Balancing the Grind with Nini Tolson, Co-Founder of The Tolson Institute

Nini Tolson is the co-founder of The Tolson Institute, a seminar and coaching business she launched with her husband, Daniel, in 2010.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

For as long as I can remember, I have always dreamed of becoming an Air Hostess and landing a job in the airline industry. In 2001, that dream finally became a reality when I acquired my first job with China Airlines.

Over the course of the following twelve and a half years since the unforgettable day of entering that line of work, I passionately served tens of thousands of customers with three international airlines.

Everything was really going my way until my career suddenly came crashing down all around me because of my involvement in an Emirates aircraft accident. After two and a half years of operations and rehabilitation due to this flying fiasco, I was unfortunately forced into a situation that was way outside of my comfort zone.

I was viewed as a redundant member of my cabin crew because of my long period of absence from the flying scene, which was why I had come to the realisation that I had to reinvent myself and set my life in a brand new direction.

Taking what I learned from my five-star airline experience, expatriate lifestyle and intimate work with more than 136 nationalities, I now show women how to successfully overcome their self-doubts and feel a lot more confident with themselves.

I try to empower them as best as I can since I too, have felt powerless and unsure before and I want others to emerge stronger than who they were at the beginning as I have proudly done.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you?

Each day I follow what I call the 1000% formula. My goal is to make the most out of every second of every minute.

First, I wake up at 6:30 each weekday morning, and I plan how I intend to go about my day in advance by making a to-do list of priorities and must do’s for that particular day. What I’ve learned is that 10 minutes spent in planning enables me to gain an extra 100 minutes of free time to focus on myself.

Second, I rewrite my list of top 10 life goals. I do this because it is a daily reminder of what I want to achieve in my lifetime. Most women that I speak to often feel lost because they spend all of their time doing things for their family and rarely remember to think about themselves.

Third, once I’ve taken care of myself, I then tend to the needs of my family and customers. By 8 AM, my two children have been fed, washed and taken to school, and by 9 AM, I am already holding video conferences with my clients residing around the world.

Fourth, I listen to audio educational programs throughout the day. This strategy enables me to learn from the experts and stay ahead in my field.

Lastly, every evening I reflect on my day by asking myself two questions, “What did I do right today?” and “What will I do differently next time?”

As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working?

My husband and I had read The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris, just as we successfully launched our business. It served as a life-changing eye-opener for the both of us because in reading that excellent piece of literature, we agreed that we had a deep desire to travel around the world while also transforming lives in the process.

After many hard years of work, determination, and passion for what we do, I am proud to say that we have cracked the code and now work remotely, despite facing frequent failures and countless disappointments.

All that time spent labouring away was all worth it as we now reap the hard-earned fruits of our labour. If we didn’t choose to push through with our dreams and instead chose the option of giving up, then it wouldn’t have been possible for us to accomplish the remote and flexible work we have today.

We currently reside happily in Taiwan, living a very fulfilling life, while 99% of our clients come from companies operating on other continents.

Whenever we desire to have a change of pace or scenery and find ourselves tired of the unchanging routine that we live on a daily basis, then we simply pack our bags and fly around the world to see our clients without hesitation.

My current role truly allows for flexible working as we often find ourselves enjoying our time on these ventures of ours while we also stay in charming hotels and eat in undeniably chic cafes.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

As part of the 1000% formula that I have previously stated, we want to make the most out of each area of our lives. For me, work-life balance means ‘peace of mind.’

For example, spirituality is essential in my daily life. Every day I deepen the spiritual aspect of my life by praying and giving thanks to my Buddha.

I always make it a point to show my gratitude for having such a beautiful family, supportive friend group and a high number of successful business partnerships because I firmly believe that no amount of money has any meaning to me if I can not show just appreciation to the place where it all came from.

I also believe that no business success can ever compensate for a failure in the home. The heights that you reach inside the workplace must also reflect the heights that you reach in the household. When it comes to achieving a work-life balance, it goes without saying that I am very focused on being a successful mother as well as lover.

I spend time with my children every day to help them develop habits that would make it easier for them to live a successful life. I am proud to say that my daughter has learned the art of self-discipline and determination, which made it possible for her to be one of the top students in her grade.

On top of that, my astounding three-year-old boy has already picked up two languages which he can already read, speak, and understand fairly well.

Order our Daily Routines ebook today! Featuring first-hand interviews, insights and revelations compiled from 50 of the world’s most successful people.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Sadly, I am currently facing a particularly rough patch in my life. My father was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer not so long ago, which greatly added to the grief of my grandmother passing away recently due to old age.

In order to be here for my family and help them get through this tough and heartbreaking event, my husband and I have decided to spend more time in Taiwan and less time abroad.

However, despite the situation looking very bleak, thankfully everything actually worked in our favour. I say this because when COVID-19 hit, we had already prepared for the new digital world of business. This enabled us to stay on top of our game as well as stay ahead of competing companies.

In the end, this tough time, although leaving us feeling melancholy, had unexpectedly given us a head start in our line of work. It was the silver lining in a sorrowful series of unfortunate events that my family and I really needed.

Things have changed ever since we decided on residing in Taiwan for an extended period of time. In December last year, we were training groups of up to 1,000 people face to face, which is in stark contrast to how we operate in the present.

Today, we still train groups of up to 1,100 people, but unlike last December where we were doing so while in close proximity with one another, we now do so from the comfort of our own homes.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’ll always remember this quote from the Greek poet Homer “If you serve too many masters, you’ll soon suffer.”

It allowed me to reflect more about my lifestyle and also reach a certain understanding about life that still proves useful to me in many present scenarios that I find myself in.

The most notable realisation that I gained from that quote is that I would like to find one teacher or one master that has garnered a lot of experiences in my current field and then study their materials in depth.

This would allow me to be more critical of how I approach problems or complications in the industry as well as apply techniques that have led experts in the field to the success that they currently possess.

In my opinion, we live in a world today where people have a breadth of knowledge but no depth or substance to them. You can quickly see who these people are when they speak. Given this, I have chosen Brian Tracy as my master since he speaks in a very eloquent way which simply exudes an air of intelligence.

Aside from this, he also wrote the best selling book Eat That Frog! along with other excellent personal development books like Maximum Achievement. To top it all off, he even operated an incredible personal leadership training called Perform At Your Best.

When you study the work of Brian, I can attest that you genuinely get decades of experience in the span of a couple of days!

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Two words: success insights.

The product that I believe I honestly can not live without is our Success Insight reports. Within just a few minutes of using my technology, I can already tell you a lot of new information about your personality style and your unique strengths.

This can help you in various areas of your life from how you deal with other people to how you can utilise your strengths to your advantage.

Aside from this being more aware of your personality can help you determine the best way you can cope with stressful situations as well as develop a more profound love and appreciation for yourself.

Indeed, knowing these two things can already pose such enormous benefits for your journey of self-actualisation, but the Success Insight reports don’t stop there. It can also readily shed light on some areas of yourself in need of improvement and aspects that you need to work on as well as what things motivate your heart.

Being knowledgeable about these things can undoubtedly help you become the best version of yourself that you can be so that you can live a full and happy life. In a few minutes, you can learn more about yourself than you could ever possibly learn in 20 years of traditional education.

Our Success Insights are even being used by more than 35 million business people around the world, and my customers love them because, within a few minutes, they feel like they finally understand who they truly are!

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I really admire Michelle Obama. One good reason that I have such high regard for this accomplished woman is that it goes without saying that she has clearly achieved a lot in such a short period of time.

When compared to other women her age, one can confidently say that she is leaps and bounds ahead of them in terms of achievements, experience and success, even if we exclude her title as “former first lady” out of the equation.

She is a loving mother that has successfully raised two children into responsible adults and a supportive partner that never left her husband’s side all throughout his presidential term.

Not only that, in addition to being a good parent and loyal wife, it is also very commendable that she is clear about the direction she is heading in her life. She knows what she wants and does the necessary actions to achieve them.

Given all of her responsibilities as the former first lady, a mother of two, and an ambassador for poverty, healthy living, and education, I would definitely love to read about how she so effortlessly does it all. It is awe-inspiring how she keeps all the aspects of her life in check while continually being watched by the public eye.

An interview with information on how she manages her time, how she sets priorities, what she does to avoid burnout and most importantly what she says yes to and no to in her life would be very valuable and exciting for me.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I have shared this Mark Twain quote with thousands of women around the world — ‘Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ I am pretty sure that a lot of people have probably heard this statement a countless number of times, but it still bears repeating.

It might sound cliche to some, but as an individual with a passion for the work that she is currently doing, I can honestly say that I never feel as if I am weighed down by a particular workload whenever I find myself having to deal with the responsibilities that come with choosing this type of field.

This quote is as accurate for me when I first started my cabin crew career until today as I consult with women in the business. Helping to transform other people’s lives has also changed mine in ways that I could not have imagined had you asked me twenty years ago.

As I have done, other people too should find a career that they can passionately give their all to without suffering from burnout or feelings of stress and dread. Too often do I see people in their sixties waste away their lives following the daily motions of their work-life, only to find themselves sorrowfully looking back and wishing that they would have done things differently.

Don’t settle for a job that you always have to force yourself to stay in. If you follow your heart, you’ll never be disappointed ever again.

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Order our Daily Routines ebook today! Featuring first-hand interviews, insights and revelations compiled from 50 of the world’s most successful people.
About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.