Own Your Path with Alice Inoue
"When you light a lamp for someone else, it also brightens your own path."
- Siddhartha Gautama
We're excited to kick off 2021 with Own Your Path, a new interview series where we ask business and thought leaders five essential questions, to learn about their stories of becoming and the insights they gained along the way. Our participants hail from diverse backgrounds and experiences, whose personal journeys and career paths often defy convention. We found their perspectives illuminating, and as varied as the individuals themselves. For our inaugural post, we're honored to profile Alice Inoue, a prolific writer and celebrated thought leader whose guidance has helped transform companies and lives (including this author's).
Nationally award-winning author and life expert, Alice Inoue, loves to inspire positivity, mindfulness, and purpose in others. For the past 20 years, she has worked with thousands of organizations and individuals on creating meaning and joy in their personal and professional lives. Her insights and life wisdom are featured in her eight books on self-growth and happiness, as well as in her long-running column in MidWeek, Hawaii's largest publication. She is the founder of Happiness U, an organization in Honolulu devoted to self-awareness, empowerment, and personal transformation.
1. Many of us start our careers in our early 20's without much prep. Going back to your first "professional" work experience, how did you get there and what was going on in your mind during that period of your career/life?
I had a very non-traditional work path and didn't have any real "guidance" in my early 20's. After college, even though my intended path was medical school, I realized that was not exactly what I wanted to do. At that point, I basically set out to make money in any way I could, with all the skills I had, and as a result, I counted over 42 different "jobs" over the course of the last 35 years of my "adult" life. From being an admin assistant in the corporate world to being an aerobic instructor, to manufacturing racquetball racquets, to being a licensed hairdresser, a piano teacher, a language teacher (teaching English, Japanese and Chinese), a wedding officiant (I helped over 600 couples tie the knot), a television host, a spokesperson, an astrologer, a feng shui consultant, and many many more! Now I own a company called Happiness U that I opened in 2013 that helps individuals and organizations live more balanced, happy, and centered lives.
As to what was going on in my mind, it really was "WHO am I?" "WHAT do I want to do?" and then as life unfolded into my 30's I still feel that I had no idea who I was or what I really wanted. What I've since come to realize is that you never really "get there" - that it's a constant checking in with oneself as to what our values are, what's important to us and are we getting what we need professionally to fulfill our hearts internally.
2. What have you learned about what NOT to do as a boss/leader?
I've learned that the most important element in leadership is to care about the people who are helping you, and to remember they are human beings that want to be appreciated for who they are and what to bring to the table. Instead of "telling" people what to do and when, I like to give them autonomy and options. I've learned to NOT expect perfection, and NOT speak in a way I would not want to be spoken to. I've learned that the more I care about my team, the more they care about the work I do. I've learned to not make a request without saying thank you.
3. What are three key takeaways or advice that you have for those early in their career? What do you know now that you didn't know when you first entered the workforce?
Everything you do has a present or future purpose. Whether you like it or not, whether you feel there is a future for you in this field or not - all of it is for a defined purpose in your life, most of which won't be evident until you move further down your yet-to-unfold path of life. There is no such thing as "wasting" - there is value in EVERYTHING if you look for it. If you don't look for it, you won't see it.
It's okay if you don't resonate with where you are sometimes. Everything in your life is serving you, and helping you define your likes, your dislikes, and your purpose. You are learning to understand your personal "vibe" and if you are still there, it means there are lessons to learn, weaknesses to strengthen, and inner clarity yet to come. Meanwhile, look for the gains. Maybe it's the people you've met there, maybe it's helping you define what you don't want so you get closer to what you do want.
There are no wrong decisions in life. Sometimes you might feel you chose the "wrong" major, or took the job for the "wrong" reason. There's no such thing! Every experience you have is setting you up for the next step. Life has a very cool way of having your back. Where ever you are, you're meant to be there, to meet the people you are meeting, interact with the co-workers you have, experience the energy of everything that's making up your world. When you are done, you'll know it, and you'll move to the next experience.
4. What do you believe is the most important responsibility you have as a leader? What do you think is the most important quality or characteristic to have as a leader?
As a leader, I believe the most important responsibility you have is to take care of yourself. By doing so, you have the energy, the stamina, and the energetic power that you need to treat the people on your team with grace and respect. It gives you the foundation to also show you care about your people by understanding that they too, need to take care of themselves.
And I can't just say that is the MOST important because I feel just as important is the need, as a leader, to take responsibility for EVERYTHING...not just some things. As a leader you CAN NOT blame. Everything falls on you. If something happens, the first go-to is me. How could I have communicated this better? Where did I assume incorrectly? How can I prevent this next time? This type of mindset and form of communication brings humility into the dynamic.
5. What do you love about what you do?
What I love is seeing how all that "wandering" professionally brought me the life experience I needed to get me to today. I get to help others see new perspectives in their life, not be stuck to something that's not right for them, and find more inspiration and joy. I could not have gotten to where I was if I kept beating myself up along the way for not "sticking to one thing" because now I see how everything I've ever done, every place I ever worked, and every professional experience I've ever had has led to my greatest happiness.
Know someone you think we should interview? Send us an email!