Changing your work-life to welcome more freedom and fulfillment is a process and a journey. Here, every month, we will share stories of women who are doing it. Real stories, real transformation. This is a virtual treasure chest -- full of the challenges, struggles, lessons and insights of others -- which you can use to enrich your own path.
This month’s featured "woman on purpose" is Mina Lee, a former management consultant, entrepreneur, and corporate executive. She’s currently working with entrepreneurs and businesses that are using technology to either increase consciousness or further circular and sustainable business models. She also coaches recovering over-achievers seeking to live in congruence through all aspects of their lives.
Describe the big shift you’ve made in your work-life. What led you to that change?
I quit my job as the COO and Chief of Staff of Xiaomi Southeast Asia last year - that symbolically marked my walk away from a life of carefully planned roadmaps, decisions that were made partially out of fear -- fear of being mediocre, of not being special, status anxiety -- which all equated to not being good enough to be loved. It was gaining awareness and power over the unconscious patterns and behaviors I had been acting out since I was a child -- performing and achieving for someone else -- and introspecting deeply and rewriting my life from a spacious place of abundance, self-love, and lightness.
Don’t get me wrong, as I shifted from BCG, to economic development work at the World Bank, and even starting my own curated events business in New York, there was a huge inner fire that drove me which was a desire for impact and a life that felt more and more “true” to me. I had always wanted to serve sustainability through the environment but I did not know what was holding me back from fully leaping into that field until I was ready. What I’m trying to say is, I didn’t know I wasn’t ready until I was actually ready, I was always trying to make the best choice I could with the matrix of options in front of me, but my lens didn’t have a wide enough angle on it. The story I had crafted for myself on pursuing impact masked the darker underbelly of fear which was the real thing that was limiting me, it meant I could be risky and be free but only ‘so much so’, I could choose what I wanted, but only within a certain range of safety out of fear of catastrophic failure.
What lead me to the change was a two track train. One was longer term -- a lifetime of seeing myself achieve but always not feeling fully satisfied and that there was something more. One was shorter term -- a little more than a year ago, three things happened at the same time -- a relationship I was not feeling fully fulfilled in, the meeting of a community of people who were all similarly interested in self work and could hold vulnerable space for me to process myself, and finally, a series of shamanic ceremonies which helped me quickly rise above all my stories that did not serve me and give me space to rewrite my life entirely. The community was crucial to maintaining and integrating the change into my life in the form of new habits and behaviors on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
What were you most fearful of in making that change?
I was afraid of the unknown, of that blank white space on the other side -- it held both the story of failure (never getting back on the success train, being desolately poor, never achieving any real impact, not being loved -- these are all the self critical judgements on this side)
AND the story of ultimate possibility and freedom -- I could do anything I wanted, so what did I want to create? It’s like that quote about how we are more afraid of our own strength and potential than our failures -- I was afraid of that big white space, what if I didn’t live up TO MYSELF? What if I committed to the wrong ‘new’ path? What if I couldn’t commit at all and didn’t achieve anything because of that?
All these stories were in my mind as I got off the train that was operating on auto but a deeper faith of knowing in my heart is what got me through. And even today, I have to return to my practice of self love, treating myself as my loved one, my own child, to quiet these voices sometimes.
How is your experience of life different now?
I experience life with so much more spaciousness -- if everything is story, I can write my life as I want. I can erase, edit, cut and paste. So my life now is really about honing the arrow of my beliefs, what is the story and vision that I really want to believe in and cultivate? The stronger I can build my faith in myself and my story, the more likely it is to manifest and become real. We are all walking around with our own beliefs, running into and merging with one another, the one that manifests is the one held by the person who has the strongest conviction. This applies to all aspects of my life, my work and my relationships.
What’s your biggest concern in this moment?
I’m trying to build a world where humans live in contribution to all life. How can we, just by our existence, be beneficial to all other life forms, animals, and plants? How can we be additive like the ants which has so much more biomass than we do yet aerates the soil and circulates nutrients to different levels just by being? And I want to do this not to ‘save’ earth alone, but more to get our entire species to a place of self-love -- our rhetoric with the environment today is very much one of guilt management and minimizing ourselves and our impact, how can we become additive so we don’t need to make ourselves smaller, but can celebrate our existence and growth in all its forms?
To do this, I’m doing a top down approach of working for / advising / investing in companies and businesses that are shifting to circular and sustainable economic models and I have hopes of supporting sustainable city design in the future to hold space for more self-loving and connected human beings. From the bottom up, I am trying to increase consciousness by starting with myself and holding space for others -- as a friend, as a coach, as a mentor. I believe we need this top down systems change and bottom up deeper awakening to get us to that more harmonious world and my biggest concern now is ‘how’ and ‘let’s create things to get us there’!
What are you most excited about going forward?
I’m really excited about crafting my new life in San Francisco in July as I shift from Asia back to the US -- about truly living a life where I am in congruence with myself in all aspects -- working with a company that is building towards my long term vision, contributing to and building a conscious community, deepening my personal relationships.
Within my life work, I’m excited about technology and today’s increased data world and its ability to facilitate both top down systems change and bottom up self awareness.
I’m excited about devices that help you become more self aware, I’m working with an entrepreneur that’s creating an insurance covered device for you to track your own heart rate variance for maximum heart coherence.
I’m excited about the intersection of music and technology, I’m working to create a concert where people can contribute to the music with their heart beats, and can see the different frequencies’ effect on water and thus on their own body, the beautiful geometric shapes it creates. I believe music has the capacity to shift us into consciousness immediately, less long winded than words.
I’m excited about designing cities that create experiences for people to connect to themselves, to nature, and to their food -- this connection will empower people to their own connectedness, how loved they are, and lead to more sustainable and harmonious decisions in what and how much we buy and how we interact with others.
If you could travel back in time, what’s one piece of advice that your current self wishes that you could tell your former self?
Everyone goes through their own journey at their own pace. My pace was my pace. I would have told myself to check in more with myself during that journey - how I was feeling, acknowledge those feelings, and be more patient and loving with myself throughout.
About Mina Lee
Mina Lee was most recently Chief of Staff for Xiaomi Southeast Asia, helping them set up and expand in the region and was Acting GM of Xiaomi Indonesia. She has worn every hat in their expansion process including strategy, sales, pricing and marketing, organization and hiring, operations and supply chain. Prior to Xiaomi, Mina was a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, a Technology and Innovation Private Sector Development Consultant at the World Bank in DC, and ran her own curated events company in New York. She is currently focused on scaling technologies and processes that cultivate mindfulness and contribute to creating a circular economy.