“I only got where I am because I was approaching life with an open hand and not a closed fist,” says Nicole Walters.
The former Fortune 500 executive who famously quit her job in front of thousands on social media and has withstood a wealth of changes that could turn the average person upside down, is not plunging into a season of surrender. She’s diving into it, including the uncomfortable parts of it all.
“I have surrendered that everything’s going to be perfect. I have surrendered that I’m always going to get everything done,” she tells ESSENCE.
Following a public divorce and parenting struggles (she’s a mother of three girls she adopted), she is choosing to show up for herself, even when doing so looks different than she thought it would after years of going after society’s definition of what success looks like.
“In my life right now, everything is completely wrong,” she continues matter-of-factly. “It looks nothing like what I expected it to. I’m living in California. I’m divorced. I am writing a book that isn’t a business book.”
The founder and CEO of Inherit Learning Company, who has also become a popular podcaster (and she was previously a reality TV personality on the docu-comedy She’s The Boss on USA), has allowed her audience of over one million listeners to follow her journey of radical acceptance on her self-titled program. Now, she is bringing her full story to the masses with a new memoir. Nothing Is Missing follows her transition from a married business guru into a vulnerable woman confronting the reality that life can surprise you.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of things being different,” she says emphatically. “Oftentimes, we see it as a loss, but in reality, anything that’s removed is replaced by something that is better suited for us.”
“When I say nothing is missing, I’m coming from a standpoint of, as Black women in particular, we’re constantly told what we lack and that something within us is not sufficient in this world, whether it is in our skin color, or our hair, our intellect, or the way that we are being,” she adds. “The reality is, we have everything.”
Coming to that realization, when her marriage ended, she decided to face questions about her personal life on social media head on. “I don’t think anyone can shame me worse than I can shame myself,” she declares. She is okay exposing herself if it can help other women like her. “I think that that is a common theme with a lot of moms. We are all harder on ourselves than anyone else,” she says. “We’re all going through some version of it.”
Walters re-examined the way she sees things, including her relationship with grief for example, after watching her daughter fight illness — Hodgkin’s Lymphoma specifically, in 2019. She’s now a survivor “with no potential for reoccurrence in the future.”
“I’ve always said that gratitude and grief can live in the same place,” she says. Her views on that have since “evolved,” and she no longer subscribes to the idea that grief can be “partitioned off” while pursuing other tasks.
“I really learned that that just is not true in practice,” she states. “In practice, grief is with you all the time. And what happens is you learn to build a life that kind of is bigger than and swells around the grief, and it shrinks, and it gets a little smaller, but it has to fit in.”
Grief can also accompany life’s transitions. Walters has been through plenty of those. As mentioned, she walked away from what she considered a “dream job” before launching a new successful career advising others on a monetization strategy. She watched her co-workers leave her previous company one by one, baffled by their decision to walk away. “I can’t believe someone would move on,” she recalls thinking years ago. She couldn’t see beyond the goal she had achieved.
Later, with more perspective, she opted to grow professionally elsewhere, just as her peers had.
“Complacency can be a killer, and just because everything is so great, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue better and challenge yourself to more,” she says. “Sometimes the things that improve you are beyond just the salary and the benefits, you know? Maybe you need personal improvement in terms of your character growth and development.”
That development included building a brand that comes with its own stressors. But Walters refuses to be crushed by hustle culture. She is committed to helping others through her work while ensuring that she manages a sustainable life. “I can still make a huge impact and get into rooms to leave doors open for the people behind me and share what I’m learning without compromising my health,” she says. “I just want to prove that it’s possible.”
She is modeling the practice for her clients and her children by rejecting the urge to grasp opportunities that don’t align with the way she wants to live her life. Personhood trumps branding for her.
“I can’t tell you how often I’m told that I need to fit this mold to do this thing or sacrifice relationships for automation and for monetary gain, she continues. “I want to be able to be just as regular as I can and show people that you can ascend to the wildest places and you don’t have to compromise your peace.”
Black women pursuing their version of a softer life excites her as she attempts to do the same, sharing her journey to this point in her new book.
“It’s a renaissance. It is a revolution. It is resistance when we say that we are not going to allow ourselves to simply be a productive machine,” she says. “It is affirmative, it is healing, and it is transformative. And that’s what I hope to be in this world. I want my daughters to know they don’t have to work and kill themselves in order to build a legacy.”
Nothing Is Missing is now available where books are sold.
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