Nadiia Bagin

sharing my story & inspiring yours

sharing my story & inspiring yours

Interview with Bob Goff

Interview with Bob Goff

On March 1st, 2024, I had a privilege to talk with Bob Goff, The NYT Bestselling Author, Speaker, Diplomat, Coach & Dreamer. I hope you enjoy this sincere conversation about challenging life situations that we all have to overcome.

NADIIA: Bob, thank you so much for your time and willingness to share your thoughts with me. My husband and I have known you for almost a decade, and you’ve always been a huge inspiration for us, as well as for millions of people who have read your books in different languages, including Russian and Ukrainian. Because I helped to translate your first New York Times Bestseller, LOVE DOES, into Russian, I learned a lot about you and your family. I was fascinated by how some of the challenges you’ve faced resonate with the experiences of millions of Ukrainians, affected by war, and your perspective is invaluable to all of us in navigating shared struggles.

NADIIA: The first thing I want to say is that with the war in Ukraine entering its 3rd year, people affected by it have one and only dream: for this horrific war to end. I know that you have a dream to stop a war, too. As a lawyer, diplomat, and philanthropist, you help people from many war-torn countries like Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Ukraine. What motivates you to leave behind your beautiful, cozy home in sunny California and go to such dangerous places to keep working on making your dream come true? 

BOB: Yeah, I think we can each make lasting differences in different ways: and the courageous people of Ukraine that are fighting for their country, just doing brave things, and some people that are not there but have people that are deeply affected by the war. I think together we can conquer some of the things that cause us to be divided and at the same time, stand up for what’s right. And seeing the Ukrainians do that has just been so encouraging to me! These are courageous people doing courageous things, and then the Ukrainian community that’s outside the country: to see the way that they are rallying around their country and their friends, it’s just really inspiring.

NADIIA: In a world with so much evil and hate, people tend to isolate themselves from others more and more while you put your phone number on the back of your book with millions of copies sold! When people reach out to you for help, you like to say: “YES!” You said YES to this interview 🙂 Your intentional openness and availability are a marvel! What is your secret? How do you maintain your unique Brand of being a “YES-person”?

BOB: Well, I think each of us has things that we’re good at. Some people have a lot of wealth, and some people have a lot of knowledge about a particularity. But the one thing that we can each control, whether you’re wealthy or not wealthy, whether you have successful businesses or not, is we can decide how available we will be, and it won’t cost you any money, but it will cost you five minutes. So, I just enjoyed, how the, uh, that is one thing that we can be: the people that have changed the world, Jesus, Gandhi, the leaders that have made the biggest difference were always the ones who are most available, and the ones that sometimes are popular in our culture, become unavailable. Think of any movie star that you’ve really enjoyed. The chances that you’ll be able to reach them on the phone or to have some coffee with them are zero. And somehow as a society, we started accepting that. And I’m not frustrated with those people. I just know that the people that change the world are always the most available. You know, find me a person who’s available, and I’ll find you a person, who’s making a big difference. And I like the idea that some people are just available to other popular people. So, if you’re the big pastor of a church, you might just be available to the other big pastors of churches. But if you say: I’m just gonna be available to everybody, whoever calls here’s my phone number.

NADIIA: War impacts everyone, but children suffer the most. Your non-profit organization LOVE DOES opens schools all over the world for children affected by war. Your school for Ukrainian refugees in Poland was highlighted by President Zelenskiy himself! Why do you put such great emphasis on education? 

BOB: If we can train up the next generation with really solid academics that they just know how to read and write and just the very basics of education and we give them these building blocks to launch. So if we can give them just a solid start, particularly communities that are impacted by war. So in each of the countries that Love Does is operating in, that is a common thing, like Ukraine is in a war and, and we are in Afghanistan, and in Somalia, and in Uganda and 13 countries, and all of the 13 countries are in some version or just on the other side of a civil war, or like Ukraine is being oppressed by a neighboring country. So, what we try to do is not disrupt this time, so that we don’t lose three or four years of education for the kids. Just across from where you are right now in Coronado, we have a border in Mexico and there so much attention is being placed on that border. There are 500 Children of these families that have been out of school for a couple of years while they’re waiting to legally process. So, we’re just opening up a school in Mexico just over the border. So, I think if we see where people are and, and then do something about it, and for each person listening, you don’t need to start a whole school. Just take an interest in one of the kids that’s nearby. Ask them what they’re dreaming about, ask them whether they make some time, do an experiment with them to say, have you ever seen a little miniature rocket launch into the air, and say they have the parachute come out and drop bike. So, all of a sudden, they’re interested in the stars and the moon and, I think we can all be educators in that way. So, you can do it to scale. We’ve decided to do it at a little bigger scale. But I think what is equally important or even, even more effective is the time we spend with somebody that we know whether it’s your kid or the kid next door.

NADIIA: Millions of people were displaced because of the war in Ukraine; thousands of them lost their homes because they were destroyed by russian rockets. I know that you can relate to that because one day, you learned that your home in Canada, where you have created so many good memories with your family and friends … was burned to the ground. How was it for you to get such devastating news? And where did you find the strength to rebuild it?

BOB: Yeah, I think we all have setbacks, small and large. The thing about pain and loss is that it’s not graded on a curve. Just what’s painful is painful: whether it’s a big thing or a small thing, or a health emergency for someone that you love. But sometimes what we do is we get locked in that loss, like because it’s very traumatic, you lose, maybe it’s a home that burns down, it might be a relationship that burned down ,or a dream that burned down. But we get locked in there, and I think that prevents us sometimes from moving forward. So, to experience a loss, whatever that is the loss of a friend, a loved one, a career, maybe being estranged from a child that you love. But to understand that that was really painful, and then to look for help in going forward. I’m a man of faith, and so faith guides my steps forward. For other people, faith isn’t a guiding force in their life. They’ll have other things that guide them, but I would say those things that you can rely on the most, are the important things to help you go forward, not to remain stuck. Had we just had the, this lodge burned down, and then had never done anything else, and walked away, it would have been like a bad ending to the story. So, we thought a better ending to this story is: we’re gonna rebuild it. And so maybe the bad ending to the story is losing a job. And then a better ending to the story would be to get a better one, a bad ending to the story would be to have a relationship that went sideways, and a better ending would to be find a newer relationship that’s even better for you. So I would say, for the people listening, find a better ending to the story than the one that you were presented with.

NADIIA: With the war in Ukraine turning into a global issue, more and more people hold to their own opinions and do not want to hear what others have to say. It has already ruined many families, friendships, and partnerships. People cut each other off and it’s very, very painful. As a diplomat, you have fostered dialogs between high-ranking officials in your living room, but at the same time, you have to live with the fact that your sister does not want to speak with you for many years now. Do you think it’s still worth trying to re-establish communication, no matter how hopeless the situation might seem?

BOB: I think we can do something where we guard our hearts. And there will be some people that you’ll have to enjoy from a distance, and that having them close in your life is not gonna be something that’s good for you, and it may not be good for them. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to labor for other people so that they can find their way forward. With a war in Ukraine, I think people, I bet around the globe have an opinion about it, but I think our opinions ought to be subordinate or secondary to what the opinions of the people directly affected are. So, it really matters to me a lot more what a Ukrainian thinks than what I think. So, if we could just take a humble attitude to realize we’re watching things on the news and reading things and all that, but we haven’t experienced first-hand some of the suffering, that people here, through family members are experiencing. So, I just think if we were humble about that and realize that, we’re not experiencing it, and so to be humble. There’s nothing worse than when you have something that goes really wrong in your life, and then somebody says: I know exactly how you feel because they don’t know exactly how I feel. So, if we could take a humble role and say: what does it feel like to be you right now? Whether it’s somebody like yourself that has loved ones in Ukraine that are affected, or someone who is in Ukraine. I’m gonna be going over to a university in Ukraine and speaking here in the coming months, and so when I go, I’ll just be, humble. Like to just say: I’m not gonna bring my opinions; I’m gonna bring my empathy.

NADIIA: Thousands of people have lost their lives and even more got physically injured or psychologically traumatized because of this horrific war. In her book, Love Lives Here, your dear wife, Sweet Maria, shares about the horrible trauma she had to go through. It’s so hard to watch our loved ones suffering. How did you cope with it, and what did you do to help Sweet Maria heal? 

BOB: Yeah, Maria had someone in her past when she was really young that did something really awful to her, and that person is no longer around. But, when she was able to get real with what had gone on and what happened, we got some great counselors involved. I would say for people that have suffered some trauma or some setbacks, having a trusted voice, a trusted counselor can be a wonderful, addition. And then my role in that is just to be really supportive, to say whatever it takes, let’s get you the resources that you need. And, as for me, I just wanna be a safe place. I think if there was more people that wanted to be known for how safe they were rather than all their opinions, we would resolve a lot of problems. We get better faster. So, my role is just to be a safe place, not to have opinions, but to protect and to guard and make people like Maria feel safe while she’s getting that the input from counselors and other people she needs. So, I would say for our friends in Ukraine or people that are been traumatized because they have loved ones that are suffering: to find some help. There’s some great counselors out there, talking to people about your feeling is a great idea, and then also being a great listener. Sometimes people just need to express their feelings. You and I don’t need to weigh in on what they think, but to just be a really safe person for them to talk to.

NADIIA: Millions of displaced Ukrainians are now spread out around the world and placed in neighborhoods where they hardly know anyone. You have not only gone all over the world to bring people love and hope, but you also do it in your own Neighborhood here in San Diego! Many years ago, you started a tradition of a New Year Parade! Please tell us more about it, and what you think newcomers can do today to have such parades for the New Year 2025 in their new neighborhoods. 

BOB: Yeah, I, that idea of having a parade to celebrate, the people around you wasn’t my idea: Jesus actually talked about loving your neighbor. So, and if we love our neighbors in really practical ways. If our, if we’re lucky enough to have Ukrainian friends as our neighbors, that, that would be great and to celebrate them. There’s some people at Love Does that you know, deliver food and do some other things for our Ukrainian friends here in San Diego. But wherever you are, find some way to express love. So if there’s, you wanna bake somebody a pie or a cookie or wash their car, unless it’s an expensive car, then I don’t wash those. But if the car is, beat up as my car is just getting a little bit dirt off. Hey, that would be great. So finding ways. And in my faith tradition, there was a fellow named Paul who wrote to his friends and he said the only thing that matters is your faith expressed in love, and so that’s been a guiding principle for me. So, it isn’t just having just love in your heart for people, but to actually express what you deeply believe with action because action is the only way to kind of convert love from a feeling into something that might be a little bit more useful to somebody else. So, I’ve seen the Ukrainian community demonstrate that I’ve seen you guys  demonstrate how you love the people around you well, and so I think that’s gonna be our answer. We’ll just keep loving our neighbor, and then there’ll be some people that are governing nations that will be making some decisions about what’s gonna happen there, but we don’t need to let them make all the decisions for us. So, we’re just gonna love people, and we’ll stand up for what is right and fair, and we’ll stand against people that wanna hurt others, but that would just be another expression of love.

NADIIA: Bob, thank you again sooo much for your time and all the encouragement and support for us and our projects for new immigrants!

BOB: It’s has been an honor to just be talking to you because you and your terrific husband have just made such an impact in the world and in our lives, and so just keep doing that: just keep loving people.

NADIIA: Thank you. You are our inspiration, and we love you guys. Please say hello for with Maria from us! Have a good trip!

BOB: I will! Have a great day!