Leadership is hard, and not only for the reasons you expect. Many of our leaders have to overcome intense struggles to lead. Personally, I had to spend a year training with Toastmasters to feel remotely comfortable speaking to a crowd. So what does it take to fill a leadership role on a national level?
My guest today knows first-hand exactly what it takes to lead at that high level. She’s been a leader in her community since she was a child, and she’s been a leader in the United States House of Representatives since 2012. And today, she’s running for president!
I can’t imagine the pressures of leading a presidential campaign. Particularly in our society — where politics are more about personality than policy — it must be insanely difficult to keep a level-head and lead with generosity and love.
But Tulsi does it. She’s a passionate leader, and she’s committed to serving the country to the best of her ability. I’ve been wanting to interview her for a while, and today it’s finally happening! We’re talking all about what it means to be a service-based leader. This interview is powerful and inspiring, so let’s dive in.
Tulsi Gabbard is a United States Congresswoman with a passion for serving others and the environment. She has been working hard to protect the waters and beaches of her native Hawaii since she was a little girl picking up trash on Saturday mornings, and that passion has carried her through much of her adult life. In fact, Tulsi’s public service career began when she was elected to the state legislature of Hawaii at just 21 years old!
But Tulsi hasn’t always served the public from an office. In 2003, she joined the ranks of the Hawaii Army National Guard. And in 2004, she volunteered to be deployed to Iraq, making her the first state official to step down from public office to serve in a war zone.
After serving for two tours in the Middle East, Tulsi returned home to her native state, Hawaii. And after working in several other public offices, she was elected to the United States House of Representatives. And now, as a presidential candidate, Tulsi is continuing to make waves in the American political scene.
You guys know that I’m not a very political guy, but I have been fascinated watching Tulsi’s campaign. So many conversations surrounding elections and political topics in this country revolve around playing a game. Everyone is out for him or herself, and people tend to get into arguments and fights before they get into real discussions. But Tulsi’s different. In every interview I’ve seen, she’s been calm, cool, and collected. She’s dedicated to creating unity and running on a platform of service and love instead of anger and hatred, and I truly respect her for that. She doesn’t just play the political game — She’s changing the rules.
“It’s changing the way we operate in this political environment. I think one thing that’s important to point out … is that coming from a place of love does not equate weakness, right? It does not equate [to] lying down and letting everybody walk all over you. It is actually the most powerful force of all … in politics or in any field. … When we’re coming from a place of love, it inspires us to stand up and to speak the truth to power [and] to challenge these authorities.” – Tulsi Gabbard
I have so much respect for Tulsi. She truly leads with love, and I’m glad I finally got to sit down and talk with her today. She has a lot of valuable wisdom to share, so let’s get started!
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to study “abroad” in Hawaii. But of course, the school didn’t want us to feel like we were just on vacation, so they made us work twice as hard. Every morning, we were up doing outrigger canoe paddling for our PE class, and we spent the rest of our days learning about the history and language of Hawaii, studying the history of Pearl Harbor, and actually digging in the taro fields. It was hard work, but it was an incredible experience.
I definitely didn’t have what Tulsi called a “plastic Aloha experience.” I actually spent time getting to know the Hawaiian people and culture, and I learned a lot about the “Aloha spirit,” which is an essential part of Tulsi’s nature and her political work.
“We must come together as Americans drawing on the real meaning of ‘Aloha.’ … The literal translation [of] ‘alo’ means ‘to share’ and ‘ha’ is ‘breath of life that exists within every one of us.’ And this is what allows us to see part all of these kinds of superficial labels, you know, race, religion, gender orientation, all these different things, and to draw inspiration from … seeing each other as children of God. … We’re all connected.” – Tulsi Gabbard
At the core of her leadership, Tulsi is committed to the Aloha spirit. She fundamentally believes we are all connected, and she’s passionate about having open lines of discussion where individuals can lovingly and respectfully share their thoughts and ideas.
That acknowledgment — that we are all connected — is powerful. It causes Tulsi to lead with love because she knows she’s connected to the people she’s leading. But it can also cause us to come together and reconsider our relationships with each other. We live in a partisan society, but what we need is more unity. If we can tap into that Aloha spirit and share life and love among ourselves, as a country, we’re more likely to have productive conversations and create the policies that best serve us.
I mentioned earlier that I used to struggle a lot with public speaking. I was consumed by fear that other people would judge me or laugh at me if I made a mistake.
Tulsi had a similar experience. She shared with me that she grew up shy — even painfully shy. As a result, she seriously struggled to interact with the public when she began her political career.
“I ran for office when I was 21 years old … [and] I didn’t fully realize at that time how difficult it would be for me personally to go and knock on total strangers’ doors as an introvert. … [And] not just one or five or ten, but a few thousand. And it was very very hard.” – Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi had to start going door-to-door and interacting with the people in her community while she was campaigning to be elected to the Hawaii legislature. It was a nerve-wracking experience. What if the people were mean to her? What if they laughed if she didn’t know an answer to a question?
So how did Tulsi overcome that struggle? How did she move past her fear? She realized that her job is simply to serve.
“It really didn’t get easier until years later when … [I] really spent some time in … reflection and meditation about why … all of those fears and anxieties [were] hindering my ability to fulfill my mission. And it came down to, ‘Tulsi … you’re thinking about yourself. You’re looking inward when really [you’re] knocking on every one of these doors offering to serve the people of my community.’” – Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi realized that at the end of the day, she’s a public servant. What matters most is that she’s offering to help and serve the people of Hawaii. It doesn’t matter if she looks 100% polished and perfect all the time, and it doesn’t matter if she makes mistakes. What matters is that she remains focused on her mission to help people.
Who are you on a mission to help? Who can you serve with your unique passions and skills? Remember that it doesn’t matter what you look like or what they think of you. What matters is that you’re offering to serve from a place of genuine love. Stop spending so much time looking inward and judging yourself for your mistakes! Choose instead to focus outward on the people around you and the ways you can help them.
One of the other most important aspects of Tulsi’s life is her spirituality. She draws immense comfort, joy, and love from her relationship with God, and she believes that spirituality is an essential element to living a life of happiness and service.
As far as a specific religion goes, Tulsi defies a very strict label. She was raised by a Catholic father and a Hindu mother, and as a result, she draws on aspects of both faiths for her personal spiritual beliefs.
“They taught [me and my siblings] the meaning of real religion — That it’s not about choosing one church or temple or synagogue over another. It’s about … love for God. And what better way to be pleasing to God, to make God happy, than to dedicate your life into serving God’s children and protecting our planet.” – Tulsi Gabbard
No matter what you believe in — whether you believe in God, the universe, or something else — there is power in having a connection with a higher intelligence than your own. If you choose to believe that your life has purpose and meaning and that you can make your God happy by being servant-minded, you’re sure to make the world a better place.
But how can we get in touch with God? How can we develop our sense of spirituality and nurture that part of our lives? Tulsi highly recommends meditation and taking time alone to be quiet.
“Every morning and every night, I spend time in my yoga meditation practice as well as yoga saunas that keep me grounded [and’ focused. [And I] take that time — whether it’s in the middle of the day or while I’m sitting in the car in traffic — just to be in that place of focusing on God and that place of meditation. [I’m] finding that solitude whenever and wherever possible.” – Tulsi Gabbard
Taking time throughout the day — especially in the mornings and evenings — to relax, meditate, and get in touch with God is powerful. It helps you to center yourself on your true mission, and it reminds you to focus on serving and leading with love instead of focusing on yourself.
If you don’t have a morning routine or a meditation practice yet, I’d encourage you to find one! It can be as simple as turning off the cell phone and sitting still with your thoughts for a few minutes. You can also journal, do some yoga, or go for a walk outside in nature. Taking that time every day to realign yourself with your true mission and your relationship with the God you believe in will help you live on purpose and lead with service every day.
Tulsi Gabbard is an inspiring person. Whether you agree with her political views or not, it’s hard to deny that she’s the real deal. She leads with love and service, and she cares deeply about her fellow Americans and our environment. I want to acknowledge Tulsi for the hard work she’s putting into her campaign, and I wish her all the best.
As usual, I asked Tulsi for her definition of greatness, and her answer was perfect:
“I think that greatness can be defined and found in that realization of who we really are and where we find joy and happiness and value in our lives. I think that too often, especially in political conversations, but in society as a whole, greatness is attached to a whole bunch of superficial things. … So I think that finding that greatness in yourself, in your own purpose in life … no matter what you choose to do with your life is the most important achievement anyone could have.” – Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi definitely lives up to that definition. She believes in her purpose, and she devotes her time and energy to serving others every single day. I hope she inspires you to do the same! I know she’s inspired me.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of The School of Greatness! I hope you enjoyed it! If you did, please share a screenshot on Instagram, and don’t forget to tag Tulsi, @tulsigabbard, and me, @lewishowes. Let us know your biggest takeaways from the episode!
And if you’re interested in learning more about Tulsi’s campaign, you can check out her website here. It’s a great idea to get informed about the candidate for our upcoming election, and Tulsi is definitely a strong contender.
Until next time — lead with love and build unity in the community around you. I think you’ll be surprised at the unity and joy you can create.