Most conversations about entrepreneurial leadership lead entrepreneurs astray. Well, not this one! Iman Aghay joins host Tonya Dawn Recla to hash through the intricacies of leadership conversations specifically related to building purpose-driven business ventures that have any hope of success. Iman brings his experience empowering thousands of entrepreneurs to impact the world. Listen to this conversation between two prominent thought leaders in the purpose-driven entrepreneur space and learn how to keep your big vision on a track to success.
Hello everyone. This is Tonya Dawn Recla, your Super Power Expert. And I’m delighted to have with us today this just remarkable guy. We were together on the Marketers Cruise, we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, but what I witnessed in him was this amazing attractive principle and this just guided completely by service. I watched him navigate the rooms, I watched him kind of just be present with people and sit with people. And it’s such a fascinating thing and you can tell a lot by a person by how they navigate themselves in events, right? Particularly events where people are clamoring for them or if they’re giving of themselves and how people receive of them.
And I was a spy, so of course, I ask questions and I look for information and how people speak of them. And the pleasure in this conversation is the fact that consistently across the board the feedback was, this upstanding person, that what you see is what you get, that real genuine quality. And I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been to plenty of events where that’s not necessarily the case, and so that always sticks in my mind when you get that kind of feedback about a person. So I’m really delighted to talk today. We’re talking today, I’m going to tell you the topic first, then I’ll let you know who we’re talking about. I’m kind of teasing you all here.
We’re going to talk about entrepreneur leadership on purpose. This is the notion that it’s, I tell people you don’t accidentally slip into entrepreneurship and stick with it because this is a life that you really have to want and there’s going to be twists and turns and ups and downs and maybe you get so far into it that you kind of forget that there was a purpose when you started. I know sometimes people lose that flame, but to be driven through that and to encourage people to lead their organizations and to touch people’s lives in that way is so incredibly powerful. And it starts to change the fabric of reality.
We’re talking about how to disrupt reality. Well, sometimes the most subtle ways to do that is to inculcate this passion within people, this desire to be of service and to be on purpose, and then watch the ripple effect. And that’s really what I witnessed from him was just this: To be the light and to light up others and then to watch what they did following that. And I just watched and observed all of this and it does change environments.
Folks have the courage to show up fully no matter what the environment looks like and matter how it’s constructed and no matter if it feels a little weird because nobody else is doing it. Be you, be whole, be big, and be on purpose in those spaces because it leads you to fantastic conversations and being highlighted on great shows and people want to do things for you and uplift the work that you’re doing.
So today, we’re talking with Iman Aghay, and we’re going to get into a lot of what he does, but I can’t think of any better way to introduce him than to say that he walks his talk and he is that in the world. And so to be able to introduce him in that fashion, I think, sets the stage for all of the particulars that you’re going to hear about the work that he does in the world and how he guides entrepreneurs and how he helps inculcate leadership on purpose. So without further ado, we’re going to bring him on and talk to him about his superpowers. Iman, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you very much for having me here.
It’s our pleasure for sure. And so you know what I’m going to ask you, and I’m going to ask you, what are your super powers?
Okay. I think the biggest super power that I have is that I can make drastic changes in a very short time, and I actually thrive on chaos. So the combination of the two makes kind of the huge super power that just kind of creates lots of unexpected results.
I love that you said that. When we started on this crazy journey, my husband and I had a corporate counterintelligence firm, and we still do, we offer due diligence services. And when I started getting the guidance for this crazy little project over here that’s become this behemoth of a thing, it’s like, “What are we doing? Why are we doing this?” And what I was seeing in the personal development space was a lot of people trying to simplify things, to be able to, “Easy. One, two, three steps.”
I’m like, “That’s not my experience. My experience is the world is only getting more complex and more chaotic and the real gift is being able to give people the tools to navigate the chaos, to walk within it, to kind of be in the center of the storm, step into the fire.” We can come up with analogies for days. I love that you mentioned being able to kind of thrive in chaos. That’s a real gift. It’s not saying, “Well, I’m going to feel okay about things when the world looks okay to me.” It’s saying, “The world can do whatever it’s going to do. I know who I am and I know how I’m going to walk through that.” I think it’s so incredibly powerful.
How did you get to this space where you could, with such confidence, say, “I thrive in chaos”? You don’t come by that, you don’t wake up one morning and be like, “Ta-da!”
I think as I was growing up, it just so happened to have such a challenging childhood that, and then as I grew, it just continued to be more and more challenging and just kind of.. I have a very kind of a different story in life for the weird things that happen in our lives that were coming from circumstances that weren’t in our control, and just I realized every time that something dramatic happens in my life, it actually creates something amazing in my life.
And later on, I learned about this thing called post-traumatic growth. Everybody hears about post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. And every day is, “Okay, if something traumatic happens in your life, then it kind of creates stress and stuff like that.” But I realized it is that actually every time something traumatic happens in my life, I grew because of it. And then, later on, I realized it’s actually a thing, that it’s a choice that you can make.
It’s a thing.
Right? Yeah. It’s a thing. It’s like you say, “Actually, you can make a choice from a traumatic experience you actually grow.” You can’t stop PTSD, but you can also make the choice to grow from it. And I think naturally I had an inclination toward that and just kind of alert over the years that some of the most amazing things that actually happened in my life, all came from the most traumatic things that happened in my life. And we can actually talk about that for days and they’re actually fascinating. For me, these are fascinating. That’s how stuff that, or what you would look at them and be, “Wow, this can ruin a person’s life for the rest of their lives.” Actually, are the points that have actually changed everything for me. Yeah.
I love that you’re talking about this. I remember when Justin and I first started on this journey, coming out of government, we didn’t know anything about business. And so we were learning as we went, and it was, after a few years, it was like I kept seeing us kind of repeat the same pattern of, we saw this goal. It’s like, “Okay, we’re going to work toward this goal.” And finally, I said, “You know what? If we really sit back and audit our business experience this far, every single big success or breakthrough or anything, did we really plan for that?”
If we’re really honest, in every single one of them, even to the extent that when we came out, we thought we were going to be corporate trainers, right? Because we’d been in the counterintelligence arena, we had tons of time in service and just amazing access to information that we wanted to share in the business arena. And the market kept asking us to do something different. They kept saying, “We want you to do for business what you did in government.” We’re like, “No. What?”
Espionage makes sense. We understand that world. How would you apply that to business? We just couldn’t see the connection, but they kept asking and asking. Finally, we saw it, but it wasn’t what we set out to do. And when we surrendered into that, and really were, because we just kept butting up against these walls and why isn’t this working and why can’t we make this click? And it’s like, “Wait for a second, the market’s coming to us. Why are we in resistance to that? It’s every business person’s dream, right?”
And so once we finally were, but we can’t take any credit for that other than finally surrendering. That we had to, and it did get very tumultuous in those spaces, and so I love what you’re talking about because that’s been our experience as well as that, I don’t know that we can claim a lot of credit other than perseverance. We keep walking the path, but the inspiration and the take a hard right, instead of keep going left, it just comes to you when you listen and you kind of surrender into that and you don’t give in to the stories about what the chaos indicates.
I think that’s the biggest challenge because society and collective consciousness will tell us, “Wow, things are pretty crappy for you right now. You should feel terrible.”
Yeah, and then lots of things actually go back to your story from the story that you have lived and you don’t even know. You look back and you’re like, “Oh, I have this traumatic experience in my life,” and a lot of people feel bad about it, which is kind of normal like you should feel about a traumatic experience in your life.
But also, one of the things, one of the ways that I always tell people or someone will ask me is, “How can we actually switch that mindset?” That’s like, “How can we get the post-traumatic growth?” and is to ask yourself, “What’s the responsibility of that experience in your life?” Something happened in your life. You went bankrupt. Okay, that’s actually a really bad experience. But ask yourself this, what was the responsibility of going bankrupt in my life? What did I learn from it? How can that help me? How can that change me?
For example, when I was three years old, that’s why I’m saying, my life was crazy at showing different ways. But for example, I was three years old, my sister passed away right in front of my eyes. Actually I got drowned in the ocean right in front of my eyes. And I was like, so that actually is a traumatic experience for a three-year-old to actually see that.
But then later on, as I grew up, I was like, “Okay, so what was the responsibility of that in my life? What was the responsibility of that experience in my life?” And that actually taught me a lot about life, about care for others and a lot about that life can end at any point, without any reason. And then from there, those experiences came and showed up in other places in my life that I learned so much more because of that. Because I actually one time went back and asked myself what was the responsibility of that traumatic experience in my life?
And that’s actually a very good mindset shift, and I highly recommend anybody who’s listening to this and kind of going through hardships right now, ask yourself this: “What’s the responsibility of this in my life? What’s the lasting impact of this in my life?”
That’s a beautiful reframe.
What am I supposed to learn from this or what I was supposed to learn from that? Because many of these experiences go back to when you were three, five, ten. I don’t know. When you just graduated from college, whenever that is in your life. It doesn’t matter, actually. The time of it happening, it doesn’t matter. And then when that happens, it’s like you ask yourself, “What are the responsibilities of this? What can I learn from this?” And it just changes everything. It changes every single day in your view of the world.
Absolutely. I appreciate that. And folks, I know some of you listening are so tired of hearing this idea of thinking positive and all this stuff, and I really want you to resist the urge to dismiss what he’s talking about from that angle because it’s so much deeper than that. In our world, we call it reframing or rewriting. There are biases that we take on, so immediately what happens when we have an experience or an interaction, there’s the purity of that experience, but then it’s immediately overlaid with something else. And it’s judgments, biases, based on your interpretations, what you’re able to interpret like Iman was talking about.
Sometimes when we’re young, we don’t have any frame of reference, so all we can do is base it off of either what somebody tells us to feel about it or what we’re witnessing or what we … some sort of arrested development state that we have. And so the memory of that moment is never pure anymore, once that overlay gets laid on it. And so what he’s talking about is, when we’re willing to take a hard look at it, peeling back that overlay and saying, “Wait, is that a helpful story about what occurred there?” Or as he’s mentioning, “What is or what was the responsibility there?”
It allows for some space in the conversation to even start to entertain the idea that perhaps it looks a little bit different or could look a little bit differently than what you thought. And so this goes way beyond, “Oh, just think positive and put on a happy face or find the silver lining.” This is the healing process. This is how you get to the growth part of anything traumatic that’s occurred.
And sometimes trauma, when we’re young,