“We are all limitless, that we are all leaders. Our reason for being is to create an impact in the world.” – Nikki Barua
The human mind is practically considered as having a limitless learning ability. Having such tremendous capability enables man to go places. Sadly, circumstances and limiting beliefs create unnecessary barriers that block our view of possibilities. Today’s insightful conversation brings light on how our expectations tailored with a positive mindset can break these barriers we put up for ourselves. Nikki Barua, the founder of Beyond Barriers, shares how we can tap into our limitless potential and affect change in ways we never have imagined. Tune in and let your expectations come to life!
Listen to the podcast here:
02:19 All Started With Collage
08:15 Expectations Of Success
17:20 Changes That Leads To More Success
27:38 Human Potentials
38:00 Self Love
45:20 What Is Love
50:10 Beyond Barriers
Beyond Barriers: How to Unlock Your Limitless Potential by Nikki Barua
03:44 “We are all limitless; we are all leaders. Our reason for being is to create an impact in the world.” – Nikki Barua
05:17 “The image we create of ourselves of the possibility of who we can be, oftentimes sets us up for who we become.” – Nikki Barua
05:55 “You have to make who you are meant to be, as opposed to becoming like someone else in that picture.” – Nikki Barua
06:20 “Comparison is a prison. When you start to believe that the only way you can be significant… is to be like someone else, it can create an expectation that if you’re not living up to those standards, your life doesn’t have meaning.” – Nikki Barua
06:41 “Learn to run your own race… be the best version of yourself.” – Nikki Barua
12:21 “I wasn’t going to let fear or those labels define me or hold me back.” – Nikki Barua
25:40 “The key to leveling up is to have the mindset that your obstacles are the opportunity to level up.” – Nikki Barua
28:46 “The power in appreciating someone else that’s different from you….is that it helps us grow.” – Nikki Barua
42:54 “When you shed that expectation of trying to please someone… it simply turns your expectations into appreciation.” -Nikki Barua
Nikki Barua is a digital innovator, serial entrepreneur, international keynote speaker, and bestselling author. She is also the founder of Beyond Curious, which is an award-winning digital motivation agency and Beyond Barriers which is a global leadership platform that helps women gain momentum with adaptive strategies, digital-age skills, access to resources and peer accountability. Moreover, Nikki has also received numerous awards over the years for her various roles in the industry. Her primary belief is that humans are limitless and can go places by going beyond barriers.
Art Costello: Welcome to the Shower Epiphanies Podcast. Today, I am honored and thrilled to have Nikki Barua on our show. She is a serial entrepreneur. She is the Founder of Beyond Barriers, a global leadership platform, that helps women gain momentum with adaptive strategies, digital-age skills, access to resources, and peer accountability. She’s also the founder of beyond curious and award-winning digital motivation agency that partners with large companies to unlock innovation with agile processes, design thinking and diverse cultures. She received numerous awards, including Entrepreneur of the Year by ACE, named as an EY North America Entrepreneurial Winning Woman, recognized as LA Woman of Influence by Business Journals and Women of Entrepreneurship by LA Lakers and Comerica Bank. Her story of turning barriers into breakthroughs has been featured in national media including Fortune and Forbes. Her successes have given her a global platform of influence and fierce advocacy for diversity. As a thought leader and expert, she’s passionate about making the world more inclusive and innovative. She graduated with three Masters degrees and is a deeply curious person, a lifelong learner, fluent in 5 languages, and she speaks from her heart and all of them. She believes we are all limitless, and lead life by committed to going beyond barriers. Nikki, honored to have you here. You’re a new friend. We met at the New Media Summit, and I instantly knew that you were special, and I want you to tell our audience your story.
Nikki Barua: Thanks for having me on the show, Art, thrilled to be here.
Art Costello: Well, it is a real honor. So where did it all start for you?
Nikki Barua: Well, my story began with a collage. I was a little girl growing up in India. It was a time when there wasn’t a lot of visible role models back then. So as a young girl, I was looking for inspiration and my father did something really, really special that shaped my imagination and really shaped my life. He created a collage on the inside of my closet door. And in this collage, he had pictures of inspiring female role models, powerful women leaders like Indira Gandhi, and Margaret Thatcher, and Amelia Earhart. So he had all these newspaper and magazine cuttings of their pictures, their faces, and he created this collage, and in the center of that collage, he took a sheet of paper and he sketched off my face. So I was right in the center of all these incredible women, and he never said a word about it to me. He didn’t say, Hey, I want you to grow up to be like them, or this is what you can be. He just kept adding to these pictures, so every day when I would open my closet door, I would look at this collage, and all I thought was they’re my friends, I’m just like them, I belong amongst these women. And that collage has been imprinted in my mind ever since. And I’ve been fortunate to grow up with that inspiration, believing truly that we are all limitless, that we’re all leaders, and our reason for being is to create an impact in the world.“We are all limitless; we are all leaders. Our reason for being is to create an impact in the world.” - Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Art Costello: So your father set the expectation of your greatness by putting a collage up with you in the center of all these great women. That is really so inspirational and such, I mean, all the moms listening and dads listening out there, do that for your kids. I mean, create that for them, so they believe in themselves because that’s where it starts, right? Believing in yourself.“The image we create of ourselves of the possibility of who we can be, oftentimes sets us up for who we become.” - Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Nikki Barua: Yes, I think the image, we create it for ourselves of the possibilities of who we can be oftentimes sets us up for who we become. And at a young age, we grew up with sort of a blank slate in many ways, so it’s so important of the images that get imprinted in our minds of the possibilities that we can create. My father gave me this incredible gift without setting an expectation that that’s the only way for me to be, it gave me a possibility, and one that I accepted. On the flip side of it though, at some point in my life, I also realize that you have to make it who you are meant to be as opposed to becoming like someone else in that picture, and it became a blessing and a curse. On one end, it was a blessing to have that kind of vision that someone framed for me. On the other hand, you have to be mindful that it doesn’t become a comparison, because comparison is a prison. When you start to believe that the only way you can be significant or have a meaningful life is to be like someone else in that collage. It can create an expectation that if you’re not living up to those standards, your life doesn’t have meaning, or that you don’t have any sort of significance in that. So to learn to run your own race, to be the best version of yourself is the ultimate takeaway that my life has unfolded and taught me.“Learn to run your own race... be the best version of yourself.” - Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Art Costello: That’s one of the reasons why I think that, when we live to the expectations of others, it’s very inhibiting. But when we live to the expectations that we have in our core, when you talk about that blank slate, we add to that blank slate every day that we’re alive, new things come in and we learn who we are. But you have to have the expectation to be true to who you are. If you don’t live with that, then we succumb to the expectations of others, and that’s what causes so many problems for people. The other thing you said that touched my heart is, I believe, one of my mantras is, I believe in the possibility of everything.“You have to make who you are meant to be, as opposed to becoming like someone else in that picture.” - Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Nikki Barua: Yes.
Art Costello: Limitless possibilities, and I love that about you because I know we’ll hear it in your story about what you’ve accomplished, but when you believe limitlessly, and you’re open minded to everything–“Comparison is a prison. When you start to believe that the only way you can be significant… is to be like someone else, it can create an expectation that if you're not living up to those standards, your life doesn't have meaning.” - Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Nikki Barua: What I have learned, and I’m continuing to learn this, there is no fixed definition of who we are. Life is happening for us, but it’s also who we are becoming every day. I think the power is in the I-N-G of who we are continuing to become each and every single day that we are shaped by the environment around us, but also by the expectations within us, and that’s what creates the possibilities in many ways allow that to bring out the best in you, it becomes an adventure of the person you continue to become each day.
Art Costello: I agree wholeheartedly because I believe that learning is the, and I’m talking about life learning. Life learning is the greatest teacher we have and it really does dictate who we become. And that’s why I said about being close minded, you limit what you learn when you shut out the possibility of everything. We’re actually trained, at least in the United States, colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, even elementary schools now are so focused on what they teach instead of how they teach, and teaching kids how to learn the possibilities of everything. They teach them all these specifics, and then they think they have to go to college to become the president of a corporation or anything like this. And in actuality, you don’t really need any of that as long as you’re open to learning and committing yourself to, I call it avid reading and all kinds of things that really change our perspective on the world.
Nikki Barua: Yeah. As we taken all these external influences and our own reaction to that stimulus, if you will, oftentimes dictates the expectations we create for ourselves. So for me, that collage was such an influential vision. And yet there was a part of me that, my takeaway was that I had to be this young overachiever, because I’m surrounded in this collage by all these incredible women that had created massive impact at a young age, and had achieved so much, and that touched so many lives. So on the one hand I learned that we’re all limitless, that we can do anything. I did not see barriers, I just saw possibilities. On the flip side, it also created an expectation that I had to achieve things very young and at a very large scale. So that puts a lot of pressure on you. So here I was, a young girl with big dreams, and I believe that America was the place where those dreams would come true. So in 1997, I came to America with just a few hundred dollars in my pocket, and a suitcase full of very unfashionable clothes.
Art Costello: How old were you?
Nikki Barua: I was barely over 21 at that time, and I’ve really left everything I knew back home, and I just took a one way ticket and came down here, and all I had was just one bag and all my big dreams, and it was a very exciting, yet very scary time because I did not fit the mold. I was nothing like, what the stereotype here was, so I was this poor immigrant, non white female who’s very short and really gay. I did not think I had a shot in hell of making it, you know? I mean, as much as you come here with all these big dreams and expectations, and you arrive here and then you’re like, Oh, my gosh, I’m not like the rest of them.
Art Costello: I’m going to disagree with you. I’m going to disagree. I believe when you came here, maybe you didn’t realize it, but in your psyche, there was success written all over it because of that collage.
Nikki Barua: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I came here because there was an expectation of success, but there’s that fear, it’s sort of like faith and fear are opposite sides of the same coin. So there was a part of me that had absolute faith, that I was meant to go on this journey, that there was a success that I believed that was possible for me. But on the other side was also the fear of what that journey could look like, and that was all alone. The sense of isolation, that’s what filled me with fear, but I wasn’t gonna let all of those fears, or all those labels define me, or hold me back.“I wasn’t going to let fear or those labels define me or hold me back.” - Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Art Costello: There you go. There you go. Those words, I was not going to let fear take over me. And that is the difference between you and so many other young people in this country. They let things stop them because of that fear that, Oh, what is everybody gonna think? You didn’t care about any of that. You were so focused on what you knew you could achieve. And really, your expectations were so honed and focused that you started creating this beautiful world that you’ve created.
Nikki Barua: Yeah. I found a very simple formula for overcoming fear, because I personally can say that I’m fearless. You know, I think it’s human nature to feel fear, I believe–
Art Costello: Yes.
Nikki Barua: But there’s a difference between feeling fear and let it stop you dead in your tracks versus feeling fear and having something compelling on the other side of you that makes you get past it. So what has worked for me is, I think a fit as a bed of coals, live coals, there’s a fire, and I’m standing on one side of it filled with fear. And as long as there’s something on the other side of it that is so compelling, so powerful that I’m just drawn to it, I’m not going to focus on the fire. I’m going to focus on how I get to the other side. So you just need faith to be greater than fear.
Art Costello: Exactly. I used to say that I was fearless, and I stopped saying it when somebody proposed this to me: “If you’re fearless, would you walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope without a net underneath you?” And I said: “No.” Then they said: “You’ve got fear.” So I said: “Yeah.” But that’s it. I think that I’m entrepreneurial, entrepreneurially fearless because I have always gone after what I wanted entrepreneurially. Emotionally, I think I’m fearless. But when it comes to walking across the grand Canyon, I’m not gonna do it. I have a fear. But overcoming it is what really matters. I imagine if I took enough time and learned, and if I was a whole lot younger than 72, I could walk across that rope at some point in my life. I mean, I did in the Marine Corps, I did overhead, things over rivers and all that kind of stuff, I overcame so many fears that I had as a 17 year old when I went in, so I know I could overcome it. We can overcome anything that we want, and that’s the key. Go on with your story.
Nikki Barua: The more action you take, the easier it becomes to face that fear. Inertia is the worst thing you can do to overcome the obstacles in your path. Because if you’re standing still in one spot, the fear starts to dominate and becomes overwhelming where you can move at all. So what I tend to do is make a big problem smaller, so that that’s small little action that I can take, just starts to get me out of paralysis, and to taking tiny little baby steps forward, and when you start to take step after step, that’s where momentum is graded. And then before you know it, you stepped away from that fear, you’ve, you’ve overcome that. So it was the same thing that experienced when I came to America as this young immigrant because I did not know how to drive on the wrong side of the road, I did not know how to use a washer, dryer, I didn’t know how to cook, I literally did not know it. I mean, I couldn’t tell the difference with a penny, a nickel, and a dime. I mean, it’s scary where everything you know, or you’ve ever known in your life becomes irrelevant in an instant. And it’s a whole new paradigm shift, and you have to learn. It’s almost coming, it’s like being a toddler, right? For the first time you’re learning new steps, you’re learning a new language, you’re learning a new way of being, and in that, you’re shaping a new identity for yourself. So it’s a period of becoming, you know? So for me, that period was at the same time exciting and yet scary because you’re reframing all of yourself in this entirely new context, but it taught me a lot about fear and safe. And it taught me a lot about who I’m choosing to be every single day. And the choices I made at that time really helped me get past that scared young girl to becoming a very successful person, I got to the top of my corporate career, again, in a few short years, and learned everything that shaped my success in the business world. And just when I was at the height of success, you think, okay, I finally made it, right? I got past all these fears, life is good, I’m crushing it, and everything’s going great.
And then in 2008, my life fell apart. I lost everything in the crash, and also lost my partner to suicide. I came home one day to a dead body, and it’s hard to describe things even beyond the shock and the grief because so often, that’s exactly what happens to almost everyone, right? I mean, you think everything is smooth sailing. It’s exactly, finally, or that point where life is good, it’s stable, it’s this certainty and then something happens to you, it’s coming at you sideways, completely unexpected. And in that moment, most of us do fall apart. The issue is not whether you were strong enough to withstand that or you fell apart. I think the key is, who do you become in that moment, because again, it’s yet another obstacle that provides you an opportunity to become another version of yourself. Unfold yet another layer. And for me, through that devastation, through that absolute sense of loss and grief, it was very, very hard. I mean, I was paralyzed for a significant period of time where I did not have the desire to get out of bed, I stopped working, I was completely broke, and this is coming after success. So it’s not that I was struggling, I went from struggling to successful, and then I went from successful to struggling again.
Art Costello: You and I have so much in common with that, because in 2006, I lost my wife of 38 years to ovarian cancer, and I went through a period of three years where I can’t eat. Well, for the first year, I can’t tell you what, I don’t know anything. I mean, I couldn’t tell you who was at her funeral, my mind just shut down. But out of that, it took me three years, and my kids slapping me upside the head and saying: “Dad, you promised mom you we’re going to do this.” But after that, we rise up, or some people completely fold and just never recover, and live in the past. I chose to honor my late wife by doing and living to my dream, and I lost everything financially also. And before that, I had everything. I had big house, cars, boat, I mean, the whole nine yards, I had the American dream, and I lost it all because paid off all the medical bills and it left me pretty much having to start over. But having faith over fear and not letting the fear overcome me, I got up and started writing the book, and that’s how Expectation Therapy came about. So I can identify with you on that.
Nikki Barua: Yeah, it’s incredible. I mean, I think what you shared about, in that moment of a complete loss and devastation, we really have two choices. We can either allow ourselves to experience that pain, learn from it, and rise up from it. Or we can let that pain and the fear hold us back, and keep us there for the rest of our lives. And I do believe it is a choice, because for a period of time, I did not think I could make, I mean, I really did not. I remember so many days just laying in bed, not wanting to even step out of it, let alone go about my day and do anything productive. But I let the grief take its time, I did not want to save the grief, I didn’t want to jump into addictions and distractions, I allowed myself to feel the pain. But I recall one fine day waking up and thinking, happiness is a choice, and it’s a choice I want to make today, just for today, I just want to choose to be happy. And it made me realize that happiness comes from hope. None of us would be happy if we thought the world was ending and everything was over. You need some sort of hope, but hope comes from believing in something bigger than yourself. Whether that bigger thing is purpose, or a creator, or our children, or families, you have to believe in something bigger than yourself that gives you hope. And when you see you have that in place, that’s what makes us happy. And that led me on this quest of asking myself, what is that bigger purpose? And it was that collage that came back to mind of thinking, gosh, I’d forgotten about a collage, because I’ve been so down in depressive, forgotten by the collage, and that is my purpose of creating impact about becoming the best version of myself every single day, and inspiring others to do the same. And I remember having that thought, having that vision, stepping out of my bed when my feet touched the ground, and I stood up, I stood up with a deep sense of purpose, and confidence, and belief that got me going, and I’ve never looked back since then. It just started me on this journey, I got my life back in order, step-by-step, one little step after another. I went from being overwhelmed with the size of my problems, feeling like, Oh, my gosh, this is a giant mountain climb, I don’t even know where to begin.
And instead of focusing on big problems, I said: “This is just the one step I need to take today.” And bit by bit, I started going, I decided to launch my own business. I had this big purpose, I wanted to create impact. And I launched my own company, I faced 300 rejections. I mean, it was just every single day thinking, gosh, somebody say yes, but all I got were no’s, but because I had this bigger purpose, I did not give up, so I kept going after it. I failed 11 times, but after the 12th time, I was on my way to success, and very quickly built up this multimillion dollar global company, and with big name clients from around the world, was hugely successful, I’ve won a ton of awards, got recognize as one of the Top Women Entrepreneurs. And that journey also allowed me to create the impact I was wanting to make, but it also gave me a different perspective on things. I realized so much that every step of the way, it was as if life was this video game, that I had started off at level one, with a set of tools, and with a set of skills, and a certain level of confidence. And then I faced these obstacles, as I was facing these obstacles, but not trying, I was stuck at the same level. But when I tried, and I learned the strategies and the skills to overcome those obstacles, I would get to level two. But guess what happens at level two? Your problems just get bigger. Those obstacles just get harder and bigger, so you need new strategies, better skills, and even more confidence to overcome the challenges at level two. And then when you overcome that, you get to level three, and your problems just get bigger. And as I looked back at that point, I was at the pinnacle of success, as I was looking back, it became so clear to me that life gives us infinite levels, but we do have a set timer. As long as you’re fortunate enough to live, that’s our timer.
The key to leveling up is to have the mindset that your obstacles are the opportunity to level up, and to constantly be a lifelong learner who’s gaining new skills, who’s developing a bigger perspective and a stronger mindset, and to keep enjoying that journey of leveling up. And when we do that, a great as gifts and the possibilities on the other side of that. And that perspective has been so incredibly empowering for me, and that’s, what I’m on a mission to do now is to help women all over the world become future ready leaders. And when I look at the gender gap, 200 years to close the gender gap, that doesn’t make any sense to me to think that, first of all, I don’t have that kind of patient, I don’t want to wait 200 years. Why should women have to wait that long to rise up? And when you think about what’s holding us back, it’s not so much about society or systemic bias, it’s really that, we have to dream bigger for ourselves, we have to develop the strategies and skills, and we have to get future ready in order to become the kind of leaders that create impact. So my new company, Beyond Barriers, that’s what we do, we help develop leaders of tomorrow by bringing in that kind of mindset, by developing those kinds of skill set that allows women to not just survive, but to really thrive in this environment.“The key to leveling up is to have the mindset that your obstacles are the opportunity to level up.” - Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Art Costello: I’ve got a question for you, do you think that it’s gender specific? I mean, you talk about women, but I see men who are in the same situation and need the same help.
Nikki Barua: Oh, absolutely. I don’t believe it’s gender specific at all. My company and my focus is specifically for things that might be more nuanced in terms of the types of strategies and skills that women might need, I think the challenge overall is a human problem, right? I mean, the challenge of needing to level up, get past your fears, gain the skills, I think that’s a human element.
Art Costello: See, that’s my thing about it because I don’t believe that we can stop racism, homophobia, all of the things that are going on. And so in the media now, when we look at things is in a gender specific way, we need to start thinking of the human potential and the human cost of being negative, or being downright, nasty, and mean, and everything. We need to see the cost of it, but we need to see it in a human way that takes in the whole big picture and changing the psyche of man. And I mean, man in the sense of men and women.
Nikki Barua: My take on it is that, as human beings, we’re wired to fear differences. It’s fight or flight, right? So from an evolutionary standpoint, we’re wired to fear anything that is unknown, or anyone that is different from us because we’re trying to protect ourselves. But the power in appreciating someone else that’s different from me, whether it’s a different perspective, or they look different, or they believe in different things from you, is that, it helps us grow. When we embrace someone else’s difference, we also learn to embrace what’s different about ourselves. And I think that’s what really makes us shine.“The power in appreciating someone else that’s different from you....is that it helps us grow.” - Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Art Costello: Learning, it goes back to that learning. When we are open minded enough to see everybody’s perspective, and everybody’s point of view, it adds a dimension to our learning that, I think you’re right, that we get so locked into my way or the highway and that kind of mentality that really deters us from becoming who we have been meant to be. And I think that it’s very destructive to the human element of who we really are. I mean, you and I both know that when we limit who we talk to, or who we see, or who we associate with, I mean, it’s proven. If you put a multiracial kids together, you learn to live together faster than if you were just to be separated and not. I mean, I think you’ve dealt with a whole lot of different issues, you come from a different culture, you are gay, you had different educational level than most, I mean, three master’s degrees, most Americans are lucky if they have one. So I mean, there’s a lot of different things, but yet we’re all the same. There’s really no difference in this. It’s what we’ve been taught and what we’ve let ourselves either learn or not learn.
Nikki Barua: I believe in this day and age, the greatest superpower is humility and curiosity. Because when we approach things from a place of humility and curiosity to want to discover and learn, you can navigate any environment. And we all know that because of technology and everything that’s happening in the world right now, things are changing so fast. I mean, companies are disappearing before our own eyes, the nature of work is changing, our way of life is changing, cars that drive us, speakers that listened to us, and watches that tell us how healthy we are. I mean, it’s an entirely new world where change is happening so fast that it’s almost impossible for us to adapt to that change quickly. But if we have a closed mind and we say, well, you know, that’s for the next generation, it’s not about me, or my job is safe, or my business is fine because that’s not what we do, I’m not an engineer, I’m not a techie. That closed mindedness will disrupt us because we have to learn to be curious about this new world. We have to be humble enough to want to learn and to say, yes, what I know is based on what I’ve learned in the past, but what if I could learn something new? How does this work differently? And that is what allows us to disrupt ourselves before we get disrupted by something on the outside.
Art Costello: I agree, because I am at 72, and my computer skills, I mean, I have taught myself, I’m self taught on everything, and if I would’ve just said, use that word that I don’t use in my vocabulary, which is CAN’T, if I said I can’t do it, well, then you’re not. I mean, I think it was Henry Ford that said: “You’re right, if you think you can. And you’re right, if you think you can’t.” And that’s the truth. When we get that mindset, and I think so many seniors need to hear what you just said, because they’re put out to pasture it, it’s getting less and less, 55, 65 years old now where you think that you’re going to retire and the world’s going to just stop, it doesn’t. There is so much that they could teach other people, it would keep their mindset, it would keep their bodies active, and I just refuse to stop, I just won’t do it.
Nikki Barua: Yeah. And what your attitude is exactly, what’s necessary for anyone at any age to have is to recognize we’re not defined by a set retirement age. In fact, we are living longer and longer, human beings now, in fact the latest data I believe says that we will live well into our 90’s, so the average retirement age has shifted to almost 70 now. So if that is the case, you still have even post retirement, you still have another 20 years to live. Would you just want to stay static, look into the past and say, that’s when I used to be the high school quarterback, or that’s when I used to be successful, and look back at your old trophies and pictures, or do you want to look forward and say, wow, I’ve got 20 years more of learning, and growing, and giving. And that’s so powerful, because as much as technology has become the dominant force in those day and age, and it’s going to become even more so with things like artificial intelligence, and robotics, and data taking over. But what the research has shown is that the number one most powerful skill that is going to shape humanity and is the key to success is actually empathy. It’s our relational skills, our ability to relate to other people, our ability to understand them, and the creativity that emerges from that is going to create the leaders of tomorrow. So what a lot of people misunderstand and have misperceptions about, they think it’s the digital age, it’s all about technology, and so there’s a 22 year old programmer and engineer that’s going to dominate and run the world, and robots are taking over. The truth is, yes, there’s an element of technology creating new experiences, and products, and services for us. But the people that will really thrive and contribute the most are the ones that have the emotional intelligence and communication skills for this new world. And that is exactly what we’re teaching, is that we’re teaching the soft skills, because we’re not teaching engineering skills or coding skills, we’re actually teaching the soft skills because that is the superpower. And when I think about anyone at any age, especially if it’s someone that’s nearing retirement or in their retirement years, think about the gift you have to give up the wisdom and the experience that actually makes you even more valuable to society, instead of thinking the best years are behind you. Think of the best years ahead of you of what you have to contribute.
Art Costello: I think that, and this is honest from my heart, when I was nine years old and went to the top of that hill, and I asked God what was going to happen to me, what was going to become a me, and I heard a voice that just said: “Your job to just do. Just get out and do, and just be faithful and be good.” And that propelled me my entire life to do what I’ve done. I mean, it’s always, you had your collage, I had that vision in my head, and that’s what’s driven me. When you said about emotional intelligence is HUGE, because I teach emotional intelligence also to my clients and the people that I work with, because I believe that this skill can be learned and that is so important. If you can’t identify your emotions and act on them intelligently, you really, no matter what age you are, you’re lost. We need so much more of it. I have something to ask you that is kind of off, but it’s on my list and I want to get it because I want to hear your comments on this. When you lost your partner in 2008, did you ever think you’d love again?
Nikki Barua: No, I did not.
Art Costello: I didn’t either.
Nikki Barua: Yeah, and that’s what I meant about the loss of hope. In fact, I did not want to live again. Forget about love again. It was such a confusing time for me because I felt guilty, I felt shocked, I felt anger, I felt a deep sense of loss and grief. The seven stages of grief, I mean, I went through all of that.
Art Costello: Absolutely.
Nikki Barua: Not knowing, I mean, I didn’t know the intellectual framework of it, but I absolutely experienced it. And then I got to the point where I just felt numb. I stopped feeling, that was actually the scariest to all. In some ways, feeling something, no matter what the emotion is, at least allows you to feel alive. You know, when we feel pain or sadness, it’s a good sign, it means we’re alive. But when you stop feeling anything, it’s a scary time. And that’s when I stopped wanting to live.
Art Costello: Isn’t it beautiful to love again now? Because I found love again, and I know you found love again. And I think for me, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can speak for me, that’s the second time for me has been so much more gratifying, because I had the experience of loving the first time.
Nikki Barua: Yes.
Art Costello: And it’s just amazing how that works. And I want the audience to know that if you’ve lost a loved one or if you’re in a situation of our breakup, you will love again if you let yourself, and if you make that choice to love again when the time is right, and it will be so much more powerful.
Nikki Barua: I’ve found that the reason I was not only able to find love again but find a really powerful kind of love is, because in losing the love of my life the first time, it taught me a lot about myself, it gave me an opportunity to learn so much about who I am, what I really want, why I really want it, and that clarity about yourself allows you to love and accept all of you. And when we come from a place of wholeness where we are complete, and you love yourself, then you naturally attract the kind of love that is wholesome, the kind of love and relationship that is good for you, good for your soul, and allows you to give to someone else because your own cup is full. When we try to find relationships or love because we’re trying to fill something that is incomplete on the inside, or that we don’t fully love ourselves, so we need the validation of someone else telling us that they love us, for us to feel good about who we are, and it’s our sense of self worth when it’s not enough, that feeling of I’m not enough, I won’t be loved doesn’t allow us to have the kind of relationships and the kind of love that we all deserve. So for me, that period of loss, and grief, and pain gave me an opportunity to love myself frankly, to learn to love myself, all of me, all parts of me, accept myself fully, and as I healed and came into being, for the first time, I actually enjoyed my own company. I didn’t feel like I needed to be with someone. And I remember looking at myself in the mirror one day and just with a big beaming smile saying: “Oh, my gosh, I’m freaking awesome, I love me.”
Art Costello: But you are awesome.
Nikki Barua: Being able to say that, and not because I was practicing some kind of confidence. I mean, it just kinda came out, it’s like looking at yourself saying: “I love myself.” And that feeling of completeness of saying: “Wow, this is an amazing place to be.” And when you radiate that joy, and we radiate that self love, and self worth, and self esteem are really deep and true. You just attract people to your life, friends, family, colleagues, lovers, I mean, they just come to you because that light is a magnet that brings similar kinds of you.
Art Costello: It radiates from within and permeates outside of you. It’s like an aura or a glow about you. People can always identify people that love themselves. I mean, you just see it. You look at that somebody, sometimes I can be going through the airport and I’ll see somebody, and they just radiate, and I’ll say: “There’s somebody that it’s got it, they know it.”
Nikki Barua: And a positive mindset and the expectation that we have of ourselves, and our expectation of a life experiences, I really believe is so influential in what creates that glow from within. And what I mean by expectation is actually, I found that when I shed expectation of something that I needed to fit into, based on someone else’s vision, or someone–
Art Costello: That’s the key. When it’s somebody else’s expectation, you need to shed it.
Nikki Barua: Yeah. When you shed that expectation of trying to please someone, or being good enough for someone, or being better than someone, when you shed all of those expectations and it’s simply becomes, goes from expectation, turning your expectations into appreciation. And I believe Tony Robbins says that, which is I think such a powerful line of, “You go from feeling inadequacy to feel absolute gratitude.” Gratitude became the ultimate game changer for me. And that inner glow, and that inner confidence, came from a place of gratitude. When I stopped thinking about what I lacked and felt gratitude for what I had, and who I am, and who I’m constantly becoming each day, and for the people in my life, and the experiences, even the worst horrible experiences, feeling gratitude that happened to me, that became the absolute game changer, and that gratitude is what creates the glow.“When you shed that expectation of trying to please someone… it simply turns your expectations into appreciation.” -Nikki Barua Click To Tweet
Art Costello: I agree. I think one of the things with me, because I do so much research with expectations and everything, I think it’s the most misunderstood and misinterpreted word in the English language. I just have a whole different take on expectations and how they really affect our whole being. Because I think you heard me on the Media Summit when I ended my speech there, and I said: “Everything starts and stops with an expectation.” And it’s a truth, it really does. If you put some thought into it, it’s true. Because the three tenants of Expectation Therapy are identify, clarify, and solidify what the written plan. And it’s just about managing these expectations, because we have so many every day, we have expectations of breathing, and eating, and we don’t even think about those. And we have expectations in relationships, we have societal expectations, you have to stop for red lights, stop signs, all of those, and we have millions a year of expectations. And if you don’t learn how to manage them, boy, I think the greatest skill we can teach our children is teach them to manage their expectations and how to do it, and we’ll be doing the world the biggest favor ever. But that’s my take on it. I wanted to ask you something else in regards to love, can you give me your definition of love?
Nikki Barua: Hmm. That’s a great question. To me, love is making someone feel, loving someone their way, because it’s a practice to be able to do that. Making someone feel love their way, and being able to receive it your way. So I see it as absolute vulnerability, in many ways, shedding the expectation of who we think we need to be in order to be loved, and shedding the expectation of how we need to show up for someone else. So the deepest kind of love to me is self love that allows you to be completely naked in our expectations. That is what I have found to be so incredibly powerful is being able to give without expectations, and being able to receive without expectations.
Art Costello: That’s good. I kind of have a simpler thing I break down, and I kind of call love the unconditional surrender of your spirit to the spirit of someone else.
Nikki Barua: Hmm. That’s a beautiful way of saying it.
Art Costello: I mean, because it is, you have to surrender.
Nikki Barua: Yeah.
Art Costello: I mean, whether you’re a person of faith, or whatever your beliefs are, if you don’t surrender to the will of God, then you’ve got a problem. If you don’t surrender to the will of your mate, you’ve got a problem. So there’s a certain part of you that has to surrender but yet not lose who you are. And that’s where my view of expectations is different than the rest of the world. Because I believe, the one thing that man can hold on to and no one can take away is how we expect. Because that is the one thing that we can control, and it controls, and radiates everything else out of us. Love, success, all of those things radiate from that. And I just have a different view of how it all works.
Nikki Barua: Yeah. I think what you said about surrender is exactly what I was trying to say is that, being able to let go without letting the fear of being judged, or not accepted, or whether how someone else feels about you, and just being able to give and surrender to how it unfolds, and who you keep becoming in that relationship. And it’s not just in romantic relationships, but love even in the context of how we relate to each other. That surrender is incredibly powerful.
Art Costello: See, I think that judgment is the most destructive thing in a relationship, in a business. I mean, when people start judging, and comparing, and doing all those things, it is a signal that there is something wrong with the culture, or the marriage, or however you want to look at it.
Nikki Barua: But doesn’t judgment begin with a self though?
Art Costello: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I think that people who are extremely judgmental of themselves are judgemental of everything else. But I think that that’s where the surrender to understand that life, there’s only certain things that we can control. Our expectations being one of them. Everything else, we really have no control over anybody else, so don’t give them control over you. And when you start living to who you are, and you’ve got to do this with integrity, and with class, and skills, like you talked about skills. I mean, you just can’t go out helter-skelter, and think that the world is gonna work, it doesn’t. There’s gotta be structure to it, and there’s gotta be skill sets and all that. So I think that when we do that, and we surrender to it, and understand, it’s having an understanding with an open mindedness to the possibilities of anything’s possible. I mean, anything is possible in this life if we believe that it’s possible. If we believe that it’s not going to happen, that’s my take on on that. But I wanted for you to just briefly, if you can tell us what you’ve accomplished. I know we used to have a business and all that, but you really have accomplished great things at a very young age. Most people don’t accomplish what you’ve accomplished into 45’s, 50’s, 60’s, and here you are in your 30’s and just knocking it dead.
Nikki Barua: Thank you, Art, I appreciate that. So for me, like I mentioned the analogy of the video game, it’s really been a journey that’s reflective of that kind of mindset is growing up with so few resources in India, which was a third world nation at the time, I was surrounded by poverty. And yet at the same time I saw, some of the poorest people with big smiles on their faces and living a life of joy. And it taught me that it’s not about what we have externally or around us, it’s who we believe we are, and how we feel about ourselves that shapes our experience of life. And it was incredible to grew up in that culture where it’s about surrender, and it’s about taking action, just doing, so that attitude, even though I came to America with almost nothing, I was able to have that mindset of “it’s not about what I have on the outside, it’s who I’m becoming each day, and how I give, how I contribute, and how I keep learning that shapes me, and shapes my life experience.” So I was able to translate that into tremendous success in my corporate career, rose to the top of big corporations, was an advisor to some of the biggest companies around the world, help them become more innovative. In fact, our tagline was, we make elephants run, so helping the biggest companies that come more effective and innovative to building multiple businesses, those six companies so far, and each of them has gotten bigger and more successful. So becoming one of the top female entrepreneurs and building this multimillion dollar company. It was a little bit like winning the Olympics, because so few other women showed up. And it gave me a perspective on the things that hold us back from dreaming bigger, from being even bolder, from taking action, and from not giving up. And that really led to my current focus, which is about creating the leaders of tomorrow, how do we help young people become future ready leaders, because the world needs more leadership, the world needs people that are driven to create social impact, that are driven to do good in the world, and are fearless in the pursuit of that mission. So my organization Beyond Barriers is on this global mission to inspire, to educate, to empower young people to become future ready leaders. So I’m privileged to not only let my journey unfold of the person that I am today and the person I continue to become, but it’s a deep sense of responsibility to be able to contribute forward, and to help more people achieve the same.
Art Costello: With that being said, Nikki, where can everybody get ahold of you?
Nikki Barua: Well, I would love to invite your audience to get a free copy of my book, Beyond Barriers. So you can go to nikkibarua.com/free, and get a copy of my book, which talks about how to go beyond barriers and unlock your limitless potential, and how gaining the clarity, developing the courage, and having the conviction to stay the course is really the key to each of us becoming the limitless beings that we are born to be. So I’d love to have everyone get a copy of the book, share what you think, connect with me, and stay in touch.
Art Costello: Nikki, it has been an absolute pleasure. You know that I just love you to death, you’re such a good person. And with that being said, we’re going to sign off. It’s been a really fast hour. I couldn’t believe that it went so fast. I want to have you back on some time because we’ve got a lot more, I have a notepad here full of questions that I didn’t get the ask. But with that being said, everybody, you know where you can get ahold of me, expectationtherapy.com, Art Costello, and thank you, and Heather White, take us out of here.
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