Nina Grunfeld is the founder of LifeClubs which focuses on practical workshops that help individuals and organisations become happier and more productive. I’ve known Nina for 15 years and she’s here today to talk how LifeClubs started, how shyness affected her work, family and business life and how she uses it as an advantage or a “superpower”.
How LifeClubs started
“I started LifeClubs when I was 49. Before that, I was a graphic designer. And after that, I wrote how-to books. People always said that I would make a great coach because I’m good at listening and because, as a hobby, all my life, I’d helped my friends ‘package’ themselves.
Like a graphic designer takes a product and puts it in a nice package to sell, it’s the same with people. You find out what’s best about them, what they love doing, what really excites them. Then you help them show that to the world. In LifeClubs I created something like Weight Watchers, but instead of thinking about your weight, you think about what you want from life, how to become more confident, how to really be yourself. So that’s how LifeClubs started. I got some friends together and wrote a workshop for every week of the year, and, of course, those workshops have changed a lot in the last 15 years.
About being Shy
I still struggle with shyness, but I think you’re right. I don’t think anyone but me would know I was shy. Most people would think I was sort of an extrovert. I’m definitely not an introvert, I am an extrovert, but doing a TedTalk, the idea of standing on a stage fills me with fear. I wouldn’t know what to say, what would I talk about? So, I am in awe of anyone who does TedTalks. Going to a networking event also fills me with absolute horror even though, as you say, these are the kind of things that I help people with. It’s funny. I know it is ironic that I run a business based around groups of people getting together, but it’s that feeling of being judged I don’t like. I’m going to go out there and people are going to be judging me. I don’t know if that’s something that you’d equate with shyness, but that definitely is what I feel.
Shyness can hold us back
I think people are drawn to qualifications, they like visibility. Especially in the UK, we’re impressed by all these things. I remember when I stopped being a graphic designer and started writing books even though my first book was just about stain removal and yet I went up in everyone’s estimation about 1,000,000 times. There is definitely a hierarchy of careers that people are impressed by. Certainly writing is one of them and you know someone who is a professor or something that has involved getting a lot of qualifications is another, so definitely I am held back by not getting out there a bit more.
I didn’t intend to sit in my comfort zone quite as much as I do. I know people have always said go with being different and looking different and enjoy it. Sometimes I can, when I’m feeling positive. But often I think, no, I, I don’t want to be stared at, as you say. I actually find doing small talks terribly difficult. No matter how hard I try to relax, I will go to a party and there’s a bit of me that sort of looks like the queen, so I feel people look at me and assume “She’s not going to be any fun”. Actually I am fun, but I don’t want to talk about silly things like telling jokes particularly – if you feel that’s ‘fun’. I want to have a really good conversation with someone. I like going straight to an intense level. It’s another thing that holds us back when we’re shy. You don’t really want to sort of flirt with people. That makes me quite nervous.
Strategy on being shy and mighty
My strategy is to be authentic. Saying what you feel rather than what you think other people want to hear, then people feel they can trust you. So, that seems to me to be one way of doing it. I’m probably someone you either love or you hate, but that’s part of the authenticity and partly sort of being able to attract people in a way.
I think I’m also very good delegating. I love having people work with me and being able to find out what they’re best at and then letting them do that without me breathing down their neck.
How LifeClubs helps shy people
I would say most of the people who come to LifeClubs are quite shy or introverts or whatever you’d like to call them. I think often extroverts have a huge network of people that they’ll talk to. Whereas if you are shy, it’s quite nice going somewhere where you can be anonymous and just be yourself. We do have lots of shy people. I mean the workshops are all designed to help people feel more confident and know what they want from life. It’s about making people aware of what could be changed and how they can do it and what their strengths are that can help them do it. LifeClubs is that sort of thing.
Being a shy person inside your own home
I can feel shy. My kids and my husband are extroverts. I can feel really shy when they’re all making funny jokes and shouting loudly and I’m not quite sure what’s going on and I can just sort of shrink quietly into myself and think “Oh, I don’t even know that I want to be here”. I love them all so much, but as a group they can be quite overwhelming. So, it starts like “Oh my golly. I’ve created these gorgeous people, but suddenly there’s no room for me in there anymore.” I just sit quietly and listen. There are times I prefer taking a more active role if I can, if I’m feeling a little bit braver.
About the success of LifeClubs
I’m definitely someone who loves doing different things and within the banner of LifeClubs, I’ve done quite a lot of different things, but it’s all pointing in the same direction. I suppose the first 49 years of my life was spent doing different things, and I got that a bit out of my system.
But I cannot stop my mind jumping to ideas and it’s very hard limiting them. My personality type is the person who is ‘greedy’. Someone who wants to experience everything that life has to offer, which involves changing career direction every few years because you’re bored. The “Enneagram” (personality typing system) says that people like me need to aim for constancy. Our sort of mantra, our important word is ‘sobriety’. It’s ‘sobriety of life’. Instead of saying, I want to try, it’s important to just say ‘no’ and focus on what you’re doing. When I go to a restaurant, I want to eat everything on the menu. It’s about that love of experiencing everything. I’ve really tried as hard as I can to get rid of distractions and I have definitely got better..”