Executive Nick Jonsson Hid Behind a Façade of Success, Waited to Ask for Help

Executive Nick Jonsson Hid Behind a Façade of Success, Waited to Ask for Help


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Warning: The episode does contain a brief mention of a death by suicide. If you are struggling, help is available — In the United States, you can speak with someone today by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or dial 988.

My guest for Episode #171 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is Nick Jonsson, joining us from Singapore.

Nick is the co-founder and Managing Director of one of Asia's premier networking organizations, Executives' Global Network (EGN) Singapore — a caring peer group community providing hundreds of executives a safe haven to share their challenges, receive support, and learn from each other.

His passion for mental health awareness through his very lived life experiences paved the way for Nick to author his first #1 international bestselling book, published in April 2021— Executive Loneliness: The 5 Pathways to Overcoming Isolation, Stress, Anxiety and Depression in the Modern Business World.

In adjunct to his book, Nick has also created a more easily accessible and less formal online community, where executives and business leaders can connect, learn about and reduce the risk of burnout and isolation, with www.Leaders-Anonymous.com

In this episode, Nick shares his “favorite mistake” story about keeping emotions in — hiding behind a facade of success and waiting too long to ask for help. Why did he struggle with alcoholism and depression, even as he became more successful in his career? What finally prompted him to look for help? What did he learn from these experiences and how has it inspired him to help others? 

We also talk about questions and topics including:

  • “It’s lonely at the top” — How is executive loneliness different to everyday loneliness that any of us may experience?
  • Loneliness in that feeling of loneliness? Executives' Global Network (EGN) Singapore — “Confidential peer networks” — available in the US and other places
  • Difficult for execs to ask for help before hitting rock bottom?
  • “Smiling depression”
  • “Insecure overachievers” — inner insecurity
  • His LinkedIn post that went viral
  • Impact of Covid times? 2019 – 30% 2020 – “had doubled to 59% saying there was executive loneliness”
  • Difference – introverts vs. extroverts?
  • Introverts — more comfortable in isolation doesn’t mean it’s good for us
  • Are there any cultural challenges when it comes to talking about executive loneliness? Are some countries where E.L. is a bigger problem, or countries where it’s not addressed?
  • If I was an Executive experiencing loneliness, or I was a friend or family member of someone who I suspect might be experiencing executive loneliness, what’s an easy ‘next step’ for me to take?
  • How might we bring this up if somebody seems like they need help?
  • How might we recognize signs of E.L. in ourselves or others?
  • Tell us about the networks — EGN and Leaders-Anonymous are different

Scroll down to find:

  • Video of the episode
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

Find Nick on social media:

Watch the Episode:


"I call it the smiling depression and in what I mean by that, and we see it among celebrities, because they need to keep the facade together. That is  similar for senior executives, that they are hiding behind this smile, behind this beautiful facade."
"Many of them are very insecure to the point where we call them 'insecure, overachievers.' It's another label. And many are actually achieving so much because they have this inner insecurity that they have to constantly prove themselves and perform well to feel good themselves. "
"What I found in the recovery program is that many addicts are actually also introverts and they perhaps find it most comfortable to isolate themselves."

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.