Julia A. Nicholson is a former CEO, executive leadership expert, business consultant, and adjunct professor of business who has excelled for decades as an industry-leading visionary on governance, strategic planning, team building, and executive performance. But she has also faced an inordinate amount of adversity in her life.
In the span of 15 years, she went from a near-fatal head-on collision and a challenging role as single mother of two young children after leaving an abusive marriage, to being the CEO of a $450 million company. She now brings her expertise and passion to organizations and conferences across the country. Her book Move Forward Stronger is a guide for women on how to overcome adversity for business success. Julia has been featured on Forbes.com and her TEDx Talk “The Way We Think About Loss and Grief is Dead Wrong” was featured on the TEDx Talks YouTube Channel with 36 million subscribers. Meet Julia:
You are an author, but is it your day job? Being an author is not my day job. My previous day job was CEO of the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans, a large company in Hollywood that provides pension and health benefits to individuals in the entertainment industry and their families. I intentionally pivoted from the corporate world to write this book. When I’m not writing and speaking about how to process change, loss, and grief in a positive and productive way, I serve as a consultant for pension and health benefit plans across the country as well as being an adjunct professor.
For the next seven weeks my day and night job is “all things book launch” until January 24, 2023, when my book, Move Forward Stronger: A Dynamic Framework to Process Change, Loss, and Grief is released to the world.
Did you always want to be an author? No, the thought of being an author never crossed my mind. I started writing because the many recurring thoughts running through my head non-stop became overwhelming. Concentrating during the day and sleeping at night was all but impossible. These thoughts would wake me up at all hours of the night. My choice was to either be zombie-like during most days or surrender to the force pushing me to put those thoughts on paper.
What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? My most recent (and first) book is Move Forward Stronger: A Dynamic Framework to Process Change, Loss, and Grief. People who are looking for help and hope inspire me. I was asked so many times how, given the trauma and tragedy I’ve experienced, have I been able to keep going, accomplish what I have in my life, and live genuinely joyfully. I wrote this book because I feel like I owed them an answer.
I share what I’ve learned and how I have done it because I want to help people who are hurting and need help processing unwanted change, loss, and grief in their life and give them hope. When I experienced multiple traumatic losses in my life, I found the conventional wisdom surrounding loss and grief woefully lacking. In fact, not only did the conventional wisdom and the most common model (the five stages of grief) not help me, but they also actually hindered me. I started to feel even worse, even more like a failure, that I couldn’t even grieve right, because it appeared the conventional wisdom and most known model was “working” for everyone else.
How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? What many people need, especially now with so many unwanted changes happening in the economy, their jobs, and their personal lives, is hope. My hope is that the 5-Facet Diamond Framework I share in the book allows them to see there is a way to productively process the unwanted changes and losses and get something valuable in the process. No matter what happened or how long ago or how helpless, guilty, frustrated, down, regretful, etc., they are feeling right now, there is something better beyond what they are currently feeling. There is a way to get through it and move forward stronger with it.
What are you most excited about with this book? So many people are hurting and struggling under the weight of many heavy unwanted changes and losses in their life. I am most excited about helping people process some of the most difficult things that have happened in their life and live with less pain, guilt, and grief.
I am compelled to expand the narrative around loss and grief. Loss is more than just the death of someone and some degree of grief doesn’t have to be a life sentence because you’ve experienced loss. I am excited about having the opportunity to help other people who have experienced adversity, hardship, unwanted change, and loss spend one less minute in feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, blame, shame, and grief.
How did writing a book help your career take off? Writing this book is one piece of a larger framework to help establish me as a thought leader about gaining courage, confidence, resilience, and grit from unwanted change and loss. I intend to leverage the book to help me share the 5-Facet Diamond Framework on keynote stages all over the world.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to succeed in your professional industry? If you want to succeed as an author: First, ignore the naysayers about your topic. Follow your heart. Second, have a strong conviction and compelling reason for writing your book and getting it into the world. There are lots of moving parts to finishing a book and you will need this conviction to maintain momentum when you start feeling overwhelmed.
How do you handle setbacks and criticism? For starters, I allow myself a short period of time to feel slightly defeated with a setback or defensive of any criticism. Then I usually take a walk outside and recenter myself, reflect on the criticism to see if there is anything that I can use to make the book better and I remind myself about my “why” and tap into the reasons I started writing the book.
Being an author today is like running a business. How do you manage all your publicity, social media and keep your engagement up with readers? Being an author and building awareness about the book is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. The keys to managing all the moving parts are staying organized. I keep a very detailed calendar identifying everything I need to do daily, having people help me with creating graphics for social media posts and building media awareness about my book. There is so much to do in a short time frame before the book is released, I could never get it all done without help.
How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? I hold myself accountable by maintaining a very tight calendar and setting reasonable goals. I complete the highest priority, tight deadline items on my calendar first and allow myself some flexibility with less important items that are not time sensitive. I don’t wait until the last minute to meet a deadline. I get things done ahead of time. I also mentally prepare for things to come up that I didn’t anticipate that will alter my calendar.
Finally, I make sure to have some “me” time every day, even if it’s only what I like to call a “fifteen-minute vacation” to guard against burnout or spinning my wheels unproductively. “Me” time could be spending time outside, some type of physical activity, cooking—anything that is not related to writing or promoting my book.
How do you structure your day and make time for writing? I structure my day and week based on known upcoming deadlines and events. I calendar everything, including writing time. I build in a little “fluff” for those unforeseen things that I know will come up.
What do you find most fulfilling in the career that you’ve chosen? One of the most fulfilling things about writing this book and sharing what I’ve learned is having so many people trusting me with their story, sharing very private things with me about their life, and telling me what a difference the 5-Facet Diamond Framework has made in their life. Knowing that I helped at least one other person makes everything I’ve experienced worthwhile and gives my life purpose and meaning.
What book uplifts you? I have a strong spiritual faith and my most uplifting book is the Bible. I find the timeless principles in it humbling and centering.
Anything else you’d like to share with your readers? You will have unwanted change. The rug will get pulled out from under you. You will get knocked down. These are unavoidable and inevitable. Lean into the things that don’t go as planned. Learn and grow from them and apply what you learned going forward. Remember, it’s not only about getting back up. Success comes from getting back up stronger each time!
Readers and leaders, connect with Julia on her website and follow her on social media!
Images Courtesy of Smith Publicity