The Power to Survive, Heal and Succeed: Facebook’s Nona Jones

Episode 04

Nona Jones (Yes Nona, not Norah!) faced a lot of obstacles on her path to becoming a powerhouse woman and now heads up global faith-based partnerships at Facebook. Growing up with a single mom amid trauma and abuse, Nona struggled to see her value or her place in the world. Nona found a community of love and support in her local church, and being accepted and welcomed there began a path toward healing that would change her whole trajectory. She tells Jen how she joined the executive team of a Fortune 500 Company at age 23, and how she learned the difference between healthy and unhealthy ambition. And in her role as social media maven at Facebook, Nona has razor-sharp insight into how we can help our kids cultivate authentic communities online and off.  Nona’s message is one that we can all take to heart–when we believe in who we truly are, we are able to pursue our highest values and goals with excellence, which adds enormous value to the world.

Episode Transcript

Narrator:  Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.

Jen:  Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love Podcast. Really glad that you are here today. Welcome to the show.

So we are in a series right now called For the Love of Powerhouse Women. I’m assuming the title of the series will tell you all you need to know, if you haven’t already been listening. We’re just talking to some of the greats right now, honestly, some of the smartest, most inspiring women out there right now in every sector. We’ve got them in business, and we have them in public service, and they’re kind of just all over the map. I mean, these are just women who are killing it. That’s kind of the short story.

So wait until we meet our next guest. I am excited to put her in front of you. She is indeed a powerhouse who has overcome, which we’ll talk about, and then also accomplished just so much in her young years.

So her name is Nona Jones. And she is a national speaker and author. And right now, she is the head of Faith-Based Partnerships at this little startup company that you may or may not have heard of called Facebook.

So before she got to Facebook, Nona actually held executive leadership roles all across the private and public and nonprofit sectors. In fact, she was actually appointed to an executive role at a Fortune 100 company when she was 23 years old. Wait until you hear how she got that job. I mean, it’s pretty gutsy, like I just grinned through the whole story.

So, she’s led award-winning initiatives in public affairs. She has brokered multimillion dollar business deals. She’s addressed the United Nations. She’s championed juvenile justice and educational policy reform up in Congress. I mean, all under the age of 35. She is a heavy hitter.

So naturally, and obviously, Essence Magazine named her an under 40 woman to watch, just a real honor. And if she wasn’t already just full enough, she and her husband lead a church together in Gainesville, Florida. And they have two beautiful sons, you’re going to want to go look at pictures of her family because it belongs on a magazine cover.

So she is impressive and smart and wise and godly. And I loved this conversation with her. I just felt, my own soul felt nourished by it. And so, I think you’re really going to be just encouraged and inspired by her approach to life and success and how humble and generous and sincere she is. And so, excited to introduce you to her, really happy that you’ve downloaded this one today, you guys. Pleased to share my conversation with the very, very wonderful Nona Jones.

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Jen: All right. So, Nona, such a warm welcome to you. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast. I’m tickled that you’re on today.

Nona: Thank you so much for having me. This is a true honor. Thank you.

Jen: Oh my gosh, listen, you’ve just flown in, you haven’t slept. You’re like in the clothes you probably wore yesterday. I mean, you’re just a star. Thanks for squeezing this in. I’m so serious.

Nona: I’m so glad it’s not recorded video because you’d be like, “What is happening with her?”

Jen: Sister. Oh, look: if podcasts had to be recorded, I would not be the host of one. That is just a fact. Always sitting here, like, in yesterday’s yoga pants. This is not a video situation so we’re in good shape.

So listen, Nona, I have filled in my listeners with a little bit about who you are, your just kind of wildly impressive résumé. But one of my favorite things to do is to hear about how very smart, very gifted people like you get to be where they are. You didn’t start here. And so, I always like to roll it back to the beginning to hear about where you started.

So I’m wondering if you can tell me and my listeners a little bit about your growing up here. Where are you from, and who was in your family, and what were you like as a kid? And did you ever see any hints your young life that this might be the path that you walked?

Nona: Wow. Wow. I mean, the short answer is no.

And to give you some color to that, I was born in the summer of 1982 in New Jersey. And my mom and my dad had actually been married for 15 years when I was born. My father had wanted to be a dad from the moment that he married my mom, but my mom didn’t want children.

To give you some backstory on her, she grew up in a home with 11 other brothers and sisters, three-bedroom house, very, very poor. But she and her siblings would regularly watch her father beat their mother within an inch of her life. A lot of violence, just a lot of anger and hostility, just a really bad situation. And my mom actually started to run away from home when she was, like, five. She started to leave the house for days and just reemerge.

And so, I think, you know, the combination of the violence that she saw in the household combined with, she also had some mental illness because in the third grade, she actually pushed a teacher down a flight of stairs, and she was suspended from school for that. But my mom had a lot of just anger within her, so she didn’t want children. And my dad did.

15 years into marriage, finally pregnant, she didn’t want me but my dad did. And halfway through the pregnancy, my dad started to have stomach pain. And he went to the doctor just to have some tests run, and they diagnosed him with terminal stomach cancer and they gave him six months to live.

And he was only 34 at the time.  So if you can imagine, I can’t even begin to imagine what that was like. He fought really hard and he lived until two months shy of my second birthday.

It was at this point that my mom moved us from New Jersey down to Florida. She was essentially following after a guy who she barely knew, but he promised to take care of her. And so shortly after we moved, their relationship basically fell apart. And over the course of a couple years, there was a bunch of men that came in and out of her life and in and out of my life. And I was really young, but I just remember a lot of men being around.

When I was around five, she met a guy who became her live-in boyfriend. And what she didn’t know is, you know, when she wasn’t around, he would hug me close to body and hold me close to his body. And so, I developed a fear of him at a pretty early age.

My mom’s sister passed away and she told me that she had to go to her funeral and she was going to leave me with him. And I said, “Mommy, no. Please take me with you, I’ll be good, I won’t ask for anything.” And she basically said she couldn’t afford to, and so she left me with him.

And the very first night that she left me, I locked my bedroom door because I was afraid of him. But I learned that night that a straightened wire hanger could pick the lock.

Jen: Oh man. Darn it.

Nona: That’s how he got in my room. That was the first time I was violated, I was about five. In between the ages of about five and 11, there was a tremendous amount of sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal, emotional abuse. When I was nine, I actually tried to take my life. When I was 11, I tried to do it again. That’s part of the reason why like when I hear about kids taking their life, it doesn’t just make me sad, it actually just takes me back to a very dark place because I know what it’s like to be that young and really feel like you have no reason to live.

But yeah, like my, I had no, as a matter of fact, because of what was happening to me, in elementary school, I acted out a lot. I was the kid who talked back. I couldn’t really concentrate in class because there was so much chaos at home. And so I got punished at school. I was told that I had a learning disability.

I was placed in the corner of classrooms and told that I was a distraction to the other kids. I had so many labels placed on me that I really had no sense of purpose, value, identity. None of that.

And I didn’t grow up in a Christian household. I never heard the words Bible, church, Jesus, any of that. So I had no concept of a higher being. I had none of that until a classmate of mine in the sixth grade invited me to church, and that’s kind of when everything changed.

Jen: So, tell me a little bit more about that experience in sixth grade?

Nona: Yeah, so I was, I was 11 years old. Because of all that I had been through, I was kind of a loner. Like, I was kind of the shy kid, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I’m an only child already so I didn’t necessarily make friends super easily. But there was a girl in the sixth grade who said to me one day, she was like, “Hey, you want to go to church with me this weekend? And I was like, “Sure.” I didn’t know what it was, but I was like, I guess we’re going to go to her house and hang out. 

And so, I went with her and her mom. I’ll never forget, like, when we drove up to this building, I remember people getting out of their cars and it was like families and they were holding hands. And it was something I just hadn’t seen before. And I was like, Wow, these people are different.

And then when I actually walked into the building, I remember this sense of just love and acceptance, and people were genuinely happy to see me. They didn’t even know me. So it was just so vastly different from what I had experienced both at home and school that I was immediately intrigued.

And then that day, the pastor preached a message about God being a father to the fatherless.

Jen: Wow, gosh, goosebumps.

Nona: Yes, like that hit me because I had always thought, I remember crying myself to sleep so many times, saying, “Daddy, I wish you were here. Daddy, why aren’t you here?” I remember really wishing I had my father. And so, when I heard that, I was like, Well, then who is this God? And so, that really piqued my interest.

And so, I started to go to church with them, got involved in youth ministry. The youth minister was so amazing, and he began to speak life over me. And he was just, like, because I would ask a lot of questions. I was very inquisitive as a child. And so, I asked a lot of questions. And he said to me, he said, “You know, Nona, you ask more questions than the adults I know.”

And I think, you know, I look at life as kind of a series of forks in the road. Like there are things that happen and you have to make a decision about which direction you’re going to take. When Jesus became Lord of my life, I came to this fork in the road where, you know, the abuse didn’t stop, the labeling didn’t stop. But because I now had a higher sense of understanding about who I was created to be in God, I had to make a decision about whether I believed God or whether I believed what these people were saying. I chose to believe what God said about me and that’s when everything changed.

I would go to school, I started doing my work. I actually got promoted to like honors classes in the middle of sixth grade.

Jen: Wow, gosh.

Nona: I purposed in my heart, I was like, you know, I want to live up to the expectations that God has of me. Because up until then, I was really living down to the expectations he had of me. But yeah, that’s really how my life transformed was coming into the knowledge of who I am in God.

Jen: That is amazing. And so, that sort of healing path continued for you, I’m assuming, through like middle school, through high school.

How did you ever like separate from your abuser? How did you come sort of full circle into being healthy?

Nona: Such a great question. It’s actually an interesting question because I had a lot of success. I had a lot of accomplishment, a lot of achievement. Like, when I started to apply myself, my grades drastically improved. I ended up getting like straight A’s. And then I started getting involved in extracurriculars, and I became like captain of the dance team. And then I went to high school and became like president. I was on leadership clubs and all these things.

I had a lot of external success. But the truth is, there were still parts of me that were very much so broken.

And I think, you know, looking back on it, I had a whole lot of head knowledge about who I was in God and the need to forgive my mother and her boyfriend for what they did. I had a lot of head knowledge about that, but it hadn’t yet really penetrated my heart.

So I would say, I was in my mother’s house until I graduated high school, and that’s when I left and I never went back. But the actual healing process didn’t really happen for years. I think what I did was I just, I experienced what I experienced, and then I didn’t deal with it because I didn’t know how.

Jen: Sure. Right. How would you?

Nona: Yeah. And [unforgiveness is] a bag that you just kind of carry around with you. Whether you open it or not, it’s still there and it’s still weighing you down. And that’s how I was. It took a lot. And it’s kind of through my career that I was forced to confront myself. And I think in performance evaluations, I would get feedback about not being receptive to criticism. I would get stuff like that. And I was like, I started to ask myself, I was like, Why is it so hard for me to take constructive feedback. Why do I feel in my heart, like I had to defend myself? And I realized that it was because there was still an area of tenderness in my heart and my spirit and it hadn’t yet been made whole. So that’s when I started to do the hard work and really seek healing.

Jen: Oh yeah. That’s some real heavy lifting and that’s long term too, getting to that point where you are healed and healthy, no matter what anyone else says or does or doesn’t do, or whether you had justice, or whether there were amends ever made. That sort of health is, boy, that is an island you have to swim hard to. And once you’re there, you’re free.

Nona: Yeah. Something that I discovered as I was kind of going through this process of healing is that we put a lot of stock in apologies. Like, we put a lot of value on someone coming to us and saying, “I’m sorry for what I did.” But the truth is, an apology doesn’t have any power. It just doesn’t. It’s words. If you think about it, like as children, we’re conditioned to apologize, not even because we’re sorry, but just because that’s what’s expected. There really is no power in apology. That’s why the only power that we have to heal is forgiveness.

That’s the lesson that I had to learn is I had all this anger and bitterness and resentment towards my mom and her boyfriend and other people who I felt were similar to them. And I realized, like, Man, they may not even be thinking about this stuff anymore. And here I am over here stewing in it. I don’t sleep well at night. And I had to realize that, man, forgiveness is essentially letting someone off the hook and discovering that it was you.

Jen: That’s right. Oh my gosh, I have banged to this drum so many times. And forgiveness is also not, it’s not saying, “That was okay,” or, “That wasn’t a big deal,” or, “That didn’t hurt me,” or, you know . . . it’s not a free pass for abuse or for terrible behavior at all. It can be incredibly one-sided. That’s real freedom, for sure, but it’s not contingent on anybody else except your own inner workings.

I find that part of your story so powerful, and it makes sense to me from a high level to then look and go, Oh, okay. I see how this informs your trajectory and how this was a lot of fuel and strength for you as you moved forward.

Jen:  And so, I wonder if you can walk us forward, not that far, to, I mean, this is really impressive, like getting a seat at the executive table at age 23. I mean, that’s rare and special.

Can you talk about how that happened and what that experience was like for you? And then anything that you would even say to some of my younger listeners out there with similar ambition or similar drive and dreams looking for a really strong home for their talent and energy? Like, how would you advise them, especially in that stage?

Nona: Yeah, for sure. The way that even went down is amazing.

A year after I got out of college, first of all, I had planned on becoming a physician. I was going to go to medical school. But I met my husband in college, we decided to get married, we were going to stay where we lived. And I was like, Okay, well, then I’ll just kind of get a regular job and we can start to build our family that way. 

So, got this job at a very large property and casualty insurance company, nationwide presence. And a year into it, I saw a job posting that really spoke to me. It spoke to me. I was like, Man, if I could have created a job, it would be this. But I read through the qualifications, it said that you needed, like, 10 years of experience, needed 15 years of management experience, it was all these qualifications. And I remember I closed the web browser because I was like, Well, I guess that takes me out of the running. But I couldn’t get it out of my head. And like that night, I couldn’t sleep because I was just thinking like, Wow, if I could get this job, I could do this, I could do this, with this and that.

And so, I applied for it. But then I prayed, I said, “God, there are other people applying for this, I know there are.” I said, “How can I set myself apart?”

And so, I just created this presentation deck with like my ideas and strategies and relationships that I would build, etc. And I had it bound, I made it super professional. And I put it, the next evening, I put it in the chair of the vice president who was hiring for the position. Mind you, I didn’t know him. I should not have been in his office, but I did that.

Jen: So great, I love it.

Nona: Left it there. And then, I didn’t expect to really hear anything. I was hopeful, I didn’t expect to.

The next day I got a call from the HR director and he was like, “Hey, Jeff,” who was the vice president, “Jeff wants to meet with you.”

And I was like, “Oh Lord.” At first, I—

Jen: Am I in trouble? You don’t know which way that’s going.

Nona: I was like, God, I’m going to get fired for going into this man’s office. But no, I sat down with him across from his desk with him and the HR director. They both had this look on their face that was like bemusement, like, they were just … They basically like just talked to me about my ideas.

And what I found out after the fact is Jeff was super impressed. The HR director told me as he was walking me out, he said, “You know, I’ve talked to thousands of people.” He said, “No one has ever done anything like that before.” I got approved from him, I had to do like three other interviews. And I ultimately got the job.

And I think, you know, I learned several lessons from that. The first is to always remember that if you really do want something, you need to pursue it with excellence. Don’t pursue it like everybody else. Think about the value that you can add. And especially when you’re in a business context, like it’s all about value creation. Where I work at now, we hire people, they don’t even really have clear job descriptions, we just hire them because we believe they’re smart and we believe they’re capable. And that’s the same way it is in most corporate settings.

Now, I will tell you, the other side of the coin and this is a question about what would I advise young people who have ambition is, there’s two different types of ambition. There’s a healthy ambition, which is really fueled by a desire to make something better. And there’s unhealthy ambition, which is fueled by a desire to prove your worthiness.

Jen: Totally.

Nona: I had unhealthy ambition because, you know, again, like the ramifications of the trauma that I experienced really left me feeling like I had to constantly prove that I was worthy. I had to get the titles, get the positions, get the car, get the clothes. I had to get all these external indicators of worthiness. And so, my career really took off from there but it was fueled by what I consider to be a toxic ambition.

And so, the advice I always give to young people when I talk to them, I always say, “Check your heart and make sure that your heart is pure as you’re pursuing success.” Because Joshua 1:8 says something really interesting. God told Joshua, when he was taking over leadership from Moses, he said, “If you just observe to do all that I’ve written, you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success.”

The qualifier good has always struck me as interesting because we think success in and of itself is a good thing. But apparently, there is a success that isn’t good.

Jen: Great point.

Nona: So, just kind of check your heart. That’s what I had to learn is, you know, I got all these accolades but the accolades didn’t necessarily add up to me feeling like I mattered. It was until I really understood my worth and my value in God and took my identity from that that I had contentment. But when I was taking my identity from positions and org charts and salaries, it never left me full.

Jen: Totally. I identify with that so much. I don’t know if you’re a nerd like me who has fallen down the Enneagram hole?

Nona: Oh yeah.

Jen: Have you? I’m a 3.

Nona: I’m a 3 too!

Jen: Yeah, I figured. I’m like, I know what she’s saying. I know what this is. 

It’s true. Like wholeness, contentment, worth, it is an inside job. It does not matter how many awards you stick to the outside. And I’ve learned the same exact thing, that is, interior work and no successes or failures can affect it at that point. I’m nodding my head the whole time you were talking. I so deeply identify.

So, let’s move forward just a little bit because the next part of your story is really pretty cool. Really fascinated with your role at Facebook. I wonder if you can tell us a little bit more about what you do there and what your goals are there. But first, kind of tell us about the day that you got the phone call from Facebook because it is a wild and amazing story.

Nona: Before I got this job here, I was in a job I absolutely loved. I was chief executive level of a statewide network of alternative schools for girls who have experienced trauma. Totally right up my alley. Thought I would be there forever. I was traveling all over, I was speaking, I was at the White House literally on a monthly basis. All this amazing stuff. I took a lot of my value from that.

And then I was in prayer one day, this was like four years into the role, 2017. And the Lord said to me, “This assignment is over.”

Jen: Wow.

Nona: And I was like, What? Because I’m thinking like, Okay, I have at least another 20 years. So I thought I heard incorrectly. So I prayed again because I was like, This isn’t right. 

So I waited a couple of days, I prayed again. And the Lord said, “This assignment is over.” And I was like, Oh, wow, well then, what am I going to do? Because in my mind, I’m like, this is my identity. This is what I’m known as, this thing. And so, the Lord told me to resign at the end of the fiscal year. That was June 30, 2017. That was the exact day I resigned. And he told me this in April.

So the day comes. I met with my boss at 1:00 PM that day and I gave her my letter of resignation. And of course, she was like, “What are you going to do next? Because I need to be able to tell people. You can’t just be like, ‘I’m leaving,’ and have no explanation.”

But I basically was just like, “You know, I will tell you soon.” That’s all I said.

And so, I finished talking with her at like 1:40, and it was a Friday. Got in my car, driving home. 2:05, my cell phone rang, and it was unfamiliar number. I don’t answer those calls.

Jen: Same.

Nona: So I answered it, I was like, “Hello?”

And this woman says, “Is this Nona Jones?”

And I said “Yes.”

She said, “Oh, hi, I’m calling from Facebook.”

Jen: This is crazy.

Nona: Now, mind you, of course, like, how many of you have ever had Facebook call you, right? I’ve never had Facebook call me so I’m thinking, This is a joke. This is a scam. 

But she goes on to explain that, apparently, Mark had changed the mission of the company the week before she called me. And she said that my name had been given as someone to talk to because the mission of the company changed to focus on community building. And she said, “The research shows one of the communities, really the largest community on earth, were communities of faith.” She said, “But the company had never focused on that before.” And she was told that I would be a person who could help the company think about it.

Now mind you, I thought they were putting together like an advisory board or a committee. I’m like, “Okay, cool.” I said, “Send me some information. I’ll look at it when I get home.”

I get home and there’s a job description in my inbox. And I was just like, What is going on? 

I talked to her the following Monday and I was just like, “You know, this sounds amazing. I would love to do this.” But the problem was, my position was based in California, and my husband and I have a church in Florida. And we were like, “Well, we’re not moving so I guess that’s it.”

This woman says to me, “Well, as a company, we have a policy that you do have to live where your position’s located.” She said, “But we believe you’re the right person for this so we’ll make an exception.”

Jen: That’s amazing.

Nona: This is a woman I never met. I didn’t apply for this job. To this day, I never filled out an application. Seriously, I got an offer letter like two weeks after she called me. Had never set foot on Facebook’s campus until the day of my orientation.

Jen: It’s bananas.

Nona: Yeah, so it’s a God story. But the takeaway from that, kind of threading it with my earlier point is, that didn’t happen until I was willing to leave what I thought mattered the most.

Jen: That’s right. Without a guarantee of where you were going, too.

Nona: Correct. I thought that former job was my identity. I took so much value from what I did and the platforms I was able to be on because of what I did. And it wasn’t until I was ready to just obey God and let Him be my source of my identity that this door opened up 25 minutes later.

Jen: That’s crazy. I love that story.

So just in general, I mean, you kind of gave us your title, but what is just broadly the scope of your work at Facebook?

Nona: So I am, so I have both internally and externally facing roles. So, externally, I get to work with the most influential leaders, church leaders, denominational leaders, ministry leaders in the world.

So whether that’s your Life Churches and your Elevations, and you know, those churches, and those leaders. Of course, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick, and the denominations like Assemblies of God and Church of God in Christ, as well as organizations like Focus on the Family and Compassion International. So it’s all across that. That’s my externally facing role is I get to work with them to help them optimize Facebook for ministry. Even though that’s not my job description, that’s what I do. The way I describe it is, “I’m equipping leaders to do digital discipleship,” basically.

Jen: Oh, that’s good. I like that.

Nona: And then I have an internally facing role, where I am essentially the voice of faith for all of our policy discussions, product discussions. When it comes down to, “Who should we be working with to think about whatever?” and it’s a faith question, I get pulled into that conversation.

Jen: That’s got to be an interesting needle to thread. I can only imagine how that must feel inside such a powerful company, with such like different and even competing ideas about how the world probably works and faith in and of itself.

Does that ever feel lonely to you?

Nona: You know, the good thing is we have at Facebook, we have a group called Christians at Facebook. It’s a group of, it’s like a couple thousand employees who are believers all across the company. And so we pray for each other. Everyone is aware of my work. They’re constantly praying for my work.

As a matter of fact, it’s funny, I’m speaking at Propel, speaking at the one in Sacramento, California, like a whole contingent of Facebook employees are planning to go, just because they were like, “We will support you.” It’s a blessing that there is a community of believers there. And so that’s a great thing.

And to your earlier point, you know, sometimes it can definitely be challenging because even though there’s a couple thousand Christians at Facebook, that’s out of, like, 50-something thousand people.

Jen: Right, totally.

Nona: It’s a drop in the bucket. Which means that sometimes, the perspective I’m giving is not always understood by the powers I am working with. We always just share truth and love and try to bring a perspective that, again, adds value. That’s what matters more than anything.

Jen: That’s it. That’s so encouraging to hear, like, I did not realize your internal work at that company. And it’s pretty daunting because, you know, being sort of the voice for a faith perspective is challenging because it’s not, we’re not a monolith. There are so many segments to that pie chart. And what does that look like? So that is a heavy responsibility to sort of be the mouthpiece for the faith community in general and at large to Facebook, but it’s encouraging to hear about your seat at that table, and that that is a value and a door that is propped open at that company. That is actually wonderful to hear.

Jen:  I have a couple of questions, because now, so you’ve been a Facebook since 2017, right?

Nona: Yeah.

Jen: Okay, I can only imagine how much you’ve learned. I mean, this was a completely different environment than what you were in. I mean, just you switched gears. I would love to hear some perspective on a few things.

Now that the world has been online for a while, we are starting to realize and track how people spend their time online and how that’s evolving. We’re . . . just the data points are still so young in the in the scope of of data. But what are you noticing inside your company about the way that people communicate with each other online right now? How has that changed from even just a decade ago? And then finally, I’m curious if you can tell us anything that’s giving you some hope about where we are right now in sort of online technology?

Nona: Yeah. So I think from a trends standpoint, what’s interesting is I think right now, especially when you think about, I’m a millennial, you think about the millennial generation, you think about Gen Z, we’re basically, like, an online first and like an online-first generation. Because, you know, when we think of communication, like we don’t think, Hey, let’s call somebody. We don’t think, Let’s write a letter. We think, Hey, let’s go to Snapchat, or, Let’s go text them, or, you know, I mean, we have a scenario now to where people’s relationships, that face-to-face kind of real life contact is not a requirement anymore.

I have many friends who, you know, kind of Gen X and before, they’re like, “If I haven’t seen you in real life, like, our relationship isn’t real.” I know people in kind of my generation and even younger, they’re like, “I don’t care if I’ve ever seen you. We can be best friends.”

Jen: It’s really an interesting and a good point, because, like, I’m just a little bit north of you. So kind of my age group and definitely those older than me, there is this almost imagined concern that this way of connecting has been lost. So what we have right now is less than or it’s an inferior version of connection. But I really like your point that for a generation of online first, it isn’t less or inferior at all. It’s how a whole generation has been raised and it’s what they know and it’s no less real.

And so I think the onus is actually on my age group and older to open up our hands and stop white knuckling the way that we grew up as a superior way, because it isn’t necessarily, that’s not really it. Now, maybe inside of online connection, there can be some unhealth, we’ll talk about that in a second. But just on its face, it’s not better or worse. It’s just different.

Nona: It’s just different. I feel like they can be complementary.

So for example, like, you know, as you can imagine, I literally live my life online. I work for the company where everyone’s life is online. I live my life online. However, I also regularly do handwritten notes to people just to say congratulations on something or just to say thank you for something because I believe that there is tremendous value in people having something tangible. And so, I think teaching that art to a generation that that’s never experienced is so important.

I mean, just imagine, if you grew up in a world, and I did, like you grew up in a world where there were no cell phones. Like I remember you had to use a payphone. I remember, like, there was no email. And I think about, I’m like, Man, the world continued to spin somehow. Now we’re like, Oh, my God, if I don’t have my phone, I might have missed [inaudible 00:40:23]. It’s like, “Calm down.”

So I think, like you said, it’s not inferior, it’s just different. And we have to teach those valuable aspects of communication from prior generations, we have to just teach them.

Jen: Good. So for you, someone who’s literally a master builder of community in every aspect because we haven’t even gotten to the part where you are also like leading an amazing church with your husband. I’m sure you’ve spent time thinking about this. But, how would you suggest that we build the healthiest communities, definitely online, and then also in person, and those have a lot of crossover? How do we make sure that our online tools for connection stay kind of above board and keep us in healthy headspace and keep our connectivity to other people lovely and vibrant and flourishing?

Nona: I love this question.

About a year ago, Facebook, we changed our algorithm, which there was a whole lot of like weeping and gnashing of teeth, because people were like, they had built these huge like page followings, and it was like, “Oh, now we’re not getting as much reach.”

But the reason why that happened, which is actually contrary to popular opinion, it was not about driving revenue. What we did was we actually commissioned some research, and we found that there is a very strong negative correlation between passive consumption of content and well-being. So when people basically just like passively scroll through their newsfeed, they feel more isolated, they feel more depressed, they have even more suicidal thoughts, because that passive consumption of content can lead to feelings of seclusion or feelings of, I missed out on something. 

And so, the research showed, yeah, it showed that, in order to reverse that, people have to be in community with each other. So, instead of consuming content, when people are actually engaged in conversations or actually building relationships, their well being becomes positively affected by social media.

So the way that the algorithm was changed is it now reflects what we call “meaningful social interactions,” which means people will see posts more organically if there’s type of content that drives conversation as opposed to just consumption. In order to make the online experience healthy, the research shows people need to be in community. It’s not about me over here scrolling through my newsfeed, it’s about how do I connect with communities of people that are supportive, that are encouraging, that are inspiring? That is the main differentiator, for sure.

Jen: Yeah, that’s interesting. That’s like a really interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing that. I’ve not heard that. That’s news to me.

I want to talk about your family a little bit. You’ve been married, how many years you’ve been married?

Nona: 15 years!

Jen: Girl, that’s no joke. I’m serious, that is no joke. Your husband is so cute. Y’all are so cute.

Nona: I got married once out of college. Thank you.

Jen: I mean, honestly. We’ll send everybody over to your socials, they could just see for themselves. I mean, my gosh. And you have to darling sons.

And so, I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about your family. And then kind of pivoting back to where we just were, how are you thinking right now about not just helping your own kids but all of our kids navigate online culture, both their relationships and what they do or don’t share? How do you think we parent, you know, we don’t have a lot of precedents for this, and I’ve talked about this before, because I’ve got five kids, so that’s crazy. They’re like in college and high school. It’s just, I know, I don’t even know what to say, it’s so many. So we’re in college, high school, middle.

And I keep kind of looking around like, Who’s going to teach me how to parent this? And we’re just kind of the front generation raising the generation of kids who has no other concept than online. That’s how they were raised.

And so, I would just love to hear your thoughts as not just a Facebook executive but as a mom. Any advice you have as we sort of parent through this new space?

Nona: So this is such a great question. There’s a tension there because the thing about social technology is it can be incredibly freeing because you can absolutely connect with people that you may have missed. You can even get a sense for what your children are doing. It’s a great way to kind of stay connected with them when you may have barriers to connection. But the other flip side of it is, you know, there are bad actors in this space, and there are people who don’t have good intentions.

And so, what I always like to advise parents is, don’t maintain this. I remember back in, when I was younger, there was a commercial, I think it was about a Crock-Pot. And what they said was, like, you know, “Set it and forget it.” Like that was their moniker.

Jen: I remember that.

Nona: When it comes to social media, do not set it and forget it. Don’t assume that your children are mature enough. Don’t assume that somehow through the process of osmosis, they will have developed the maturity in order to handle the type of people who can have bad intentions. So regularly check up on their accounts. I think some of the guardrails that you want to set up is, you know, the truth is people can have multiple accounts, kids can have multiple accounts. I think what tell them is, “You know what? I will allow you to have one account I’m a friend on, and if I find out that you have another account that I don’t know about, you will basically never see technology again.”

Jen: I know. There’s a place for a hard line here.

Nona: Yeah. Because at the end of the day, this is about safety. And there’s been, you know, unfortunately, and this is something that really breaks our heart internally is when we find out that someone used our platform in a way to hurt somebody else. It happens. So that’s what I always suggest is, yeah, don’t just assume your kids are responsible and your kids know what to do. Always inspect what you expect.

Jen: That’s great.

Nona: Make sure the know Mommy and Daddy are looking in this.

Jen: We’re paying attention. I remember the first time one of my friends taught me about just like some of these side accounts. And I thought, Well, surely, that’s not a thing that my kids will have. And so we’re just like casually around the dinner table. I’m like, “None of you guys have, like, a side account, right? Like a kind of weird . . . “ And all their faces were like so sheepish. And I was like, “What?!”

You don’t assume these pastors kids up in here don’t have like a side account. And so, you’re so right, this is not the place to take our foot off the gas, but to stay like kind of vigilant and connected and with it. I always tell my kids, “If you have an online account, I get to be your friend. That’s the end of that story.”

Nona: That’s right.

Jen: Like, “I’m your friend and there’s no discussion.” Thanks for that encouragement.

Huge congratulations to you. You’ve got a book coming out in January. Tell us a little bit about Success from the Inside Out and what is it about, and what are you mainly hoping your readers kind of walk away with? Love the title by the way, good job.

Nona: Thank you. I am so excited about this. This is a passion project because the book is really, it’s my memoir and it’s sharing, essentially, the little bit that I said earlier in the conversation about my childhood. It’s sharing the trauma. But then it’s also sharing the triumphs. And I’m using my professional kind of experience as the roadmap while I’m overlaying it with what faith in God was able to accomplish. And I look at my life, and I’m like, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

So Success from the Inside Out is really about helping people build a sense of success that fills instead of empties.

Jen: That’s great.

Nona: That’s what I want, is I want to teach people what I’ve learned on my journey, and basically how to build a life that’s defined by good success, and not just indicators of the trappings of success. Because those trappings of success can actually trap you.

Jen: That’s right.

Nona: And that’s something I learned as well. So yeah, I’m excited about it.

Jen: Love it. Love it. Cheering you on. I just can’t think of anybody who doesn’t need that message.

I was really struck by this line that you wrote. You said, “I’ve discovered that the only thing stronger than the power of trauma has to change you is the power you reclaim when you acknowledge its effect on you.” And I was like, Whoa, she’s getting right to the heart of it. 

Can you just talk a teeny bit more about that because I think this is something that a lot of my listeners are working on and trying to grab ahold of in their own healing and in their own sense of recovery?

Nona: Absolutely. I’ve found that we tend to use the words guilt and shame interchangeably, when they’re actually different. When I feel guilty about something, I feel sorry for what I did. But when I feel shame, I feel like there’s a problem with who I am.

Jen: That’s right.

Nona: It’s about my identity, right? And so, in saying that, what I basically mean is that until you actually are willing to stand in the light of the truth of what happened to you and how you have responded to what happened to you, until you stand in the light of that truth, you’re always going to live in shame. And shame has power. It has the power to silence you. It has the power to diminish you, it has the power to make you believe that you aren’t worthy of love. I know so many people who have had great relationships just disintegrate because their shame made it so that they couldn’t even receive love.

I believe in my heart that what God wants for us, and this is why the Bible describes Jesus as being the light of the world. You know, the only thing that can overcome darkness is light. And my contention is simply that when we allow our trauma to stand in the light of who Jesus is and we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, that’s where we find healing. Because only shame can live only in darkness.

Jen: Amen and amen! It’s just the greatest and simplest truth.

Let me ask you this, you’ve just accomplished so much in the past decade. It’s really something to behold. I’m curious, what are you the most proud of accomplishing like in the last, let’s just say, 10 years of your work? And if you just had to guess, and of course, who even knows, like, you never would have suspected you’re going to be at Facebook. But if you were just guessing, where would you want to be by the end of the next 10 years?

Nona: The thing that I’m most proud of is not something that would even show up on my résumé. Because of the rapid success that the Lord allowed me to experience, I had a lot of just travel, I was gone a lot. And there was a season where my oldest son was starting to struggle in school. And this is when he was in it think first grade. He was getting in trouble a lot, he was not doing his work. I was traveling a lot with my job at the time.

And I remember talking to his teacher, because I was like, Look, you know, I don’t know what’s going on, but we’re doing our best.”

And she said to me, she said, “Well, Ms. Jones,” she said, “I got to be honest. TJ told me that he misses you and that you’re gone a lot.”

And that crushed me, to think that my son was basically acting out because I was so focused on what I thought I needed to be focused on, which was my job, that I was actually neglecting what honestly matters the most to me. When I’m on my deathbed, trust me, the only thing that will matter is how much time I spent with my children.

And so, the thing that I’m most proud of is that, and grateful for, is that I didn’t have to wait until my child was 17, 20, 30, to learn what was happening. I was able to just make that change, and say, “You know what?” And the way I operate now, you know, I get invited to a lot of stuff that I don’t go to. There’s conferences I’m asked to speak at that I decline because it’s like, you know, I need to be home with my kids. I’m just grateful for that because, honestly, the matters more to me than anything.

Jen: That’s so great. I pulled that exact same lever when my kids were younger, and I started noticing the adverse effects of my travel on them and on the family. I have never regretted it, never. And there’s this sort of myth of scarcity, like, Oh, no. If I start saying no, it’s all going to run dry. I’m not going to be invited anymore and I’m going to become obsolete. And it’s just simply not true. Like, there’s abundance. And there’s also abundance in faithfulness.

And so, I found the opposite to be true, that I was not just renewed but kind of overflowing at that point. And it’s seasonal. You know, they’re not little forever. And so, anyway, I love that you made that decision. I’m telling you as a version of your future self, you will not regret it.

And you’re already doing a ton of ministry. I mean, this has a real like heavy presence in your life as it is. Can you just sort of high-level tell everybody a little bit about what your ministry life looks like?

Nona: Yeah. My husband and I, we have a church together in Gainesville, Florida. So, we lead a church, a physical church. And then, I also have an itinerant ministry. And so, I’m just preaching literally to the world. God has opened doors where I’m able to speak into the lives of His people. And so that has kept me very busy being able to minister all over the country and in various locations. So yeah, that’s what ministry’s looking like.

Jen: I love it.

Nona: And then of course, the book coming out. To me, I see that as another ministry tool. And so, there’s a lot going on.

Jen: I love it. It’s fun to watch it go. I love your account, I was listening to you preach this morning on some of your Instagram posts. I’m like, Look at that. Yes! I also preach. And so, anytime I see a woman in the pulpit, like I want to wave my hanky. More, more, more of that all day long.

Jen: Okay, Nona, we’re going to wrap it up here. In this series, this is For the Love of Powerhouse Women, which is obviously, you nestle right in perfectly. These are just three sort of quick sort of rapid fire questions we’re asking all the women in this series.

Here’s the first one. What’s something that a woman you admire has taught you that you’ve never forgotten?

Nona: Maya Angelou once said that, “People will forget what you say and they will forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I always try to the best of my ability to leave people feeling better.

Jen: That’s so good. That’s one of my favorite quotes. What’s your greatest hope for the generation of women coming behind us?

Nona: Gosh. I hope that, and this is going to be difficult because we live in such a social media saturated world, my hope is that we will stop being trapped in comparison with each other, to where we’re looking at each other’s social profiles and where we’re going and what we’re doing and then we feel insignificant, and we feel like we somehow are diminished in our value. My hope is that we will find our identity in God. And then we will look at each other’s social platforms and just celebrate each other. Like I’m so glad for what you’re doing as opposed to seeing that as a threat.

Jen: Oh, my gosh, me too. I sing this song all the time also.

Here’s our last question. We ask every single guest every series this. It’s by Barbara Brown Taylor, and you can answer it however you want. We have people give us really like tender and poignant answers, and we have people give us the funniest answers you’ve ever heard. So, whatever you want to say, but here’s the question: what is saving your life right now?

Nona: What is saving my life right now is gratefulness.

Success as an interesting beast because it’s like the more you get, the more unsatiated or insatiated you can become. Because you see more success. It’s like the more success you get, the more success you see. And so, you can get to a place where you’re like, Oh, gosh, but I haven’t done that yet. And oh, but I haven’t done that yet. 

And I think what God has been working out in me is, “Nona, be grateful for where I have you. Be grateful for the doors that I’ve opened, as well as the doors I’ve kept shut. Like, be grateful for everything.”

And so, what’s keeping me right now is just being grateful. Starting every day as part of my devotional time and prayer time with, “Lord, here’s what I’m grateful for today,” so that I can keep my mind on that and not comparing to others.

Jen: That is a good word, sis. Thank you for that. It’s a perfect way to close.

Will you just tell my listeners, in general, where can they find you and where are you online and what are your handles? Which are also hilarious, by the way. I love your handle, it’s so clever. Never forget it.

Nona: Oh gosh, you can find me, my website is super simple, it’s just All of my social handles are exactly the same. And the reason they are what they are is, you know, my maiden name, when I first got married, my maiden name was Nona Collins. And no one ever messed up my name. When my last name became Jones, everyone started to call me Norah because of this super famous jazz artist. And so, my social handles are @nonanotnorah. That’s Instagram, that’s Facebook. I think YouTube, you can find me there. And also, if you want to, you can also subscribe, I have a weekly E-newsletter. I do like just once a week, just a message of inspiration for the week. You can subscribe to that by just texting the word Nona, N-O-N-A, to 345345. It’s very simple and you’ll get signed up.

Jen: That’s so fabulous. And so, for everybody listening, we’ll have everything Nona just said. It’ll be at underneath the podcast tab on this particular episode. We’ll have all of Nona’s social handles, we’ll have links to her spaces and places. We’ll have link to her upcoming book, just all of it. So you can find all things Nona over there if you are driving or running on the treadmill or whatever the heck you’re doing right now. Okay.

Hey, thanks for being on today. I am delighted to meet you, and just the next time that we are in the same town, I would just love to buy you dinner.

Nona: Yay. I would love that. You can buy the entrée, I’ll buy dessert at least.

Jen: Okay, that seems fair. I love it. Thanks so much for being on today, Nona.

Nona: Thanks, Jen. You’re amazing.

Jen: Fantastic. The very wonderful Nona not Norah. You’ll want to follow her on her social media sites because it’s like this fabulous combination of inspiration and snark and beauty. And it’s just kind of all in there. It’s a great follow.

And I’ll have, like I said, all those links over at on the transcript page for this episode. So we’ll have everything you need over there. Go over there, your one stop shop. I am delighted that you now know Nona because she’s great, and I look forward to her book coming out too.

So thanks for downloading you guys. Thank you for a million things you do for this podcast, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, all that is great for podcasts. Thank you for sharing episodes that you love, that is meaningful to me. Thanks for posting them on your socials, you’re just a wonderful listening community, and just continue to like astound me with your loyalty and your commitment to the show and to its guests.

I cannot tell you how many of my guests have come back to me and said, “I love your followers. They have followed me, and they’ve connected with me after our interview.”
And I’m like, “Oh yeah.”

So thanks for being awesome.

More to come in this series, you guys. I mean, we could do this series for 1000 straight weeks. There’s so many amazing women in the world right now. It’s such a good time to be alive.

Come back next week. If you haven’t already subscribed, do it. That just makes this easy. That’s the way that this podcast just shows up in your phone. You have to do literally nothing. So it will take 12 seconds to subscribe. Head on over there and do it.

Great to be with you this week. Can’t wait for the next one. See you next time, guys.

Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!

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