Episode #108:
Upping Your Resilience for Women in Business with Gina Vild

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In this thought-provoking episode, Caterina is joined by author and resilience expert, Gina Vild. The two entrepreneurs discuss the importance of finding purpose in order to bliss in your business and take you through a step-by-step process for discovering your true purpose after major setbacks. You won’t want to miss this episode on positive reframing, finding your strength through resilience, and blissing at every stage of your life!




Gina Vild is an author, educator, and thought leader on the topics of happiness, living with purpose, and resilience. Her career includes more than four decades in which she held senior leadership positions in healthcare, academia, and government. Most recently, she served for 12 years at Harvard Medical School as Associate Dean and Chief Communications Officer.

She is known for being a curator of poetry, meditation enthusiast, lifelong learner, and mother. Her vibrant approach to life blends academic learning with real-world experiences.

She is co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD, of the successful book The Two Most Important Days, How to Find Your Purpose and Live a Happier, Healthier Life published by St. Martin’s Press. She is at work on her next book on the topic of resilience. She blogs for Psychology Today.

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Expand Your Fempire Podcast #108 Transcript


Upping Your Resilience for Women in Business with Gina Vild​


Welcome to Expand your Fempire with Caterina Rando, the podcast for women in business on a mission. Sharing ideas to support you to grow and thrive. Now here’s your host, Caterina Rando.

[00:00:25] Caterina Rando: Welcome back to another episode of the Expand Your Fempire Podcast. I am blissing today because I have a very special guest, Gina Vild. Gina and I were on a panel earlier this year. I thought she had such great insight and I loved her energy. And she is a lifetime educator, career educator, and she’s also author of the book The Two Most Important Days. And I felt that this was a great conversation for us to have on our podcast because this book is really about finding your purpose and living a happier, healthier life. Gina, I’m so glad you’re with us today.

[00:01:11] Gina Vild: Thank you so much. And I must say you did an amazing job when you were on that panel a couple months ago.

[00:01:17] Caterina Rando: Thank you. It was super fun. Now Gina, I wanna hear about you, I wanna hear about your journey. I have to tell you though, I have a question for you. Okay? You know, when we talk about finding your purpose, I always feel like it’s not like finding your roots, like your roots are what they are. Right? Or it’s not like finding a friend from long ago, because they are what they are. I always feel like it’s choosing your purpose or selecting or deciding on your purpose. What do you think? Do you think it’s something we find or we choose or we decide? What are your thoughts?

[00:01:58] Gina Vild: I believe purpose is absolutely fundamental to all of our lives. If we want to be happy and contributing members society. And I think we identify our purpose from within us, so we may decide on the purpose, but you generally find it within yourself based on what satisfies you, what gives your life meaning. And people are increasingly through the pandemic, realizing that “you know, maybe I’m not living a life of purpose.” And there’s an opportunity here when we face two years of stress and tension and fear of illness, to find out what’s really important to us.

[00:02:38] Caterina Rando: And did you find during the pandemic, and now that we’re moving towards post-pandemic, that this whole conversation around purpose was more common and more in the forefront?

[00:02:54] Gina Vild: It was stunning, because I was giving talks on our book, and also on the book I’m working on now on resilience, and a great number of organizations, after I gave a talk on happiness, said “Can you come back? We really need to hear more that will raise our sights and raise our spirits and help us look inward.” And so the speaking engagements quadrupled, because people were really in need. And there was a form. People were locked in their homes and at their computer screen, so there was a lot of opportunity. But it led to a great deal of introspection, not only about purpose, but about is this the life I want to live? Are these the friends and the people I want to have in my life? Are they optimistic? Are they contributing in a meaningful way to my life? And let me just say something about that. I just wrote an article for Psychology Today, and it’s on the value of optimism, which is a sister of purpose, you know, how to be optimistic and forward-looking. And a study was done by Harvard, 150,000 women, and they found that those who identified as being most optimistic actually had greater longevity and many lived to be 90 or older. And so there is a purpose in terms of looking at who are your friends and do they support me in a positive way. Jim Rowan, the famous motivational speaker, said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who are those five people in your life? Because that will determine the conversations you have, the way you look at the world, where you go, how you think. And so it’s really worth thinking about that.

[00:04:46] Caterina Rando: I would agree. My mother and father are 90, and my mom has a natural, and always has had, a very natural positive disposition. My dad, who is the one who introduced me to motivational speaking and personal development when I was a kid, he has worked on being optimistic because I think from his upbringing he was more naturally pessimistic, but having a commitment to optimism has made a huge difference in his life.

[00:05:18] And, and at 90 being a vegan, my dad’s a vegan, they’re both living a wonderful life and they’re, blissing at that age. And I’m sure optimism has played a part of that.

[00:05:32] Gina Vild: And you got your mother’s optimism is my sense.

[00:05:36] Caterina Rando: Yes, yes. Well, you know, I think that it’s a choice. You know, I think it was Abraham Lincoln that said, you know, “we’re as happy as we decide to be.” and I remember when I was a teenager laying on my bed being depressed about something, probably some romantic situation, and I decided, you know, I wasn’t gonna be depressed, that I was gonna take action. And Joan Baez, she’s the one who said “Action is the antidote to despair.” And I believe that that’s my life motto. And I do believe that we can choose to be having a positive disposition and being optimistic, and that I do encourage us all to be that way.

[00:06:20] Gina Vild: You know, Winston Churchill said “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

[00:06:26] Caterina Rando: Yes, I like that one.

[00:06:28] Gina Vild: Really what you did, what you just described is what psychologists call reframing, positive reframing. So if you have a negative experience in your professional life or in your personal life, how do you think about it? Did you experience a challenging separation? Are doors closing? And if they are, what are the windows that are opening? And looking at it through that way, and through that filter, helps you positive reframe. And you can positively reframe almost every situation in your life. Years ago, I was working with the Clinton Foundation through Harvard Medical School and I sat next to, at a conference, a really lovely woman named Holly Jacob. And she was very excited cuz she had written a book. She had breast cancer, and she wrote a book called The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer. And she found, in this beautifully illustrated book, a positive aspect to every single phase of the diagnosis and treatment process for breast cancer. So I always think of that when I think you can reframe almost every experience.

[00:07:36] Caterina Rando: Absolutely. Well, you know, I wanna talk about resilience, because I think that that’s a big reframe is our ability to bounce back from setback. And let’s get there shortly, Gina.

[00:07:48] First though, because we started with the whole conversation of purpose, I don’t wanna go too far sideways before we help anyone who’s listening who maybe doesn’t feel like they have their sense of purpose. Because I picked my purpose very early and I feel very grateful that I decided early what my purpose was, which is to uplift women economically and let them know that they matter and they have massive value to bring, and to be a woman empowerment person in business and life. There’s a lot of people though that they don’t know, they haven’t found it, they haven’t discovered it. What advice would you have for them so that they can pick their path and bliss on their path?

[00:08:37] Gina Vild: Right. And we have exercises in our book on how to find your purpose. But I will share with you, like I love quotes, and another favorite quote of mine is Anne Frank who said “It is wonderful that nobody need to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

[00:08:54] Caterina Rando: Love that.

[00:08:55] Gina Vild: Looking for your purpose, I think it’s important to step back from whatever it is you’re doing. Cause you may be on a trajectory that was ingrained in you from a very young age, and it may not be what feeds your soul. You may be doing it because an opportunity arose or because it was an expectation of your parents. And it’s possible without totally disrupting your life to step back and actually write down “what makes me happy? What brings me joy?” And I did an exercise myself personally, which was really meaningful a number of years ago. And one was I looked at the last three jobs that I had and I identified “what did I love about each job? What made me wanna get up in the morning and sing?” And I went through that, and then the fourth component was looking back at college. And you could look at college or high school or whatever phase of your life you want and think “What inspired me? What made me happy? What made me feel excited?” And it is an absolutely stunning exercise. It may not sound like it, but everyone should try it and you will find the threads of those things that help give them purpose and give them focus and give them pleasure. And like for me, I never thought about this, but I was always put in jobs that were a little bit beyond my experience, so I had to work really hard. . And there’s a book called the First 90 Days, and I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, but it’s a great book for everyone starting a new job. It actually asks you to think about your role and are you managing the trains to make sure they arrive on time? Or are they expecting you to be a change agent? Or are they looking for you to reframe and rethink some of how your department is working?

[00:10:46] And first it’s important to identify that, and for me, every role I realized when I went through this exercise, I was a change agent. I was gonna restructure, I was gonna create new strategic goals, and that fed me. And if I were in a position where I was asked to just manage the trains, it would not be as exciting. So it’s important to really write down, there’s an exercise, but write down what is it that gives you joy, professionally and personally. You know, my purpose is paying attention and being present, and being aware of nature, and I’m very involved in climate issues, and I’m very involved on changing the world to be in a more compassionate way. And for someone else it might be… I have a friend who’s very involved in, you know, people who are food insecure. There are a lot of ways, maybe it’s protecting the earth and volunteering with a gardening center, but it’s writing down what are those things that really make your heart swell and make you feel good. And your purpose is not set. Say you know your purpose, but over 10 years, every 10 years, every 15 years, you should evaluate it again and think “does this still make me feel good?” Right? “Does it make me feel like I am contributing in a meaningful way to the world?”

[00:12:10] Caterina Rando: That’s beautiful. And you know, I would say let’s look at it every year too. Because one of the things, Gina, that I would say in my evolution is that now that I’m 57, I’m talking to more women over 50, and some of them are starting to feel schlump-a-dinka in their life. You know, they’re starting to feel tired or pushed aside or that, you know, it’s all over.

[00:12:39] And so my refocusing is really to shine the spotlight on the older woman to support her to start a business or grow a business or be of service through her business so that she’s blissing at every phase and stage of life. And I would say that, of course, as I’ve gotten older, this is how my purpose has changed. I still am happy to help every woman, and I have a special focus now for the more mature woman to make sure that she’s really blissing in her life. And that’s the other thing I would say, before it was really more about helping women have businesses, now it’s more about helping women bliss in their business. And part of that is of course, as you’re saying, the give back, the making sure that you’re using your business for good. And I’m also very turned on about the whole B Corp thing, which is one of my goals, which is about people, planet, and purpose, and profit too.

[00:13:41] Gina Vild: Very good. You know, I sit on a board for an organization called Third Act Quest, and there’s a new media platform that brings women together. It’s called the 333 Collective, and it’s only been in existence maybe three months, and there are a variety of groups for people who are looking to rethink this phase of life, this third act that they have. And it’s exactly what you’re talking about. I run the Resilience Group and it’s fascinating. It has really good attendance. It’s stunning how many women are thinking “Now what? What next? And how do I think about that?” And sometimes thinking about it with other women is very useful. You know, I’m a the age where my parents’ generation people would join a company and then stay and get their gold watch and then golf, or retire, you know, and relax. And people want to stay active and contributing members of society. And it’s easier to do now because people are what we used to call multivalent. You know, you wanna have different aspects to your life and you wanna contribute in different ways.

[00:14:49] Caterina Rando: Well, I love that. It’s called 333, is that what it’s called?

[00:14:52] Gina Vild: Yeah. I’m happy to make an introduction. She’s lovely. She is really lovely and she exudes optimism, and is really doing wonderful purpose driven work and brings women together to think about their next act. One of the groups is How To Be a Writer, cause a lot of people really think about “do I want to write a book? Is there anything I have to say for the world or for my grandchildren?” or whatever it is.

[00:15:19] Caterina Rando: I love that. Well hook me up and we’ll also put it in the show notes for all of our listeners, because you know, as you were talking earlier about what truly makes you happy, for me, one of the things that makes me so happy is being in a room full of women and watching them have transformation and watching them have “a-ha”s, and also watching them over time grow and become more confident women, become more contributing women, starting to be role models for other women. That’s what truly makes my heart sing.

[00:15:55] Gina Vild: Aren’t some of the most resilient people you know women? Right?

[00:15:59] Caterina Rando: Yeah.

[00:15:59] Gina Vild: If you don’t have your own business, but even if you do have your own business, organizations are seeking employees who have self-sufficiency, mental agility, optimism, persistence. And that is resilience. How do you reinvent yourself?

[00:16:13] Caterina Rando: Exactly. Well, companies are going through changes, our communities and our world has been going through changes. And you know, I think that, the ability to be resilient, bounce back from setback is one of the biggest skills for thriving in business and life that we don’t really shine the spotlight on enough.

And I would tell you, Gina, we’re just becoming new friends, so my personal story you don’t know, but what I had happen to me was that my marriage ended, and along with my marriage ending, there was a lot of financial mishandling in my marriage and created a huge mountain of debt for me and my business, which was scary because wanting to be of service I always want to under-promise and over-deliver. And now being far on the other side of that, what it all showed me was that I can be resilient, that I can be determined, and now I feel better for it, as you were saying with the silver lining. And let’s talk a little bit about resiliency because this is something that we want everyone to cultivate, develop, and really master more in their life.

[00:17:40] Gina Vild: Sure. My favorite quote of mine is Nelson Mandela, who embodies resilience in every way. And he said “Do not judge me by my success. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” And we all fall down. And I think resilience is basically thriving in the face of adversity. And who do you know that has not had adversity? Right? It’s the ability to seek renewal, purpose, and manifest an alternative path when you’re confronted, like you were, with unexpected life events. People, I think, misunderstand it. It’s not a return to the prepain state. We are forever changed by those events that enter our lives and cause hardship, it’s not about getting over it, whatever the it is, and it’s not about being a victim. You know, we can choose to be victims or we can be victimized without being victim, finding a way to take this and shift the thinking. Another article I wrote was on “Are You Lucky?” And luck is taking difficult experiences and saying yes more often, and looking at new paths and how do you navigate the difficulties. Saying yes is so important, because people who are lucky, are similar, and there’s a lot of research that’s been done in the UK on luck, they basically say “All right, this happened, but let me see what else is out there.” And they look for new paths, and they say yes, and they take chances, right? Like I also went through a divorce late in life. I chose it, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. And I had to find a way to build a new life at a time when most women my age were really feeling the security felt good, the comfort felt good. And suddenly there I was trying to, like you were, refashion everything. Right?

[00:19:38] Caterina Rando: And you did okay, right? You’re stronger on the other side, I would say I certainly am stronger on the other side, and it’s really allowed me too to appreciate everything more, but appreciate myself more, and appreciate my skill more. And I feel that one of the things I learned was “You know, I’m always gonna be okay because I have resiliency and determination that I didn’t know that I had.” What did you learn in the process about yourself?

[00:20:10] Gina Vild: Oh, what a great question. I learned that you can reshape your life no matter what the age. This was actually very interesting, again I wrote about this: I went through an exercise, which I’ll share because I think it applies not only to a divorce, but it applies to many situations when things happen. I was really struggling in the earliest days, you know, really sad and really not recognizing my heart and my head and all of that. And I decided I would ask the smartest person I know for advice on how to heal a broken heart. And I asked Google. So my friend Google honestly gave me the best advice. The advice was this: first, sit down and write. And the writing is really important. Whether you have a gratitude practice or however you’re thinking, the writing down actually changes how your body or your mind interprets and uses the information. Sit down and write all of the things that are no more. Everything that is over, every painful episode, every sad experience, like the future that’s dashed, the day to day living situation that’s over. And I did that. It was very difficult. It was emotionally exhausting. And then my friend Google said to wait a few days and then write another letter to yourself. And that was a hello letter. And in that letter, which is a little harder to write, I began to envision a number of things that I wanted to do, and what was possible, and what were the things that were closed to me that were now open. Travel experiences, new relationships, new friendships with men and women, new experiences like redecorating my house. And it was actually quite a heady experience and it did literally change my mindset. So I share that because you can do that whenever there is a difficult situation. It really comes down to the practice of grieving. Grieving what you’ve lost, and then manifest a new future. And manifesting is critically important to all aspects of your life, because think about this: before anything good happened to you, it was a thought, it was an idea. And I’m doing a lot of research now on how to manage your thoughts, and it is one of the most interesting things I have ever studied. By manifesting your future, you are framing your thoughts in a way that will bring positive things into your life.

[00:22:55] Caterina Rando: That’s beautiful, and I love that Google gave you such great advice. And you know, the other thing is that you took action, and it’s back to my thought earlier, you know, that I think a lot of people sit around and wallow too much and that finding a solution and taking action is really an important part of resilience and overcoming grief and creating the new life that we want for ourselves. Gina, you are a wealth of information and quotes. Do you have any more quotes you wanna share?

[00:23:30] Gina Vild: I have so many quotes. But I do wanna share one other thing and it’s probably the best Ted Talk I’ve listened to in a long time, and it’s by a resilience expert named Lucy Hone, who had a devastatingly tragic personal experience in her life. And she thought “What do I really know about resilience? Nothing.” And so she basically, went through a process and gave this TED Talk, and one of the takeaways for me was one of the things she learned, whenever you’re doing something, ask yourself “how is this serving me?” How is this serving me? Is it helping me or is it hurting me? And I have begun to really think about that often. Like when I’m doing something, if I’m invited to an event, how is this serving me? Is this what I really want to be doing?

[00:24:20] Caterina Rando: I love that. And so that’s really more conscious living, conscious acting, conscious behavior. I always like to say “Does it serve me or does it sabotage me?” Does it serve me or does it take away from whatever it is that are your goals, your dreams, your desires,

[00:24:38] Gina Vild: It is one of the simplest questions we can ask and we can apply it to how we spend our time. So we’re spending our precious hours wisely. It can apply to, you know, how you choose your career path. How is this serving and does it align with what my purpose is, which should be at the forefront of all of our thinking.

[00:24:59] Caterina Rando: Beautiful. Gina, I know that when I say in the description of this episode of our podcast, when I say thought-provoking, it’s gonna be super true, because this has been a very thought-provoking conversation with you. Let’s tell everyone how they can connect with you and any final thoughts you have for our listeners.

[00:25:21] Gina Vild: Yes. You know what, I’ve interviewed approximately 30 people for the book that I’m writing on resilience, and it really is my thinking about here’s a science, but what are the practical things you can do to be more resilient? How do you manage your thoughts? How do you look at acceptance? How do you manifest a new future? You know, what is your community and how does that affect resilience? But interspersed with this are interviews with men and women who have some wildly interesting, compelling stories to tell about personal setbacks and then how they handled moving forward and navigated a new path. And if there’s anyone who would like to share their story with me, I would love to include it. And it would all be approved. You know, they’re gonna be interspersed throughout the book. And my email address is gina.vild@gmail.com.

[00:26:20] Caterina Rando: Beautiful. Thank you Gina. And we will put that in the show notes. And again, your book is called The Two Most Important Days. And you have a website, twomostimportantdays.com, where people can also reach out to you and connect with you.

[00:26:37] Gina Vild: And a Facebook page, And yes, I’d love to hear from people. And you know, I think one of my favorite quotes, and it’s been hanging in my home since I was 27 years old. I lost my parents quite young within 72 days of each other. And it was traumatic. The center fell away. And a friend of mine gave me a framed quote by Camus, which is “in the midst of winter, I found there was within myself an invincible summer.” And we all have that summer within us and it’s finding it and knowing we can access it when we need to.

[00:27:15] Caterina Rando: Beautiful. Gina, thank you so much for being with us today.

[00:27:19] Gina Vild: Thank you very much.

[00:27:21] Caterina Rando: Thank you. Everyone, give some thought to our discussion today. Are you on the right path? Are you being resilient? What do you wanna manifest? And where do you wanna heal? And maybe if this podcast hasn’t given you the answer, you can do what Gina did and go talk to her best friend Google.

Everyone remember you have massive value to bring. There’s a lifetime supply of people to serve. Go be of service.

[00:27:52] Gina Vild: Thank you.

[00:27:54] Caterina Rando: Thank you, Gina, so much.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Expand Your Fempire with Caterina Rando.

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