Michelle Obama said, “Stories are what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”
So often we turn away from our own stories, especially when we’ve struggled and have experienced pain.
I get it. It’s not fun to revisit old wounds.
The thing is, sometimes finding your mission and your place in the world means revisiting some of the not-so-fun stuff. Because that stuff sometimes shapes who you are and what you want to create.
When it’s hard to look within to connect to your own story, it can sometimes be easier to connect with the experiences of other people.
Hearing others’ stories can shed light on what’s really important to you and how to find your own mission.
This week I’m excited to share Lidia Bonilla’s story.
I met Lidia in a community of founders (community – everything!!), and I’ve loved watching her journey unfold as a Pleasure Strategist and Coach.
In this interview, Lidia and I talk about:
- Reclaiming your self worth so you can go after what you really want (self worth comes up a lot here at Work Bigger),
- How to make a name for yourself
- Putting down the plan and following your heart when it comes to making life and career decisions.
As you’re reading, think about what’s resonating for you and why.
Give us some background. Where are you from, and where did you start out?
I was born in New York but raised in Miami to Cuban and Dominican parents.
Since I was about 10 years old, I knew I wanted to live in New York.
Anytime I visited my grandmother in Harlem or my cousins in the Bronx, I fell in love with the energy and the aliveness of the street (I still have a hard time staying home – I am writing this in Fort Greene listening to African drumming -at a safe distance, of course).
I have a degree in Banking and Finance in Hofstra University and worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years, mostly as a contractor. I had one full time job out of college at JP Morgan Chase and left it after 4 years to take the break I never did in college. I learned how overworked I was once I found out my work had to be distributed to two full time employees and a part time person. I vowed never to work as an employee ever again.
After traveling and working on a novel, I started contracting for banks conducting investigations into money laundering, terrorist financing and fraud. It paid well and gave me the flexibility I wanted.
But I knew banking wasn’t for me and I always worked on creative endeavors. I stumbled into the sex toy industry. I hired an organizational professional who discovered my sex toys. I looked all over for a pretty storage solution and I couldn’t find one, but after a while I forgot about it. Months later, I went into Babeland to replace a vibrator and I asked offhandedly for storage products. The salesperson said no and I responded naively ‘Well, I will make one.’
I created the Moi Box and formed House of Plume, did other dope shit.
After eight groundbreaking years, I realized I was much more interested in talking to people about their lives and empowering women to have juicy and satisfying lives so I became a pleasure strategist.
What is your mission, the work you want to do?
I truly believe pleasure is our birthright and not a luxury. Transforming our relationship to pleasure from being tawdry and unattainable to it being at the core of how you live is what I am most committed to.
Women have been overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated since the beginning of time. Our efforts bear fruit for everyone except us. My mission is to start a Pleasure Revolution.
What led you here? Can you recall any experiences you had that pushed you to your mission?
I’ve worked since I was 14 so it’s safe to say I’m driven.
I had worked on House of Plume while having a full time career for years and I was not only exhausted, but dissatisfied.
I realized I worked so hard to prove my self worth to some imaginary tribunal of people that said I wasn’t good enough.
I wanted to live differently and wondered what it would be like if I instilled pleasure in everything I did, like dating, my work and even my morning routine.
What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?
I have never not been in a white male denominated industry.
I remember the etiquette lessons I received in college were all about how to fit in, how I couldn’t come across like the Miami girl who ran barefoot in the street.
At some point at my first job, I realized I would never fit in and reveled in being an individual instead. If you can’t beat them, don’t join them – make a name for yourself instead, make them remember you.
What does living from a place of possibility mean to you?
Possibility – the juice of life! The ability to create your life through the intention you create, the possibility of something different being possible is the center of everything I do.
Can you recall a time when you shifted from making a decision(s) out of fear vs. possibility? What was that like? And why did you feel the need to make that decision?
The center of my work is listening to my intuition and I really had to listen to it in order to become a full time coach. I had worked at least 12 hour days for years – banking during the day and House of Plume at night and I did not want to work like that anymore. I didn’t want to push my way to success.
I gave my notice and I felt momentarily relieved. I didn’t have a solid plan on how to make it as a coach and I didn’t have any clients (not an exit plan I recommend).
With little money, I went to a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Mexico to see if I got ‘the sign’ to jump all in. Being silent for 10 days dramatically reduced the chatter of doubt and allowed me to get connected to what God’s purpose was for my life: to teach and empower others.
What advice do you have for others who want to make an impact through their work but are currently feeling stuck?
At some point, after all the strategies, pivot plans, lists, manic phone calls to friends, you will be left with one thing: the rumblings of your heart.
You can’t ever be fully prepared to follow what your soul is calling you to do.
The very worst thing to do is to live life by default and let circumstances determine the outcome. You will have to say ‘Fuck it’ and do it. You can always make another choice.