VERA MANDIĆ: "Change yourself to change the world."
In this Woman2Woman interview we talk to Vera Mandić, who at the age of fourteen, left the country with her family due to the war in Serbia. It was then that she realised how an individual, a strong leader, can influence the lives of others. She used to watch such leaders from afar, but today she strives to enable future leaders at all levels to co-create healthy living conditions.
Who are you today and what is different than ten years ago?
I believe that every person who has a positive influence on their surroundings, no matter how big or small, is a leader. I created Bspark Leadership Academy to empower new generations to become these positive future-proof leaders. Leaders who in addition to securing their future, secure a future of a better society and the planet in line with SDGs. We offer a 15-month blended program based on 3 key pillars: stellar personalised methodology, active world-class professionals as facilitators, and diverse talented global community. But, what differentiates us the most is our holistic approach and our persistence in shaping the students in the best version of themselves in a measurable way.
So, professionally today I can say I am a socialpreneur, a leader, a public speaker, a panelist, and a facilitator. I deal with topics ranging from Values-led Leadership, Future of Work, Ethics, Social Entrepreneurship, Authentic Marketing, Crowdfunding, Women in Leadership, Emotional Intelligence to SDG.
10 years ago I was working in one of the biggest multinationals in the world - Procter & Gamble, in brand management on Oral-B. While I was thriving in my career and making great money, I was also frustrated by leadership I was seeing, working crazy hours, and burning out. I was regularly stressed out and forgot about why I was doing what I was doing in the first place. I was born in Serbia and at the age of 14, my family left the country due to civil war. That is when I started thinking about the impact the leaders have on our everyday lives. I studied the economy as I was convinced that the people with money and power are the ones who can change the world for better. However, I also thought they are not doing it because they are benefiting from the status quo. I wanted to understand how do business leaders think and why do they behave as they do so we can figure out what needs to be done to change their perspective and lead in a way that it is not the best only for themselves, but also for the others, the society, and the planet.
10 years ago vs. today – it was a different life, a different lifestyle, and an extremely stressed version of me.
Now, I am happily pursuing my purpose, but I also feel a huge pressure due to financial debts as I am building up Bspark independently as a non-profit.
I still work a lot, but I take care of myself.
I am surrounded by the most inspiring people from whom I learn every day.
I am much more patient and calmer and focused.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Having a little siesta after lunch, reading fairy tales, watching Netflix for the whole day, watching videos of things fitting in other things perfectly or DIY ideas, assembling Ikea furniture, and probably many more!
How well do you know your darker side?
Quite well, we have a chat every day. Keeping it under control as much as I can.
In what relationship are you with it?
I accept it, it´s ugly, but it´s mine.
Who do you let in your home?
Almost everyone. My home was always like a hostel, having friends and family visiting from across the world, friends from friends, etc. Once, while I was on holiday in Costa Rica, I went for physiotherapy and talked with the physiotherapist (a 70-year-old lady) about everything and nothing. From love, travel to death, and everything in between. She was transmitting love and peace with everything she did. She told me she wanted to go to Europe the following year, so I invited her to stay at my place if she wants to visit Spain and 6 months later she was here in Madrid with me with the most incredible stories from her life, her curiosity, and endless energy. I want to be like her when I am 70!
And who do you let close to you?
I am quite open to everyone, but, indeed, it is only to a certain point (quite deep but still) and I do struggle to let someone new fully in.
Where or what is your happy place? How do you find peace?
Beach. Sinking my feet into warm sand calms me instantly. Laying on the water like a "dead person", with my ears in the water, the world quiets down while the sun warms my face and my body is fully relaxed. It´s bliss. Meditation has to do for the rest of the year.
How important is a connection with nature for you?
Extremely. Truth to be told I don´t live up to it as I still didn´t find an easy way to do it regularly during the week. When I am in nature, I am one of those people saying hi (very quietly) to the sea, beach, animals, to the trees, touching them just to feel their energy, taking off my shoes as soon as I touch the grass, climbing on trees and hills like a monkey.
How do you take care of your body, mind, and soul?
Meditation, Pilates, and books. Pilates did wonders for my back and calms me down. Meditation changed my life. Everyone was saying how great meditation was and how it helps them, but it took me 20 years to finally find my way to it. I tried over and over again and failed and felt so frustrated, though that it is not for me. I didn´t get it, I thought I was doing it wrong. Finally, I found a meditation that suits me and realized that it´s all about accepting wherever you are in the process, it´s not about doing it right but letting go. As there is a sport for everybody there are so many different meditation types and if you didn´t find yours yet, don´t despair and just try to be still for a bit. Every day it will get better. Sometimes you will fall back when you have a lot going on but that is ok just keep doing it daily.
How do you take care of your skin?
Lately not much, mostly through sleeping well and eating well – I eat mainly plant-based non processed food. I don´t use much for my skin. I do use from time to time aloe vera type of face wash and coconut oil as a moisturizer. From time to time I also use a homemade facial scrub made of raw honey and cinnamon.
Which is your daily, monthly, or weekly ritual?
Don´t have any currently, but plan to go back to my bimonthly beautician cleaning sessions as soon as I can.
Which piece of wisdom from your grandparents or parents do you carry with you?
Nothing is impossible. My parents always found a way to figure out how to make the best of a seemingly impossible situation.
Which wisdom you will deliver to the others?
Change yourself to change the world.
Woman to Woman. What would you advise yourself at 15 years of age?
Find a sport and meditation that you love. It will bring you a greater connection with yourself and the world and will bring you peace of mind.
Name a few of your favorite books?
Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky, Metamorphosis – Kafka, Brave New World – Huxley, One Man – Oriana Fallaci, The portrait of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Nikola Tesla, Einstein, Gandhi, and Buddha – I found them all fascinating in different ways, Tesla and Einstein for their genius and creativity and Gandhi and Buddha for their peace of mind, but all with a great sense of purpose.
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