On Sunday 30th June 2019, I had the privilege and honour to participate as a keynote speaker at the INCLEADERS FORUM 2019. For me this was a unique opportunity to share my wisdom and authentic experience in all vulnerability, so others can be inspired to navigate their human experience in this world.

Inclusion for me represents the acceptance that at the core, humanity is the same.

No matter our gender, background, religion, ethnicity, skin colours and external appearance.

We are different and the same. Leveraging our differences to foster inclusive leadership and societies which co-exist in peace and freedom is what the world needs now more than ever.

Below my slightly amended speech and I hope you will be inspired to live from a place of inclusion:

Thank you Mpanzu and Ahmed for inviting me to be here today in Amsterdam, part of the INC Leaders Annual Forum 2019.

I was asked to give a brief and compelling talk about economic inclusion and NATO. Within five minutes, so talk about mission impossible!

I am glad we are using the word “inclusion” without diversity today. In my view, inclusion is the foundation of diversity in its broadest sense.

How do we imagine a world where the core and essence of humanity are accepted as the same, and then create this world? 

How do we help people co-exist, be accepting of their differences, and see these as strengths? Strengths which help cultivate a leadership fit for what I call the digital age? 

An age where complexity, scarcity, and fear-based beliefs are perpetuated by populist propaganda? 

An age where labels, status, and hierarchy define people’s sense of self-worth and an elusive sense of belonging behind the screens of addiction?

With this dramatic introduction, let me briefly about my personal story on how I currently achieve inclusion through personal empowerment, passion, purpose, perseverance, and a large dose of emotional intelligence. Sharing our own experiences so we can inspire others in an age of masks and copy-cats, is critical to foster inclusion.

I was born in Tilburg, and I grew up in Oisterwijk, the city known for its wooden furniture.  Every time I pronounced Oisterwijk, people understood – Austria. So you can imagine the look on their face when they realized that I was a Moroccan girl in Holland, and thus business as usual after all!

My parents were far from financially wealthy. I started picking strawberries and distributing newspapers at the age of twelve. Because of the cold weather and early mornings, I came down with rheumatism, and I was treated for several months in different hospitals.

All I could think of that time: “There goes my pocket money as I was experiencing economic exclusion! 

Growing up was far from easy and I experienced exclusion all my life from bullying in school, becoming victim of all types of abuse, harassment & discrimination, and much more. I have written about 20% of my life’s shit-holes in in my co-authored book, 20 beautiful women, Volume 6. 

I won’t bore you with the all the details, but let’s say that adversity at a very young age and throughout my life, has made me the woman I am today.

Life is all about experiences which you can turn into wisdom if you learn and apply the lessons. There are no right or wrong decisions. There are consequences; learning to navigate these consequences on your terms and based on your standards will help you live above your potential, not below. Most of us fear failure when, in reality, it is God’s way of telling us:

Sorry, wrong path – redirect!

Wisdom straight from Oprah.

So how did I end up working at NATO for nearly two decades?

I quit my studies in University halfway, went to work for the Dutch Ministry of Defense, and one year later, I moved to France to work for NATO as a baby.

Working in a male-dominated environment where hierarchy defines the internal cultural has been quite a roller coaster for a Dutch-Moroccan secretary at that time. I faced all kinds of challenges, prejudices, and discrimination based on gender and age.

I was young and brilliant, thus intimidating for many. Making sure I knew my place made others feel comfortable.

Deep down, however, I knew that my external environment would not define me; I always focused on something bigger than myself. 

I also met and worked for amazing human beings who lifted me up when others put me down.

Inclusion is also about people who defy the status quo and who are driven by something much bigger than themselves. And because of their passion, they get up every time they are thrown under a bus (I have been under many busses, trust me!) or when life hits them with a brick stone and shakes them at their core.

They get up, dust themselves off, and continue pursuing what feeds their soul and spirit. 

Working at NATO has brought me many wonderful opportunities, lessons, experience, resiliency, and so much more. It also taught me the biggest lessons of all, and that is to know when to persevere and when to pause. I did not know how to pause, so I hit burnout pretty severely last year.

Now, before you all start feeling sorry for me, it was a blessing in disguise!

I realised that when I am 80 years old, I want to look back at my life and have no regrets.

I want to leave this earth knowing that my legacy will live on for generations beyond my lifetime.

I want to be in peace, knowing the impact I have made on people’s life beyond my own. 

So, I left NATO after nearly two decades

I left a high tax free salary as I realised that I’d rather be financially than spiritually bankrupt. So now I am getting to know the Dutch belasting dienst (tax office) once again!

I am now living my dream of being my own boss so I can help professionals and organisations across the globe navigate and leverage their EQ (Emotional Intelligence) potential.

I help people transform their limiting beliefs, navigate both positive and negative emotions and I help them achieve their desired outcomes in life.

As human beings, we are unable to control the triggering of our emotions. If we learn how to manage our human emotions, we will develop healthy relationships and absorb information in a useful, effective and kind way.

If you can be anything in this world, be kind.

Developing your emotional intelligence in an age where exclusion looms large is what will bring humanity closer to its core – a place of unconditional love.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is the lack of safe environments and societies where people can live without a mask. A mask which hides their true essence during a prolonged period, and for many during their entire lifetime. This is how burnout and depression are born.

According to the WHO, burnout is now officially recognized as a disease. By 2030, the biggest silent killer in the workplace is likely to be depression and burnout.

So, it is our duty, all of us, to make a difference and stop this from happening.

All lives matter, no matter your color, status, race. We are all humans, and at our core, we are the same.

Be the light.

Shine your light brightly onto the darkness of others.

Choose long-lasting partnerships instead of instant gratifications.

Our emotions help us navigate life, and if we learn to manage our feelings, we will learn to choose inclusion over exclusion.

Follow me for more Wisdom, Experience & Emotions in the Digital Age at https://nadjaelfertasi.com!

If you are interested in leveraging and maximising your emotional intelligence and achieve your desired outcomes in life, check out how I can help you: https://nadjaelfertasi.com/work-with-me/.


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