Work, Life & Passion: 1ON1 Interview with Nina Kovner

Sometimes it doesn’t really matter where or exactly when you met a person, but more importantly that they came into your life. That’s how I feel when I think about Nina Kovner. I honestly cannot recall exactly when or where I met her for the first time and frankly, it doesn’t even matter at this point. What matters is that you get to know Nina Kovner. She’s, how I can say this, a beam of light. She’s that charismatic genuine energy you feel when you walk into a room of strangers. You feel it, and you want to find it, and you want to stand next to it the entire night. That’s Nina.

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Nina Kovner PassionSquared

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Nina has a story; a passion-fueled story filled with accomplishments and heartache. She’s been in the beauty industry since 1987, the year she discovered beauty school. From shampoo girl to stylist, she worked her way up in the salon ranks. Then she got bit by the education bug and became an educator for Paul Mitchell. And then…she got to down to business, in its true form. She became a Brand Manager at Davidson Beauty Supply. By age 24, she was a Regional Sales Director for the Southwest United States for Paul Mitchell. Fast forward to 2000 and she’s VP of Marketing for Paul Mitchell and in 2009 after receiving awards and many nods, she walked away from it all. In her words, she was dying inside.

I loved my company and the people I worked with, but there was a big hole in my heart. My outsides did not match my insides. And I learned the hard way; it catches up with you, eventually. At least that is my truth.

And so to fill that hole, Nina created PassionSquared, a company strictly devoted to helping others and their businesses focusing on online and offline marketing, strategy, brand development and personal development. “I realized my true passion was to empower those I love through sharing my journey and experiences, the real world shit that mattered to me,” Nina adds. Now she’s changing other people’s lives and helping them discover, ignite and even restore the passion they may have shelved without being aware of it, and has put the dying on the inside away for good.

Since it has been eons since Nina and I have engaged in some Q&A, one-on-one time, aside from the ongoing social media banter that happens often on Twitter and Instagram between PassionSquared and Industrie, I picked Nina’s brain and dug a little deeper and bypassed the “How’ve you been” type of questions.

 So tell me, how is the word “passion” defined in the Nina Kovner Dictionary of Life?

 The fuel I need to live my purpose.

I know you like to ask people this question, so I’m going to ask it to you: What does passion look & feel like to you?

It feels like a big light in my heart; an energy that directs me in all that I do. It feels like a big shot of espresso.

I read somewhere (on your site actually) that you like to wake up every morning and say, “How am I going to help people create awesome today?” It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing to put others first, but what about Nina? How are you creating awesome for yourself and how do you make time for that when you’re so busy coaching and helping others?

As a recovering workaholic, self-care and living my unique rhythm are critical to my ability to help others create their own kind of awesome. I take time off, don’t work most Sundays, spend time with family and friends, binge watch Netflix, work with a therapist, and work with energy workers to help keep me grounded. I say NO way more than I say YES, even though starting and growing a small business makes that difficult, I do the best I can. And lastly, a daily gratitude practice keeps me open and mindful, keeps life in perspective when shit gets hard. And it does, get hard, every day.

Speaking of waking up in the morning, are you:

A “two shots of espresso and an online horoscope before 6am” kind of woman

A “hiding under a down comforter surrounded by pillow and blackout curtains until 10am” kind of woman

Or a…

“If you even look into my eyeballs and speak a word to me before I’ve had coffee, laser beams with shoot out of my eyes and you will meet your maker” kind of a woman?

Two shots of espresso, actually an Americano, and I’m up before 6 am almost every day.

What is the best life advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

“Practice gratitude, daily.” My rehab and my favorite gratitude quote by Melody Beattie.

You are very open about living life with anxiety, and you have said you lovingly battle it on a daily basis. What advice and tips can you share with someone who is experiencing the same?

Ah, well, one size does not fit all, but here are some things that work for me.

One of the biggest anxiety reducers was my radical lifestyle change, which started with leaving a career I loved to reduce stress, which in turn, reduced anxiety. Removing toxic people and situations from my life. Prayer. A diet that is rich in proteins and vitamin B. Not mixing sugar with caffeine. A shit ton of therapy. Meditations on my playlist. And in some cases, medication, but as a last resort.

We all have toxic people in our lives, and sometimes we can’t remove them from our life equation. What advice and insight can you give someone who is stuck in a personal/life situation surrounded by toxicity that just can’t easily walk away from it?

This one is simple, yet not at all easy. We CAN walk away from toxic people and situations. It’s called healthy boundaries, and without them, we are not living to our highest purpose and not able to be leaders or awesomeness creators, plain and simple.

How do you find balance in your own personal life?

I don’t believe in balance, I think it’s a myth and unattainable. It puts pressure on us to look for perfection, which I also don’t believe in. I believe in rhythm. And finding it is a daily practice. What feels good, when does it feel good, what is my gut saying, learning to set healthy boundaries, all that stuff move us closer to finding what works best for us.

Let’s talk about personal style for a moment. As you know, we live in a society where so much emphasis is placed on “looking like this celebrity” or “getting so-and-so’s fashion style and beauty look.” And something you passionately teach others is developing and branding their business for success. What about branding personal image and style? How can people who are living in a world where looking like someone else or mirroring someone else’s lifestyle blog or Instagram account find it within themselves to be their own person?

It is more important than ever to actually have your own personal style. Why? Authenticity rules on social, and the only way to stand out and be authentically you is to create your own personal style. By all means, follow those who inspire you, I do, but do you, always.

What advice/solutions can you lend to someone struggling with this, especially if they have a clear vision for what they want their business to look like, but their own personal style doesn’t communicate that?

Well, of course, I will say, work with me. Brand development and brand identity are both an art and a science. There is no one size fits all answer.

What are some books that have helped shape and mold you as an individual? How about films/plays? And lastly, any musicians or albums that have made an impact on your?

The Four Agreements, Untethered Soul, Life Is Beautiful, Almost Famous, and anything by John Lennon, Madonna and The Beatles.

If passion were a character from a book or a movie, who would passion be?

OMG, this is almost impossible to answer. There are so many books and movies, but one of the first ones that come to mind, one of my all time fave movies, Jerry Maguire.

What is the best work advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

“I’d rather have a passionate bitch working for me than someone who did not care,” is the best “advice” I have ever received, from the best leader and mentor I have ever had, John Paul DeJoria, CEO and Founder of Paul Mitchell. And it actually was not advice per se; it was in response to a situation where someone had come to JP telling him I was a bitch. Empowered, intelligent, strong women, even in today’s age, are still many times seen as bitches. John Paul always had my back when it came to situations such as this. One of the gazillion things I will always hold in my heart, he was one of my biggest cheerleaders. I am grateful for him, always.

If you could offer one helpful tip/bit of advice to someone who has lost the passion in his or her work, what would it be?

I actually don’t think we ever lose our passion, in my experience; it’s more about losing our sense of purpose and allowing life to get in the way. While passion is our fuel, it is totally understandable that we lose our way, that we get derailed from all the influences, drama and energies. That we do what we do because we think it’s our only option. It’s almost never a loss of passion; it’s a loss of purpose. So what do we do when that happens? Get still. Quiet. Get honest and real with ourselves, and listen to our hearts. The heart almost always knows what’s up, but many times we are in fear of what it’s telling us to do. I share my story of how I finally got the balls to listen to and follow my heart in by first book, Follow Your Heart.

 You can see that Nina has a huge heart, probably the biggest heart in the biz, but she’s realistic and that’s extremely crucial in staying when you’re helping others with their lives and with their businesses. She’s the real deal, and if you’ve never had the opportunity to meet her, do it. Attend her live seminars, find her at events and at shows, and follow her on social media. Her daily dose of inspiration is infectious and her “Weekly Dose of Awesomeness Newsletter” may just be what you need to take your passion to the next level.

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