Stay curious about the world, and about my place in the world. Growth is then inevitable, because life is never static.
Born in Vietnam, Dr. Leanh Nguyen has been all over the world. A product of the Vietnam war, she escaped the Communist regime to Malaysia. From there she was resettled in France, where she completed her Baccalaureate in Literature. She then emigrated to the United States of America in order to reunite with her large family. Her higher education and professional training were forged at the most elite institutions. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of California in Los Angeles, majoring in Psychology and French Literature. New York University actively recruited her for their highly selective doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. Her doctoral research on psychoanalysis was fully funded and garnered many awards. She was then admitted for advanced training in psychoanalysis at the postdoctoral program at NYU. She was the only Asian psychologist who ever trained at that exclusive academic institute, and the only candidate-in-training who was supported by multiple foundations for multiple years. Recently, always pushing the boundaries of her knowledge and relentless in her pursuit of more skills, Dr. Nguyen trained in Life Coaching and became board-certified in coaching and obtained the highest credentials through the International Coaching Federation.
Once a displaced refugee child, as an accomplished adult professional she has offered herself to displaced people in far-flung regions of Africa and the Middle East, Leanh brings her unique life experiences and passion to psychotherapy and life coaching. A dedicated student of Buddhist philosophy, she also teaches her clients the art of mindfulness and skillful living.
For more than 20 years she focused on treating the mentally ill and advocating for human rights. Now stepping into the second half of her career, Dr. Nguyen now dedicates herself to advocate for, in her words, “human life.” She is now turning her formidable skills and amazing energy to fighting the de-humanizing forces of contemporary modern life and to “helping people be who they are meant to be and live the life they deserve to live.” Her life coaching is steeped in this commitment to the humanity of her fellow men. Informed by her deep training in trauma history and dysfunction, she now also turns her attention to help her clients to tap into their innate power and wisdom. In her words, “It’s not enough to get rid of symptoms and restore people to baseline functioning. I want to help people thrive, succeed, claim their own power, and chart their amazing unique journey through this life.”
When she is not joining forces with her clients to build their life foundations, she enjoys walking the streets of NYC with her children and learn from them how to take joy from the world.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
After practicing psychoanalysis for over a decade, and treating people in intensive, long-term therapy, sometimes for many, many years, I began to notice the limitations of the clinical model. The focus on pathology ignores the irrepressible will for life that even the most damaged, the most traumatized people have. The dedication to provide a “cure” or to “fix” what is “wrong” can make us forget to contemplate the beauty and wisdom that patients bring, and can lull everyone into treating the patient as a helpless, not knowing, not capable victim. I can sit through the most horrifying stories, accompany the most traumatized patients into their darkest places –I have no problem with that task. But I eventually found it frustrating that the clinical paradigm pays little attention to their dreams, hopes, capacities, will to live. There is little language and attention paid to that side of them, in the clinical work. It’s all about “let’s see what is wrong and fix it.” And consequently, little attention and premium is paid to the creativity, capacity for joy, striving for connection and impact –qualities that everybody has and qualities that are not supported, not cultivated in our capitalist culture.
From this frustration, I began to look for other ways to work. And I found in the emerging field of coaching the language and the commitment for these things that I want to support in my clients: How to LIVE with meaning and purpose, creativity and joy. How to be their fullest self. How to do justice to their brief time on Earth.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am self-employed and a totally free agent. And a single mother of 2 young children. So, I don’t have a “typical” day! And the meaning of “productive” has shifted now that I am a parent and older! I make sure to be there with my kids at the start of the school day and when they leave school. In between, I do my non-parenting work and kickboxing, a recent addiction. I have a few must-do components: create a moment of joy, seek out something beautiful, having one meaningful conversation, learning something from the world, and saying yes to something wholeheartedly. A productive day is one that accomplishes this must-do list.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas come to life when you allow them life. Create the spaciousness of thoughtful silence, self-respect and curiosity. Listen to everything that moves from the depth. Listen to how it moves in me, to what it does to me, in my mind, my heart, my body. And follow it. It took a long time for me to appreciate that things take time, but that things, true deep things, find a way to speak and come to irrepressible life. We make them visible and “viable” through the commitment to curiosity and faith. If an idea comes from truthfulness and faithfulness, it cannot not have life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There is a longing for connection, and for truth, deep heartful truth about life. I see people privileging the search for that. Alongside with this longing for connection is an appreciation for a holistic approach to health, to the self. People are more aware that to be a healthy person, to live a fulfilling life involves a beholding of their whole self and a cultivation of the many dimensions of their existence. The spiritual dimension, for instance, is more and more foregrounded. What it is, is an appreciation that there is more, beyond the material concerns, and consequently that there is more that you can be and have. And once you get deep into that holistic, spiritual dimension, you get smack into the existential question of being human: How to live, love, and die with joy, grace, and creativity. I am all for that!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
This question stumps me, as I don’t think of myself as an entrepreneur. I don’t think of my work or practice as a business. It is an extension of myself, a way of being. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to make a living doing what I love. I never had any conscious “business” planning. It all worked out by luck? But lately, I have realized that maybe it is not “lucky” but “confirmatoty”: I am productive because I do what I love. I am “successful” because I love what I do.
Ok. Let me pin down one habit that has served me very well: Stay curious about the world, and about my place in the world. Growth is then inevitable, because life is never static.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Kindness. Learn to be kind to yourself. Practice kindness toward others. Seek out people for their kindness above everything else. And accept kindness whenever it comes.
Harder and more complex a practice than it seems. But it goes deep and far, if you get it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Nothing is that important, except kindness.
Don’t take anything that seriously, except cruelty.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Approach each encounter with heart. Bring to each encounter for whole, full self. You cannot lose or fail with that.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My “business” is my self. My work is my life. Each client who walks into my practice is a human being –a new, unique opportunity for connection and learning and impacting. When I was in the “business” of human rights advocacy, I wanted to save lives, to prevent abuse. I am more sober, but then maybe more ambitious and judicious now: I am in the business of advocating for human life. Each person who goes on to be her fullest, truest self and to live a life that is as human as possible, is one growth to my business. In the sense that that person can implement and advocate for the same vision of humanity. And, of course, each person who gets a taste of what it means to really connect and to really be human, will not bee satisfied with anything lesser and will want her friends and loved ones to have the same.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t appreciate the importance of networking and protecting/promoting my brand. That was my immaturity and also lack of appreciation for myself. I failed to see myself as being connected to others, and needing that inter-dependency. And I didn’t appreciate that I had something special to offer, and to protect. Consequently, I would not pursue or cultivate important business connections, and at times even spurned overtures.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There is a hunger for connection. People are scared to make true, deep contact, but they long for it. Create a rich opportunity, a supportive and fun space for people to make contact with another human being: Ask the question that you really, really want to ask your neighbor/supervisor/nanny/whatever. And answer a question from another person. Be as real, as daring, as deep as you want. And see what happens. And then follow that.
If people could really do that, there would be less anxiety, less alienation. More playfulness, more connection. And then maybe the shrinks will be put out of business…
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
$2.75 on the NYC public ferry going up the East River with my kids, at sundown. Then $15 at the Taco truck by my favorite Mexican guy. And then to hear Beethoven No. 9, live. I took in the best of what man and nature, and of what my city has to offer. Nothing better than to be reminded of what my fellow humans can do.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use my website to make connections. It is built from the heart in a way that paves the road toward personal connections. It has allowed many of my patients to connect with me and schedule appointments afterward as well.
My Internet-based radio show has also been an amazing bridge to the world.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Who do we choose to be?” by Margaret J. Wheatley. She is a corporate consultant and leadership coach and purportedly write for leaders, but I love her insights and sensibility. She raises questions that apply for all of us humans. “Who do we choose to be?” is a question that each and everyone of us should ask. And I feel deeply validated and supported by her ideas about creating the conditions for generosity, community, meaningful living, and love.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s by Rainer Maria Rilke. “Do not seek the answers because you would not be able to live them. The point is to live everything. Live the questions now. You will then gradually live along some distant day into the answer.”
Don’t be afraid of the questions about yourself, about your life. Find your own answers. Live your way to your answers. That’s what living is about.
- Connections are the key to happiness
- Personal growth is based on your desire to create it
- Self reflection is just the beginning
- Meditation is a keystone to peace of mind
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.