As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Brodska.
Speaker. Author. Entrepreneur. Julia Brodska is the owner of two successful businesses and regularly presents her Best Life-ing principles to audiences large and small as she travels the world. She is the living embodiment of a woman who lives her dreams. But it wasn’t always this way.
Julia was once overweight, buried in $30,000 of credit card debt (plus a car loan), and filled with self-doubt. Mentors and positive role models helped her turn her life around, and she documents this transformation in her book Best Life-ing. Julia’s mission is to do for you what her teachers did for her — inspire, instill confidence and provide a path to fulfilling your dreams. Today, she helps adults and corporate clients do just that.
In her meal prep business, Juu’s Kitchen, Julia helps customers get healthy and lose weight using a gourmet meal prep plan that, when combined with exercise, helped her lose 30 pounds in one year. Her other company, Best Life-ing, teaches individuals and corporate employees how to achieve more in life and work following her “7 Areas of Life” framework.
When Julia isn’t running her businesses, you can find her practicing yoga or meditation, rollerblading, or getting her sweat on at the gym, usually every day.
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?
After my parents lost everything during Ukraine’s transition to independence, we moved to Sydney, Australia. Later, my father developed severe early-onset dementia. Everything was a struggle for my mother as she tried to care for him and my sister and me. At school, I was teased and bullied because I could not speak English very well and we were poor. Eventually, it got so bad that I dropped out of high school. My life spiraled downward, and I hit bottom when my father died. I got into drugs, heavy partying, and a toxic relationship. Soon, I found myself in over $30k debt, overweight and depressed.
I had a victim mentality and a bad attitude towards the world, but I realized I needed help and studied practices that might lift me up. Fortunately, I met wonderful and insightful mentors who guided me and encouraged my growth. I lost weight, became fit, and got out of debt. I started Juu’s Kitchen in response to people wanting my easy to prepare gourmet dishes that help you lose weight without making you adhere to a bland diet. The success of Juu’s Kitchen inspired me to share the winning strategies I had uncovered on my journey to creating the exciting life of my dreams. My approach is holistic as I describe how to achieve fulfillment in the seven crucial areas of life in my bestselling book Best Life-ing.
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?
It was the weekend before my book was about to be published. I was writing because I enjoyed writing, in fact, I only got through it because I told myself, if I didn’t want to publish it in the end, I just wouldn’t put it out there. My book is full of very personal stories (many of which I wouldn’t want my mother to read), but the day crept up on me. Before I knew it, it was too late to back out.
The night before Best Life-ing was scheduled to be published, I was petrified, worried that no one would like it, and that I was bringing unnecessary attention to myself. I could hardly sleep. What if my book was a complete failure? What if it will become my biggest regret?
In less than 24 hours, Best Life-ing became an Amazon number one new release, then a best seller, and then an international bestseller in less than three weeks. The only regret I have is spending all that time stressing over it. That was my mistake. The lesson here is that most of the time, our fears are just an imaginary vision of the future which, in most cases, never become reality.
So, jump in, dive headfirst and go for it! And don’t think about it until it’s too late to back out. That always works for me when I’m scared to do something I know I should do, or that might be good for me in the long run.
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 always like to say, “We all need other people to achieve success, no one is self-made.”
Bernard was my friend, mentor, and boss, whom I’d known for nearly a decade and he was someone who truly believed in me, even when I didn’t, and he always encouraged me.
When I had my mental breakdown, it was in front of Bernard. And while I can look at the experience as positive now, it was terrible and embarrassing at the time. I was bawling uncontrollably and spilling all these negative emotions about myself and how I felt like such a big failure. And Bernard just listened and then he gave me the most powerful pep talk, so to speak, I have ever had. He said, “Julia, you have created this mess and you can also fix this mess if you really want to.”
At the time I had this fear, that the grass MAY NOT be greener on the other side, and this kept me stationary. I felt like I had something to lose, even though I was completely unhappy with what I had anyway, and the situation I had created for myself.
I think because it was Bernard saying these words, and he was someone I trusted and respected, that is why I took his advice to heart and connected with what he was saying.
Bernard helped me lay out my issues and he helped me every step of the way.
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?
I believe that with help everyone can live the life of their dreams. The more people that achieve success, fulfillment, and happiness in their lives, the better off the world will be. My strategies are holistic, covering the seven crucial areas of life including financial, physical, relational, intellectual, vocational, and spiritual. Growth in these areas tends to lead people to want to be of service to others.
If we are constantly in a place of high vibration and positivity, we naturally want to help others and see people grow and succeed. I wholeheartedly believe that the only way to fix this world is to find what we love, master it, then share it in the service of others. Everyone benefits that way.
Initially, the Best Life-ing principles came from me overcoming my own limiting beliefs, deciding what was really important to me and what I loved, and what I was all about, instead of what people expected or thought I should be and do. The vision for Best Life-ing is about doing, being in control, overcoming obstacles and fears, living your dreams, and challenging your beliefs to create fulfillment in what I call the 7 areas of life.
*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?
We believing in focusing on positivity and spreading good vibes. During the pandemic we focused on positive aspects of the business rather than loss of sales and other issues we faced. A few good examples of this was team gatherings, yoga & fitness options as part of benefits, dream boards and massage incentives for the team.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I felt like giving up before my friend Bernard straightened me out. Of course, I still had limiting beliefs and made excuses for why I wasn’t living my version of success, but Bernard wasn’t having any of it. He said, “If you want to fix your messed-up life, it’s going to take work.”
I guess this made me realize I didn’t have much of a choice. It was either stay where I am and be unhappy or do something about it — regardless of what the conditions were. From that point on, everything started to change.
Now, I sustain my drive by sticking to a healthy and balanced schedule. I wake up early and I feel more powerful and get the most out of my day when I wake up between 6 and 7 am.
Then a practice meditation for at least 10 minutes. This allows more oxygen to enter my body, quiets my conscious mind, centers me, and helps me focus. Once you create stillness in your inner world, your outer world naturally becomes calmer too.
Also, reading books and finishing them creates discipline and builds my knowledge.
I cook my food, and this keeps me healthy, strong, and energized. Meal prepping in advance ensures I don’t eat take out when I’m feeling tired, lazy, or busy.
Exercising regularly keeps me fit and energized. This energy fuels me for the rest of my busy day.
Feeling and expressing gratitude allows me to appreciate what I have achieved. This tends to bring more things to be grateful for into my experience. Grateful people are also more pleasant to be around, so this helps me surround myself with like-minded people.
Sometimes I go to sleep while listening to a guided meditation or hypnosis audio that sends positive messages and information to my subconscious mind.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I believe that a leader’s most critical role in challenging times is to set a healthy example, and to encourage, inspire, and support others. A leader must stay positive to lift people up.
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?
Employees become more productive and loyal to you and your business once they believe that you (the boss) genuinely care about them, their struggles, and their version of success. It is important to know your team member’s personal goals, talents, and challenges and to be present in encouraging and supporting their journey to living their dream life. With this approach, you keep them on track and boost their morale.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
If you have already built a solid foundation in your relationship with your team, it is easier to communicate with them no matter the topic. I try not to exaggerate the negatives and focus on the positives without being unrealistic. There is almost always a way out of a negative situation, you just have to identify it, then tread that path. So, while focusing on the positive, I also focus on solutions and bring my team into that discussion.
This holds true as well with communicating with customers. Stay positive and focus on solutions rather than the problem.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The future is always unpredictable. Eckhart Tolle teaches that time is an illusion. Only the present moment holds the key to liberation because nothing can ever happen in the “past” or the “future.” Life always happens in the “now” — the past is just a memory activated in the now, and the future is an imagined scenario created in the now.
The truth is, your only limitation in this world is you. What you tell yourself you can and can’t do will ultimately be your reality. You have to believe in yourself and not let anything or anyone stop you from achieving your dreams.
So, go ahead and make plans. They are made to be broken, but they can bring order and direction into your life.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
One of my prominent messages is not to fear failure. I say: “Fail often.” I’ve had my share of failure, it’s just that I view them as opportunities to learn and grow and fine-tune the steps to achieving my dreams.
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?
A big one that comes to mind is hiring people and working with people whose values are not aligned with you or your organization. This is true in difficult times or the best of times. I learned this the hard way. I tried to help people, saw the good in them, and focused on their strengths. If your values aren’t aligned, it’s never going to work because you will always be rowing in different directions.
Overcoming that was difficult for me. I’ve had to let many very nice people go after I decided they weren’t aligned with my values. Keeping them on would have been a disservice to my other team members, the company, and most importantly, the client.
Another mistake is assuming that certain aspects of your business can’t be taken online — due to the pandemic, we transitioned into providing support both on and off-line, which not only allowed our operations to run as normal but expanded our customer base across the United States as anybody can now access our high quality coaching and training at the click of a button.
The final mistake that I have seen other businesses make is ignoring the fact that their teams are made up of individuals with different personalities, and not every person is suited to the role that they are given. This isn’t to say that certain employees do not belong in the business but that their skills and personalities would be better suited to an adjacent role — keeping people in the wrong position can lead to low morale, low team integration and ultimately affect productivity in the long run.
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?
As humans, our brains often operate on autopilot, repeating the things we do regularly which become habits. Habits will form regardless, and they are extremely powerful because they create neurological cravings. Your brain/body will ask for more of what you give it. That’s why good habits are the ones you want your brain and body to be craving because they will beneficially serve you rather than slow you down.
Creating good habits leads to massive action, as they become something that you do without thinking about it. The action then leads to progress, and progress gives you a healthy hit of confidence, which turns into momentum. It’s incredible how fast you can achieve what you want with just a little momentum.
Habits also replace the need for summoning motivation. Once you have your routine, you don’t need outside motivators to get you going because your actions are ingrained in your brain. And, if your habits aren’t working for you, the good news is that you can always change them!
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.
As a leader, you must set a good example. In uncertain times you must not waiver. You must remain consistently positive, pleasant, and helpful to everyone around you. Strive to turn the negativity of turbulent times into positive learning experiences. As a team leader, you must celebrate your team’s learning experiences and their growth and continue to inspire them and instill confidence no matter how turbulent the times are.
- Practice meditation for at least 10 minutes every day. This keeps you focused and calm in uncertain times. Your team will benefit from this, as they will pick up on your energy and feel more relaxed. Also, I always do a guided meditation session before any big speech or event that needs a high level of focus. This improves my presentations, allowing me to share information with a clear vision, enhanced communication, and confidence.
- Zone in. Tell team members that you need to allocate personal time to refocus and that you will be unavailable unless something is urgent. Then, remove distractions by putting away your phone or silencing it. Switch off your email and other notifications. Allocate specific times for activities and time for colleagues to meet with you. In this way, you can be fully present during these meetings.
- Work on one thing at a time. Trying to do multiple tasks at the same time will slow you down. I always teach that there is no such thing as effective multitasking. Finish one task then move on to another.
- Many people are experiencing business and personal failures right now because of circumstances beyond their control. But I recommend that you set clear goals and timeframes and plan every angle. Go hard in, fail, fail fast, and fail often. That is part of any journey to success. I like to look at failure as part of the plan, rather than a negative separate thing. Failing is going to make your plan much better than what it was when you first came up with it. And failing allows you to strategize a fresh approach to manifesting what you know is possible. You must have a solid plan, adjust your plan, re-plan, plan the day, plan for the week, month, year, decade, and so on. Plan for when the pandemic ends, and life returns to normal.
- Surround yourself with positive, successful, and supportive people and encourage others to do the same. Their energy will lift you and carry you through trying times.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Right now, I am loving, “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It’s so appropriate for all that’s going on in the world, plus this time has forced so many people to adapt and change. I think the key to thriving, especially in challenging times, is to get comfortable being uncomfortable!
How can our readers further follow your work?
Instagram: @thejuushow, @bestlife.ing