I host People Helping People, a podcast to inspire social change. One of the best things about a podcast is the freedom to have stellar conversations with changemakers, where you can pretty much ask them anything, and get great stories in return.
Most of my guests are social entrepreneurs, or in the social impact space, because I find myself curious and delighted by all the magic going on in this space. (Seriously, it’s another world from what I read in the general news.)
But the conversation yesterday was new — my guest was Bollywood rock star Kiss Nuka. Her career in music exploded when she was 17, through a famous reality show in India, and she went on to be a successful musician in the Tamil and Bollywood film industries. Her success has given her the means to find alignment with her core values, and to bring together both her talents as an artist and her passion as an activist for animals rights and the environment and lifting up others in the community.
One thing that really caught my attention was how she referred to being caught up in the “business” of Bollywood. She could assert influence over the artistic direction of her work, but not really question the machine behind it.
By the machine, mostly how companies use media to sell products. They pay well to have media produced that has mass appeal (think stories and songs around love, sex, relationships, weddings, heartache, etc). Go along with that, and you’re well compensated. But that doesn’t mean the brands that are supported by your art are healthy for the planet.
Kiss Nuka has a real passion for animal rights, and as a vegan, that means finding companies and brands that are in line with your values. At some point, you have to make a choice: do you accept work that pays your bills, or do you keep searching for work that is in line with your values?
She was very honest that her previous success affords her the freedom to make this choice. She meets so many artists who are struggling to break through, to get momentum and attention. They see her success, and 107k followers on Instagram and think she’s all sorted. But that’s not really the case — life is continually unfolding, always changing, and giving us opportunities to grow and develop.
But one thing that really made a difference for Kiss Nuka was the work she’s done to understand who she is. She developed an identity document — sort of a statement of who she is, and what she stands for. And then uses this to help guide her decisions. She stressed the importance of taking the time to find out what is important to you as a person. Because until you know that, it’s hard to find your direction.
The second obstacle you face in realizing your dreams is having the community and support you need. When she first became vegan, Kiss Nuka struggled to relate, as those in her life didn’t fully understand it. Then, at a festival, she met a few people from a rights organization wearing “vegan for the planet, vegan for the animal, vegan for the environment” t-shirts. And this helped her find a community with similar values. Having that community and support is critical to have real feedback and validation that strengthens your resolve and keeps you going when faced with adversity.
I found myself relating to much to her journey; here I am, still working in my career where I am a CTO at a retail consulting company. It’s enjoyable work and great people. But it’s not my calling. The People Helping People Podcast has been my way to uncover what I stand for, and to connect with a community. I may not know what my role in the future is yet, and that’s okay, but I understand that developing the vision and building the community is the foundation for what may come.