How I’m Skirting the Rules

I Survived Cancer at 5 and Want to Help as Many People as Possible Be Happier at Work

Wellbeing adviser Danielle Posa has teamed up with Deepak Chopra to boost employees’ quality of life by transforming office culture through the leadership.

Surviving Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at just 5 years old has given Danielle Posa a lifelong obsession with making her time count. Today, the energetic 30-year old has turned her passion for living a full life into a career that aims to help the greatest number of people possible do the same. The wellbeing and leadership advisor and workshop leader who regularly appears on stage with the wellness guru himself, Deepak Chopra, is also advising business leaders on exactly why employees’ wellbeing matters. She says it makes smart business sense: Studies show companies with employees who rate high on wellbeing have 41 percent lower healthcare costs and 35 percent less turnover than those who score lower on wellbeing. Plus, it makes for leaving a more meaningful legacy. Skirting the Rules sat down with Danielle just days before she left for a 30-day solo adventure to India to celebrate her 30th birthday. Here is what the skirter had to say about making the most of the time you have.

I’m Skirting the Rules by creating an entire career around using data as proof to open the eyes of executives about how focusing on personal and organizational wellbeing boosts profits. While I was working as a management consultant at Gallup, senior scientist Deepak Chopra noticed my passion for well-being and work research in meetings. At the time, I wanted to devote all my hours to this research. Here was groundbreaking, incontrovertible proof that employees’ happiness matters to a company’s bottom line. But people weren’t ready for it.

Pretty soon, I began Skirting the Rules at work by going out on my own to reach more business leaders, the rainmakers and decision makers, who could put these recommendations into practice on a larger scale. That’s why I felt compelled to start my company Efileno, which is ‘one life’ spelled backwards.

A woman is most powerful when she is fearlessly driven by a commitment greater than herself. To me, being powerful isn’t about being confident…it’s not even about “leaning in.” We don’t need to be more like men. I have a lot of totally normal insecurities, such as with public speaking, but you can act confident despite your insecurities when you’re aligned with your mission. Then the focus isn’t on yourself, it’s on the cause. And suddenly there’s a lifetime of work to do, and maybe a business to build. That’s because when your purpose reflects something bigger than yourself, you take a lot of the focus off of you so all this confidence comes along with going after what you truly believe in.

I believe the most powerful feminine strength that helps women get ahead is our power to influence, not command. My friend Martin Cohen, author of Gender Balancing, said “Women point, men lead, and women follow.” It may seem unfeminist, but the reason I think that’s such a great quote is that the initial point came came from the woman. It’s like when you’re in a relationship and you subtly allude to somewhere you’re hoping to go on vacation, and he surprises you with plane tickets. In general, I think many men like when we provide a little direction, that gives them an opportunity to step in and take charge. I think it’s part of the fun in the differences between us. As women, I believe it’s our natural ability to be visionary and to plant the seeds that can help empower men to help make it happen.

The biggest risk I ever took is, well, I don’t have one specific big risk that I can think of, because most of the big decisions I’ve made in my life I felt naturally pulled into. But whenever I’m faced with something that feels risky or that causes me stress or uncertainty, I break down what the fear is underneath the concern. Is it my reputation? Money? Stability? Losing a relationship? What is the worst that could happen? For many of us, we have resources around us that mean the world wouldn’t end if the worst-case scenario actually happened. And once you get clear on what the fear really is, it becomes a lot less scary and no longer feels like a risk.

An example of how listening to my intuition has helped me is by saying yes even before I know the solution. Sometimes opportunities come my way, and I just know I have to say yes to them. When I started my company, I just knew it was the right time. When I left my job at Gallup, I was craving the freedom to work from anywhere in the world and with clients I was naturally excited about. And so eventually the time came where I had developed relationships who were interested in being paying clients, and I knew I had to say yes!

I formed my company within the week, gave notice, and started my new business immediately. I didn’t know exactly what the new business would look like, but always felt that as long as whatever I was doing was in line with my purpose, then I couldn’t fail.

Sometimes we think intuition is feelings, but you can’t rely solely on feelings to make these kinds of decisions. We can’t mistake the feeling of being uncomfortable or nervous with our “gut” telling us not to do something. A lot of the time our intuition puts us in uncomfortable situations that are actually in our best interest. So, intuition runs deeper than feelings.

My secret talent is connecting with people. I can form relationships quickly. And when I think about everything I’ve learned, the lessons I’ve gotten from people have taught me so much more about the world than anything I’ve ever studied in a classroom. That’s why I love to travel.

My biggest rebel move was speaking on stage at Deepak’s Sages and Scientists conference when I was 23. Honestly, I wasn’t very good and, when I look back on it, I’m a little surprised he even asked me. But when Deepak Chopra asks you something like that, you do it! A lot of people were like, “How did you have the confidence to speak with Deepak Chopra when you were so young?” The truth is that I didn’t. But I also knew that I couldn’t say no.

My advice for my younger self would be to be less rebellious with my parents. For a lot of my teenage years, I gave my parents a really hard time. I was convinced they weren’t giving me enough freedom. I hated having a curfew. I argued with them. Typical teenager stuff. I wish I had more moments of just hugging and loving them… rather than living inside a made-up story that they didn’t understand me and all of the goals I had. It’s never worth it to choose your opinion or being right over being connected with the people you love.

The female disruptor who most inspires me and why is Angelina Jolie. Angelina has lived a very extreme life—maybe a little too extreme for some people—but I think most of us are too busy being safe. So I admire her for taking chances, doing what some would call crazy, and pushing her limits.

My favorite “mini-skirt” is to block out time on my calendar to do priorities first, because I know that they use the most mental space. I like to answer emails before 9 a.m. and before everyone else is on and the email flurry starts. Then I block out 9 a.m. to noon to do only my priorities. I’m more effective with my calls and meetings in the afternoon because I handled what I needed to in the morning and don’t have those tasks hanging over my head.