As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Hana Jung.
Hana Jung is the Founder and Chief Connector of Re:Boot Experiences, which hosts group accelerators and destination summits for multi-hyphenate conscious leaders to rapidly up-level their mindset to charge into their next big chapter.
Through a 360 multi-disciplinary approach to leadership development, Hana consistently delivers radical clarity and focus to help her members channel their natural talents to reach maximum impact, abundance and joy.
Re:Boot inner expeditions focus on deepening connection in 3 key areas: to inner power and intuition, to the higher purpose in life, and to a global community of compassionate seekers.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Like most entrepreneurs, my life was certainly not linear. Much to my immigrant parent’s disappointment, I consistently made choices that were seemingly risky and “outside the norm” of their expectations.
My unconventional path led me through multiple industries and identities: high-performance ice skater, award winning artist, web developer, designer, marketing director, freelance brand strategist, luxury yacht crew, start-up founder, advisor…all before 33!
I actually didn’t even begin my current venture until I was in my mid-30s, the age most people would consider “too late” to pivot an entire life trajectory.
However, the bulk of my adulthood (10 years) was spent climbing the NYC corporate ladder. I was a digital brand strategist for global clients like Clarins, Rolex and Samsung, the first marketing director at ClassPass, and a marketing consultant for start-ups.
You know, your typical “good on paper” kind of success.
But after a serious burnout (which included 2 stress-induced hospitalizations), I quit my corporate life and made the craziest decision of my life.
I left behind a stable but toxic career to pursue an unknown industry to live, work, and travel the world on a megayacht.
My yachting adventures eventually led me to launch a tech platform for the maritime industry, which I later sold for 5x my investment within 3 years.
But for every achievement, I want everyone to know there were ten times the amount of failures, rejections, tears, and hard lessons I earned along the way. Actual life is not a highlight reel.
Through my diverse “lifetimes”, I got really good at perfecting the art of personal evolution.
Now I get to live between Nicaragua, Bali, Lisbon, and Mexico while I surf and run Re:Boot Experiences to serve and elevate leaders so they can continue to create a positive impact in the world.
My audacious goal is to directly or indirectly uplevel 1 million lives by scaling love and compassion through conscious leadership development.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One of the funniest moments happened when I was simultaneously trying to build my first tech company while working full-time on a busy yacht charter in the Carribean. At the time, a very high-profile client on board demanded 100% of my attention from morning till midnight every day. There was zero time to work on my business during the busy workday.
To work around my yacht job, I scheduled my developer status calls at 1 am local time after the charter guest had gone to bed. Wifi on yachts are average on a good day, and non-existent on a bad day. As the yacht was anchored outside St. Barths (French territory in the Carribean), the boat had a French sim card for the internet.
Unfortunately for me, my calls with the developers kept getting dropped as the yacht kept swinging back and forth from the French to the Dutch side of the Caribbean. I even attempted to walk my computer back and forth on the deck to try to stay connected to the French internet provider.
It was a hilarious disaster.
It got to the point where my developers threatened to leave the project unless I sorted out a proper work schedule with stable internet…on land. After the season finished, I moved to Nicaragua to complete my launch in half the time I was anticipating.
The biggest takeaway is that trying to split my energy between too many projects at once, only led to inefficiencies and unnecessary delays. As my goal was to be the first to market, timing was key to my brand positioning. I had to prioritize what was truly important to me and release the “crutch” of working on a yacht when it was holding me back.
It’s ok to start a side hustle while you’re earning a more stable income, but at a certain point you have to be honest with the opportunity costs of slowing down your progress by playing it safe.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I wouldn’t say it’s a person…but the death of 8 close family and friends throughout my relatively short life.
Each loss delivered key lessons that catalyzed my growth through immeasurable pain. The “gift” of death is a sense of urgency and purpose, making me keenly aware of my own mortality. The realization that death can come for us at any moment gave me the courage to move past my fears and anxieties quicker than most.
One of the pivotal deaths in my life was losing my best friend and skating partner to suicide when I was 17 years old. It was a complete shock as he did not exhibit any symptoms of depression, nor did he mention anything to me the day before he decided to take his own life. This was the first major shift in leaning into my compassion for others.
The awareness that many of us carry private pain, and the importance of being patient and compassionate for strangers and friends alike, is a necessary practice we all need.
One year, I started a simple experiment to invite more compassion and connection with all types of relationships.
It works like this:
Whenever I randomly think of someone I haven’t thought of in a while, I immediately write them a thoughtful message to connect. I share a memory, what I admire or appreciate about them, and let them know they matter.
This “experiment” was a huge success and ended up reigniting, strengthening and deepening so many relationships throughout my life. I can’t tell you how often the person said “I was just thinking about you too!” It’s important to remind each other of the impact we can have on one another, and every small gesture is an opportunity to connect.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
The mission for Re:Boot is to “Help conscious leaders connect to themselves, connect to their purpose, and connect to a community to exponentially spread more joy and light with the world.”
In short, I want more leaders to intentionally walk their own path with courage instead of the one we feel we “should” take.
Modern life has a way of burying our inner-child, putting us into boxes, and conditioning us into a life that never feels quite “right” because we didn’t intentionally choose a life that honors our true gifts.
The “vision” for Re:Boot Experiences came to me in a literal sense. I’m aware it’s highly unconventional for most business leaders to discuss the esoteric origins of their company mission, but here goes:
Right after selling my first company, I had a deep desire to create something that would positively impact the world, but felt unclear about exactly how. I happened to be in Bali, and decided to join a holotropic breathwork ceremony on a whim.
During the session, I entered an almost “out of body” experience where I saw a visual representation of our universe as a video game. I observed how we interact and connect with one another, but more importantly how we connect (or don’t connect) with our own inner light. I know this sounds absolutely insane, and 10-yrs ago I would be rolling my eyes right now. But this is my truth.
In the vision, humans were like little video game characters running around with glowing yellow orbs of light inside of themselves. Some were unaware of their light and rushed around from place to place, others were trying to buy fake orbs of light from merchants, some had given up the “game” altogether and sat in a corner in idle.
But I noticed a few of the avatars had discovered their inner light.
As soon as someone found their light, they started recognizing and gathering with others in the universe that also found theirs as well. As more people found their light and started clustering together like fireflies, a network effect happened. More and more people on the periphery started to wake up to the light within, and it happened faster and faster.
I got the sense that the goal of this “game” was to make sure everyone remembered they’ve been walking around with a ball of light the entire time. The “orb of light” in the vision is a physical representation of everyone’s potential, magic, and purpose.
When I came out of this intense experience, I was absolutely clear on how I could use my natural ability to connect people, ideas, and experiences to help leaders remember the inner potential they already have. My time on earth is relatively short but if I can help increase the “found rate” of more people finding their true purpose in this lifetime, I know I can be proud of that.
I specifically focus on working with positive influencers and conscious leaders to leverage the network effect to exponentially increase potential.
When everyone is playing to their strengths and unique gifts, work becomes play and a post-scarcity reality can be possible. Can you tell I’m an eternal optimist?
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
As a community leader for some of the most impactful leaders across the world, being hit with a global pandemic was something that nobody was prepared for.
As borders closed and my leadership community started to panic, it was important to lead from a place of stability, strength, and service. For example, I invited the entire community for a “town hall” meeting to virtually gather and feel they had a sense of support and belonging at a time when isolation was mandated.
The primary purpose was to check-in with everyone, acknowledge the very real fears that were present in people’s minds, and to share tools to facilitate a calmer state of mind.
It was a priority to help neutralize the perceived threat of uncertainty and encourage my leaders to recognize and claim the areas they were able to impact within their power.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Like a lot of businesses during COVID, my old business model collapsed. In tandem with my business uncertainty, my aunt lost her 9-month battle with stomach cancer. Watching her degrade with absolute helplessness, emotionally supporting my entire family, and continuing to show up for my Re:Boot community felt like an overwhelming task. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. It would have been easier to give up then.
There was a brief period when I had to step away to find my way back to my heart and my mission. Although the pandemic was challenging on a professional and personal level, it also provided an opportunity to get clear on what was essential to my life and purpose.
What lit a fire in my belly was the realization that so many leaders were emotionally and mentally floundering during this turbulent time. I watched many leaders allow fear, panic, and doubt override their desire to create a positive impact. There was a risk of many potential leaders retreating to the “familiar” rather than letting their old life fall away in order to rebuild a stronger future.
We needed more hope, light and joy in a world that was becoming increasingly hostile and fearful.
It was a priority for me to empower leaders to become more resilient by teaching them how to build an inner anchor that can weather any external storm. Today it could be a pandemic, tomorrow a financial meltdown, but mental resilience will be the key to any long term success.
What sustains my motivation to keep going is to die knowing that I did everything I possibly could to get more people playing the bigger “game”. To remember we’re not here to play small, but to use our gifts to uplift one another in a meaningful way.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
During challenging times, it’s critical for leaders to embody inner strength, inspiration, and compassion.
Being a leader isn’t just about knowing how to adapt your plans, but understanding how your energy and attitude can positively or negatively impact those around you. Leaning into your intuition and emotional intelligence is the most human and supportive way to lead through a crisis.
In a state of emergency, it’s natural for people to immediately revert to their most primal instincts of survival. They fear for their health, safey, and loved ones and this can translate into compulsive anger, frustration or anxiety.
As a leader, it is critical to communicate with calm, transparency and most importantly, empathy. Even if the reaction from your team is one of fear and anxiety, your role as a leader is to guide them out of that high-stress headspace into feeling more calm.
You have to be the beacon of light in an otherwise chaotic storm.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
The fastest way to boost morale as a leader is to shift your mindset towards service. Ask yourself: What can I do in my power that can be of service to my team?
It’s important to remind your team that you’re all “in this together” and working through the challenge as a community. Be sure to connect with your team regularly to ensure they feel supported, heard, and valued.
For example, I provide consistent opportunities for mental and emotional growth, personal check-ins, and surprise my members with little “gifts” that don’t cost much and given with genuine care. Even if my business doesn’t allow me to financially support them beyond my limits, I can support their inner growth for their long term success and happiness. I offer free personal development workshops, training opportunities, and even invite the community members to teach one another new skills. Connecting and developing as a community is the key to helping your team feel less alone when isolation is the default.
Another way to support your team is to create more play and joy. There’s nothing you can change about external forces affecting your business, but you can choose to show up with more kindness and create pockets of joy through creativity. For example, we’ve hosted community-led virtual meditations, art classes, dance parties, trivia, happy hours, and theme nights. Even empowering the team to step up as creative leader refocuses their energy on things that are within their control and play to their strengths.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Delivering difficult news is never pleasant, and it’s tempting to gloss over the uncomfortable details to avoid disappointing your team or customers. However, not being clear about the reality of your business only creates distrust, furthers confusion and increases anxiety.
The best way to deliver difficult news is a straightforward approach communicated with as much compassion as possible.
Here’s a format that could be helpful:
- Make sure you’re able to communicate your compassion from the very start of the conversation through body language, voice/tone, eye contact, heartfelt emotions, authenticity and being fully present in the conversation
- Begin with vulnerability. “This is difficult for me to share” reminds them that even if you’re a leader, you’re a human first
- Deliver the facts as simply and honestly as possible. I say something like “The truth is/the reality is/full-transparency…”
- Explain your decision. “It was a difficult decision, but ultimately I had to ___ in order to ___”
- Follow-up with compassion. A statement like “I can understand this must make you feel ___” helps them feel understood and their emotions acknowledged.
- Offer ways you can help relieve any emotional distress. “If you need to talk, I’m here to listen” or “Take as much time as you need” or “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help”
- Thank them. “Thank you for listening and understanding, I really appreciate it”
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
As someone who thrives in uncertainty, there are 2 different but equally effective strategies when approaching an unpredictable future.
The first approach is to prepare multiple plans based on possible scenarios without creating a strong attachment to any outcome.
I create a plan of action for any case, but also mentally prepared to accept any reality that unfolds. After all, external influences are not in our control. This strategy creates the illusion of “control”, and is useful when emotions are high and confidence is low. Sometimes being able to create a mental “safety net” can mitigate initial panic.
The second approach is not to plan too far ahead, but instead, focus on what intuitively feels like the next “right step” for long term success.
For this strategy to succeed, you should already have a strong foundation of inner trust and confidence. I’ve been through enough cycles of ups and downs to know that in the grand scheme of things, turmoil is temporary. This approach is useful if the desire to be a compassionate leader is greater than short term company losses. If people are the backbone of any business or community, nurturing those relationships at any cost is a worthwhile investment for even greater success overall.
You can experiment with both to find what serves your leadership style the best.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Remember that everything in life is a cycle, including the seasons of a company.
Even if the “worst-case scenario” happens, what’s to say that the company won’t evolve into something better?
Don’t make short-sighted decisions rooted in present fear, if the best thing you can do is to make a courageous decision rooted in future trust.
It’s important to recognize how past moments of difficulty have led to a positive evolution for you and your company today. The same trajectory applies for your future.
I can personally attest to this. Had it not been for my old business model collapsing, I would not have had the space to recognize that the current business wasn’t sustainable in the long run. Releasing what wasn’t working gave me the opportunity to redirect my energy in a new way that amplified my mission and better served the leadership community.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
I don’t really believe in “mistakes”, as every choice delivers opportunity and lessons in equal measure. Every business leader strives to make the best decision they can with the current resources and knowledge they had at the time.
Another way to think about difficult times (business or personal) is to think of the difficult experience as a form of trauma. When there is trauma, it’s perfectly natural for us to move through the 5 cycles of grief.
Instead of sharing “ways to avoid mistakes”, I will offer some ways to think about your business depending on the stage of grief:
Denial — “This isn’t happening. This will blow over, let’s keep operating as normal”
Unfortunately, when you’re actually in this stage, it’s hard to see you’re in denial. But some key indicators you may be in denial is if you feel inner resistance to the reality, stubbornly ignore the sound advice of leaders around you, and brushing off anything that indicates something is wrong. I commonly see leaders refuse to pivot or make swift decisions when they’re stuck in this denial stage. To cope during this time, seek expert advice, connect with other leaders who are in a similar position, and observe the larger landscape of what’s happening beyond your immediate situation.
Anger — “It’s so and so’s fault we’re in this mess”
When you shift into this stage, it’s tempting to redirect and project your anger on others. As a leader, you need to be aware when you enter this critical stage. Find a healthy and safe environment to express and process your anger to prevent unintentional harm to your team/community. At this stage, I observe leaders making rash decisions or projecting anger at their team in order to cope with uncertainty. Anger is contagious, and it’s your duty to process yours away from the people who depend on you for leadership.
Bargaining — “If only I had done X this would have never happened.”
As a means of control, many leaders think there is more they could have done to prevent this. If the “anger” stage is about trying to put responsibility on others, “bargaining” is about putting responsibility on yourself in a way that’s unrealistic. Leaders mentally try to “change the past” and feel regret for things they “could have done”. During this stage, leaders need to forgive themselves and understand that they tried their best. Recognize what is and is not within their control.
Depression — “I don’t know how to move forward from here. Why bother? Nothing will make a difference.”
For a lot of leaders, this stage feels the most isolating. It’s natural to go inward and keep your feelings of hopelessness to yourself. The best way to be an effective leader is actually to lean into self-care. It’s 100% true that you can’t “pour from an empty cup”. You need to ensure you’re feeling your best first. If you’re feeling depressed, hopeless or lost, it’s helpful to connect with other peer leaders, seek therapy, or simply give yourself permission to rest while you process and prepare for the next stage.
Acceptance — “I can find a new path for the company. What happened was actually a blessing, and I will find ways to build a stronger foundation for my business.”
This stage doesn’t necessarily feel like happiness, it’s more a sense of hope and appreciation for the events leading up to this stage. With a renewed sense of calm, you’re now able to create a clear action forward. It’s not about ignoring the past, but integrating your learnings into your future plans.
The stages aren’t always linear, and the time it takes to move through each stage depends on the situation. However, being aware of which stage you’re in helps you to manage your company and yourself for long term success.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Adaptability is your greatest ally during turbulent times. If organic growth is challenging during difficult times, it’s important to find alternative ways to keep up the growth momentum. When choosing how to make strategic business decisions in the middle of a crisis, I consider 3 options to move forward:
What parts of your business can be paused temporarily because it’s losing the most money in the short term but worth holding onto for the long term? The tactic to pause is a means of stemming the “bleeding” for business triage, but with the intention that when things level out, can be reintroduced.
What new angle can be explored to potentially bring additional revenue in a way not previously considered? This could be a temporary pivot or potentially grow into a larger part of your business.
What can I actually push/let go of that’s costing my business money, not contributing to long term growth, has been an “anchor” making staying afloat difficult?
Although business turbulence never feels great, it can be a great opportunity to streamline your business and let go of the parts that no longer work in order to make space for new opportunities.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
Here are 5 consistent ways you can remain an effective business leader during turbulent times:
- Surrender to the things out of your control. During COVID, there were so many variables that were constantly shifting: alarming rates of infection, quarantines, businesses shutting overnight and border closings. Focusing on areas outside of your control only amplifies feelings of anxiety. To be clear, surrendering to the outcome does not mean you’re giving up. As a leader, it’s important to realize that even with all your planning and contingency plans, life will unfold how it’s meant to. To “Intentionally surrender” means to prepare but also deeply accept any possible outcome. Whether you fail or flourish, you will always grow as a leader.
- Take radical responsibility for the things that are within your control. On the opposite spectrum of surrender is radical responsibility. As a business leader, you can actively take responsibility for the choices you make on behalf of your company. Important choices like pausing, pivoting, and cutting parts of your business are wholly within your power to execute. Shifting the energy towards creating intentional action is a more effective use of your time than worrying about controlling every unforeseen outcome.
- Accept that turbulence and uncertainty is a stress test that is happening for you, not to you. Now is not the time to play the victim or shift responsibility. As a leader, you have to remind yourself that this is not the first nor the last challenge your business will face. Even in the event of a failure or “worst-case scenario” there is always an opportunity to grow and evolve as a business and as a leader. Leading from a place of acceptance will allow you to be more courageous in your decision making, and give you the confidence to aim for long-term success, not short term gains/losses.
- Prioritize connection with your team, clients, and community. In moments of extreme turbulence, you quickly realize that human connection and relationships are the most important part of your life and business. After thoughtfully nurturing your many relationships, it’s important to protect and honor the existing connective tissue between yourself and every member of the business. I often think of the word “ubuntu”, which is the African philosophy of “I am, because you are”. Foster a sense of community and collective support. Building deeper trust will allow conscious leaders to not only survive, but thrive in turbulent times.
- Communicate with compassion and transparency. Speaking of connection, there’s no greater threat to a healthy relationship than poor communication. Especially during times of extreme stress and uncertainty, it’s absolutely essential to be honest with your intentions. Avoidance, denial, vague or inauthentic communication will create further anxiety and deteriorate your trust with your team, clients and community. Aim to create long-term trust and stability through open, honest and compassionate communication.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“This too shall pass”
Whether in good times or turbulent times, it’s important to remember that nothing is permanent. The world has a definitive rhythm, cycle, and order. As someone who’s gone through several life and business cycles with varying degrees of grace, I’ve learned to embrace the natural ebb and flow.
I’ve noticed that when I tried to cling to the “good” or rush through the “bad”, I wasn’t recognizing the simple fact that both scenarios delivered benefits and drawbacks. One state of being isn’t necessarily better than the other because some of the most difficult moments in my life delivered the most growth and wisdom.
On the flip side, when things were great it was easy to dismiss the red flags and become complacent and stagnant. Understanding the duality of “good” times and “bad” times, I no longer fear turbulence, nor do I stubbornly hold onto stability.
Both are an illusion because it’s actually part of the same larger cycle. It’s important to remain grateful and present to your reality as it is right now, and try your best to surrender to things out of your control.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can find me at rebootexperiences.com where I have further details on how to work with me, free resources to support your personal growth, and nourishing content to inspire compassionate leadership.