The Keys to Building Character | Leila Janah on Impact Theory

Leila: So I think grit was part of my upbringing,
and I’m actually really grateful for that, because I think as an entrepreneur, probably
the most important attribute is not quitting and getting through rejection after rejection. Most of the really successful entrepreneurs
I know will tell me just how many people rejected them along the way. Tom: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Impact Theory. You are here, my friends, because you believe
that human potential is nearly limitless, but you [00:00:30] know that having potential
is not the same as actually doing something with it. Our goal with this show and company is to
introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams. Today’s guest is a Harvard-educated social
entrepreneur who is upending the traditional economic aid model by creating best in class
companies that help people pull themselves out of poverty. She’s been so successful at that, she was
named one of Condé Nast’s Daring 25 and [00:01:00] Elle’s 2016 Top Women in Tech. Since founding her first company, Samasource,
in 2008, she has employed nearly 10,000 people and helped nearly 35,000 people permanently
move above the poverty line. The raw effectiveness of her business model
is proving that creating opportunities is far more sustainable and empowering than offering
people handouts. She can name some of the world’s biggest companies
as her customers, including Google, Microsoft, Walmart, eBay, and countless others, and her
amazing [00:01:30] mission and incredible success have seen her profiled everywhere
from the New York Times and Wired Magazine to Forbes and Ink. Her company, Samasource, was names as one
of Fast Company’s most innovative companies in 2016, and all of this from a woman who
initially lacked the capital to even start a company and had to pay her way through college
by cleaning toilets, serving cocktails, and tutoring wealthy students. But she refused to give in, pitched her dream
to anyone who would listen, entered business plan contests, DM- [00:02:00] ed anyone she
thought was like-minded, and the world is now literally a better place for it as she
ultimately scraped enough together to make her dream a reality. Now nearly 10 years in, she has faced and
overcome every obstacle imaginable to see her social impact company turn into a profitable
company and become truly self-sustaining. So please, help me in welcoming the founder
and CEO of Samasource and LXMI, the Chanel of social impact and the first impact beauty
brand to be sold at Sephora, the author [00:02:30] of Give Work, Reversing Poverty One Job at
a Time, Leila Janah. Welcome. Leila: Thank you. Tom: Thank you for being here. Leila: It’s awesome to be a guest on this
show. Thank you so much for having me, Tom. Tom: Oh, man. Absolutely my pleasure. Man, going into your world, you’re really
a vanguard for something really new that’s happening in entrepreneurship, which I’ve
felt. I’ve been that transitional generation, where
I wasn’t as [00:03:00] clicked into things as you were right from the jump. I went through the chasing money phase and
all of that to find how desperate and horrific that ended up being emotionally before I found
something that was more about what’s the ultimate impact. But walk us through … I know that things
didn’t start out necessarily easy for you. Walk us through the dark times that you had
in your twenties and how you ended up creating a social movement that’s also financially
powerful. Leila: Sure. [00:03:30] My parents are immigrants. They came here in 1978 with two suitcases. I literally feel like I lived the American
dream. My brother and I went to public schools, we
had jobs. I started working when I was 12. I started babysitting in the neighborhood,
and I always had to hustle. I watched my parents do it as soon as they
got here. My mom had a degree in English literature
from India. Nobody would recognize it, so her first job
here was chopping onions at the local Wendy’s, and they had to struggle. So I think grit was part of my upbringing,
and I’m [00:04:00] actually really grateful for that, because I think as an entrepreneur,
probably the most important attribute is not quitting and getting through rejection after
rejection. Most of the really successful entrepreneurs
I know will tell me just how many people rejected them along the way. So if you can have a thick skin around that,
it’s actually a huge asset. For me, it was tough. As a child, I was always kind of an outcast. We never had enough money to shop at normal
clothing stores. We didn’t have TV at home, [00:04:30] so I
was kind of a weirdo on the playground. I was a big nerd. I read books all the time and did science
fair competitions, and I really found my refuge in academics and was really passionate about
school. Got lucky enough to get into Harvard, but
didn’t really have the money to attend, so I would cobble together different jobs. I did, in fact, clean toilets for our campus. We call it dorm crew, but it’s like a janitorial
service run by students. It’s funny to imagine that at one point, I
was literally scrubbing the shit off of the rich kids’ toilets. [00:05:00] However, I do think that a lot
of that kind of work is truly character-building. I remember that summer, I would literally
calculate the value of everything I purchased according to how many toilets it would take
me to clean to purchase that. And I think it gave me this frugality and
discipline, which I then brought into my entrepreneurial career. Tom: It’s really interesting because my dad
used to make me take hard labor jobs, [00:05:30] and either as the family … So before I could
work legally, we used to go on these wood-chopping expeditions. We would literally drive up into the mountains. Growing up in Tacoma, I don’t know if you
could do this or you just did it, but we would go and find fallen trees and you’d cut them
up and you’d stack wood, and you’d spend all day doing that, and you’d do that several
times through the summer. Then when I was 12, I had to work in a door
factory. Leila: Wow. Tom: You can’t imagine the rage that filled
me with. I was so angry with my parents. I used to have to carry lacquered trim. Leila: Wow. Tom: And I [00:06:00] was getting arm hair
by that point, and it would stick in your arm hair. And there’s no way to get it out. I would be so angry pulling it out, and my
dad kept saying, “This is going to build character. This is going to build character.” And I totally agree with you, and that has
served me immeasurably in my entrepreneurial journey. Why is that … What is one thing you don’t
think people understand? They’re about to start their first company. What do they not see coming for them, and
how can they, if they didn’t have parents that somehow-
Leila: Forced them. Tom: … put them [00:06:30] through the school
of hard knocks, how did they toughen up? Leila: That’s such a good question. I know there’s a new book out on grit. There’s all these new studies on adverse childhood
experiences. Different from in the case of your parents
or mine, adverse childhood experiences are worse. That’s if you had trauma or some kind of abuse
in your background. What they find is that people who have endured
hardship in some way can build grit and resilience from it. Sheryl Sandberg talks about this in her book,
Option B, about this idea of post-traumatic growth [00:07:00] and using something that’s
tough as a growth experience. I find this fascinating, because I think for
me, I too hated my parents for forcing me to do some of that. And I also just was frustrated. I remember feeling surround by the rich kids
and feeling like I was never going to fit in. I think if you didn’t have that kind of background,
one of the ways that you can push yourself to get beyond your comfort zone I think is
to read about failure and try to immerse yourself in more case studies [00:07:30] that show
you how failure can profoundly shape you. It’s hard. In the early days of a startup, I think rejection
is inevitable. There’s an element of just getting back up
again when you’ve been punched so many times that you feel like you can’t. And I don’t know what it is in us that creates
that tipping point when you decide to get up again, but it’s … Among all the entrepreneurs
I know who are successful, that is the single biggest factor. It’s not not quitting. Tom: You talked about having scar tissue from
[00:08:00] growing up, and you maybe downplayed it a little bit here in your book, and in
some of your talks, you’ve talked a lot about not having a TV, parents with accents, always
being … because your parents were moving. You moved an insane number of times. Leila: Yeah, 12 times. Tom: Moving around so much to stay in essentially
wealthy neighborhoods so that you could go to the best public schools, and that kids
can be really, really cruel. Going through that and then coming out of
it, I think that breaks most people. Why didn’t it break you? [00:08:30] What were you saying to yourself
mentally, because I’m sure at the time you weren’t thinking, “Oh, this is really going
to make me a great entrepreneur.” You were just trying to get through it. But what were you telling yourself to get
through it? Leila: It’s interesting you brought that up. There was abuse in my family, and I’ve come
through a lot of that in recent years, and also understood how it shaped me. I think for me, my refuge was in helping other
people. I started doing community service in high
school, and for me, it was this refuge. Maybe seeing people who had it even worse
than me [00:09:00] put my own suffering in context. Maybe it made me feel like I could somehow
transform hurt and pain that I was feeling into something positive in the world. Looking back on it, I feel like maybe that
was the original impetus for me to do this work. I ended up going to Ghana when I was 17, which
was so random. I got a scholarship from a big tobacco company,
of all places. Big tobacco did something great for me, which
was to fund my travel to West Africa and [00:09:30] this volunteer program, which I could never
have afforded to do. I didn’t have a trust fund. Most people assume, by the way, that folks
who work in social impact have millionaire parents who just can write them checks to
go to Africa. That is so not my story. I was hustling for my own checks. Tom: I actually literally had that as a part
of your intro at one point. Like, “If you think this was a trust fund
baby, you are sadly mistaken.” Leila: So the opposite of a trust fund. I used this money to go to Ghana, and a lot
of people that my parents knew, and even people in [00:10:00] my school were like, “This is
completely insane. Why would you do that? This is dangerous. You’re going to be by yourself as a young
American woman in the middle of this West African country.” And I think I never would have done that,
had I not been propelled out of my comfort zone by what had happened to me as a child. And I think it creates a sense, for me at
least, of openness and receptivity, and maybe vulnerability that I might not have had otherwise. Tom: Do you have magic words for somebody
who’s going through something similar, but their response is to close down, [00:10:30]
it’s not to open up. They’re not being propelled forward, they’re
being held back. Because I’ve met people that they fall into
both camps. Really similar circumstances, but just diametrically
opposed responses. Do you have the magic sentence that would
help somebody jump from closing down to opening up? Leila: The only real power we have in the
world is choosing our response. We can’t choose what happens to us. We can get stuck into situations where we
are abused, where we are not treated fairly, [00:11:00] where any number of bad things
can happen, and so the only choice we can make is how to respond. I find that that knowledge gives me so much
freedom. Because if something bad is happening to me
that I can say is beyond my control, I can say, “Well, at least I have the power in my
response to show the work what kind of person I am.” I can’t tell you the number of really interesting
examples of post-traumatic growth that we’re now cataloging. People who have lost everything. People who have had their kids murdered in
[00:11:30] front of them. People who have had every manner of hardship,
who are able to choose their response. And rather than shutting down and getting
more and more depressed, which is something that you have to get through, but the choice
to take that painful experience and mold it into something positive for the world is,
I think, the deepest kind of healing we can have as humans. For me, I think part of what got me through
those tough times eventually as I matured was the knowledge that I had transformed that
into something [00:12:00] good for the world. Tom: When you say that we’re cataloging, do
you mean humanity or are you talking about Samasource? Leila: Humanity. Tom: Okay. I was like, wow. Because the stories in the book are unbelievable
stories of transformation. Reading them is cathartic in and of itself. You get so excited, or at least I do. I got so excited about the possibility and
what you’re doing with Samahope and the ability to fund a surgery and see how directly you’re
impacting [00:12:30] somebody. It’s pretty incredible. Really fast, connect two things for me. You said in your twenties that you went through
some pretty horrific depression, and you said, “It got so bad, at one point I wasn’t sure
I was going to make it out,” which obviously is pretty scary, given especially what you’ve
gone on to do with your life. And then how much of the catharsis from that
comes from the individual stories of the people that you’ve touched. Leila: I did struggle with [00:13:00] pretty
severe depression in my twenties. I had a year in college when both my aunt
and one of my best friends committed suicide. That came at the same time-
Tom: She was your roommate, right? Leila: Yeah, it was my roommate. She was my block-mate. We were in the same rooming group. And we had very similar backgrounds and very
similar relationships with our parents. And both my aunt and this young women were
incredibly beautiful, incredibly bright. The least … You would imagine the [00:13:30]
least likely to take their own lives. It was such a huge burden to carry that, and
at the time, therapy and counseling wasn’t as known, maybe, as it is now, and there weren’t
very many resources, so I didn’t seek that out. And at the same time that that was going on,
I was undergoing tremendous financial pressure. My parents had gotten a divorce and couldn’t
pay for school at all, so I was working three jobs and always trying to hustle to make ends
meet with a full course load. And then maybe to add to that, I would go
and spend [00:14:00] time in Africa. I did research in Rwanda, literally working
on this project with victims of the genocide who’d had … I’d go there and interview people
with machete wounds on their head from this horrific genocide, talking about having seen
their children murdered in front of them. I didn’t even understand the concept of PTSD,
and how if you’re exposed to people who have undergone serious trauma, you yourself can
take that on. So it was just a hot mess after these few
years. Then [00:14:30] I graduated and I moved to
New York City. I took a management consulting job just to
be able to pay the bills and hopefully learn about business. I knew I wanted to create a business that
would help people, and ideally a business that would hire poor people and move them
out of poverty. But it was tough times. I was alone often as a consultant, getting
up at 4:00 in the morning on a Monday to fly to some random city and spent most of my time
alone in hotel rooms. So it kind of all added up, and at one point,
just exploded. I went through some very dark times. Anyone who’s been through depression knows
what I mean. [00:15:00] And I guess what got me out of
it was I feel very blessed to have found a career that nourishes me spiritually. I feel like when your core spiritual values
or your morality are aligned with what you spend the majority of your time doing, it
creates this … I don’t know, this unity in your soul. And I feel like having that has been such
a cornerstone of my life. It’s what I often go back to when I’m really
struggling, or when I’m feeling depressed. I will literally go [00:15:30] back and read
… I have a file in my Gmail of inspirational stories from our workers. Stories that people will send me about their
own transformation or stories that managers of our centers will send me, and whenever
I’m feeling depressed, I’ll go back and read those, just to ground me. I also think that connecting with other people
who are suffering, there’s all this research that empathizing with someone else who maybe
has it even worse than you can relieve your own burden. As much as possible, when I was in those states,
I would try to immerse myself [00:16:00] in issues around global poverty or understand
what life was like for someone who had it even worse. You know? Who might be struggling with depression, but
living on two dollars a day and also struggling with HIV or some other problem, and that would
help bring me out of it. Tom: You said that you have a four-tiered
process to dealing with … I’m putting those words, but it was a four-step process. One of them was meditation. Walk us through the four. That’d be really fascinating. But the one that I found super interesting
was … Your brother’s [00:16:30] an astrophysicist? Leila: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Tom: Which is crazy. Leila: Totally crazy. Tom: And you said thinking about nature, thinking
about space, thinking about something bigger than the human problems that I’m struggling
with alleviates that. It’s really interesting to see that sort of
reflected at the human level, even just finding somebody that’s struggling bigger than you,
and even stepping outside of that and seeing how small we are. You said you used to look through the telescope
at Saturn. Leila: Yeah. Tom: And it gave you the tense of it would
lower your stress and pressure. [00:17:00] What is that four-step process? Leila: Sure, and I think I might have forgotten
I wrote this up. I know there was meditation and mindfulness. The zooming out and contemplating nature is
so helpful, and there’s now all this new evidence that shows that when we spend time in the
wilderness, the Japanese call it forest bathing, there’s a term for it. Tom: Never heard that one before. Leila: There are actually documental neuroscience
benefits to that. Your brain chemistry changes when you’re exposed
to wilderness. My own view [00:17:30] is that we become conscious
of our smallness and how irrelevant these petty concerns are day-to-day. You know? You’ll be annoyed about … I often get annoyed
about something somebody said to me at the office, or some political thing that’s going
on in my friend group, or some other issue. I’m stuck in traffic. And I will forget, wait a minute, at the end
of the day, I come from stardust. I will return to being stardust. None of this matters at all. The only real thing that matters is [00:18:00]
love, loving people and being loved yourself. And I think everything else is kind of gravy. So it’s helpful to remind ourselves of that,
and contemplating vast expanses in space, or for me, it’s really the ocean. I spend a lot of time in the ocean, as much
as possible. I’m such a California person at heart. That really helps center me and remind me
how petty my concerns are, actually. I also talk about exercise. For me, various forms of exercise are totally
cathartic. [00:18:30] I’m really tightly wired and a
little bit manic, and so I’m like a little hamster. If I don’t get out my hamster wheel energy,
it’s probably going to get scattered all over the place. I kite-surf, I do yoga, I’m really into dance. I find rhythmic activity really helps and
can be really soothing and therapeutic. Then I don’t know if I talk about this in
that piece, but for me, therapy and coaching have been hugely helpful. I don’t think we talk enough about therapy. I think that if we’re willing to hire a coach
for better sports performance, why wouldn’t we hire a coach to have better [00:19:00]
emotional performance and deeper and improve our relationships? Tom: What are some key things that you’ve
gotten out of coaching? If somebody watching right now was going to
take away a few key things, what would they be? Leila: The biggest one for me, being a hot-blooded,
passionate entrepreneur is the concept of the pause. Inserting a pause before you respond is probably
the most helpful thing, at least for my relationships with my colleagues, with my partner, with
my friends. [00:19:30] I’m tempted always to run a mile
a minute and to respond immediately. When I hear something, I’m pretty quick-witted. I like thinking on my feet. I have that entrepreneurial hustle, and so
I’m very tempted to just respond immediately. The worst decisions I’ve made, the worst comments
I’ve made, the most damage I’ve done to relationships or in my companies has been when I’ve responded
that way and not taken a pause. Tom: That’s really interesting. You actually have a great story about this,
with a guy that wrote in and said you’re destroying America, you’re outsourcing [00:20:00] all
of our jobs to India. Essentially shame on you. And you wrote him the vicious email, but you
didn’t sent it. And then what happens from there? Leila: I’m so happy that you brought that
up. I will never forget Joe from Ohio. He wrote this email because he saw a PSA that
we had done on Hulu. I had literally taken this footage on my phone
of these refugees who we’d trained in this horrific refugee camp called Dadaab in Kenya,
where people are literally living in the most avoidable suffering. It’s just tragic [00:20:30] to see it. We’d shown these refugees how to do digital
work, and they were doing a pilot program with Microsoft, which I thought was the most
inspiring thing. Here are these people who are helping themselves,
not relying on aid or charity. So we run this ad and I get this email as
soon as the ad started running. I got it in the middle of a really tough day. We had been rejected from another funder,
I at the time was sleeping on my ex-boyfriend’s futon because I had no money. Bless his heart. Remains a good friend. So I get this email and the email subject
line [00:21:00] was “You are ruining America.” And I felt so slammed by that, because here
I am trying to help people. It’s a nonprofit. I’m never going to be a millionaire, billionaire
out of this business. And so my immediate response was to dash off
a nasty, “how dare you accuse me” email, and then I slept on it and I didn’t send it. Best advice. Pause. The next morning, I woke up feeling really
different and I did a quick Google search of Ohio unemployment statistics [00:21:30]
and found that Ohio had been very hard-hit by the recession. This was back in 2009. And I thought, “Let me respond with compassion.” So I wrote to Joe and I was like, “Dear Joe,
I’m sorry you feel this way. Maybe you have a point. Do you have any ideas on how we might adapt
our digital work model for here in the U.S.? I would love to help communities like yours.” And his response to my email was night and
day. He wrote back and he said, “Thank you so much
for your kind response. I’m really sorry that I said what I said. I’m just really frustrated. I lost my job recently. I love in a community where [00:22:00] a lot
of the factory work has gone overseas, and we’re struggling.” Eventually, he kind of dropped off the map,
but it did inspire me to go to my board at Samasource and say, “What could we do to fight
domestic poverty? How can we be an organization that’s not just
siloed into attacking this issue at the international level, but maybe is more thoughtful and creative
about applying it here?” Tom: Yeah. I was really surprised by that. I knew that you were doing things internationally,
but I had no idea that you [00:22:30] had started … and it’s in rural Arkansas right
now, right? Along the Mississippi Delta? Leila: We started there, and we eventually
shut down that branch of the program because it wasn’t working, and I can tell you all
about that. But it operates now in San Francisco and New
York. It’s called Samaschool. Tom: Whoa. So what is Samaschool now, then? Leila: The idea behind Samaschool is, if you
look at the American economy, it’s very different from the economy of, say, Kenya or Uganda. The model that we have working overseas doesn’t
exactly work here. It’s a different flavor here. Here, [00:23:00] all net employment growth
in the last decade has happened in the independent work economy. This is contracting, basically. Everything from gig economy jobs like Lyft
and Uber and TaskRabbit and Fueled Nation to contract work for companies, right? That has just exploded, partially because
younger workers want more flexibility in the jobs they have. They don’t necessarily want to work a nine
to five for 40 years and then get a pension at the end of it. Those jobs have gone away. We developed the first gig [00:23:30] economy
training for low-income Americans. And what we’re trying to do is help modernize
our workforce training in this country, which is so out of date. We’re training people to do jobs that went
away a decade ago and are not coming back. Our philosophy is, why try to oppose the trend? Let’s understand, this is what’s happening
and so how can we make the most vulnerable people in our society successful on these
platforms? Tom: Wow. That’s incredible. What do you say to people that say you’re
a saint? Leila: They don’t know me well enough. [00:24:00] Definitely not a saint. I just tell them also, “Talk to my colleagues,
and they’ll be schooled.” I have a passion for doing this kind of work. It’s almost a selfish passion, because it
makes me feel really good. Maybe it’s the feeling that other people get
when they go to church or they do volunteer work. For me, this is my soul food. Tom: How did people respond … You gave an
amazing speech, which I’d love you to recapture the core thesis, but you gave a speech about
how MLK, Gandhi, [00:24:30] they’re not saints. They’re real people and as you walk through
that, you led the speech off by saying, “I’m about to get a lot of haters for what I’m
about to say.” And then you said some … I thought it made
them more interesting, but what was your thesis in that? Leila: Just that when we put people on pedestals
as saints, we turn them into an other. We turn them into … We think of ourselves
as us and lowly [00:25:00] and we think of them as these saintly people who are just
somehow different from us, and therefore we don’t have a moral obligation to do the things
they’re doing, because they’re uniquely equipped. Let’s remind ourselves that some of the most
famous and prominent social leaders were not flawless. MLK was a known cheater. He cheated on his wife regularly, unfortunately. Gandhi, it’s well-known in India, was really
cruel to his wife. There’s even a play that I watched about it,
which was kind of shocking. I guess the moral [00:25:30] of the story
is that no one is a saint, even when they’re canonized. There’s a whole book that criticizes Mother
Teresa’s work, and I’m not saying this to take down our heroes. I think that what all three of those folks
have done is truly heroic and great and should be celebrated. I say this because it’s important that we
don’t absolve ourselves of a moral duty to act. We all have that duty to act. You don’t have to be flawless. These people are not genetically different. I think that’s another problem with this pedestal
[00:26:00] issue, is that when we put people on pedestals, we then start nitpicking and
saying, “Well, if he or she wears a nice dress, then she can’t possibly care about poverty,
because she’s too consumed with her own appearance.” Or in MLK’s case, he was … Many people tried
to take him down because he had such, I think, a great sense of style. Those two things are not incompatible. You can have an interest in fashion and a
desire to make aesthetic choices that fit your taste, and at the same time, find poverty
to be [00:26:30] morally objectionable and want to do something about it. People who do work in service of humanity
do not need to be saints. We do not need to put them on pedestals. They don’t have to take vows of poverty. I think when we say that and do that, it makes
ordinary people feel like they could never enter this field, and that’s part of the problem. Tom: Yeah, I love that. That’s one consistent theme that I’ve seen
through everything that you’ve written, that you’ve talked about, interviews that you’ve
done is like, “Look. I want to do good in the world [00:27:00]
and I also want to be a badass chick.” Right? I want to roll up and do something amazing,
and you said, oh god … You were talking about humility, and you said, “Look, is Elon
Musk overly humble? No! And do we want him to be?” Judge me by my results, not by my attitude. That’s not the word you used, but it was like
that was where you were going with that. What are your thoughts around humility, how
we can leverage a little bit of bravado to draw attention to important causes? Leila: I think it’s so important. I [00:27:30] think again, it’s that pedestal
problem, because when we put someone on a pedestal, we expect them to behave not human,
right? We expect them to behave like characters in
the Bible or something. As a result, we get extremely demoralized
or our whole image of them is taken down when we hear that they spent some amount of money
on an outfit, or that … There have been so many take-downs of social entrepreneurs
in the media, or nonprofit do-gooders. For some reason, maybe it’s because people
assume that if you’re [00:28:00] doing good in the world, that you are a little bit self-righteous
and you’re putting down others. There’s a take-down desire people have. I just feel like that’s unfortunate. I think there are so many examples of truly
corrupt, solely profit-seeking entrepreneurs who have done far worse, I think, who are
under far less scrutiny than relatively good social entrepreneurs who are flawed humans
like we all are. I guess my takeaway from that is to try to
be a little bit more balanced in our assessments and look at the bigger picture. Tom: [00:28:30] Yeah, it’s interesting. I like that notion of looking at the bigger
picture of really starting to assess … In fact, this is at the core of how you want
your nonprofit to be judged, is what’s the impact for the dollars spent. You’ve said people will see a nonprofit throw
a lavish party and they’re like, oh my god, that’s so scummy. How can you be doing that? But what if in doing that, they draw people
that just pour millions of dollars into something and it has a massively disproportionate effect? I think that’s a really [00:29:00] powerful
way to look at that. And I see … I’m actually interested to hear
your details, but you have moved at least with LXMI into a for-profit. I’ve worked on the board of the X Prize, talked
to Peter Diamandis, who I know you know. Leila: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Tom: About the frustrations of the nonprofit
world, and I have chosen … I like to think that what we’re doing at Impact Theory will
ultimately have a lot of social good, but for me, it is absolutely … I wouldn’t even
do it if I couldn’t turn a profit. And I’m just being honest, right? Say whatever you [00:29:30] want about me,
I don’t give a shit. I want to have lasting impact, I want it to
be interesting for me, and I want to touch the lives of hundred of millions if not north
of a billion people would be absolutely incredible. But I’m driven by both, right? Leila: Yeah. Tom: So to pretend that I’m not driven by
one seems crazy. Also, there’s so much power in being able
to be self-sustaining. To not have to ask anybody for anything, quite
frankly, let alone money. What made you transition into the for-profit
world with LXMI, since it’s still so socially driven? Leila: [00:30:00] Yeah. Tom: What does that look like? Leila: It’s so interesting. I think part of the problem is that especially
here in the United States, we have a very bifurcated view of nonprofit versus for-profit,
right? We think, okay, for-profit means you’re profit
maximizing at the expense of everything else, which means that if it’s going to make you
more money, you will pollute the stream. You will use slaves in the supply chain. You will, you know, do any number of things
that are bad for the world, right? We think, okay, the job of a business is to
make as much money as possible and then maybe there’s [00:30:30] going to be excesses that
can get donated at the end of the day, and then they get donated over here to these nonprofits,
which are generally cash-starved, reliant only on grants and donations and the whims
of very wealthy people to solve all the problems that are being created by these profit-maximizing
companies here. That is such a flawed system, right? The real answers lie in the middle. The real answers lie in businesses that actively
try to solve a social or environment problem and do so sustainably. And there is a whole range of these businesses,
[00:31:00] and we’re starting to see them crop up both on the nonprofit side and on
the for-profit side. If you think about it, the Girl Scouts sells
hundreds of millions of dollars of cookies each year. That’s a very viable business, right? Organizations like Goodwill and the Salvation
Army support a huge part of their operations by giving work to low-income people in their
stores, which amount to hundreds of millions. I think Goodwill is actually multi-billion
dollars in terms of sales in their stores. Tom: Wow. Leila: We don’t think about that as social
enterprise, but that is where all the most exciting things in social impact will happen. [00:31:30] Then I think about for-profit companies
like Patagonia or Method. Patagonia is one of my favorite examples. For-profit company that has taken a huge environmental
stand. Protected tons of acres of wild lands, donated
more than probably most companies have to environmental groups, and that’s a for-profit
company. So I think that this bifurcated view we have
of nonprofit versus for-profit is a little bit old school and, again, it’s the convergence
that’s most exciting. Tom: [00:32:00] All right, so abstracting
it for a second from the social angle, just in general about entrepreneurship, what have
you learned over the last 10 years, which I imagine is pretty legion? Leila: Best piece of advice I ever heard is
from Ed Horowitz, “Don’t punk out and quit.” I have the Sama tattoo on my right hand, but
I almost feel like that should be the other tattoo, because I think the most worthwhile,
worthy things in life are just the result of a lot of painful enduring failure. [00:32:30] That’s the first. The second, I think, is I’ve found that the
pause, the not making rash decisions, and I’m always very tempted to make rash decisions. I have a million business ideas a minute,
I have a hundred domain names I own. Like many entrepreneurial people, I constantly
get inspired by things I see. And being able to pause and breathe before
I make decisions has probably saved me a lot of heartache. [00:33:00] And then the third is I get a lot
of PR and a lot of the fame and flory for building Sama, but really, everything that
we’ve achieved has been because of the people that took the leap to join me. I mean, I can’t tell you how risky it was
for our first employees to quit their normal, paying jobs and come work for me. I just saw one of them today at a book reading. She was the person who opened up our East
Africa office. Jenn would call me in the middle of the night
to tell me things like, “Oh, by the way, a ship dropped its anchor on the internet cable
heading [00:33:30] into East Africa, so the internet is down for the foreseeable future.” Tom: Whoa. Leila: We’re an internet-based company. I mean, crazy things like that would happen,
and if I hadn’t had Jenn on the ground in East Africa, we wouldn’t have succeeded as
a business. The team is everything. The idea is great. Having a founder who can go out and raise
money and can be charismatic is wonderful. But you need to have the team that can operate
the business day-to-day, and sort of keep you in check. I’ve been very fortunate to have the most
amazing people, who are willing to quit much better-paying jobs [00:34:00] and opportunities
and come work for us. Tom: What do you look for, specifically, when
you’re hiring? Are there certain traits, characteristics? Leila: I’d say the first is competence. I think that can be demonstrated in a number
of ways, but usually, it’s pretty easy for me to tell whether someone knows what they’re
talking about. They don’t need to have slides. They don’t need to have a fancy resume. But I get into the nitty gritty very quickly,
often. “What kind of metrics do you look for to know
if you’re succeeding in whatever you’re doing? What [00:34:30] did you do at your prior company
that you’re most proud of? What was the biggest struggle you had?” I ask questions that try to quickly get to
whether someone’s competent to do that job. Number one attribute. The second, I find, for social mission companies,
is to understand someone’s core motivation. Tom: How do you find that? Leila: I find that most people who come to
work in social enterprise had a transformation life experience. I can’t tell you how many people will say,
“I had a parent who died,” or, “Somebody close to [00:35:00] me became really ill,” or, “I
struggled with an illness,” or, “I battled depression.” “I had some kind of traumatic or serious life
event that called into question how I was spending my time, and that basically made
plain that I wasn’t able to implement my value system in my job, and that creates this disharmony.” Many of our best people who have been with
us the longest are the people who had those kinds of transformational life events and
decided [00:35:30] to quit the job and do something meaningful and invest themselves
fully. And it can be so hard. I think often with social environmental impact
companies, you’re running the same race as everybody else, but you’re deliberately handicapping
yourself by putting these additional constraints on your business. To get through that can just be so hard. It means you’re often not getting enough sleep
because you’re dealing with some worker issue in Nairobi that a normal company wouldn’t
have, because a normal company wouldn’t hire people who come from slums and who deal with
all these other issues. So you really [00:36:00] do need to find people
who are exceptionally committed above and beyond, just the excitement of doing their
job. Exceptionally committed to the mission. And when you find those people who are basically
missionaries for what you do, I think the most satisfying thing for me has been seeing
people invest as much or even more than I have in the company, and that was a real turning
point, seeing people who were willing to care more about Sama than I was at a certain time. As an entrepreneur, that’s maybe the most
satisfying feeling. Tom: [00:36:30] What did that first … I’ll
call it the first year, but it’s really before the company existed, when you were trying
to get people on board? Because one of the number one things I get
asked is what’s that first step? How do I get started? I don’t know anybody. I don’t have money. What do I do? How did you overcome that, tactically? Leila: Yeah. I mean, I think another good piece of advice
is the side hustle. I started the business plan for Samasource
when I was working as a management consultant, and [00:37:00] I started working on it at
nights and weekends, and just really because I was bored of my consulting job and I wanted
to do something more meaningful. I knew I wanted to build a social enterprise
of some kind, and so I read every book I could. I read every case study I could get my hands
on. I learned about Muhammad Yunus and the microfinance
movement. He remains an inspiration to so many of us
in the field. I went out and I watched speeches done by
other social entrepreneurs, and in this learning, put together this business plan and applied
for competitions online. I just sent [00:37:30] out the business plan
to … There was a social business challenge in Amsterdam that I found on the internet,
and I submitted the application, and lo and behold, they called me. I went to the semi-finals and I got one of
those big checks. I got 22,000 euros from that competition. Around that time, I thought, “Okay, I should
quit my job and do this full-time.” The next funding we got was from another business
plan competition. I didn’t place first in either of them. And that was another $14,000, and I cobbled
[00:38:00] that together and made that stretch for over a year. Tom: Whoa. Leila: In building Samasource at the very
beginning. Tom: How do you decide what books to read? What internet searches are you doing? I literally think people go, okay, I’ve heard
Leila said I need to go see … I need the speeches, I need to read books. But what books, what speeches? Where do they start? Leila: Amazon recommendations are actually
pretty good. Tom: Really? Just based on things you’d already read? Leila: Based [00:38:30] on things you’ve … Yeah. If you look at what Muhammad Yunus has written,
they’ll suggest other books in similar categories. I personally found inspiration from entrepreneurs. I read a lot of books about entrepreneurship
and the journey that people have taken. I actually published a book list on my Medium
account, if anyone’s curious, with my 108 life-changing books, pieces of art, and I
think I even have some podcasts and music on there. Tom: Nice, all right, we’ll have to check
that out. Where … Just drop your name into Medium
[00:39:00] and it’ll pop up? Leila: Yeah. And it’ll pop up. Tom: All right, perfect. So you’re reading, reading, reading, taking
in information, but you don’t stop there. You actually put it into action. Do you remember what that first real tangible
thing was that you did? Leila: Yeah. I was no stranger to the hustle, right? So I think one benefit of having immigrant
parents is you’re just used to taking action all the time, and I think almost to a fault,
I have this paranoia about one day being out on the street and not having enough money
and not being able to survive. So I’m always … I’ve just always been doing
things and hustling. [00:39:30] When I had this consulting job,
I knew I wanted to start a social enterprise. I had no idea how I was going to afford it,
and then I figured, well, if I get the money from these business plan competitions and
I start winning some contracts and I really economize and cut down on my expenses, and
maybe I take a side tutoring job … That’s what I did in the first year of Sama to keep
things going. Then I can at least have some semblance of
a business. So I put this plan in place. I remember asking a professor friend I has
worked with if I could get some sort of access to [00:40:00] the university that he was teaching
in. He was teaching at Stanford, and I was like,
“Look, I’m not going to go to grad school, but could you make me a visiting scholar or
something, so I have some semblance of an official title, so I don’t seem to everyone
like I’m just looney tunes and I’ve left my job and I’m starting this crazy nonprofit?” So he gave me a library card. I became a visiting scholar at the Stanford
program on global justice, basically because I asked and because he’s a very generous person. Didn’t come with any money, but I think it
did help to be a part of that Stanford community, [00:40:30] even from an emotional perspective. This was before the days of coworking, so
it was quite lonely to start something on your own. At the time, all my friends were joining Facebook
as early employees, and it was hard. It was like being homeschooled when all your
friends are part of the cool high school. Tom: Walk me through that. That had to be tough. Your friends are early employees of Facebook,
they’re making dosh. Leila: Yeah. Tom: How did you deal with that comparison? So there was no … That wasn’t part of the
emotionally hard part of starting, is seeing people start to make money, [00:41:00] even
though it hadn’t cracked and become what we think of today, but I imagine that wouldn’t
be too easy as you’re struggling to get this thing off the ground. You’re struggling to make ends meet. People are writing to you, telling you you’re
destroying America when none of this is for money. What advice do you have for somebody that’s
in the middle of that path and they’re looking at somebody that took the more traditional
path that’s easier, maybe they’ve had kids and they can support the family. What would you tell them to hold onto? Leila: It was so hard. At one point, my best [00:41:30] friend, who
works in finance, took a month off between jobs and moved out to San Francisco just to
be near me, because I think he was so worried. This was in my low point, in my twenties,
that depression I referred to. For me, what really helped was, again, going
back to the stories of the people we were helping, because it just provided this sustenance. I got one email one year around Christmastime
from one of the people who managed our work center that was working with mostly women
who came from slums, and she said, “Leila, I just want to tell you the story of this
woman who [00:42:00] is a single mom and what she’s been able to do for her kids. You may not see it, but here in Nairobi, I
see this every day. I cannot tell you what a difference that you
personally have made in the lives of all these people, and I’m so grateful.” It was just a simple Christmas card, and I
wept when I read that. I so needed to hear that at that moment. I pinned it to my wall. I still refer to those kinds of letters all
the time. To me, that’s worth so much more than money. Some people live their whole lives and don’t
get that sort of satisfaction from their job, so [00:42:30] I feel tremendously lucky and
grateful that I’ve been able to build a career in this. I think it’s worth a lot of compensation. Tom: Yeah, no joke. One of the most interesting things to me in
your story is actually back when you were 17, when you go to Ghana, I believe. Walk us through that. One time, as I was doing a live broadcast,
people ask questions, and I answer them in real time. Somebody said, “I want to do something with
my life. What do I [00:43:00] do? I’ve been reading, I’ve been …” All this. And I just lost my shit and I was like, “Just
fucking act. For the love of god, just go do something.” And I said, “If you’ve always been thinking
about going to Africa and doing some good, book a ticket right now today and go tonight. Stop thinking about it. Just go.” Of course, the criticism was, “Are you out
of your fucking mind? You can’t tell people to just book a flight
to Africa. You need immunizations, if nothing else. This is crazy town.” And [00:43:30] I thought, okay, for sure. But at the same time, I would actually rather
that person roll the dice and take a risk and go than spend the rest of their life stuck
in paralysis. You’re 17. You roll up, not having any connections, not
knowing where you’re going or what you’re doing. How did you make that work, how did you find
the courage, what was that all about? Leila: First of all, it’s funny because everybody
was telling my parents, “Oh my god, you’re negligent. Your daughter’s going to get hurt.” Rural Ghana is probably [00:44:00] the safest
place on earth. Far safer than urban Los Angeles. My neighbors, as soon as I walked in, were
just always taking care of me. Their first objective was to fatten me up,
because they said I was way too skinny, I would never find a husband if I continued
that way. They would bring me excess cassava and stuff
from the farms. I remember the first day I got there, this
little girl came running over with this plastic cup, and I looked at my host mom. I was staying with these grandparents, actually,
who did this work for fun. Basically, [00:44:30] they hosted these foreign
volunteers. So this girl comes with this cup and she’s
got eggs in the cup and she says something I don’t understand and looks at me expectantly
with this cup, and I’m like, “Why is she giving me eggs?” And my host mother explained, she’s like,
“Well, eggs are a very precious commodity here. These chickens often don’t lay many eggs,
because they don’t have enough nutrition. So she’s giving you the most valuable thing
that her family has to welcome you.” Tom: Whoa. Leila: There was this incredible welcoming
and generosity, and it made it so easy. In fact, my hardest [00:45:00] thing was coming
back home. I had reverse culture shock going to Harvard
from Ghana, where everyone was super friendly and smiling all the time and then get to Harvard,
where it was much colder and harder to survive, and a much more dog-eat-dog atmosphere. Tom: That is really interesting. In fact, you have an awesome quote, and I’m
almost certain that I have the exact quote here. “I have molded my life around the fact that
work is the best way to move people out of poverty, and that work [00:45:30] is at the
core of human dignity. But it’s not all that there is.” In the context of what you just said, that
was jarring for me, just to hear you describe it, about the human warmth, the human connection. And then to go to a place like Harvard in
western civilization and to feel more distant, more disconnected, and ultimately then, sort
of that becomes the beginning of the emotional distress that you go through. How do we reconcile [00:46:00] that? What are your thoughts around the disconnect
of the traditional western lifestyle and the beauties that are in these rural villages
that you’re trying to really help? You’re trying to help them with these western
ideals, it’s pretty fascinating. Leila: I know, and it’s such an odd juxtaposition
because I find that some of my happiest moments are when I have very little and I’m in a place
like rural Ghana or one of the places I love most in the word is rural northern Uganda,
which is just stunning. It’s pristine, [00:46:30] I’ve had so many
amazing experiences of just deep connection with the land but also with people. I think there’s a certain vulnerability that
comes from not having a lot of stuff. When you’re poor, you depend on each other. You depend on your relationship with your
neighbor and your family because if you don’t have that, you have nothing. And when an accident happens, there’s this
social capital that helps people get through that. It’s tough, because on the one hand, I think
a lot of the traditional [00:47:00] values or a lot of the values that I see in poor
communities are values that we want to perpetuate, and that are important. And on the flip side, there are things like
really avoidable suffering in healthcare, for example. I remember talking to a doctor in Kampala,
who would tell me that he would watch people routinely die in his hospital because the
hospital didn’t have enough sutures. People would come in from an accident on the
street and they would literally die from hemorrhage because the hospital did not have stitches. That’s [00:47:30] the kind of thing that just
should never happen in 2017. Not on our watch, right? I also think that we’re learning more and
more that more money after a certain level does not equate to more happiness or a more
fulfilled life. Tom: This is one thing that I want to talk
about before we get to my final question, and that is your notion of untapped potential. Literally accidentally, I can take exactly
zero credit for this. In fact, going back to your notion of sometimes
being selfish [00:48:00] ends up with really great results, to get extra credit, I started
working in the inner cities around USC. They say, “Hey, who wants extra credit?” I was a total freak for getting good grades,
and so I raised my hand. They send me into a school in south central
to first teach. I was teaching oceanography, and then I got
asked again who wanted to do extra credit. Me. And they did one-on-ones. That one-on-one relationship that I entered
into with this little kid named [Roshawn 00:48:24] turned into an eight and a half year relationship
just because [00:48:30] I made him a promise that I’d help him with his homework. It turns into this whole thing, and I don’t,
at the time, have no concept of this kid is changing me as a human being. Just at a deep and fundamental level, right? But I don’t understand that. I’m 19, whatever. But it leaves this indelible mark on my life. And then, I go on my crazy entrepreneurial
journey, going through the periods of me realizing, okay, I have been chasing money. And for me, maybe not for everybody, but for
me, it just was soul- [00:49:00] crushing. So I needed to connect to something again. Humanity, people, something like when you
were talking about that juxtaposition of being in rural Ghana and then coming to Harvard. That’s how I felt in the business world chasing
money versus actually connecting with people, and I wanted to connect. That ends up … We create Quest Nutrition
out of that desire to connect and bring value and all of that. But then again, unintentionally, I find myself
in the inner cities, because that’s where you can afford the real estate. That’s where manufacturing happens, because
[00:49:30] it’s zoned for that. And then B) you can get hundreds of thousands
of square feet. So of course, you’re drawing from the local
population. And here I am again with these incredible
people, and I used to say, “I’m mining for astronauts.” I don’t know why, that was just … To me
as a kid, an astronaut, you could never be an astronaut, right? That was the unattainable dream. I jus thought, these guys, they could be. They’re just as smart as me, and I’ll define
smart as the ability to process [00:50:00] raw data at a given speed. Right? Leila: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Tom: They could do it just as fast as I could,
so I was like, it’s purely my opportunities, my mindset that differentiates me, and you’ve
talked about that. You said, “The problem isn’t potential. The problem is opportunity.” Walk us through that. And then what awaits us on the other side
when these people get to express their potential? Leila: Sure. It’s just as you said. Talent is equally distributed, and opportunity
is not. [00:50:30] We live in a world where more than
two billion people live on less than three dollars a day, and that number is adjusted
for purchasing power, so that’s what three dollars by you, in a U.S. city in modern times. So just imagine what that means. It means that you are living in a constant
state of scarcity. We now know, there’s a very interesting book
out called Scarcity, which talks about how scarcity reshapes your brain. They took I think Fortune 500 CEOs [00:51:00]
and had a few of them volunteer for a study where they were basically voluntarily starved
for a week, and these guys stopped being able to make good long-term decisions, universally. Because your brain chemistry is focused on
finding food. It’s focused on whatever is scarce. So when people are living in a constant state
of scarcity, they cannot possibly make what we would think of as good decisions. They are locked into a state of suffering,
and not achieving their full human potential that is just tragic. And it’s tragic not just at the individual
level. It’s tragic [00:51:30] in a sense of this
is the greatest natural resource we have in the world. More important than going to Mars, more important
than finding the next oil reserve or the next diamond mine, is figuring out how we can mine
the talent of the bottom billions of people who have been left to fester. I think it’s a tremendous loss to the world. For me, I think it’s so exciting to be able
to go to places like Nairobi or Uganda and see people shine. See people who could easily be astrophysicists,
[00:52:00] if they had only had the opportunity, and hopefully get them on the path where they
can achieve more of their human potential. It is the most personally satisfying job I
could ever imagine having, and I think as a society, when we do this, we feel more satisfied
collectively, as well. Tom: Yeah, it’s interesting. I used to tell people, “I’m looking for the
next 100, 1000 Elon Musks.” Right? What does the world look like when you have
that many people that can play at that level? So I totally, totally, get that. All right, before I ask the last question,
where can these guys find you online? Leila: Leilajanah. [00:52:30] com. I’m on Facebook at Leila Janah, and then,
where I talk about Samasource and LXMI. Tom: Perfect. We’ll drop that all in the show notes. All right, final question. This is a big one for you, and it’s come out
clearly in the interview, but what is the impact that you want to have on the world? Leila: The world’s largest 2000 companies
spend 12 trillion dollars annual on goods and services. That’s dwarfing the budgets of international
aid and charity. If we could direct even a little bit of that
money to sourcing form [00:53:00] social enterprises that give work, we could move millions of
people out of poverty very quickly without even changing corporate business models. I think there’s so much potential in giving
work, not just at the individual level. Not just us choosing brands that do good in
the world. But in companies choosing to sources for goods
and services from these types of vendors. That is, I think, the next evolution of our
mission. Tom: I love it. Thank you so much, Leila, for being on the
show. Leila: Thank you so much. Tom: Guys, you’re going to want to check out
this [00:53:30] book. It is absolutely incredible. The whole concept of being able to end poverty
one job at a time and giving work instead of giving handouts is absolutely incredible,
but what you’re really going to love about diving into her world is that she talks about
that fascinating balance that she mentioned earlier between really wanting to do good,
being who you are, bring the full weight of your personality, understand what’s working
in for-profit businesses and bringing it and making the demand that we can do it in service
of a greater good, and that there is no compromise. You’re not [00:54:00] giving something up
by doing that. And that was the thing that drew me into her
world. If you know me, you know my whole thing is
results, baby, and that is it. That is the only thing that you should be
focused on. And from the jump, that’s what she talks about. You need to be looking at the result that
people are getting out of these. It doesn’t matter if they’re an NGO. It doesn’t matter if they’re a nonprofit or
a profit. You need to be looking at the results that
they deliver. How many people are they helping? What are they able to do with the dollar? That’s what’s amazing to me. She’s lighting the world on fire in two ways. One, [00:54:30] she’s creating best in class
companies, and that is something I did not ask her nearly enough about. When you dive in, you’re going to see, she
creates products that people actually want. Products that people actually want. She solves problems, and she does it in a
way that is humanity plus. And that’s it, man. It is a new way of doing business, and I think
she’s a vanguard. Jump into it and see what it’s all about,
because it’s really fucking good. All right, guys. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe. And until next time, my friends, [00:55:00]
be legendary. Take care. Thank you so much. Leila: Thank you, it was awesome. Tom: Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for watching and being a
part of this community. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe. You’re going to get weekly videos on building
a growth mindset, cultivating grit, and unlocking your full potential.

100 thoughts on “The Keys to Building Character | Leila Janah on Impact Theory

  • I just hate the negativity towards Africa nobody needs you there. It sounds like. Going to a thick bush to animals and diseases. Seat your asses there in your artificial world and be 'cool' its sound like Going to a battle or some night mare to face you all sack you are the ones who are sick in your communities just b'se you cover that in your clothes.STOP going there period!!. I Love the inspiration from you lady but this craker ain't worth a listen I feel like puking at him with that sickening facial expression

  • A great interview and very inspiring. I feel stuck in my current job and would like to transition to more meaningful work. Tom, your show is giving me a tremendous amount of hope. Keep up the great content!

  • One of my fav.'s. I love what she said about space, nature, non-profit vs. profit flawed system, putting leaders on pedestals, Ghana and her host family + little girl and her family's valuable eggs as a gift, scarcity and the CEO's voluntary results of living on such a concept, etc. I want to start a non-profit for child abuse victims but I see such an outdated, flawed system that will only hurt these kids as opposed to help them. I love how she looks at it and what it she thinks it should be. I 100% agree.

  • I love this type of interviews, where you learn from ordinary people, having humble beginnings and excelling beyond life's obstacles. I have never heard of Leila Janah, I didn't get exactly what her company is about, so I have do to more research. The host asked very good questions. Overall, very engaging interview.

  • I used to think if there are even any female inspiration leaders in the heavily male-dominated 'motivation' world, but this show changed it when introduced me to some of the most profound leaders like Mel Robbins and Leila Janah.

  • Well done Tom, Leila is inspiring and to say is impressive would be an understatement. Keep bringing your viewers more excellent and eye opening guests.

  • 5:00 – in temp jobs on slow days I'd calculate how much beer I'd buy for each 10s or minute of my time, to get through each boring or tiring stretch.

  • Besides all the things I’ve learned from all the interesting people in your channel I really appreciate that there are not a million commercials interrupting… excellent job!!

  • This really hit home. What she's saying about leaving Africa and coming back to Harvard and how unfriendly people are. I transferred with a company to Massachusetts and worked in Harvard Square (Cambridge) from South Florida. Let me tell you. The most unfriendly and helpful people I've ever been around. It got to the point where I'd ask where someone was from when they would just hold the door for me! Guess what?! Not a single one of those souls were from Massachusetts. I understand and can relate to the title they have as… "Massholes" It got to the point where I realized, I can change to be like my environment, or I can change my environment.
    After 3 miserable years… I'd never live there again.

  • OMG. This is the most amazing woman in the world by far. I am stoned. Great, great example for us all.

  • The amount of homework that Tom does about the guest and everything about the guest is phenomenal.that why your guest are also honored to be at your are legendary!

  • HI Tom ,am a native from Kenya,Nairobi and to say that your show is not only cathartic but diametrically inspiring would be a gross understatement.Among the millions of people you've unknowingly influenced,Bobbie Onditi Manwar,post grad student at UoN and Site Surveyor at Westlands, is one.Keep them coming.

  • That is the ultimate princess! After watching this, I've signed up to her Instagram. It inspires me so much, to be better and live gracefully every day:
    What a beautiful way to look at things. Thank you Leila and Tom for this gift!

  • Thank you Tom for bringing Leila on your show. It is great to learn from you both. I am from Ghana and also a huge fan of Leila and her work. It’s great to know she spent her early years in Ghana.

  • She says that more money does not equate more happiness yet she meets a doctor that tells her people die because of lack of stitches. Wouldn’t money help that? Wouldn’t being able to buy that make you happy.

  • Love her outlook on life and brief explanation of her upbringing. She has a great energy and aura about her.

  • We dig it! None of our Saints and rejection…it's going to happen, what are you going to do, how will you re-act! Thank you for sharing and yes non profit vs for profit… Don't quit!!!

  • Doesn’t help me. I need a story based on an individual that wasn’t that great in academics. But she has a great story

  • I literally cried the entire way through this. I identify with her in so many ways. What a strong beautiful woman she is. Thank you for having her!!! 💗💗💗💕💕🙏🙏🙏

  • Tom I have been following you for some time now. I love your videos. They have given me such inspiration.
    However, this one has blown me away. I love what she has done and what she is doing, it reflects what I would love to do in me beloved Liberia. It is great to finally find someone that reflects my vision.
    Thank you

  • Tom you’re a genius. Your introductions…. the amount of depth you know about every guest. I’ve watched maybe 25 interviews now and I am blown away. So are your guest. Learning so much from your EXAMPLE of excellence. Thank you for a great show. Bless you

  • Wow, I was just reading this book named “I know what to do so why don’t I do it? The science of Self Discipline by Nick Hall. And she is speaking some of those ideas I read in that book. Dope

  • He said "you said in your twenties" really? she does not look older then twenty five she is SO beautiful, smart, inspiring, and looks so youthful <3 awwww

  • Dude I am impressed beyond words after every single episode. It's not just the people you get on here either, you do something to draw out pure inspiration and the core heart behind every single one of these people that come on your show. Thank you for serving the world with this man. It's just in the beginning and I'm excited for the journey. Congratulations man. 💗🔥

  • I m fed up with motivational vdos and not changing myself. I think knowing something and doing is absolutely different

  • Recovery International tells us we can get sick from the neck up or the neck down!  You know the stigma associated with depression.  So do I!

  • Tom B. I wonder if youve ever heard of Kat Kerr?? She's an amazing inspirer. and futurist. It would be super to hear you interview her!!!

  • Great interview. I also took money (employment) from BIG tobacco … one of the most shameful although short, periods of my life. It compelled me to work for and create environments of integrity. Good to hear that Leila took her experiences and created something that is good for the world. I agree with Leila 100% about core values aligned with what you do in the world grounding us like nothing else. Great interview.

  • Tom is great and I love him, and she is great..and this is a great interview. But I have a lot of issues with these "gig economy" jobs as she puts it. They provide growth and wealth for a very limited few and the work provided is a joke. for those who actually need to get out of poverty. The compensation is completely unfair after the "contractor" (The poor person) pays all their own expenses they are basically providing 'free labor' to these large companies. And these companies offer none of the benefits of a traditional Job, no safety net, no health insurance. etc, etc. I don't see it as helpful…I see it as widening the poverty Gap. The 'middle class" is becoming Non existent ..In favor of the 'ultra rich, and the incredibly poor'…I'm looking at companies like. Instacart. door dash. Uber. etc,etc.

  • "When your core spiritual values or morality are aligned with what you spend the majority of your time doing, it creates this unity in your soul."

  • Tom, you're the most amazing interviewer i've ever seen, the work and thought that goes into your questions beforehand and on-the-go are astonishing. Your conversational skills are a goal of mine <3

  • Solid interview. I think she conflated actual scarcity with a scarcity mentality – completely different things. Humans are great at overcoming actual scarcity – just about every human invention was (and is) created to overcome some type of scarcity. However, the mentality of scarcity is what causes people to freak out and make bad decisions. The mentality of scarcity is a wall that keeps building itself higher and thicker as long as we keep believing in it. This world has enough resources to allow us to thrive, but if we believe that it doesn't – that we must hoard or take what belongs to others – then no amount of resources will ever be enough.

  • Cool. This actually made me feel better. I have experienced a ton of rejection. I sometimes internalize it and believe it is a sign that ‘I am a loser forever doomed to fail’

  • Million dollar question, “what is the thing that kept you from breaking where other people could have for sure?”

  • You ROCK, Leila! Wow, what a beautiful woman inside and out. LOVED her message and she delivers it with clarity and compassion. So proud of her! Pure character!

  • Absolutely inspired by her sharing … she has stood tall and strong against all the odds … thank you impact theory for bringing such enlightening story through this platform .

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