Irina Cozma On The Book That Changed Her Life

An Interview With Sara Connell

Sara Connell
Authority Magazine
11 min readApr 20, 2022

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Have bigger goals: I always had big goals, and usually, they were bigger than what others around me wanted. But I wished I knew that I could have even bigger goals. Over time I became a fan of big goals. And I get comfort knowing that if I fail at a big goal, I am still way ahead and better off than failing at a smaller goal.

Books have the power to shape, influence, and change our lives. Why is that so? What goes into a book that can shape lives? To address this we are interviewing people who can share a story about a book that changed their life, and why. As a part of our series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Irina Cozma.

Irina Cozma Ph.D. is a career and executive coach who supports professionals to have better career adventures. In the last decade, Irina enjoyed coaching thousands of individuals worldwide, from Fortune 500 executives to girls and women from different NGOs. Download here her free career guide to help you prepare for your next career adventure.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory” and how you grew up?

My background is in organizational psychology, and along the way, I fell in love with coaching. I discovered my career path early in life, and I have had fun ever since.

In my youth, my father wanted me to become a professional volleyball player and then an accountant, but one day, I informed him that I wanted to do psychology. I was on the Romanian volleyball junior national team at that time, and my father had high hopes for me.

I still remember the room we were in and the overwhelming stubbornness on both sides during that conversation. But I could not imagine myself as an accountant or a professional athlete, so it had to be psychology.

Taking charge of my career was both hard and easy!

Then something else happened. I realized that we would work for the rest of our lives (breaking news, I know!). At the same time, I noticed that some people around me were waking up every morning to do a job they did not enjoy. I found that unacceptable and decided to change it for as many people as possible.

I grew up in a small mountain town in Romania from where I left when I was 18 years old, and I have kept moving around ever since. I lived in Bucharest (Romania), Barcelona (Spain), Chisinau (Republic of Moldova), Salamanca (Spain), and since 2007 in different U.S. states.

Along the way, I chose to study organizational psychology. After finishing my Ph.D., I enjoyed coaching thousands of professionals, from Fortune 500 executives to girls and women part of different NGOs.

Let’s talk about what you are doing now, and how you achieved the success that you currently enjoy. Can you tell our readers a bit about the work you are doing?

I am a career and executive coach, and I support professionals to have better career adventures.

I have 15+ years of progressive success leading HR programs in talent acquisition and development. In addition, I have a solid background in data analysis and assessment design.

I worked for a decade in talent management consulting, and of all the things I do in my professional life, coaching is my happy place! I’ve enjoyed coaching some of the most talented professionals in global organizations like Salesforce, Hitachi, Abbot, Eaton, Johnson Controls, Walmart, Honeywell, Continental, The Hartford, Halliburton, Danaher, and many other organizations around the world.

I coach professionals who want to live and die without regrets. We can all do more to enjoy the ride.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

When I look back at how I operate and what helped me along the way, these steps come to mind: 1) know what you want, 2) make a plan, and 3) follow the plan.

I enjoy accomplishing goals. Once I put a goal before me, I usually cannot stop until I get it done. I wanted to live outside Romania, so I found the opportunity to do that twice in Spain. I wanted to see NYC and enrolled in a Ph.D. in the U.S. because that was the easier way for me to accomplish that goal. I wanted to maximize my happiness and usefulness by coaching more people, so I opened my coaching business.

Once I want something, I don’t let it go as long as I want it.

What’s the WHY behind the work that you do? Please share a story about this if you can.

There were several pivotal moments in my life as I lived, worked, and studied in so many places. Each of these moments taught me that action is superior to inaction, and if you stay open to experiences, there is always a way to achieve your next goal.

I highly enjoy intellectual conversations and debating ideas, but nothing is as beautiful as making a decision and acting on it. I find it incredibly frustrating to want something, to have an idea, to have a goal, and not give it all to make it happen. So many years ago, I promised myself that I would never just want or speak about something without acting on it, and that was (and still is) an instrumental principle in my life. I am a big fan of action!

When I look around me, I see many people who have extraordinary ideas for themselves or the world around them, but they often cannot push those ideas into execution. And that is sad from two perspectives. First, for themselves, as they will not get to enjoy the results of their ideas. And second, for all of us who could benefit if those ideas would become a reality. That is why I opened my coaching business. I want to support people to put into action their ideas so that they will be happier and more engaged in their lives and, as a bonus, society will benefit from that.

When I was a teenager, my parents had a bakery, and I saw firsthand how hard it is to be an entrepreneur. The fact that I decided to open my own business is one of the biggest surprised of my life. But my motto is: “Life is short. We will die. None of this matters”. So it’s essential to act on what we want while we are still here.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Multiple people at each turn helped me walk my path. I am grateful to Crina Ilie for hiring me for a job I have never done before. I was fortunate that Naina Bishop gave me the opportunity to land a great job at a great company after grad school. And Scott Wolf played a pivotal role as he is the one who reminded me why I chose my profession.

Several institutions played a crucial role in my path too. The fact that I got an Erasmus scholarship to Barcelona during my undergrads helped a lot a few years later when the Spanish Ministry of External Affairs awarded me a scholarship to study for my Master’s at the University of Salamanca. These building blocks later helped when the University of Tennessee gave me an assistantship to do my Ph.D.

This mix of people and institutions is part of my journey and success. I did the work, but the journey was more manageable with this support along the way.

Awesome! Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Can you please tell our readers about “The Book That Changed Your Life”? Can you share a story about how it impacted you?

I am a reader, and I take a book with me wherever I go. I remember taking a book with me at the middle school graduation party. And I also read it while I was there. I read many books in my life, and I realized that my favorite types of books are biographies and autobiographies.

In this genre, a book was so powerful that I read it in three different languages: Spanish, Romanian, and English. The book is “Matsushita Leadership” by John Kotter.

I first stumbled upon it while I was in Spain studying for my Master’s. Then I looked for it in Romanian a few years later, and I recently read it in English. Each time it made an impression on me, and once I started reading it, I could not stop.

In 1917 Matsushita founded what is now Panasonic. He had only 4 years of schooling, but he was economically independent already when he was 17.

He initiated several product innovations like a new and improved light socket and a more efficient battery-powered bicycle lamp.

What impressed me the most was how somebody like him, without formal education and from modest beginnings, at the start of the 20th century, realized the power of marketing and sales force and created a sales distribution channel that allowed his small company to compete with the big corporations.

He also had a natural talent for people and understood the power of human resources. He kept paying his employees’ salaries during wartime and said things like “people before products” and “your subordinates are superior to you in different ways.” Even today, how many CEOs do you hear saying things like this?

In return, his employees appreciated him deeply.

And what I found the most special about Matsushita is that he accomplished all this while dealing with multiple personal and professional tragedies. Each time, he kept moving forward. “Matsushita Leadership” is an inspirational book that should serve as a working model to all the entrepreneurs (and not only) who pursue becoming great leaders.

What was the moment or series of events that made you decide that you wanted to take a specific course of action based on the inspiration from the book? Can you share a story about that?

Every day we wake up, we make a (conscious or unconscious) decision on how we want to show up. The ups and downs in our lives are opportunities for us to practice decision-making.

I tell my coaching clients that if other people did what they want to do, they could do it too. Everything is doable. It might be more challenging and might take longer than you think, but it’s doable. It’s only a matter of imagination and determination.

If Matsushita could create a long-lasting company despite all the hardships he faced, we all can carry out our goals.

Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?

Books allow us to live other lives while we live our own. We can experience secondhand and learn from different life stories with each book we read.

Books are shortcuts to a better self and a better society. They are optimizers. Of course, you or the society will not change if there is no action once you close the book. I don’t expect a revolution after each of us reads a book. Still, maybe you can be a little kinder to a fellow human, look differently to a transgender child and their family, or be more supportive of the small businesses around you.

A book has many aspects, of course. For example, you have the writing style, the narrative tense, the topic, the genre, the design, the cover, the size, etc. In your opinion, what are the main, essential ingredients needed to create a book that can change lives?

A book needs to speak to you, and each of us needs to hear different things at different times in our lives. For example, a great book read too early or too late will not make an impression. Several excellent formative books I read in my youth sound flat and unimpressive now.

There might also be books that are not for you, even if they are great books in theory. For example, I started a few renowned books multiple times, but I couldn’t finish them.

Sometimes it’s timing, sometimes it’s us, and sometimes it is the book. But lasting memories and impactful actions can be achieved when all the ingredients align.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Career” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Have bigger goals: I always had big goals, and usually, they were bigger than what others around me wanted. But I wished I knew that I could have even bigger goals. Over time I became a fan of big goals. And I get comfort knowing that if I fail at a big goal, I am still way ahead and better off than failing at a smaller goal.

Mistakes do not matter as much as you think: I will probably always remember my first big work mistake. I was petrified. I felt my world had collapsed. It took a lot of talking from my manager and his manager to calm me down. One way they did that was by sharing their biggest professional mistakes. I learned that mistakes make you better. You learned, and you will never make that mistake again. Anybody who accomplished anything in their lives made many mistakes along the way. So success is moving forward after each mistake.

Be more confident: I like to learn and improve and always focus on what I do not know vs. what I do know. Even after two masters and a Ph.D. I still felt like I knew nothing. It took me too long to find my voice and practice sharing my point of view. I wish I have started practicing sooner.

A job is what you make out of it: I truly enjoyed all the jobs I had in my life. I always found something interesting in them or around them. But not until later did I realize that what I was doing was making the job my own. Yes, there was a job description, metrics, and expectations. But I made space to bend or add to the job aspects that made it entertaining for me.

It will be a roller-coaster: Hold on and enjoy the ride!

The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?

We as a species made significant progress throughout history. Imagine how much faster progress we can make if we all were able to put into practice our ideas. We consume a considerable amount of intellectual power talking and debating about better or new ways of doing things. Still, we don’t always take the next step to implement those ideas.

My wish is that when we hear ourselves talking and complaining about something that could be different or better, we can also take the next step and do something about it. Action is superior to inaction.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

If you want to make faster progress on your career goals, you can prepare for your next career adventure using this career guide. You can also find me on LinkedIn and Facebook. Please reach out and say hi!

Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us and our readers. We know that it will make a tremendous difference and impact thousands of lives. We are excited to connect further and we wish you so much joy in your next success.

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Sara Connell
Authority Magazine

Empowering Leaders To Become Bestselling Authors And In-Demand Speakers In Less Than A Year