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The Power of Saying "No"

Smiti Nathan is a Baltimore leader and educator who guides others in building their own sustainable lives. As we at OutGrowth define the multi-layered concept of sustainability at the personal, professional, community and environmental levels, we were interested to know how Smiti herself approaches the concept in her life and career. Read our Q+A with Smiti below, and be sure to check out her spotlight feature in this month's issue of En Root!

This month's theme is all about sustainability. Tell us your approach to the concept, and how you work to integrate sustainability in your work and life.

Sustainability, to me, is actions and practices that center around equity, health, and growth to have a positive impact on people and the environment in the present and future.

At OutGrowth, we are committed to supporting the sustainable growth of future leaders and businesses. What do you think we as individuals and communities can do to support others to grow beyond traditional limits?

Sustainable actions and practices take time to figure out and implement. In a general sense, I feel it's important that we recognize that and build in the time and grace to experiment and iterate on these actions.

Tell us about your most significant professional moment to date.

In the last year, I said 'no' to an amazing job opportunity. It was one of the hardest professional decisions of my life; but it was the right decision for myself. Centering my physical and mental health was a significant professional moment because in the past I would sacrifice these things in order to take up an opportunity.

How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook?

Saying 'no' allowed me to grow towards a sustainable professional and personal lifestyle for myself and my family. It gave me the space to reflect on what I want out of work, research, relationships, creative pursuits, etc., as well codify my value system.

What is a step that each of us can take today to build a more sustainable life?

Take a moment to write down what a sustainable life would like like for you. Share out loud what you wrote with someone (pets and plants count too!). From there, figure out one simple and doable action that you can try out for five days that is in line with the life you are envisioning. Then go for it!

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Take out the visible timestamps in your photos because that information is saved in the metadata.

Based on your experience, what are the top three career competencies that you believe contribute to carving out a sustainable life path?

Based on the NACE career competencies list, I think the following 3 are key: 1. Career & Self Development, 2. Critical Thinking, and 3. Equity & Inclusion

What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2021?

I want to tap into creative pursuits that I put a pause on due to COVID-19, as well as take much need breaks and vacations. Excited to give my body and mind some rest and explore!

Smiti Nathan is an educator, archaeologist, writer, design thinker, mom, and aspiring sustainable human.


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