Navigating Forward

Rediscovering your resilience with Julia Nicholson

January 17, 2023 The Human Impact Studio Season 3 Episode 4
Rediscovering your resilience with Julia Nicholson
Navigating Forward
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Navigating Forward
Rediscovering your resilience with Julia Nicholson
Jan 17, 2023 Season 3 Episode 4
The Human Impact Studio

On this episode of Navigating Forward, Lisa Thee chats with author and speaker Julia Nicholson. Formerly the CEO of the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans, Julia now has her own consulting business and is a keynote speaker on the topics of resilience, adversity, and grit. Having overcome and prospered after facing adversity and unwanted change, she now shares her message through her TEDx Talk and a book due out this month titled Move Forward Stronger

Lisa and Julia discuss how conventional wisdom such as ‘time heals all wounds’ doesn’t necessarily help us move forward after unforeseen, challenging events. Julia talks about how just getting back up after getting knocked down isn’t what’s most important: it’s HOW you get back up again and how you find that resilience and grit that we were all born with. Harking back to Julia’s healthcare background, they also examine some of the important issues impacting the patient experience in the modern world of healthcare and insurance. 

Find Julia at

  • Move Forward Stronger is out on Jan. 24:

Find Lisa at 

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Navigating Forward, Lisa Thee chats with author and speaker Julia Nicholson. Formerly the CEO of the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans, Julia now has her own consulting business and is a keynote speaker on the topics of resilience, adversity, and grit. Having overcome and prospered after facing adversity and unwanted change, she now shares her message through her TEDx Talk and a book due out this month titled Move Forward Stronger

Lisa and Julia discuss how conventional wisdom such as ‘time heals all wounds’ doesn’t necessarily help us move forward after unforeseen, challenging events. Julia talks about how just getting back up after getting knocked down isn’t what’s most important: it’s HOW you get back up again and how you find that resilience and grit that we were all born with. Harking back to Julia’s healthcare background, they also examine some of the important issues impacting the patient experience in the modern world of healthcare and insurance. 

Find Julia at

  • Move Forward Stronger is out on Jan. 24:

Find Lisa at 

Narrator (00:02):

At a crossroads of uncertainty and opportunity, how do you navigate forward? This podcast focuses on making smart choices in a rapidly changing world. We investigate the challenges of being at a crossroads and finding the opportunities that arise out of disruption. Listen in on future forward conversations with the brightest luminaries, movers, and shakers. Let's navigate forward together and create what's next.

Lisa Thee (00:24):

Hello everyone and welcome to the Navigating Forward Podcast. My name is Lisa Thee and I'll be your host today. We love to bring luminaries, movers and shakers to the forefront to have conversations about the dynamic world we're living in. And Julia Nicholson is absolutely one of the best examples of somebody that can help us all manage through the “its” that are happening all around us. So, Julia comes to us as the former CEO of the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Healthcare Plans. And she is a TEDx speaker and also an author with an upcoming book that we are all excited to hear about. So, thank you so much for joining us today, Julia.

Julia Nicholson (01:05):

Lisa, thank you so much for inviting me. I'm honored and humbled to be here. Thank you.

Lisa Thee (01:09):

Julia, you have the kind of resume that sounds like you were just handed the golden ticket right out the gate. And I know you well enough to know that that's not a real accurate reflection of your journey. Do you mind sharing with us a little bit about your story to getting to be the CEO of the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health fund? Where did it start and what were some of the things you addressed in order to get there?

Julia Nicholson (01:41):

Yeah, absolutely. Well, from a career standpoint, I would like to say that it was by design, but it was nothing like design. It was by default the entire way. And I would say I probably planted the seeds in my thirties when I was still in college, as you said. Yes, I did not have it handed to me. My father actually was an enlisted man in the Marine Corps who never graduated from high school. And my mother was a secretary in a school district. And so I learned the value of hard work and perseverance and just continue to do everything that you can do. And if you're gonna do it, do it the best way possible. And at the same time, try and prepare yourself for something that might come in the future. And so, from a career path standpoint, I literally came into this industry, which is benefits administration, as you said, running healthcare plans as well as pension plans.

Julia Nicholson (02:29):

When I left a position based on an ethics and integrity issue and had no job, but I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do. And to me, your ethics and integrity can never be compromised or for sale. You never get those back. And luckily, as the universe would have it, I was not out of a job very long. It was a matter of two weeks later where I had a recruiter call me and ask me if I'd like to interview for a position for some company that I had no clue who they were called William Mercer, which turned out to be the international premier benefits consulting firm in the world. And so I, yes, I was very, very fortunate and wound up working with that company and growing with that company and learning things about the benefit field that I had no idea.

Julia Nicholson (03:16):

It used to be I would show up just like everybody else at a doctor's office with that little card or at the pharmacy with that little card, and somehow that little card worked and I got my prescription drug, or I got my doctor's visit done and I left. That's about all I knew when I went into this industry. But being very curious and interested in learning as much as I could and reaching out to people that were infinitely smarter than I am and them being willing to share with me. And so I leveraged that position and that information that I gained, and one of the clients that I'd worked with early on in my career reached out to me with a CEO position that they had open, and they asked me to interview for it. And I took that position, and that was 25 years ago and never went back and continued to learn and leverage and speak and teach and give it back in many different ways in the industry. And climbed, if you will, each time a little bit more up the corporate ladder from the standpoint of larger organizations, larger board of trustees, larger customers in our plan. So I wish I could say it was by design, but purely by default and preparation as well as just keep going. Even when you get knocked down, even when the rug gets pulled up from underneath feet, look forward us to instead of backwards.

Lisa Thee (04:30):

And I think that your TED talk is, uh, really oriented around how do you pick yourself back up when the unexpected happens. Can you tell us a little bit about your backstory is what inspired you to share that wisdom with everyone? If I'm not mistaken, you had a pretty early experience with the healthcare industry as a patient that maybe started this journey.

Julia Nicholson (04:53):

<laugh> Yes, you're, you're absolutely right. And so my first adult, I'm gonna call it a challenge. I don't like to call it a setback. I'll, I'll say challenge, trauma, tragedy, loss, unwanted change. I was 18 years old and a freshman in college and was on my spring break thinking I'm gonna have this awesome, epic spring break because that's the rite of passage when you go into college. And it didn't quite turn out the way that we planned. I was riding in a car as a passenger, and we were hit head-on by a drunk driver at a very high rate of speed. And I happened to be the one sitting in the front passenger seat and took the full brunt of the impact. And I was trapped in the car. I was unconscious, critically injured. And my parents who were states away, um, I was in in Texas, they were in Missouri, and they got that 2:00 AM call that no parent ever wants.

Julia Nicholson (05:45):

And that was really my first experience of life doesn't happen the way you want it to happen, the way you plan it to happen, or the way you think it should happen. It just happens. And in fact, that's what I call these things that happen that are unwanted changes and losses. I literally refer to them as “its” to be all-inclusive because everybody has something that's happened in their life that's impacted them, that they didn't want to happen. And through that experience, I learned a lot, not only about the healthcare industry, but about myself as well. And I had a situation where it was literally in this little backwoods area of Texas, a deserted two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere. And the emergency crews that appeared literally to this day, I don't know how they were even notified out in the middle of nowhere because this was in 1980 when there were, there were no cell phones, there wasn't a call box.

Julia Nicholson (06:40):

And they took me to a hospital that had no ability to handle the level trauma that I had experienced. And what I am thankful for is they did a great job in saving my life. But I had multiple challenges after I got back to St. Louis, which is where I was living, and found out at that point in time that they saved my life. But in their haste, they neglected to take care of some of the things they needed to take care of with the injuries that were substantially to my face. And so I had no ability to talk or to enunciate. They didn't reconnect the facial muscle tissue. So, I had issues and still have actually to this day, not as dramatic, but had to go through multiple surgeries to have everything done. Um, I mean now an 18 year old girl, I have been in this awful, horrific accident.

Julia Nicholson (07:29):

And the overall majority of the injuries were to my face. And at 18 years old as a girl, and I would say for anyone, but for me to walk through the Dallas Fort Worth airport to try and get back home after I had recouped enough and have people pointing and gasping at you in horror and you look like something out of a horror show was very impactful for me and has stayed with me my entire life. And what happened in my course of trying to figure out how do I, how do I get through this, right? I really felt like I had lost everything that was worth living for, right? I now, I can no longer do the things that I wanted to do because of my injuries. I couldn't really talk; I certainly couldn't go out in public.

Julia Nicholson (08:14):

It was not, it was, it was so difficult for me to go in public to see people's reactions. And it was already hard enough for me as it was, and what I found out through that whole course of time was that there's lots of sayings and lots of things that are out there in this conventional wisdom out there in the universe that I think actually hold us back and stifle us. And one of them that hurt me was the whole time heals all wounds. Well, it might heal the physical on the outside <laugh>. Um, but inside mentally and emotionally, I mean, I was a wreck, right? I had no self-confidence. I had no self-esteem. I had lost my physical appearance. I disconnected from the world and from life and what happened from that. And what I realized, and you talk about where I went in my career and how I was able to do that, it all started by shifting my mindset from this is so terrible and this is horrible and this is awful and I don't wanna live anymore to, wait a minute.

Julia Nicholson (09:12):

The real thing is I don't wanna live like this anymore. I don't wanna live in this darkness and in this sadness and this victim mentality and this anger or this frustration or this depression or this helplessness. And so, I started looking at things in a forward perspective instead of what I lost, is there something that I can get from this. And changing that mindset from this is terrible and horrible and my life will never get better, to wait a minute, is this as good as my life is gonna get? And it isn't there something beyond this? Isn't there something more for this? What I learned in trying to process that traumatic experience was that the, that set me up really to start looking at other things that in life the same way. And the irony from a career standpoint is we will all have more things that did not go the way they planned than when we ever have knock it outta the park successes.

Julia Nicholson (10:08):

And it doesn't matter what industry you're in or what role you're playing or what title you have, the fact is things don't go well most of the time. We'd like to think they do. We have these little hiccups. It's the event that got rained out, it's the flight that you missed. It's the meeting that got canceled. It's the promotion you didn't get. It's the client that just walked out the door, the prospect that you invested a lot of time and energy in and then chose somebody else, right? These are all of the things that we deal with. And if we aren't processing them in a way that we get something of value out of them, they can really drag us down. And so that learning, thankfully started for me at 18 years old with, okay, I now have, my entire life was changed in a split second through no fault of my own. And what am I gonna do with this? Because sitting here in my bedroom, in my parents' home, avoiding all people, all phone calls was not the life that I wanted to live. I didn't want to live like that. And that was a big difference for me.

Lisa Thee (11:07):

So that traumatic experience early on obviously helped you build grit and resilience, or you wouldn't be here today to tell the tale. Can you share a little bit with us about how you've seen the healthcare industry adapt over time to all of the challenges it's facing since you were representing such a large group of constituents, to be able to have the care that they needed?

Julia Nicholson (11:34):

Sure, sure. And I think that in, in my career, to see kind of the evolution from what used to be a traditional indemnity plan and people would file their claims and send them in there, started to be more and more people involved in the process and that didn't add any value, but were extracting profit from it. And so, seeing that evolve in addition, very, very misaligned goals, right? We have providers that now the system is set up so that they get paid when they see you. Well, there's no incentive there than to make sure that you are healthy and that you are maintaining what you need to maintain, whether it's your tests, whether it's your blood sugar, whether it's your diet, whether it's your weight, whether it's your lifestyle. And we have really misaligned goals. The entities that I have worked in were set up as a trust fund, not a traditional insurance company.

Julia Nicholson (12:32):

So we had a vested interest in making sure that all of the people that we covered got the best possible service they could as fast as they could to have the best level of health that they could. They aligned goals, however, are set up opposite outside of that, that model because the, the providers only get paid when they see you. So they have an incentive to see you more. The insurers have some incentive in a direct way to pay as low as possible and as little as possible because they're in the business for a profit. And the individuals that are seeking care are totally outside of this. And it's one of the only industries that the payer and the provider and the consumer of services are disconnected and misaligned. And trying to help pull back that curtain. And one of the challenges right now, the biggest one that I see is this level of lack of transparency.

Julia Nicholson (13:27):

And when I say transparency, I don't mean that people show you what they want to show you. I mean that you are able to truly see what you need to see to make a difference. For instance, we would not go and buy a car if we didn't know how much it was. We wouldn't go buy a TV if we didn't know how much it was. We spend a lot of time researching all of those things, but we can't research anything about our healthcare relative to how much is it gonna cost and what should I expect to be the outcome. And what I'm seeing now is more and more entities coming into the healthcare space to try and enact change that will allow people to have more information so that in essence they can consume healthcare much like any other product that they consume. Obviously healthcare is a lot more important than a TV or a car.

Julia Nicholson (14:16):

And it's ironic that it's more important and vital actually to us, but it's one of the least understood areas and industries. But yet we all consume it at some point in our life and some more than others. And many of us are helping other people who are trying to use these services and trying to navigate these services. And one of the reasons why I got into the industry I did is because it is so unknown. And I have to tell you, as I'm out there now and looking at so many of the different websites for Covered California, which is where I'm located, it's difficult for me to, to understand the information that they have on that website. And this has been my career for 25 years.

Lisa Thee (14:59):

That, oh, that makes me feel so much better cuz I was so puzzled by it when I unexpectedly had to access it myself. And I thought it was a personal feeling. I didn't realize that the information is not being put out there in a way that it's consumable. And I saw a recent interview with Larry Ellison from Oracle Healthcare talking about how we have these expectations of consumer experiences that we know when our Amazon packages are showing up, we know where they are in transit, yet the most important things that we have, which is our health, we, we do not have that similar customer experience with. And so, I think you're spot-on in terms of transparency. What are some of the ways that you think insurers and healthcare systems could be sharing information that would help patients have a more frictionless customer experience so they can focus more on their recovery than their bills?

Julia Nicholson (15:56):

Sure. I think one of the most important things is that clear connection between their provider of service and themselves. One of the biggest challenges from an insurance standpoint is that you have people in an insurance company making a decision purely based on lab results or chart notes, or which the chart notes may or may not be thorough, may not be accurate, it may not be complete, if you will, relative to the entire person. And I think so much of the treatment that is needed is understanding firsthand that patient that you can't necessarily read on a chart. And I think forming that connection and that alliance between the provider who is actually looking at and touching and has hands on that person and strengthening that relationship. And there have been some models that have been tried like these group care homes or things like that, that are group care models that they're trying to create more of a home for a patient, if you will, or an individual.

Julia Nicholson (16:58):

But I, I think as long as there are people making decisions purely based on data that they receive with no understanding of what's going on in that person's life, that it can't be recorded on a chart. And, and how do we know and, and what is it that they might need a little bit differently than what these three check marks mean on this type of protocol to set up this type of treatment or this type of medication. And I think one of the biggest challenges right now is that literally it's so disconnected. You have for-profit companies that have a vested interest, whether it's to their shareholders that are public or private, to be able to not only sustain their business, but to make a profit, even if they're called a not-for-profit, right. They still need to have that money for all of the extra things.

Lisa Thee (17:45):


Julia Nicholson (17:46):

Yeah, exactly. And then you have the individuals that they just want treatment and they just want to get well, and you have providers now that are challenged with being able to make ends meet because my, my opinion is that so many of these insurance companies have merged together to, to make these behemoth organizations that then start to control the ability to contract with hospital systems and labs and doctors’ groups and specialist groups that now the providers are in a situation where they are dictated to what price they will receive without regard to their cost of service.

Lisa Thee (18:22):

Well, last time I checked if you're not making a profit, it’s no longer a business, it’s a hobby if you're losing money. So that can be really problematic.

Julia Nicholson (18:31):

That's exactly right. And so one of the challenges that we had continually is ensuring that the providers that our members used were compensated appropriately to maintain them in the network. Because as you, you may have had other guests that have talked about as we continue to go down this path of the fees that they get paid are dictated by a company that has a vested interest to keep their fee as low as possible, so my profit is as high as possible. And trying to balance that with, well, it can't be too low because I have to have enough providers in the network for people to actually go to see them and trying to really balance that. Well, I think the problem right now is that the tipping point is in the favor of the insurance companies because they control so much of the marketplace with what gets reimbursed and what gets paid for.

Julia Nicholson (19:24):

And we see evidence of that all over when we can compare, like in my plan, we have people not only all over the country, but all over the world. And you can start to see what impact different geographic areas have on the cost of service, even if the machine that they bought is the exact same machine that is in every single other office, whether it's for lab work, whether it's for an x-ray, where it's for an MRI. And so, you start to look at, okay, what's driving these costs? Where are they going? And I really believe that one of our biggest challenges is that I don't think the reimbursement rate accurately reflects necessarily what the cost is. And that even goes into the prescription drug industry, right? And I was recently involved with an organization that has developed this amazing tool to be able to truly create transparency to see what happened with that drug’s price from the time that it left the pharmaceutical manufacturer to being in the pharmacy, to actually being dispensed to a patient to be able to take it. And the interesting thing about this is people say they want transparency, and they want this, but when it gets up to the highest levels of the government, it gets blocked by the lobbies. And now all of a sudden, nobody wants to look at this tool even though the data is there. And it, it is very frustrating when these tools are being developed to be able to show clearly what is happening. But you have other entities that have a very strong vested interest in keeping the model exactly the way it is.

Lisa Thee (20:51):

I think that's really insightful. And I think I recently read in Entrepreneur magazine that Mark Cuban's making a big bet on getting some more, uh, direct to consumer models and pharmaceuticals. So it's exciting to see people that have access to capital starting to drive some disruption in the industry. That's usually how we start to see big leaps forward. Yes. One of the things that I heard from a friend of mine who's a CIO at one of the major healthcare providers is that 80% of patient outcomes are dictated by the environment and the stressors and the access to resources that patients have, much more than what they're actually diagnosed with in terms of outcomes. And so she really thought that having that single pane of glass where the provider, the patient and the payer can all see the information that they need, uh, without seeing more than they need to have access to, is the key to making better informed decisions. And so we've been talking with them about how do we help them build something like that in a zero trust confidential compute manner. So it's exciting to hear that we know that it's possible.

Julia Nicholson (22:03):


Lisa Thee (22:04):

Uh, we've done it. Yes. And we know that there are people that are willing to invest in it. And so there is some hope as we trend forward that the balance will come back into play with more patient-centered care going towards the future.

Julia Nicholson (22:19):

Yes. I think really the, the big key is the ability to evolve the current healthcare system is gonna have to come from grassroots individuals. There is, there is not a political will right now to be able to change this because it is, it is something that is so, um, it quickly elicits an emotional response, and that's in the vested interest of the people who want to keep their positions. And when I look at this and say, how does this get changed? What happens? Well, first of all, I think people really don't understand insurance. Insurance is always pay me now or pay me later, but it's always pay me. They also don't understand how the system works. I spent quite a bit of time educating people on just the idea of what's a deductible and what's an out-of-pocket maximum and how does that work and what does that mean?

Julia Nicholson (23:13):

And then helping them understand that the more services you utilize, the higher the cost of your insurance is gonna be. I had people say, but I paid for it. I'm gonna use it. Yes, absolutely. You did pay for it. You can use it and recognize it's pay me now or pay me later. When you pay for it and you use it, and I'm talking about using it in excess, then your premium will go up, whether you're with an individual plan or a group plan, that's, I mean, that's what insurance is, but looking at how do we evolve this model? People need to get involved at the level of individuals and of families. But right now, I think it is so confusing and it feels so overwhelming that I think people, they, it's easier to just avoid it and just hope it will take care of itself.

Julia Nicholson (23:58):

And the challenges, so much of this, I think gets played on because even when you look at the prescription drug industry, there are multiple tools out there that can help you identify where that lowest cost drug is, if you will. So there's things out there that can help. I don't see the issues that need to be resolved in the healthcare system coming from our political system. I think they're going to be from, like you said, some of these individual and their entrepreneurs that are looking at this to be able to say, there is a way to do this. And by the way, the big monster mega plans or mega insurers or mega PBMs that are really controlling so much of the industry, they're not gonna dissuade me and I will continue. I mean, there was a, actually, the program that I was talking about in the prescription drug industry, it was implemented.

Julia Nicholson (24:45):

It was being used. As soon as the PBM recognized what it was doing, it had their pharmacy turn it off, but not before, not before their concept was proved, right? And so now of a sudden, wait, we can see what's happened. We can see that the way this drug got processed, here's what the lowest price was, but here's what you charged, even though there was a lower price. And even though the legislation is set up to require, it's supposed to be the lesser of, all of a sudden the program gets shut off. And when you look at that and you think, okay, you're truly not in the business to do what you can to help people, you're in the business to make money. Otherwise, you would've looked at this and said, wow, this is a great tool. How do we work with it to be able to affect a change in this instance in the pharmaceutical drug industry?

Julia Nicholson (25:31):

And when I, when I look at that and I see the legislation, I think, I don't think the issue is going to the pharmaceutical manufacturers where everybody goes. I think the real issue is the middlemen that add relatively zero value but extract an enormous amount of profit. There's a reason why people want that stock in their portfolio for their retirement because it returns pick a number, double digits plus, but that at the same time, they're making that money every time prescriptions get filled. Whether that is in the Medicare plan that we are all paying for, whether that is in our private health plans, whether, so trying to connect the dots, I think starts to get overwhelming. And I think the more people can learn at, at the level of an individual, so it becomes less scary because I believe that this is not a difficult issue to address when there is the will to make sure that it gets addressed. And I do think there are ways to be able to help people understand that they can make better decisions for themselves as opposed to making it so overwhelming and so mind boggling that they just give up and get frustrated. And like I said, even when I'm reading these documents that are supposed to be out there to help people compare their plans and which one do they want, it's even confusing to me. I mean, there is nowhere on the Covered California website that tells you what an EPO is.

Lisa Thee (26:54):

What is it?

Julia Nicholson (26:54):

Nothing. That stands for Exclusive Provider Organization. The, yes, the insurance industry evolved from what was called major medical, that anybody could go anywhere they wanted with the insurance they had, they had to fill out the claim form, submit the receipt that they paid, the insurance company would process it and then send you your reimbursement back based on what was covered. That evolved then into insurance companies get in, involved in different types of models. The most prevalent then was called a PPO, a Preferred Provider Organization. That basically is a group of people that, or providers that an individual would have to go to in order to get the highest level of benefits under their plan. Well, now you don't see the word PPO in Covered California for the plans, they’re EPOs, but nobody tells you what that is. So, an EPO is an Exclusive Provider Organization, which is a smaller group. So, in essence, what's happened is we've, our choices of where we can go for service relative to having insurance coverage have gotten smaller and smaller and smaller and concentrated, which then allows these plans to start to dictate what the payment rate of the reimbursement rate is gonna be.

Lisa Thee (28:06):

That makes a lot of sense. And I have a decent number of friends that work on the front lines of healthcare that are sharing that some of those reimbursements are really making it challenging for the frontline workers to have enough nurses, enough of the coordination of care that needs to happen between doctors and systems. So, it is an area that's ripe for innovation. Um, one of the things that you said that I think really triggered my thought is this really feels like it reflects a lot of the areas that I focus on in terms of digital safety. It's not that the technology doesn't exist, it's a will to act problem. And I think the more awareness we can bring, we can help to level up because I don't believe that the majority of people in healthcare are hoping to make bad decisions and get bad patient outcomes. So the more information we can empower people with and the payer, the provider, and the patient side, uh, with transparency, I think can really improve things. Shifting gears a little bit, I would really love to hear a little bit more about your upcoming book. Do you mind sharing with us a little bit more about the book and how it can maybe help people that are reacting to things were unexpected?

Julia Nicholson (29:16):

No, absolutely, and I want to tell you that I absolutely agree with you. The over overall majority of the people in healthcare are really trying, they want to do their best. They want to provide the best level of service. And I think that they're so tapped out right now, whether it's the reimbursement rates or the low staffing ratios, or needing more people in the systems even or in the offices in the hospitals. And I think right now it's a huge challenge to be your best every day because you're tapped out, you're maxed out if for no other reason, the short staffing and, and the enormous number of people that need service, which is what we've seen during Covid. So ironically, my, my pivot if you will, away from the corporate career, the corporate industry that I've been in for so long had to do with how can I maybe better serve people based on what I've learned from looking at what happens in people's lives?

Julia Nicholson (30:12):

And it's kind of, it's still a through line, if you will, relative to my career, because that's why I chose what I did and stayed in it for so long. But I got to the point where I recognized there's something more that I can do. There's a lot of really smart people in the healthcare space, and there are a lot of really smart people in the technology space that can do some amazing things with what's going on in insurance. I took a step back and said, okay, is there something that maybe uniquely that I can do that might be of value? And I started thinking long and hard about a question that I had been asked for years and years in my career. And it's the 1-million-dollar question of how, how did you do what you've done? How did you recover from a near fatal, head-on collision?

Julia Nicholson (30:58):

You asked me about a little bit of my background. Well, right after that near fatal collision, not too much later after that, I made a decision in a bad mental and emotional state, right? Where I have no self-esteem, no self-confidence, no self-worth, and I make a major life decision and get married, which then turned out to be just as devastating as the car accident. I found myself in an abusive marriage and five years later left with my three-year-old and my four-month-old. And, so in looking at my career and my background as well as my personal life, people kept saying, how did you go from this devastation and no self-confidence and no self-worth and no self-esteem, and no education, no money. Right? How do you go from that to being the CEO of this 12-billion-dollar company and with two happy, healthy daughters?

Julia Nicholson (31:51):

How do you do that and live with energy and joy and passion? And first of all, I wanna say number one, I didn't do it alone. There were so many people along the way that helped me, whether it was family or friends or colleagues or, so that's number one. And I never want to imply I did this all myself. I could not have done it with help along the way. And so everybody needs that. Everybody needs that help and support. But I pivoted because so many people asked me the question of how, and you know what, Lisa, in looking at them when they're asking me this question and I could see, I could see the sadness in their eyes. I could see kind of the slope of their shoulders. I could hear that hopelessness or helplessness in their voice, and it triggered something in me because I was like looking in the mirror.

Julia Nicholson (32:37):

I see me in them and how they, they feel, and I truly felt compelled. And I wanna make sure there's a difference. I've had people say, oh, are you driven to share what you've learned? And I said, no, driven is what I chose to be in my career. Compelled is what happened to me when people ask me this question and I felt like they deserved a better answer than just, oh, everybody has stuff in their life. No, they really wanted to know how. And so, what I've done in this book is I really set out on a mission, if you will, to answer that question, to be able to say, how did I come from and come through all of these things? And what really solidified it was when somebody wanted to interview me and they said, oh my gosh, you know, we look at your career and we look at what you've done.

Julia Nicholson (33:22):

How did you do it in spite of everything you've been through? And it was a light bulb. And I said, you have it backwards. I didn't do what I did in my career in spite of what I've been through. I was successful in my career because of what I experienced. I learned from it, grew from it, and applied what I learned every time going forward. And you talk about building this resilience and this grit and this determination, this self-confidence, the irony about these things that happen in our life that we don't want to happen is that's where you grow. That's where you learn. And the amazing thing about this is that the strongest people, the more courageous, the more determined, the more persevering, the more, the more gritty, the more resilient. When you start to look at their background, not very many of them, I'd be hard pressed to put my finger on somebody that, that didn't have the “its” in their life, those unwanted challenges and obstacles.

Julia Nicholson (34:22):

And yet we hear that saying, oh, when you get knocked down 10 times, you just have to get back up 11. And I argue, no, getting back up 11, is that all you have to do to slog through it and fog a mirror? No. What's really important is, in addition to getting back up, is how do you get back up? Do you get back up stronger, more confident? And I believe that we all have the capacity to do that. And I wrote this book to not only share how, but to give people hope. Because I've been asked, oh, so did you learn to be resilient? Did you learn? And I argue, no, we're all born with it. And I can prove it every single one of us without science, because I am not a science person at all. I don't know technology, I don't know science, but what I do know is common sense.

Julia Nicholson (35:09):

And I can look at, for the overall majority of us who were born without a disability that impacted us, we learned how to roll over all by ourselves. But we didn't do it the first time. We didn't do it the 10th time, but we had people cheering for us and watching us. We learned how to crawl, we learned how to stand, we learned how to walk. All of that took courage, determination, perseverance, resilience, or we would've never learned it. So, we had it when we were born, but I think then all of these things start happening in our life and people aren't cheering for us anymore. And people aren't clapping, right? So, then we get so heavy. And I looked at this and said, wait a minute, we already have it. What if there's something I could share about how I was able to do this that other people could use?

Lisa Thee (35:56):

So, if people are looking for this book, what is it called? Where can they find it?

Julia Nicholson (36:00):

<laugh>. Well, thanks, Lisa. The, the book is called Move Forward Stronger. And literally what it presents is a dynamic framework to process change, loss, and grief in a way that allows you to truly move forward stronger instead of letting this “it” stuff get the best of you. How about if we get the best of it? How about if we use it to our advantage? And even in the workplace, I've had people ask me, how does this fit? And I said, think about entrepreneurs or think about people who are starting a business. We have been taught, or people who are applying for a job. We have been taught, oh, put your best foot forward here. Do these great proformas in this great pitch deck, or make sure that you put everything glowing on your resume. Well, I wanna say I've been the hiring person, I've been the venture capitalist, I've been the investor.

Julia Nicholson (36:49):

And I can't say that that matters as much to me because all that can be commoditized, right? But what does matter is who are you, what have you been through? What did you learn from it? Cuz when you're down on the mat, it's gonna happen in your job, it's gonna happen in your personal life, it's gonna happen in your startup company. It's gonna, I wanna know what do you do then? So why don't we start owning and leaning into all of these things that didn't go the way we planned for them to go, because the learning experience that we got out of it was greater. That now I know I know another “it”'s gonna happen. I don't know when. I just know it will, I'll have more tools when I process the last one productively to move forward stronger than if I don't. I wanna know that as an investor.

Julia Nicholson (37:35):

I wanna know that as a hiring manager, I wanna know that when, when you are standing there and you want something and you think the best thing you can share is the sales goals that you met and the productivity that you got and the budget you decreased. Okay? Lots of people have those, but you have something unique. And I think if we can lean into those, and if we can learn to move forward stronger by processing them in a productive way and literally owning them, I mean, one of the things that I try really hard to do is let people know, yes, you can see my resume and you can see the accomplishments, but that's what I've done. That's not who I am. I'm just like you. I have those setbacks. I've had the tragedy in my life. I've had the trauma in my life.

Julia Nicholson (38:18):

I've had the bills that I had to juggle that I couldn't pay. I've had the positions that I didn't get. I've had the promotions that I got passed over for. I have, I've been fired from a job. I've had all of those. So it's not what happens to us, it's how we process it and move forward. And so my book is titled Move Forward Stronger, because I think we all can, maybe not at the same pace and maybe not with the same process, but we all can and we all have it. And so this book is really to give people hope to say we can move forward stronger, we can move forward stronger in our personal lives, in our professional lives, in our relationship, and we can do it. We were born with that. We just have to find it again. And those are the diamonds of our lives that I think when we uncover those, they're a lot lighter to carry than the heavy stuff of the guilt and the blame and the shame and the hopelessness. So that's why I pivoted still the same, trying to help people.

Lisa Thee (39:08):

I think that, uh, as somebody who's had a chance to watch your TED talk and do you mind, uh, sharing the title of it if people wanna look it up?

Julia Nicholson (39:14):

Sure, sure. It helps to know that I am a contrarian by nature, and I like to challenge everything, um, especially the status quo. And so, my, the title of my TED talk is: The way we think about loss and grief is dead wrong.

Lisa Thee (39:28):

I had a chance to consume that after losing a close friend. And I just found it so uplifting to have a framework of how to process some of these things, to get the key lessons out of it, to nurture yourself during the process. And, you know, everybody tells you the only way, you know, on the other side of it is through it, but you really give people a framework and a manual of how to go through that and the most compassionate and kind way you can be to yourself, but also getting the lessons out of the moment and being able to shift mindset as you go. So I highly encourage people to check out her TED talk. I also highly encourage people to hop onto Amazon or in the bookstores or on her website to go pick up her new book, which, what is the exact release date? I know I've got my pre-order in.

Julia Nicholson (40:18):

Thank you. January 24th it will be available in the world.

Lisa Thee (40:21):

Okay. Very exciting. For people that wanna follow you and learn more about your journey, Julia, where are the best ways to reach you?

Julia Nicholson (40:28):

My website has a lot of information. Um, it's And on that website, there's a lot about my story, my history, where I've been and how you can contact me.

Lisa Thee (40:41):

And I really encourage folks that are looking for inspiring keynote speakers to reach out to Julia through this process. I can vouch that we met back in 2019, and I had to actually ask her what her job title was today, uh, to do this interview because she is one of the most humble and kind and modest people. She would never admit that she was a CEO of a 12-billion-dollar company and on multiple boards. She does have the keys to how do you lead with integrity? How do you lead with character? How do you lead with conviction? And how do you succeed as a leader in that capacity? Uh, so thank you so much for joining us today, Julia, it was wonderful to speak with you,

Julia Nicholson (41:19):

Lisa, thank you so much. And yeah, shout out to you as well. I have been following you and what you are doing and the messages that you're bringing, absolutely amazing. And I understand you also have a book coming out in 2023, and I am excited to see that and to celebrate you with that. And I just commend you and applaud you for what you're doing and the path that you're forging here and that you're willing to do it. And so good for you. There's not a lot of people that are doing that. And, um, I think great role model of what you're doing, and I think we could all learn something from you. So, I'm thankful that you're doing what you're doing on this podcast as well as opening the eyes of people. And I'm thankful and grateful that you invited me to be a guest.

Lisa Thee (42:03):

Thank you so much, Julia. Have a wonderful day.

Julia Nicholson (42:05):

Thanks, Lisa. You take care.

Narrator (42:07):

Hey everyone, thanks for listening to the Navigating Forward Podcast. We'd love to hear from you. At a crossroads of uncertainty and opportunity, how do you navigate forward? We'll see you next time.