CEO of Dream Corps

Reaching across the aisle doesn’t mean forgetting who you are or your values —in fact, the opposite is true. When collaborating with people who don’t share your core beliefs, it is more important than ever to lead with who you are to arrive at your desired outcome.

Nisha is a grassroots activist and was arrested in Burma for passing out pro-democracy leaflets. She's got expansive organizing experience, and her work has solidified her belief in the power of working with unlikely partners to find real solutions. Her journey from punk rock protester to common ground champion is documented in her TEDx talk The Radical Act of Choosing Common Ground.

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Reaching across the aisle doesn’t mean forgetting who you are or your values —in fact, the opposite is true. When collaborating with people who don’t share your core beliefs, it is more important than ever to lead with who you are to arrive at your desired outcome.

In this episode I’m talking to Nisha Anand, CEO of Dream Corps, a non-profit that “closes prison doors and opens doors of opportunity.” Their mission statement is “We bring people together across racial, social, and partisan lines to create a future with freedom and dignity for all.”

This conversation with Nisha shines a light on how reaching people on the other side of the aisle is not pretending that you share values and needs with them, but instead coming to that table fully as who you are and standing in your values. 

Nisha is a grassroots activist and was arrested in Burma for passing out pro-democracy leaflets. She's got expansive organizing experience, and her work has solidified her belief in the power of working with unlikely partners to find real solutions. Her journey from punk rock protester to common ground champion is documented in her TEDx talk The Radical Act of Choosing Common Ground.

Learn more about Nisha on her website

Visit Dream Corps website 

Watch Nisha’s TedX Talk here

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

Dia Bondi 00:18

Hey,this is Lead With Who You Are. I'm Dia Bondi. And on this show, we explore anddiscover what it truly means to lead with who you are. And we're doing it withpeople who embody just that. In this episode, we're talking with Nisha Anandabout what it means to lead with who you are, as you reach across the table towork with unlikely and surprising allies in order to produce outcomes that workfor the both of you. I'm having this conversation, because I recognize how easyit is to avoid working with someone you can't even ever imagine collaboratingwith, because it can feel like a threat to your identity and values. But it'snot. And Nisha will show us how, in this conversation, Nisha shares one thingthat felt so resonant for me, and I hope it does for you as well. This ideathat the way to reach people on the other side of the aisle is not to pretendthat you share values and needs with the people across the table, but that youcome to that table fully as who you are and standing in your values. And thatletting people know what they can count on you for is critical to finding apath forward together. Hey, just a quick reminder, you can subscribe to thisshow on your podcast platform of choice. We're live nearly everywhere. And youcan always listen to the show at Dr. If there's a leader orinnovator in your life, who is it their shiniest when they lead with who theytruly are, Please share the show with them. And rate subscribe, and leave us a reviewmakes a huge difference in the reach that the show has when you let everyoneelse know what you love about the show. Thanks so much. Nisha Anand is anIndian-American activist mom of two teenagers and a leader for racial justice.She once was a grassroots activist and she was arrested in Burma for passingout pro-Democracy leaflets. She's got expansive organizing experience. And herwork with mentors like Van Jones has solidified her belief and the power ofworking with unlikely partners to find real solutions. As Dream Corps, CEO,Nisha leads a diverse group of people who are learning just like her the valueof unconventional relationships. Her journey from punk rock protester to CommonGround champion is documented in her TEDx talk, the radical act of choosingcommon ground, which you can find in our show notes. Nisha, welcome to leadwith who you are. So I'm having you on today, Nisha, because on today's show,which is our brand new show lead with who you are, there's something veryinteresting to me in the tension between collaborating with unlikely allies,and, and finding common ground and holding on to ourselves. While we do that,that tension between reaching out and holding on, it's a dance that not a lotof us can do actually think it feels like I think it's quite courageous to beable to know yourself enough to be able to reach across the table, andcollaborate without let go without handing yourself over. We feel really oftenlike if we reach across, we may be giving up on ourselves or some version ofthat. So I want to know, I want to know, you know what it means to do both, inorder to have the kind of impact we actually want and to do it withoutundermining who we are. And instead, do it by leading with who we really are.And I did watch and we'll add in the show notes. We did watch, I did watch yourTEDx talk. We will link it in the show notes. And I understand you as anactivist, and someone who knows who she is, and also can reach out to cooperatewith others in ways that might be actually a little bit surprising. So I'mgonna start right there.


Nisha Anand 04:12

I mean,you've basically summed up all of the tensions in my life already. I feel likeyou perfectly packaged who I am. And it's probably okay to end the podcast now.


Dia Bondi 04:21

I loveit that you say that you think that I summed up who you are. And that was, thatwas actually the first question I had, which is, who are you?


Nisha Anand 04:29

Well, touse what you just introduced with, I think that you actually and I've neversaid it like that before. So it really clicked for me that in fact, you can'treach across the aisle authentically. I don't actually think you can buildcommon ground in a principled way. Unless you know who you are. I've neverthought about it that way. But I think that that's probably the most valuablething anyone who considers themselves a bridge builder or somebody that seekscommon ground, or anyone who wants to try to solve problems. by comingtogether, instead of dividing, I think step one is knowing yourself. Becausewhat you can authentically bring into a conversation where you're dealing withpeople very different than who you are, is yourself. So I'm not going to hideit, your listeners should know probably from the start that I go very far tothe left, I have very progressive values. I don't hide that at all. I workreally well with people who are conservative on the right side of things andhave very different value sets than me. And I think the reason why is becausewhen I go into a room, my Republican counterparts can count on me to bring whoI am. And my values, I don't try to hide it, I don't try to bend and be someonedifferent. They know that if we're in a conversation around climate, justice,for instance, or climate change, or any kind of climate policy, they know thatI'm going to bring in the discussion around equity, that I'm going to be ableto point out their blind spots around why, yeah, that might be an okay climatesolution. But it still replicates some of the racism or does it actuallyinclude the people that are being hurt by climate change right now, in thesolution, they can count on me to bring equity, because that's their blindspot. That's not what they're thinking about. And I can count on them to cometo the room as great conservatives and point out my blind spots, I'm not reallylooking at if they're coming from a company, for instance, or a corporateangle, they actually do need to know what the economic bottom line is, I neverthink about that, I can be honest, that's always a blind spot. I'm neverlooking at anyone's bottom line. But they actually can explain it in a businessway that will make sense to a business person who is actually who I need topass the climate policy. So that's one of the things about common ground that Ithink is really essential, is bring what you know who you are, and bringexactly what you're always going to bring to the table. So I don't feel like Icompromise on my values. I feel like it's a it's a value add, when I'm in thesebridge building conversations, for me to be able to point out their blindspots, and vice versa. That was a whole long way around. Who am I that's alittle bit more about who my what my approach is about. But it really went onthat you just hit it right, right off the bat, on the head this this kind oftension, very


Dia Bondi 07:15

Proud ofmyself, very proud of myself. I have to say, though, in your answer, I'm sortof hearing two streams, let me see if I can grab both of them. One is, you'retalking about something that a great friend of mine, Dino Anderson talks abouta lot, which is continuity of experience. And what you're sort of pointing toin how you're talking about what your counterpart, you know, those across thetable those with a very, you know, different point of view? Or are they lookingat a problem with a very different lens from you, and maybe even a differentset of priorities, that, that you there's a continuity and what to expect fromone another. And that that actually shows up in the conversation in a reliableand consistent and expected way. And that that, I mean, I'll just take itanother step further, which it sounds like that is a component of what allowsyou to build trust in those conversations.


Nisha Anand 08:08

Absolutely.And it also, when you enter a conversation with the, with the intention ofunderstanding the person that's there, or with the intention of trying to buildtrust that come across, it comes across very differently than when you enter aconversation where I want to convert you to my way of thinking, or I want toconvince you that my policy or my idea is the right policy. And those kinds ofconversations, even when you're on with your friend, you can tell they're notlistening, you can tell they're not actually when they're with you and beingpresent. And that makes all the difference that trust building, that ability tobe present, to listen to understand not to convert, that makes all thedifference, it means that you can come you can find a path forward, you can findsome common ground to build on.


Dia Bondi 08:54

So thatso I have so many things here for me that are popping, I want to go back for asecond. So we can go forward. We when you say I don't exactly remember in thismoment exactly what the words were that you use, but you were like you you haveto know yourself in order. It's like it's sort of a requirement to step intothese types of conversations. And from you know, the buyer we share with ouraudiences, they have a sense of what kinds of conversations and negotiationsyou're making with the world, what kind of impact you're having all very highstakes, not just for, you know, your nonprofit or what you lead and build, butfor the lots of people that the work that you do touches, you know to Yeah. Sowhen you say it starts, we have to have an understood, we have to knowourselves, what is it that we need to know?


Nisha Anand 09:40

Oh, wow,it's a great question. I enter conversations very much thinking about my valueof servant leadership. All of us have our own value. You know, we have our ownset of values. I really do think before you enter any big decision likemarriage, what job you're going to take, you know, big decisions you havearound your child Run, always going back to your own core values is soimportant. Those are the things that if you don't listen to them, if you don'tobey them, they always feel at a saying, you will be miserable, you'll have theexact same fight. Like if you pick a partner that doesn't share a core value,you're gonna fight about that for the rest of your lives in different ways,shapes or forms. So I think knowing the core values and what you stand for, isreally important. And, for me, I've just always been one of those people thathates seeing any type of an injustice, anything that's unfair, I grew upfeeling like an outsider, and very much a misfit and felt like I wasn'tincluded, or even that I was excluded from a lot of the things I wanted to bein my, my parents are immigrants, there was certainly I was raised with thisfeeling of like an Indian daughter is only meant to be, you know, one thing Ineeded to be pretty and marry well, and, you know, make sure I took care of myfamily. And that was my expectation. And so I knew, to break that mold, I hadto like really break it, I had to completely step out of that mold if I wantedto do something different. And that allowed me to see this value I had andbeing different. And knowing that I can be a whole bunch of different things.And build a world where people like me, who are misfits, who might not fit inwho might want to break the mold, where we can belong, where we can have aplace of dignity, where I don't want to see anyone left out or left behind, Idon't want anyone to feel like they have to be in this this way or that way, orthey don't fit in. And so from a really young age, anytime someone was left outor excluded, I could point to that and say, I don't like it. So that'ssomething I know about myself. And it means any conversation I enter into, I'malways thinking about who's not in that conversation, who is left out and leftbehind who's hurt the worst, by the problem I'm trying to solve, whoever ishurt first and worse by any problem in this society, I want to make surethey're not last and least in the solution. And that servant leadership kind oflens, the Who am I here for? And what am I doing when I'm there, that's alwaysbeen a piece of who I am. It's not going to change, no matter what room I'm in,if I'm in the room with billionaires, if I'm in the room with like, far right?Republicans, if I'm in the room with all my peers on the left, you can count onme to always think about the folks who are being left out and left behind andhurt the worst. And just to I'm gonna


Dia Bondi 12:31

Jump inhere and say like, I hear two themes here, you said, for sure values were onethings you have to know about yourself as part of the who I am. And I love thisidea of what is unchanging no matter who's in the room. Yes, what what is it? Imean, people might call those non negotiables. Or, you know, maybe that's,that's in the context of, you have a give and take, but what you're saying thatthe things that remain true, no matter what else is around it, that's abeautiful eyelids a beautiful naming.


Nisha Anand 13:08

I lovethat I you know, we often, I think right now, there is a lot of yelling at eachother a lot of name calling a lot of shame, anyone that wants to step out. Andlike I said, break the mold. Or if you want to step out and do something thatmight be unpopular, there's so much shame and hatred that goes into it. Andwhen I think of, for me, what isn't changing? Anywhere I go, is that, that whenI walk into that room, I'm going to do what I think's best, regardless of thatname calling and the shame and the loud and the anger. And I feel pretty goodabout who I am as a person. I think saying non negotiable, actually, it openedmy mind up to a different place. Because for me, I also like winning. I've beenan activist my whole life, I like to win, I want to see, you know, big change.But when I think of winning, I think what's become a non negotiable. And maybethis isn't who I always have been, but it's certainly become a non negotiablenow is that I don't want to be part of a solution that further divides thiscountry. I don't want to be part of a solution that doesn't include the biggesttable possible. I want solutions that will last for a long time that will standthe test of time. And for me, that means building a really inclusive group ofpeople to come up with the best ideas. And that wasn't always the case. Idefinitely was a really righteous young person who thought I knew the rightway. And I think what now has changed and it's become kind of a non negotiableis being able to say I don't know everything. In fact, if I build this tablewith all of these diverse people with diverse experiences, I will learnsomething that I didn't know before I can Amen to this room and that will makemy solution better.


Dia Bondi 15:03

What Ilove to what you did about what you just said, is this. This idea, I think hesaid something like I, I wasn't always like this, but now I am. It's somethingthat's changed. I think one of the risks of naming and claiming who we are andleading with it as we can sometimes get rooted in a story that we've outgrownabout who we are. Ah, yes. So how, where are there markers along your careerand your activism and your leadership? Where you've had to, I would say, like,upgrade, or update your operate yourself operating system to recognize like,Wait, actually, the thing that I keep talking about who I am, the thing that Ikeep saying that I am, the story I have about who I am is actually isn't sotrue anymore? And when did that happen? And how did you notice if you can thinkof an example?


Nisha Anand 15:55

Absolutely.I think that's everything we are. So we yeah, we hold on to these stories aboutwho we are. And they really are just stories, they're things we've toldourselves, our whole lives and stories change, you can write a new chapter, youcan flip that page, you can have a whole nother book, if you want. And it'sreally hard, because there's a lot of stuff in this world that doesn't want youto change. And I think about old friends or old things I did, or you know,things that they probably are out there that I've said that I totally don'tbelieve in anymore. And if I if I stuck there, I wouldn't grow. And I do see alot of people just stay in one comfortable place and not grow. But look, I'vealways wanted to change the world since a young age. I've always wanted to livethe life of consequence. And I think the consistent part of the story is thatI've always been looking for how I can make change at a bigger scale. Okay, Itried this, it didn't work. I want to try something else that will work. Oh,no, I want to try to make that bigger. And can I make it even bigger and have abigger impact? I think that's something that's been consistent. What's beeninconsistent is that that necessarily means I as a person have to evolve, how Iexperiment. And what it is I change. And I remember the one there was this, Ihave two stories coming to my mind. But the big one coming to my mind, actuallythat changed it where I realized I was a different person than I thought Iwould was was. I was 21 years old. And I had gotten arrested in the militarydictatorship of Myanmar. And I was an activist, like I said, I protested a lot,I got arrested for a lot of different causes. It wasn't necessarily surprisingto me, that I went over to a military dictatorship and risked getting arrested.It might have been surprising to my parents, but it was very consistent withwho I was. And I was with a group of 18 other international activists from sixdifferent countries. And we went into the military dictatorship to commemorateit was the 10 year anniversary of this brutal massacre that occurred in 1988.We were there in 98. And about 10,000 people have been killed student activistswho were just you know, calling for democracy, were murdered, exiled, they endedup taking arms up at the border, fought for decades, just for democracy. And wewent in with these little leaflets that said, We are your friends from aroundthe world, we support your hopes for human rights and democracy. That's all thecards have that's highly illegal. And a military dictatorship that is illegal.We snuck these leaflets in like on the insides of our shoes, and in ourbathroom bags, like we snuck them into the country, handed them out. We had allplanned to get on a flight and board home, we had it well planned so that youknow, all of our embassies and folks would be notified if we didn't make ithome. But all of us got arrested. We did not get on that flight home and spenta week inside a Burmese prison. And on that one week, Mark, we were rushed to acourt and be announced to us and spent, I don't know about 12 to 18 hours in asham trial all conducted in Burmese, so I had no idea what's going on until theend when they said you've been sentenced to five years in prison hard labor. Didn'teven know what they meant. Like I said, I was 21 years old. I just thought goodactivist, and I was terrified. And then the next day, we woke up in themorning, and we were all deported. So I did not spend five years in a Burmesejail. We were deported. And one of the reasons why was a Congressman from theUnited States Representative Chris Smith. He's a Republican from New Jersey.He's still in Congress. He flew all the way to Thailand, and was advocating onour behalf to try to get us out. He sat on the Human Rights Commission at thatpoint. And I was a young righteous activist. I could not imagine havinganything in common. At that point. I was so radical. I couldn't imagine havinganything in common with anyone in Congress, let alone a Republican and Ithought, well, you know what, we have this 24 hour flight or something backhome, I'm sitting next to him, I'm going to tell him about everything. I'mgoing to talk to him about all the issues. I was a high school debate team nerdin college debate was my life. So I was ready to just talk his ear off. Andinstead, he opened up the conversation to me and started talking to me aboutother places where human rights were being violated, not just in Myanmar, butother places. And I found out we had a lot in common, a lot. There were a lotof issues he cared about that I did. And we actually spent the entire planeride, talking about the areas where we had commonalities, and not the oneswhere we disagreed.


Dia Bondi 20:44

And sowas that confronting to you about who you thought you were?


Nisha Anand 20:48

Absolutely.I thought that I had to all the time, like, had to win had to talk abouteveryone had to be consistent, you had to think entirely like me, in order tomake the world a better place. I just didn't have room for people who haddifferent views, or at least I didn't think I did. Now I look back on it, andrealize that I probably always did have a high tolerance for people who aredifferent than me. But I thought I didn't, I was certainly performing a waythat you had to be an activist, which is completely consistent. And, you know,it was all of it, or none of it.


Dia Bondi 21:20

And hasI imagined an archetype, you know, and an identity attached to it?


Nisha Anand 21:25

Absolutely.I had, you know, I had a ton of piercings. And you know, I was a punk rock kid,I had, I looked the part in every way, shape, or form, you could imaginelooking the part and I love that person who I was, absolutely, I see itreflected on the streets today. And I think of that there's a whole ecosystemof social change. And in my field, I think any field that people are in,there's a whole ecosystem that makes it work. And that really loud, passionateactivist, and all of the students who are really willing to take great risks.That's important, that piece of the fabric of what makes change possible. Andso I do love that person. But I think that, that serves a role, the role I'mplaying now is a little different, I would have never thought of myself as abridge builder, back then, I look back now and see the ways in which maybe Ialways have been. But I think that at that experimentation that I was talkingabout, like, you have to try something differently. And then you start becomingthis different person. I really embraced that. And I feel like I'm now aperson. I guess, if you think of the activist and the educator, and you know,the rabble rouser, there's also a diplomat. And I think now I'm playing more ofthat diplomat role and trying to find that common ground. And, and this hasmeant that I actually have changed things at a much bigger scale than I everhad before.


Dia Bondi 22:46

I feellike you know, who you who we are, can change and the story you're telling, Ican still imagine, or I experienced who even in this conversation is somebodywho is still that person, but it's more like rings of a tree than it is, youknow, as we grow, it's like, we get rings in your tree, instead of erasing whatyou were and replacing with a new version, you know, and so I love that in thatway, we let ourselves change, but we let ourselves retain sort of our ownsource code, you know, and I love that we are, I think, you know, what you'repointing to also is that your role may be different, and recognize that you canplay a different role that has an impact on the outcomes that you want tocreate in the world, but you're not actually changing who you are, you'readding to who you are, you're taking command of who you are, you're harnessingthe power and the passion and the the, I don't know, the conviction that youhave, and the ways in which it gets expressed or integrated with others. Aspart of as you say, the fabric you know, of makes the of what makes it workchanges or, you know, yeah, I'm curious, what does it mean then as, as I hear ashift from like, you know, this sort of radical activist dis, you know,disposition or lens that you saw the world through to, you know, the woman whosat next to Republican congressman and unpacked the human rights, the storiesof and realities of human rights violations across the world, and now you know,we're on we're on a call where we can see one another, I don't see one piercingon your face, maybe you're hiding it. But as the rings of your own tree, havesort of, like, you know, grown out what does it mean for us to enter intopartnerships, that feel a little odd for us, you know, they feel unlikely orsurprising. Without actually betraying ourselves how do we reach across andhold on?


Nisha Anand 24:41

I thinkwe're born with this skill set. I think we actually hone it every single day ofour lives because we are not just one thing or another thing. I love thatright. You know, thinking about it as rings of a tree, but I also think thatthere's we're a big patchwork hodgepodge of all the experience As we grew upwith, just in that last set of conversations, I mentioned that I was captain ofthe debate team and a punk rock kid. I was, you know, a child of immigrants andI was very, very American. Trust me, I was there to make sure I had like, suchand such name brand. And I wore, you know, a sari to prom, and made my parentsbuy me guest jeans, right? Like, we're always a mix of these things. We'renegotiating quite difficult identities every day, just inside ourselves, I donot buy it, that we don't know how to negotiate different identities, once it'sexternal to us. We know how to do that we do it in our own family, everyone inyour family is not a carbon copy of you. We know how to sit at the dinnertable, I grew up in the South, we are very polite, we can have all sorts ofdifferent opinions and still enjoy, like, you know, drinks together. That'sjust how we do. And so I think we, we've been able to do that in our lives. Ithink it's a myth saying we can't do it now. Like all of a sudden, because youtweeted this thing that I don't agree with, we'll never be able to talk to eachother. That's not my experience.


Dia Bondi 26:03

Yeah,what you're speaking to is this notion of range, right? We don't have to justpick one way, but that we can expand our range. And let ourselves have a bigrange known in my work. Helping leaders speak powerfully, there's always it canbe very confronting, because they may in the way I coach them, or the contentthat we create for that moment, or what that context begs of their voice andneeds from them feels, you know, they often will feel outside of themselvesoften say like, it doesn't feel like me doesn't sound like me. And I'm like,Hey, you are so compelling right now, like this is it is you it's just anexpansion of you. It's a growth in your range. So I love this idea that we canwe know how to be at a dinner table with our grandparents. And we also know howto protest in the street. And we also know how to be a mom and one moment and apartner and another and a best friend and another and an advocate and anotherand Right? Absolutely. They don't cancel each other out. Right? So then what isthe risk? So, you know, on this show, we're wanting to really talk about doingthings on our own terms and sort of speaking from who we really are. But whatis the risk in that? What do we need to pair it with? So we can advocate forour dreams without, you know, holding something hostage? Maybe


Nisha Anand 27:23

I canask something similar in a lot of different ways. And a lot of different times,folks see some of our unlikely partnerships. And they assume, Oh, you must becompromising one of your values to be in this partnership? And I don't know howto answer that. Because I've never felt that. I say no, I go into the room justlike me. I don't pretend like I'm some Republican so that I can talk toRepublicans, that doesn't work. People can see right through it. What peopleknow right now, more than like than anything else, they can judge authenticity.We look at so much crap online all the times we know when someone's beingauthentic. And that, to me, is the only way you can get into those roomswithout compromises. Be your authentic self, and ask for other people to beauthentically themselves. And you'll get far so you know, one of the storiesthat I like to tell people is about this piece of legislation we passed underthe Trump administration called the first step, that first step Act is a largepiece of criminal justice reform legislation. Very proud of it. It passed aboutthree years.


Dia Bondi 28:34

And Iremember when it happened, regulations. Yeah,


Nisha Anand 28:37

thankyou. 20,000 people came home since then, from federal prison. And we were facedwith a question when Trump took office, there's only one way to get a piece offederal legislation passed at the end of the day, the President has to sign it.That's it, you're going to have to get that signature. And when he took office,we had already been working on this bill in a bipartisan fashion under theObama administration. And the question, I run an organization called DreamCorps, we kind of skipped all of that part. But I found an organization calledDream Corps. It was founded by Van Jones and van is a dear friend, but he's beena boss and a mentor. And he's also an insane visionary and an amazingcommunicator. And when Trump took office, he turned to all of us and he said,some of you might want to wait on working with the federal government onpassing this bill. But if you're gonna stay on this staff, I'm going to ask younot to wait. Period, we are not waiting. There are people inside prison whoneed us now and they do not care who is in the White House. They want to gethome to their house. So if you care about the people inside, we are going tokeep working on this legislation. We're going to try to pass this legislation.I realize it's not the friendliest administration at the moment, but we aregoing to do it. And that was our commitment to the people inside which meant wedidn't stop which meant we had to find a way at the end of A day to have Trumpsign that bill. And that meant working goes back


Dia Bondi 30:04

to goesback to what you said earlier, I'm going to interrupt here and say, like goesback to what you said early, what doesn't change, regardless of the contextaround it, keep going, keep going.


Nisha Anand 30:12

It'sthat it's the mission, it's the people you're serving, that doesn't change.What does change is? Well, now we have to get a few more Republicans on boardwith the bill than we had in the previous administration. But we have to getRepublicans on board with it no matter what I think that's the myth, everyoneshould stop. Like, you're going to need to work with people from the differentparty to get anything done. So realize that that's true, and then figure outwhat you're gonna do. But we, every single time, and this was really hard. Ofcourse, they were people from the right, who really hated what we were doing.They called it the jailbreak bill, you're gonna let all these criminals out ofprison. But we also had people from the left people, I grew up with hating whatwe were doing, why are you working with those folks? They must be using you.Why are they even working with you, they couldn't even imagine that there was apossibility we had some shared goal, or that we were you know, that we werealways being used by people on the other side, it's like, no, I'm showing up asme. And they are showing up as them. And we do not come at this conversationfor the same reasons I come at it. It's the angle. When I look at criminal justice reform, I thinkit's unfair. I think it is a racist system that has targeted black and brownpeople since its inception. That's why I come to it, I do not want to see thatinjustice anymore. But the people on the right who come into the conversationhave a very different reason. Fiscal conservatives don't want to pay any moretaxpayer dollars for a prison system. That doesn't work. The religious right,they believe in second chances. They're anti death penalty, they believe inredemption. And our current incarceration system has none of that. It's acomplete failure, you have libertarians and other part of the right who arecoming at it because they don't like the overreach of the police state. Theydon't like the drug laws that incarcerate a lot of people. So even though wedidn't come to it, for the same reasons, I could hear why they were at thetable, they could hear why I was at the table, and we could come up with somethingthat worked. And at the end of the day, it meant getting that signature.


Dia Bondi 32:11

A lot ofour listeners are also folks who don't work in activism or in the politicallandscape, but work in organizations or entrepreneurs beyond but they're havingto collaborate with in cross functional groups. Yeah, even even, but to haveimpact on the cultures that they're cultivating and building inside theirorganizations to make them more equitable, to allow for participation to youknow, so this is, you know, this notion of identifying and recognizingeverybody has different needs, on the path to getting a shared goal completed.And absolutely, it's what gets, it's the, it's the outcome that matters. Andrecognizing everyone's need, in that, you know, the need that they bring tothat outcome they're seeking, like, we don't have to have the same need. But ifwe have the same outcome that we're wanting, then we can, we can still worktogether toward that outcome.


Nisha Anand 33:05

Absolutely.And if you're willing to listen to my needs, and I'm willing to listen to yourneeds, and actually meet each other and get to know each other and figure outwhat those needs are, you're gonna have a great advocate and me for you, andvice versa. And I'm telling you, if in a Republican controlled House, Senateand White House we got this bill passed in the Senate passed it not just a fewRepublicans, it was passed 87 out of 100 people voted for this bill, it was ahuge bipartisan effort, I promise that in whatever company you're in, you canabsolutely find common ground and actually get to a place to make the changeyou want to see. Because big changes are possible, like very big changes arepossible. But you have to seek that understanding. And you have to really meanit when you say you're going to take care of their needs.


Dia Bondi 33:58

So youhad a really big dream, you have lots of big dreams. I get that sense. But youhad a really big dream with that bill, in particular, what and sort of for mysecond, the last question for you is what is your hope for people who also havea big dream


Nisha Anand 34:11

thatthey'll seek that they will start speaking it into the world that they will sayit and live it? Because right now I feel more than anything, folks are scaredto say it. If you say one thing wrong, or you identify, you know, one areathere is now social media that's everywhere that is waiting to attack or toshame. We've gotten so easy to criticize each other try to pick apart eachother thinking instead of exploring. I hope that can be reversed soon, and Ihave great hope that it can. But I just want people to have a little courage tosay it. Don't worry about sounding cheesy, don't worry about sounding illinformed. We, the futureis not decided it's created. And in order to create that future you Have to saythe future you want to create and live it. And that's what gives me hope. Whenpeople ask why I'm an optimist, I often say I'm not just an optimist. I'm adetermined optimist. So I know that my determination can only lead to theoutcomes I'm creating. I don't know if I'm getting a little weird here.But I do think that we create the future. So what gives me hope is that we cancreate that. And I want other people to say their dreams and to pursue them.That's the only way dream come true.


Dia Bondi 35:28

Yeah, inproject as like an auctioneer, we talked about the notion that you have to letyour dreams be known,


Nisha Anand 35:34

yeah, byothers, and at the risk of looking foolish, because guess what, you're going tolook foolish at some point in your life, it's going to happen. Get it justlive, live yourself, and it'll be better than living in fear.


Dia Bondi 35:47

So towrap, what does it mean Nisha, to you to lead with who you are.


Nisha Anand 35:54

Leadingwith who I am really means feeling confident in my values, quite honestly, I'vetested them out in so many different circumstances in so many different times,and I still come back to the idea that community is important to me, it is soimportant to me, it's hard for me to even I can't do anything without it. I'verealized that's not an important value to other people. And that's okay.Understanding that some people really like community versus individual orthinking of, you know, the whole instead of an individual part, that's anargument that's been as old as time I'm not going to resolve it my way isn'tbetter than someone else's way. It's simply my way. So being comfortable in my values gives me theconfidence to just show up in absolutely any room. When imposter syndromecreeps in as it does for all of us, remembering that being at the table meansbeing myself. What actually I contribute to the table is my unique way of beingnobody else has my unique set of circumstances. Absolutely nobody else atthat table is like this strange, you know, animal that is me. That gives me alot of confidence to be at the table, whatever room it's in. It's not that Idon't have impostor syndrome. It will live with you the rest of your life, nomatter where you are. But in my better days, that being me and leading with whoI absolutely am. It helps stop those those kinds of thoughts.


Dia Bondi 37:24

Beautiful.Nisha, it's been lovely. Where can people find you?


Nisha Anand 37:29

Mywebsite is my name, And that'll give you links to Dream Corps,the organization that I am so lucky to run, and you know, social media. I knowI gave social media a bad rap. But I do spend some time on Twitter, more than alot of the other places so you can find me there too. And what can people dowith you? At dream core, we're really trying to build a home for changemakers.For anybody who wants to create, you know, a better world social change socialjustice, racial justice, we want to show the world that there's a place forabsolutely everybody that you do not have to divide, you do not have to hateyou do not have to show up in a certain way to be part of dream core, that whoyou are, can can and we will help you connect with people of all differenttypes of folks trying to solve all different types of problems that want tomake the world a better place. We're kind of looking for that new way to dosocial change.


Dia Bondi 38:26

Beautiful.Thank you, Nisha. Lead with who you are is a production of Dia Bondi communications,scored, mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams, the third and executiveproduced by Mandy Miranda, you can reach out to us at orleave us a voicemail at 341-333-2997 you can like rate, share and subscribe atApple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favoritepodcasts. Go to For show notes, and to learn about all it is thatwe do to help you speak powerfully and lead with who you are

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