Nathalie Molina Niño on the emotional agility it takes to live an undivided life

When we create our stories each week, one of the most agonizing decisions is what to call people. How do you distill a life—in the case of our storytellers, an otherworldly life—into the three or four words of a title scroll?

Listen to the full conversation below:

What words do we use that unwittingly divide and disempower us? For Nathalie Molina Niño, serial entrepreneur and author of LEAPFROG, The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs, it’s “stay in your lane.” It’s code, Molina Niño says, for women to narrowly focus and stay small.

The insidious underbelly of ‘staying in our lane’ is how effectively it deactivates our greatest assets. If we’re staying in our lane, we’re not using our feelers to discern the bigger picture. We’ve shut down our natural gifts of reading not only a room, but an organization, even a society.

Instead, Molina Niño wants to see women harnessing the unique skills we’ve cultivated by existing and thriving in environments, like corporate America, that are not built for us.  To use those incredible skills of perception, creative collaboration, sensitivity, and intuition to tear down the very silos that keep us in our lanes.

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Walt Whitman says we contain multitudes. Nathalie wins the prize for multitude-est.

Born to a Colombian mom and an Ecuadorian dad, Molina Niño spoke better English than her immigrant parents growing up. She was the token Latina friend in the States but was ‘too American’ for her South American relatives. “I could have used the fact that I’m multicultural to feel like I didn’t belong anywhere,” she says in this clip, “but instead, I decided that I belong everywhere.”

Nathalie cut her teeth in the early, heady days of the internet. Capitalizing on the dot-com boom, she was running multinational businesses across sixteen countries before she turned 25.   The breakneck pace took a toll on her health.  After fifteen years, she walked away.  The next move for this coding-engineer-global technology maven?  Columbia University’s theatre department, of course.

Multitudes, I’m telling you.

Nathalie, at her heart, is an artist.  So, who better to shape her natural gifts as a storyteller than New York City’s theatre community?  Her immigrant mindset told her she was crazy to abandon a thriving career.  She leaped anyway.

Life offers us moments of initiation. And if we find the courage to answer the call, unfathomable possibilities open. In Nathalie’s hero’s journey, this was her moment.  By coming to New York City, she said yes. To her life, to joy, to herself.

It led her to co-found the women’s entrepreneurship program at the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College to educate the next generation. It led her to create Brava Investments, which funds companies that demonstrate that they put more money, and power, in the hands of women.

Most of all, it led her to living an undivided life.

During our conversation, I became aware that radiating from Nathalie is this grounding energy that changed the dynamic of the room.  By fully inhabiting herself, she can access a deep wellspring of authentic power.  What’s more, her resolute presence allowed me to drop more deeply into myself, too.

Being with Nathalie I understood, on the most primal level, what’s possible when one woman stands in her truth. Her ability to hold that for herself is analogous for what she can hold for me. For others. It’s what Molina Niño’s work is making possible for all women.

In her book Emotional Agility, Psychologist Susan David writes that emotional agility “is a process that enables us to navigate life’s twists and turns with self-acceptance, clear-sightedness, and an open mind.” The more aligned Nathalie is with her essence, the easier the world is to navigate. The deeper she owns her story as a Latina entrepreneur, the more she’s able to reinvent herself. The clearer she is about her values, the more flexible she can be to pivot as a situation demands.

Nathalie’s life can’t be reduced to a lane. The golden thread woven through her story isn’t tech. Or finance. Or even her skills as a speaker and writer. She can be a globe-trotting maverick because home is not a place for her. It is her.

That’s what she wants for us all. To understand that no matter how assertive our language, how tailored our pantsuits, or how formidable our “executive presence,” our power doesn’t come from trying to be more masculine.  For us to understand that staying in our lane diminishes our multitudes.  For us to understand that our collective oppression can fuel our collective superpower.

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Follow Nathalie Molina Niño on Instagram @Nathaliemolinanino and Twitter @nathaliemolina 

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