Friday, August 19, 2022

Kristina Mand-Lakhiani – A Serial Entrepreneur, An International Speaker, & Co-founder of Mindvalley

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As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristina Mand-Lakhiani.

Kristina is a Co-founder of Mindvalley and has been in the personal transformation industry for over 18 years. She is an international speaker, entrepreneur, artist, philanthropist, and everyday life philosopher.

Kristina is also the author of transformational quests “7 Days To Happiness” and “Live By Your Own Rules”. Kristina speaks about personal transformation, authenticity, understanding and accepting oneself, and a path to happiness.

It’s an honor to speak with you today. I would love to know more about your story and your background. Give us some details about your journey as a digital entrepreneur.

As the saying goes, a great woman is behind a great man. I am a co-founder of Mindvalley and have had a supportive role from the very beginning until this moment. It is Vishen’s child. However, I don’t think that a supporting role is any less valuable or essential. Initially, it was a side thing to support Vishen’s meditation courses as a magnet to attract students to his studies. We did not create it for our prosperity or financial goals. At the early stages, almost everything we earned we reinvested back into Mindvalley. We lived an effortless life. The company started as a side thing. At that time, there were three people in the business, and each of us was obsessed with our careers in NY.  After a few years, it started taking more time to run and brought us some money to afford to give up our full-time jobs. That’s when things started getting more severe. Then we moved to Malaysia, hired people, got the office, and things kind of took off from there.

What do you specialize in, and why should someone choose you over your competitors in your field?

My mission is to help people to deal with everyday life emotionally. It would seem like two sides of one coin: I want to help people feel happy and understand that this is not a prize at the end of the journey, but it is a skill or something you can have daily. On the other side of this: is dealing with everyday life troubles, hurdles, and pains.

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And Mindvalley, as an entity, has a bigger mission: we show people that they don’t need a specific degree to live a happy, fulfilled, extraordinary life, and we want to give that knowledge. That education is essential for every human being to live a happy, filled, meaningful life. I see Mindvalley growing as a movement, as a lifestyle, as a community of people who support each other.

For me, Mindvalley is just a little bit more than just a company or a business entity. It is a growing community of people who want to have more meaning, color, and happiness in their lives and want to reach their full potential in this one life that has been given to them. At least the one we know. And the reason I say it’s a movement is that I believe in changing us, humans, from what we used to be for the past twelve thousand years to a new generation of humans who stop struggling and start creating and enjoying.

We do have three cultural definitions for businesses: 

Kristina Mand-Lakhiani

Envisioning– coming up with new things, solving the problems

Transformation– is something that Vishen always valued, and it is how the company started.

Unity– we recognize our unity. It is essential to have an environment where diversity is celebrated. There’s no need for us to persuade anyone to choose us over someone else, our business speaks for itself.

What’s your piece of advice for readers who want to achieve wealth and success in life?

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Don’t waste your time or energy trying to be someone else. When you have stepped into your own power you’ll have the courage to always be authentic and make your own life script based on what you truly want that’s not based on societal or cultural norms.

Is it tough for a woman to survive in this industry? How did you overcome those panic attacks? Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Well, I’m not prone to panic attacks when it comes to business. My anxieties are usually related to my private life. And I guess maybe that’s one of my strengths in business that I always take it very, very chill. Maybe it’s because I was born in the Soviet Union. I’ve seen how things changed and I was born into a very simple life. I wouldn’t call it poor because the Soviet Union just was a different universe, but I just don’t take business and money and practical things too dramatically, and I think it helps because you can’t be afraid of the success of money. If you really want to achieve heights there. So as I say, most of my anxieties have to do with other areas of my life. But when it comes to how I survive in this industry? Well, the industry of personal growth and transformation is not male-dominated. In fact, it’s the opposite. So there are a lot of entrepreneurs in my industry who are females, and I don’t feel lonely at all. When it comes to Mindvalley, per se, we do have a majority of men executives, and in a lot of business decision-making, I am the minority partner. But I do think it is harder for a woman for sure. Because the biases are so deep in our society’s thinking that very often, we are not even conscious about how the world is geared to be male-centric and the way this society works, the way the world works on this planet Earth. It actually requires extra effort from women. One very simple example is that as a good business owner or a leader, or an entrepreneur, or a marketer, I would have to have certain personality traits, for example, assertiveness, and decisiveness. Maybe courage in some ways, but as a woman, the same qualities would make me less favorably viewed. So if, as an entrepreneur, you are assertive and decisive, then as a woman, those same qualities will make you bitchy and angry. So I think that the key is in finding strength in what makes you you, and if it is, and if you are a woman to the core, then that’s where your strength lies, and you don’t have to have a loud voice or look intimidating to stick to your guns. And while I am a feminist  I don’t speak on the topic a lot. So I consider myself an amateur feminist. I would strongly recommend the book by Caroline Criado Perez called “Invisible Women”. It really paints a very clear picture of how the world is built for men, by men, and how often we can’t even see the male bias. So I think we as a society have to keep talking about equal opportunities, and unfortunately, it’s not as much in our attention as it should be. Because very often, people equate feminism too, you know, hating men to wanting to dominate or something like that, which is not productive. 

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder, but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Well, I don’t think that women shouldn’t be founders, per se. But I think the way we bring up girls should make it more natural for women to choose to do business or to choose to go into what currently is a male-dominated sphere. We don’t see that many women in business because our society still expects women to take a break when they want to make a family and to take care of children almost exclusively without the help of men. And while you can split the time, let’s say doing chores, it’s the emotional burden that women carry very often. Men very often, when they go to work, can switch off their brains, as a mother of two children and the co-founder and a business owner I know how it is. You have to keep so many things in your mind.

Kristina Mand-Lakhiani

So we as a society, if we want more women in business, we have to create structures, and institutions to help women deal with this much responsibility in their life. And then when women can actually with easy heart leave the family,  the children, and the household to be taken care of by professionals for example, then they will have the mental capacity to actually go and do something of their own. So I think my answer to that question is that we have to start first of all with raising girls differently so that they don’t see that their sole purpose as women on planet Earth is to take care of, bring children to this planet, and raise them. Statistics show that women actually spend almost up to five times more time working after their official working hours at home compared to men. And that’s a huge thing. It’s like running a race where men are running on a clear track and women are running with obstacles, literally.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

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Well, I don’t really participate in the public discourse on being an entrepreneur, a female entrepreneur, very often. I just don’t pay attention. So I have no idea what kind of myths people might have about being a founder. I know people think that having your own business is risky and requires a lot of things and I guess that’s probably the biggest lie that I’m aware of, that people are afraid of the risks. That’s why they want regular jobs and regular careers and sometimes they think it’s easier to make a lot of money going into the big corporate world rather than doing it on your own terms. Well, the only thing I can say is that there’s nothing certain about life. After the pandemic and the way the world was on hold for two years, I think we should all be pretty clear on the idea that nothing is certain in this life. There is no certainty in anything. If the only certain thing about life is its uncertainty. So if people think that doing their own business is risky, then having a job is also risky.

The other myth I’ve heard about is if you’re the founder, we sometimes imagine that this is a solitary journey. If you are in business alone, then you’re not a founder. You’re not a business owner, you’re just a freelancer. And that is risky. Business is when you build your own company, your own chess board, and that you never do alone. I don’t think there are a lot of remarkable businesses that were built by a solo person. I don’t think there are any. This business is not any riskier than any other job. It’s just that you are more aware of that risk and in any other job you kind of push that responsibility on someone else.

I’m not your typical entrepreneur who is running from meeting to meeting and is busy 24/7. I believe in enjoying a path in life. And then some people do enjoy being busy. I guess the giant myth, and I’m talking very personally right now, is that entrepreneurship is about pure execution. Many business people fall into the trap of continuously performing. In my opinion, entrepreneurship is a creative process. It is like art, a philosophy. Remember, that creation happens in a vacuum.
I think you have to be present, plugged into reality, and your team. There is no need to be constantly busy and keep yourself always packed with activities. As an entrepreneur, you continually need to see the bigger picture when using a hamster’s wheel. To create something massive, you have to have inspiration, and it doesn’t come in a hustle. And yes, I sometimes hustle too, but that’s not my default mode.

Coming to the main part- has the pandemic affected your business, and what have you learned from it?

We met the pandemic in different environments with headquarters in Malaysia. The heart of the company was there. Of course, our clients, most of our authors, and partners were in the USA. 

All in all, we operated from Malaysia because it had a very strict lockdown with a curfew and roadblocks, and you were not allowed to move around. Overnight we had to move our work which was not a new thing. We have had this practice with the Mindvalley university project before. For several years, a considerable part of our company (30-40% ) moved to a location in Europe so that any University could run and experience the event. 

We have already rehearsed that kind of scenario, so when a pandemic hit, we just started working from home. Here, of course, it was different, because people were not internally motivated in challenging times functioning from home. It means not being able to come to the office and have your team, see your boss, get help with some things, or find motivation, you know.

Discipline to keep working was rigid for some of our staff. Some people had to move on. Some jobs were lost because we had a big team running events that couldn’t happen anymore. Some part of the group was re-oriented towards doing online events, but some had to find new employment. 

We tried to accommodate as much as we could within the company. So if we lost some people due to the pandemic, that was because this new environment just wasn’t working for them. 

The most significant difference was that we decided to move to Estonia, where the regulations are different. We were allowed outdoors, a better environment for the children, nature, and less stick to the carrot approach to Estonia’s people. But the headquarters are still in Malaysia.

What do you think is the key to a truly successful online business?

Life is changing, the world is changing, and there’s nothing certain except uncertainty. So if you can keep being attuned to life, to humanity, to reality, and you’re okay to change and give up things that worked before and to adapt – you would keep growing because you’ll stay relevant. The critical thing to understand is that even if our circumstances change, we as humans don’t change. Our needs remain the same, it’s just that we can’t meet them the same way as before. Maybe it was like discovering variety, or you know entertainment, learning something new, understanding the world. These needs are still there, so you have to find a new way to meet them. 

How you sell yourself changes over time. Then you will only keep changing. Especially now, if you’re ready to change, you will succeed. That’s it.

Can you describe what you believe a typical workday is like in this industry?

In both my business and personal life I focus on being present and enjoying the moment. I don’t celebrate hustle culture, which is very popular right now among entrepreneurs. I don’t like being overworked and having a packed schedule. I believe entrepreneurship is a creative process much like art. I try to continually make space in my day so I can be inspired.

I usually start my morning with rituals that give me peace of mind and spend time with my family. I’m much happier now that I’ve stepped out from behind the scenes and embraced public speaking. I’m very passionate about helping people process their emotions and find their inner joy.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?

Yeah, I’ve definitely had moments when they say “I can’t take it anymore”. In my case, a real job was never an option. Somehow I always believed in what I do, and in our capabilities to create money. So in a way, my job in Mindvalley is a real job because we have 350 people and for them, these are real jobs. While I may be the co-founder of this business, I’m also a person who works for this business. So I really like considering that I can see it from both sides. Working for any other company where it’s not my responsibility to make it successful, is any more stable or any more secure than the so-called real job within my own company? I’ve never seen the allure of a real job in that sense. Because if you look at the essence of things there is no safety or security. Or certainty in anything you’re doing. What keeps me going in those moments when I start wondering if I can keep going and keep doing it is the faith and belief that what I do is important and all the outside circumstances are secondary. So I can deal with outside circumstances, and weather problems as long as I remember that what I do is meaningful. 

Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?

Well, we keep growing, and as a business, we have challenges ahead of us. I mean, we’ve been in business for 20 years now. We’ve built a huge platform, a huge following, and a name for ourselves. So I think the next height we have to take as we have to break out of our niche and become more commonly known. So let’s say right now, a few percent of the population might know what Mindvalley is; I think it’s time we became a household name. So that’s how I see the trajectory of Mindvalley. And obviously, if we want to grow, grow the business and its presence in Europe, because we’ve been very US-based, US-focused. Because the people in Europe are amazing. And we are learning to speak their language. And I’m not talking about German or French. I’m talking about what’s important here. 

Personally, I’m launching my book next year. And it’s been a process. I’ve written the book, it took me about a year, so for me, this is the beginning of a new phase. Crossing over to becoming an author and writer and actually making a name for myself is what I’m busy with right now because I really believe in the message that I have. I am excited and impatient to share it with millions of people.

What’s your piece of advice for people who want to quit their 9-5 job and start a business?

Get a truly deep understanding of what it means to Love Yourself. Unfortunately,  I was born in a society where a person’s happiness was a criminal, and you should sacrifice yourself first for other people’s happiness; loving yourself was selfish. I wish I could learn earlier that it is nothing wrong with loving yourself. It could save so much time on proofing myself that I am able to hack early on in life.

Remember about your personal happiness and fulfillment first. I do remember a conversation with Dalai Lama – while working with refugees and building a Mindvalley – I asked how I can deal with that cognitive dissonance that I was feeling: seeing the suffering of people but understanding that I need to be happy. And he said a very simple thing: “You can’t help anyone if you are not happy.”  

Learn how to understand money and how to manage them earlier in my life. 

Read books on entrepreneurship. I wish someone could have explained to me that having your own business is actually having some sort of freedom, and there is nothing criminal. 

Have the courage to take responsibility for your life. 

Learn the habits of the winners.  Be aware of the impact you are making; each choice brings you something.  

What is your favorite mantra or affirmation that you say to yourself to keep you going?

“Life is too important to be taken seriously” by Oscar Wild.

What does success mean to you?

So, in my case, it’s a little funny to answer this question because I, as an author and speaker, talk about happiness quite a bit and self-love. And I do compare these two successes with success icons to call to happiness with success and occasionally because I believe that people very often end up being unhappy or facing a midlife crisis or feeling that their lives are in debt and meaningless. Usually because we, in the course of our life, often get the choice between success and happiness and we tend to always go for success rather than personal happiness or well-being. Mostly because we believe that success is what society expects us to achieve. I usually understand that success without happiness or without fulfillment is not the same. I do not also like to muddle the words by giving them too much meaning so in my interpretation, success is pure that success is the way society defines it. Of course, I can make a side note that different societies understand success differently. So America and Europe would have a slightly different understanding of what success means. But I like to keep success to success and look at it in a numeric pragmatic way. So success is when you do your craft, whatever it is, whether it’s business or any kind or any kind of creative craft, and you achieve high results, you are the best thing in your field, and you are rewarded accordingly. So that’s the way I define success. And yes, as I say, success without being fulfilled in other areas in your life, relationships, health, spirituality, or whatever it is, what’s important to you, is meaningless. But I find dangers in putting too much on the meaning of success and saying like, “Oh, success is only successful when you’re actually happy and healthy,” because that often gives us a back door to cheat about our actual success. So I am a huge proponent of calling things what they are. So for me, success is a very pragmatic thing.

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