Mali Phonpadith is an author, speaker, CEO/Founder of the SOAR Community Network and the Executive Producer of Tea with Mali TV. She consults with entrepreneurs and visionaries to help them S.O.A.R. (See, Own, Articulate, Release) with their unique message and mission by implementing emotional marketing and social media strategies.
Mali has over 17 years of marketing, sales, and business development experience. She also ran a financial services practice with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network for seven years where she created and implemented risk management strategies for hundreds of clients.
Mali is a well-known community champion and fundraiser for local non-profits. She is the co-founder of the Young Professional Leadership Group and the host of two podcasts, SOAR and Creative Entrepreneur Buzz. She is a published poet and author. A Million Fireflies is Mali’s memoir about her voyage from war-torn Laos to America and she is also coauthor of Seen and Sustained: Best Practices in Communication that Increase the Visibility of Small and Diverse Businesses, a professional workbook written with Akia Garnett, Jane Lovas, and Tamecia Bradshaw.
Mali has traveled across the United States, speaking at The Library of Congress, Smithsonian, The Lao American Writer’s Summit, University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, Lao American Advancement Organization, International Rotary Clubs, SWAMFest, and many more. Advisor Today Magazine, Asian Fortune Newspaper, News Channel 8/WJLA DC, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, Intentful Magazine and numerous blog talk radio programs have featured her inspiring journey.
Q: You’ve been identified by someone as being incredible. What do people see in you that is incredible?
MP: Many close family members, friends and colleagues have told me that my gift in seeing beneath the surface and going straight to the core of people’s hearts and minds is what impresses them most. The ability to place little judgment on others and choosing to interact with compassion, even before knowing anything about another human being, are some of the attributes that I have been praised for. I have experienced multiple tragedies, healed through the grief of losing loved ones unexpectedly, and through these challenging times, I became more aware and awake to the power of my time here on Earth. My losses taught me to love Life.
I have an innate desire to learn what lights people up, what makes them feel connected to others, to life and to the Universe. I want to support them in valuing their time here on Earth too and helping them see, own, articulate, and release their unique gifts, talents and experiences to help them create a profound legacy. By supporting others to live their highest calling, however they define their purpose in life, I also get to create my legacy one person at a time.
Q: How does writing poetry change the way you think?
MP: Poetry is a natural gift that came with me. I say this because I never learned how to write poetry but it was the natural way in which I expressed my emotions as a young girl. Poetry has always been my refuge, a natural channel for me to release my feelings, both good and not so great. It allows me to pause, take deep breaths or release my sorrows. When I write poetry, I find clarity toward understanding what I am feeling and this opens up more avenues for better decision-making, helping me choose actions that move me forward more gracefully.
Q: What are some lessons from Laos that you have carried with you through your life?
MP: My parents had to escape with us from Laos. They got in a boat and rowed across the Mekong River, seeking safety for their children. They did not know if they were going to make it to the shores of Thailand, let alone find our way to a refugee camp. Somehow they knew to take that leap of Faith. That was the defining moment in my life. I was only four years old but their decision to leave danger behind, crossing the river to the great unknown, was the most important lesson in my life. I have learned to trust and believe that when our lives are filled with challenges, there is always a better place on the other side. I always move toward optimism and hope using the only tools I have inside of me, my intuition and faith that “all things are as they should be or they would be something else”. This mantra helps me move forward during the toughest times of my life.
Q: What advice would you give to an earlier version of yourself?
MP: “Honor your unique gifts, talents and experiences. Believe in yourself and trust your instincts to lead you on the right paths in life. First, learn to tap into your instincts and hear that inner voice. Once you have practiced doing this for yourself, you will be better equipped to honor others’ gifts, believe in their brilliance and trust their instincts to lead them on their own paths in life.”
Q: Life is beauty and pain. Tell me about pain in your life.
MP: I have had many painful moments in life. All of them have led me here to a place where I truly honor my life. As a child, I grew up in the United States basically in poverty. I felt like an outcast living in a neighborhood where no one, besides my own family, acknowledged me because there we very few Asians who lived in our neighborhood. I was ridiculed and bullied for most of my childhood.
In my mid 20’s I lost my fiancé and nephew to a drowning accident and two years later, I lost my godfather and my own father, both to cancer. Two years thereafter, I lost my best friend to suicide, then an uncle to lung cancer and in 2013, my beloved grandmother passed away. I have felt hopeless and reached the bottom of despair yet somehow crawled out of the depths of sadness. I did this by simply feeling every ounce of the pain and “walking through”. I trusted that at some point, I would arrive at a lighter place and somehow, I always did. I was forced to exercise my heart muscles, my physical stamina and my emotional bandwidth. I have been tested, I have been challenged and I have prevailed with an even greater thirst for living in each moment. All of these experiences have elevated my desire to live a profound and meaningful life while I am alive and on this earthly plane. My empathy bucket has stretched deep and wide so I am much more capable of supporting others who are moving out of pain and choosing to walk toward peace.
Q: What question did I miss? What else should I know about you?
MP: My life’s work gets played out every day through my business. I get to help every person sent to me see, own, articulate and release their unique gifts, talents and messages into the world. I help others set themselves free of barriers, grief, and doubts through my SOAR retreats, mapping process, podcasts, publications and cable television show, Tea with Mali. I feel fortunate for all the elements came together to create my existence. Life has happened to me so I am making it a point make it count, appreciate my time here and live out my purpose!