Stay connected (with others and yourself) — Being resilient doesn’t mean being able to tough it out on your own. It’s acknowledging what type of support you need which includes reaching out to others and accepting help when people who care about you offer to lend a hand. Social connections are an important part of overall wellbeing and can lower feelings of anxiety and insecurity. In simpler terms, having a connection with someone while you are struggling helps remind you that you are not alone.
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 Erin Nesci.
Erin Nesci is one of the industry’s top Business Coaches for Creative Entrepreneurs. She specializes in helping creative women replace the corporate 9–5 and launch a profitable business that showcases their creativity through her signature program the ‘Business Academy for Creative Entrepreneurs’, a 4-Pillar approach to building a business from the ground up for creative thinkers.
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?
When I was a kid and thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, all I knew was I wanted to make a difference and leave my mark somehow on the world. And I learned at a very early age that I loved making people laugh and smile because when they felt good, I felt amazing. I wasn’t an extraordinary child but like all kids, I had areas where my talents shined brighter than others. I was (and still am) a real people person — a true extrovert who loves to be surrounded by others — and I’m highly musical. In fact, for the first 20 years of my life, everything revolved around music, first as a performer and later as a concert promoter and event producer.
Fast forward twenty years to the boardroom of a financial institution where I served on the Senior Leadership Team as Corporate Secretary & Head of Corporate Affairs. I will never forget the day I looked around and wondered “how did I get here?” Not in a pinch-me kind of way, but more like the quick slap across the face you see in movies when someone is trying to break through another’s hysteria. The irony here is that I had worked tirelessly to get there, thinking that when I finally had a seat at the senior leadership table, everything I had sacrificed while I climbed the corporate ladder would be worth it. It wasn’t. I didn’t feel successful. I felt tired, overworked, frustrated, and completely out of alignment with what made me, ME. For a while, I went through the motions just to get the job done, but eventually, I recognized that in the process, the sacrifices were getting too big and too frequent. My wellbeing was in the tank, my confidence was shot, my self-respect was questionable, and my happy disposition was long gone. So, I left.
I don’t say that casually or callously because it wasn’t an easy decision. I was making good money and I had worked so hard for so long to get to where I was. From the outside looking in, my focus and determination had paid off. But to me, it felt like it had bitten me in the behind because in all my effort and enthusiasm to climb higher and higher, I realized I had left my true self on the bottom rung of the ladder, looking up at someone I didn’t recognize anymore.
Now, I run a coaching practice dedicated to helping creative women replace their corporate 9–5 to launch a profitable business that showcases their creativity. Creative women have often been taught that they must choose between being creative or successful, and because of this, often opt for ‘safer’ careers in more traditional industries. I work with my clients to break down this train of thought, develop the right plan for their business and keep them accountable to do the work so they can be both…creative and successful. It’s something I am incredibly passionate about and am thrilled to be able to combine my naturally creative spirit with my business and coaching expertise.
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?
This is a tough question. I’ve had many great learning experiences throughout my career, it’s hard to boil it down to just one. But I think one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had in my career is to hang onto what matters to you and to qualify your successes based on your personal values.
As I mentioned earlier, I have always been motivated by making a difference, but for a while, I lost that part of me. I was so caught up in making sure I met other people’s expectations that I completely lost sight of the expectations I had of myself and what success even looked like to me anymore. I lost all sense of enjoyment from what I was doing day-to-day and the part of me that wanted to make a difference was completely buried under someone who was focused on rising to be what others thought she should be. The funny thing about that is I wasn’t rising at all. I was sinking, and sinking fast. Once I realized that and started to realign myself on a path that made sense to me, I felt an immense sense of relief as I stopped carrying the burden created by not being able to be me.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes my company unique is my signature program, the Business Academy for Creative Entrepreneurs. This program empowers creative people to follow their inspiration and provides them with the business know-how to get their venture off the ground. Regardless of the type of business my clients are looking to build, whether it’s something artsy in the more traditional sense of the word ‘creative’ or a product or service that pulls on their ingenuity, the Business Academy for Creative Entrepreneurs will walk them step-by-step from idea infancy right through to launching and scaling their business. Also, the program has a component that takes the client through personal introspection to identify what they need to do to prepare for running a business and how to implement plans to best prepare them for success. This is an incredibly personal experience for my clients as they are all coming at their business from different places and stages, and the power behind this reflection and planning enables them to set realistic timelines that align with their unique situation.
To give you an example, a client of mine was working full time in a role that she initially enjoyed but, after a couple of years, started looking for something new because she felt stifled. After a few coaching sessions where we focused on her career and what she wanted to be doing, she stated that she was very interested in natural skincare and was always asked by other people what her skincare regimen looked like. She also expressed that she would love to be her own boss one day. So, we considered what she would need to do to launch a business and what success looked like to her. Ultimately, her goal was to be able to leave her role and support herself 100% through her business. Within six months of that conversation, she launched a vegan cruelty-free skincare line. Later that year, she quit her full-time job and in under three years being in business, her company has grown to include a full collection of products, employs a small team of five, and as Founder & CEO, my client has been named one of BC’s top 30 under 30.
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?
I would have to say I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without my parents or my husband. My parents both worked in roles that required them to be self-motivated, my mom as a realtor and my dad as the owner of an investment firm. They’ve been my biggest cheerleaders through all of the changes I’ve made in my career and have always been there to encourage me or give advice when needed. In much the same way, my husband has always been there to support me through everything, career included. He has been a constant in my life that I am forever grateful for.
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, as you mentioned, is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. But I believe it’s also the remaining connected with others and yourself, finding meaning in every day, learning from experiences, remaining hopeful in hard times, and proactively making the necessary changes to address the situation or problem at hand. Above all, I think resilient people are optimistic. They are able to face a challenge that tests their spirit but doesn’t squash it. And they can work beyond feelings of self-doubt and pivot their focus to something more empowering that helps them overcome the challenge they are facing.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage and resilience are connected, but I think they mean very different things. To me, courage is having the confidence to step into the unknown. It’s not carelessly running toward risk, but having courage helps you face unfamiliar territory full of unforeseen potential threats when your typical response would be to run from whatever dangers that could be waiting for you. Resilience, on the other hand, is being able to recover from an unwelcome experience. I think it’s tied closely to maintaining your sense of self and optimism as you work through difficult situations, knowing you will make it through to the other side. In my opinion, you need the courage to take the leap and resilience to see it through even when times get tough.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
While it’s not a specific person, I would say children are extremely resilient. When they are young, you can quite literally watch them build the courage to try things they’ve never done before. And when they fall, they show resilience time and time again as they brush themselves off and give it another go.
I think of my kids and all the things they’ve done in their lives. Almost every time, I can see the initial fear on their face before they try something new, but after a few deep breaths to muster their courage, they step into new territory. They don’t always succeed but if it’s something they truly want, they have the courage to try and the resilience to stick with it. I think the world would be a very different place if we were all able to move through life with the courage and resilience we had when we were young.
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?
I’m sure there have been but I’ve been known to be pretty strong-willed once I put my mind to something. And to be honest, I don’t like to think of anything as being impossible. Of course, certain things are more difficult for some people than others simply because of different skills and abilities, but if it’s been done, it’s not impossible, it’s just hard. I think anything can be overcome with the right approach. Whatever you are doing, it has to appeal to your emotional side and you have to see the value or benefit in accomplishing it. You also need to sharpen the right skills to achieve it and have a solid support system to help you along the way. I’m a big believer that with passion, drive, skills and support, you can accomplish anything.
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?
Just before launching my own business, I was going through an incredibly hard time at work. I have always been a very driven person and pride myself on having a healthy work ethic, but at that time, I was genuinely struggling. Nothing I seemed to do was right and I constantly felt like I was a step or two behind where I was supposed to be. I have always been a happy person, but there were days where I would find myself at the office well past anyone else only to drive home in tears because I just couldn’t get on top of everything that needed to be done. It was an awful feeling.
I realize now that I was so concerned with being and doing what I thought was expected of me that the price I paid was my confidence and self-respect. I started to question myself, and eventually, lost the ability to recognize what truly mattered to me. And I was tired and frustrated of always feeling tired and frustrated. My wellbeing was in the tank and it was impacting my entire life. I was so wrapped up in using someone else’s measuring stick for my success that I didn’t even recognize what my own measure of success looked like anymore. I didn’t keep a grip on who I was and what I valued.
It took time and planning, but that was when I decided to pursue my coaching practice and develop it in a way that I would be able to make a difference in the lives of women who found themselves in similar situations. Now, I work with creative women much like myself who want to replace their corporate 9–5 salary with a profitable creative business. That experience very much shaped my business because I know many others go through what I went through. I want to help creative women build something they enjoy doing every day, that celebrates their passion and shares their ingenuity instead of stifles it.
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?
I am very fortunate that my experiences growing up were largely positive. I come from a very loving and supportive family and my childhood is reflective of that. Sure, I had struggles like everyone did growing up, but on the whole, I always knew I was surrounded by people who would help me get back on my feet if I fell. If I sit back and think about it, it’s probably what led me to become a coach, and more specifically, a coach for creative entrepreneurs. This is a group that is typically taught that creative ventures are really risky and rarely profitable. So they push their dreams to the side in favour of the ‘safer’ career and end up working a corporate 9–5 and following their passion as a hobby. But I think if they plan properly, it is possible to have a creative business every bit as rewarding as a corporate salary. So, to me, the fact that I was fortunate enough to have people by my side cheering me on and encouraging me to be resilient as I moved through life, I have chosen a life for myself where I get to be that for others.
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.
Stay connected (with others and yourself
- Being resilient doesn’t mean being able to tough it out on your own. It’s acknowledging what type of support you need which includes reaching out to others and accepting help when people who care about you offer to lend a hand. Social connections are an important part of overall wellbeing and can lower feelings of anxiety and insecurity. In simpler terms, having a connection with someone while you are struggling helps remind you that you are not alone.
Find meaning in the everyday
- Do something every day that makes you proud or gives you a sense of accomplishment. Set goals that are realistic and achievable so you are not unintentionally setting yourself up for more stress. Even if it’s something small, it’s important to have goals you are working towards that help you get closer to what you want to achieve. Small goals add up to big goals, and eventually, you’ll look around and realize the worst is behind you and things are improving every day.
Learn from past experiences
- Build on your past experiences and think about what worked and what didn’t. Knowing who or what helped you move beyond hard times in the past can help you identify strategies to respond to the current struggle. It can also show you how much you’ve grown which reinforces the confidence in your ability to handle hard things.
Remain hopeful in hard times
- Even when things are difficult, it’s important to recognize what you are going through is a moment in time. Hard times are temporary and fixating on the problem only magnifies the challenge, leading to more anxiety and overwhelm, and in some instances, unhealthy coping mechanisms. Instead, I encourage my clients to articulate the core issue and identify things that will help them move past it. Doing this shifts the focus from the problem to the solution and avoids the “catastrophe has struck” reaction by creating a more hopeful perspective, which by the way, is a much more productive space to approach the problem from. So while you may not be able to control the stressful circumstance, you can control your interpretation and response to adopt a more optimistic outlook.
Proactively make the necessary changes to address the situation or problem at hand.
- A big part of having resilience is figuring out what you can do to address the problem at hand and start doing it. If the size of the problem feels like it is adding to your sense of overwhelm, break it down into bite-sized pieces. Ignoring the problem will not improve your situation. You need to take the initiative to start making changes, however small they seem at the time. Not only will this help you move beyond whatever is troubling you, but will also serve to remind you that you are strong enough to get through it.
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. 🙂
Looking at the world with rose-coloured glasses on, I think it would be powerful to reinforce the importance of kindness and confidence in children. When we’re young, we are born limitless and learn as we grow to put boundaries and controls on ourselves to ‘fit in’. We start to worry about what other people think and the possibility of embarrassing ourselves. I think if children are treated (and treat one another) with kindness, and as they grow, are given the tools to protect the confidence they have at a young age, we would live in a very different world with more compassionate people who inspire the best in one another.
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 🙂
I would love to sit down with Simon Sinek or Sarah Blakely. I know you asked for one, but I just couldn’t choose and I know they’re friends so maybe they’d like to come together!
Every Simon Sinek piece I’ve read, watched or listened to resonates at a deep level, so the opportunity to sit down and talk with him would be incredible. I think he is a brilliant man. And Sarah…what an inspiration! The fact that she built Spanx from the ground up on the floor of her living room with just $5,000 and an idea is so empowering for all the other creative entrepreneurs out there. If I could have her speak with my clients…wow…just WOW!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!