From the Mekong River to Sesame Street, She Soars
Mali’s father escaped a re-education camp, and her family fled war-torn Laos. Arriving in the U.S. at age five, she learned English from watching the TV show Sesame Street. Later, her teacher said Mali’s journal showed she was a poet even though she didn’t know what poetry was.
Mali Phonpadith is the founder and CEO of the SOAR Community Network, as well as an author, speaker and podcaster. SOAR stands for See, Own, Articulate and Release. It’s based on that process of uncovering your greatest gifts and talents. A consortium of community networks supporting small and mid-size businesses, it helps them to amplify their clients’ messages through marketing, strategies, technology consultation and educational forums. She’s the founder and host of the SOAR podcast.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
Fleeing with her family at age four from war-torn Laos, Mali arrived in the United States. No one in the family spoke English, so she learned the language from the TV show Sesame Street. Later, as she learned to write, she kept a journal of the challenges they all faced. In ninth grade, when she submitted a journal entry for a writing assignment, her teacher pointed out that she had been writing in poetry, not prose. Until then, Mali had no idea her style was unique. “I wrote more, and studied other poets. I started sharing more deeply from the heart. It didn’t have to rhyme, it just had a rhythm and a flow. So, I honed in on that craft and my writing formed the nucleus of my desire to express the deep emotions people are afraid to express. Today, that desire to help people express themselves is the foundation for our business and for my company, and for everything that I do.”
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
Deeply in love and engaged to marry, Mali’s 35-year-old fiancé and 11-year-old nephew drowned in an accident. “It totally shifted the way that I saw my life and my world. I saw that I was basing my decisions on the fear of being in poverty. As a child refugee of war, you have those innate defaults. That painful experience of loss brought me more to life. It helped me understand what we are here for, and to look for ways to be driven by the idea of legacy. I realized that everything we do matters.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
“I’m always working on myself and helping other leaders to see how to move toward developing into great leaders, moving ahead and transcending into becoming legacy-driven leaders. It’s about being intentional in every decision you make, knowing that your decisions are going to outlast you.”
Steps to Success from Mali Phonpadith
1. Surround yourself with like-minded people who will help you find and nurture your unique gift, but…
2. …Be open to others who think and process things differently, because it expands your own mind.
3. Focus on authenticity by coming from your own soul and heart versus borrowing from others who might be similar.
4. Find ways to balance being heart-centered and pragmatic.
On Her Bookshelf
Seen and Sustained: Best Practices in Communication That Increase the Visibility of Small and Diverse Businesses, (a workbook), by Akia T Garnett, Mali Phonpadith, Jane Lovas
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins
E-Myth Mastery: The Seven Essential Disciplines for Building a World Class Company, by Michael E. Gerber
A Million Fireflies, by Mali Phonpadith
Connecting With Mali Phonpadith
Free visions and mission mapping questionaire at her website.
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