How to discover your superpowers, own your story, and unlock personal growth | Donna Lichaw

How to discover your superpowers, own your story, and unlock personal growth | Donna Lichaw

Donna’s background (00:00:00)

  • Donna Lichaw is an executive coach, speaker, and best-selling author.
  • She helps leaders at companies like Google, Disney, Twitter, Microsoft, and Adobe level up their leadership skills and scale their impact.
  • Donna is the author of the book "The Leader Journey."
  • Our most effective stories are the ones we tell ourselves.
  • Our brains don't know the difference between real and imagined experiences.
  • We can leverage this to become the heroes of our own stories.
  • Your superpowers are your strengths.
  • You can pull your superpowers out of your stories from your past, present, and future.
  • Once you know your superpowers, you can apply them to your future.
  • Your Kryptonite is your weakness.
  • Knowing your Kryptonite is just as important as knowing your superpowers.
  • It helps you to avoid situations where you are vulnerable.
  • Impostor syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy that many successful people experience.
  • You can reframe impostor syndrome as a sign that you are challenging yourself.
  • Use impostor syndrome as an advantage to push yourself to grow.
  • Your life goals are what you want to achieve in your life.
  • You may not know what your life goals are right now, but you can start by exploring your interests and values.
  • Once you have a better understanding of yourself, you can start to identify your life goals.
  • Donna shares several examples from her coaching practice of people who unlocked their careers using her frameworks.
  • These examples show how people can identify their superpowers, overcome their Kryptonite, and achieve their life goals.

Donna’s origin story and transition to coaching (00:04:25)

  • Donna was a product manager and designer before becoming an executive coach.
  • She realized that storytelling alone was not enough to solve the problems faced by executives.
  • Executives needed to connect with people, work well with others, and feel good as leaders to be effective.
  • Donna spent the next decade researching and developing methods to help people become more effective leaders.

The power of storytelling in leadership (00:08:38)

  • Storytelling is more effective in coaching than focusing on the story of the product.
  • Story-driven leadership emphasizes the importance of personal stories in helping leaders level up.
  • Humans naturally want to be the heroes of their own stories, which influences their choices and communication.
  • Effective leaders use stories to inspire and motivate others.
  • The most effective stories are those that people experience and tell themselves.
  • Our brains are wired to understand and see stories everywhere.
  • Leveraging storytelling can help individuals become the heroes of their own lives.

Becoming the hero of your own story (00:11:36)

  • Figuring out your personal story is central to becoming a better leader.
  • It changes your perspective on yourself and unlocks your potential.
  • It's not about self-obsession, but rather about finding your purpose and using it to connect with others.
  • Starting with yourself as the center of the equation is more powerful than a user-centered approach.
  • It's not selfish but purposeful, as it empowers you to connect with others and bring your mission to life.

Changing your story (00:14:49)

  • Donna Lichaw discusses how to discover personal strengths, embrace your story, and achieve personal growth.
  • She emphasizes the importance of challenging self-limiting beliefs and examining the stories we tell ourselves about our abilities.
  • Lichaw suggests taking a data-driven approach to self-discovery by seeking feedback from others and examining real-world experiences.
  • She highlights the importance of empowering others and creating a shared vision to achieve success.

Understanding and shifting others’ stories (00:21:19)

  • Sometimes the stories people believe about themselves are true and need to be changed.
  • An example is an executive who was perceived as quiet and uninterested in her team.
  • The root cause was her processing style - she needed time to listen and process before responding.
  • The solution was not for her to talk more, but to communicate her style to her team and build better relationships.
  • Personal OS or "read me like your own personal read me file" can be used to communicate work styles and preferences.
  • There are two types of stories:
    • Stories about yourself that are not true and can be disproven.
    • Stories people have about you that are based on misunderstandings.
  • Communicating your true intentions and style can help change others' stories about you.

Imposter syndrome (00:25:41)

  • Imposter syndrome is a common experience where individuals feel unqualified or incapable in their roles.
  • Acknowledging and embracing imposter syndrome can be helpful for personal growth.
  • When imposter syndrome arises, it can signal that an individual is reaching a growth edge and should take action to learn and improve.
  • Excessive self-doubt can lead to burnout and overwork, especially for women who may fall into conventional gender roles.
  • Embracing imposter syndrome can help individuals recognize their potential and develop their skills and abilities.
  • In the tech industry, many roles are newly created, making individuals the first to hold such positions. Embracing this uniqueness is important for personal growth and shaping the role.

Exploring different types of kryptonite (00:31:28)

  • Ask yourself how your weaknesses serve you rather than trying to suppress them.
  • Kryptonite, like Superman's weakness, can be useful in small doses.
  • Some examples of kryptonite for leaders include scheduling difficulties, toxic people, and inner weaknesses like dyslexia or ADHD.
  • Dyslexia, for instance, can be seen as a strength in terms of spatial and visual thinking, which can be valuable for entrepreneurs and executives.
  • Embrace your kryptonite and use it to your advantage.

Identifying and leveraging strengths (00:36:41)

  • Identifying and leveraging your strengths, or "superpowers," is crucial for personal growth and success.
  • Focusing on fixing weaknesses is less effective compared to amplifying strengths.
  • Playing to your strengths leads to greater impact and effectiveness in achieving goals and fulfilling your purpose.
  • Recognizing and embracing your strengths can lead to unexpected opportunities and successful outcomes.
  • Donna Lichaw emphasizes the importance of embracing one's strengths and not conforming to societal expectations of leadership.
  • Different strengths can lead to the same achievements, and individuals should leverage their strengths to achieve their goals.

Identifying superpowers (00:43:53)

  • To discover your superpowers, reflect on past experiences where you excelled and felt excited, identifying common themes and patterns that reveal your unique strengths.
  • Avoid relying solely on strengths finder tests, as they lack context and personalization. Instead, extract your superpowers from your own stories for a deeper understanding.
  • Align your superpowers with your future goals and aspirations to embrace and develop them effectively.
  • Donna Lichaw suggests an exercise to uncover personal superpowers by reflecting on past accomplishments and motivations, identifying core strengths through common themes.
  • While adaptability can be advantageous, over-indexing on a particular strength can be detrimental, so balance and wise use of strengths are essential.
  • Focus on identifying and developing your superpowers rather than trying to fix weaknesses, as suggested by Donna Lichaw.
  • Peak life experiences offer insights into your superpowers and what energizes you, emphasizing the importance of energy management for personal growth and success.
  • Outsourcing or seeking help can be effective strategies for managing tasks that don't align with your superpowers.
  • Conduct an energy audit to identify what gives you energy and what drains it, allowing you to adjust your daily activities accordingly.

Running experiments (00:56:39)

  • If you consistently dread your job, consider making a change.
  • Prioritize managing your energy levels over just managing your time.
  • If a situation is draining your energy and you can't change it, try changing the context or situation itself.
  • Use tools like fidgets to help manage Zoom fatigue and stay grounded.
  • If most of your activities drain your energy, it's crucial to make changes to your situation.
  • The speaker has conducted extensive research and has prototypes of boxes that they never ended up using.
  • Sometimes, they send these boxes to clients.
  • The speaker acknowledges that this is their "kryptonite" and they have a list of things they need to do.

Using product frameworks for personal growth (01:01:52)

  • Donna Lichaw uses product frameworks to translate personal growth advice, emphasizing embracing what works and leveraging it for lasting change.
  • Instead of forcing change, she suggests taking small steps and running experiments to gather data, using gestalt coaching and therapy principles to help individuals understand their strengths and make informed decisions.
  • Experimentation is key to self-discovery, involving discomfort and challenges similar to superheroes struggling with their newfound abilities.
  • The "head, heart, hands" approach involves analyzing thoughts, paying attention to emotional reactions, and noticing physical sensations to understand true feelings and reactions.
  • Experimentation allows for data gathering, approach adjustment, and informed decision-making, leading to unexpected discoveries and new learning opportunities.

Identifying subconscious goals (01:12:41)

  • To identify subconscious goals, imagine the desired future in detail, engaging all senses and emotions.
  • Write down the imagined journey, starting from the desired end result and working backward.
  • If struggling to envision the future, persist until a clear vision emerges.
  • This visualization process fuels motivation and provides a roadmap for personal growth.

Envisioning impact (01:15:27)

  • Envisioning the impact one wants to make in the future is important for personal growth.
  • The specific details of the future may change, but having a clear vision of the desired impact guides actions and ensures alignment with personal values.

Lightning round (01:16:44)

  • Donna Lichaw recommends her book, "The User's Journey," as the best book she's read on various topics.
  • She enjoys the TV show "For All Mankind" on Apple TV for its alternate reality take on the space industry.
  • Her favorite interview question is to ask clients and job candidates to imagine their ideal future and what they would be doing if they had the best year or three years of their life.
  • Donna Lichaw's life motto, "Isn't that interesting," encourages an optimistic stance and mindful awareness of life events.
  • Mindfulness, such as thinking "Isn't that interesting" during extreme situations, leads to more informed and mindful actions.
  • Dolly Parton's wisdom inspires Donna Lichaw, with quotes like "Find out who you are and do it on purpose" and "If you don't like the path you're walking on, pave a new path."
  • Donna Lichaw is accessible and responsive, encouraging people to reach out to her through her website,, for conversations, collaborations, or accessing free resources related to personal growth.

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