I get dozens of messages and notes each day from amazing individuals around the world who are inspired to be more conscious, awake — and even grateful — for their lives and their ability to make change. One of the most gratifying pieces of this work for me is when I get to meet the On Adulting community in person. It always amazes me how driven, inspiring and all around cool these women (and men!) are. One of my favorite experiences was when I held an On Adulting meet up in New York City early on a Sunday morning, and someone drove in from New Jersey to connect with this amazing group of humans. She was really nervous to come to the event alone — but left feeling energized, inspired, and left with a bunch of new friends! It’s just a clear reminder that there are really awesome people out there who are craving the ability to connect in real life (aka — off our phones!) and talk about deep, life changing ideas. Even if you’re feeling alone right now, know that your humans are out there somewhere, waiting for you to meet them.
As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katina Mountanos, the founder of On Adulting, a viral blog and community of over 20,000 millennials who are figuring out how to navigate adulthood in a conscious, happy way (@onadulting). She is also a mindset coach, certified yoga + meditation teacher, and start up advisor. Her work has featured on HuffPost, Fast Company, Teen Vogue, Elite Daily, Mindbodygreen, and others. She started her career in environmental sustainability at Goldman Sachs, and since then has helped dozens of humans develop conscious decision-making skills, which allow them to make choices that will expand their mindset, happiness and health. Follow along on Instagram at @onadulting or The Space, a private Facebook group for the O.A. crew!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you so much for having me!
Ever since I was young, I knew that I wanted to do something that makes a positive impact on the world. I grew up in a family of small business owners, and saw first-hand the way that business could bring communities together.
Years later when I started college at NYU’s Stern School of Business, it seemed like I only had two career paths: do something can change the world while sacrificing my earning potential or “sell my soul” and work at a corporation. I naively ended up choosing the latter — like many college graduates I was burdened by loans and the definition of other’s version of “success.”
I started my career at Goldman Sachs, a large investment bank in New York and quickly realized that working at a big company wasn’t for me. I had a clear passion for social impact and an extreme entrepreneurial spirit, both qualities that led me to feel like I was settling for good enough at the time. And I knew that I wanted my career to be a choice rather than a negotiation.
While at Goldman, I switched groups to join the newly created Environmental Sustainability team. Working on social impact in a large corporation showed me that it is possible to use business for good. But, it also showed me how little I knew about creating long-term social impact. As a finance major, I didn’t know much about the nonprofit world — and needed to learn quickly.
So, a few months later I was lucky enough to be offered a role at a small philanthropic venture firm where I was worked with nonprofit leaders on their strategy, communications and operations. It was the ideal learning environment — but I still was searching for my personal version of what it meant to change the world.
That’s when I started a side project, On Adulting. It was a tiny blog that had one simple intention: share my journey of navigating adulthood in a mindful, happy way — and hopefully connect with others on that same path. Little did I know at the time that this side hustle would turn into a full-fledged business and community just two years later, helping thousands of millennials step into their power and lead more conscious lives.
It’s been a windy path — and I’m sure there will be more twists and turns — but I’ve found that as long as I am connected to my North Star, it all makes sense.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
Well, it’s all been an interesting ride! But, I think one of the most impactful decisions that came when I was faced with the choice of moving from my home, New York City, to San Francisco with my partner in 2017.
After he received an amazing job offer on the West Coast, we both decided to relocate. Even though I loved my job and On Adulting was just starting to gain traction, I knew deep down that taking a large risk both personally and professionally could only lead to growth.
So, I uprooted my entire life and got uncomfortable — really uncomfortable. My partner, Dupi, and I didn’t have any friends or family in this new city. I didn’t have a job. We were far away from everything we knew.
But, gaining this new perspective allowed me to take major risks, which led to me believe that I could take On Adulting full-time and turn it into a full-fledged business.
Bottom line: Sometimes the best outcomes happen when you’re a little scared or uncomfortable. Dive into the feelings and allow yourself to be open to all the opportunities that come your way.
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?
Oh wow, there have been plenty of mistakes along the way. This one is difficult for me to answer, actually, because I don’t typically view mistakes as bad, or even funny. I just view them as experiences that shift my path in a way I would have never imagined.
That said, when I first started my career I often made silly “mistakes” like forgetting my work heels at home and getting stuck in sneakers and a business suit (true story). I also often emailed the wrong person (Jim C got a ton of misinformed emails!), and messed up during presentations.
But, whenever those “mistakes” would happen — I would allow myself to feel embarrassed, upset or ashamed for a few moments, and remind myself that we’re all human. Messing up is normal.
I know that these feelings can be overwhelming at times but remember: silly missteps are not the end of the world.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?
The entire mission of On Adulting is centered on the idea that we can all lead our dream life — in a conscious, mindful way. That navigating adulthood doesn’t need to be difficult or overwhelming. That we don’t need to feel like we’re settling for a mediocre life, just like I did back when I first entered the working world.
Through my social media presence, in real life events and individual coaching I am dedicated to helping millennials make choices that will not only expand their own mindset, happiness and health — but that of the planet. And most importantly, empowering others to see that their choices don’t need to be major life changes, like quitting your job or traveling the world with one backpack (though that’s cool if it is!). We are all capable of making tiny decisions each and every day that will result in more engaged, conscious and happy lives over the long-term.
Personally, I am passionate about environmental sustainability as a cause. It’s a great example of a topic that requires small, conscious, everyday decisions on each human’s part to make massive change. Through my platform and community, I share the ways that you can begin to shift your lifestyle to care for yourself and our world.
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
Actually, there are thousands of individuals who have been impacted by this work — which still seems out of this world to me! But, I get dozens of messages and notes each day from amazing individuals around the world who are inspired to be more conscious, awake — and even grateful — for their lives and their ability to make change.
One of the most gratifying pieces of this work for me is when I get to meet the On Adulting community in person. It always amazes me how driven, inspiring and all around cool these women (and men!) are. One of my favorite experiences was when I held an On Adulting meet up in New York City early on a Sunday morning, and someone drove in from New Jersey to connect with this amazing group of humans. She was really nervous to come to the event alone — but left feeling energized, inspired, and left with a bunch of new friends!
It’s just a clear reminder that there are really awesome people out there who are craving the ability to connect in real life (aka — off our phones!) and talk about deep, lifechanging ideas. Even if you’re feeling alone right now, know that your humans are out there somewhere, waiting for you to meet them.
Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?
There wasn’t necessarily a tipping point that made me decide to focus on these topics — it was more of a deep, primal need to share my story with the world. So, for those of you reading who may be on the fence about starting something or sharing your story — listen to your inner guidance.
A question that I get asked often is: how did you stop feeling scared or worried about what others thought when you began writing and sharing publicly? And, I think that being worried about showing your vulnerability, especially to strangers, is really scary. But, if you’re truly connected to your purpose, you realize that it’s much bigger than you. Allowing others to see themselves in your story — the good, bad and ugly — is what inspires us humans to make change for the better.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I would say there are two problems that I am trying to solve through my work: (1) empowering people to believe that they can live the best version of their lives, and to make conscious choices along the way, and (2) protecting the health of our earth.
I think that both of these issues are deeply rooted in our society’s belief systems, especially in the United States. It’s important for all of us to be leaders in our choices and put the onus on ourselves to make change — rather than wait around for laws or companies to do something drastic. As I’ve said many times, change happens in the small, regular moments each and every day.
So, here are some actionable things you can do as it relates to conscious decision-making:
1. Cheer on a friend: Let’s turn ourselves into a yes and society instead of a no but. If a friend or colleague is doing something risky or scary, like moving to a new city or launching a new business — get them excited! What they’re doing is uncomfortable enough, and in our world we don’t need any more naysayers.
2. Do something uncomfortable yourself: We grow during moments of discomfort. Do something today that makes you feel out of your comfort zone and see what magic happens. Not only does it provide us with perspective, but it helps us become more awake to what we really want. Some examples you could try are talking to a stranger or going to a completely new neighborhood to explore.
3. Make it cool to be kind: Let’s shift our world’s perception that being nice isn’t cool. Pick up trash on the street. Help someone with directions. Get out of your bubble, off your phone and truly connect with another human — see how much it can change your day.
And, if you’re interested in environmental sustainability, try these three challenges:
1. Reduce your use: While recycling and composting is great, let’s try to reduce the amount of “stuff” we purchase. We live in a world that’s obsessed with buying things — so challenge yourself to do the opposite. Think before you buy anything today: do you actually need it?
2. Unplug — literally: It’s important to disconnect not only mentally, but literally. Remove plugs that you’re not using — appliances, computer chargers, TVs. We waste a ton of energy on electronics not in use. And hey, it’s also good for your wallet!
3. Inspire others through your actions: I love bringing my reusable mug to coffee shops, because every single time I get a comment from someone — whether it’s a customer or an employee — about how much they love it. Be a leader through your actions, and inspire others to be more sustainable. Whether you’re recycling correctly at work, or bringing your own bag to the grocery store — don’t downplay the importance of making change through action.
What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?
Building the On Adulting community has taken commitment, authenticity and a deep vision — even when no one was paying attention. It’s really important for anyone who is interested in developing a platform or community to continue showing up each and every day, no matter how many people are with you. The only way this can happen is if you’re truly connected to your North Star, your personal mission, and are committed to speaking that truth every day.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
I think this list could go on forever! But, here are my top 5 pieces of advice for anyone who is just starting to “change the world”:
1. Being an adult doesn’t mean you have it figured out: When I first entered the working world, I thought that everyone had the secret key to adulthood and happiness. I couldn’t have been more wrong, which was enlightening but also scary. If I stopped looking externally for the answers, and started looking within I would have saved myself a ton of stress and fear.
2. Your dream job probably doesn’t exist — make it up: Every single “job” I’ve had was extremely different than what I was hired for. And, when I started working for myself, I realized there never would be a perfect job that I didn’t create myself. I often work with clients who are bogged down by the reality of what is out there in the world — but we all have the power to create whatever we can dream of. Imagine the type of work that would light you up, and then go create it.
3. Collect as many experiences as you can: Conventional wisdom tells us to land a job after college, stay there for 2–3 years, and move onto another one for even longer. In my case, and others who have gone off the beaten path to find success, this isn’t true. I believe we are actually the sum of our experiences. So, collect as many as you can, even if they don’t necessarily have a “purpose” right now. They will.
4. The uncomfortable moments are the ones that make you grow the most: Even though I knew this concept was true deep down, I wish that someone had reassured me that how we handle the difficult, confusing times literally define our life. As long as we want to grow, we will find discomfort. Recognize it, lean into it and remember that it will pass — but not without changing you first.
5. You can change your mind as many times as you want: I wish someone had shared that there is no perfect answer for fulfillment in life. Our priorities and interests change over time, and that’s okay. You don’t need to have a clear life strategy from the moment you graduate college (or even before then!). While it’s important to get clear on your personal mission statement as soon as you can — the ways that you make that a reality shift over the course of your life. Keep checking in with yourself and be honest about what lights you up.
You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂
My dream movement would be for all of us to stop doing things because you are “supposed” to and start acting consciously. The movement has already begun with the On Adulting community — come join us! J
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do yourself a favor. Before it’s too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late.”
– The Namesake
This quote literally changed my life. I remember exactly where I was when I read it during my senior year of college. I had recently decided to graduate early, and was stuck between following the traditional route to start work early, or take a few months to travel.
As you can imagine, after reading this quote I chose the latter. During my four-month solo trip to Australia and New Zealand at the age of 21, my perspective and definition of success changed entirely. I saw first-hand how people can be happy, truly happy, by only owning a backpack. I was exposed to beliefs that I had never considered before. And, I learned how to trust myself.
So, if you have the chance — pack a bag and see the world. You will never regret it.
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 tag them. 🙂
Wow — there are so many people I’d love to connect with. But, if I had to choose I would love to have breakfast with Oprah. She has always been my biggest expander and inspiration in showing us the power of making change through connection. She has always brought her truest self to the table — and helped so many others do the same. I would love to plot with her about how we can keep making the world a more kind, conscious place for all.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow along on Instagram at @onadulting or join our Facebook group, The Space, for conversations about growing up in a mindful, happy way.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
Thank you so much for having me! I’m excited to see what change this might inspire.