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“You are what you eat” with Violet Ostuni

You are what you eat — so be mindful. Shop for whole foods that carry less ingredients. Here’s a tip — if you can’t understand what’s on the label, put it back! There are always healthier options with less junk included. Try shopping around the perimeter of your grocery store. That’s usually where fresh fruits […]

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You are what you eat — so be mindful. Shop for whole foods that carry less ingredients. Here’s a tip — if you can’t understand what’s on the label, put it back! There are always healthier options with less junk included. Try shopping around the perimeter of your grocery store. That’s usually where fresh fruits and produce live and much less processed boxes for you to load your cart with.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Violet Ostuni.

Violet is the CEO of Venture Love, a wellness company focused on healing women from the inside-out. She is based in San Francisco, CA. She lives in a jewel-box styled home with her Southern Italian husband and her ball of fluff, Charlie, a Yorkshire Terrier. She loves tending to her herb garden, reading health, spiritual, self-love and business books written by women, for women. When she’s not writing or cooking up a healthy meal, she’s coaching women, performing Reiki Sound Bath Healing and leading Meditation and Personal Development Workshops.

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?

My childhood was typical for a 1st generation, lower-middle class latina growing up in SF. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. I’m a middle daughter to Nicaraguan parents who escaped everything they knew due to the Sandinista war that spread throughout Central America. They left their friends, family, home and careers to give us a better life. I was born in Honduras but raised in SF since the time I could walk and talk. My parents worked long hours doing what they could to make ends meet. They sacrificed everything to give us a better life. They always prioritized education, kindness and respect. My dad always said, “they can never take away your education” and it’s something I’ve carried with me to this day. I still remember them both going to night school so that they could learn English. As of today I’m getting my doctorate degree and I’ll be the first in the family to do so. I guess you can say they both planted that personal development seed in my brain and it’s continued to grow all these years.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I’d say it’s been a cumulation of moments. Growing up my parents worked so much that I lacked feeling their full presence. I remember being a little girl thinking, “If I ever have kids, I want to be there with them, not stuck working in a job I hate.” I don’t have children right now but I know one day I will. I firmly believe that if you have a fulfilling career with true work life balance, your quality of life is tremendously improved for all members of your family, most especially for yourself. I’ll also never forget that regardless of rain or shine, they went to work. Their work ethic to keep a roof above our heads and food on our plates has always inspired me.

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?

A few years ago I worked in a robotics company in Investor Relations supporting the CFO. Being the incredibly supportive man he is, he’d always encourage me to speak up when I was too shy to say a word. I remember him asking me to lead presentations when all I wanted to do was hide in a corner but he repeated these words, “You can absolutely do this, Violet. It’s ultimately up to you. It’s not if you can — it’s when!” Even though I still have zero desire to lead investor presentations, I can most definitely apply that bold thinking to running my current company.

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?

My first job out of college was at a biotech company working in HR. I’ll never forget the day I planned our IPO party and the 150 huge custom chocolate bar order had accidentally been doubled! I had neglected to pay attention to the details, and it cost the company another $3K. I was mortified but I immediately walked over and told the HR Director that I screwed up and I was going to pay for it out of pocket. She laughed and said, “Oh no, Violet! I value your honesty, but I know that chocolate will go so fast at the party!” I immediately promised myself I would always be direct and honest — no matter how humiliating my mistake was. In short — honesty never goes out of style… and neither does “sweating the details!” Lesson learned.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

The only way to fail is to quit so never quit on yourself. You may quit an idea, relationship or job, but don’t ever quit on the eyes looking back at you in the mirror. Whatever passion it is you have for something, pursue it with all you’ve got. You’re the only person you’re ultimately letting down if you quit — so don’t.

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?

A story I’ll never forget is in the book, Man’s Search For Meaning. In the book the author, Elie Weisel beautifully describes his aching heart for his wife. Somehow without a calendar, he remembers that it’s her birthday. He reflects on their previous life together, and then is brought back to the reality of the heartbreaking Holocaust he’s living in. Through all the unbearable loss and soul crushing existence, he found meaning, and he found it in love. This resonates so much with me because it’s a reminder to never forget that love conquers and heals all. Without love, there is no life. The name of my company is Venture Love, because it’s the action you must take to create the magnitude and beauty of a life worth living. When you venture love, you find your true self.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” — Rumi. It’s my ultimate favorite quote because it delicately describes the cold, hard, truth. If you don’t face your fears, you will never have what you most desire. I’ve learned this the hard way. After years of neglecting my deepest aspirations, I decided to “feel the fear and do it anyway” and it’s been the most rewarding work of my entire life. It’s only when we do what scares us, that we feel most alive!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Everything I create is meant to uplift, inspire, educate and evolve women. I’m currently working on a “Body Love” workshop to help women ignite that passionate love — for themselves. Unfortunately, most women hate something about themselves. We are brought up thinking we need to conform to fit society’s standards of beauty. My goal is to shake that perception and reflect a mirror on the “imperfect” parts of themselves because that is what makes them so darn beautiful!

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

To achieve optimal wellness, amazing performance and an incredible strong focus, you have to start from the inside and then work your way out. Over the last 10 years of supporting top Silicon Valley CEOs to most recently starting Venture Love, my own wellness company for women, I’ve learned the hard way that working on yourself is absolutely first and foremost, an “inside job”. No matter how much you focus on making the outsides look pretty or perfect and “put together”, if you don’t prioritize your health and wellness, you’ll never reach the level of true performance you’re looking for.

There are a million and one ways you can go about this but I’ll share what’s worked for me. If it’s worked for me, there’s no doubt it will help you too. I’m no different that you, trust me. I’ve worked for many years in stressful, chaotic and deadline-driven environments where you pray for a good day on your commute to work, smack a smile on your face to make rent and do your best to steer clear of slimy work politics amidst the hustle and bustle. Most days in this type of environment can feel defeating, exhausting and depleting, I get it. It’s emotionally draining and when you finally escape traffic and get home, you’re inclined to eat something fast, cheap, warm and filling, then crash on the couch and “hope tomorrow is Friday”. Sound familiar? Finding another “thing to try” is probably not what you want to hear, so I’ll tell you the cold, hard truth. If you don’t prioritize and invest in your health and wellness now — you may be forced to pay for it later. Let’s not wait to see if that happens. Taking action today is key.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Taking small steps can actually mean taking huge ones in the long run. Here are a few, super simple and positive habits that have worked for me and I’m certain will benefit you too:

  1. Hop in the shower first thing in the morning before you hit the snooze button. You can yawn as much as you want in the shower but trust that once you’re out, you’re less likely to hop back in bed and instead get started on your day the right way.
  2. Before you hop out of your nice, warm shower, practice turning the knob to cold for the last 5–10 seconds. This is incredible for your skin, circulation and overall vitality… not to mention it will definitely WAKE YOU UP!
  3. No time for a gratitude journal? No biggie. As you’re drying the droplets off your body with the towel, count your blessings! Are you thankful for your hands, your voice, your mind, your feet? Are you thankful you have the ability to bathe and dress yourself? That’s great, keep going! Find something new every day to be grateful for. The more you express your gratitude, the more you will attract in your life to be grateful for.
  4. Do these 3 things alone for 30 days and see if that doesn’t start helping you. It’s all in the small, consistent and positive changes. You can definitely do this!

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

I’d rethink this one and instead ask, “how does one replace negative habits with positive ones?” Let’s take my gratitude exercise for example. Maybe you’re used to looking in the mirror after a shower and thinking:

· “why does my skin never seem to be clear?” or “why can’t I be thinner?”

Perhaps instead of repeating these toxic thoughts, you replace them with brighter, bolder, more grateful ones. How about:

· “Thank goodness I have a curvy body” or “I love how my eyes shine when I wear this color” or “I admire how passionate I am”

Small shifts make all the difference… and starting today is where it all begins.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

I believe that less is more, especially when it comes to your wellness.

1) You are what you eat — so be mindful. Shop for whole foods that carry less ingredients. Here’s a tip — if you can’t understand what’s on the label, put it back! There are always healthier options with less junk included. Try shopping around the perimeter of your grocery store. That’s usually where fresh fruits and produce live and much less processed boxes for you to load your cart with.

2) Swap your soda for water. That’s right. Hydration is key. If you want to be a well-oiled machine, you’ve got to be a hydrated human being. Soda is awful for you. Water is natural, easy, clean and best. Not to mention it’s free!

3) Stop torturing yourself with diets and listen to your body. Are you hungry? Then eat. Are you stressed? Then call a friend or get exercise. Visiting the fridge for comfort won’t bring you the loving support that only comes from fulfilling relationships so if you haven’t called your mother in a while — here’s your reminder!

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Grocery shop with the intention to cook healthy meals throughout the week. Purchase enough healthy fruits, veggies, grains and snacks to keep you energized, full and happy. Fill up your water jug the day before so you stay hydrated. Set up calendar reminders to call a friend. All of these things are doable. If I can do it, there’s no reason you can’t. I’m not any better, smarter or more talented than you. All it takes is a little self love, care and consistency.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Keep a notebook handy. I’ve learned over the years that jotting down thoughts, ideas, action items and goals is crucial to your success. Revisiting your goals is a great reminder to help keep you on track.

2. Plan ahead and clear the mental clutter! When you get all your ideas, questions and work out of your mind and onto paper you release the mental chatter in your brain. Make it a habit to jot down whatever is floating around in your mind every night before bed. Plan your day accordingly so that you don’t have any surprises pop up.

3. Ask for advice. Doing things alone and going in circles will drive anyone crazy! Remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There will always be smarter people in your workplace. Take advantage of your local opportunities to improve. Ask a colleague for a coffee or maybe take them out for a walk after lunch. Dig their brain. Ask all the questions you want to ask and thank them for their support. You can go fast alone, but you go much further with the guidance and support of others.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

1. Keep a notebook, something small and handy with you at all times. Use that to express yourself and keep your mind free of distracting thoughts.

2. Before you forget something, make it a habit to quickly jot things down.

3. Plan ahead and add a coffee date to your calendar. Make it a goal to meet someone new every month and ask them what’s working well for them. There is always something new to be learned.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Meditation is my go-to! When I close my eyes and surrender to my breath, I release all the stress and anxiety or worries of the day. Some days are busier than others but dedicating at least 5 minutes can sometimes make all the difference!

2. Bikram Yoga is one of the most challenging, mind-body exercises but also the most rewarding. As difficult as it may be to focus on my breathing as I move into balancing poses in unbearable heat, it does something incredible to my health and truly helps me focus on the important things.

3. As a Reiki practitioner I’ve learned just how important your energy is. Keeping yourself clear of activities or individuals that can be draining may be challenging, but oh so necessary! When you are clear of events or people that drain your energy, you can redirect that energy and fully focus on the things that really help you.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

1. I’ve practiced Transcendental Meditation for over 8 years and I swear by it. It’s truly changed my life. Investing in your mental and spiritual wellness is just as important as eating dark, leafy veggies everyday. It’s all connected. If you’ve never tried to meditate, start with something manageable like sitting in silence for just a few minutes each day. Everyone can do this and it helps so much when it comes to focusing on the important things you need to take care of.

2. Try out a new local fitness studio or given the times we’re currently living in, explore free youtube classes online. There are a ton of amazing fitness classes to try from the comfort of your own home.

3. Reiki is a wonderful way to approach energy healing. We are all made up of energy, so dedicating time and care to doing what is most nurturing for you is a great way to improve vitality and overall wellness. I teach Meditation and Reiki and both are incredible avenues towards reaching true inner and outer wellness.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

I live for moments and days of being in a divine and true “flow”. I first experienced the state of flow during an emotional coaching session with a client who had lost a partner. Throughout the session she released so many emotions but as we continued, I knew that in her sorrow, she was growing courage and releasing all the fear and guilt. It’s when we surrender ourselves to the work we know that we are meant to be doing that we become fulfilled and start to live and breathe in the “flow”. The main way to reach this state is to continue doing what it is that sets your soul on fire. Do what it is that you are most passionate about. Life and breathe what makes you excited to hop out of bed every morning. The more you do what you love, the more you will live in the beautiful feelings of “flow”.

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.

Let’s close our eyes and imagine that vision is no longer possible. You can no longer see. Now, given what you already know about the world and given the fact that you can no longer see… does skin color really matter? Does race really matter? Does body size really matter? Does height really matter? Do skin imperfections really matter? Or, does kindness now become king? I think we both know the answer to that. Be kind to everyone you meet, because everyone you meet is simply a different reflection of the human that you are. We all deserve peace, love, kindness and respect. Our differences should bring us together, not tear us apart.

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 🙂

Rachel Hollis is incredible. I have nothing but love for that strong woman. Day in and day out, rain or shine, she shows up for the world authentically. I have a huge admiration for her. She’s a wonderful mother and successful business owner. Everything she puts out into the universe is gold and it’s because she keeps it real. I’d be honored to meet Rachel and even if I never get the chance and she one day comes across this article, I just want to say — I love ya Rach! Thanks to women like you, little girls will grow up knowing they too can make their dreams come true!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’m most active on my IG: @violet_ventures or you can find me on my website at https://www.ventureviolet.com/.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

Thank you! This was my pleasure.

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