Thought for the week

Nanine McCool (blog): Changing the cultural narrative of power

A retrospective blog written about Serenity in Leadership's interview with Nanine McCool, Lawyer and audience member at Tony Robbins' self-help seminar, 2018

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Nanine McCool is a CFO at a small telecom tower servicing company, a former lawyer and an empowered leader in her own right.Nanine has always had an abiding passion for justice, having joined the U.S.Coast Guard at 18, where she went on to spend 4.5 years on Active Duty.

This passion for justice is the reason Nanine later found herself in one of her most shocking, yet profound moments in her life: confronting Tony Robbins at his self-help seminar in California, back in2018. In a clip that went viral on the internet, Robbins dismisses the goals of the Me-Too movement, which compels an audience member, Nanine, to call him out on. A year after the incident, we sat down with Nanine to talk about all things right and just, the impact of invisible bias in our culture and the responsibility of humans to keep power in check. We’ve extracted some of the perspectives and self-development tools that Nanine has used to expand her worldview, so that you can, too.

Right is not always so clear

From white privilege to politics, racial attitude and victimisation, nowadays, it is easy to slap a label on people and stereotype others for the opinions they have and the choices they make. Nanine learnt this first-hand from her interaction with Tony Robbins, who she believes, failed to understand the #MeToo movement in a moment of confrontation. The act of believing you are right about someone or something is more complicated and nuanced than we may think. The best way to navigate the muddy waters of conflicting opinions and beliefs is through the process of conversation. Nanine shares that the simple process of stepping back and looking at our context of right – what it excludes and what it internalises – is the first step to building greater understanding and empathy. It is when we let people speak their feelings without fear of rejection or damnation, that the need to understand others outweighs the need to be right.

Tip* The misuse of power reinforces labels and power structures. This is why creating spaces for dialogue helps us gain different perspectives than our own. As we only have our own limited experience of the world, change can only be born when we engage and learn from those who are different to us.


Keeping power in check

"My frustration with the current leadership in this country is that it is about winning at all costs”.

For many, power is the ultimate goal. This is Nanine’s concern with America’s current leadership system, a system that promotes winning over justice. Nanine believes that this obsession with power reflects something that is going wrong at a basic and fundamental level – a problem that shines a light on the failure of society to think for themselves. This unwillingness for the majority to challenge the status quo is what Nanine believes is holding us back from enlightened change. While it is easy to blame leaders for the choices they make, Nanine questions society’s role in following, rather than stopping to look at alternative ways of doing things.

Tip* Try and engage in a self-reflective exercise to enhance self- awareness and clarity of thought. Nanine frequently writes down her thoughts in a journal as a meditative activity. This has forced her to have difficult conversations with herself. Alternatively, requesting respectful conversations with those who challenge you and your world view can also be a positive and effective way to consolidate conflicting thoughts and opinions.


Demonising victimhood

“You’re acting like a victim”.

Nanine’s own experience with domestic violence and sexual harassment means she has struggled deeply with the shame society has attached to the word “victim”.

All too often, the statement “you’re acting like a victim” is used with little awareness of its impact and meaning. What this sentence really means is that one is refusing to hold themselves accountable, when in fact, the true meaning of a victim is when someone has come to be helpless as a result of something someone else has done. Nanine feels strongly that this is an abuse of the term and should be used with greater caution and compassion.

Tip* Nanine’s advice for personal healing stems from experience. She strongly recommends that those who have experienced violence must choose how they want to get through and process their own experience and trauma. The journey of acceptance and self-preservation is an individual one. And remember, you are not what has happened to you.


The above is just a taste of the lessons we have learnt from Nanine. For the full interview, which is packed with plenty of wisdom and practical advice on creating greater self-awareness, and compassion for health debate, subscribe to any of our channels below. Don’t forget to share with your community!

·       iTunes

·       Anchor

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