Feel the feelings fully. It’s important not to deny difficult feelings like loss or disappointment. Those are just part of the human experience. In a mindfulness practice we learn how to be with those feelings, letting them exist without shame or pushing them away. When we feel the feelings fully, they can pass, as all feelings do, like a wave. We have to let that cycle complete, so that we can move on. The only way out is through.
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 Lisa Jakub.
Lisa Jakub is an author, speaker, and retired actor who has more than forty film and television credits to her name, including Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day. At the age of twenty-two, Lisa retired from her eighteen-year acting career in search of a life that felt more authentic to her. She has found a happier, more purposeful life as a writer, teacher, and an advocate for mental health awareness.
Lisa is the founder and CEO of BlueMala.com an online resource for pay-what-you can mental wellness support like yoga and meditation classes. She specializes in working with folks with anxiety, depression, and trauma — doing speaking events all over the country. Lisa also started a Yoga for Veterans program and leads mindfulness retreats for Vets dealing with post-traumatic stress.
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 grew up working as an actor. I started my career when I was four years old, and have more than forty film and television credits on my resume, including Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day. When I was twenty-two, the realities of the film industry started to become clear to me. I didn’t like the superficiality, the misogyny, the constant striving for more fame and money. My anxiety and depression were becoming debilitating, so I decided to leave my eighteen-year career and search for a path that felt more authentic to me. I have found that meaningful life as an author and a mental wellness coach. I work with combat Veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress and I am the founder and CEO of BlueMala.com — an online community for mindfulness resources like yoga and meditation.
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 think the most important lesson I learned from my film career was actually in leaving it. I learned that we all need to find out own definition of success. I lived a life that looked really impressive, but it felt hollow. I needed to redefine what a successful life looked like. I realized that my priorities were more important than what other people expected of me. I had many people tell me I was crazy for leaving the film industry — and that was really scary, as someone who is a chronic people-pleaser. But when I left the film industry, I discovered who I was beneath the actor. Even through I don’t make as much money in my current life as an author and mental wellness coach, I feel much more successful because I believe in the contribution I am making to the world.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Blue Mala we think mental wellness is a lot like physical fitness; there are things we can do every day to get stronger and more flexible. We offer a variety of tools that can help you progress on your individual journey. This is not about empty platitudes, one-size-fits-all “solutions,” nor will anyone tell you to look on the bright side. We will talk about actionable tools like therapeutic writing, yoga, mediation, mindfulness techniques.
We also believe that mental wellness should be accessible to everyone. We offer live online yoga and meditation classes through a pay-what-you-can monthly membership. People can pay 1 dollar a month or 60 dollars a month, whatever makes sense to them. We have an active community where members can connect, share stories, and feel less alone with their struggles. We have plenty of free articles and videos, because sometimes you need support at 3 AM. I understand that because I’ve been there. This is the resource that I wish I had in my darkest moments with anxiety and depression.
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?
When I worked with Robin Williams on Mrs. Doubtfire, he was incredibly kind and supportive. He knew that I struggled with anxiety and he was open about sharing his experience with mental wellness. He taught me that it was not shameful, that there was strength in vulnerability, and that I was not alone. That had a massive impact on what I do today. I want other people to know that they don’t need to struggle alone.
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?
When I think about resilience, I think about the ways that we stand back up after life knocks us down. I am a yoga teacher, and I don’t think people realize how important it is to fall down during yoga. I fall down all the time! It’s about having the inner strength to know that is part of the practice. We don’t beat ourselves up over it, we simply get back up off the mat and start over. Again and again. Because each time we fall down, we learn. We get stronger. We don’t let our ego take over and tell us that we should quit because we’re not perfect. We learn there is no perfect. There is just progress.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
I think that it takes courage every time you stand back up. It’s often easier to stay down, to play small, to not try, to not be vulnerable. But what kind of life is that? But resilience needs both courage and purpose. We need to understand why it’s worth it to get back up. We need to come back to our priorities and find the “why” behind what we are doing.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Honestly, when I think of resilience, I think of all of us right now. Every single one of us has been challenged since March of 2020. We’ve had our sense of security taken from us, our routines, our support systems. And yet, we still find ways to go on. We show up and breathe in and out. We adapt. We re-think. We find ways to manage what once seemed unthinkable and we find those moments of joy in the middle of all the chaos.
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?
When I left LA, many people told me I was making a terrible mistake. They said it was going to be impossible for me to live a life that was fulfilling once I walked away from acting. Being in the film industry was what everyone wanted, I was told. Why would I throw it all away? “You’ll come back,” they all said. But I never wanted to go back. I had been living someone else’s dream, and I needed to find my own way to my passion. And I did.
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 I left my acting career, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had no skills beyond being able to cry on cue and do foreign accents. I had been thrown out of school on Mrs. Doubtfire so I didn’t even have a high school diploma. But I knew that writing had always been a way that I processed the world and connected with others. I wanted to write the story of leaving a life that was externally valuable — yet unfulfilling — and the search for my authentic path. I thought that story could be relatable to people, even if they were not child actors.
Many of us wake up one day and realize we’ve been operating out of momentum, not passion. Many of us wonder what our purpose is, beyond what other people expect of us. So I wrote that book, and when I sent it out to publishers and agents, I got the same response: no one wants to read a book about a young actor that doesn’t involve addiction, orgies, and car crashes. It’s not salacious. It’s not extreme. No one cares.
I heard that over and over. This was not a “celebrity memoir.” Eventually, I found a publisher who did care, and I found readers who found themselves reflected in the pages, even though the details were different.
After that, I continued to find ways to put my writing out in the world without the gatekeepers, who seemed to mostly care about the drama and the social media following. I self-published my second book, without even trying to get it into a traditional publishing house. I wrote freelance articles, I published on my own website and started a podcast from my closet. I did speaking events at corporations and colleges where I could use my voice to empower others.
I decided that other people didn’t get to dictate my story.
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?
When I was eleven years old, I was working on the film Rambling Rose, with Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, and Robert Duval. I had a freak accident on set and suffered a broken back. Suddenly, my entire world stopped, and I was encased in a metal back brace. I needed to finish the film, so after some time in the hospital, I went back to set. They altered my costumes to fit my brace and cut my lines so my slurred speech due to the codeine pain pills wasn’t noticeable. I finished the film, and returned home to recover.
While that was an awful experience which left me with chronic back pain for nearly twenty years, it was an incredibly formative experience. It taught me to never take my body for granted. I don’t tend to obsess about my extra COVID pounds or ever-increasing grey hair — I’m just grateful I can walk. It taught me that I can handle more than I think I can. It gave me great compassion for everyone who feels betrayed by their body’s limitations.
Since then, taking care of body through yoga, exercise, and nutrition has become an important part of my routine. This is the only body I get, so I need to honor it.
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.
- Learn how to be present through meditation and yoga. This is incredibly helpful for offering a sense of perspective and purpose. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that this setback is permanent and will ruin everything forever and ever. Many of us have an issue with rumination. But present moment awareness stops the doom spiral that locks us into obsessing about the past and worrying about the future. When we get present, we can deal with this moment right here. And this moment is the only one in which we have any power at all.
- Feel the feelings fully. It’s important not to deny difficult feelings like loss or disappointment. Those are just part of the human experience. In a mindfulness practice we learn how to be with those feelings, letting them exist without shame or pushing them away. When we feel the feelings fully, they can pass, as all feelings do, like a wave. We have to let that cycle complete, so that we can move on. The only way out is through.
- Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion means using the same rules for yourself as you do for others. If other people are allowed to make mistakes and have bad days — you are, too. You are not better or worse than anyone else, so you get to operate under the same rules that you would apply to a friend.
- Burn-out prevention. This is my term for self care because everyone finds self care to be obnoxious. But honestly, we all need time to rest. We need to recharge in order to function well. Burn-out prevention can look like going for a walk, cooking healthy foods, exercising, knitting, taking a nap. I actually put my burn-out prevention activities in my calendar. That removes the need for motivation. I don’t work out because I feel like it, I work out because my phone dinged and told me it’s time to work out.
- Write about your experience. I work with a combat Veterans who struggle with post traumatic stress. One of the practices I do with them is therapeutic writing. Something changes when you write your experience down. It helps our minds to process it, and the trauma becomes something you no longer need to carry only within your body. The Veterans find that having an outlet for painful emotions not only helps to free them, but if they choose to share their work, it can also serve as a way to let other Vets know they are not alone with their struggles.
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 passionate about removing the stigma around mental wellness, and normalizing the use of tools like mediation, yoga, and mindfulness. This could empower many people to understand that even when the circumstances of life are legitimately challenging and out of our control — there are still ways to reduce our suffering and increase our compassion for ourselves and others.
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 🙂
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go There You Are was the first book I ever read on meditation. It was incredibly influential for me, and set me on this path of increasing my own mental wellness, so I could help others. I’m incredibly grateful to him, so I’d love to tell him that.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find me at:
And of course Twitter and Instagram because the world needs more cute photos of my dog, Olive.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!