No one is exempted from the challenges that life brings to the table, and in that aspect, everyone is equal. It’s up to each individual to use the tools available to them, and mastering resilience is one such tool that you can count on. Having bounced back from the darkness that life has to offer, Neeta Bhushan, the Cofounder of Global Grit Institute, joins Tanya Memme in this episode to share the heartbreaking yet inspiring story that led her to where she is today. From a very young age, Neeta experienced the power of perseverance and resilience that allowed her to push through despite all odds. Listen in and realize how sharing your story can make a difference in other people’s lives.
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Mastering Resilience: Making The Choice To Bounce Back With Neeta Bhushan
In this episode, we have Neeta Bhushan. She is a coach, a bestselling author, and an incredible speaker. She changes people’s lives and she’s the Founder of Global Grit Institute which is a big deal. Tell me about that. Let’s start there.
We help entrepreneurs develop their passions and build their message in the world and help them scale their businesses.
There’s a lot of them out too.
There are many that are either in traditional settings, their doctors or corporate, and they’re wanting to look at doing something else that fuels them.
Let’s talk about being a doctor. I want to go way back since on the show, we talk about your life story. I know you have a spectacular one. You were a young dentist at one-point. You graduated from school and you got this amazing job. People thought that you were the front desk person because you’re beautiful. They probably underestimated at the time.
I was the assistant, the nurse, and everything.
What was going through your mind when you knew that you were there and that this wasn’t for you? It’s a great job and you’re making lots of money.
I was born and raised in Chicago to immigrant parents. My dad was from India and my mom was from the Philippines and they came to the US to live the American dream. A lot of the decisions that informed me when I was younger were educational success, pride, and legacy. It was that Asian Tiger parenting. I was the oldest of three.
You’ve got a lot of pressure put on you, especially to achieve and succeed.
All of it, but I had to grow up early. At ten years old, I found myself having to be the caretaker of my mom, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. That began these nine years of not only watching my mother passed from breast cancer but a year after she passed away, I had a brother that was sixteen months younger than me and he collapsed in front of us. It happened to be on our youngest brother’s twelfth birthday. It was a huge undertaking because here I am, being the sole mother figure for my youngest brother and this partner ambiguous relationship with my father who was stern. His world was torn upside down and I had to be not only the mom of the house, cooking, cleaning and all of these things, but all the pressure to succeed and keep up with the Joneses while taking care of everyone’s emotional health.
What was a day in your life like when you were caretaking and dealing with everything that’s going on?
Through the thickness of all of that, I was in high school. While my girlfriends were going out, going to the mall on the weekends, one of my first jobs was at a dental office. I was answering phones, while my mom was in ICU transitioning and dying.
You’re so young. You were the caretaker for the family during that entire time. What was that like trying to do all of that and go to school at the same time?Honor the stepping stones in your life, whether good or bad. Click To Tweet
It was tough because you want to fit in. That’s what a teenager wants to do. You already stand out because I grew up in the city of Chicago. I wasn’t Latina. I wasn’t black. I was mixed culturally in this mixed heritage. You’re also going through this deep darkness that you don’t want people to feel bad about for you. You don’t want this pity so you’re almost overachieving.
You don’t talk about it a whole lot. That’s hard not to talk about it and get it off your chest.
It formed a lot of the work that I would be doing then in my twenties and even now. I started out as that young girl who had to keep this stoic face and had to be the warrior of her family to pretend everything was okay. Inside, I didn’t know how to process that.
You’re starting out in adulthood. What was that after your mom passed away? I can’t even believe that that happened with your brother. What was that transition like all of the sudden?
I was a senior in high school so I chose to stay in Chicago and take care of my father and my youngest brother. I was working three jobs trying to do what you do. You’re trying to get to that light at the end of the tunnel because you’re like, “It’s going to be okay.” We had another tragedy strike our family where my father went on a routine checkup and he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. The doctors only told him that he had about seven months to live.
How long ago was this?
This was two years after my ,other passed away where you’re like, “I can see the tunnel. I can see the end. There’s some light there,” and you’re hit with that. It tore me apart. At nineteen, I’m orphaned. I’m also the sole caretaker of my youngest brother.
Where are you living at this point? Who are you staying with?
Luckily, we had aunts and uncles on my mom’s and my dad’s side. Our mortgage was paid off on the home that we grew up in. My extended family didn’t think that it was necessary to start new so we’re lucky that we ended up having our home. That was the beginning of entering my twenties.
You are strong. Looking back at that time, what did you learn most?
Resilience. Honestly, our emotional health is so important. I talked about this a lot in my book, Emotional Grit. It’s honoring the stepping stones in your life, whether good or bad. A lot of times, we rise through some of the darkest moments in our life, and we have a choice. We can numb it, and that’s what I did throughout a decade. In my twenties, I wanted to prove to the world that I wasn’t this person to feel bad about. The accolades, overachievement, the practice, and purchasing a practice outright.
You then purchased a dental practice.
I did. I was a cosmetic dentist for about eight years and sold it a few years ago.
Within that decade, you’re like, “I can’t think about that. I need to think about this.” What was the thing inside of you though? I interview a lot of people on the show, and there comes a point in which you have a choice. Your life and what you experienced could have either spiraled way down and you end up homeless one day or you end up doing what you’re doing. What’s inside of you that gave you that courage, energy, or whatever it is you want to call it to go and be that overachiever?
It was honestly the upbringing of my parents. I was living that legacy, the pride, and the success that they wanted for us badly to have.
You were carrying that. You’re like, “I’m going to do this for my mom and dad.”
I was living the ghost of their past. A Filipino-Indian girl’s career is either doctor, dentist, lawyer, and engineer. That’s the four career choices. I’m like, “I will be a dentist because I started doing that when I was fifteen years old working in dental offices and answering phones.” Honestly, that was my first glimpse at if things aren’t going well with you at home, how can you make somebody else feel better? I was able to do that.
Without being a dentist is what you’re saying?
I’m saying when I was fifteen years old answering those phones at the dental office, those patients were coming in on a Saturday morning to get a root canal done and we all know if you’ve ever been to the dentist, you’re probably scared a ton. In those moments, I was able to transfer my own sadness over into helping them smile.
It was those moments where something was coming through.
For me, that was cathartic and healing. Also, that is the beginning of being that martyr of myself because I was focused on helping others smile, helping family be proud of me versus me understanding what I wanted in my life because I had no idea.
You’re answering phones and by answering these phones, you’re tapping into the side of you that’s not only healing you but healing other people so you know you have this gift. Where did the mind shift go from there where you’re thinking to yourself, “I have a gift here and it’s making me happier practicing this than it is this?” You’ve probably had that moment, right?
Was there a moment you remember when that happened?
Yes. I had an awakening for myself. In the years that would follow, I did get married and that’s when my dark time got even darker because I had traditionally all of these amazing accolades of success. My million-dollar practice at the time was this big healthcare practice. I had doctors working for me when I was young and all of a sudden, you don’t even know who you are anymore. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was living this big fat lie that I was in this abusive marriage. It was that turning point that led me to say, “You need to do you. You’ve not done you in over a decade.”
Possibly, maybe never.
At that point, I didn’t even know what that meant. I thought happiness meant to take care of others. I thought happiness meant to see my younger brother’s face and to see how happy he was.Know the importance of your own story, no matter how dark it is, and if you feel comfortable, share it. Click To Tweet
It’s a part of it.
It’s different when you can’t even understand why you’re making those decisions because you’re making them based on past programming to seek validation from your parents that have already left the planet. Many of us still keep going.
Understandably so. It runs deep. What was that day for you when you did realize it? Was there something that happened? Was there a day that this happened, and you were like, “I’ve got to change?”
Things got dark for me in that relationship. I remember that it was December 31st. It was New Year’s Eve and my life was threatened. I knew that was the day my younger brother was saying, “If you don’t tell your family, I will.” It was a matter of this choice. The choice was almost a threat because my brother was seeing me throughout all of this.
He’s your protector too.
That was the day where it was letting others in the family know this deep dark secret, but it was also liberating for me to know that you do have two choices. You can go and you can end this completely and that’s exactly what I did.
Did you sit your family down and say, “I have something I need to tell you?”
I left that home. That was the last day that I was in that home in that relationship, and pretty much in that life which would set the course of the next 6 to 8 months of truly finding not only peace but solace and strength, because I was getting a restraining order and having other people and lawyers involved. I was ashamed to think about what people would think of me because I had built this lavish lifestyle on the outside. I was afraid to even walk into my own practice to tell my team, my staff, that I had all of my bags packed in the back of my BMW X5. I was sleeping on friend’s couches at that point. That was exciting for me because for the first time, I was making that decision on my own to say, “I’m not going to do that anymore.”
What happened after that? You’re in your beautiful car, that was all you had. Where were you at this point?
This was all in Chicago.
Where do you drive? Where do you go?
One of my aunts who has been my champion for my entire life, my dad’s sister.
There’s always that one person. There’s always somebody who helps you through.
She was the one that I was afraid of leaving. What is she going to think? It turns out that she was literally the biggest and best advocate and she still is. She’s become this second mom to my brother and I, and paved the way for so much. There’s so much taboo to speak culturally, going through a divorce, being shamed by your family. I still have family who doesn’t talk to me because of some of the decisions that I’ve made and how public I’ve gone. That’s what led to me speaking. I started a nonprofit to help women and girls with their self-confidence. That’s what started the whole path of public speaking and sharing stories and teaching people the importance of their own story no matter how dark it is, and if they feel comfortable to share it. I feel you have to get to that point.
Also, how powerful it is to be able to do that. It’s interesting because of all the different Life Masters I’ve interviewed, there’s always that one person that comes along when you’re at the end of your rope. It’s often not the person you think it’s going to be. It’s interesting. The people that we think are going to be there for us if times get crazy, they aren’t usually the people that are there. They were like, “How’s it going? Talk to you later,” but they are not there for you.
They are being that champion of support.
Sometimes they come out of the blue or an acquaintance ends up becoming this angel in your life. That happened to you with your aunt. This happens and you have this relationship with your aunt and you have your nonprofit.
In those years, what I started to recognize and realize was shedding all the things that didn’t belong to me, that wasn’t me.
How long did that take to get through that process?
It took the next two years after that whole divorce to dive into myself. I’m talking about traveling to 40 different countries, studying with shamans, studying with different healers, having therapists, coaches, different consultants, not within my business so it’ll allow me to expand and grow and travel.
Did you still have your dental practice?
At this point, I did.
You’re still making money. Thank goodness, you had some money coming in so you could do all this stuff.
I always teach people now to have something while they’re preparing for their next exit.
You almost have to.
That’s important to fuel what’s driving you but to also have something that’s taking care of you. It took a lot of deep work on myself in falling in love with me. I even got married to myself as an ode to me on the southernmost tip of Bali, which is Indonesia, and as an ode to the relationship that I needed to have with myself.
How did you meet your life partner? How did that all come about? Where in that time frame did that come about?
That came about 2.5 years after I ended my first marriage.
Were you thinking about it? Were you not thinking about it? Were you doing your thing?
Not at all. We met at this life-changing event called A-Fest. This was a few years ago now. He was in a relationship and I was not even at all open.
You’re like, “I like you but not today.”
It was acquaintances and I was doing research for my book the year after, so it took me around the world and I was sharing. Through that time, he was living in Malaysia because the company that puts this event on, he was one of the co0ounders of that company. I was passing through Asia, and that’s where we met again. A year after that, I was coaching leaders in different parts of the world so it brought me to India and that’s where we both were speaking.
You were doing your own thing and I know it’s Mindvalley, the company that you’re talking, which is an extraordinary platform. You were doing all of that on your own and the two of you are these magical forces together and now you’re speaking all over the place together and separately too. What’s your favorite thing that you get to give back to the world? I know that you worked hard to get to this spot where you’re at now.
The power that everyone can bounce back from some of the toughest times in their life. I get to see it every day, whether it’s helping entrepreneurs build their own passions, lift their own voice, create their own messages, and spread it into the world. To know that they can have the next chapter after what they’ve been through is exciting.
No matter what age or the situation, you’re a true inspiration. I could sit here and talk to you for hours. Thanks for coming on.
This was great, Tanya. Thank you so much.
You too. If you love this interview, you can binge-watch all the episodes at LifeMastersTV.com and on the EverTalk app, Apple TV, and on Roku. Thank you so much for reading and I look forward to the next one.