MeiMei Fox is a life coach and a New York Times bestselling author, coauthor, and ghostwriter of over a dozen non-fiction books and thousands of articles for publications, contributor at Forbes, and part-time freelance editor and researcher on a historical fiction novel. As a life coach, she works one-on-one with coaching clients to help them overcome stumbling blocks and achieve their loftiest goals. Fox also sits as a board member of HOPE Foundation USA, an Ireland-based NGO that saves the lives of vulnerable street kids and the poorest of the poor through running group homes, hospitals, and other projects in Kolkata (Calcutta), India.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I was born in Hong Kong, moved to Washington D.C. at age 2, then to Hawaii at age 9. When I was a baby, my parents, who had been living in Taiwan, spoke Mandarin so they hired a Chinese-speaking nanny. She started calling me “MeiMei,” which means little sister. My big brother soon picked it up and before you know it, everyone in my family was calling me MeiMei. Even though my parents asked all the time if I wanted to go by my birth name instead, I’d refuse. I’ve always loved having an unusual name. I like being different. Also, it’s an instant conversation starter, an ice breaker. It gives me a way to share a bit about my background with others. It also is fun watching people’s surprise when they’re expecting to meet a Chinese woman and are instead greeted by someone who is blonde-haired and green-eyed.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Absolutely! Many things. Perhaps the most important, however, is self-love. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I struggled with low self-esteem from my teenage years through my twenties and on into my thirties. It took a lot of suffering and personal struggles, which lead ultimately to self-exploration through psychotherapy and meditation, for me to truly fall in love with myself. Once I did, I realized how profound it is to come to the world full of compassion for your own faults and belief in your own beauty and unique place in this world. There’s an authentic power in that.
Once I’d discovered self-love, my true love came to me. I met the love of my life, Kiran, on a beach in Costa Rica while we were both surfing. We got married and had children soon after. We’re now 10 years into our marriage and as happy and committed as ever. As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“If you want to be a writer, you have to be an English major.” BS. I was a psych major who barely took any writing, literature, or English classes from college onward. You don’t have to study English to be a great writer. What you have to do is read and write. These two things are critical. You must read fanatically and enthusiastically, and you must invest many an hour with your bum growing numb in a chair as you type type type away. That’s what it takes to become a great writer, not a literary analysis.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
When I was 32, my nine-year relationship with my first husband ended. I left my marriage because I realized that he was quite narcissistic and would never give me what I needed to be happy, which included children. That same year, my father was convicted of a crime that landed him on house arrest. It was very public, in the newspapers. I felt my entire universe collapsing. I’d always been successful and keen to portray this image of being “perfect.” Suddenly everyone knew I was a failure. I could barely sleep, ate little, and cried a lot.
I came out of the darkness by venturing into it. Like Persephone when she goes to Hades, I journeyed into the underworld – and there I found light. I reinvented my entire self-image. I realized that how we appear to the outside world matters little. People honestly don’t care! They’re too wrapped up in their own dramas to be judgmental. I started to be real, vulnerable. It was so powerful. People responded in kind. My relationships grew deeper and more meaningful, and I was so much happier getting to be authentically me!
I embarked on a conscious program of personal transformation. This involved weekly psychotherapy, frequent yoga classes, reading spiritual books, attending several Vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreats and adopting a regular mindfulness practice, traveling, learning to surf (which terrified me), adopting a gratitude practice, and becoming more committed to helping others through serving on the Board of a non-profit. I also started writing under my own name for various magazines rather than only writing as a collaborator or ghostwriter. I am still on this journey today. There is always more to learn.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I’m a precrastinator. I never procrastinate. I live by the saying, “Worst first.” I wake up and tackle at least one hard thing every morning before doing the fun stuff.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up at 6 am and meditate for 15 minutes before my children, 6-year-old twin boys, wake up. My husband and I make them breakfast, then we all go for a family walk. After that, if the boys at school, I dive into my work. I tackle one hard task, quickly scan and sort emails, then work out. After that, it’s time to write – which just happens to be something I love to do.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Recently, I have been super committed to getting a good night’s sleep. My husband and I rarely stay up past 10 pm, so we’re often getting 8 hours of sleep a night. If I’m not sleeping well, like during Covid times, I like to use a CBD or Melatonin supplement some nights to get into a really deep sleeps state. Sleep makes a tremendous difference in terms of both physical and mental health. Everything is easier when you’ve had a good rest!
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Well, I’ve already mentioned “Worst first,” which involves tackling one difficult task first thing in the morning. I also find that I am most productive in the mornings, in general. But not all people are. Some people have their best hours at night. Figure out which is true for you, and arrange your schedule so that you can work during your peak hours.
Aside from sleeping well and meditating with a gratitude practice, I’m also extremely committed to exercising. I try to work out, at least by going for a walk if not doing a serious HIIT workout or yoga, every day of the week. I feel so much stronger and happier when I do.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Many books have had a huge impact on me. I’m a writer, and that journey always begins with being an avid reader. However, it was Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple Buddhist handbook Peace is Every Step which first brought me in contact with the premises of everyday mindfulness and compassion. These have been guiding forces in my life ever since.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Over the course of a difficult decade, I developed a personal mantra: “Fear less, love more.” I think of this every day. Fear prevents us from following our hearts. It causes us to judge others and push them away. It makes us hoard and worry. Love calms the soul and opens our hearts. It reminds us that we’re all interconnected. It keeps us oriented towards service and helping others. It heals.