Nina Godiwalla on Turning Your Passion into Your Mission

In Chapter 6 of 18 in her 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, author and entrepreneur Nina Godiwalla answers "How Do You Define and Measure Success in What You Do?" Godiwalla shares how work success is less about results and more about staying immersed in mission-based work that allows her to use her passions to achieve a greater purpose. Over time she finds herself achieving dream goals as she builds her diversity and leader training business. Nina Godiwalla is an expert on diversity, leadership and women in the business world. She is CEO of Mindworks, which provides leadership, stress management, and diversity training to companies all over the world. She is also a bestselling author and public speaker. Godiwalla earned an MBA from Wharton, a MA from Dartmouth and a BBA from the University of Texas.


Erik Michielsen: How do you define and measure success in what you do?

Nina Godiwalla: For me, I think less about success because my life has had this major shift from working to purpose. I’m very clear now that I have a purpose and I’d say I can actually articulate it a little bit better that way because I was in a meeting about 2 weeks ago, and I was talking about what I do, and as I get very worked up, I was very passionate about it, and the guy that I was speaking to said, “You sound like you’re really not working, you’re on a mission,” and that was interesting because I thought, “Yeah, I know, because I don’t feel like I work anymore,” and, you know what? Because I don’t feel that way, I am not measuring success. I’m not sitting around thinking, “Did I do these three checkmarks?” It’s almost like I’m growing—I can see that things are changing significantly around me. Every year of my life is wow, I said a year or 2 years ago that was a dream to me. That is something I would have loved to do but never thought. I hadn’t even thought about getting that far, and then I find myself 2 years later doing that, and so I think that is success to me, is being able to find that purpose, and then just going after it full force, and being able to adapt and be flexible as things are constantly changing around me.

Erik Michielsen: When someone asks you, “What is your mission?”, how do you respond?

Nina Godiwalla: I think one of the major messages I have is really focused on step up, speak up, when you’re in a place of power, really being able to take your power and help other people that might not be in power, and those have played to both my focuses, leadership and diversity, and that applies from a diversity standpoint, so such a small example is if you’re in a room and you hear an inappropriate joke about a certain minority group, if you’re not part of that minority group and it makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable, a lot of times we’d just gonna look the other way. The most important thing for you to do at that moment is be able to say something and be able to stand up for that group because that group has been criticized and it’s an opportunity for you as not being a part of that.

From a leadership standpoint what I’m focused on is being in a place of power, whether you—wherever you are. You don’t even have to be high in the hierarchy or whatever it is, but a great example was we were just talking in a meeting, we were at the State Department, we were having this talk about how people repeat, someone gives their credit to the wrong person, so a very senior person says, basically, he repeated what someone else said, and everyone kind of starts giving credit to the senior person who said it, 15 minutes before, two other people had already mentioned it, and we’re giving examples of what’s a way to actually remind people that that’s not the right person, that’s not the person that really said it, and it’s something along the lines of, “Oh, well, Joe, that’s a great point—that’s a great way that you’ve summarized Sandy’s comments earlier, that’s—that was really impressive the way you did it concisely,” or something like that, and, basically, giving back credit to the person that did it. And if you are the most senior person in that room, it’s even more important for you to do that because you’re acknowledging to the rest of the staff, I’m aware of where that came from, and even if you’re not the most senior person, you’re in that room, and so you have an opportunity to bring attention to that, so it’s those sort of things, always making an impact, whether you formally have a hierarchical place or not.