Pauline Nguyen’s acclaimed Sydney restaurant, Red Lantern has been running for 17 years.
Not all those years have been easy for Pauline, but the hard times inspired her personal mantra of “calm courage”.
Describing herself as a spiritual entrepreneur, Pauline’s “calm courage” underpins her more recent work as an author, life coach and speaker.
But as she told Robert Gerrish in this episode of the Flying Solo podcast, the spiritual entrepreneur mindset only “works” if you’re truly ready to embrace it.
“Don’t be afraid of the word spiritual. It just means that when we are in spirit, we’re inspired to do our best work,” says Pauline.
The secrets of which she generously shares in her latest book, The Way of the Spiritual Entrepreneur: The 7 secrets to becoming fearless, stress free and unshakable in business and in life.
“When I first started talking about this I had so many friends and advisors who said people in the corporate world will laugh at me for using the word spiritual. But that is because people are scared of what they don’t understand. Spirituality has nothing to do with religion,” says Pauline.
The fundamentals of a spiritual entrepreneur mindset
Pauline describes spiritual entrepreneurs as people who are highly emotionally evolved.
“Stress is the achievers’ sword for fear, it makes us stupid. And we can’t let fear determine our future,” says Pauline.
“When fear or a crisis comes we have to see it for what it is… Fear and crisis [are] a cue for change, a function for evolution.”
To become one of Pauline’ s coaching clients you must be very comfortable with the spiritual entrepreneur mindset.
In other words, you must be:
1. Ready to accept full responsibility for where your business is at
2. Eager to change how you think about yourselves and how you problem solve
3. And (perhaps most crucially) have an easy relationship with fear and courage.
“I am very discerning about who I take on as clients because some people just like to be ‘seen’ to have a coach and mentor,” she says.
“I speak with them on the phone first and if they are in victim mode blame of others [for mistakes], then they are not ready for my work. [Spiritual entrepreneurs] have to think differently and some people are not quite ready to think this way
A tumultuous childhood led to self-discovery
Pauline’s spiritual entrepreneurship journey began after a tumultuous childhood – she was the only daughter of parents who fled Communist Vietnam as boat people, in the 1980’s.
As Pauline told Robert, her parents arrived in Australia with three young children, including her restaurateur brother Luke, and nothing but determination to succeed. She describes her father as a “violent” man whose PTSD from serving as a soldier in Vietnam inspired his eventual success, but also left him with unresolved anger that he unleashed on his wife and children.
“He was a faulty pressure cooker, he dumped his anger us and our mother. He was very violent and began a series of businesses. He ran a cafe and ice cream parlour and a driving school on the side and us kids provided the child labour. We had a very strict work ethic at a very young age, and because of all the violence we were strong as well. But spiritually we were a mess,” Pauline recalls.
At age 17, she ran away from home, eventually putting herself through a Bachelor of Communications at the University of Technology Sydney and working all hours in some of Sydney’s best restaurants.
A tough work ethic is just part of this story
Of her early life experience she credits her tough work ethic and drive to succeed to her cultivation of emotional and spiritual resilience.
“As I grew up I realised I was just as angry as my father, because trauma that is not dealt with passes down the generations,” she says.
“I grew up with so much armour and I was weighed down by all these masks and layers. And it was only when I realised there had to be a better way, that we have to come from a higher mind and have a new way of thinking and being that we can succeed.”
‘Calm is contagious’
In her work as coach, Pauline uses this mantra: ‘calm courage’ to inspire others to be the best version of themselves.
“Calm is contagious but so is fear. Your staff and team take a positive lead based on the calm and sensibility of the business owners. We must lead by example, be calm and cool with a lot of transparency,” says Pauline.
“At Red Lantern our credo is to ‘ uplift the human spirit through the alchemy of flavour, hospitality and art’. I teach my managers how they command their own energy so they can uplift those who come through the restaurant doors.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about how many restaurants you have, it’s about the growth in the relationship with your suppliers, your customers, your staff and yourself.”