We had the good fortune of connecting with Aska Naito, PCC and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aska, how do you think about risk?
As a professional leadership coach, risk-taking is one of the top topics I discuss with my executive clients in my practice. It’s something I practice and preach myself, whether it’s been professional or personal risk-taking. Those who know will describe me as adventurous and out-of-the-box, having relocated over 22 times and lived in multiple cities around the world. Risk-taking has allowed me to experience life fully with various careers from Salsa dancer, radio host in Japan, to putting Hollywood films on airplanes. Most of all, I would have never met his Holiness the Dalai Lama had I not taken the risks it needed to make it happen. When risk-taking is done strategically from a place of consciousness and not fear-based, it can be one of the most expansive door-opening opportunities one can ever come across in their lifetime. I believe it’s directly tied to professional and personal growth. In profession where we are constantly asked to show up authentically as coaches, it’s definitely a prerequisite not just for us but for our clients as well!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I launched my own professional coaching practice right here in LA in late 2018 once I became a certified coach. It’s been a career I’ve been wanting to step into ever since I first heard about “life coaching” almost two decades ago when I was still working in Japan. I was born in Tokyo and raised in a family of successful business leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators, and by the time I was 17, I had lived in 4 countries and spoke 3 languages fluently. These life experiences continue to remain one of my biggest assets, as I’m able to merge and integrate different cultural perspectives for a broader touchpoint. This is especially appreciated by my executive clients who lead global organizations and when I’m able to coach them in other languages as well. My biggest business challenge so far has been in launching a competitive coaching practice in the US, where I have no family nor much history in this country. Family ties and familiarity in places you live make networking and relationship building a little easier. So, I started by joining local networking groups and organizations which I outgrew quickly until I found the right ones. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) LA chapter has been a great support to meeting seasoned coaches and continuing my education, and the pandemic has been a tremendous catalyst to connect with other coaches from Europe and Africa, two continents I had no prior access to. One of the greatest things that make me excited every day about what I do is the amount of positive growth we all strive for in our industry. Neuroscience and other research are growing exponentially, making collaborating with fellow coaches and tech-driven researchers such a beautiful and delightful experience. This year, I’ve teamed up with several coaches globally; one in the Bay Area as we just launched our first Leadership Group Coaching program specifically designed for Asian Women Professionals. Another collaborative project is in the works with a brilliant coach from Switzerland. This one is based on our love and respect for Japan and its way-of-life, as we fold is philosophies into how professionals can avoid burnout and live more harmoniously during challenging times. As the world continues to become more virtual and global, my focus will be on coaching young leaders, especially those with a dual or multicultural background. They often struggle to find their authentic leadership styles while integrating their cultural influences as assets, especially if the influences of their cultures contradict one another. However, I believe this will bring much value to our coaching community and in the business world, making it an exciting passion project to launch in the near future.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Having had so many friends, family, and visitors come through LA domestically and from all over the world, I love sharing them the beauty and excitement this city offers. I like taking them across the city to get a good sliver of what this city’s diversity represents in terms of food, restaurants, stores, art, fashion, or just some cool locations to hang out. If they’re Japanese, I make sure they check out the Japanese markets “Nijiya” on Sawtelle or “Mitsuwa” on the Westside, and if time permits, even drive down to Torrance for some authentic Izakaya experience. As I live on the westside, Venice is a must-see so I would start with brunch at Butcher’s Daughter on Abbot Kinney or Blu Jam Cafe in Brentwood. Sneak peeks into Abbot Kinney stores like Everlane, Cuyana, Tumbleweed & Dandelion are always fun and even if it’s just window shopping. The back patio of Plants Food + Wine is one of my favorites places to sit down and take in the beautiful SoCal sunshine. I’ve also enjoyed meeting up with friends and walking through the Venice canals, and doing yoga on the beach, or just sit down to hear the waves crashing while the sun goes down. One of my favorite places outside of LA is Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara county. It is a close 2.5+ hour drive and the restaurants are incredible – SY Kitchen and First & Oak are our go-to places every time we stop by and the scenery is just breathtaking. It’s such a nice getaway and we always come back refreshed.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate this ShoutOut to my parents, who are one of the most courageous and inspiring people I know, and to my late uncle, Toshi, who is my link to the US. I cannot imagine what it took for my parents to agree to let me leave Japan at the age of 17 years old, back when there was no internet and not much was known about US boarding schools. Simultaneously, without my uncle who built a success business in the US in the 60s, I would have had no link to this country, which I now call home. These three people were pinnacle to who I am today, and encouraged me to take risks in small and large ways by being role models themselves. I thank them for their support, belief, and courage every day!!