In this first episode of Season 2, Arthi explores more about #Ikigai, the Japanese philosophy of purpose, with guest Santa, who has been using this philosophy since being a graduate.
She shares a number of personal stories of her journey of finding herself without a job in the financial crisis, to cultural expectations of what she should do as a career, to being undervalued for her skill - yet she has been daring and courageous to put herself out there, despite being turned down, until the right opportunity materialised leading her down the path to where she is today. Her ikigai continues to evolve.
Some key words of wisdom shared by Santa include:
"Structure gives us freedom"
"Finding your sweet spot gives you endurance without fatiguing you"
" Vulnerability is part of being strong"
Listen in to hear practical advice, real ideas and feel inspired by Santa's journey and optimism.
About Santa Meyer-Nandi
Santa is an environmental lawyer turned sustainability & well-being expert, based in Paris. She is the Co-Director and founder of the Think & Action Lab FindingSustainia, a UNESCO award-winning think tank known for its 30 day sustainability challenges, and is currently scaling up the FindingSustainia non-profit approach. She is a speaker, facilitator, writer and coach and speaks German, English, French and Bengali fluently, thus its extremely easy for her to undertake all these opportunities globally.
Connect with Santa http://findingsustainia.org/ and on social media:
If you enjoyed this episode, then do rate, write a review and share with others.
Share too, your own insights from your journey based on themes from the episode - what has worked or hasn't for you. We can all learn from each other.
Connect with host Arthi here:
Arthi Rabikrisson 0:15
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Inspire life podcast today with me your host Arthi Rabikrisson.
I believe we find inspiration all around us, especially from the stories that we all have within us. My aim with a inspire life podcast is to bring some of those stories, real stories to light stories that my guests are willing to share. And that will resonate with both you and me. It's by listening to these stories that we can be inspired and become motivators, because our stuff to overcome and to find that new path making us rise even higher, and we thought possible.
Joining me today on this episode is someone who is fold with purpose. Her name is Santa Meyer-Nandi and she is an environmental lawyer, turn sustainability and wellbeing expert. She's based out of Paris, and is the co director and founder of the Think and Action Lab 'Finding Sustainia', a UNESCO award winning Think Tank, known for its 30 days sustainability challenges and is currently scaling up to find sustainable nonprofits approaches. She's a speaker, a facilitator, a writer, a coach, and believe me, she's multilingual too. She speaks German, English, French, and Bengali all fluently by the way. So you know, it's so easy for her to actually undertake all of the work and opportunities that she's doing, globally. So without further ado, Santa, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. Welcome.
Santa Meyer-Nandi 2:06
Thank you so much, Arthi, for this beautiful introduction. Probably our listeners can hear me blushing. Thank you so much for that.
Arthi Rabikrisson 2:15
Oh, no, the pleasure is mine. As I said, and I love that, you know, you're sitting in Paris, I'm sitting in Johannesburg. How beautiful is it that we can connect so easily across the globe?
You know, I've just given everyone a little bit of a flavor about you. But Santa, I would love for us to know more about you. And more importantly, I mean, the fact that you moved away from being a lawyer to now being an entrepreneur, Finding Sustainia, I want to know more about that journey, too. So please do share with us.
Santa Meyer-Nandi 2:46
That's very good question. It all started with me being a law student and feeling this calling to change that world, I always felt an urge to do something for society. When I was a kid, I used to help out in a fair trade shop. So there was always this bigger purpose. And what I realized, I graduated in the financial crisis, and my options were pretty limited at that time. So I could either work in the building industry to avoid environmental laws or work in an NGO for free. And since I felt I want to learn how to practically be more sustainable, and working in an NGO for one year for free, then feel like a really good deal. I just thought, Okay, why not work for free for one year, and just find out and learn more. And that's another element that's always been important. I love to learn. I'm just very curious. And that's what I did.
I was in London, sustainability wasn't that much of a global subject, especially not an individual subject. So I just acquired a lot of expertise. And thanks to my legal background, I very quickly also had credibility from institutions or ministries. And I started a blog. And I never thought that I would do something proper with that. But what happened is I teamed up with a political scientist and he started to challenge us to just find out more what sustainability is in practical life. And not only that, we document our progress, we also suddenly had a huge community doing it with that, and ministries, television channels, all kinds of quirky associations and institutions asking us to share our experiences and that suddenly became my job so since then a lot has happened because I to these challenges are also understood that becoming more sustainable isn't just it doesn't come from scarcity and from lack but actually has increased increased my well being. And thanks to that, I I got inspired to also study the science of well being and I've seen a lot of intersections between these subjects. So nowadays I both teach on sustainability, but I also help enterprises to to really implement a wellbeing culture. I teach on anti burnout rituals and MSA, it's very worthwhile for me.
Arthi Rabikrisson 5:07
Beautiful, beautiful. I love how you've given us such a good sense of the journey that you've been on. And you know what the word that's bringing to my mind. And I know this is something that resonates with you is ikigai. And it sounds like you really found it on your site. How beautiful? How beautiful is that for you, Santa here. And also you mean the journey that you went through? Those are quite adverse conditions, you know, and it's sort of making me think of, you know, how does one come out of that and actually start looking towards finding that ikigai and that spirit of purpose, what what came about in your, in your case? How did that happen?
Santa Meyer-Nandi 5:45
That yeah, just love your question. So I have been lucky in one way, or one could say unlucky is that I never fit in. I grew up in Germany, I was the only Indian kid when I was in India, I was to German, so I never quite belonged. But that has given me some sense of freedom, because it helped me to just do whatever I wanted to in some ways.
And I also had that kind of upbringing that really believed in me, My parents worked very hard. So we could study what we felt like, okay, my case, my choices weren't that big, big Bengali girl, eldest daughter, so it was more.
So, but I had a lot of freedom. And that just always gave me the agility to look at the situation and not just see a or b, which is building law, or NGO, but just kind of look at C and D, and whatever that could be. And I must say, in my life, this bonus has always helped me. And not say, that's always been easy, or that I haven't felt some kind of fear. But I can say that I've always had that fundamental trust that somehow I'll be okay.
And that has, that has always driven me forward. And I've also been very lucky. That's the interesting part. Because whenever I started something slightly naively, but also knowing and equipped with skills, and at the same time that I have lack on my site quite often, I'm aware that this sounds a little bit wacky.
It's just kind of a lot of incidences popped up, for instance, joining the think tank 30 of the cap of role, I just very openly wrote the application. And I just got into this wonderful thing, tech, and this is where I met my partner in crime with whom I've been doing sustained funding sustaining since 2014. And with whom I'm building up the startup right now. And that's definitely an element that has always helped me also in pursuing my ikigai, it is believing in that element of serendipity. And at the same time, also going for it and looking at myself, because ikigai is a wonderful concept, but we should never think it's a stagnant concept. It's a regenerative concept. So what was my ikigai 15 years ago isn't my ikigai nowadays, and it's very important to know that about oneself, we transform, I'm sure you have had these kinds of experiences in your life as well.
Arthi Rabikrisson 8:13
Certainly, yes, absolutely. You know, I love I love how you're explaining it, because it's almost giving me a little bit of Goosebumps as well, because I'm wondering, you know, the boldness, the braveness, to just go out there, and you know, put your hat in the ring for something, and have an opportunity like that work out for you. And then everything that's happened since then. So you know, as you say, a bit of luck, but a bit of actually, you just being able to take that initiative, and no matter the consequence, that's quite powerful. And I know a lot of my listeners even grapple with that, just taking that first first step. And maybe it will be it will be nice for you to share with us. How does one actually start taking that first step? Well, you know, what sort of a mindset should one approach because it key guy, as you're saying is transformative on so many levels. And I would love for each of us to be able to find that within us, what would be your advice?
Santa Meyer-Nandi 9:07
So I would like to start with a principle and that is start but then cause Correct. I started with a blog where I thought I will just hack the formula on how to save the world. Okay, let's, let's just say as a disclaimer, I was in my early mid 20s. So a little bit of darkness and just like, a little bit, slightly narcissistic.
It's all on my shoulders. And what happened is, I started out alone, and I found a community and I didn't search for it. And I didn't know that this is what I was what I was missing. So it's about starting, but also being open to cost correct and see what is working. And just as a disclaimer before that I had sent out 50 applications, and most of them weren't even answered. And that was time in the time of the financial crisis. So at that point was obviously not working. And this is also something to look out for, there are some things which go fluidly. They may be difficult, but they go fluidly. And then there are things we just try and try and just feel like it's never working,then it's good to look at how to do it differently, or whether there's something you need to do differently or change or abandon the same time. And when it comes to ikigai, and that's something I would now tell my early 20 Santa is that it is really about bringing together these four circles.
One is what you're good at, what you're passionate about, what the world needs. And the fourth is what you can be paid for. So that early, Santa had ordered three elements. I was good at it, I was passionate about it, the world needed it, but it didn't think of money.
Arthi Rabikrisson 10:47
How, You know, that really speaks to the maturity level. Absolutely. Right. As time went on, you sort of realized. And you know, I love how you're talking about, you know, the fact that it's about taking the step, cost correcting, and then reflecting, you know, reflecting on across the journey going so far, and then doing that correction. And I think that's so important, we tend to forget that we forget that even if we're on a path, we can deviate if it's not working for us. And so I think that's really beautiful advice. And I know, you know, when you started the journey now becoming an entrepreneur must have been so, so daunting, you must have had so many course corrections as well, I'd love for you to share with us. What are some of those obstacles that you faced? And how did you actually overcome them?
Santa Meyer-Nandi 11:37
So in my earlier response, I said that I had three parts of the ikigai circle, but I lacked that approach to earning money with what I love. And I've always earned well, for instance, by doing some kind of modeling for bigger brands, like Gucci or Davidoff. So I did that as a student to cross finance my idealistic activities, okay. And you can see that was fine. But it also costs time and energy that you could be using for something else. And once I realized that, I started to think, Okay, I love what I'm doing, I'm doing this for this word. And that was some kind of shadow work, because in my upbringing, so I have this Hindu Brahmin background, you do service to community, and you don't think about money. However, I'm in a western world, and that doesn't quite work together. And so I realized, okay, I can, I can still give talks or teach students for free, but in the private sector, where I'm getting more and more requests, I can actually ask for ,help handsome amounts of money. And in my expertise is worth it because I bring value, and kind of getting to that paradigm has made my life more unified, and it has harmonized my approaches, because I don't need to do something that I don't quite love. I kind of liked it, but I didn't love it. And that really made a difference. And so that was one part. So I started working as a speaker or writer, I mean, you have done that wonderful introduction of me. That helped me to finance my work and my purpose, my activism. And what I've recently realized is that it's great when you try to create value, which then attracts more value, which then attracts more value. So another kind of efficiency, I think I was already pretty efficient. But I just scaled up that efficiency. Because what do I have, I have an amazing, diverse network, I interview a lot of experts, and I have a lot of knowledge that most people can't connect. Now, because I've done so much research. And what I do is I do connect people and I often see that sustainability, a lot of solutions already exist. But we keep on reinventing the wheel, a lot of solutions to know about each other. A lot of experts do the same thing, but they don't know about each other. And this is how I in the times of the Financial Times of the COVID crisis now so crisises have been an important time of my life. So you can imagine as a speaker, suddenly, all your speak your life speaking engagements are gone. I mean, you can do some stuff on Zoom. And at first people are a bit like, okay, you can do it for free from all. And so that was a bit of a change. And because I've already learned that crisis, their transformation, and I just felt like what could I use this time for, to basically do more of what I love. And together with my sparring partner, Anna Maya, and with whom I they're part of my surname and who I've just mentioned, I've been working with since 2014, and a frugal in frugal innovation expert. He's the CEO of the frugal company. We thought of scaling up the funding Sustainer approach and By creating elearning, so helping experts to make the expertise available to a larger audience, but also explicitly inviting them to share their expertise and give each other peer feedback, when you need, we can probably give each other very good feedback on certain subjects. Because we are domain experts. And and that's something we want to foster more. And this is daunting, and at the same time, it just, there's something passionated about it. My, my colleague, Anna always says, if it doesn't scare you, it's not big enough. And I think she took the code from somewhere else as well. But this is also something I try to follow.
Arthi Rabikrisson 15:37
Oh, beautiful. I mean, you've touched on so many different things there from, you know, the personal side of things, the professional side of it. And I love the pioneering spirit between you and your partners. I mean, like you said, in the times of crisis, you're actually looking for those innovations for those solutions for the alternatives, right. And that's really beautiful in terms of what you're you're explaining that you're coming out to but because you're charting the unknown a little bit, I suppose that's what's daunting, but you know, thank you for sharing some of that insights with us. And I, you know, as you were talking about some of the constructs and the areas that you're working in, it's kind of making me think about you how important is structured in like, between your personal the personal aspects of who you are, your background, and then the professional or the business areas with which you're working in. And, and how does that actually, then, you know, having those structures or not having those structures, influence your part towards, you know, building out your ikigai, or deepening it even more?
Santa Meyer-Nandi 16:42
Something I only learned over time is that structures create freedom, I'm generally more of that free spirited person who just does things in a happy go lucky way. This is actually also how I studied art. And I've always fared pretty well with that approach, but it has its limits. Especially when you try to approach something you don't naturally add in instantly have the expertise for instructors are very important. And a word that is very linked to structure is great. So what I have available is passion is something very easy, but sometimes you really need grit. And that is kind of knowing your bigger vision and sometimes only also working through it. And during true it because you have that bigger vision inside and many people give up that. But when some aren't going, and I'm part of that towards I do, I do feel these impulses as well.
So sometimes just abandon everything I'm not saying about this project, but I have found that it's about neither blindly just bombarding something with all your energy, nor just easily giving up. It's always it's always this kind of interplay between these dualities. I think having time for discernment rest looking at because sometimes, if you've given yourself a full weekend of not working, I don't do that often enough. But let's say I do give myself spaces, makes me come back with better ideas. Whereas if you're just like trying to solid in that moment, you just get frantic and you've lost energy. So finding that sweet spot that gives you endurance without fatiguing you.
Arthi Rabikrisson 18:30
I think that is so important what you've just said there. The last point, that sweet spot that balance and I know a lot of a lot of people are struggling with that shatter because it's it's precisely because of the duality that you mentioned. And actuality will look a little a little bit different for different people. But it's the it's the dilemmas the dualities. So really share some of your advice then on how can one actually bring in that balance? How can one find it? And especially now, as you mentioned, we're in the midst of a pandemic or fourth wave. All of this is crashing upon us. What are some of the opportunities for balance within that?
Santa Meyer-Nandi 19:09
What I find very important is looking at my values. And just looking at yourself as a multifaceted person. We both know about each other that we have children. So being a good mother as part of our value. We're both passionate about our work. So that's part of our value tool. I also value some self care or some social time. So looking at yourself in that global way, and then assigning your time according to your values. something extremely important and we all know sometimes when we are in a deadline, we are in a rush and we're really kind of in that state of being a bit crazy about work, how we can then be not completely present with our loved ones. And counterbalancing that for instance, I put my phone on flight mode, maybe take a little walk in between so I'm back in my body Not knowing yourself is very important.
And also knowing about your shadow sides or your bad habits. So, for instance, me, I have a tendency when I'm very busy to cut out things like yoga or meditation. And that's not a good idea. So, especially in those times, taking care of our body is very important. Each time, I just noticed my work is better, I'm a better mother, it just, I just feel better. And so in this sense, structure is a good thing, and valuing and honoring your commitments to yourself and to others.
Arthi Rabikrisson 20:39
I love that, how you've taken it back to the, to the power of those values reaching in from there. And, you know, just so sort of reiterating how important self care is, and the fact that no matter what's going on, we actually must just come back and fill ourselves up again, you know, it's a classic idiom that talks about how you know, you can look at the world half, half full, half empty, but then we apply to ourselves. And if we're running on empty, how do we give off the best of ourselves? So thank you for putting all of that together for us. Because I think it's such an important reminder that we do fill ourselves up from our values, plus all of the other things that we're doing like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, breathing, whatever it is that for someone else, I think that's very, very important. Thank you, Santa.
I'm curious. And I'd love it, if you could share with us. What was maybe one or the moment of truth for you about acknowledging the power of IKigai in your life?
Santa Meyer-Nandi 21:43
I'd say I had this one moment where I was, I was coaching this multimillionaire and with a lot of good results, and he screwed me over by trying to not pay me. And that was a really important moment, because I had this identity of being non materialistic, and just kind of a little bit of hippie spiritual approach to these things. But they I just realized, and it actually connected me to some kind of anger and feeling of injustice that I need to value my time and I want my time to be valued. And that was really an important moment for me, because I turned this anger and this kind of sense of injustice, again, into a desire to change it. And this really changed the trajectory of my career, because ever since I had that expectation of unifying my activities, and I also felt much more entitled to ask for certain sums for talk, which before that always gave me a lot of qualms. Because it is true that as a speaker, if someone sees your salary, it's it's a little bit shocking for most people to ask her dad for 30 minutes of your time. And same time, there's so much expertise and so much time and skills involved in this in these 30 minutes or three hours that seem effortless, that most people absolutely underestimate and the amount I've spent for my education.
Arthi Rabikrisson 23:23
Absolutely. That's important. That's important of, as you said, coming back to valuing yourself, and I'm sorry, what an awful moment to have gone through, but what powerful truth coming out of it, you know, about the fact that you're valuable, you have a lot of value and worth, and therefore, you know, something like that is unacceptable. And that lovely, lovely, a quite a powerful way to come to, to that moment of truth of yours. Yeah, yes. And are you going to say something.
Santa Meyer-Nandi 23:54
It's about looking for the allies in, in these difficult times and having that mindfulness It's not. So when I'm when something triggers me, I don't try to just spiritually guess I'd myself by saying it's all fine. And instead, I just look okay, what is this feeling telling me? I'm obviously somehow triggered? So what is the lesson behind that? What is the underlying desire and go through that process is incredibly powerful. And another advice I wish I had given myself earlier is, look for simplicity, what is the most simple way to go for it? And that's obviously sometimes sometimes you have to add a layer, but never go from zero to 100. But like, incrementally look at the most simple and most effective way thatis at hand.
Arthi Rabikrisson 24:44
Beautiful, because otherwise you just end up compounding on the issue and setting yourself up for failure, isn't it by putting too much on yourself? Yeah. So I, I concur with you on that, you know, incremental changes, bring the biggest benefits and It also helps you to course correct as you were saying as well, because you'll be taking in feedback reflecting all of that good stuff. Beautiful, beautiful words of advice. Now, Santa, I know that, you know, many of us struggle with our journey, our ikigai, our purpose. Some of us, you know, have begun, but are kind of losing our way. Others are feeling stuck and don't know where to start, what would be your pivotal piece of advice that could help someone along, depending on whichever part of the journey that they're on?
Santa Meyer-Nandi 25:34
Something very simple as starting with analyzing your ikigai, it's, I think it's good to invest in a coach, I have clients coming to me, and within a few sessions, they have a lot more clarity. But let's say you can do it with your friend, or your probably a partner is too close. But you can do it even with yourself. But it's good to do it with a sparring partner and just look at these four circles. Just write it down without trying to connect them at first. And very often, something emerges just by writing by filling in these four columns. And then just starting and thinking about it, and just looking out for it. And what I find very effective is spreading the word and talking to people about it. That's part of, of the strategy once you've started, a lot of people. Also in the startup world, there are those who are doers, then there are those who are just dreamers. And both is kind of important in that sense that it's good to dream something up, but then talk about it to different people and pitch your idea and make it open for critical questions as well.
Arthi Rabikrisson 26:45
Yeah, I love that relevant, practical. Also, it stops one from having it all in our head. You know, sometimes we get into the whole loop, you know, but of a hamster wheel where we're going over and going over and going over. And when you don't express it, it tends to just flutter away because there's no action behind it. Right? So exactly what you say the dreamer not actually doing something, it's nice to get others perspective because it may actually motivate you into into finding that ikigai that we're looking for beautiful, beautiful Santa.
Santa Meyer-Nandi 27:18
I noticed that quite a few sustainable startups contact me. And very often they're working on projects or products that already exists. And if they had asked more questions, if they had looked around more, they could have found their own niche. And that's something our collaborate with the other producer. And so it's a lot of things seem very wonderful in our heads. But once we have opened that up, and it's it's not just to get criticism or feedback, often someone knows someone who knows someone and just just daring that it's a it's one step to making it more real, but it is also vulnerable process. Vulnerability is part of being strong.
Arthi Rabikrisson 28:04
Absolutely. And I'm so glad that we're now having these conversations about vulnerability. And you know, it's starting to become more mainstream now. Because yeah, as you said, people used to think it's weakness, but it's actually not, it is such a big strength. Santa, it's been such a beautiful conversation with you today. I really, really want to thank you for having for joining me. And I'd love it as a parting shot. If you could share either a, quote, song lyric, or a verse of something spiritual, maybe something that uplifts you and inspires you and continues to help you transform your ikigai over time,
Santa Meyer-Nandi 28:43
Let me quote Gandhi and say, Let's Be the change we'd like to see in the world. And believe in it. And whenever we are against something, looking for the desire behind that and transform it and integrate it into our purpose.
Arthi Rabikrisson 29:00
I love that simple, but beautiful. Santa, Thank you so much for coming onto the show today. It's been such a pleasure having you.
Santa Meyer-Nandi 29:08
Thank you, Arthi for having me. It's been time just flew out. And that's always a sign that it was fun.
Arthi Rabikrisson 29:16
Beautiful, beautiful. Well, thank you and we'll be in touch again soon.
Santa Meyer-Nandi 29:21
Definitely. Much love from Paris.
Arthi Rabikrisson 29:32
Thank you so much for joining me on this episode today. If you liked what you heard, rate, the episode and podcast and feel free to write a review. Plus, of course, share with others too. I love talking around topics like these. So if you like my perspective or insight on a subject close to your heart, or something that you're grappling with, reach out to me in your comments or send me an email via my way aside that connected me by LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook, or my social media on the podcast information. If it's important to you, then it's important to me. So happy listening to the Inspire Your Life podcast and catch you soon on the next episode.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai