I had the great privilege to sit down with the inspiring best-selling author and noted speaker Angella Nazarian. Both of her books “Life as a Visitor” and the newly released “Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World” have become bestsellers for the publisher and have garnered glowing reviews from Arianna Huffington, Tina Brown, Martha Stewart, Diane von Furstenberg. Along with writing, Angella conducts workshops and seminars on topics related to women’s personal development and visionary leadership and has been a keynote speaker at various national events and conferences.
In “Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World,” Angella honors twenty of the world’s most visionary women from the last century—every one driven by passion and an ability to imagine and aspire to what did not yet exist. By celebrating their lives, she believes, we carry on their collective, fearless spirit and encourage one another toward greater and deeper lives.
“Live Generously. Live Your Passion” is not just a catchphrase for Angella. As you will see in this interview, she lives and breathes this message.
Lara Shriftman: What is the most important thing to you in your life?
Angella Nazarian: My family and these next couple of years are especially important as our kids are being launched into the world. One son is already a sophomore in college, studying philosophy and public policy at Stanford, and the other just finished his junior year in high school and is applying to colleges next year. They both are in the middle of figuring out what they want to do in their lives and being a source of support to them is so rewarding and important at the same time.
LS: What are you most passionate about?
AN: Living a life that brims with vibrancy and fullness. We are all works in progress, and our ideas of whom we want to become changes with time and experience. So I let my curiosity for learning lead the way for me.
Right now, I am very excited about sharing with my readers the experiences of women all over the world and finding the universality of their message.
LS: Based on your experience, what advice would you give to someone who is currently in need of hope?
AN: We—and I really mean we—all have gone through stages in our lives where we may feel smaller than the challenge in front of us. One thing that has helped me the most is focusing on the next step rather than overwhelming myself with the end result or grand plan.
I keep reminding myself, “I have faith that I will know what to do next when the time comes.”
Just last month, I was having this very intimate conversation with a friend who had gone through a major life transition. She told me that at major cross sections in her life, where she has felt as if she were standing at the edge of a cliff, she would think about Olive Oyl in the Popeye cartoons. I was surprised to hear this from a high-profile, super-intellectual woman. She said, “You know, Angella, in the Popeye cartoons, when Olive Oyl would sleepwalk, she would climb up construction sites. And, when you would think she would fall off the ledge of a T-bar, another platform would magically appear underneath her with her next step. She would never fall. This is the way I feel about my life: that when I am at my lowest point and unsure of myself, life will somehow support me in my next step and that I won’t fall.” Nowadays I am using that image when I feel unsteady and unsure of myself.
LS: Can you share with us a bit of your journey?
AN: My journey, like many who have immigrated to the United States, is one of transformation. I lived the first eleven years of my life in a cocoon-like existence in pre-revolutionary Iran. I came for a two-week vacation to visit my older brothers who were studying here and never went back. So, all I came with were two luggage bags, and my parents weren’t able to join my siblings and me for another five-and-a-half years. I haven’t seen many of my loved ones since my early teens, and it was really tough to adjust to a new way of life on my own.
Being raised in a traditional eastern culture and then coming to a western culture, I have always been working on what aspects of each culture I want to integrate in my life.
My motto is that we need to be big enough to admit any possibility.
First, I was a professor of psychology for eleven years, then I became a best-selling author penning my family memoir, and now I am an author and speaker for women’s issues. Each transition point brought it’s own lessons, and I am sure I have a few more up my sleeve. Isn’t it what life is really about—to become who we are at the very core and honoring it?
LS: What’s one of the greatest obstacles you have overcome?
AN: With all of the ups and downs in the earlier parts of my life, one would think my greatest obstacle was presented to me in my early teens. But not so! It was in my thirties, when life on the outside was really wonderful, that I noticed these subtle ways I minimized my worth. To put it in simple terms, I just didn’t feel I was “good enough.” Finding my way through these feelings was the first step in becoming more authentic in my life and connecting at a deeper level with those around me.
LS: For what challenge or adversity are you most grateful?
AN: Through dealing with the difficult feelings that I was experiencing in my thirties, I found my next calling. I started a women’s group that lasted for seven years and found that so many of us grapple with the same challenges and think that we are alone in our experiences. I realized what a blessing it is to be surrounded by a network of fearless, likeminded people in our lives—that a support system really helps us in our growth.
LS: Are there any challenges you are going through now?
AN: As I am building a business, I am learning how to deal with uncertainty and make the best decisions from the information I have.
LS: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your fans over the years?
AN: I have learned that there is great power in dialogue and exchange. So often I have written pieces that seemed more interesting to me because it was about something I was going through. It was these pieces that have gotten the most interesting responses. I am lucky that I feel like I am in a conversation with my fans, and they write back to me with their thoughts. And, of course, their thoughts spark something new in me.
I really have learned there is great power in the collective.
LS: What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
You can’t judge another person’s decisions until you have really walked in their shoes. And, “life is too short not to have dessert!”
You must have figured it out by now that I don’t skip dessert.
LS: What are you most proud to have manifested in your life?
AN: I am most proud of manifesting a multidimensional life—one that speaks to different sides of me and makes me feel whole. I have always wanted to lead a life that blurred on the edges, that was not solely defined by one role or one way of being.
LS: What is your favorite way to unwind?
AN: I started taking up Flamenco three years ago, and it is one of the biggest gifts to myself. I simply get lost in the music, the poetry in the lyrics, and the movements in the dance.
LS: What are you most grateful for right now and why?
AN: I am most grateful for my health. It sounds corny but true. I lost one of my dear friends to breast cancer last month, and it was both a privilege and a real heartbreak to see what she was going through these past few years. Good health is a real gift.
LS: What is your biggest regret?
AN: I don’t have regrets. It is an energy drain to second guess ourselves over things that are in the past. Besides, I think we do everything in the best way we knew at the time.
LS: When is the last time you laughed at yourself?
AN: I laugh at myself every day. It’s easy; I have kids that poke fun of me. If they aren’t around, I just have to show up to my flamenco classes. I swear I try to be graceful, but there are times I catch myself in the mirror, and I start laughing. It is contagious; the rest of the class cracks up with me.
LS: What do you think the three biggest keys to manifesting are, from someone who obviously has manifested a big dream?
AN: Start with an idea or image that really resonates from within (it should make you feel excited, alive, and most probably scared), take small steps toward your goal (action is important in achieving dreams), and develop a network of friends who can help you in your goal (studies show that support and guidance from others is key to achieving your goals).
LS: What are you manifesting this year?
AN: I want the message of my recent book, “Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World,” to reach more people through organizing a women’s conference. Having spoken at many conferences, I feel there needs to be a space for women to really talk and exchange ideas rather than to be a passive audience. I would love to explore different issues of interest for women, whether it is creating women’s entrepreneurship panels or talking about how women have successfully weathered life transitions or made an impact in their world. I am practicing my three keys to manifesting on a daily basis.
Lara Shriftman is co-founder of Harrison & Shriftman Public Relations and has been touted as a fashion/entertaining/PR “expert” in newspapers and magazines including Vanity Fair, Elle, Glamour, The Hollywood Reporter, Departures, The New York Times, The New York Post, Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, and WWD. She has authored four books on entertaining, Fete Accompli, Fete Accompli Workbook, Party Confidential, and Party Confidential: New Etiquette for Fabulous Entertaining, and in 2007 launched a line of Party Confidential products on HSN. Lara is also a correspondent for EXTRA! with her own segment, Party Confidential.