerability.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.