She is an internationally renowned award-winning speaker, coach and founder of StartWithin, as well as a citizen of the world.
She was born in the Czech Republic but grew up predominantly in Canada. At the age of ten or so, after several years of living in poverty and underserved communities, she dared to dream big and decided to become “the best human rights lawyer ever.” She set herself up to a classic law career, studying law in Canada’s capital, and was keen to provide more empowerment and equality for the world. She worked in high-level roles in both law and politics, working for the Canadian Senate as well as the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Canada. But, after realising that this was not the only path for her to help people and shape the state of the world, she joined World Merit, an international NGO, and quickly became their sole representative of young global change makers. During her professional world tour as Global Ambassador from 2013 onward, she had the chance to speak at international summits and conferences (including the United Nations and the Summit of the Americas!), facilitated workshops for the youth and mentored young social entrepreneurs to “become the leaders this world so desperately needs.”
Today, she continues to work with world leaders (and leaders-to-be) to create a more positive future for people and the planet, by using her peace and conflict resolution training and extensive knowledge of global and cultural issues.
She has never stopped pushing herself to learn and grow, every day consciously leaning into her own discomfort, in order to evolve.
Martina, tell us about YOU, what do you like doing in your daily life?
I try to be pretty intentional about how I start my day, it really sets me up. I have 6 things I check on every morning.
Enough sleep, morning meditation, reading, writing in my journal, some exercise and gratitude.
That’s my happy formula for a good workday. That doesn’t mean that every single day I manage to do all of the above, it just means I put myself first on my agenda every single morning. It is not about goals to achieve; it is more like an opportunity to love myself better. As leaders we are not very useful if we are not taking care of ourselves first.
Can you summarise what you are currently working on?
I love variety and being of service. On any given day I could be planning for a guest lecture at a university on the state of the world and it’s leadership; penning out a keynote or a workshop; or serving my clients as a coach one-on-one - which I adore too. But, right now my big project is one that is deeply personal. I’ve seen far too many women hold themselves back and not show up for the life that they feel like they could be living. So, I’ve created a very special 6-Week Coaching Program to build Confidence and Courage - just for the ladies! This program is founded on my personal life experience; my background coming from poverty to creating my own path; my coaching and public service background; and a world tour's worth of learning about women, and the obstacles we face in our daily lives that hold us back from being the empowered ladies we so want to be and are capable of being.
It’s about knowing yourself, what you want, and discovering the bravery within to go and do exactly that.
The foundation of the program is to create real change, as always. There is one program running at the moment, and another due to begin in September, with a waiting list currently in place.
I’m also really loving hosting the monthly “Breakfast Club” for Entrepreneurs, every last Tuesday of the month. We come together with other like-minded small business folks and create a safe space for learning, sharing and growing. Every time we build it around a certain business topic and share our challenges, insights and resources. It is very powerful. I would love to see it grow bigger and serve the community better.
What’s your best advice to someone starting a business?
Actually, I slipped and fell into starting my own business. After finishing the world tour as Global Ambassador for World Merit, somebody came to me and wanted to hire me for consulting work. So basically overnight I had to create my company. It’s been five years already with StartWithin and bit by bit I’ve figured it out.
My advice to anyone starting a business is to start off by doing an inner inventory.
The more you know yourself the more you know your business, what you are capable of and what you can offer; understand, where you have to go deeper with strategic learning or personal development and where you have to delegate. No entrepreneur can do every aspect of a business perfectly. That’s part of the challenge, and part of the fun.
What do you find beneficial being a part of Sojoourn?
Hands down, the community; the feeling that I don’t have a reason to do anything alone. For sure there is somebody out there who is or has been going through the same struggle as me. It can be really difficult to make new relationships, especially with the language barrier, so it is reassuring to be part of a community that is welcoming and helpful.
Do you have any advice for people who are moving to Lyon?
It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to move to France, since I saw Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” when I was just a kid. I fell in love with the lifestyle in Provence - all that bread! It’s a dream! haha. My partner and I, we considered a few other cities, did some research, but after our first weekend in Lyon we knew we definitely wanted to move here. We struggled quite a bit with the system of finding and renting out an apartment. Unfortunately, Sojoourn didn’t exist yet when we arrived and they couldn't help us out with finding our home. Having a checklist before moving here would have been great. For example: to know what paperwork we need to fill out and information about the neighbourhoods. And, if I were to do it all again, I would have increased my level of French before arrival. It really is the only language to get things done around here.
I have gone through several at this point, it changes with me. But now I’m really loving and trying to live by is this:
“Wherever you are, be there, and whatever you are doing, do that.”
It is a Buddhism-oriented approach to life, through presence and intention. Mindfulness became more and more meaningful to me over the years. I get the most out of life when I am fully present and really paying attention to what I am doing or where I am.
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