Focus your attention on what you can control in that situation, not on things you have no control over. I surrounded myself with hope. I read stories of other women who had faced a similar challenge. I prayed. I listened to uplifting music.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emem Washington.

Emem Washington, J.D., LL.M, is a sought-after keynote speaker and success coach. She is also an author and TEDx speaker and coach. She is the founder of ModaVida, LLC, a personal and professional success firm, which assists clients and audiences worldwide, through immersive strategy sessions, personalized coaching, corporate trainings and keynotes (both in-person or virtual).

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I am a speaker, trainer and coach, and founder of ModaVida, LLC (prior to this, I worked as an attorney for several years). My company serves organizations, teams and individuals and audiences worldwide, helping them achieve personal and professional success. I am also a TEDx coach, mom to two miracle sons, and an unapologetic optimist.

One of my “hobbies” is being able to look for blessings in everyday occurrences (oftentimes the blessing shows up as lessons). Blue sky days are my happy place, and I love fine-tipped pens of any color and anything I can write on (napkins included). I am a personal development junkie and an unapologetic optimist.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I became a lawyer 19 years ago. About three years in, I wanted out. I LOVED law school and frankly, did not want that experience to end. But I found that I enjoyed learning law more than the practice of law. I wanted to leave law to go do work that “lights up my soul”, which was using my voice in a different way — to speak, write, coach and even as a recording artist. But I stayed, because of fear. Fear of what “they” would say (i.e. family, friends, colleagues). I thought people would think I had lost my mind. Plus, after spending all that time, money and effort to go to law school, how could I just give it up to pursue these other areas, and leave “certainty” for “uncertainty”?

As the years came and went, and I experienced some challenging personal times (divorce, foreclosure, to name a few), being able to do the work I yearned to do became more of a dream than a possibility. However, after years of courses, coaches and conferences (but no real action towards my dreams), I got my mindset together and began to take baby steps. I released my CD in 2017. In 2018, I became a first-time author. In 2019, I became a TEDx speaker. And in 2020 I went full-time into business for myself as a coach and professional speaker. These were all dreams that I had put on the back burner.

What I learned from this experience

  1. Make yourself and your vision a priority. Until I cared less about what “they” would say, and more about what was best for me, I remained stuck.
  2. Plan well, but don’t wait for things to be perfect before you jump. They will never be perfect and you will never get that time back. Assess whether you are waiting for the right time, or really just wasting valuable time.
  3. You are not too old to pursue your dreams. I believe you have that vision for a reason!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There is an old commercial that says something like “I’m not only the club president, but I’m also a client.” What makes my company stand out is that we have experienced the problems to which we are now providing solutions and guidance. Feeling stuck? Overwhelmed? Impostor syndrome? People pleaser? I know what that feels like, but I also now know what it feels like to be on the other side of that. We do not offer cookie-cutter solutions, regardless of the number of people we are working with. One-size-fits-all does not work in this space.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

It truly has taken a village! Since I can’t list my whole village, I will say that, in addition to my husband, my spiritual mentors, Tunji and Christiana Osinulu have helped me tremendously. They have been there for me through the ups and downs, in so many ways — for 20 years. A couple of examples include: when I became a single mother of two toddlers, they would stop by with groceries, or drop their teenage daughters off to help me. When I experienced self-doubt, they were there to remind me of who I was and of my gifts and strengths. I could go on and on with examples.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is being able to adapt well to adversity. It is what helps you stay committed to your vision and goals, and continue to take action, even through difficult times. Resilient people typically are optimistic, motivated and self-aware, among other traits. That does not mean that they are unrealistic — far from it. I believe resilient people are visionaries. They are the ones who see what can be possible, when others choose to accept the status quo. They are the ones who will keep trying to find a way, long after others have said “it’s time to cut our losses.”

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

I think of courage as being able to be strong in the face of scary situations, while resilience is being able to bounce back and keep going, in the face of challenges. There is some overlap in meaning. It takes courage to be resilient.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My father! Growing up he would quote to us “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” and he would emphasize the word “try” each time he said it. He overcame a lot, as an immigrant, so that my siblings and I could be where we are today. There are others who have exhibited resilience, but my dad is the first person that I witnessed firsthand.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

My motherhood journey is what comes to mind for this question. It’s not a business-related story, but it is probably one of the most impactful experiences of my life, and taught me almost everything I know about resilience. The short version is that I had two stillbirths and two miscarriages and afterwards, I finally decided to take the doctor’s advice to have the fibroids (that were in my body) removed. After the fibroid-removal surgery, the doctor came into the room and said that conceiving naturally was no longer possible for me, due to complications from the surgery. He said that, there was a slight possibility, with in-vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF was expensive, and he warned that there was no guarantee that it would even work. Not only did I cry, I wept…I wailed. And then after wallowing in sadness and grief for several days, I decided to rise up and have faith and to fill my heart and mind with hope. Less than a year later, I gave birth to my first son, and two years later I had my second son, despite what the doctor had said. This experience, made me stronger and it made me a better person. I learned the power of hope, persistence, and being able to replace the voice that says “that is impossible” to asking “how can I make this possible?”

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When my mother passed away unexpectedly in 2014, that was the lowest point of my life. She was a wonderful mom (that’s an understatement). Even though we felt like she still had many years ahead of her, I could honestly say that she had made a tremendous difference in the world. Losing her taught me firsthand that life is short and that when it was my time to go, I did not want to have any regrets. It served as an impetus for me to make sure I lived a more meaningful, purposeful life.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Everything I have experienced has helped me cultivate resilience, both the good and the bad. Being made fun of as a kid/teenager felt horrible at the time, and I would not want any child to go through that. But looking back, it also contributed to building my resilience, and it taught me the importance of kindness, empathy, how to appreciate each other’s uniqueness, and so much more.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

5 Steps to become more resilient (I will share how I used these steps during my motherhood journey):

  1. Focus your attention on what you can control in that situation, not on things you have no control over. I surrounded myself with hope. I read stories of other women who had faced a similar challenge. I prayed. I listened to uplifting music.
  2. Reframe any negative thoughts about what you are experiencing. Look for the good. Even in the midst of adversity there are usually opportunities, if we are intentional about finding them. I found the good by looking at what the experience was teaching me, as I went through it, and even afterwards. This was an opportunity to stretch my faith. It was an opportunity to prepare for what I was hoping for, and to prepare myself for those I would later encourage with my story.
  3. Have a support system and lean on them as needed. Being part of other people’s support system also goes a long way in building your own resilience. I had a small group of friends and family members who poured into me, prayed for me and kept me encouraged.
  4. Venture outside of comfort zones as often as you can. Journeying into uncharted territories has a way of strengthening our resilience muscle.
  5. Take care of yourself, mind, body and soul. I did my best to stay healthy in these three areas, by focusing on the positive, resting and not overexerting myself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am on a mission to help 1000 women become TEDx speakers. It is a goal I set this year, and I look forward to seeing it happen over the next few years. Does that count as a movement? I believe that there are women with brilliant ideas that belong on TEDx stages around the world, and I want to help them share those ideas. I am helping men too, but my mission is at least 1000 women.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂 Tamron Hall. She is a brilliant woman who has bounced back from some tough times (publicly), and she is continuing to leave her mark and make a difference. I would love to listen to her share on any topic, especially topics that she does not often have the opportunity to speak on.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you. I would love for readers to listen to my TEDx talk…a talk about what my iron taught me about overcoming adversity. It’s available at

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.