Step into a world where expectations take a back seat and the true essence of living life without boundaries is celebrated. In this episode, host Whitney Lauritsen welcomes a remarkable guest, NoorJehan Tourte, for a heartfelt conversation about finding fulfillment beyond the constraints of societal norms. Living life without expectations becomes more than a mere phrase as NoorJehan shares her journey of embracing this philosophy. NoorJehan highlights the detrimental effects of constantly chasing the gold medal and helps us understand that genuine achievement exists in everything – in simply being good enough. This episode challenges conventional notions of achievement and invites you to explore the beauty of embracing imperfections while celebrating the journey of self-discovery. Tune in for more!
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Living Life Without Expectations With NoorJehan Tourte
I’ve been having a wonderful prerecording conversation with the wonderful NoorJehan. It’s been so lovely meeting you. We’ve spent over an hour together chatting about all the different subject matters. There are two places that I’m interested to begin and I’m a little bit torn, but we can weave the two together. I noticed how lit up you got when we were talking about expectations. We’ve also been talking a lot about your career unfolding, transforming, and reaching a new point or phase. I’m interested to hear about that.
When I was first introduced to you through the written word or through an email exchange, it was positioned around your story of unexpectedly making it to the semi-finals of the 2022 Sports Illustrated Swim Search Competition. It’s super interesting. These big unexpected things happen in your life and they inspired you.
It seems like alongside that, you’re stepping into some new professional choices and phases. It’s a multifaceted question. I want to know how things are unfolding for you right now, and maybe there’s a parallel with expectations given that something unexpected happened to you last year. Why is that resonating with you so much?
I love this and I love how you drew the parallels between this idea of what I wrote about, unexpectedly making it to something, and now how I view expectations. I’ll start with the competition and not go into detail about it in terms of the process, but the biggest thing I learned is that I enjoyed the entire process so much because I didn’t have expectations.
It might sound odd like, “Why are you entering a competition that you don’t want to win or that you don’t want to place in?” It was more of me celebrating that I had this childhood dream and I pursued it. That was enough celebration for me and that kept me on a high. It’s like, “Good for you, Noor. You could’ve gone your entire life holding onto the stream, but you put yourself out there.” I already felt like I won because that’s what I had been battling doing.
That’s why it felt so unexpected because I didn’t have any expectations about what happens after I put myself out there. I was putting myself out there. I was being authentic. I was getting to know other women and I was enjoying that. There was disappointment when I didn’t make it. As soon as I make it to the next round, it would be silly for me not to want to advance to the next round because that was a lifelong dream.
I processed the disappointment, but I couldn’t help but be happy about how much I enjoyed it and how much it did not affect me in a negative way not winning. It reminded me that hopefully, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, and reminded myself that I have perspective on what’s important to me in life, and be grateful for the things that are going well.
I guess it gave me the confidence to live life without expectations. I’m pulling that together based on your question but I feel like that’s where I’m at now, to get to your second part like the career choices and what’s happening. Maybe that’s what’s happening. I’m putting myself out there because I feel like that experience gave me the confidence to live without expectations.
That is resonating with me now in a way that I didn’t expect because I struggle a lot with expectations. I get attached to things even though I’ve done so much inner work, mindfulness practices, and being present. I don’t know if it’s an old mental habit. I don’t know what it is or maybe it’s a common human experience of getting attached and expecting something. I struggle a lot with disappointment.
I went through a disappointing experience professionally and it didn’t even occur to me until you started talking. I could relate in some way to what you’re describing because this professional endeavor that I was pursuing involved multiple rounds. That experience of, “Let me see if I make any progress in something at all. Maybe I’ll just try it.” You try something and at the time, often it doesn’t feel like there’s any expectation at all.
You think, “This is just a whim. I’ll give it a try and see what happens,” but I start to get attached once I move to the next round of something, the next stage of something, or the next tier of something like moving upwards. The bottom level is where I don’t have expectations, but when I start to make progress and I get excited, there’s hope. That’s where it feels tough. If I get close to something and it doesn’t work out, that is a very challenging thing for me to process.
I feel grief. I feel confused like, “I tried hard and I thought this was going to work out and it didn’t.” I struggle with getting that news, “Somebody else got something that you wanted.” It does require some level of confidence. What most resonated with me is what you’re saying about enjoying the journey. Isn’t that one of the best pieces of advice in life? It’s all about the journey, not the destination. Maybe I am too focused on the destination and the journey hasn’t felt so pleasant and it might require more intentional work to be like, “This is a journey. This is all that matters. This is the best part.”
To give you a frame of reference, I’m listening to you talk about how you kept advancing, and then as you got closer and closer, you wanted it more. Do you know what I was thinking that entire time? I was like, “I don’t even know what that feels like to get close.” I’m not saying it in a self-deprecating way. I’m not saying it in a self-pity way.
I have never been that person that has been close to winning something or in the top three in the running for something big. I’m not pitting myself. It has just not been my frame of reference because I’ve never been used to that. I’m listening to you and I’m like, “I wonder what that feels like to be in the running for whatever competition or thing you’re in.” I’m like, “What does that feel like?” I don’t even know.
Maybe that ignorance is bliss. Maybe that’s good because I feel like the closest I feel like I’ve gotten to something like that, I’ll never forget, I was in fifth grade. My best friend in fifth grade, we were two peas in a pod and always hanging out. Fifth grade was the end of elementary school, and then we were going to move on to middle school. I don’t know why we were standing up there all graduating and we’re standing in front of the room and she got announced as Student of the Year.
We both have almost the same grade and activities in fifth grade. I’m standing in front of the audience full of our parents and I burst into tears because I felt like I was so close, “Why didn’t I get Student of the Year?” That was this one time I can think, and I don’t know what made me think that I was in the running. I could see my parents in the audience laughing because it was so endearing that I’m crying at the fifth-grade graduation.
My dad talked to me that night, and he was amazing in trying to make me feel better. He kept talking and this stayed with me. It’s funny that it’s coming up now organically. We didn’t talk about this before, but I was writing some thoughts in my head. It was one of the first times I remember my father talking to me and trying to make me feel good. What he was doing was he was talking about all of my achievements. He said, “You know you achieved this at the science fair.” He is like, “You had such a great birthday party. We went to India and saw your grandparents. You achieved this with your best friend. You and she went to Disneyland.”
I kept thinking, “Those aren’t achievements. Those are things I did in my life.” I’ve noticed this about my father. That’s what I wrote in my notes yesterday. He talks about everything, not just your career, not just your passion. He talks about life in terms of achievement. Everything he sees is an achievement. If we go on a great vacation and we come home and we’re sad that vacation is done, he’s like, “We achieved such a great vacation. We achieved that.” I thought that was so interesting how he uses that terminology to talk about life.
After my husband and I got married, he’s like, “What an achievement. We achieved such a great wedding. Everyone was happy. Everyone ate good food.” Most of us think of achievement in terms of entering a competition or schooling or career. I love that and that has influenced how we think about life. I’m so excited when we come back from a vacation and I can high-five my husband, “That was awesome. We made core memories. We had the best time with our friends. We had great pictures and ate great food. We crushed Mexico City.”
Even though that’s supposed to be non-productive recharge time, in my head I’m like, “That’s an achievement.” I’m trying to think about why I feel like I can enjoy the journey and I’m not thinking about the destination as much as other people because the more pessimistic side of me is saying, “I’ve never really been in the running. If you’re not in the running, you got to enjoy what you can.” There’s also a part of me that’s like my dad, which is to find achievement in everything.Find an achievement in everything. Click To Tweet
That’s something that’s a big part of wellbeing. I learned this when I went through my coaching certification program last year. It’s the power of gratitude and acknowledging things. That’s why there’s a big trend of doing gratitude journaling because it has been shown to make a massive impact on us to look at all the little things that we achieve and accomplish versus maybe the external definitions of it.
The focus that our society has around celebrity and the Forbes list of 30 Under 30 and all of that, which to me feel counter-impactful. I want to say counterintuitive. When we’re growing up, there’s a lot of messaging around trying to become the best like your friend. You’re going to feel sad if society is honoring somebody, but what about everybody else who worked as hard and as deserving? It’s this whole winner versus losers or the gold medalists.
You think about athletes and performers that don’t win these big awards but they’re just as worthy. Maybe this person just had a slight edge over them, but there’s a huge gap between somebody on the top, or the greatest of all time for example, which is also a strange term. How do you know the greatest of how much time?
Our society focuses so much on that and we become so achievement-oriented, but not in the way that your dad was saying it. It’s more about how we can prove our worthiness to others all the time. Each of us is concerned with other people’s perceptions of us. Everybody’s concerned about what other people are thinking of them. How do we find that internal satisfaction for ourselves when we’re so outward-focused?
It is such an eternal struggle, but sometimes I think of, as you’re talking about, the greatest of all time and we have gold medalists. Also, people who want to be the best and strive to be number one. Again, this is not critical at all because I don’t know what that mindset is like. I’ve never been that way. Competitiveness gives me anxiety.
When I meet competitive people, I get anxiety. I’m like, “Are we going to be friends? Maybe we can be friends,” but it gives me a lot of anxiety. I don’t have sisters so sometimes I feel like my friends are sisters. This is me uneducatedly analyzing situations so that they can deal with competitiveness better. It gives me so much anxiety because I’d like to think that I’m not a competitive person.Competitiveness gives me anxiety. Click To Tweet
I’m very competitive with myself. I want to give my best in everything that I’m doing so that I feel good about myself when I go to bed at night. Sometimes, I look at people like that who are competitive or have goals to be number one. This is my unpopular opinion, I’m so happy that I don’t win the gold medal. I’m so happy that I don’t get to be number one because that will play me. Instead, I’m like, “I’m just going to hang out and watch TV with my husband.”I'm so happy that I don't want the gold medal. Click To Tweet
There are parts of me that are so happy that I don’t have this needing. Sometimes people need that, and more power to them when they pursue it. I have gotten to a place in life where it would be forced if I came here and told you, “I want to be the best at this.” It would feel forced, but there was a time when I thought, “That’s what I need to act like or say in order to show people I’m serious.” Whether I’m pursuing screenwriting, I am so serious and you’ll know it because I want to be number one. Whereas now, I can say, “Good enough is great.” I think we need to start normalizing that.Good enough...we need more of that. Click To Tweet
I couldn’t agree more. It ties into our conversation earlier about social media before we started recording, and my stepping away from social media for the most part. I’m not entirely off of it, but I don’t use it the way I used to. Because of that, I’ve had a chance to observe how other people tend to use it. Over the years of my work on social life, I’ve seen so many people measure someone’s value and worth based on social media metrics. It never sat well with me.
There was a time in which I was part of that world and striving towards growing and growing, but everybody else was growing and growing. There was no way to get to the top very easily. I would meet some of the top influencers and content creators in my space in the health and wellness world, or even on certain platforms. I met one of the biggest YouTube stars at the time. I noticed how that person didn’t want to be part of that system. They just happened to be in it.
They grew so large. The team they were working with maintained it, and I could see how that world didn’t sit well with them. It didn’t give them this great satisfaction or feeling of achievement. It felt challenging and full of pressure. YouTube was a huge part of my career for a long time. There’s been a few announcements from some of the top YouTube creators of all time or the greatest YouTubers of all time.
At least two of them have come up recently announcing they have cancer. I don’t think that there’s a correlation between YouTube and cancer, but as I was watching one of them share the news, I remember this person seemingly like they had it all. They were so well-known. They got all of these great career opportunities, and now here they are sitting on their couch sharing one of the hardest news a human being would ever have to share in their lives.
I couldn’t help but wonder. I bet you those metrics and all that success does not matter anymore to them.” All they are concerned about right now is surviving and making it to the next day. Speaking of making it to the next step, it ties back into what we’re started talking about here. There’s a whole shift in perspective from, “Let me try to advance my career and my successes” versus “Let me try to make it to the next day and stay alive.” The latter sounds so much more important, but our society has had us focus so much on the former. Even what you’re describing, those moments of sitting on the couch with a loved one sound so wonderful. I want more of those in my life.
We went to this great event with our friends. We had such a good time. We came back and we have this ridiculously deep couch. Just for fun, my husband turned it into a couch bed. We’re both sitting there watching a movie. There was such joy and play in that. We’re tossing pillows. I feel like a teenager. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I see people wanting to go to the best parties or be invited to the best things or wear the best clothes. I wouldn’t give this up for that pressure to sustain.
Everybody reaches those points at different stages of life. Each of us has different priorities and influences. First of all, going back to the Swimsuit Illustrated Competition, you said you never made it very far, but this line that I’m reading says you made it to the semi-finals. How do you define far?
That was probably the first time that something like that happened. I’m not suggesting that I have not had success. I feel proud of looking back on my success in my career or education. It was more so like these contests or competitions or to your point, amassing titles. That’s not been my world. I’m not suggesting that it’s always other people’s worlds, but for some people, I feel like it happens to them or they’re in the running. They’ve entered industries where it is down neck and neck to choose between two people.
In the industry I’m in, it’s not necessarily one in Corporate America where you have to choose between two people. Yes, I guess when you’re interviewing for a job. That’s why making it as far as I did, which is that year, what they called the semi-final because it changes how they structure their competition every year. I was blown away. I ran out to tell my husband, and the first words out of my mouth were things like, “This doesn’t happen to me. What is happening?” He had to remind me, “You did enter the competition because you wanted to pursue this dream.” How do you achieve dreams if you don’t pursue them?Things like this don't happen to me. Click To Tweet
Part of it was looking at the definition of making it far. Now I’m curious, why was that a dream for you?
I’ve spoken about this a few times in the past couple of months. It’s because I was struggling as a young girl to find my identity. I didn’t talk about that a lot because I don’t feel like it was some traumatic experience that was the foundation of wanting to find my identity. I grew up in a melting pot but also a microcosm. I also have my background. My parents are of Indian culture, but they practice the Islamic faith. The Indian culture is very influenced by the Hindu religion. You can imagine I have this Indian culture and the Islamic faith, and then I was also born and raised in southern California.
I’m an American girl. Growing up in the ‘80s and the ‘90s. It’s Pamela Anderson and Baywatch. It was all of these things. I was always mesmerized by the women in their bikinis and Sports Illustrated at the beach because that wasn’t a part of my life as a child and everything I couldn’t do and wanted to do. Everything that I was told is either not aligned with our culture or against the religion. It is always something I was drawn to.
I don’t think it was because I was this awful human being or I was trying to rebel. I was a little kid. I was trying to figure it out. No boys allowed meant that all I wanted to do was have crush on boys at 6 or 7 years old. I was so drawn to that. In my twenties when I thought it was the time to pursue modeling or to try to make that dream a reality, I was still living too much of a double life. I was trying hard to not expose the non-Indian and non-Muslim life to my parents or to my community. It felt like it was impossible to try to go out for Sports Illustrated. At that time too, they didn’t have an open casting call.
Having to pursue a professional modeling career, how am I supposed to have that conversation with my immigrant parents that we’ve constantly seen a struggle with about my identity? When I finally feel like I came to a place of being proud of figuring out this trifecta of identities, and when I finally got to that place of contentment when I voiced it for the first time to my husband. I said, “I’ve always wanted to do this.”
The stars did align because they do open casting calls and they had this amazing private app through which you could apply. I felt like, “Even though I’m not ready to go full force in the public forum in a bikini, it’s like dipping my toes in.” Being able to share it in that private network was amazing. That’s why I was celebrating that achievement. You put yourself out there and that’s an achievement in and of itself.
That’s such a cool story. The element of voicing our dreams can be so challenging because sometimes it’s even hard to acknowledge to ourselves. One of mine that I’m still uncomfortable voicing, but I’ll say it anyway, is I just started feeling interested in climbing Mount Everest, which feels like such a huge thing. I’m telling people, but I’ve been uncomfortable sharing it because it feels so incredibly hard and challenging
I’m just now starting to do any sort of training. I’m like, “Will it even be possible?” All these questions come up. It’s scary to say something out loud and then go for it, yet we have to do that. Certainly, we can do things in secret I suppose. If you hadn’t told your husband, do you still think you would’ve done it? Do you think you would’ve gone after it if you told no one and did it completely in secret?
No. I know this is different for other women and other people, but it’s finding a partner with whom I am so authentically myself. Even though I felt like I wouldn’t have found him if I hadn’t embraced my identity. Throughout the entire journey of being with him up until we got married, I evolved even more. That companionship and partnership was a big reason.
For all my feminist sisters out there, I’m totally like, “Girls, let’s do it. We don’t need our partners.” I get that but for me, in this case, it’s the stability and the safe space. I grew up with this fear and that’s why I lived so much of my life in secret because I was afraid of losing my loved ones. That fear is why I opted for, “I have my secret life and my outward life.”
When I married my partner, it made me feel like, “I’m not going to lose this person based on some of the things that used to be my secret life. I’m not going to lose this person and I don’t ever have to worry that I’m going to lose this person over me pursuing a dream that feels like it’s not harming anyone.” That was always my struggle.
These things I wanted to do, I was like, “I’m not harming anyone. I’m not hurting anyone. Why does it feel then that I might be an outcast from my community? I don’t want to lose these people. I don’t want to lose the community, but because I want something that doesn’t align with an institution or religion, I could lose all of them.” I was like, “I can go out for Sports Illustrated and I will not lose my partner. I have someone.” I was so exhausted from living the secrets. I was like, “I can’t do it anymore.”
Secrets can be exhausting but they come out one way or another whether it’s through a dream or through not being able to hold them in anymore. Maybe they come out through resentment and pain. I feel like life pushes us to be authentic. If we’re not living our truth, we suffer somehow even if it’s an internal suffering.
It’s such a beautiful story to hear that evolving and to also hear how supportive your husband has been. One thing I know you wanted to share more about is your professional endeavor together. You started a product line. When did you start that? Why did you start it? Let’s start with what it is. I would like you to hear it in your words. What have you done together and why?
I crack up because if you meet him and anyone who knows me, it could not be more opposite. The idea of the two of us going into a business venture together always cracks me up. After we got engaged, I was like, “I’m going to get healthier.” Whatever we’re doing like wedding planning, I’m like, “How do I get healthier?”
One of my friends from business school is Head of Marketing at Sakara, which is a plant-based program. She had always mentioned it to me. I bumped into her a couple of times in the city. She said, “If you ever want to try it, here is a discount code. You should try it.” I signed out for the meal plan and I liked it. I felt healthy. I felt great. I was feeling good. I was only doing their lunch and dinner options because I always ate protein bars in the morning for breakfast.
One day my husband said, “The protein bar you’re eating is not plant-based. You’re on this plant-based diet Monday through Friday, but that bar is not plant-based. I went, “I know. It is what it is.” He looked at it. He looked into it more and a week later he said, “I’m going to make you a plant-based protein bar.” I’m like, “You are?” He said, “Yeah. I can do it. I’m going to figure out who I need to work with. Let’s see if we can do this. If your plant-based is making you feel good, go all the way. Eat a plant-based protein bar.”
He brought me home some and I did not think they tasted great. I was like, “I’ll stick to this regular protein bar.” That was the impetus that got his brain working and going. It was his baby. Honest to God, that part of it also was very therapeutic to work on that during wedding planning and a pandemic. That’s such a high-stress situation of trying to figure out, “Are we having a wedding? Are we not,” during the pandemic. Working on this plant-based protein bar was his pet project. It was away from the stress.
I then started getting more involved because he got in touch with food scientists and manufacturers. He would start bringing me in to say, “Taste this.” That’s when I started getting excited about, “What did you add? What’s that aftertaste? Can we use a different type of plant-based protein?” We started talking and having all these different conversations with food scientists and manufacturers. You learn a lot about the food and CPG world quickly.
Out of that was born the FGP bar. It was the Fiber, Greens, Proteins bar. What I love about him is his tenacity. He also got that entrepreneurial like, “MVP product, let’s try it. Let’s put it out there. Let’s get samples out and see what people’s feedback is.” He also doesn’t care in a great way. If people came back and said, “This is awful.” He’s like, “Great, thanks for the feedback.” I am the type of person where I’m like, “We cannot give this to our friends or we can’t give this to people who have a big following. If it tastes bad, it’s going to be such a poor reflection on us and the business. It’s not right yet.”
He doesn’t worry about those things. He’s like, “Someone not liking my bar is not going to be the end of my day or ruin my week. I will be back to the drawing board.” We balance each other out. We tried to launch in March 2022 our product. We had thought we perfected the taste. We were so happy. When we went to mass produce it, the taste changed. We’re sitting here with 6,000 bars that don’t taste good. When I say they don’t taste good, they tasted awful. I’m thinking, “This is the end. We’re done. This is it.”
It was a cute side project we had. He refused to give up. Refusing to give up is something that I see people do more easily when their attitude is so positive and they’re so less affected. People that give zero fucks are able to get back on the horse and figure it out. That was my husband. He gave zero fucks. It didn’t taste good. Our own friends were like, “I’m so sorry, this tastes awful.” I’m feeling embarrassed. I’m feeling like, “We shit the bed. We lost our chance with these big manufacturers.”
He’s like, “All right, thanks for the feedback. I’ll get back to you when I can,” and that’s it. We went back to the drawing board. It’s been almost a year and a half later of trying to make sure we can get the ingredients, have a taste that we like, and lay a stake in the ground of who we’re trying to market to and who we’re not because everyone is going to say, “Add this. Don’t add this.”
It’s all these cooks in the kitchen. We came out with a recipe that we’re happy with and that we’re excited about. We’re getting ready to launch in August this new formulation. We’re excited about it. I’m admittedly always nervous and he’s like, “Yeah. Let’s do it. Let’s get out there.” It’s FGP bar. I’m excited about it and I’m excited because I look at it now. I appreciate that it’s two people that are in a marriage that are also able to figure out a way to complement each other in trying their hand at a business together. It’s awesome.
For the audience, we’re talking in July 2023. By the time this episode comes out, the launch will have happened. It’s so interesting when that happens. We’re speaking into the future right now talking about these bars.
We totally are and we’re excited about it. I remember when we were talking about being on this show, it hadn’t even come up in my mind to talk about it with you originally. I saw in your show notes that a lot of your audience is plant-based. I was excited about that because I feel like we have a bigger appreciation for that community because we were talking to so many folks that are plant-based or that practice it part-time. I feel like I practice it during the week. Thanks to a meal program that has made my life convenient.
Talking to people who it’s their lifestyle and the reasons why it’s their lifestyle, we learned a lot. We figured out a lot. We’re happy. We have a discount code for your audience and we are excited about that. It’s very easy to remember. It’s WHITNEY20. It’s 20% off. If you don’t like it, my husband’s feelings won’t be hurt. We welcome the feedback but we hope you’ll love them.
That’s so cool because I’ve been in the CPG space. For people who don’t know the term, that stands for Consumer Packaged Goods. I’ve done product reviews for so long and that’s how I got started and led to the show in some ways. I’ve tried a lot of bars. I have not tried these yet so I can’t give any opinion but hearing the story of how this gets made, it’s not easy.
It’s so helpful to talk about how hard it is because when you’re a consumer, maybe you think, “This is supposed to be good.” You don’t think about what goes into so many factors and even how much can change from your kitchen to a factory. A lot of people are unaware of that and the quality control. I love those stories. One of my favorite shows of all time is Shark Tank and hearing how people built a brand and went to trade shows. Noor, have you ever been to the Natural Products Expo?
I have not. Tell me more.
I could talk all day about it. It’s coming up in September 2023. It’s a huge trade show for the natural products industry. I’ve been going every year since 2010 maybe. I lost track. It’s amazing because you get to meet the people that developed things. You can give people feedback there, but I’ve noticed some companies are not good at taking feedback and almost in a defensive way. I suppose you always have to filter out feedback. This is true with anything, whether you’re building a brand or it’s a personal thing.
Somebody sharing their opinion on you, not all of it is going to resonate. The fact that your husband can take it in, consider it, and sort through is a skill. I’m like you. Every negative feedback, I take so much to heart to the point where sometimes it’s hard to move forward because I get into this place of, “I can’t please anyone. It’s never going to be good enough.” To have someone in your team that’s saying, “Yes, we’re going to get there. We have to keep going. We’re either going to ignore this or we’re going to take it seriously to make it better,” that’s an amazing team member.
It really is. The thing is folks like you and me who might be affected by that feedback, I find that I tend to not share things. I’m keeping them to myself. At some point, I have to snap out of it and say, “If I keep this to myself, it’s never going to see the light of day.” I like to write TV pilots and movie scripts and I love it for myself, but at some point, you have to be confident enough to say, “This is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s fine.”
I don’t know why but when I’m creating something, I feel more insecure about sharing it, whether it’s my writing or pitching the scripts, or the FGP bars. I like to think that I have lived my life from a very young age knowing I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Sometimes I’m like, “How come I can’t translate that when I think of myself to the things I’m creating?” I’ll never forget one of my best friends when we first met. I’d always felt that but she articulated it.
She said, “My mom always raised me to remember that I’m going to walk into a room and it will not always be someone taller than me, smarter than me, funnier than me, or prettier than me. That means I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay. You cannot live your life expecting that you’re going to walk into the room and be the best. If you do, you will always be met with disappointment.” We’d always talk about that and have that conversation with one another. I could say I take a lot of pride that I’m totally fine and that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t care but why can’t I translate that attitude when it comes to my scripts or the bars? I don’t know yet.You cannot live your life expecting that you're going to be the best. Click To Tweet
Maybe it doesn’t have to be translated because most successful people I’ve listened to in an interview all seem to have that feeling one way or another. Even if they’ve been incredibly successful, it doesn’t mean that they feel that all the time and they’re not scared. The difference is doing it anyways. It sounds like you are doing it anyways with the swimsuit competition and launching food bars, and maybe pursuing screenwriting in a bigger way over time.
Even doing something just for yourself like screenwriting can lead to you sharing it more with others as we’ve been talking about. It’s that secret project that maybe you finally start to put out there to see how it goes. Also, the reassurance that even the most successful people have flopped. It’s hard to be at the top. Someone who comes to mind around that is Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. I think it was in one of her books or maybe somebody had come up to her and said, “How do you feel knowing that nothing you’ll ever do will be as successful as that book?”
I’m misquoting it, but it was that sentiment of thinking, “I’ve had such a huge success. Chances are nothing will ever be as successful as that, and yet I’m still going to create anyways.” All the judgment from people saying, “This book isn’t as good as that one,” we all do that naturally, and yet, I also know I’m rooting for somebody to make something as good as the first if not better. I want it to happen but I recognized how hard it is.
It’s amazing to have people like Whitney in your corner who are rooting for you to match the level of success that you achieved with your book or album. I think the hard part about that is that the creator doesn’t control other people’s definition of success. I’m reading a book right now and it’s an unauthorized biography of my grandfather. He is arguably the most legendary music composer in India.
He’s long passed, but we were very close. His life is amazing but his talent was genius level. That is why he was so successful as a music composer. This book talks about the different movies for which he composed music and background scores. Sometimes, it’s a pretty sterile and pretty ruthless assessment of each film and how successful those films were at the box office.
He had flop after flop because his music is associated with the film. It’s so funny because I grew up listening to all of those songs and movies that were considered flops. The music he created for those is nothing you would ever imagine. I’m biased but I don’t think anyone could create music like that ever again. I remember him and people always said there was this one film of his that has been turned into a musical. For the first time ever, it has been touring North America. It’s amazing.
It’s called Mughal-e-Azam. That was a film that came out in 1960. He had been making music for films since the 1930s and he continued to make music for films until he passed in 2006. The way people talk about him is his pinnacle was Mughal-e-Azam. People would start interviewing him and like, “Can you pick your favorite movie that you did music for your favorite song?” He’s like, “I’ll never pick a favorite.”
Anytime people would criticize his music that came after Mughal-e-Azam, which was always to me feeling so uncalled for. He made such amazing movies after Mughal-e-Azam and the music was incredible. He said to me, “There’s no point in defending it because if I try to explain that these are songs I love and that they’re amazing, I sound defensive. Once my music goes out into the world, it’s no longer mine. If I think it’s still mine, then I’m going to be miserable as a music composer. It’s no longer mine.”
I used to tell him, “How do you handle this? People are forgetting all these other films you did. You created amazing things after Mughal-e-Azam.” I would get so worked up and he said, “These are not my songs anymore.” I love that detachment. This is someone who’s so passionate and so talented, but that detachment is why I think people continue to write books or make movies even after they’ve had their streak of Oscar wins. They’re still there making films.
Maybe there’s a level of detachment that they’re truly doing it because they love it. I think of athletes. I’m like, “How do you go from being part of a three-peat Los Angeles Lakers team to continuing to lose, but you’re still playing basketball and you’re not winning championships?” You’re more talented than the average person and you’re passionate about it. You’re going to keep doing it and you don’t own your public persona. Other people do when you’ve put it out there in the world.
It’s so interesting how it’s coming full circle to the idea of expectation detachment. That’s something my therapist was emphasizing in a lot of our sessions together. I’ve still been sitting with that and how I can practice being less attached and less of the expectations because that’s often where the pain is. It’s being too attached when so much is out of our control, especially if anyone else is involved.
I think we have the most joy in our life with other people and yet, we can also feel the most pain from other people. If we have to be around other people to experience joy, maybe it’s best for us to practice releasing expectations and attachment to things as best we can. The key is practice because it certainly is not easy and it is amazing that someone like your grandfather was able to achieve that.
Speaking of achievements, you’ve had some powerful male influences in your life. You mentioned your father, your husband, your grandfather, and these lessons that they’re teaching you. You are also embodying that from a feminist perspective like you said, and finding that power of your own and your identity, and bringing it all together so you can bring forth new lessons for other people.
It feels like that is something I was getting from you, as I was reading about you before we met and as we were talking earlier. Your drive to write, to speak, and to inspire others sounds like you want to bring all of these influences in your own life towards other people to influence others, and to continue that ripple effect.
I do because I think that the negative feelings we all experience around other human beings, whether it’s resentment, competitiveness, or jealousy. I don’t want to call it unkind behavior because it’s like, “What is kind?” I think we define it differently as different people in different stages of their lives, but the shitty behavior.
If people are more content with themselves, I think that it makes social settings. It makes family get-togethers so much easier. We can find that joy in those human connections. If you have a ton of people you throw into a birthday party that is all discontent, someone is inevitably going to get hurt. Even if you tell them a million times it’s not you. It’s that person. That person is projecting. It’s hard. We’re human. We’re still going to be hurt. I’m wanting to bring all these experiences together and to story tell. It’s more so because if I can string together all the different experiences and choices in my life and find some contentment from them, I’m not saying, “I’m this role model of all my achievements.”
I’m saying take ownership of your story. It might not be the story that your parents expected of you. It might not be the story that you expected of yourself, but take ownership of it. Once you take ownership of your story, you can in some shape or form control that narrative. That’s maybe what I want to keep telling people. If we all knew what choices we were going to make, we would make different choices. After those choices have been made, stop and reflect on them a bit.
When you reach milestones, whether you’ve been met with an incredible failure or an incredible success or you’re at a changing point in life. I do keep a journal and I do write. I do reflect. My rule is I write my journal entry for that day first. We’ll go through it today. Tomorrow morning, the first thing I’ll do is I will write in that journal about today.
After I write about today, I will go back. I started that journal in 2015. I will read every entry from 2015 from July 25th. It’s such a good perspective. If I have been complaining about the same thing four entries in a row, that means I haven’t changed something for four years. Whether that’s a relationship, a career, a situation with a friend, my dynamic with my parents, or my health. It gives such a great perspective also. If I’m in a disagreement with my partner, I know that the next morning we’re going to have to talk about it.
If I have journaled and I have read the prior entries from that prior day and some of those entries are me showing so much gratitude for the person he is and what he did for me at that moment, I go into that disagreement conversation so differently. I can control essentially my story and I’m controlling my narrative and the way my life is unfolding that day because I am now going into that conversation with a lot less anger because my entries were reflecting on my life, and my choices have reminded me about what a great partner he is.
I think storytelling is so powerful. I don’t just mean books and scripts. What we’re doing now is we’re telling our stories to one another. I always think about how unauthorized biographies or those unauthorized lifetime films are made about famous people, their estates, or their loved ones who are upset about it. When we read about famous people and their emails getting leaked or their texts being exposed on social media, we’re so upset with those people.
I’m trying to think that we’re so upset for them and that violation of their privacy or the violation of someone else telling their story. That makes sense but what I always focus on is our reactions are so visceral. We are so appalled when we think, “Thank goodness that wasn’t me whose emails were leaked or whose texts were exposed.”
Talk about empathy. In my head, empathy is such a hard construct because we’re literally telling people, “You need to put yourself in other shoes and think about what they’re going through.” I can’t put myself in Whitney’s shoes. How on earth do you expect me to give her empathy when I literally cannot ever live her life? Something like this happens where someone’s privacy is violated and we all suddenly feel empathy. We’re like, “I would never ever want that to happen to me.”
I feel so strongly and visceral. I always think about that and I don’t necessarily focus on that visceral reaction. To me, that equates to power. We are all so empathetic to that person because they have lost the power to tell their story and their narrative. When an unauthorized biography like the one I’m writing about my grandfather, he has long passed. He’s lost the power to tell his story.
Why I’m doing all this is maybe because we all feel insignificant sometimes like, “Am I going to change the world? Am I going to be president of the United States? Am I the biggest influencer? Am I a celebrity that’s known by one name?” No, and I might not be in this entire life that I live here on this Earth. That can sometimes make you feel powerless, but when you think about the power that you hold in your hands to tell your own story, that’s huge so we can’t squander it.
Each one of us is powerful because we control our own story. I always feel like it’s important to tell it and tell it well because you don’t want people to just celebrate your successes and be there for you when you fall. You want people to show you empathy on your life journey. I don’t know a better way to do that than through storytelling because I’m not perfect. I’m going to keep making mistakes. I’m going to have twists and turns throughout life, and all you can ask of other people is empathy.
How will they ever live in my shoes? The closest way is if I can tell my story well. That’s what social media is. That’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to control the narrative. I don’t think that’s a bad thing all the time. Control the narrative means also having a say in it what the future is going to be and what that future looks like for your character. I’ve always manifested being on podcasts, talking to folks like you, and listening to Jay Shetty’s podcast a lot.
I love what he does for the South Asian community. I love the messages he puts out. I’m manifesting. I’m like, “One day, maybe I’ll be with Jay, but I manifested wanting to be with you.” He always asks questions about if you could create one rule or a new rule for the world to follow, what would it be?” I know my answer and it would be that every single human has to write their own autobiography. You don’t go to the next grade in school. Every year, you are contributing to your own autobiography by writing that year’s story into words so that we all leave a story on this earth after we’ve passed that is ours that we wrote and controlled. It gives you, more than the power, the contentment to go enjoy life.Every single human should write their own autobiography. Click To Tweet
That’s powerful in so many ways because every human wants to feel seen and heard. Changing the narrative for me is recognizing that we do have the power to share our own stories. There’s going to be at least one person who wants to listen. You think about the ripple effect that our family members have on us, and you’ve inspired me to read. My grandfather wrote about his life. I’ve never read it. He wrote a book about his life and it’s printed in a binder that I have stored away somewhere. I don’t know why I haven’t read it. I guess it didn’t feel like a priority.
I’m excited for you.
I’m curious because it gives a legacy. It keeps someone alive and reminds you of the love that you had and the things you didn’t know about that. That’s neat and I’ve been drawn to that too. A lot of my work in the video world as a kid, I love to tell stories. I like to document my life. I often wondered, “Would anyone see or read the things that I made and wrote?” If one person stumbled across it and got to know me better or know me, maybe they never even met me because I passed away or something happened.
Being able to connect with people seems like one of the big themes in our conversation now. It’s connecting with ourselves and connecting with other people through stories. That’s such a beautiful mission that you’re on and discovering our own identities and how that influences other people. There have been so many powerful things that you’ve shared here.
Also, attachment and expectations, and success. We covered a lot of ground. It’s been so wonderful. For the audience, since Noor is on a mission of her own to be in more podcasts, there’s probably so much more to discover after this episode. I want to make it easy for you to find that. Are those listed on your website? Do you have a log of all the other shows you’ve been on?
Right now, it’s through my Instagram, ironically. The website is coming. This is how new it is, Whitney. We’re under construction.
There is a website for the FGP bars for anyone who’s interested. That’s what’s exciting about where you’re at as this is unfolding. People get to witness in real-time alongside you and that’s so special.
When you say it like that, it’s awesome. Thank you so much. I told Whitney this before we started recording. People are taking a chance on you and filling a connection through words. I read my words and you took a chance on me. That’s what it is too. It’s putting yourself out there and finding people that somehow show you kindness or empathy and that is you, Whitney. You’re so awesome.
That’s very sweet. It is interesting. I guess I’ve never thought about it like taking a chance on someone. I never know what the guest experience will be like, but it’s very delightful. If you’re eager to go and get everything, visit Wellevatr.com to continue the journey with Noor. Thank you again, Noor. This has been so wonderful. It’s hard to wrap up an episode like this, but I’ll end it with, “To be continued.”
Thank you so much.
About NoorJehan Tourte
After unexpectedly making it to the semi-finals of the 2022 Sports Illustrated Swim Search Competition, NoorJehan Tourte has made it her mission to get women excited about the prospect of falling on their faces, over and over, if it means they are making their one life on this earth count. She believed that becoming a Sports Illustrated model would represent the culmination of a lifetime spent searching for her true identity, but the experience helped her realize that her childhood dream was not only to be a cover model, but also a role model, one who empowers ladies to show the world every side, from every angle, unapologetically. Amidst the multitude of societal pressures put on women to conform, she wants to reassure her fellow females that living the life you painstakingly cultivated for yourself is worth even the worst of days, the worst of moments. Because wouldn’t you rather stumble living life, than squander it standing still? NoorJehan is currently a Group Senior Vice President Brand Strategist at healthcare advertising agency AREA 23. Prior to working in advertising, she was a U.S. Brand Marketer at Pfizer and a healthcare consultant at PwC. She holds an MBA from Columbia University and an MPH from UCLA. She has a passion for storytelling that is universal, and believes this can be done if we all lead with empathy.
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