Sasha Laghonh, Founder of Sasha Talks
Can you introduce yourself and share a little about your background?
Sasha is the Founder of Sasha Talks, an educational and entertainment platform that integrates self and professional development into nurturing meaningful outcomes. As a Speaker, Host and Author, she partners alongside global clients to capitalize upon their talent. She has also authored books and educational content focusing on business, self-development and spirituality. Her insights on operations, legal, human resources and entrepreneurship are shared through online and print publications. Visit www.sashatalks.com to learn more.
As a forward-thinking professional, how do you identify ways to stay ahead in your industry?
I believe relevance within the industry and life in general has to do with one's willingness to continue growing as a person. This includes refining our craft while discovering new ways of performing better to meet the needs of the market. It's impossible to know everything so it's important to focus on what forms of relevance are important to you and why. Some people may resort to continuing education while others may opt for a sharp left turn by embarking upon a new adventure, i.e. moving to a new country. As long as these life decisions provide a fresh perspective, the self development will help in forecasting what is next on the horizon in the industry as well help you create new avenues to connect with audiences in the impending future. Forward thinking has to do with anticipating the needs of an audience within a certain environment. Most of the time people aren't aware of what they need and want until it's presented before them. Are you reacting to the market, or are you telling the market what the next 'it' thing will be?
How often do you reassess your competitive landscape and, as I know you're very busy, I'd love for you to share any tips you have on carving out the time to do this?
In relation to the work I do, my competition is my past performance whether it is from a week, a month or even a year ago. As for the competitive landscape, it's a bit ambiguous to tell because the business services are derived from my experience and personal characteristics like work ethic, personality and performance when taken into consideration.It can't be measured against a standard benchmark because each of us who offer comparable services are differentiated by our style, delivery, logistics and proprietary content we execute through our work. It's a wide landscape that welcomes many people to participate. Over the years I've learned that a limited percentage of people survive in the field because this type of work should be pursued for vanity reasons. If you're serious about the work you do, over time the work will speak for itself. Longevity can't be bought in reality. Longevity can be bought in theory but a house of cards will fall sooner or later.
What have been the most significant challenges you've faced when striving to stay ahead in a rapidly changing world, and how have you overcome them?
Most of my self and business development was intuitively led over a large span of time making me aware of other professionals gliding ahead in their journeys. That was the thing -- they were moving forward in their journey. I needed to focus on my lane and allow life to unfold to provide the insights for developing a platform that started taking shape in the last decade. My work has my DNA all over it, for better or worse, therefore it was important that I wasn't letting outsiders dictate what I should do, how I should do it and at what pace. As long as I remembered that I'm investing in serving others, instead of managing a vanity project, the rest would fall into place. Engaging with life and paying attention to how the industry has evolved provided enough direction to choose if I wanted to participate in those changes. Life is constantly changing yet it's imperative not to get lost in the whirlwind of excitement. Emotions can come and go but our responsibility to deliver to those who grant us an opportunity to serve still remains. If it's not their money, resources and accountability on the line then the external 'noise' doesn't matter. I operate in a manner where one can still run their home without opening windows that coerce people to change their identity and mission to accommodate fleeting trends in the market. Businesses go through different seasons of change, just make sure you are leading the change instead of being bullied into it. Remember why you started out in the first place. This reminds me of a business speaker sharing why they don't administer surveys if they have no intentions of integrating any suggestions provided through the surveys. If people are asked to contribute their thoughts, there is some degree of expectation the feedback will be used to refine the business operations. When the feedback is acknowledged yet not applied, the participants can feel jaded. Thus don't ask people for their thoughts and feedback if you really have no intentions to apply such information. Know your objective before engaging in these activities. Even posturing to appear that a brand or organization cares about peoples' opinions is a waste of time and resources because sooner or later the organization will have to 'prove' they listen to their contributors -- whether it's their employees and/or clients. This aligns with 'don't say, or do things that you don't mean' because people often remember what you didn't do when you positioned yourself to be trusted to honor it.
Can you pinpoint a defining moment or experience where your innovative strategies led to success or a competitive advantage in your business or career?
This may not be perceived to be innovative but when the doors weren't opening for new opportunities, I decided to go out and create my own table to eat. Whether it was barriers to entry, or the fact that others were insecure of hosting me with the fear that I would seize their audiences (for some ungodly reason!), I decided to create my own lunch table. I'm not afraid to eat alone. I set my table up in a manner where I focused on building it, when other people started turning heads to take a look, I welcomed them. Through those subtle engagements, certain aspects of the platform started taking shape. I was seeking substance instead of mind numbing opportunities that robbed people of time, leaving them with no educational or valuable takeaway. It reminds me of my childhood experiences when participating in science fair projects. Each student would have their project set up on the table as judges and guests would screen your contribution. Through similar engagements, certain aspects of the platform started taking shape. I was seeking substance instead of mind numbing opportunities that robbed people of time, leaving them with no educational or valuable takeaway. My greatest advantage was my life and professional experiences because I've contributed and still contribute to a wide array of industries serving different types of personalities. Compound that with working opportunities from a young age which exposed me to spaces that came into my life through personal and social channels. When people view things to be above or below them, they're already planting a seed to drive themselves out of the market. It will speed up the clock to one's demise because the number of blind spots will skyrocket. Make sure the pride and ego are check. The latter are two different things so don't easily mix them up.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients of an effective strategy for staying ahead in 2023?
Pay attention to your environment and leverage your senses. Think for yourself. Don't believe everything you hear, see and read. Make sure the information is credible and that it resonates with you before considering taking any action. Refrain from being reactive, be responsive. I tell people not to randomly canvass opinions because most people don't know what they're talking about. :) Do your homework. Keep the heart and mind in check, you'll be fine. Some of the worst life and business advice can come packaged in the most deceptive manner. Life is short, pay attention to how you navigate through life. No one has figured it out. It takes practice.
In your opinion, what role does continuous learning and personal development play in staying ahead, and how do you incorporate these practices into your own professional journey?
This is very relevant to the work I do --- working on oneself is key to better improving our mindset, performance and goals. I practice everyday in how I interact with life through work and people. I question whether the people, environment and tools I apply to perform are relevant from time to time because it is okay to outgrow different phases of life. That's why it's called a phase. My taste in hobbies and interests have also evolved over the years which contribute to fresh insights on how I view and approach my work. Given life experiences, I have significantly improved in putting less restrictions on myself on how to live my best life. This also goes for how I work because nothing in my life has unfolded in a perfect linear fashion. Some of the best blessings have come through twists and turns along the way. Do your best to be sensitive to others' time and space. Hold space in your life for the right people and opportunities.
Looking ahead, what emerging trends or technologies do you believe will have the most significant impact on businesses or ambitious professionals, and how are you preparing to leverage them for future success?
The markets are presently reacting to AI. I haven't really given it a thought in respect to my work. People are freaking out over the alleged demise of their jobs. I'm more interested in exploring how AI started inviting legal challenges among the business population. I would need to educate myself better because a response is always better than a reaction.