Growing up on a modest farm in a small town in western Sweden, Gunilla Girardo remembers vividly the hand-embroidered wall decoration that hung in her mother’s kitchen. “If you want to know nature’s true way to happiness,” it read, “follow its first law: work.” A strong work ethic was innate to the town, to the farm, and to Gunilla herself, and she remembers watching her parents labor from sunrise to sunset. Her own inherent energy and drive, however, differed from the rest of the family in one key way. “Growing up in Sweden, failure was not an option, so risk taking was actively discouraged,” she remembers. “We were told not to try things when we weren’t certain to succeed, and if we failed, the response was, ‘I told you so.’ It’s completely opposite of how it is in America.” Despite this culture of playing it safe, Gunilla was driven to discover the world around her and the ability within her.
Now the Vice President of Twomentor LLC, Gunilla knows that not everyone gets to experience that kind of empowerment. Over the last fifteen years, over half a million people have died in the U.S. from drug abuse, and 91 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses alone. In the name of these lost lives, she works today to turn that tide, connecting with young people to help them realize within themselves the drive to discover a better future. “My core purpose is to empower everyone to succeed, whether at the organizational or individual level,” she says. “It’s what I’ve always done, and it’s what I’ll continue to do.”
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