There is a fine balance between “to burn” and “to burn out”. Thrive is when you love what you do, and you are good at what you are doing. It is a matter of a combination of talents, passion, meaning and ambitions. Most people never get to thrive. Why? because they don’t live accordingly to their values. You need a compass so that you balance life and don’t sell out or end up spending your time, energy, money and competences on the wrong projects, people or purpose (the opposite of thriving). You can only THRIVE if you live a truly authentic life. Balance is key to long-lasting success — the opposite of burning out! And can only happen if you live your values. Truly successful people know what they want, and they go for it. They stand tall. They don’t sell out! They have clear values.
Soulaima Gourani is a motivational speaker, philanthropist and author, with approximately 200-plus global talks per year. Gourani advises major companies on topics such as, sales, service, customer loyalty, strategic relationship building and change management, employee motivation and the future of business.
Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have had many struggles; and as a result, have written and co-written more than 14 books on many of the mistakes, failures, and obstacles I have had in my life. My path in life came in 2007 when I was fired while I was pregnant. It was one of the most challenging moments I my life. I was a mom to be and the breadwinner of the family, and I found myself with no job. When I was fired, I decided that I never again wanted to be in a position where anyone could fire me. I had no idea what to do — I needed to make a living; and all I had was my skills within sales, sales training, strategic sales/strategic partnership, supply-chain management and strategic networking. Those were my “hardcore” skills and talents, and it was easy for me to teach others. So, I decided to start training others, and started my own consulting company. That was the beginning, of my path as a keynote speaker, author and now as an investor. My path to success was mostly strategic networking and my ability to stand up and speak out on topics I am passionate about. I had started to created name and reputation for myself.
In Denmark (where I’m from), it was very rare to see a woman of color in the public eye and on stages, but I overcame those bias and stereotypes, and now I’ve been invited to speak in more than 33 countries and have worked with some of the biggest companies and organizations in the world.
Since then I founded TradeConductor.com (world peace through Trade) and now have an office in Palo Alto, California and Copenhagen.
Throughout my upbringing, I’ve developed some qualities and survival techniques that still play an important part in my drive for success today. The foundation for my personal leadership, my values, my focus, and my sense of responsibility can be tracked all the way back to my challenging childhood. The days of hardship have been transformed into something very positive.
I also like to point out that, I’ve had to change my belief that everything you do (in order to be successful) must be either painful or at least very difficult. Just because something is really difficult or almost impossible, doesn’t mean that I should always accept the task. Previously, it was tradition of mine to take on impossible projects — just to challenge myself to the maximum. With this approach, I consequently had not been unconditionally successful in everything that I had done. However, it has been a great learning experience.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have worked in sales and marketing for more than 20 years. I love sales, but I have made many mistakes. I was once asked to start a new company in a new market. I moved there and decided to start writing letters to all the leading CEOs in the country.
This was before e-mail was a big thing. You had actually to write people real letters. I wrote and wrote and wrote letters. I wanted to make them personal, so I changed the names in all of them, at least I thought I did, You know “dear X.”
I missed a line in all of them where the “original first” name was written. So dear Jane, Joy and Carl suddenly became “dear John” or something like that in all of them; it was too late for me to do anything about it. The mail was out.
What did I learn from that experience? Pay attention to details. It is good to be fast, but sometimes you must slowdown in order to get it done right. In B2B you cannot get people’s names wrong. You just can’t!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think mine is pretty unique. My dad was a sailor, so has a result, he traveled all his life — so did I. Now it was that experience that allowed me to connect with others globally. A skill to be a traveler and connected to the world, most people still are not. I created Tradeconductor.com to help provide world peace, through trade, in other words, I help people connect with other people globally. I believe that world peace is the natural effect of trade. Nations who trade with each other become reciprocally dependent. I’ve developed a network in over 60 countries, and, I currently work in 35 of them. My value is my global network, sales and spotting trends globally.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I impact thousands of people on a daily basis through my four online communities as an example I started nerdyspeaker.com — we help people/leaders take to the stages. I spend so much time in conference-rooms as a speaker, and I’ve seen and have been a part of so many “panels”. I decided with my business partner to educate many more (female) speakers. Through my online program, I transform the way one communicates, by helping individuals and future speakers find their strength, voice, and their story. I teach them how to speak from the heart, share what impassions are, and unlock their potential to earn a living as a speaker. I have developed this program which includes a 21-video series step-by-step lecture training, a community of supportive, like-minded visionaries and access to live Q & A sessions.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
Yes, I have had a few. One of them was when I was 19 and my boyfriend (at that time) said “let’s have kids” soon and once asked, “why I work as hard as I did?”
I decided to leave him… One year later I met my current husband, and I have been with him for 23 years now. He gave me the space I needed, and he accepted my need to wait to have kids until I had finished my MBA (at 31 years). To make it in life and in business it is my experience that you need support. Choosing the wrong partner is fatal, especially if you are young. Focus on getting the job done. Build yourself a good brand, network, and skills — then have kids. Follow your dreams and turn them into plans. You will regret it if you do not. Some people experience situations where their partner, family, friends, or acquaintances take control of their lives and decide what they should and should not do.
I know of colleagues who have become bitter because they feel that they have to accept the reality that their life deviates from what they expected or wanted. When I talk with them, I often realize that their support base has taken control of them. They tell me that they feel they have to live up to certain unwanted standards and expectations. Their fear of revulsion represses their willingness to back out. I’ve met business people who have chosen a particular career or employment with an esteemed company mainly because their family saw it as more prestigious than what they consider fun or appealing. Some of my colleagues do not pursue their dream of living and working abroad because their family-in-law would be disappointed. The list of examples is lengthy, and you most likely know about similar experiences.
I meet people who disregard their own needs in favor of those of their family or company. They prefer to disappoint themselves rather than, disappoint their boss, spouses or their parents. This situation can be a great display of strength because their empathy and ability to understand the needs of others are apparent. These characteristics are necessary if you have children to take care of. However, if this situation goes unnoticed or unchecked for an extended period, you risk sacrificing yourself and end up without any visible boundaries. This situation can be unhealthy in a long-term perspective. You risk losing yourself and your ability to navigate. People who do not live their own life, but the life of others, frequently end up not remembering what they actually wanted to achieve in life.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
There is a fine balance between “to burn” and “to burn out”. Thrive is when you love what you do, and you are good at what you are doing. It is a matter of a combination of talents, passion, meaning and ambitions. Most people never get to thrive. Why? because they don’t live accordingly to their values.
You need a compass so that you balance life and don’t sell out or end up spending your time, energy, money and competences on the wrong projects, people or purpose (the opposite of thriving). You can only THRIVE if you live a truly authentic life. Balance is key to long-lasting success — the opposite of burning out! And can only happen if you live your values. Truly successful people know what they want, and they go for it. They stand tall. They don’t sell out! They have clear values.
How do you define “Marketing”? Can you explain what you mean?
When you PICK and BUILD a target (group of people) focus, engage and create loyalty within THAT market. However, today marketing is very complex because of diversity and globalization.
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?
At the age of 13, I ran away from my parents, only to be put in a children’s home and then, later, in an institution and foster-care. I was thrown out of my primary school in the 7th grade. I was that kid no one was allowed to play with. Parents whispered behind my back that I was what many consider “a little dirty and came from a strange family.” I was declared unfit for high school, and I couldn’t even get a job in the most basic position after I had finished school. I was unwanted and not loved. No one was able to spot my talent. My manager at the local restaurant I worked once hit me in the head with a menu card and called me useless. So, when my teacher, Ebbe Krogh Salomonsen from Haderslev Business School, had a quiet chat with me one day, and he told me that I could go FAR in life, he recommended that I focus on communication and management. He made me understand that I had the necessary skills to become the quintessence of a future leader. I dared to trust him. I was 20 and look at my work now! He was the only and first one to ever “see me” and my “talents.”
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners?
Yes, mobile platforms, social media and online paid membership-communities!
What are your “5 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses”?
“The only intuitive interface in life is the nipple. Everything else is learned.”
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. 🙂
“Don’t buy boobs — buy books” is my moto or “hashtags” if you will — I created it in 2014 at WEF, Davos.
I want to inspire women to invest in themselves and realize that what they put into their heads no one can ever away from them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“NO ONE CAN BE EVERYWHERE AND BE EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE.” I keep telling myself — Quote, me
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @soulaimagourani