Career

Starting From the Ground Up with Hype Freedom School Founder, Brandi Brown

Have you ever found yourself totally out of your element?  How did you handle it?  Were you able to grow from it?  Brandi Brown, founder of Hype Freedom School found herself out of her element at Southern Methodist University.  When she expressed an interest to “come home” she was connected with an organization that would change the trajectory of her life.

Show Notes:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you ever really found and followed your calling?  Brandi Brown did just that.  After graduating from Southern Methodist University she set out to establish a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in her hometown of Houston, TX. 

In this episode, Brandi shares her experience of attending SMU and how a connection with a fellow Mustang (the SMU mascot) lead to an opportunity with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Dallas, TX that changed the trajectory of her life.

A few of my favorite take aways include:

– Nobody gets where they are in life without the help of others

– Starting something from the ground up is not easy

  • You cannot care for other if you haven’t cared for yourself first

Links:

Hype Freedom School – website

Hype Freedom School – Facebook

Hype Freedom School – Instagram

Hype Freedom School – Twitter

Children’s Defense Fund – website

Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School – website

Transcript:

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same. 

Susan: Hey, Pod Sisters, there is nothing that unlocks possibility in this country more than education. It is the key to everything. As a first gen college student, I can attest to this firsthand. Today, my guest is Brandi Brown. Brandi is originally from Houston is a graduate of SMU and is the founder of Hype Freedom School. Please note that at about the 36 or 37-minute mark, it gets pretty loud in the background. What I want you to know is that that is the sound of about 100 amazing young women attending the Marvelous Girls Summit on the campus of SMU.

You might remember our friend, and previous pod guest, Shanterra McBride, founder of Marvelous University. Well, she put on a summit for young girls and Brandi and I were both there to help and support her. And while we were there, I had the opportunity to catch up with Brandi and learn a little bit more of her story, and I took it. I cannot wait to share our conversation. So without further ado, here is Brandi.

Susan: Well, first, tell me a little bit about how you got started with Hype, how all of this, how this dream got started. Tell us a little bit of your background story.

Brandi: Sure, sure. So of course, I can’t talk about Hype without talking about my life because it has become my life. So I met Shanterra, and actually it’s amazing that we’re here because I was a student at SMU. I actually was born and raised in Houston and really did not have—I guess I knew I was going to go to college but it wasn’t a like this dream of this is the college I’m going to, right? And so was introduced to the concept of going to college, but then it was like, “Yeah, why not? Sure, I’ll go to college?” So, went to a predominantly African American School, grew up in a predominantly African American neighborhood. Really now as an adult, I know was an underserved community. It was just my community growing up, so I didn’t really know what that meant or what that looked like.

And so it was kind of grew up in this high school. There was some exposures that we had to colleges and college fairs and college days, and we went to this one college fair at the school and SMU was there and they were like, “Okay, we’re looking for students to sign up for Mustang Monday. You have a trip, you come on Sunday night and you spend Monday on the campus and then you see the campus and decide if we want to go.” So a group of us in our class thought, “Will we miss school on that day? Perfect. Sign us up.” So I have a twin sister. So I must start with that. I tell people…It’s great. It’s on a podcast. But oftentimes, “Are you…? Do I know you?” But anyway, so my sister and I and a group of our friends came to SMU and we did Mustang Monday, totally hated the campus.  I did not like, I was like..The people…I mean, now I know who was hosting us. Were like the Association of Black Students, a lot of the sororities and fraternities, like they were our host. And we even stayed in the dorm room with some of them. But I just didn’t like the campus. I was like, “It’s okay,” like it definitely was not as beautiful as it is now. I knew it was a beautiful campus, but just in my little closed mind, I just did not, you know, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

So then things got a little bit closer to our graduating time and SMU had sent kind of this package, and it looked like it was good. And my mother, of course, was aware of SMU but we just didn’t know anything about it, like her colleagues at work shared with her what SMU is about, but I grew up with a single mother. I was raised by my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother had nine children and out of her nine children only one of them graduated from college. And so my aunt was really instrumental about college is the way, like this is the option that we want for them. And my mother didn’t–she went to college for two years, and she got pregnant with me and my sister and so then she didn’t go to school anymore. So she relied a lot on others to be able to kind of guide our educational career.

And so, I don’t know, we decided that we would do SMU. We have a cousin so she got accepted SMU and it was kind of this thing like, “Okay, we’re gonna send our children to SMU.” And SMU had a Summer Bridge Program. The funny part again, being young you don’t really know all the ins and outs but this summer bridge program was, I know now, for minority students who had low SAT and ACT scores but had very high GPA’s in school. So I graduated number two in my class but I’m sure my SAT scores were crazy, like it was like, “Somebody’s going to accept me, right? Surely there’s a college out there that would accept me.”

But we signed up for the for the Summer Bridge Program, which was a really good program, like I don’t know where, you know, what colleges are doing now, but what it did, it got us acclimated to the campus. I kind of felt like “Oh, this is cool.” But we were with about 22 other students and they all kind of look like I did. They had similar backgrounds of me. The first day of class, I came out of class, I stood on the steps of Dallas Hall, and I was like, “Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many white people in one place personally.” Like I like a lot, “Oh my goodness!” So I saw my sister and I was like, “Were there any black people in your class?” Because all Summer now we have taken classes with our Summer Bridge students the whole time. Where did everybody go? So that was a like aha moment like, “Oh, so this is…” And I remember that being the case when we came down for the college visit and I remember thinking I don’t like it but didn’t really know what I didn’t like.

And so I did it. I made it through the first semester, I made it through the second semester, got pretty acclimated. But my second year, I didn’t want to come back. I just…I was like, “I can’t relate to the people there. They live a lifestyle I know nothing about.” So I felt like even the African American students, you know, those that we knew grew up in very diverse communities. And so they had this experience that I didn’t have. And so I just felt like even I didn’t relate to them either. And can remember thinking, “I don’t want to do this.” So in Houston, Prairie View and Texas Southern University, which was to HBCUs have this big—when we were in school was a lot bigger—but had this big Labor Day classic every year. So my mother let us come home to go to the game. I was like, okay, so I go to the game and I came home and I said, “I do not want to go back to that place. Like I don’t want to go back there.” And so my mother was like…She downplayed it and so… I know tears always work so I just sat on a couch and just started crying like, I don’t want to go back there. Like, I don’t feel like I’m at home, I feel out of place. I can’t relate.

Susan: You didn’t find your fit.

Brandi: I did not find my fit. And so my mother as great as she is, asked me if I would stay until the end of the semester, and it is just September, so I’m like semester is a long time from the end of semester. So I agreed, came back and finished that semester. And what she did is she got on the phone and called somebody that she met early on while we were in Summer Bridge and was like, “Can you please talk to her?” This lady introduced me to a gentleman from Oakland who experienced the same thing, but I had already graduated. And so I met with him, and he just, you know, was really just encouraging, just like “You know, you could do it, like just give it a try and try to do your best, be you but understand you will grow a lot and learn a lot.” So I was like, “All right?” And so I kind of finished that semester, and then he was working with a new program. And now, you know, he said, “I want to give you this try to work with this program, you know, to see if you like it,” and I was like, “but I’m trying to go home and the program is in Dallas.” So he’s like,”Just try it.” And I did. It was a summer program. It was the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. It was only in its second year here in Dallas, and it was in Oak Cliff. And so it was the first time that I left off the college campus and was able to go in a community that looked like my community, that felt like my community. I saw little children that looked like me when I was a little kid. So it really was an outstanding opportunity for me. But I was young, I was a college student and did not take it very seriously.

So my first couple weeks of the program–five weeks of summer programming, surely you can get to get it together, it just was terrible. So I remember being late to my interview and they let me..I mean, really, really late. They let me do it anyway, they let me interview and it was all because of this man who had given my name, I’m sure. Now being on the other side and I interview people, I’m able to see like they’re, you know, everybody’s trying to put their best foot forward, but you’ve got to give them a shot, right? So I try to be very, very mindful of that now. So I got an opportunity. I was probably late the first two weeks every day. And finally he called me in his office like, “Listen, so you’re either in or you’re out. My name is on this.” And I just remember thinking, “I’ve got to overcompensate now.” And so, I went above and beyond because he called me out. I cannot not let him see me not try my best. And so that was kind of the turning point of me really realizing the great opportunity that I had in working with the youth in the community and look like me. Of course, I was in college so I didn’t get any of that until probably 10 years later.

Susan: Sure.

Brandi: Yes, I’m talking like I really felt all it in now. It was a summer job. I’ve got a job that I thought all right, this is cool. I got a chance to meet some new people with the job. It was training. It was an annual training with college students that are doing Freedom Schools all over the country. It was the first time I was able to see in really interact with other college students that look like me and so I thought that was a really cool because it was like 300 college students that look like me in the same space opposed to being at SMU campus. So I mean at first it was all right. Like the first summer was good. I really went above and beyond, and the director noticed it and she started having the national staff from Children’s Defense Fund come in and sit in my class and observe. I still didn’t think anything of it and finished that summer and came back to SMU. I got acclimated a little bit more. Things were going well. Then I decided…The director called me like that January, February and asked if I would come back and work for the summer. I was like, “Okay.” And she said, I would like you to be the site coordinator, just the site supervisor. I was like, “Okay.” I’m thinking, “Really.” And that was really the turning point where the summer job actually became my lifetime of service. So really, that was the eye opener for me that by that time this was—I started doing Freedom Schools in my rising junior year. And so then they invited me to come back my rising senior year. And I just remember saying, “We need something like this in Houston, right?” Because I’m clear, I’m graduating and I’m going back home.

Susan: You are not staying in Dallas.

Brandi:  Yeah, I’m out of here. I graduated Saturday, in the car back on Sunday. We’re done. So did SMU… I mean, didn’t finish that summer. But I remember going to national training that year, and just asking people like a national training, like how do I do this? How do I start? What do I do? And now I’m always careful how I interact with young adults because you know, you have this huge training. Yeah, 300, 400 college students from all over the country, you’re all in the same space, with the same energy, with the same goals, with the same vision. So everyone is excited about the movement and how they can go back, right? But then we know what happens what people assume with college students, you get excited, then you spend all this time and energy with you and then the idea goes nowhere.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: But you spent all this time talking to them. So I can just remember talking to some of the older people that were there who were either in leadership positions with Children’s Defense Fund, or maybe they were running their own Freedom Schools and was just they’re kind of supervising their staff or whatever. And I remember saying, like, how do I start this? How do I start this? And I can remember just several people like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s a good idea. That’s good, baby.” But no one really taking the time just to say like, I mean, these are the steps that you take. And I wind up talking to just this lady who was doing Freedom Schools in Kansas City. And I just asked her like, “How do I how do I go back and start a Freedom School?” And she literally walked step by step with me. Like, “Do you go to church?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “Go to your pastor, talk to your pastor about your idea. Here’s a video that you could show him .” It was on VHS. And I was like, “Okay,” because of course, this is in 1997. So, well, I guess the 96, I started… No, yeah, so 97. So this was in 1998. So I literally sat there, and she told me everything and I wrote everything down. And she said, I mean, who should I talke to? I mean, I talked to my aunts. And I talked to my family and my pastors and just everything she told me, I wrote it down and came back and did it.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: And so I remember Children’s Defense Fund, which is…Are you familiar with Children’s Defense Fund?

Susan: Yes.

Brandi: Okay. So, National Advocacy Organization for children at the time, they had annual conferences, and they would travel to different cities for the conferences. And so this particular year it was in Houston and my mother was standing at the copy machine. She was retired from the Court of Appeals. So she’s at the copy machine talking to one of the attorneys and was just saying,”My daughter is interested in doing some kind of program or something and bringing it to Houston.” So this attorney tells her “Oh, my husband likes working with organizations that’s doing services that’s nonprofit or whatever, we should get them connected.” Okay, so I come home and meet with this gentleman, and he’s like, “Yeah, I can help you get that off the ground.” And I invite him to go to Children’s Defense Funds conference because they had a Freedom School workshop.

Susan: Oh, cool.

Brandi: So as I would go to workshop, I’m still in school so I couldn’t come home for the workshop. I was just like, I have class this week, but they have this conference you should go see what it’s all about. So I invited him. My sister was already finished. She finished a semester early because she was trying to get out. So she finished the semester early and she went to the workshop and then this gentleman who really helped us kind of get it off the ground and just talked to us and the steps that we need to do and provided some funding for us.

Susan: That’s awesome.

Brandi: For us to be able to do Freedom School. So he went and got a chance to hear all about it and then immediately after I graduated—I graduated in 99, I started Freedom School. So we did not call it Freedom School because we didn’t have a dime like…

Susan: Sure. Grassroots before grass roots was a thing.

Brandi: Yes, I got a vision. And part of what Sheree is her name share with me. Sheree was just like you know, you talk to your family. You talk to your the people around you and see. And so I asked my family, they all would give. I made little slips of papers. I was like, “Would you make a donation to buy books for children?” And my family would save their little money and give me $25 here, $50 here. And my pastor was able to actually give some kind of startup money. So the first year we did…It just opened up the doors to do this Summer Food Program, which was free. And we did some components of the Freedom Schools program. And then the second year we actually kind of bought the curriculum and the books. They had this model that they don’t have anymore. So we bought the books and the curriculum and had a set of volunteers to work with us. And then we started there. And so really, it started off just me wanting to have a summer program, a safe place for children ago. And then also a place, as I told my mother, that I graduated from SMU, she kept saying, “You should get a job.” I was planning Hype. I was planning how to roll out a Freedom School program. That’s what I say now. Then what I told her was like, “Why do I need a job? Like I get to work for the rest of my life. I live at home. I don’t need a job right now.” So she introduced my sister as a working child, she would introduce me as the child I don’t know what we’re going to do with. Like she got a whole degree from SMU and don’t want to use it. But now I understand that what I really was saying was this is a time that I can use to create the framework of what I felt like God had given me the vision to do. So I often say that that when God calls you to do something, he equips you with people, the resources and the things that you need to make it happen. And so as a very young, young adult, I literally was like, I’m gonna do it. And in my mind what I thought it could be set up just like in Dallas, it was sponsored by a Greater Dallas community churches. I’ll find the equivalent in Houston. I’ll tell them about this amazing program, they will love it so much that they would hire me to run the program, and they will have a Freedom School in Houston.

Susan: It’s just that easy.

Brandi: It is. I went to so many places and I got the door completely shut like, “Oh, that is such a great idea. Are you available Saturday to volunteer with our fashion show?” Or “Oh, that is a great idea. Let me put you in contact with this person to do this. It’s a good idea. Okay. Tell me about that a little bit later.” So a whole lot of that. And finally, my cousin who graduated a couple of years before we did was like, “I think you need a nonprofit.” And I was like, “I don’t want a nonprofit. I just want my own Freedom School.” So she finally convinced me that we would do a nonprofit. And that was kind of the beginning of what it became. I mean, like, I’m amazed now that one, 20 years later, it is still around. And part of that people like, “That is so amazing.” I was just like, but the parents, no one gave me a chance to say you’re going to quit. You know, we are the program. So we look at the Freedom Schools model. You know, I think I credit a lot of my professional development to Freedom Schools because it was that moment when I learned that you’re not only representing yourself, I knew that growing up, like when my mother would drop us off to go away, she would always say, “Listen, you’re not just represent yourself. When you walk out of this house, yes, you’re representing God first, always understand it. So whatever you’re doing, and whatever things that are happening, God sees you. So you are a representation of him, okay?” Then she said, “And then you representing yourself, and so you think what representation you want to have for yourself and at the end, you are representing me. So when you go out, people don’t just always call you Brandi but they also say, Oh, that’s Margie daughter. And so understanding that you’re representing a whole…”

And so when Corey, which was the gentleman, called me into his office and said, “Hey, you know, I put my name on the line for you.” It was that reality check when I realized, “Oh, so I’m standing on his shoulders, on his name and this is something I have to do,” right. So when I think about working with young people now, I spend a lot of time talking about them that the decision that you make not only affect you, it is affecting people all around you and you never know how. And so for me, I just didn’t know how it affected him. But it was a good like, “Listen, get yourself together.” So for me, the professional development and the leadership development of that was awesome, you know it saved who I am and made me who I am today, because had not had that chance, then I don’t know when I would have learned that, right?

And so looking at Freedom Schools now at that moment, it was leadership development, really understanding. I mean college students, college aged adults, we hire college students to work with our students. So we have K through 8th graders. We hire college age adults to work with them. So they get a chance to not only facilitate a curriculum, but also get some youth leadership development too. I mentioned that training in Tennessee. It’s a week long and so not only do you learn the curriculum, but there’s also quite a bit of leadership development around advocacy. Around at that time, was the first time that I learned about creating your own kind of sense of—they called it “an island of peace” where you’re able to take care of yourself before you take care of others. So looking– I mean its popular now I’m talking about self-care.

Susan: Self-care, uh huh.

Brandi: But at that age, I literally was able to learn about self-care, I learned about journaling, I learned about prayer, I learned about nature walking, I learned about meditation. So as a college student, when it was not that popular at the time, even humor and how humor actually affect your body and make you…So literally, going through the Freedom Schools Program, show me at that moment, being in service and it has carried me all this time, you cannot take care of others if you haven’t taken care of yourself. And so I really tried to put that piece in front of me. But now somebody asked me about the why, like, why do I do the work? And I just, for me, I’ve just been contemplating about the why, it has changed so much. You know, I think when you go into something and you’re doing it for a season in your life, either you finish that season or  the seasons are changing within that full year. And so I’ve literally seen Freedom Schools change, why I do what I do, and how important it is. So I talk about Freedom Schools and you know, people like, “Oh, you run a summer camp.” “Not really.” And when I think about camps as impactful as they are, I look at Hype Freedom School as an opportunity for us to impact families by using the six weeks of summer programming to really build that relationship and a rapport with us so we can then impact them.

So my why right now? You know, Houston was hit by Hurricane Harvey. When I first started with Freedom Schools that I talked about, God gives you the people and the resources that you need. I was 22, 23, maybe 24. I eventually got a job because my mother said, “Well, just think if you could have somebody support you, like if you had coworkers, you can ask them to make a contribution towards your nonprofit.” “What? I’ve got to get a job.” So I started working full time, but really then I started working at a school where I graduated from as the teen pregnancy and parent coordinator.

Susan: Oh, wow.

Brandi: Again, young, maybe 45, did not have a child or children or a husband, probably, yeah, or probably had had sex by then.

Susan: Right. Yeah.

Brandi: I was like, “Oh, this is the position I have.” But my job was to ensure that those girls graduated. That nothing stopped them from graduating from high school. So I was provided the support system for them to be able to graduate. So of course, it was perfect for me. And when I say the seasons changed within the year, my season at that time was to empower young girls to be able to graduate from high school. But it also allowed me to work and do Freedom School on the side. And so because I was in the school system, then I had time to meet with people after school. Get off at three, met with them, then I had the flexibility with my job where I can meet off campus with people. I had my summers where I was able to go and work Freedom Schools. While I still provided services for our families, for the girls. And at the time, I did not know… Yeah, I cannot imagine how I was selected to do the job, you know, because I say years later when I finally had my first biological child, I was very down and hard on myself after I had my first child because I just remember thinking I pushed my students so hard after they had their babies to finish school. And with a husband, a mother, a sister, a stable home. I couldn’t move after I had my child. I was, “I can’t go anywhere. I can’t get it together.” I was so like, “I can’t go to work right now. I can’t leave my baby.” And I just started thinking. At six weeks, I was going to get girls from their home, taking them to daycares, put their children in the childcare center so they didn’t come back to school. Then they had to walk around those campuses like nothing was wrong, that they weren’t worried about their baby, and that they didn’t need to go home and feed their child, you know? So just all of those things was like…

Susan: I can’t imagine doing something like that. What those girls do.

Brandi: I used to tell them all the time, “You have the hardest job. You have to be a mother. You have to be a daughter. You have to be a sibling. You have to be somebody’s girlfriend. You have to be or pretend to be their wife, a student, you have to be somebody’s friend. It’s just so many layers that is very challenging to do as a young person. But I think you know, it all, and I just think about how my life has been ordered and the things that have happened. And so while I was at the school working with them, I met a family therapist because the program offered a family therapist to come with the team parents to work with them. And I share with this therapist that I had a summer program and we facilitate a parent meetings once a week at my program, and so she said, “I would like to do that.” And so she volunteered her time for about 10 or 11 years providing services to our families. So she started off facilitating our parent meetings. And then she decided to offer free therapy sessions for our families all year long. So after we finished during the summers, we became an extension of our families. So when things went on or crisis happened or celebrations happen, that our families would always include us. And so we became kind of the hub to provide the resources that they needed to make things happen, right? And so to this day, we have become that resource. The therapists work with us for those years, she finally resigned, just like she gave me an official resignation letter like she really was on staff.

Susan: I’m out.

Brandi: I was like,”Ah!” But did not realize what critical piece she played until she was gone. I mean, because we think about mental health services and the families that we serve. We don’t do mental health services. Like that’s a sign to say you crazy. And we don’t tell people we’re crazy. You might be crazy, but I’m not…You’re not going to have a therapist to say that I’m crazy. So that is the mentality that many of our –not many, some of our families once had.

Susan: Oh, sure.

Brandi: Really looking at how do we introduce therapy and how do we introduce mental health services. She was the perfect, perfect fit for us. We were able to build a relationship with our families, we built their trust. And literally, when she resigned, we had more families than we ever had actually getting therapy from her. So of course, when she resigned she’d already finished our sessions and that kind of stuff, but it just really showed us how much it had grown over the years. So when Hurricane Harvey hit, I was like, “I need a therapist right now.” Even though the majority of our families did not get directly impacted it affected everyone because in the middle of it all whatever trauma you had before, seeing water rising all around you, add to that trauma, whatever hard financial circumstances you had before is heightened because now the landscape of work has changed, you having to take off a work unexpectedly has also happened. So when we had to do…So I called her and asked if she would come back. And so since…I guess she came back probably in December of last year as a volunteer and we’ve been able to get funding to fund her to actually provide services for us throughout the year. And I will say my why now doing the program is really looking at how do we help our families be able to cope and break this cycle of whatever that trauma it is. So really introducing them and connecting them with resources like family therapy has been just my, I mean, it gives me chills bumps right now just to think about families who had never thought about getting their mental health needs that are now like, “Where’s Miss Stoops? I need her.”

So for me, that has given me I mean, just a whole different outlook on the important work that we do.We often say that the six weeks of program lasts an entire lifetime.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: So for our families who typically not only come six weeks, but come year after year after year, we know that the work that we’re doing stays with them forever. So, yes, that’s it. That’s my why.

Susan: That’s awesome. I want to know, have any of these families…Because you’ve been at this 20 years now. So where are the first round two families that came through? Do they stay in touch? Do you still get Christmas cards? Do you see their children now?

Brandi: yeah, we do. So we’re getting ready to celebrate our 20th so we’re rounding some of them up, but we still have a large group that we still stay very engaged with. So that first group are now professionals. We have a few attorneys that’s in that first group. Our most recent connection has been a franchise owner of Sugar Rush, which is a cupcake bakery.

Susan: Okay, uh huh.

Brandi: I don’t know the exact name for it. It’s not a bakery. But it’s called Sugar Rush 2. So he is the owner of this particular franchise. I’m smiling because he has been amazing. We did an event for our teachers. So a lot of our first rounders are teachers as well.

Susan: Oh, that’s cool.

Brandi: So while everyone was doing back to school drives, we did a back to school drive for our teachers who have been a part of Hype throughout our history, and so we provided supplies and books for them to outfit their classroom. And so we held it at Sugar Rush 2 with one of our first I mean, he was part of that first class of babies that was with us. He’s now graduated from University of Texas San Antonio, and so part of his gift his parents gave him for graduation was the franchise. Isn’t that amazing?

Susan: That is the craziest thing.

Brandi: Yes. So I ran into his mother in the grocery store preparing for some storm. It was not Harvey. It was like maybe an ice storm that was coming suddenly in Houston. So I was crazy. Like, get up and get ready to take on whatever coming our way. So I was like, let me go to the grocery store because we have nothing. So if we can’t get out of this house for a few days. We’re in trouble. So I’m in the grocery store and it is a mad house. I look over and it was one of our parents who was with us and so she’s like, “Yeah, Nick is doing really well. He’s now the owner of Sugar Rush 2,” and so we talked. So he was able to come out. We also have some of our graduates who are doing a little bit of everything, I mean, everything but now their children are part of the program, and so we have several of them that have grown up through the program

So my first day as a teen pregnancy and parenting coordinator was a delivery of one of the teen parents. And so they called and say… I caught her and I was like, “Hi!” I introduced myself. She’d just deliver her baby. So this was my first day of work. She’d just deliver her baby. Her daughter have been a part of our program since she was five, Hype, since she’s five. She just graduated and now attending Texas Southern University. So really kind of looking at the large impact. So, Susan, I’m getting a call from my Marvelous Girls Summit.

Susan: That’s where we are, at the Marvelous Girls Summit. And it sounds like we are getting ready to go back and do another session. But thank you so much. I appreciate time.

Brandi: I talked way to much.

Susan: No, you didn’t.

Brandi: You didn’t have questions?

Susan: No. You told the story and that’s what I wanted to hear.

Brandi: Okay.

Susan: Trust me on this. Tell us real quick before you go where we can find you.

Brandi: You can find me on our website at hypefs.org. You can also find us on social media. So we’re on Facebook, we’re on Instagram and a little Twitter, not much. But Hype F S, our Hype Freedom School, you can find us there or you can call us. I like phone calls, 832-510-0431.

Susan: Excellent. And I will make sure all that’s linked in our show notes. So you’ll be taken care of.

Brandi: All right.

Susan: Thank you for sharing with us and spreading the word.

Brandi: You’re welcome.

Susan:I appreciate it.

Outro: Hey, Pod Sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes or your favorite podcast app and hit subscribe. And while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here community page and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode, as well as any other fun How She Got Here content. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.

Starting a Movement Within You

Have you ever had an idea or a vision you just can’t shake?  Maybe its been marinating in your heart for a while?  How do you turn your vision into something bigger than yourself?  How do you make a moment a movement?

Show Notes:

What if?  What if you finally did something with that idea that has been rattling around in your brain? What if you took your passion and created something bigger than yourself?

Terri Williams says that all her life she has been a person that wanted to give people information in order for them to make informed decisions about their community to help it do better. Then, after the passing of her father, she took a hard look at how she was using her gifts and decided to take action on what she knew she should be doing with those talents.

One year ago, this self proclaimed “obsessive volunteer” took her passion to a whole new level. She knew that the expertise, knowledge, and skills she learned from her family, her volunteerism, and the boards that she sits on were tools in her tool box that needed to be shared and not kept to herself. So she took it all and created the Movement Maker Tribe with the goal of inspiring others to create the changes they want to see in their communities and she says “I haven’t looked back at all.”

Some of my favorite take aways include:

– We each have a role in making this world work and making it a better place

  • Magic can happen once you decide to 100% lean into the fullness of your talents and skills
  • You can’t do it all by yourself. Assembling your “framily” is key

Terri’s commitment to her own talents and skills reminds us of our own at How She Got Here. This March, we are celebrating Women’s History Month by committing  to 30 Days of Finding Our Extraordinary with resources on our website, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Join our Facebook community and Instagram community for daily reminders that are intended to pull you out of the hustle of life (even for just 15 minutes) and provide you time to focus on tapping into your gifts.

 

Links:

https://terribwilliams.com

Movement Maker Worksheet – From Terri’s Home Page go to sign up and then once signed up it will be sent to you

Movement Maker Tribe – Facebook
TerriBWilliams – Twitter

TerriBWilliams – Instagram

The Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI)

The Junior League of Austin

City Square

 

Transcript

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey Pod Sisters, I am so excited to kick off Women’s History Month featuring my conversation with Terri Williams. Terri is a servant leader and fellow Junior Leaguer. She says movements are never started alone but they blossom from the vision of one person who is inspired, driven, and altruistic enough to dream of and create something bigger than themselves. A few movements Terri has been involved in include spearheading the AHA effort to pass smoke free workplace laws in Louisiana and Texas, organizing the Junior League of Austin’s Capital Campaign Ambassador Programs where she served as lead ambassador and founded Forefront, rising leaders supporting the economic security of women in Central Texas, a program of the Austin Community Foundation Women’s Fund.

Terri says, “My mission is to inspire others to create change. Our world is rife with problems with so many issues to be solved. We need a new breed of leaders willing to lead the charge. We’re working with starting communities working towards big monumental change through understanding, organizing, influencing, and moving small groups.” So without further ado, here’s Terri.

Susan: Good morning, Terri. How are you? Thank you so much for joining me today.

Terri Williams: Thank you so much for having me, Susan. How are you?

Susan: I am doing really well and I’m just so, so, so excited to talk with you today. But for those of our listeners who are not familiar with you or your work, tell us a little bit about yourself what you’re doing and how you got here.

Terri Williams: Yeah, what a great question. I never know how to answer that. I feel that we’re all kind of like an onion, you know, there’s so many layers to all of us. I tend to tell people that I am a person that sees possibilities in everything. I say that leaders turn moments into movement and I truly believe that because of the work I’ve done, both professionally and as a volunteer. I’ll tell you a little bit about both. Professionally, I work for the American Heart Association, where I serve as a member on its government relations team, and I’ve been doing that for the past 15 years. Then in my private life, I am an obsessive volunteer. You can find me as a member of many nonprofit boards in Austin, across the country and internationally. And most recently, I launched a blog called Movement Maker Tribe, movementmakertribe.com, and it’s a place where I like to share resources and tools to help others become inspired to create changes that they want to see in their communities.

Susan: I love that. And that is one of the reasons I had you on today is because of this fun Movement Maker Tribe you have launched and started. Remind me if I’m thinking about this incorrectly, but the first time we had a chance to chat, I think you told me this launched in 2016. Is that right?

Terri Williams: I launched March 27, 2018, a day that I will never forget.

Susan: Oh, 2018. Oh, I thought we launched at the same time for some reason. Okay, cool. I totally got that wrong. Well, you’re almost a year old.

Terri Williams: I cannot wait to celebrate. I’m counting down to that first anniversary.

Susan:  Yes, I get that totally. Tell us a little bit about how this became your thing, how it got started. What is the backstory to the Movement Maker Tribe and why did you launch this thing.

Terri Williams: Well, it’s really two parts. One is just a calling that I have, and the second is a time in my life where I started to see things more clearly for myself. The first part is I have all my life been a person that wanted to give people information so that they can make decisions about their community and help it do better. People will tell you I was that way in middle school, college. It’s all through my life. And you’ll see that in the professional careers I’ve had as a television journalist, or press secretary, or a philanthropic fundraiser for a nonprofit, I’ve always wanted to give people information so that they could be a catalyst of their own.

And then in May of 2017, my father passed away and he was one of the people that I was extremely close to and it just really changed me. As you would expect for your life to change when you lose a parent, and instead of really mourning and being sad, I really took inspiration from the lessons that he and my mother taught me. They were people that were incredibly engaged in their community. My grandparents helped build a church in Lafayette, Louisiana, and then that church burned down and my mom and dad stepped up to help rebuild it. And so I really saw in me that I wasn’t using all of my gifts. I hadn’t grown to be…

Susan: Yeah.

Terri Williams: I know right? That is something that sometimes it’s hard for you to think through and really admit, but when my dad passed away, it was like I went from living unconsciously to very consciously. I’d been at the Heart Association for about 13 years at that point in my same job for about nine, and was very content, and you know contentment is just where you’re comfortable. You know some people might think of it as a rut. It definitely wasn’t a rut at that time it was just it was just really content that I felt like I could do more likely to use more of my gifts. And so it’s like literally someone turned a light on when my dad passed away and I started living very consciously and thinking about how I was using my time, my gifts and the decisions I was making and decided to act on this calling. And it was to share all the lessons I learned from my family, the boards that sit on, the fellowships I attended, just all these tools I had the my tools box that I felt shouldn’t be kept for myself and so decided really just to act on faith and to lean in a little bit and to launch Movement Maker Tribe and haven’t looked back at all.

Susan: That is really cool. You know, the month of March on the podcast, we’re really centering on finding your inner extraordinary or your own extraordinary and you talk about the gifts that you knew you had. How did you know you had those gifts? Where did you…? Maybe that seems like a silly question. But like, how did you know these were your things? These were your talents, and that it just wasn’t something I’m okay at. Like, this is really what I’m here to do.

Terri Williams: That is a great question. And really…I can give you a lot of two-part questions, but it’s two things. I think, one for me, it was quantitative. I’m a data person, I want to see data. And the second thing was really an emotion or feeling. And lot of times, you know, you have to kind of lean in and use our intuition to really guide you. And so for me…Actually I’ll tell you a story. I was a very active volunteer in the Junior League of Austin and now sit on the board of the Association of Junior League International, which is the international governing body.

Susan:  Oh, yeah, that’s a big job.

Terri Williams: It’s a big but fun job.

Susan: AJLI is a big job.

Terri Williams: Are you a Junior League member?

Susan: I am Yes. I’m a sustainer. Yes. And that is not an easy job. That is like running the masses and herding cats, I think at the same time

Terri Williams: It is. It’s so rewarding.

Susan: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Terri Williams: It’s my three or fourth term in May. And it’s been an amazing ride. But at the time I was carrying the Capital Campaign Committee for Austin, where we were trying to raise $10 million for a new building for the Junior League. And you know, it’s a really heavy job, that is the real heavy lift. And I was asked to present monthly at a junior league meeting just really to energize the volunteers to speak up and volunteer to help other women give but also the ones that were interested in volunteering to ask them to give their treasures, and I remember I gave the speech about two or three times and was really shy about it and really wanted to let someone else to have the opportunity to do it. Because Junior League is a training organization, and so you know, I asked our consultant if I could teach someone else how to do the ask. And she looked at me and she said, “No,” and she says, “You have to do,” and I was like, “Okay, well…”

Susan: That is hard.

Terri Williams: Yeah, I know she wants the best so I did it, and it was a surface level performance for myself. I was in this place where, you know, I’m starting to feel like people were thinking like, I just wanted to be on stage and not share the limelight so people were tired of hearing for me, and it was internal conflict. And she pulled me aside and said, “Look, here are the numbers when you speak how much people give. Here are the numbers when someone else does it. You have the passion. You care about this. You love this project. It translate to what we need to do for the organization. I need you to speak.” And it was at that moment where just kind of the intersection of what was going on in my head, my heart, and my gut came together. And I understood and I really started to understand this gift that I had that I really wasn’t tapping into you. And it wasn’t just the storytelling and getting the people to be engaged, it was everything else that came along with that capital campaign. I had helped recruit volunteers to the table and help think through some policy measures that we needed at City Hall. There were so many pieces of me that were tied to that campaign. And the story that I took from it for myself was they were gifts that I could share with others and things that I could teach other people. And then when I kind of match that up to what I would do every day at work, the writing was so clear on the wall for me and it really just happened so fast, as I’m sure you know from starting your own blog, the universe puts you right where you need to be and the dominoes lineup and then you just keep going and going, and next thing I knew it was launching. And it’s been a whole lot of fun ever since.

Susan: I totally know what you’re talking about. And I also have some familiarity with capital campaigns, and those are a lot of work and they’re very hard. And so I commend you for even just being willing to be part of a capital campaign. I remember my college went through one when I was in school there, and it was just…Even though I was a student, they obviously recruited students to help and to make calls—and obviously, we weren’t calling the big heavyweights, but just getting people to understand why giving is so important and giving back is so important. And I wonder…I mean, as a former Junior Leaguer I remember walking into the Junior League and being a member of the Junior League you also pay dues and so when I first started I was like, “Wow, I’m paying dues and then they want me to give on top of that?” And I started the Junior League really young so I didn’t really understand that in the beginning. And once I really understood what the money that dues went to—and I know each league operates differently—but what the dues go to versus what giving above and beyond that go to, it just changed my whole perspective as to the mission and what they’re really doing. So I really commend you for taking that on.

Terri Williams: Oh, it was more a gift to me then, you know, than I was to them.  I have learned so much from that process. And, you know, you learn one thing from one organization, and you get to bring it to the next and then you get to inspire someone there and get to bring it to the next organization. And so, around that same time I could see those lessons and wasn’t just in capital campaigns, but lessons from city halls and state capitals and lessons from helping to build followership and teaching people how to do it, it just kept happening over and over. And so you know what all your listeners to know that you might learn something in the Junior League or another organization, but it definitely won’t stop there in your life.

Susan: That is such a good point. That is such a good point. Many of the skills that I learned in Junior League have transferred over to other organizations and other things that I’ve done. And like just any job, you know, transferable skills are a good thing. Your mission is to inspire others to create change, and you say we need a new breed of leaders to lead the charge. I want you to break this down for us. What skills do new leaders need? And how do we tap leaders or maybe even recognize the leader in ourselves?

Terri Williams: Yeah, so I love that so much. And that is exactly just it. For so long I looked up to leaders that weren’t my age, they were leaders that we heard stories about, and those are needed because, you know, we need those fundamentals and lessons, the things that are tried and true to really give us that foundation when it comes to leadership. But if you really look at what is emerging in our world today, we really need leaders that look like us that are everyday leaders. And so I really think there’s a leader inside each of us. Sometimes we lead in our household, sometimes we might lead at church, sometimes we might lead at PTO or we might lead on a stage like a state capital. But we each have a role in making this world work and making it a better place. And so I say leaders turn moments into movement because when you find that place for yourself and you contribute, you are part of something here. And so I tell everyone you know, you can do something really big, like one of the first movements I was a part of was passing the law that made all the restaurants smoke free in Louisiana. And that’s something that was extremely very challenging and it really changed me forever but then you could be part of some thing that might not be such a heavy lift or something that as challenging, you know, when you…One thing that I love doing is I travel a whole lot so I take the toiletries from the hotel when I don’t use them. Hilton and Hyatt, please don’t come looking for me.

Susan: You are not alone.

Terri Williams: But I do I take them and I put them in a Ziploc bag with a note and some, you know, $1 bills or some quarters. And when people ask for something at a red light, I’ll hand them that goodie bag. That’s something that is so small. It’s something that doesn’t cost much of anything, but that is starting a movement, and that movement could just be putting a smile on someones face that day, or that movement could be doing something as big as giving them the toiletries they need to get ready for a job interview. You never know what you’re doing when you’re contributing.

Susan: Okay. I will say that is not what I’ve ever done with those toiletries and wow, what a fantastic idea. I put them in my guest bathroom and wow, what a fantastic idea. I think I will be switching to that because we too in Dallas have a homeless population that we are constantly trying to help, for lack of a better word, and City Square is one that’s really big here in Dallas. And so yeah..Wow, you changed my perspective on something that I really had never thought about so thank you for that. That gave me goosebumps.

Terri Williams: So much about this is shifting perspectives. I love that you say that and I want to highlight that because a lot of times when we get stuck in a rut or we’re content that we might be craving something or if you’re in a state of depression, if you can just figure out how to shift your perspective, usually you start a movement within yourself that will start a larger movement within the world.

Susan: You are so right. That is such a good point. A second ago you mentioned past leaders, what can we glean from those past leaders? What are some things that you think are worth taking into the future with us and then what are some things that you think are worth leaving in the past?

Terri Williams: Oh my gosh. That is a really hard question. I have to say, you know, so many of our leaders that we think about… I actually just attended a course at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado that focused on Frederick Douglass. We talked a little bit about Abraham Lincoln. When you think of those iconic leaders of the past, they were so loyal to their country. They were so loyal to themselves and they were so loyal to their families. I think those are our core values that I want that hold I dear to my heart. But when I think about the leaders of today in the future, they are agile, they are flexible, they are working from restrained resources like never before, and are being so innovative and are inclusive, far more inclusive than a lot of our leaders of the past. Those are things that I too want to hold really close to my heart as core values that I want to activate and activate often.

Susan: Who is your favorite female leader right now?

Terri Williams: Oh, that’s such a good and fun question, and I have to admit you said off script, I know you email me these questions and I have not read them.

Susan: That’s perfectly fine. I love it.

Terri Williams: So they’re all brand new. But I have the best girl squad ever. My friends are just so fantastic so I can’t say like one, but I have a friend that was a part of the founders of the Women’s March, I have a friend that trains women to run for office, I have a friend that’s a scientist, I have a friend that goes to China and figures out how to make toys safe… I can just go on and on and on. And I just I love them so much because they take the time and lift me up, they take the time to make sure that I am a part of this journey and that we’re doing it all together. So I will take my friends who are leaders any day over anyone that’s super duper famous.

Susan: Oh wow, that’s such a good point, Terri. The podcast here is ‘conversations with everyday extraordinary women.’ So I really love that you’re highlighting your friends and your girl squad as people to look to. Because I think often when you’re struggling or you’re going through something or you’re starting something, I think you do have that core group of people that you lean on, but I do think oftentimes we really don’t look to ourselves and our friends, even though I’m sitting here trying to highlight everyday extraordinary women, I’m guilty of that. I’m guilty of not looking to my friends and thinking, “Oh, I really love what she’s doing and I want to be more like her.” So I really appreciate that you highlighted that. I think that brings up a good point that the people that you need and the strength that you need and the inspiration that you need or just always all around you and to look there first. So I really like that. That’s a very good thing to highlight.

Terri Williams: Yes indeed. I’m so blessed to have a really strong group of girls. I actually call them my Framily, instead of family?

Susan: Oh, I love that. That’s so fun. That’s so fun. Another of my friends calls her squad, which I’m lucky to be a part of, her Board of Directors. I like framily.

Terri Williams: I’ve heard that term before

Susan: That’s so funny. So your three areas, if you go to terribwilliams.com, the first three things that you have highlighted are philanthropy, policy, and mission building. Those are your areas. Why these three areas? What about these three areas did you want to hone in on?

Terri Williams: Yeah, yes. I really think that these are the keys, the things that leaders need, which are moments in movements. For me, I have seen a lot of change in my community through public policy, lobbying and advocacy and grassroots organizing. That really is a place where an individual can gain power. I know a lot of times people feel like they don’t have power when they think of politics or Washington or their state capital. But you do; you actually control the process. I talked about philanthropy because it’s a way that even business leaders try to change the world. Think about Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos and all these people that have signed a million dollar pledge. They’re giving their money to charity to solve the world’s most pressing issues. Now, what’s cool about that is we don’t need a million dollars to make the same investment you know, you can take $1 or $5 and still give to an organization have impact. So again, you have the power. Then I talked about mission building because a lot of times organizations want to grow their followership and find that power in others. And so they can do that too. And lately I’ve been talking about really a fourth one, and that’s the movement building within yourself. You know, once you sit back and really think about all the tools in your own toolbox, and what you know and how you love yourself, you have the power really to tackle anything that comes your way. And so I really do love those because I truly, truly think they help leaders turn moments into movements.

Susan: I love that you brought up the $5 and $10 donations are just as important. One thing that I’ve noticed over the last year or two, I’m not sure when it officially started, but over the last year to through Facebook, you can actually—I don’t know if they take any of the proceeds how this works. So I’m not advocating for everybody to go out and do this because I don’t know the backstory behind all of this—but I have seen people like us their birthday or specific date that’s significant to them for one reason or another, and to give to an organization through Facebook. And what I like about that is you can see just how many people gave to get to $500, $1,000, you know, a couple of thousand dollars. And it’s really those $5 and $10, the grassroots donations. And all of a sudden you have your tribe of people who had, you know, your tribe of even maybe 10, 15, 20 people who were willing to give those 5, 10 and $15 donations, and all of a sudden you have several thousands of dollars going to an organization. And like I said, I’m not exactly quite sure how Facebook does that and if they charge fees or anything like that, but I do think that that’s a really cool visual way to see exactly what you’re talking about, that those dollars really do make an impact and you don’t have to have the million dollars to make a difference.

Terri Williams: Exactly. And whoever that person is that decides to do a birthday fundraiser, they are a leader that has decided to take a moment, their birthday, and turn it into a movement, like help. Good. So you’re helping to highlight that truly we do all have the power to do this work.

Susan: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That is such a good point. Okay. Tell me quickly, because I want to be respectful of your time, tell me quickly, if somebody has had something, you know, just jogging around in their mind something they can’t get rid of something they even try to get rid of it. It just keeps coming back. That’s kind of at least how I hear a lot of people say, that’s how I kind of figured out it was my thing. I just couldn’t shake it. So they have this thing that they can’t shake. Where do they start?

Terri Williams: Oh, probably the toughest question yet today. You got to start in your heart. Like I said, the intuition you know, and if you have an idea, you can’t shake it, you know, wakes you up in your sleep. You’re in the shower and you’re thinking about it, you might almost run a red light because you can’t stop thinking about it, it truly is your thing. And so that’s when you have to sit down and just really think through what are the resources you need? How can you use your time, talent and treasure to further your personal mission? A lot of times we don’t we don’t label it your personal mission. And you have to treat it just like you would a job just like you would an organization. You’ve got to oil the machine, create a strategic plan, and really follow through on the task and the tactics that are needed. So, to the point that you made about your friend, you’re definitely going to need a board of directors, people that can hold you accountable that vision, people that will help you create that vision, people who will celebrate your success to get there. And the people that I see that fail or flounder are the people that truly aren’t committed to the idea from the start, right? They’re the people that kind of want to do it or they think it’s a fad or they’re just unsure of themselves. And so I always say, “Get off the box, go for it.” You know, I heard someone say just yesterday, “If you’re shooting for the stars and you fall, at least you’re above the ground.” So you’ve just got to try. And usually when you break it down into bite size pieces and think about what is my long-term plan? What do I want to do this month? What do I want to do this week? What do I want to today? And how does it help me reach that vision? You’re usually on your way and you’re going to do extremely well and be successful.

Susan: You are absolutely correct. And I really liked how you put that. My brain is just spinning right now. And I love having a conversation with a woman and I’m like, “Oh, I need to write this down and I need to think about this.” And I’m sitting here furiously typing out notes, so I hope my editor can get that out. Where I want to leave us today is well first I want to talk about where we can find you. But second next steps, you talked about putting together a strategic plan, and I think that’s probably like your mission, your personal mission and putting together your strategic plan if you don’t know what that is share a little bit about—is that like a five year plan? Like talk to us a little bit about what you mean when you say a strategic plan?

Terri Williams: Got it. Yes. And actually I have I have something that maybe I could share with you to put in your show notes or the side if you have a newsletter or something but I have something that I call a Motivation Map that I’ve created and it just helps you figure out that why. If you’re on the fence about do you have a personal mission, do you want to start a movement? This motivation that will help you tease it out and really explore your why also my website if you go to terribwilliams.com and sign up for my newsletter you can download a movement maker map, and that map, once you have identified your mission will help you get started. And so that could be a first stab at a strategic plan. It helps you think of, you know, what is it going to take? Who are your champions? Who might be your dream killers? Who’s going to, like, not be happy that you’re going to try to start this movement?

Susan: Yes, those exist.

Terri Williams: Yes, yes, haters are real and once you really take a look, as the kids say, IRL, what’s happening in real life and you write it down, then the plans start to come to life, the movement starts to take shape. And then you start to work on things like connecting and collaborating and really getting people to the table with you and being in a very inclusive way is you will see your movement come to life. So that’s kind of what I would do to take the next step and how it begins to start a strategic plan.

Susan: Oh, I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. And I hope everybody goes to your website and signs up and gets that map that you put together. That is such a cool, cool idea. I love it. So we need to go to your website, where else can we find you? On social? Is it Instagram? Is it Facebook? Where does your business Terri William self hang out?

Terri Williams: Sure I am an Instagirl. Love me some Instagram. You can find me at Terri  B Williams on Instagram. On Facebook, Movement Maker Tribe is how you’ll find me and on Twitter, I love to get tweets;  just starting to get back into Twitter. I am Terri B. Williams there too, and I share goodies that I learned from others as well as put out some content to help people as they’re moving on their journey. And I’m not shy, y’all. I tell you what I have a good day I tell you and have a bad day. I tell you when I do something that is a complete failure and I usually want to celebrate it because we should fail forward and celebrate those too and I do all those things through my social media channels

Susan: Awesome. Awesome. Well, I know I’m already following you on a few of those. I don’t know if I’m following you on Twitter, so I’ll have to find you there. I’m not the best at tweeting. But I do follow people on Twitter regularly. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. This was a lot of fun. And there’s just really brightened my Monday. It’s finally I think, starting to get sunny here in Dallas. But we’ve had a few couple of days of rain and just gross weather. So I really appreciate you joining me.

Terri Williams: Oh, thank you, Susan. You are absolutely a joy and I love what you’re doing on behalf of women. We need so many fire starters like you to help guide the way and you truly are an inspiration to me, so thank you for having me.

Susan: Well, likewise, friend and I will chat with you soon.

Outro: I am thrilled to have had a chance to chat with Terri, and I hope this episode had the gears in your head turning. If you are following “How She Got Here” on Social Media or you have joined our email list, you know that March 1 we kicked off “Find Your Extraordinary” in honor of Women’s History Month. I’m using the How She Got Her Facebook and Instagram accounts to provide simple ways to tap into and recognize our everyday extraordinary gifts on the website I’m also providing ways to recognize the gifts of other women in our lives too, and I’ll even feature some of them in an upcoming podcast episode. So if you haven’t already, make sure to follow the How She Got Here Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as sign up for our newsletter on the website so that you can get all the Find Your Extraordinary updates. I am so looking forward to seeing where this takes each of us. Until next time, I see you soon.

Truth Without Judgement

We all know the old cliche “everything happens for a reason.” Bleh!  Yet, when life does happen it is often how we deal with it that makes us who we are.  So, how do you respond when it hits the fan?

 

Show Notes:

How do you respond when it all comes crashing down?  It wasn’t until coming face to face with her own suppressed trauma that Priya Patel truly understood what she was meant to do.  This is how the Intention Table was born.

In 2015, Priya began to unravel her life and began the quest to break through the barriers of hidden trauma. To help herself, she wrote and developed a robust curriculum, now known as the Intention Table. It includes programs that stimulate the body’s senses and cultivates an open present relationship with yourself through self love.

She launched the first of four programs in 2018.  Known as the Eating Meditation Experience, the first program is her take on a Zen Buddhist meditation practice.

Priya says: “I knew that I was disconnected from my body and myself and I knew that right here in front of me what was my drug of choice, food, was actually going to be a tool for me to heal myself by becoming very present with every piece of food during this meditation practice. And literally seeing it for what it was and seeing beyond my pattern of behavior, seeing beyond my needs to create intimacy with self and others. I unwrapped and unraveled to see the beauty in this eating meditation practice. So it became about me connecting to myself.”

Before launching the Intention Table Priya first created these programs to help her discover who she really is, but most importantly,  she says: “just to connect me with truth without this sense of judgment, you know, just seeing things for what they are.”

 

Links:

www.chasesplace.org

itsasensoryworld.org

http://www.gaiaflowyoga.com

www.theintentiontable.com

The Intention Table – Facebook

 

Transcript

Welcome: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Intro: Hey Pod Sisters. My guest today is Priya Patel. Priya is a certified mindfulness, meditation and Yoga coach that has a profound understanding that our bodies are faithful partners that carry the load life may present. Her teaching philosophy is the concept that housed in every one of us is the intrinsic knowledge and capability to heal even the most devastating of wounds. Prior to coaching adults, Priya taught children with special needs and specialized in the sensory system in communication. In 2010 her holistic approach to education led her to co-develop a school for children with special needs that today serves over 40 children in Dallas, Texas. In 2015, Priya began to unravel her life and began the quest to break through the barriers of hidden and suppressed trauma. To help herself, she wrote and developed a robust curriculum, now known as the Intention Table. It includes programs that stimulate the body’s senses and cultivates an open present relationship with yourself through self love. It is being used to help unravel, accept and move through life with a love based attitude. Priya’s gift is teaching people the art of self-inquiry to exercise the choice to meet circumstances, people in challenges with a love based attitude versus fear. She helps people see the truth within themselves, excavate deep rooted emotional wounds, unravel and reverse hardwired behavior patterns and let go of stories that are holding them back. So without further ado, here’s Priya.

 

Susan: Hey Priya, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so excited you’re here.

Priya Patel: And I’m so happy to be here with you today.

Susan: I think it’s really, not funny haha, but interesting how we were connected. I don’t know if you totally know this backstory or not, but I happened to be at Kate Weiser Chocolate not that long ago, just picking something up and I met Barbara Bowman, and I had never met her before. She was a total stranger and we hit it off. She has a wonderful spirit about her and she said, “I have some people you need to talk with.” And you were one of those people.

Priya Patel: Oh Wow. No, I did not know the backstory.

Susan: All right, well I love that you know that now. She is just such a sweet lady. Now did y’all…This is, we’re totally going off regular script, but did you guys meet at Gaia or how did you guys meet?

Priya Patel: Yeah, we did. We met at Gaia Flow Yoga. We both practice yoga there and then we both went through the teacher training program there and that’s kind of where we met. But then her and I became friends outside of that. She invited me to a women’s retreat last January and they kind of basically took me under their wing as one other women that they have as part of their group. And so it’s just been like, you know, a group of empowerment and unconditional love that I’ve kind of found with the group that she’s kind of invited me into. So that’s how I know her, and I did not know, I thought she was a friend of yours and I didn’t realize you guys were complete strangers. You’re right. She has this complete vibrancy about her. I can see her just randomly speaking to a stranger and connecting people.

Susan: And it was so interesting, you know, sometimes when you tell people you’re doing something like this and you’ve created this platform, you would be surprised as how many crazy pitches I get. And I was shocked. I didn’t know that was a thing, especially a smaller podcast. It’s not like I’m on the Today Show every morning or something. And so when people start talking to you, you’re like, “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea or whatever and thank you for listening or blah, blah, blah.” But she was totally different. She just embodied this beautiful spirit and I was like, “I totally get where you’re coming from and I’m connecting with you and absolutely I’m going to make this happen.” So I really appreciate her doing that.

Priya Patel:Me too.

Susan: But anyway, I haven’t talk…I need to reconnect with her because I haven’t talked with her in a while because she and I have kept up a little bit it.

Priya Patel: Yeah. She’s been a big supporter of this new company that I started. In fact, she helped me last week with an event. Like, she’s just been a big supporter.

Susan: Well that is fantastic. I’m so glad to hear that. And since we’re kind of already talking, maybe we should finally, because I started off this way, jump into this conversation and talk a little bit about you and what you’ve been doing. Priya, you are clearly a very accomplished educator. Would you share a little bit of your background story with us and kind of how you came to start the school and then ultimately I guess the Intention Table curriculum and how did yoga fit into all of that?

Priya Patel: Yeah, interesting question. So, I had been really drawn to working with kids with special needs since I was a kid myself. And so by educator what you mean is, I taught special education for a number of years and like I said, you know, I had my first encounter with a kiddo with special needs at the age of nine, myself. And I just continued that year on forward and forward, forward bond, hang with kids with special needs. I was extremely drawn to it. And then, you know, as I got older that continued in many different ways in different positions, ultimately becoming a special education teacher. So I taught in California for one year and then I met the love of my life at that time and moved out to Dallas and worked for a really small private school out here called Chase’s Place. And it was a school for kids with severe to moderate disabilities. And I love that program and everything that they stand for. However, at the end of my two years, just because of financial needs for the nonprofit, they were not sure of how many teachers they were going to be able to rehire for the following year. That kind of financial fear or uncertainty pushed me to start my own. He’s my ex husband now, but at that point in time my husband was really very supportive, you know, for my own happiness and he was financially able to support the both of us and said, “You go ahead and start your own if you’d like.” And so I did, I started my own program out here called Happy Hands Learning, and what that included was a social skills program called Pure Play dates and then a preschool transition program, a Mommy and Me sign language class program and a community inclusion and outing program.

Susan: Wow.

Priya Patel: Yeah, it was a really beautiful company and vision that I had. But the problem that I faced was I didn’t have space of my own, you know, I was running these programs out of like other people going into their homes or having to pay a lot of money for other people’s space. And that’s where The Sensory World came in. They had this beautiful sensory occupational therapy gym and I was very familiar with sensory equipment coming from California. Yeah, it was very much a very big part of educating kids with special needs was what’s happening to the sensory system in California. And that was a very new here in Dallas. So I really felt very much drawn to them because they had the sensory gym. But what was amazing is that they have this back room that was not being used.

So they had had a preschool program that they were running years prior, you know, a small program, but it wasn’t currently in place when I approached them about using their space to start mine. They very lovingly opened up their space. It was a woman named Erica and Angela, who are the founders of The Sensory World. They very lovingly opened up their space to let me try. And so I ran a summer school program there under Happy Hands Learning. We’re using this holistic approach to education and engaging the sensory system, really working on communication for those kiddos who are nonverbal or with emerging speech and language as well as functional living skills. Well, that summer program ended up doing really well, meaning the kids did really well that a few parents asked if their kids could stay past summer and just like that the school program was born.

So Angela wasn’t at, while I was there at summer, she wasn’t there full time. She worked her own full time job as a special ed teacher across the street. And then in the afternoon she would work double duty and come run the sensory world programs. And she actually took a leap of faith herself because you know, life was showing up differently for her and she came aboard full time. And so when she took that move, her and I together basically created this school program starting with really very low number of kids. Her and I created this program based off of her years of experience as a SLPA and a special ed teacher. And then as well as my experience as a behavioral therapist as well as a special ed teacher. So we were really combined four different modalities of teaching to create the school program.

That’s kind of how the school, I would say was born. And over time, you know, word of mouth and the program grew. Today, I believe it’s over 40 some children. I stepped out of the program. Recently, I exited the organization itself to kind of start this new venture. However, I stopped teaching and being program director two and a half years ago. I ended up fundraising for the organization together. The three of us ends up turning it into a nonprofit and now it’s been a nonprofit for going on four years—in its fifth year of being a nonprofit. So I ended up fundraising, so it kind of took…My direction wasn’t just the school in that organization. I ended up doing strategy and programming and fundraising and took on this whole new skillset, I guess you can say. But even like taking on that role, I believe had a bit of…What’s the word? A bit of responsibility with me really wanting to almost transition out and do something different. I’m really grateful for all of the roles that I’ve had there. And I still volunteer for them.

Susan: That’s really cool.

Priya Patel: I can’t leave. I do love the organization, their mission and I’m volunteering now.

Susan: Well, sure. I mean you’ve kind of helped launched it. For those of my listeners who are not in this world, could you tell us SLPA means?

Priya Patel: Oh yeah. So SLPA is Speech Language Pathology Assistant. So it is someone who, they cannot diagnose but they can treat under the supervision of the pathologists and that’s the license that she has.

Susan: Ah, got it. Very cool. Very cool. Thank you for sharing that story.

Priya Patel: Yeah, that’s kind of the birth of the school program at the Sensory World Academy, which I believe, you know, has led me to the birth of the Intention Table.

Susan: Yeah, no kidding.

Priya Patel: I know you had asked like how that started or why? To me the honest answer, it was born out of my own need to learn to be present with myself, but also to let go of myself at the same time, if that makes sense.

Susan: No, it absolutely does. In the month of October for the podcast, I did this fun 30 days of self care thing and really kind of tried to get into that and have a little something each day for each listener to just kind of—a little something to take care of themselves. And as I was going through it and putting it together, what I realized myself is, well, this is a great idea for my listeners, but I’m not doing this for myself. So that’s a problem. And I’ve noticed that stress shows up in my body in the oddest ways if I’m not taking care of myself: hive, anxiety, all of it. So I totally appreciate the fact that you’ve created something like this, how it was born out of something you needed. I think that’s very unique and very interesting.

Priya Patel: Flat out, like it’s just the truth that each one of these programs is, you know, something that I use or have used, I didn’t even realize that I had been living a life in fear making fear based decisions for a lot of my life, living with anxiety that was hidden and almost living on automatic. And like I said, like these programs are here to help. They were there to help me discover who I really was or who I really am but most importantly, what I feel is like just to connect me with truth, um, without this sense of judgment, you know, just seeing things for what they are.

Susan: Wow. That is such a powerful statement, “Truth without judgement.”

Priya Patel: Yeah. And a lot of that has stemmed from learning and teaching mindfulness because that ultimately is what mindfulness is, is to be an observer of yourself, as well as the consequences of actions. So it’s to be an observer of yourself, your actions, your thoughts as well as the consequences, but all of that’s without judgment. And really diving, doing a deep dive into mindfulness. I’m there to the point where, you know, I can see things for what they are without there being this concept of right or wrong or good or bad. It’s just this is what it is and now what? Versus having an emotion behind it and that doesn’t serve me in any way, shape or form.

Susan: You know, it’s funny, I’m actually finishing up a book by the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu called Finding Joy. Have you read this book?

Priya Patel: No, I haven’t read it.

Susan: The Dalai Lama talks a lot about mindfulness and speaks a lot to that. Good or bad isn’t sometimes the issue, you just have to deal with “it is what it is” and go from there. Can you kind of unpack that a little bit for us? You’re talking about mindfulness. For those of our listeners who might be newer to this idea or maybe never really thought about that, could you kind of unpack a little bit of what that means and then what this curriculum that you’ve created with the Intention Table, what that is?

Priya Patel:Yeah, so as far as unpacking goes, I had a lot of childhood trauma that I had suppressed, and what I came to realize only as an adult is that I had developed a lot of coping mechanisms as a child and that became coping mechanisms as a teenager and that became coping mechanisms as a young adult, that became coping mechanisms as an adult. And it carried on. But I didn’t understand where they came from until the day that I did. It’s almost like you have this awakening. And unpacking can be very ugly, you know, it can lead to…My challenge was having a very odd relationships, unhealthy relationship to food or a very unhealthy relationship to work where all you do is overwork as a way to almost avoid yourself or avoid life’s circumstances. You create this distorted illusion of life around you. And when you unpack that can cause people to spiral.

Susan:It can and get worse in many ways before it gets better.

Priya Patel: Right. But I think because I chose to like literally…I basically looked at every piece of my life without any shame. You know, sometimes I didn’t even have anger towards it. That came later because that wasn’t even an emotion that I knew, but I just chose to say, “This is what has happened. Now what?” So it’s almost like mindfulness found me. I didn’t seek it, I just fell into it. And then came to realize what I am really looking at here and seeking here is this path of pure mindfulness as well as this path of Yoga. You know, I found yoga and I found a meditation and I found this eight lanes path to living life really, and came to realize that I was already following that and I didn’t know that it had a name or a term, but it was really learning to just be in the present moment and always come back to this concept of be here now, that the past really doesn’t matter at this moment in time, the future doesn’t matter at this moment in time. And so all of the would have, could have, should have makes no difference at all. So it’s almost in some way, shape or form, just surrendering now instead of surrendering later. You know, I had a conversation with somebody just earlier today and I was telling her, you know, have you ever had this situation and why were you maybe a year or two, three years down the line you say, “Huh, that was exactly the way that that should have gone.” You come to this understanding that whatever you went through with exactly the way that it was supposed to be, right? And then you have this immense sense of peace when you finally come to that conclusion. Now what I’ve done is basically surrender to the moment without there having to be this push or a pull three years later just to really saying, “This is exactly the way that it’s supposed to be.” You know, I’m surrendering now versus surrendering later and having this immense amount of peace. And I don’t know if that answered the question. I feel like I went off on a tangent.

Susan: No, I think it’s a beautiful, I think what you said was beautiful and I think…

Priya Patel: It’s not easy though. But it can be done. I’m living truth and living proof that it can be done.

Susan: No, I think you’re right. I think it’s not easy. Something Desmond Tutu talks about in this book is how he was able to do that and live through an apartheid, how Nelson Mandela was able to do that and be in prison for so many years.

Priya Patel:Exactly.

Susan:  And it’s not surrendering. I don’t want people to think what we’re talking about is surrendering to the bad stuff. It’s just recognizing that this is where you are at the moment. I don’t know because I’ve never been in a situation that bad. I’ve never been in apartheid. I haven’t been in prison for 30 something years. Shoot. I’m only 37, 36 or 37, I can never remember. So he would have been in prison like my entire life of what I’ve lived already. But I can imagine, you know, we’ve all gone through things or, in your case, I think I have too. We all suppress stuff from childhood to one degree or another.

Priya Patel: Everybody has their own extent of trauma, conscious or unconscious. Everybody does, like that is part of being human is to have this experience, believe it or not, have some form of suffering of some way, shape or form. I mean, I don’t people to think that I’m like saying that people deserve it. It is just part of human existence, and sufferings by one person versus another looks differently. However, what I’m saying is it doesn’t have to be suffering. You know?

Susan: That was said beautifully. You’re absolutely correct. And it’s just getting to that point for everybody in their own way that… And I think this is a beautiful way to do it. Tell us a little bit more about the Intention Table curriculum that you have developed because this is  a curriculum.

Priya Patel: Yeah, so it’s a program, so very similar to when I started Happy Hands Learning. I started with four programs. With the Intention Table I started with – the premise is four programs. Each one of these programs are meant to help you fall in love with this concept of self discovery. Maybe not fall in love with it, but at least be present to the concept of self-discovery or an invite and self-discovery and unraveling of patterns of behavior, learning your desires, your wants, your needs, making choices that are right for you, which often if you have lived a life on automatic, you may not know. And so what we’re doing here with this company is learning to be curious about ourselves once more. And there are four programs. The one that I have launched officially is the Eating Meditation Experience. The ones that are in the works, our meditation curriculum, a journey curriculum that I’m writing myself and a trauma sensitive yoga program.

So those three are in the works, and the one that is currently in process and actually launched and available now is the Eating Meditation Experience. That’s a very ancient practice. It’s a Zen practice that I have created or made my own. So you know the Zen practice is using typically like one specific item, typically you’ll see them doing it with a raisin or a piece of chocolate and they’re really having you invoke all your senses to be present. So the reason why is my background as a special ed teacher and being very knowledgeable about the sensory system, as well as going through my own process of unraveling trauma, I became extremely disconnected from myself; pretty severe dissociation to the point where I couldn’t feel myself in my own body. I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.

And one of the tools that helped me sometimes cope or deal with these things was food—and not in a healthy way. So I created a really unhealthy relationship with food. It was something that if I wanted to feel the sense of shame or guilt, I ran to food in a binge type fashion, and there was no invoking of the senses so I wasn’t, you know, the thing is food is extremely intimate. It is extremely, if you allow it to be, it can become the shadow side. And what I mean by that is you tried to create a sense of intimacy with food or through food. So intimacy might be lacking in your life, whether it’s with yourself or others around you, some people to escape to drugs or sex or alcohol, I escaped to food and was trying to replace like intimacy with food and sometimes I controlled or over controlled and sometimes I under controlled.

And then I’m introduced to this practice of eating meditation only a year ago. And when I took this practice I realize, “Oh my God, this is marrying my whole life.” What I mean by that is I really have this whole understanding of this sensory system and then I knew that I was disconnected from my body and myself and I knew that right here in front of me what was my drug of choice, food, was actually going to be a tool for me to heal myself by becoming very present with every piece of food during this meditation practice. And literally seeing it for what it was and seeing beyond my pattern of behavior, seeing beyond my needs to create intimacy with self and others. I unwrapped and unraveled to see the beauty in this eating meditation practice. So it became about me connecting to myself. So you know what, when I’m disconnected from myself when I literally took the time to be present with, let’s say a piece of bell pepper and smell the bell pepper. So I may not be feeling my hand at that moment in time, but I can sense sensation in some way so bringing myself back to the sense of smell. And maybe I can’t feel my hands, however, but what I can do is I can see the colors in front of me. And not just see the colors, I ended up looking way beyond that. And this is Zen Buddhist practice. So you bring in this concept of the earth, this item came from there, this food came from the earth and looking beyond. And when you start to look beyond, things just kind of melts away and let go.

And it just helped me become more present with myself and bring me back to my self. If I feel myself fading away, I can bring myself back with these tools of tapping into our senses, which we’re born with these gifts of sites, smell…In fact, that’s how we learn the world as children, right? We learn and we’re bombarded with our sensors and our sensory system, but we learn specific information and then that gets on an automatic mode. And I’m basically taking myself out of automatic mode and constantly bringing myself consciousness. And for somebody who disconnect, you have to work to bring yourself back to consciousness. And this is just a very tactile, tangible, easy way. It is a meditation at the same time because what happens is, you know, there are many techniques or meditation that this one in particularly is using the vehicle food for one point at focusness. So I’m present with one single object for a moment in time and I use it as a tool to be still and to concentrate and to focus. And I naturally ended up closing my eyes because I’m feeling so connected. And then sometimes it’s not even about food or me personally, the food just kind of fades away and it becomes a vehicle to just be with myself.

And so what I do and what I’ve done is I’ve created a 45 minute guided meditation, but I’ve created this beautiful model and what I do, and it’s a three part process for the eating meditation. So it’s a 45 minute guided meditation, and then there’s a meal after the meditation. But what they are actually eating is a meal that has been created from ingredients that they have spent the time connected with. And that’s kind of the very beautiful piece right there that you know, now they’re going to eat a meal after connecting to something. And they may have known that or may not have known it depending on who they talked to, what reviews they’ve read. But it becomes this kind of pleasant surprise for them to see ingredients and eat them in a different way after spending 45 minutes with them differently. And then the last piece of the puzzle of this eating meditation experience is facilitated conversation around the table where we have conversations that matter, conversations…One, about our experience where we kind of get to dive into how present we may or may not have felt, emotions that may or may not have come up, senses that may or may not have been awakened. And then we see where that conversation takes us and often, I end the night with a question that takes us around having conversations around the table. For the last one that was recently, I just asked the question, you know, being that it’s the week of thanksgiving, next week and a day of gratitude; do you think we’ll get to the point of a culture where gratitude can be for every moment without this concept of good or bad? And that question took us around the table for like a 45-minute discussion or whoever was on the table just having a meal. We’re still eating at the same time and kind of this concept of breaking bread together. We share this experience together. We came there as strangers and here we are having this very intimate night with each other and possibly leaving transformed or at the very least discovering something about ourselves.

And that’s the first program that I’ve launched, Eating Meditation Experience. I have created my own model for eating meditation and INTENT and “I” stands for Invite. Invite the sensitives. “N”is notice and “T” is Transformed. “E” is Explore and Nourish and “T”, Think, and I have different pieces that I talk about under each one of those. And so I go over that during the meditation. And all of this work, you know, it’s things that I’ve been studying this past year extensively to create my own

Susan: That’s really beautiful and an amazing concept. I think especially here in the US. I’ve lived in New York City, I’ve lived in South Carolina, I’ve lived here now for 10 years. And we don’t do this. We’re not good…. I shouldn’t say we don’t. That’s an overarching, combining everybody into one. But I think as a society we choose not to do it because there are so many other things we fill our time with. And I say fill, because I mean, we all have a digital device that we’re sitting here messing with all the time, and to do something with such intention with strangers… And I would think most people don’t realize just how intimate something like that is going to get by the end

Priya Patel: Yeah.

Susan: Is it emotional? I would presume it will be emotional. I’m an emotional person. I would be crying by the end.

Priya Patel: I posted something on my Facebook just a few days ago from me. Like this was the first time that I actually closed…My last one I close my eye and I actually participated just to get a sense of what it feels like to participate with the crowd. But typically, I keep my eyes open and I’m watching everybody. It really is beautiful watching people just be with themselves and you know, even just inviting, you know, one, the phone is away. It’s a three-hour experience. The phone’s away the entire time, you know, and they don’t want their phone. They don’t miss it. They’re not missing it. It’s just away. And just to see people…One of the hardest things that you see or hear with meditation is that “I can’t be with myself. I can’t sit for that long.” And just to see them come out it and then say, “Wow, the 45 minutes went by so fast.” That is really beautiful. And then to see people be respectful of each other and have a conversation. I’m still learning to moderate. This is just a piece that I really wanted to have a part of the program because I had felt like I didn’t really have people to talk to them and I wasn’t even necessarily wanting to like dive into—and I still don’t like, I don’t dive into the X, Y, Z of my life history because at this point in time it doesn’t matter. And I just want people who are like-minded that I can talk to about things in the world, things to me that matter or concepts that matter or how we can work to better ourselves. And so the questions that I present are all questions about south discovery. So maybe it makes us think about our senses for this one particularly, maybe our sense makes us think of, are we only grateful for the good or can we become to be grateful even for in that moment time we think of as bad, you know?

And so can we leave this experience not transformed but curious. And that is my end game, or goal with it. And it is beautiful to watch it unfold. I feel like a curator and that’s why I say this is a curated experience. I do feel like a curator and I’m watching art take place and it’s like the humans, the people at the table are the art.

Susan: That is beautiful. I know these programs are offered just in the DFW area at this moment.

Priya Patel: Yes. That won’t be long. We’ll put it out there to the universe. My goal is, I mean this is going to take some time, but it’s not too far off. So right now they’re offered here. I co-office out of this workspace called the Common Desk and they have locations in Oak Cliff, Plano, Fort Worth.. And so I’ve done eating meditation. I just launched this company four months ago.

Susan: Oh Wow!

Priya Patel: Yeah. But within these, I just decided to go for it. And so I call it “Inspired action, that’s imperfect action inspired. I know that I’m meant to do this,” specifically this eating meditation. The other pieces of the puzzle are still coming like, you know, the yoga curriculum and the meditation curriculum. But this eating meditation is, I felt inspired, like it was like a message, like you have to do it. That’s what I call inspired action. The imperfect action is make the mistakes that I need to make now so that I can make it better, and I just keep doing them. And the next one gets better and then I’ll do one more and that one will get better. But I wanted to take this out and to the masses. And what I mean by that is people often don’t even know that they have a lack of connection to themselves. Some people don’t even know because there’s all that they’ve ever known is to like live life a certain way: social, cultural, self imposed expectations. And so to me, food is one of the most intimate—other than sex where there’s this actual connection in a different way, eating is one of the most intimate things that you can do. And eating is also as human beings something that we need to survive. The number of restaurants that are out there in any city of the state or the world is endless. And so I started in 2019, I’ll be taking this in the DFW metroplex into restaurants. And so there’ll be 12 where I’m creating the experience with my own cooking or perhaps with catering from restaurant and then 12 experiences in restaurants with specific chefs that I’m creating partnerships with.

So that’s where I’m starting to create where, okay, this is how I’m going to take it to the everyday person. Because you know, the everyday person, one, I’ve heard so many people struggle with, “I don’t know how to meditate. I can’t meditate. I’ve tried,” and this is a really great introduction to stillness, because it’s a tactile, tangible thing and food is something that we do, like I said, as humans to survive. And so that’s the direction that it will be going in 2019. But my dream and the vision is that this becomes a model that I am putting into wellness resorts that it becomes part of an experience. So I’m in the works right now of creating an academy where I’ll be training facilitators how to lead this practice and how to execute this model. But all of that in due time, you know, this is, like I said, I’m four months in but there’s definitely a vision and there’s definitely a plan.

Susan: Well, you are only four months into this particular business, but you’ve created businesses before. You’ve done this before and you clearly know your stuff. You’ve been doing this a while, and I love how you’ve been able to connect your past as far as your past experiences and your past education and just your whole life seems to have brought it all together.

Priya Patel: Yeah. It’s so funny that you say that because I really believe like had I not gone through what I’ve been through as a kid, had I not had the challenges that I had in my marriage, had I not had my role of teaching these amazing kids who ended up teaching me so much. I don’t think I would be able to do this.

Susan: No, you couldn’t be here.

Priya Patel: Yes. Even fundraising and having a knowledge of strategy and creating partnerships, like I learned all of that over these past few years. But a lot of it is also what’s happening right now, like to me not only has everything had to have happened the way that it happened, but I also believe that it is because I have done a lot of heart healing, a lot of heart healing. There’s no way that I could be doing what I’m doing right now if my heart wasn’t healed. Because what I’m doing these past four months have been…There’s been a lot of ugly in it, a lot of good in it, a lot of gray in it. But I feel like I’ve been swimming in complete unknown. Had I not been right in my heart, had I not been right in my mind, I would not have been able to have swim in the unknown. That’s been a really important, is just being in the unknown, what I’m doing is like I said, I’m taking inspired action. Like I believe, like I know that I know that I know that this is what I’m supposed to do, but that’s how I know. The rest of it is almost like this game of chess or this game of stop, look and listen. Really it’s stop, listen and then look, like I have to constantly keep checking in. And if my heart and my mind weren’t right, there’s no way I’d be able to check in.

So yes, everything happened the way that it needed to happen, but I also have to dive into a certain amount of healing in order to create. It’s almost like you let go. There’s also a Zen, or a Buddhist or a yoga mentality is you let go to expand. And I feel like I really let go of like everything that I’d ever known, including myself in order to create. And what I’m creating, I feel it was bigger than me, like it’s bigger than me.

Susan: Well, you are absolutely right that you have to let it all go in order to be able to create something new. I have been where you are and I totally understand what you’re going through. It is normal, and I want all of our listeners to know that too. It is not easy creating something out of nothing, but when you know it’s what you’re supposed to be doing, then you have a drive. And that’s one thing that I say at the beginning of every podcast is I believe, I firmly believe that there is something inside each one of us that only we can do. And that is the point of this podcast is to encourage and inspire and empower women to find their thing so that they can share their story so that they can encourage other women to do the same thing. I really believe in the power of sisterhood and where we are right now, at least in the states, I have a few listeners who are not in the states, but I feel like if women can come together and support each other and encourage each other to try these hard things to reconnect with themselves and then figure everything out.

But you are absolutely right. You said you’ve made such a point that you had to be in the space in order to be able to do it. You had to be right with yourself first, and you said it much more eloquently, but you have to be right with yourself first before you can do the next thing.

Priya Patel: Right. And I think the other big piece of it is like I think all humans, not just women, but specifically myself, I’m going to speak for myself. I am a woman. I lived in fear quite a lot of like financial fear and this fear and that fear and a lot of my decisions were fear-based and I’m kind of learning to… There is this…God, let me see if I can remember it; one of the quotes that stood out to me. It’s a John Lennon quote. Basically he says, “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”  And that’s from John Lennon.
Susan: That’s beautiful. I’ve never heard that.
Priya Patel: Yes, it hit me so to the heart, because I had said like, you know, when I chose like burned the house down on everything that I’ve ever known, I said, “I choose life and if I choose life, all of these things that are in that quote has to be there.” Imperfection, not for myself but I took it one step further, not just imperfection of myself, imperfection of others, right? It’s not just acceptance of myself, the acceptance of other people and their imperfections. And in order to see my ability and to have this potential to create, I have to love myself.
I will say that I definitely lacked self-love. And I love what you had said about the sisterhood. So, we started out this conversation, and I know now why it started out, the way that it did with you bringing up Barb. She gave me a sisterhood. She’s given me a sisterhood and we speak on the phone once a month where we share with each other our dreams and our desires for the month. And then at the end of the call they’re right there behind you saying, “Yes, yes, we believe, and we want this for you too.” So you have all these beautiful sisters right there behind you sharing with you the good, the bad and the ugly without judgment and just this unconditional love. And a lot of people have said to me, “Gosh, you’ve only had this company for four months, but it looks like you’ve been around for like a year at this, that or the other one.”

Don’t believe everything that you see. You know, perception is one thing. I am doing well, but I believe that my company is being pushed forward because I have the support of some amazing women behind me. You know, I joined a women’s networking group. I didn’t know why I was joining a women’s networking group. I wasn’t an entrepreneur at that point in time, but I joined the E Women’s Networking Group and I wasn’t even an entrepreneur that moment in time. But literally after I joined that, I was like, “Uh-huh. I joined E Women’s Entrepreneur Group. I meant to be an entrepreneur.” And even that is a sisterhood. And I’ve met some incredible women who are opening doors for me because they believe,  and you know, it’s women supporting women. Some of my first chef partnerships that I’ve made have been with women who are just like, yes, sister, we love what you’re doing. We love that you’re just diving in. You know, they’re just opening the door. And I haven’t had that. You know, I’ve had friends, I’ve had good friends and close friends, who unfortunately have come and gone. And at this moment in time, I really needed a support group, a sisterhood. And I feel blessed to have found it in so many different ways. You know, one, this group that I meet with once a month and get on the phone with once a month as well as my women’s networking group

Susan: That is just…Oh, you just…Oh, I just want to clap. Yes. That’s all I can say is yes to everything you’ve just said. Oh my gosh, that is phenomenal and amazing and I am so happy for you, but I really appreciate you sharing that with our listeners and just what a difference it made in your life. That’s so cool that you kind of put it out there in the universe that you know, this is what you needed almost. And it showed up.

Priya Patel: Yeah. You know, funny enough, last October I created a vision board. I’ve never made one before. And what was on, there were pictures of women together that said “100% real.” And to me that was, oh my God, I was asking for a sisterhood, and I had actually even put on there a woman that…And then next it said, “Be your own boss.” So I hadn’t even made plans to have my own business, but I guess I really did. You know, like I hadn’t even left my organization. I hadn’t really thought about leaving the organization. But as I look back I think, you know, “Wow, I had already put it out there and I didn’t even realize it.”

Susan: Well Priya, I want to be respectful of your time and I really appreciate you coming on today, but I feel like I could sit here and you forever. You have found his sister in me, for sure.

Priya Patel: Thank you for letting me tell a little bit about my journey.

Outro: Wow! That’s all I can say. I loved chatting with Priya. My brain was spinning the whole time with ideas, as I’m sure yours was. Priya’s love of self-discovery is a prequel to our upcoming 30 days of finding your everyday extraordinary. As you know, March is women’s history month and you know what? Our foremothers, just like us, every day extraordinary women who had discovered and were doing their thing. So, for the month of March and in honor of women’s history, we will be working towards finding our own everyday extraordinary. I have some fun ideas and plans ahead that I can’t share with you yet, but I can’t wait to tell you about them. So until then, I’ll see you soon.

 

When You Hit Your Breaking Point…How Will You Respond?

Have you ever had a moment where you said enough!?  Brooke Lopez wanted to be a dentist and now she is in Law School.  Why?  Well, life happens. Plans can change.  When tragedy struck she didn’t just sit back.  She said enough is enough! She got involved and took action.  Now she is fighting for women and femmes in Texas.

Show Notes

Brooke Lopez is a force.  Many call her a woman to watch.  Why?  Because she is taking action!  We discuss everything from women in advocacy to menstrual equity.  Something, I admit, I have not thought enough about.

In this episode Brooke shares:

What it was like running for office as a young Latina woman

The importance of advocacy and how to get involved (hint: it isn’t all political)

The significance of women being in elected office ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ISLE

The value of Menstrual Equity

 

Links

Brooke Lopez (website)

Lone Star Parity Project

Ignite National

Texas Women’s Foundation

Lone Star Parity Project Article featuring Aylin Segura and Menstrual Equity

Lone Star Parity Project Article featuring Susan Long

https://runningstart.org/our-work/

Orange is the New Black (book)

Lone Star Parity Project – Facebook

Lone Star Parity Project – Instagram

Lone Star Parity Project – Twitter

 

Transcript:

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey, Pod Sisters. Today I want to introduce you to the amazing Brooke Lopez. Brooke’s passion stems from tragedy, and so the first few minutes of the interview might not be a great fit for younger audiences. It was this tragedy that prompted Brooke to begin reaching out to her local representatives to seek change as a way to serve her community. She learned early on that change happens through policy, so at the age of 18, Brooke gathered her passion for civic duty and ran for Wylie City Council Place 4. As the youngest candidate in the history of the town. Though she lost the race, she learned many invaluable lessons. Brooke has gone on to be an active member of Ignite, a bipartisan nonprofit that encourages young women to actively engage in the political process. She has also founded the Lone Star Parody Project, a nonpartisan online publication dedicated to sharing the stories of women and femmes involved in Texas politics with hopes of bringing gender parody across all levels of public office.

Full disclosure, she interviewed me recently and you can catch that interview on our website in the show notes or on our social media pages. We talk about everything from the importance of women being more involved in the political process to the importance of running no matter your side of the aisle. What does being involved look like? We covered that too. Then towards the end, we spent a fair amount of time talking about menstrual equity, something I realized I needed to consider more often. I really can’t wait to hear your feedback on this particular topic. I’m excited. I hope you’re excited. So without further ado, here’s Brooke.

Susan: Hey Brooke, I really, really appreciate you joining us this morning and I kind of already gave a little bit of the highlights from your back story in the intro, but why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in the work you are in.

Brooke Lopez: Thanks, Susan. I’m really happy to be joining you this morning. Like many people who end up becoming involved in politics, it wasn’t really a choice so much as something thrown in my face that I couldn’t ignore anymore. I was 15 years old, I was a sophomore in high school, and my good friend was murdered by two other students. And as the trial went on, as our town was dealing with, it’s only second a notorious murder that had happened in our community, we had to figure out how to rebuild, but also recognize what had happened. I started becoming really passionate about different gun control measures, common sense prevention of gun violence since my friend had been murdered with a weapon that a young minor is able to get his hands on. So I really started to work on that. But quickly I realized that in my community I had grown up in sort of what I consider a bubble. I was sheltered from the fact that people who disagree with you might disagree with you to a very severe extent to where they discredit you, they want to completely go against how you feel, what you say, regardless of your story. And I had to really learn and understand what it’s like to come from different perspective on something that I felt so passionate on. I had to take a step back and remove my heart from the politics and continue to work on trying to make amends with everyone. So after that I became really interested in local politics. I wanted to really gain the perspective of my community and feel what they wanted to see on a local level since I had been working on the state level. So at age 18 I decided to file to run for city council in Wylie, Texas, which is northeast of Dallas. And I ran as the youngest and the only Latina to run at that time.

So I was able to really gain a perspective that was different than the community that I was coming from. Wylie is a conservative community and I identify with very democratic ideologies and policies, so that was going to be something that was kind of an uphill battle. And in addition, I was very young and a Latina, which is also different than the community in which I came. So I eventually lost my campaign, but from that I was able to gain a lot of insight to help other women who are just as interested in becoming involved in politics, whether they run or not, to really make a difference, especially here in Texas. So that’s kind of where my journey brought me to, even though to be completely honest, I originally wanted to be a dentist when I was a kid. So that is an example of how people can really jump into politics with any sort of passion.

Susan: Well, I love that and I appreciate you sharing how you got involved in politics. Share with us a little bit about what you were doing as far as the state level politics go and what you got involved with, the legislation and such.

Brooke Lopez: So when I was 15, the state politics that I originally focused on was gun control, and I came across that interest completely because of the experiences that I had gone through. Neither of my parents were very outwardly political. They were very hard and fast patriotic voters. They made sure to complete this civic duty, but we never really talked about the different policies behind it because that was something that—it wasn’t taboo in my household, it just wasn’t focused on. I think we were also very young and so my parents weren’t sure and they didn’t want to mold or create an image for us of what they felt we needed to believe in. So I was able to come to my own decisions on different state issues like gun control. I was originally working with my local Texas representative to bring a measure that would not allow juveniles who had committed a murder to be given a sentence under the juvenile code, they would be given a sentence under an adult standard of code, which may seem like a very mandated or strict policy, but right now if you are a juvenile and you’re charged with murder here in the state of Texas under the juvenile standards as opposed to the adult standard, you’re able to be released from prison as early as 18 years old and it’s not notated at any point on your record. So I didn’t want to mandate a sentence. I didn’t want to go against what I believe she’d be a rehabilitative justice system, but I really wanted to work on making sure that guns don’t end up in the hands of the wrong people. And when you’re able to seal your record, especially if you’ve committed a murder with a weapon, your record will be sealed, and no one will ever know that you have committed a murder.

Susan: Oh!

Brooke Lopez: So wanted to make sure, yeah, that other juvenile offenders who had committed something as heinous as a murder and were charged with murder, but charged under the juvenile standard of punishment were still not able to get access to guns in order to prevent murders lLike this from happening again. And it seems really complicated, and it’s kind of difficult to talk to people about because most of the time I started talking about guns, immediately I’m labeled under gun control or I start talking about changing the record sealing policies and immediately people assume that it’s eliminating the rehabilitative portion of the justice system, but I wanted to bring the two together that way murderers weren’t able to enter our community again at 18 and have the same rights or access to guns, which would be a privilege in our community, you know, as people who hadn’t committed murder,

Susan: I didn’t realize the whole…This is really ignorant of me to say, but I never even thought about the fact that records—because I haven’t been in this situation in Texas and I’m not originally from here so it didn’t even occur to me with the sealed records situation and what that would entail. Oh my gosh! So where did that legislation ended up going?

Brooke Lopez: So this is a really incredible story and I always, anytime I talk about this, I want to make sure that whoever did in fact put the work in behind this has their fair credit and one day will reach out to me. But I started working on it in 2015 and at that time there was nothing in the penal code that mentioned if you committed a murder, there was an exception to sealing your record. Now, looking back on it about a year ago, I ended up looking back at that same penal code to continue my research and reaching out to legislators. And I don’t know how, but it is now a part of the amendment where if you commit capital murder, you can’t have your punishment under the juvenile standard, which would allow you to seal your records. It was incredible and I have no idea how it happened or where it happened. I’ve always tried to figure out what session and occurred or wonder which legislator. I have no idea, but it is so amazing that somehow this was able to change and I wasn’t the only one trying to do it. And we had no idea. We never connected with whoever did it. I’m just so honored and thankful to have been on that same journey with them. Just, you know, probably a completely across the board.

Susan: That’s a really cool story. I guess I think it’s really cool because you never connected and yet the two of you…Obviously, that goes to the point that if you’re thinking about something, there’s at least one other person out there thinking the same thing, which makes me feel like I’m not alone. And that always makes me feel at least a little bit better about any situation I’m in.

Brooke Lopez: There you go. Yeah. I was completely shocked and unfortunately, I hope that the situation that I had to go through didn’t happen exactly to, you know, in the same way that it happened to this person, whoever had worked on it or whatever legislator had to hear that story and I accept that when they were making this consideration, but it’s crazy to me to think that other people were also suffering from that same issue and at some point also decided that there needed to be the exact same change in the state of Texas. So yeah, it made me feel sad because I know that other people are having to deal with this but so happy that now we have a legislative solution that is put in place for people to hopefully recover some justice and a little bit of sense of peace with this change.

Susan: Yeah. So going back a little bit, you mentioned that you had been working and trying to do to work on state legislation and obviously, we’re talking a little bit about politics this morning and being advocates for yourselves and getting involved and now you’re working on the local level a little bit. Tell us or share with us your thoughts on women’s involvement in politics because I feel like oftentimes women want to see change, but by trying to create change they get involved in volunteerism and different organizations that they’re in the triage area if you will, of making change versus and they’re willing to get in there and get dirty and get in the mud and make the change on that level, and micro impacts your great. Talk to us about the importance of being involved in the actual political process and the advocacy piece of that.

Brooke Lopez: So, I always want to start off with numbers because I feel, and if there’s any other people who listened that feel like they really need some numbers to convince them that something’s actually happening, that’s the best way to start. Women hold across the United States 51 percent the population. We make up 51 percent of the people who consider themselves American. Out of the elected office on a national level, we hold 20 percent. And that rings true here in Texas too. In 1992, that was considered the year of the woman when Hillary Clinton was our first lady, when there was a spike and a dramatic increase in all of the states across all the levels of women wanting to run for office, and since then the percentage of women who have held office has remained 20 or lower in various states. New Hampshire, I think, actually has the strongest amount of parody or equality among women to men in office and they still aren’t even at 50, so that is the issue that we’re facing.

There’s not enough women in elected office, but to make that jump from not really being involved in politics or maybe, you know, you broke, but you’re not really outspoken about the things that you’re passionate about or the different policies that you support to wanting to run for office, that is a huge leap and it’s really hard for people to make it, especially women. I think the statistic is women on are asked seven times to run for office before they actually make the decision to run. So there’s a huge disparity between not only women who are choosing to run, they’re not winning at an increased rate with this year as an exception, and women who aren’t really involved in politics at all trying to make the leap into politics, it’s a little hard and it can feel weird and sometimes you don’t realize what all is actually affected by policy.

Sometimes politics is even seen as like a dirty word. People feel really uncomfortable when you start talking about politics. So what I always try to advocate to women who are on the fence about getting involved is that involvement can range from, like you mentioned, the micro level in a proactive manner as well as grand as working on the federal level also in a proactive manner. In politics, women tend to work more proactively in different policy perspective than men do and men tend to work more proactively. So men are getting to have a seat at the table in terms of decision making, but women are tending to clean up the mess more often have policies that either go haywire or situations where policies are not in effect that should be to have mitigated the entire issue from occurring. So women have a duty to share our experiences that are exclusive to us because we all have our own intersectional identities that display different experiences in different ways, and it’s important for us to share those messages. So on the micro level, women can get involved with something as small range as working with your school board or working with your neighborhood commission or HOA to be able to put something in effect that will effect something that is daily in their lives.

Another common misconception that women face when they’re deciding whether or not to enter into politics is that you can only advocate for what society has deemed women’s issues. Women have an incredible perspective on a lot of different topics that aren’t limited to, let’s say education and reproductive rights. Women have an incredible perspective on the world of stem economics issues effecting women like the gender pay gap that aren’t limited to social issues. These are things that we are able to make an impact on and have our intersectional identities represented actively that are not solely limited to what we always considered to be a woman’s place in terms of legal perspective.

So the best advice I can give for women who are interested in taking that first step; one, support other women in politics, that’s the easiest way to get involved, as well as help another woman who’s already made that leap into running for office, have the support of women behind them and two, to begin working with your representative, whether it’s the school level, so local level, the state level, your legislators or the federal level, your senators or the different agencies that we work under to be able to advocate for the policies that you want to see put in place. Those are the best first few steps that a woman who is interested in politics can make in order to make an impact when they’re just maybe not ready to run, but they really want to make a change.

Susan: I liked that you mentioned how as women we’re—I mean I even do it. I think we all do—we’re bad about pigeonholing ourselves into just women’s issues and politics. And I like how you make the point that obviously, I mean it sounds—it’s like a “Duh,” but obviously we can contribute to other conversations in the political arena as well. It’s not just women’s issues. I don’t know, just the way you said that, I was like, “Well yeah, of course,” but sometimes I even do that to myself, so thank you for bringing that up, bringing that to our attention. I appreciate it. Yeah, so we are located in Texas. Not all of my listeners are in Texas; probably a majority of them might be. What avenues are available to women who are interested in advocacy, who are interested in…You know, I think I have a lot of small business owners and that’s always really important to be involved, especially on the local level with small businesses and such. Talk to us a little bit about organizations that already exist that we could potentially plug into as women that are already supporting other women.

Brooke Lopez:Yeah, my number one pet peeve that people tend to do when they’re sharing advice, they’ll give you this great big picture advice and say, “Oh, we talked to other organizations that support women, but where are the names? I need to be connected.” So I will go ahead and give you exact names of organizations that I personally have worked with that women I have also worked with, including myself, have found great success getting involved in politics. So some of the first ones that are really prominent in Texas include Ignite and that’s more for college-aged women and high school women. It’s a nonprofit that tries to build political ambition and young women, but getting involved with it from the perspective of being a community leader, being someone who considers themselves an adult or someone who has passed their schooling years, that can really give opportunity for mentorship programs. There’s opportunity for different conferences or events or mixers where you can meet with other politically engaged women of all ages and start to talk about issues that are important.

There have been a lot of projects that have come out of Ignite, including the Dallas ISD Menstrual Equity program, the different menstrual equity programs on the college campuses nearby. I know those sounds the same, but then this all came out of Ignite. Some other organizations include the Texas Women’s Foundation, formerly the Dallas Women’s Foundation. They have been an incredible source of networking and overall support both monetarily and emotionally for different nonprofits in the area as well as women who are interested in getting involved in politics, they’re really, really supportive of nonpartisan women as well as women who represent bipartisan issues across the spectrum to be able to get involved in politics. It’s a great source for working with other community leaders in the state of Texas. And then finally, one that I would recommend would be Running Start. It’s a nonprofit that helps women of all ages, particularly women under 40, but they help women of all ages to become engaged in the political process, whether it’s running for office, connecting with fellow candidates or working with women on a nonpartisan platform to be able to complete different policies and projects. Yeah, those have been the best resources that I’ve been able to come in contact with here in Texas that have really helped build networks of women who were interested in similar or different policies, but be able to come together with a common perspective that women need to be more involved in civic leadership, civic engagement and overall just leadership positions across the table.

Susan: Well, thank you for sharing that. I am always tooting the Texas Women’s—formerly Dallas Women’s Foundation, now Texas Women’s Foundation horn because I am involved with that organization and I love every bit about that. That was, it sounds odd, but it was such a blessing that showed up in my life in 2016. I had never heard of it and I have lived in Dallas since 2007 and I was having lunch with a friend and I said, “Okay, I want to be involved, I want to be giving back, you know, to the community and whatever, but I don’t have the time to volunteer. I need to be able to come and go as I please.”

And one thing that I really like about the Texas Women’s Foundation is it’s a foundation that it’s a giving foundation so you can be as involved more not involved as you want to be, depending on like what your timing allows. You can volunteer through there or went through them with their organization, the organizations they support or you can just give money. So depending on what your stages in life, it’s, you know, it’s a great match no matter what stage you are in. So I have really appreciated being involved in that, coming from other organizations that require not only a monetary gift but you know, volunteering hours as well. So it’s nice to be able to move that spectrum a little bit. So, and I’m really glad you mentioned them. So share with us if there is anything in 2019 as women that we need to be focusing on that maybe we haven’t focused on as much in the past or do you see anything coming down the pipe that we need to be aware of right now?

Brooke Lopez: I think what we need to really take notice of and ride this beautiful, awesome wave. It’s going to be the wave of women candidates both from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party who were elected in this most recent midterm election. There are incredible numbers that show that this is one of the first years where women were running at an increased rate from what they were previously, and we’re actually winning at an increased rate. We have a lot of first across the country, but particularly here in Texas, we had our first Latino ever elected to Congress, which is incredible given the Latina/Latino population here in the state of Texas. So that was a huge feat that was able to be overcome. We’ve had a really beautiful mix of what I consider purple. There have been a mixture of Republican and Democratic candidates who are now in office, particularly women in and femmes that are now making changes from a democratic standpoint in terms of there’s now a democracy.

It’s going to be equal voice, equal power. And to me, I think that’s when the best policy is made so all perspectives are taken into consideration. I think we really need to keep an eye on the women who had not only one, but the women who are currently, like you mentioned, in a pipeline in order to win. We really have to keep boosting women. If we’re going to ever put Texas into a position of political progress, we really have to boost our game and use the power that we have right now. Currently, Texas is ranked 49th in terms of contacting elected officials and we’re ranked 44th in terms of voting, previous to the midterm elections. That information is not out yet, but we are one of the lowest in terms of voter turnout and we have to make sure that we not only turn out, but we’re supporting especially women candidates and candidates from other marginalized communities too. That’s gonna be the thing that we really need to keep an eye on for 2019.

Susan: Well, on that note, I want to interject something that I was talking about with some friends the other day. It came up that—I was on a committee for something and one of the best ways to get women involved with this particular thing that we’re trying to do, we did something really old school. We called people on the phone, you know, like actually talk to people on the phone, not a text, but talk to people on the phone and invited them to participate in something. And it worked like we more than tripled our numbers on this particular project as far as getting people involved because somebody called and invited them and it was one of those things. It was like, “Oh, they really want me at the party.” And it wasn’t a party, it was some benefit or something.

But I think sometimes we forget those of us who are really, really involved understand why it’s important sometimes translating that or there’s a fear of, “Oh, they’re going to think on political or they don’t want to talk to me about this because we’ve never talked about it before. I don’t know that that’s the case. I feel like as women we try to be more polite, tried to stay away from taboo subjects and I just wonder if we had more women doing like old school house meetings or something like that. Like the way you and I met, we met at an Ignite event in someone’s home where they had, they invited the Ignite folks to come in and talk with us and share a little bit about what they were doing. And I just wonder if there was, if we thought about, like if you’re a woman and you love hosting people in your home, that maybe that’s a way you get involved.That’s a micro impact and a way to get people to the polls and to get people involved in your local community. So I wonder if we start… I realized that’s kind of, that’s a micro impact, but we saw in this last election just what micro impacts did and how that got people involved and how that did get people out. So I wonder if we really, if a woman is trying to figure out a first step, like maybe that’s it. Maybe having a coffee at your house or something like that as simple as that is a way to move forward. What are you seeing out there? What are organizations like Ignite or other organizations that are trying to get women more involved? What’s working and what’s not?

Brooke Lopez: Currently, I work as the executive director of the Lone Star Parody Project, not on profit, nonpartisan publication that shares the stories of women and research involved in Texas politics. So we are reaching out to women across all the corners of Texas and there are more than four, where we are, where we are asking women who are elected officials, who are student activists, who are regular and consistent voters were asking them different questions about how they entered into their political power. So we are working with women to really figure out the qualitative data that help voters understand as well as elected officials what’s important to each community. So you mentioned the micro impact, and I think that is a critical piece to any conversation when we’re talking about politic.

Texas is the second largest state in terms of space and I want to say the third largest in terms of population. So we have a lot of people and we have a lot of space to cover when it comes to elections, especially those are statewide. When women run for office, we don’t have the localized research that we need. Sure, there are nonprofits, different training programs that help us understand the ins and outs of the actual campaign itself. But where are those resources that will help us understand how we can connect better with our voters and our registered voting population? Where is that research where we can figure out who is not registered to vote and how can we approach that? We have noticed the Lone Star Parody Project that there is a complete deficit and an aggregation of data that tells us what are different specific tactics that women can use in different parts of the state of Texas particularly in order to get involved.

As you mentioned, women sometimes or people as a whole in fact tend to respond better to different forms of outreach and contact. So the people from my millennial generation might do a little bit better with tech or social media. People from the brand new Gen Z generation definitely do a lot better with social media than they do texting and people who are from the Gen X and older do better with phone calls and in person flyers. So we don’t want our women who are running for office to essentially waste their time and outreach methods that maybe aren’t working for that type of person. Aside from age, we also have different gaps such as education, such as ethnicity, there are language barriers. There are different things that are creating a dissonance between having access to people who are not registered as well as people who are registered and actually getting into the polls, knowing what they’re voting on, whether it’s for that specific candidate or not. So this distinct disconnect between getting those people out to the poll comes from our outreach methods and micro level impacts are the greatest way to reach out to all types of people, especially within Texas.

So we always talk, especially with Lone Star Parody Project about the difference between someone who is going to be a voter in El Paso and someone who’s a voter in Dallas. For example, in Dallas, we have a very important fixation on our local education system, our school districts. We also are very critical on our different water transportation issues, which I know sounds weird. We have a critical importance on transportation around the city since we have so many people. In El Paso, the issues that are most important for those folks are going to be vastly different. They’re going to be immigration policies, they’re going to be policies about border security, whether it’s for or against, they’re going to be things that are much different from the population in Dallas that we’re from the same state. So it’d be the approach we need to start taking, it’s going to be localized and it needs to be specific to the party that you’re going to be outreaching to. You need to be cognizant of who are going to be your voters and who were your non voters, and how can you get everyone together on election day in there making the decisions heard.

Susan: That’s such a good point.and I never…I mean I’ve thought about that, but the thinking about what people need in El Paso and what people need in Dallas and what people need in Austin and what people need and McAllen, I can’t even imagine like coming up with sound byte type, because you need that right, to grow, to grow a following. I can’t even imagine like where… No wonder it’s so hard. Oh my gosh! Texas is so huge and it’s like you’re absolutely right. What they need down on the border of, you know, like on the border towns, McAllen is not what you need up in the Panhandle and is certainly not what you need in Dallas. Oh my goodness! That is such a good point. I can’t even imagine like trying to serve all those constituents. It seems like there might be a better way to do that, but then that evolved involves all kinds of amendments and such.

Just to make sure everybody is served well. Gosh, I’m so glad that’s not my job to figure out. I’m serious. That would be…I don’t know if I could do that. I want to go back just a second because you mentioned something a little bit ago, and this is something that never—and I read about it on your webpage—and it’s something that never even occurred to me when I was younger because it was just the way it was and I never thought it should be any different. Talk to us about this menstrual equity thing.

Brooke Lopez: Well, menstrual equity is the ability to have menstrual hygiene products provided to you in a same equitable fashion that you would toilet paper or that you would expect soap in a bathroom. Think about how upset you are, male or female, when you walk into a restroom and there is no toilet paper in the stall that you’ve just selected. You are frustrated because now you feel like you can’t function and you are now missing out on products that are essential to your hygiene. There are risks associated with not having products, such as toilet paper and continuing on with your day. And it’s something that our community has taken it in great strides to make sure that it is constantly available to anyone who uses the restroom here in the United States. Menstrual equity is the same concept. We want to make sure that menstrual hygiene products are provided accessibly for free.

There are some major barriers that people in the state of Texas as well as across the United States face in terms of accessing these menstrual hygiene products. The first one is in most public agencies, so government buildings, institutions that are public, both higher education and school districts across the country, they tend to not have products that are readily accessible in the restrooms where people need them. 86 percent of menstruaters, who base their menstrual cycle while they are in a place where they do not have products, are too embarrassed to ask somebody else for products, 86 percent of people. That means if there are 100 women in a room, 86 of them are not willing to ask somebody who’s right next to them for a product and most of the time tend to leave or will try to macgyver products which essentially making them make product which presents its own health issues in itself.

There are also different aspects of not having products that our society does not accept. So for example, pre-bleeding, going without products. It’s not something that our society accepts or is capable of handling at this time. So these products are an essential need that menstruaters do not have access to. And so the Menstrual Equity Movement is a movement to try and bring those products to restrooms for free. That way people who would say don’t have a quarter, who don’t have products with them unknowingly started their menstrual cycle or who just plain weren’t able to afford them at that time, are able to get access to this product in a fashion that is close to them. It’s going to be provided for free so they do not have to put any extra into having something and it will be provided in the same fashion that any other product would be provided.

That is essential for our health. So the Menstrual Equity Movement here in Texas has been taking place on a lot of college campuses, especially public institutions as well as different school districts have enacted menstrual equity policies. So for example, Dallas ISD, which is the second largest school district in the state of Texas, is currently installing the sensors in the most high trafficked bathroom across the school district. So that should be over 200 schools that’ll be getting free products for their students in order to prevent different health issues in order to prevent in accessibility for students and essentially, to prevent discrimination against women or offend menstruaters while they are attending school. So those are some of the cool policies that have been in place because of menstrual equity that are taking heat across the state of Texas.

Susan: Has this been introduced into the prison system?

Brooke Lopez: I’m so glad you asked that. So right now it hasn’t been introduced yet because they consider that to be a funding issue in the prison system, but there has been discussion about the nonhygienal practice of macgyvering products with tends to be much more common in prisons than they do in other situations where women don’t have access to it. And it’s not necessarily in prisons the fact that women can’t access them readily. It’s the fact that they’re not there as a whole. And to not have those products, that’s a huge health risk for all of the inmates who are menstruaters here in the state of Texas. So that is something that I think is a great opportunity for anyone listening to start working on because right now prisons are currently underserved and there’s no menstrual equity policy in place that would provide these products to women on a consistent basis and for free.

Susan: Yeah. That’s just one thing. Actually, this is funny, I never knew about this until I read the book, Orange is the New Black, back in the day when that first came out. She mentioned in her memoir, not—I mean the TV show is great, but in her memoir she mentioned that and I did not know that. And I was just shocked that that would be something that would not be, not just not provided, but not really even readily available. I think there’s like a—and it may depend on the state—I think they get so many a month, but there’s no way it would cover like a whole cycle. And I just was blown away by that. I was like, “How could you even…? Yuck.” I mean, not just like the personal perspective, but like from a health code type situation. When you’re talking about bodily fluid and blood, I mean hello, you can’t just have that. No. Ew. Gross.

Brooke Lopez:Yeah, and there are definitely a lot more obstacles outside of the obvious, you know, the health perspective, the contamination and bodily fluid perspective. There’s also the perspective that some schools or different institutions put in place that you can go to a nurse’s office to be able to get those products and that again, puts more data onto a table that says we are less likely as menstruaters to walk down a hallway to a nurse’s office to get that product. Now it’s an issue of accessibility, there’s also issues of whether or not there are enough products readily available even if you do pay for them. There’s another issue where, kind of like you mentioned, the regular amount of products that women are recommended or menstruaters are recommended to use, is far greater than what’s provided for every person in that institution, whether it’s an agency or the school or the store. To be able to have those things there is another barrier that you have to face as a menstruater and essentially, it takes away from whatever you’re doing. If you’re an employee and you work and there’s no product available for you, that’s more time away from the chair or more time away from your project that you are now going to have to sacrifice because of something that you can’t control if you’re a student that’s way more time out of the classroom and possibly leading the school because students, menstruaters who are under the age of 18 are more likely to lead if they don’t have the product than to ask a fellow person in the restroom or to go to the nurse’s office. That is essentially putting up barriers to anyone who menstruate in any capacity that are the non-visible barriers that we don’t see from the obvious of it’s a health risk and it overall not inconvenient to be a free bleeder.

Susan: Man, I just had a flashback to high school. I am not kidding. I remember doing that. I remember either not having something, you know with me at the time or oh my gosh, now I have to go home and change clothes because I was not thinking this would even happen today. Like we don’t have to get all personal, but I remember, oh man, I remember leaving school and it’s not like you’re going to go back to school and be like, “Why did you change clothes?” No, that’s not happening. That’s embarrassing as a 15, 16 year old. That’s embarrassing. Yeah. Oh wow! Flashbacks, flashbacks, flashbacks. Too funny. I want to be respectful of your time, but before we close I kind of want to talk about…So you’re in law school, you are doing the Lone Star Parody project, which we didn’t mention this earlier, but you actually interviewed me for, so I was really honored and thrilled to do that. You’re involved with Ignite, I believe. What else are you going to add to your plate?

Brooke Lopez:I don’t know.

Susan: When are you going to run? Because we need that to happen soon too.

Brooke Lopez: So I get asked that a lot and I actually, I’m not sure what run is in my feature, although I do know that I love to call Dallas home. So if you do see me on a ballot, hopefully it’ll be close to Dallas here in the Great Lone Star state. But right now, other than focusing on trying to get a law degree, just finished my first semester and also working with the Lone Star parody project, I just really tried to dedicate my time back to the communities we’re working with organizations like Ignite Communities Foundation of Texas, the Texas Women’s Foundation. I just want to keep giving back and trying to work on different policies wherever I can advocate for. I never had any idea that starting with a tragedy and a policy of gun control would lead me to where I am today where I run for office and now I have my hand in so many different pots trying to change so many different policies. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the most, but it’s good to know that I never limited and I’m always supported by the people just like you and other women who want to see other women succeed. It’s really inspiring and it keeps me going, so pretty much anywhere where I can keep helping make positive, progressive change in my community, you’ll see me there.

Susan: That is awesome. Well thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your story and talking about some of the issues that we’re dealing with in Texas. I kind of feel like we talked a lot and yet I feel like there is so much more to cover so I’m sure we will have you bet, especially as election season approaches and we can maybe even talk about some of the issues that will especially be effecting women. I would love to have you back.

Brooke Lopez: Absolutely. Thank you, Susan.

Susan: All right, well thank you, and I know you have a few more exams left and I know you need to probably go study.

Brooke Lopez: Yeah, I do.

Susan: All right. We will talk again soon my friend. Good luck.

Outro: Okay. Seriously, what did you think about today’s episode? I hope it left you inspired and curious. I know it did me. I have linked everything I can think to link in our show notes over on our website, howshegothere.com. If you have more questions or would like clarity, please do not hesitate to reach out and ask. You can email me@susanathowshegothere.com. You can also reach out via social media. Please don’t forget, we have a private facebook group, the How She Got Here community page, and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode. I’m pretty sure this episode will spark some good discussion. If you’re enjoying this podcast, share it with your friends and don’t forget to head over to iTunes and hit subscribe. If you feel so inclined, I’d also appreciate it if you would rate and review it. Thanks so much for listening today. I’ll see you soon.

Do We Really Know You?

Lura Hobbs is an executive marketer, strategist, growth leader and catalyst for change.  Today she is using her expertise to help us unpack how to bring our full selves to everything we do.  How you show up is key.  This is especially true in a social media driven world. The person online should match the person you are in real life.

 

Show Notes

What are people saying about you when you are not in the room?  According to Jeff Bezos, that is your brand.

Lura Hobbs knows that in order for your personal brand to be legit you have to be yourself.  You have to show up in life and how you show up matters.  This gets interesting in a world driven by social media. Does the avatar really match the person?

In this episode, Lura shares some really inspiring insights.  A few of my favorite include:

  • Getting perspective from others helps you see your blind spots
  • It is important to know who you are and the value you bring to the table
  • No matter your level, your personal brand is essential
  • It is imperative to be thoughtful with your social media presence
  • It is okay to fail and pick back up again

  

Links

Lura on LinkedIn

Lura on Instagram

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You

From Good to Great

 

Transcript

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Happy New Year, pod sisters. I am thrilled to be back with you all today. It was amazing being able to take a break over the holidays and spend some time with the fam and recharge, but I am so ready to be back. I have missed you. So my guest today is Lura Hobbs. Lura is an executive marketer, strategist, and growth leader, and she has worked with a few brands you might recognize like AT&T, Pizza Hut, State Farm, McDonald’s, and Frito Lay. We aren’t talking corporate branding strategy, though. We’re discussing personal branding and what that means today, especially in a digital and social media driven world. We discuss not only showing up in life, but how you show up. We discuss perception versus reality and bridging that gap. We discuss failure and getting back up. It is a jam-packed episode and no matter if you are launching your own company this year or consistently posting on social media, there is something in this episode for everyone. So without further ado, here’s Lura.

Well, Hey Lura. How are you? I’m so glad to have you here with me today.

Lura Hobbs: Oh, Susan it is so awesome. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to dig in with you. Your questions had me humming along just thinking through lots of different things.

Susan: Well, that is so funny because you are already such an accomplished marketing communication strategist. I guess I put people who’ve been in the business for awhile on a pedestal and think, “Oh, you’ll have these off the top of your head.”

Lura Hobbs: No, no. I mean we do. We can answer them off the top of our heads, but the reality is, you know, with a little bit of thought, it definitely goes a little bit deeper than the surface. So I’m a full believer in telling the real-real and not making it look overly pretty. So I’m looking forward to this today.

Susan: I am too. As we get started, could you share with our audience a little bit of your background story and how you came to start your own marketing consulting firm?

Lura Hobbs: Sure, sure. So I am a marketing and advertising veteran. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working on some amazing brands from AT&T to State Farm and McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Frito Lay products. And it’s just been an amazing and gratifying ride. So I’ve worked client side or brand side, as some people will say, and agency side and really just enjoy progressing and stretching myself into new roles and new arenas and putting myself in places where I had to figure it out. So I made the jump to. I started my own firm back in 2009. I had actually been laid off from a job in a company I’d loved through a national restructure, and I was presented with an opportunity to do some consulting instead of a full time job. And I was like, “You know what? I’m going to try to, let’s see what happened.”

And I started Solstice Strategies, my consulting firm, and really just was amazed at what I was able to do as a consultant working on a startup. I actually had an opportunity later on after that to go back into a full time role, so I dropped consulting and went into that and I’ve actually done a couple of cycles of that and now I’m on my third time of saying, “Okay, no, I’m really going to stick with this. I’m going to do the consulting thing and not be wooed back into a corporate gig.” So it’s been an off again on again love affair because sometimes I get recruited and I just can’t say no to an opportunity, but I really do love this time and space of being able to work on brands and projects that I love rather than kind of being in a box that I have to fit everything in.

Susan: That is really admirable to continue to go after your own thing. Because I know that’s hard. Just in thinking about going from employed to employer, there’s just such a huge mind shift that has to happen. And I think it’s always, at least for me, it’s easier to drop back into the employed piece versus employer, but we can get into that a little bit later. Tell me a little bit about what it was like putting your own brand strategy together. Because you’re an expert in your field, did you do it all on your own? Did you get outside consulting? Tell us a little bit about that. Tell us a little bit about how that. How you accomplished that.

Lura Hobbs: Yeah, so the strategy piece in terms of what I bring to the table and the value that I add, it’s something that I feel like I can do on my own. It’s a struggle. I won’t lie and say that it’s flawless and it’s easy because I think it’s a lot easier for those of us, at least I can speak for myself, in the business. I’m a lot better at it doing brand strategy and branding for someone else or another brand product versus myself because it really is looking at yourself from the lens of the rest of the world looking at you, and it’s a bit kind of a nerving. But I needed to work on the strategy at least on my own. And it’s an intensive process. It’s not like, you know, I did it back in 2009 and I haven’t touched it. Every time I gain the skills or pivot a little bit into a different arena, I have to revisit it and make sure I know what value I can bring and how I’m going to bring that to the table. In terms of the identity, the logo, the colors and that kind of thing, I actually worked with someone that I’ve known for a really long time. He and I have worked together on several different projects and so I completely trust him with my identity and what it looks like and we’re actually. We’ve committed that we’re going to do that again and I just haven’t committed to it yet. But it’s something that is an intensive process. I think there’s a perception that you’re going to do your brand strategy, whether it’s for your personal brand strategy for your company and you get to just leave it. And it’s something that should live and breathe with you as you grow and add services; it’s not something that’s static.

Susan: I like how you said that it’s hard to look at yourself under the microscope basically and create something yourself. I have had that issue with content writing, actually. And I have partnered with somebody to kind of help me through some of that and a lot of it, at least for me, and tell me how it is for you. It’s for me, it’s easy to get stuck down in the weeds sometimes instead of like popping up over the surface, if you will, and looking at it from the bird’s eye view of this is what it really is. Is that kind of what…?

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely. Because when you’re sitting on the side of being an employee, you have objectives that you need to deliver on. And so at the end of the year you can sit down and like, “Okay, here’s the things I accomplished.” And so it’s a list of, you know, however many things you got done that year and you’re feeling good about yourself. But when it comes to brand strategy, it really is a next level up from that and saying, “Okay, yes, I accomplished these things, but how did I do it? How did that come to the table? What were the strengths that I employed in getting them done, whether they’re soft skills or hard skills, and how did I do it uniquely to me?” And that takes a different lens than just looking at I’m accomplished. And I think the thing that we have to remember is yes, you need to do the searching and some of it on your own, but you also need to spend some time talking to people who work with you. You know, whether that’s clients or colleagues, you need to really dig in and say, “You know, I feel like this project went really well. Help me understand what you saw.” Or if something didn’t go well, what did I miss in this opportunity? And I think in getting that feedback, we’re able to understand better. There are things that each of us we do really well and they come easy to us and we don’t realize how impactful they are and we’re able to ask somebody else how they saw it.

Susan: Oh, absolutely. I 100% agree with you on that. We’re talking about brand strategy and your own personal brand strategy versus starting your own business and that brand strategy. Share with us a little bit about the importance of creating your own brand strategy. Why do you need to do that? What does that look like, even if you’re not talking about starting your own company or business?

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely. There is a quote from Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon that I love and he says, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in room.” I love that quote because it’s so true.

Susan: It is so true.

Lura Hobbs:  And when people talk about brand strategy, personal brand strategy, too often they immediately go to LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and all your social accounts and how you show up online. But the reality is, your number one vehicle for your personal brand strategy is who you show up to be in person at work, whether you’re an employee or an employer, it’s what it’s like when people work with you. So a lot of setting your own personal brand strategy is understanding who you are, what you bring to the table, and what value you bring. And so you really need to dig in to really understand that and again, going back to getting some people that know you very well and getting that feedback, but then also just spending some time going back through all your accomplishments. There are some threads there of just what you do really well and you want to be able to make sure you’re managing that and presenting that to people when you work with them. So what he says is “what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” you want that to be positive of course, but you have to influence that perception and so that’s when it comes to being intentional about knowing your value, talking about your value, representing your value well so that you’re influencing what that conversation is when you’re not there.

Susan: Yes, you don’t want people talking about you behind your back and calling you what we used to call or what one of my favorite partners at PriceWaterhouseCoopers used to call a PURE, which was a Previously Undetected Recruiting Error. I was like, “Did you come up with that yourself?” He’s retired now and I’m not going to drop his name on here because I didn’t cover that with him beforehand, but he was one of my favorite partners in the whole wide world and that comment always used to just make me laugh.

Lura Hobbs: Oh, I love it.

Susan: It didn’t matter how long the person had been in the firm, whether it was, you know, a brand new associate, a summer, a partner, a high level partner. He didn’t care because he was on his way out anyway for retirement and yeah, he would say, “Well, that’s clearly a PURE,” and I would just laugh. It was too funny, too funny. So yes, no matter what level you’re at, your brand strategy or personal strategy is important.

Lura Hobbs: Yeah, and I think the thing that people don’t understand, especially for us as women, professional women, we so often focus on the results, you know, if you’re an employee, you were asked to deliver on X, Y and Z and you delivered X, Y, Z, and you went back and did A as well. So you’re like, “I overdelivered.” But the thing is you also have to manage the perception of that. You know, it’s going back to that quote, there’s always a gap between what you want the perception to be in what’s being said and that’s what you have to manage, actively manage. And that’s true for us as entrepreneurs as well because we all have clients so we always have to manage the perception of what you’re putting out there versus what they’re viewing, but is there a gap and how do I need to close it?

Susan: Absolutely. And I think you can’t just go in there and put your head down and do the work. There’s also managing relationships and figuring out who the players are and yada, yada, yada. And I don’t really know how that incorporates necessarily into your personal brand, but it’s just things to be aware of, the little cues that people don’t necessarily always pick up on, the politics I guess.

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely. And I think it all kind of plays together because your personal brand, you know, of course what we’re saying is what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room. Well, how do you handle politics? How do you handle conflict? How do you handle it when things don’t go according to plan? All those soft skills do influence what people are talking about without you so gets you need to get your work done and do it well and flawlessly over deliver. But how you get that work done, how you show up in your work is also really key because part of their personal brand is what does it feel like to work with you? You know, do I feel like I got ran over by a truck when I worked with you? Or do I feel like, wow, she really partnered with me. I felt pushed, but it was in a good way. You know, those are things that we need to actively work on in our personal brand strategy is making sure that you know, yes, you bring skills to the table, but how you bring them to the table will influence what people say about you later on.

Susan: I didn’t put this question in here, so if we cut this, I’m totally fine with that, but for women who have been out of the workforce or out of the corporate gig, maybe she’s been doing something on the side and she’s really wanting to go back into a corporate structure or work for a company or something like that. How is it best to position yourself or do you even—have you ever thought about this? Like how is. How is it best to position yourself from a branding standpoint coming back in?

Lura Hobbs: It’s a great question. I have a really good friend who is coming back after some time really focusing on home, children, parents, all the stuff that we carry as women and balance it all and she’s looking at her professional career and I think she’s done a great job because she is highlighting all of her volunteer leadership experiences. She’s been in leadership positions but they haven’t been paid and so she’s going back and looking at, “Okay, here are all the things I have accomplished, although I have not gotten paid for them.” So I think the way she’s positioning herself is exactly what a lot of women returning to the corporate world have to do is, you know, you’ve been doing a lot of stuff. It’s not like you’ve just been sitting at home watching TV. How do you position all of the work that you’ve done in a way that you can talk about the value you’ve added, the skills that you’ve gained or how you use your corporate skills in a new way and nonprofit, school volunteering, church volunteering, all things. So there’s definitely a way to bridge it.

Susan: That’s a really good point. That’s a really good point. Thanks for going through that with me. We touched on this just a little bit ago, but tell me what you see how the personal brand or how individuals brands have changed because of social media for good, bad, ugly, and then what do you do if you realize it might not be what you want it to be?

Lura Hobbs: Oh, there’s always time to start over. I am a believer in pivoting and starting over and scratch and stuff. But let’s go back to your, the beginning of the question. So social media has really changed everything. I think the thing that I love about social media is it allows people and brands to connect in ways that they have not been available in decades before. So you can start a small business and be global because you’re online, but at the same time social media can be really nasty, ugly, heated place.

Susan: Mm-hmm. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Lura Hobbs: You don’t know what I’m talking about. Things get inflamed really quickly, wide spread really quickly. You know, there’s a question of what the truth is and what it isn’t. So I think if you’re, whether you’re an employee or an employer or an entrepreneur, you really have to be thoughtful about what you want your social media presence to be. And there’s a lot of things out there that will tell you you need to be on every social media platform known to man. I disagree with that personally. I think you need to pick and choose where you are and pick and choose what’s personal versus what’s professional. My Facebook is personal so I don’t allow anybody and everybody to be connected to me on Facebook. To me, that’s where I share family and friends and just fun stuff that’s personal to me. My LinkedIn, I connect with people who professionally are people I want to work with: old colleagues new people mean there’s to me, there are rules that I’ve created for myself in terms of how I use each medium. And I think that applies whether you’re a entrepreneur or just an employee in terms of managing what’s there. The thing I’ll say is, I mean even in separating what’s personal and professional, you have to realize that it’s all online, so if you are ranting and raving and misbehaving on Facebook and then a completely different that person on LinkedIn that’s professional really well put together, you have to realize that somebody is going to crossover and understand that you’re a whole different person on Facebook. And so you need to think about how you manage yourself. One of the favorite things of Michelle Obama quotes over the time that she was first lady, she made a comment about when they go low, we go high.

So there are attacks and rants and all kinds of ugliness on social media and I would just say go high every time because the moment that you succumb to the anger and the venom that can happen on social, it can ruin your reputation professionally. So you just have to be really skilled in making sure—walk away from the keyboard. If something happens online that just drives you up a wall disconnected from that person if you need to walk away, but do not become an angry villain because that will translate over into your professional.

Susan: Oh, absolutely. In fact, back in October we did a whole month of self-care, and that was one of the day is, a good way to take care of yourself is to put social media down, is to unfollow, declutter the social media so you’re not even seeing the negative. And then if you do see it, scroll past so that your own anxiety levels don’t go through the roof.

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely.

Susan: Because there’s a personal cost to it as well forget the—not forget the personal branding point, but I mean there are so many reasons not to get involved in the negative on social media. It’s like damaging to your health.

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think we forget there’s such a push to gain followers, to have an audience, to have a platform that you can forget that yes they are… Size is a good thing depending on what your business is, but the quality of the connection is also a good thing to look at. So you can have a million followers, but if of those million followers, only 10 people aren’t engaged in the conversation, does the million followers really matter? So we don’t have to succumb to the game of I have to have a huge audience. You can have a smaller audience that’s really targeted and really engaged in whatever you’re selling or marketing. So just create your own metrics and your own decision tree of what’s important on social and don’t succumb to all the games that say bigger is better.

Susan: Well, and keeping in that same vein, a lot of this sounds like being your own authentic self.

Lura Hobbs: Absolutely.

Susan: So what is a good way to maintain authenticity in your personal brand? How do we refrain from being that cookie cutter, oh, you know, the best employee or whatever. How do you, how do you interject your own authenticity into your personal brand?

Lura Hobbs: I think a lot of that is knowing what you’re great at. So in the book, Good to Great, there’s a chapter where I think it’s called the “Hedgehog Concept” and he talks about companies knowing what their best in the world at. He does a video chat a few years after he writes the book and applies it to your personal brand. And if you reread that chapter through the lens of not the company but your personal brand, you really can start to go through the process of discovering what your best in the world at. And that’s your authentic self. That’s really your goal is just to be true to what you’re best in the world and do it in a way that’s authentic to you. And by that what I mean, if you like to have fun and laugh a lot at work, you can bring that into your day to day so when people meet you, but also you can bring them into online. If you have this very dry, witty, sense of humor and that’s where you are in person and that’s part of how you get your work done and make it enjoyable. That’s who you should be online. Some of us as ladies, we love to dress up and be 100% made up all the time. Be that online. And if you’re not, don’t, I mean it’s just…There aren’t rules that people need to follow to look like somebody else; you need to look like you because the person online should match the person that somebody going to meet. And if they don’t, then you haven’t been true to the brand that you want to represent.

Susan: Oh, that’s such a good point. That is such a good point.

Lura Hobbs: I think that’s the trap we fall into, we try to curate and create this brand online that’s beautiful and always made up and always coordinated and always this, that and the other. And then you can meet the person and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that is not who I thought you were.” And we need to realize that everybody’s not perfect. Nobody’s perfect, right? So your online social media should look and sound like you look and sound in person. I love to make fun of my own mistakes. I will be the first one to tell you all the crap that I’ve done wrong and I’m not afraid to talk about that. So there are times on Facebook I tell funny stories about you will not believe how stupid I was and what I did, and then there’s always, like, at the end it’s like, and here’s whatever. So that’s just, I’m not afraid to make fun of myself, so I should not only do that in person, I should be willing to do that online. And then when you meet me like, “Yeah, she’s crazy.”

Susan: Oh you are funny, you’re funny. You’re not crazy or maybe kinda crazy.

Lura Hobbs: Kinda crazy. We’re all kinda crazy.

Susan: If you’re not kinda crazy, you’re not going to make it. That’s my theory. Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk a little bit about you getting started in your own, doing your own thing out on your own, what were some things or what have been some things over the years that you have found helpful to strategically outsource, either it being a personal thing, a business thing in order to help you not be doing it all all the time?

Lura Hobbs: Yeah. So, we have a housekeeper for sure. I discovered a long time ago that I like to keep my house clean and there’s a certain way I like it done, but I have to let that go and just get something else. Or do I do stuff on my own in between visits? Yes. But overall, I cannot say that I keep my house clean. Okay. So for everybody who thinks that… Yeah, I don’t, that’s just not possible. When I’m traveling—I used to travel quite a bit in my last corporate job. My travel was insane and I always outsourced driving and it sounds like a small thing, but doing Uber, Lyft or having a driver when you land in a new city, take a whole level of stress down. I don’t have to figure out where I’m going. I don’t have to have directions. I actually can sit in the car and work, take phone calls or have a moment to myself that something that was really key to me surviving my corporate gig with a level of travel I had, the amount of time I’m spending in cars, I realized this is an opportunity for me to get stuff done and why am I renting a car? That might sound small to some people, but if you travel a lot, I think people will get it. I used to outsource kid pickups and dropoffs, so Uber for the family.

Susan: Oh nice.

Lura Hobbs: I used to outsource that. I’m doing that right now and I’m actually enjoying it, but I can see a point maybe next year when I’m going to have to outsource that again, but you’d be amazed at how much time you spend being Uber for your family and I’m very grateful we have some other families in our lives who have girls who are older than our girls and it’s a bonding experience. They get to meet someone who’s in college and you know, get a glimpse of their life and they’ve been great influences for my girl so it’s worked out. But the amount of time you spend driving around town or volleyball practice and tennis practice and music lessons and all that adds up as well. That’s time you could have to yourself.

Susan: That is so true.

Lura Hobbs: So hate shopping. So Amazon Prime is my best friend, so I love it.

Susan: Oh, it’s amazing.

Lura Hobbs: Yeah. I hate shopping.

Susan: It has been a lifesaver, and a money saver, quite frankly. This is the membership pays for itself, at least for me because I don’t go to Target and spend $100 here, $100 there. You know, I feel like if I go into Target and I’m spending at minimum $100.

Lura Hobbs: Oh absolutely, every time.

Susan: And I might do that on Amazon anyway because it’s stuff that I need, but at Target I’m buying stuff I don’t need to.

Lura Hobbs: I do go to Target, though. I love Target. It’s like a guilty pleasure. I love Target.

Susan: I do too. I mean it has everything. It has everything

Lura Hobbs: And they have really cool stuff.

Susan: I had a friend of mine say that the other night, she has a newborn and she was meeting another friend who had a newborn at Target at 9 pm and just because they could get out of the house that was, you know, husbands were home, they could just get out and they were going to do it. And one of them actually suggested they were like, so should I like bring wine and a Roadie Cup or something? She was like, “No, but Target should totally like open that up.” You know, they have Starbucks in there, why not like a little wine bar like Whole Foods does and some of their stores. Hello?

Lura Hobbs: There would be people who would never leave Target if they had a wine bar, are you kidding me?

Susan: That is a very good point. They would never close.

Lura Hobbs: But I like it.

Susan: I thought it was a pretty crafty, clever idea. So owning your own thing, we talked a little bit about this, about getting in the weeds, about getting stuck in the muck with it. It can be so hard and so challenging, at least for me to let it go at the end of the day or to let it go ever. Talk to me a little bit about self-care for yourself. Do you have a routine? Are there certain things that you just have to do in order to get yourself back to level?

Susan: Yeah. So don’t laugh. I pray a lot.

Lura Hobbs: No, I’m not laughing.

Susan: You know, I say that and they’re like, “You’re serious?” and I say, “Yeah, I’m serious.” For me, if I can do two things nearly everyday I can keep myself sane. The first one is in the morning having some quiet time, a little time to write some notes of gratitude, to pray, to realize really I do have everything in life I need. I’m not living in a state where I don’t have what I need, I do, I really do. No matter how stressed out I get about it. And it grounds me just to realize, you know, life is more than work and money. There’s a lot more that I’m here to do on earth. So I try to ground myself in the morning with who I am and what I’m here for and in that life is bigger than stuff. And then if I can get a workout in three, four days a week in the evening, I really feel like I can keep myself from going crazy.

Those two things, I try to have them bookmark my days, and it really does make the difference for me because if I go too long without having some kind of grounding, I started to think that things are more life threatening than they really are and I blow them out of proportion. I like to box, so hitting 135 pound bag, if I’ve had a hard day, clears everything I can take all of whatever has gone wrong, whoever has put me in a bad mood, I punched myself happy and then I can leave the gym and feel like I could start over.

Susan: I feel that way about lifting heavy weights. So I totally understand that. And it’s been a while since I’ve lifted heavy heavyweights, but I can totally identify with that. And I really liked how you said how you like to bookend your day, and this is totally off topic, but I was watching an interview with a Lin Manuel Miranda –I hope I’m not saying his name wrong, I think I pronounced it correctly – he’s the guy who did Hamilton, and he talked about in his interview because he came out with a book and it was like basically all his tweets or something because he’s never really journaled or anything like that, he said he never really kept a diary so this is kind of what it’s been over the last couple of years and obviously, he’s a writer so a lot of the writing was just really beautiful even though it’s via Twitter. And something he does, or did, I think still does is say good morning and good night. And he talked about how that started and why that started. And even though he is saying good morning and good night, that’s how he turns on and off mentally his social media during the day. It’s how he bookend stuff. He says good morning and then he goes on throughout his day or whatever and he says goodnight and that may be 7:00, 8:00 at night and obviously he’s not going to bed yet, but that’s when he turns it off. And I thought that was really interesting how you talked about bookending your days as well.

Lura Hobbs: Oh, I love that principle because you didn’t have to have some discipline about when you turned it off. And let me be the first to say in all transparency, I’m horrible at that, so if I can get myself to go to gym, more likely than not, I am not going to come out of the gym in the same mental state I came into it, so it gives me a chance to shift my mindset, my emotional state, whatever needs to be reset, it resets in a gym, so I love. I love a good morning tonight. That’s it. That’s a great way.

Susan: I know, and I don’t know that he started it that way on purpose or if it just kind of evolved into that, but I thought it was just a fascinating evolution of his social media. I really liked the turning it on and turning it off because I’m bad, bad, bad, bad at that. So having your own gig is hard when things get crazy, when things get stressful, overwhelming or things just aren’t going how you think or want them to go, how do you keep going or what keeps you going and maybe not even running back towards the door of a corporation?

Lura Hobbs: Yeah. That’s a hard one.

Susan: Yeah.

Lura Hobbs: There are days that I’m like, “I’m just going back to work. This is not working.”

Susan: I know

Lura Hobbs: Part of it is my quest to get it right, and I can laugh about that. Not just saying that it was wrong. The other two times I’ve done it, it’s just I somehow found myself back taking a job. So for me, right now I have a quest to get it right this time. That’s part of what keeps me going. Another thing that keeps me going is my quest to have more flexibility. So in my last two rounds, corporate side, I had jobs that I loved, but I literally traveled like a crazy woman to do those jobs, and it takes a toll. It takes a toll personally and it takes a toll for my family. Can it be done? Absolutely. You know, I probably have travel tricks and tips that I’ve created over the years to make it all work, but it does put a level of stress on me that is in addition to the stress of the job.

So I want the flexibility to cycle up and cycle down a bit during the course of a year to do the 80-hour weeks and for some months maybe to do a 40-hour based on what’s going on. So I have a quest for flexibility in my work that I have not yet achieved. And then part of it is I have two daughters and I’m on a quest to show them that it’s okay to start, to fail and pick back up again. And that’s hard because I don’t do well at failing, but I’m embracing the fact that failure is okay and it’s okay to say the word and it’s okay to admit that it didn’t work. The trick is getting back up again. And so entrepreneurship definitely is a rollercoaster ride financially, emotionally, all of it. And so I want to walk out in front of my girls a level of determination and just willingness to try and try again so that they’ll know that it’s okay to try something new, try something bold, and even if you fail at it you learn something and you’re going to move on and do something great.

Susan: Thank you for the rawness of that. Because as women, maybe especially, maybe that’s not true, I don’t know. I always feel like being a woman and failing is like a double whammy somehow. And maybe it’s because of where I’m from, I don’t know, because I’m from South Carolina and I have heard people say, “Well women don’t do that. Well, women shouldn’t do that. Well, women da, da, da…” And so it’s like when you do something and you try something and it doesn’t work out, it’s like, “Well, they were right.” I’ve said that to myself so many times and been so unkind to myself. So thank you for the rawness of that, that it’s that it’s okay to fail and learn the lesson because I think that’s really—that’s probably hard for everybody, but maybe for me in particular. So thank you for that.

Lura Hobbs: I loved what you said about feeling like sometimes you’re so unkind to yourself and I think one of the things we have to do, not just as women entrepreneurs, but just professional women, whatever level you’re striving for, you need to have at least one other woman in your life that can speak to you directly to affirm you, to push you, to challenge you when you’re having those moments, when you’re being unkind to yourself. And I think too often we have those harsh, unkind moments alone and we’re not willing to share though and in that that’s when we become defeated and we’d give up and we just go do something safe. And not to say that the safe path isn’t an okay path because some of us have to take a safe path because of what we need to do for our families. But too often we talk ourselves out of our own greatness and we just need another woman there to hold our hand and say it’s okay, keep going. And we need to be vulnerable enough to find at least one woman in our life to be that person.

Susan: Oh, I love the way you said that; “We talk ourselves out of our own greatness.” That’s where the. That’s pretty big. That’s a big thing to say but you’re absolutely correct. You are absolutely right.

Lura Hobbs: Right. At least once a week I’m sitting here and I’m going, “Okay, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I just can’t.” And I’m so grateful that over the course of the last year, I have met some just lovely, amazing women, and sometimes I’ll just send a text message; “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.” And I’ll get a message back that says, “Yes you can. What did you need? Do you need to talk? Do you need to meet me right now? What do you need?” And you just need somebody that answers that text message with; “Yes, you can.”

Susan: Well, on that note, thank you so much for joining me today. I have loved our conversation. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us about personal branding and perseverance. Before I let you go, it’s something that was a little unexpected, but I really liked it and I appreciated that very much. Before I let you go, tell us where we can find you; via your website, your social media, if people are looking for your services or, or everything that you offer in your own consulting. Tell us where we can find

Lura Hobbs: Sure. You can find me on LinkedIn under my name. I have a different name. It’s Laura Hobbs. You can type my name on LinkedIn and you’ll find me there. You can follow me, you can connect with me. You can see a little bit about my background and what I do professionally. And then, you can find me on Instagram. I don’t post a lot on Instagram, but there’s a few things there. Same thing my name, Lura Hobbs, you can find me there. My Facebook is private, so if you’re listening to this and you know me first, maybe you can connect with me there, but I try to keep that to a kind of a smaller group of ladies.

Susan: Cool. And then do you have your own website?

Lura Hobbs: That is the bane of my existence. I have done it, not done it, done it, not done it. I own all the URLs at point too, or at least those that I could buy. I haven’t done it. It’s the thing I need to do. That’s the thing I talked myself out of it so I use LinkedIn.

Susan: I love that. Can I leave this in? Okay. Because I feel like as women I feel like as women there are things that are just action steps we have to take and often it’s buying the URL that’s the hard part. I understand.

Lura Hobbs: I bought them. I’ve got like 10 URLs. I build it, I look at it, and I’m like, “I don’t like it.” So, it’s a commitment issue and I need to get past it, but that’s the God honest truth. I have them. I just haven’t committed.

Susan: Well, I love it because we all have those things that we refuse to commit to, so I appreciate your being honest about that and letting me leave that in. Thank you so much for joining today. It has been a real treat for me to catch up with you and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Lura Hobbs: This was truly just fun to hang out with you this way, and I am glad to have you as one of those women in my life. So thank you.

Susan: Well, thank you so much for that. That means the world to me.

Outro: Thanks so much for listening today. I’ve learned so much from our conversation with Lura and I know you did too. I’ve made sure to link everything we discussed as well as where to find Lura over on our website, howshegothere.com. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please, please, please share with your friends, and don’t forget to head over to iTunes and hit subscribe and while you’re there I really appreciate if you would rate it and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. I also made sure to read every review and email and Facebook posts you leave, and I have always, always, always enjoyed hearing your feedback. It has really meant a lot to me. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here community page, and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode as well as any other fun, How She Got Your Content. So with all of that said, thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.

Finding Your Glow with Saren Stiegel

Founder of the Glow Effect, Saren Stiegel is using her knowledge and expertise to challenge what the words leader and leadership really mean.

Show Notes

What picture appears in your brain when I say the word leader?  Do you see a leader as someone just at the top?  What if you shifted your idea of who a leader is and recognized the leader within yourself?

Through the Glow Effect, Saren Stiegel is redefining what leadership looks like.  Much like my conversation with Nichole from Mommy’s Home Office,  Saren loved the idea of online business.  So she took her knowledge and previous experience and launched the Glow Effect.

Saren has helped women partner across the globe to develop leadership skills horizontally versus vertically.  The emphasis being that a leader is not a hero.  A leader is someone who leads from behind.  Who leads from within.  Recognizing that everyone is a leader.

Horizontal leadership is mirrored in Glow Effect events like Give Growth.  Instead of panel discussions speakers sit at round tables and facilitate discussion with you versus speaking at you creating the opportunity for deeper  and more meaningful conversation.

Through this style of coaching and mentoring instead of being told a path to follow you are given the tools and encouraged to figure out your path for yourself.  Ultimately recognizing the leader already inside you.

In this episode, Saren shares inspiring insights and her professional expertise leadership and starting your own business.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • A true leader makes sure everyone who is participating feels like a hero
  • Micro impacts are vital to society. They also help you build confidence and make a difference where you are already
  • The most powerful thing you can do is create a shift within yourself

 

Episode Links:

Glow Effect – Website

Glow Effect – Instagram

Glow Effect – Facebook

Glow Effect – Twitter

Glow Effect – Book

Glow Effect – Podcast

 

Finding Your Glow with Saren Stiegel – Transcript

 

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey pod sisters, I am thrilled to have with me today, the founder of The Glow Effect, Saren Stiegel. Saren is a 30 something retired attorney who found herself burnt out, loads of self-doubt, fear of failure, and playing small with everything she had, a great education the perception of an amazing career, a decent income. She wondered if she felt this way, how do others with her same privileges feel? How did others feel who did not have her same privileges? In our conversation, we talked about starting The Glow Effect and how in the beginning a toxic ego, her words, lost her some of her best people. She shares valuable lessons she learned in the beginning and her definition of a true leader. We discussed the importance of micro impacts, the significance of internal shifts, and how to see our own blind spots.

Hint: You cannot do this alone.

A quick note to those of my listeners who might be listening with younger ears around: at around 35 minutes and 30 seconds into our conversation, there’s a word that’s probably not suitable for younger audiences, so just be aware and maybe lower your volume for a second or two. I would also like to apologize for the lawnmower and leaf blower you might hear in the background. My amazing lawn team came at a different time than usual, so just pretend we’re having the conversation in the backyard this week instead. So with that said, please welcome Saren Stiegel to the podcast.

Susan: Hey Saren, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Saren Stiegel: Oh, I’m doing so well. Thank you for having me Susan.

Susan: I am really excited for you to be here and tell us a little bit more about what you are doing now. Walk us through a little bit how you got on this path. Where did you start and where are you now?

Saren Stiegel: Absolutely, so I started as—wow, how far should we go back? I started in international sustainable development and social justice, and I was traveling a lot, I was working with social movements, I was working with the most amazing organizations and then I decided to go to law school because, you know, we have this thing in our society about all the rules and what we should do, and in my family, you know, lawyer, doctor or medical school is really the path. So I chose the path, the only one that seemed viable for somebody who doesn’t love numbers and I went to law school and I realized in law school that, you know, that wasn’t really my path but I just kept going. And I pursued social justice initiatives and I worked in criminal defense and I did civil rights work, and when I got out of law school I had to get a job really quickly.

So I took a job in family law which means divorce and child custody. And it was absolutely debilitating in terms of my values because it’s all about separating families and it wasn’t aligned with what I believe in and I was seeing women kind of take a backseat to the needs of their husbands and partners and, you know, in the law firm. And so there was a moment where I thought to myself, you know, if I’m feeling so misaligned, if I’m feeling so outside of my value and my worth, how are other people feeling that don’t have an education or have less education or less opportunities than I do? And that’s when I decided I needed to create something different. I had been writing a blog for years, I was also a yoga teacher, so I was really fascinated with the online business seen. So I quit my job and I started The Glow Effect.

And The Glow Effect at the beginning was your average—I don’t want to say average—but it was a coaching company and I was working with powerful women who didn’t really know their power and didn’t know their potential, and so I created programs and I wrote a book. And it was so fulfilling for me and these women but at a certain point I realized it wasn’t as expansive as it could be and it was, you know, when you focus on women, when you focus on one lane of diversity, you privileged the already privileged. So I was privileging the wealthy, whiter lighter women and so I really wanted to expand on that. And at the same time a couple of the international—so bringing back all my international work—a couple of international organizations reached out to me. And so I started partnering the local executives that I was working with, with women in rural communities in Uganda, and together they fund raised and they co-created curriculum and we ended up creating what’s called The Glow Effect Center for Women and Girls in this small village in Uganda. And it was all done what I like to call horizontally, so it was co-created where it doesn’t mean, like, the Western women weren’t doing the work for the Ugandan women. I think that’s a really big problem in a lot of charity and development work where we assume that the West knows better and this was a co-created initiative. So we worked together in creating this center.

And so now that center has been off the ground for about two years and you know, the income levels have risen, children are back in school or going to school for the first time, domestic violence rates in the village have gone down, you know all these amazing things. But what was also really fascinating is what it did for the Western women, their capacity to see that they can go beyond the nine to five, you know, linear path that society prescribes for us. So, you know, I became a lawyer and I thought that’s the way I had to go and that’s my skill level, but sometimes we don’t see how transferable these skills are and really what our talents are because society really wants to put us in a box of lawyer, doctor, business owner, all these things where you can create things that don’t necessarily have a title.

So since then we have a podcast, we’ve created events, but more so I think what’s really unique about The Glow Effect is that we now offer programs that allow women in the western regions: UK, US, and Australia, who are executives who want leadership development to partner with women in rural communities. So we have partners in Nepal and in India, so virtually we connect these women to do leadership development together. You know, again, horizontally, not the top down, you know; Western women are going to be training the other ones or mentoring. It’s that we’re doing it together and it really expands the vision of what leadership is.

Susan: That is really cool. You are the second guest I’ve had that somehow found themselves in Uganda and working with women. What is it about Uganda? How did you end up in Uganda?

Saren Stiegel: Well, Uganda reached out to me—not the country. A woman in the rural community found The Glow Effect. So she reached out to me, but…

Susan: That’s so cool.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, I’d done a lot of work in Africa: South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Zanzibar and I think because of my familiarity with certain countries in Africa and the work that I’ve done there, I was a little more—I don’t want to say popular, but like I started to build up a little bit of a following. And Uganda is also a country that’s really, really kind, really open to international development, and I think there’s a double edge sword, and I don’t know how much you want on Uganda but they’re so open to development and so eager for development and Ugandan people are just the most welcoming, generous, like, I feel more comfortable in Uganda often than I do in like downtown LA or New York.

Susan: Wow!

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, it’s an amazing country. The challenge is that because they’re so open to international development, there’s a little bit of a complex in terms of like of the white savior. So if, the white savior or if Westerners aren’t well educated and well informed and aware of it, it’s real easy to fall into that hero syndrome and that you can just come there because a lot of Ugandans think, you know, they’ve been taught like white westerners are going to come and save us and that’s the only way we’re going to get out of this poverty debacle. So a lot of the work is training Westerners and training Ugandans in that we can’t be reliant on each other whatsoever.

Susan: Wow. Wow.

Saren Stiegel: Good question.

Susan: So with us talking about how they’re—basically, it sounds like they’re training each other,  is that…? So this brings up a good point that I think you and Monica Marquez from, I think Google had a conversation about this same kind of redefining what leadership looks like.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah.

Susan: Talk to me about that in what you guys were discussing.

Saren Stiegel: Well, I don’t necessarily recall that conversation that was in early February, but what I think is important in terms of redefining leadership is, you know, as a human race, the kinds of leaders that we’ve seen and revered are often the dictator hero-like leader and dictator has a pejorative term–it is a pejorative term whereas like heroes like, “Oh yeah, I want to be the hero.” And I think business and leadership is starting to evolve beyond the hero form of the CEO, and if you’re not aware of that, you’re in for really rude awakening. I mean I can only speak from experience because even running a leadership development organization, I quickly fell into that because, you know, I read somewhere the woman called it the recovering charismatic leader. So I’ve naturally been good on stages. I’ve naturally been a public speaker, that’s come very easily to me, I’ve naturally had charisma. So when you do something that changes people’s lives, it’s really easy to grow a toxic ego. And I did at the beginning of our work in Uganda; I really started to think, “Oh, I know better. You know, like I’ve done this. I know better.” And it’s so toxic.

So what ended up happening is I lost some of my best, best people because I didn’t understand what being a leader really is, even though I was teaching it.          It’s such a, such a common paradigm and archetype in our society to see a leader as a hero, and the leader is not the hero. There’s no such thing as that anymore, and can be a hero in your own life. But if you’re acting that way in an organization or on a team, you’re going to lose your team. So I think what Monica and I were alluding to or speaking about was that this new paradigm of leadership that’s emerging is the leader that leads from behind that leads from within and that everyone’s a leader, you know, everyone’s the hero. And a true leader makes sure everyone who’s participating feels like a hero, and not seeing themselves as singular but operating in a whole. And so it’s a very feminine form of leadership. I think the masculine wants to think power over. Whereas the feminine, there’s an understanding of power with.

Susan: I like that “Power with.” I think there’s a flip side to this and I think as women who are about making a change or who are fed up with where they are, I think something—and I don’t know if men are bad about this or not because I’m not one—but women in making these changes, before you think I know better, before all of that happens, there’s a period I think where sometimes women are asking for permission, like we’re almost looking for that hero like we need that hero and so I guess my question to you would be, are you seeing that in your people? Have you seen that? And then how do you flip that and help them find it within themselves? Because I think that’s a hard thing to do.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah. No, I think that’s a brilliant question and kind of caveat to what I said because, you know, for women to even call themselves leaders in the first place was a huge leap, right? The challenge is that we think that to call myself a leader, I have to be a hero and I have to be on top right? And I think this is what created this wave of like Girl Boss, you know, and we see in social trends for the past however long it’s been, maybe since Sophia Amoroso created Girl Boss and that whole hashtag; it’s become this revered thing to be a boss. I want to be the boss, I want to have my empire, you know. It’s cool. And I think it’s pushing the toxic paradigm. On the one hand I get it, you know, it’s for women that permission is really important.

So that’s a lot of why we do this work internationally, and we expose women to communities where they don’t have the option of being the top dog. They don’t have the option of being the boss, if you will, right? They have to lead from within. And when you’re exposed to that, you start to see where you held yourself back. And also what we do is a lot of the work that we put women through is starting to shift perception. You know, we have so much self-doubt of women, we have so much lack of self-trust and questioning whether our ideas are right, all of it. So the work really starts with shifting that perception and getting those self-doubts out of the way so that you can start to see the everyday problems and challenges that the people just like you are facing that can be solved with a simple shift in perception. But the challenge is that we’re so blinded by the self-doubts that we think, “Oh, if I don’t go and save Uganda, then I’m not worthy. ” or , “If I don’t go and like cure homelessness, I have no value or I’m not making an impact.” and that’s so not true.

You know, micro impact is absolutely vital to our society right now and helping your coworker vocalize her opinion is hugely impactful. So starting to move your self-doubt out of the way and seeing how you can create that micro impact will start to build your confidence and then you realize that there’s so much to be done right where you are. So you start to expose the challenges locally to you, and when you expose those challenges, you see, “Oh, my, gosh, I have so many skills and talents that can solve this right here. I don’t need to go out and cure homelessness. I can create an amazing impact right where I am.” Does that make sense?

Susan: Oh, it absolutely does. In fact, your mission, I think it’s written on your website, I could be wrong, or maybe you’ve talked about this. I found this in your stuff somewhere that “It became making sure every woman and every girl has the resources to access her world changing potential to lead the way for her community,” I think it’s how you have it written or you spoke about it somewhere. So tell me about this. How does The Glow Effect do this? How are you accomplishing this?

Saren Stiegel: Well, we do it in a bunch of different ways. I mean, I think that the most powerful thing we can do is create that shift in ourselves. So we set up platforms, we have programs; we have events that are designed to expose that for you. So it’s not, you know, I’m coaching you to find it. It’s, I’m standing with you and supporting you as you uncover it for yourself. And then the confusion I think there is, “Well then I’m just going to go out and do it by myself.” And the challenge is yeah, you could technically I guess, but we are so blinded by our own blind spots. If you don’t have someone next to you exposing those for you, there’s virtually no way you can see them. So to me that’s like, I don’t love the term coach but technically, I guess that’s what it is. So our programming really creates the platform for you to uncover your blind spot. And by platform, I mean with coaching, with mentorship, with a really strong community. So you know, as other women are going through this training, you gain the skills to challenge each other to find those blind spots. But again, we can’t see our own blind spots. So I need a support system. I don’t feel like I’m better than others, you know, I still have so much learning and growth to do. So it’s really about creating a platform with powerful mentors and coaches that all see the potential in each other.

Susan: Okay, I didn’t prep you for this question but I’m going to ask you anyway, and if it’s horrible, we’ll just delete it so nobody will ever know and I’m leaving that in. So if it stays now, you know my trick.

Saren Stiegel: Okay, great.

Susan: Tell me how you’re finding these women. Are they coming to you? Are you seeking them out? Is there a secret code to get in?

Saren Stiegel: I believe in the law of attraction. And by law of attraction, I don’t just sit on my hands and wait. I mean I put my material and my content out for free, like you can find everything that I do in some form or another online: in a blog post, in a podcast. And when you put it all out there, you will naturally get people coming to you. And so with our events, which are completely different than other people’s events, so I made sure that they’re not a panel of speakers sitting on a platform above everyone else. Our speakers sit at round tables with the attendees and they facilitate conversations. So it’s not about them speaking at you; it’s about them speaking with you.

Susan: Woo.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, it just completely changes the results of the event right? And so everyone there starts to feel like they could be a leader and they could lead a conversation. And what that does is, you know, some women say like, “Okay, that’s cool, but not for me.” cool, I’ve no problem with that. But you know, I’ve had so much education, and I say that in a good way and a bad way. I think it’s off putting to some people, like they don’t want to go deep—it’s a lot. I don’t sugar coat, I’m super direct, I like to go super, super deep. I don’t like surface level conversations. So if that’s not for you, cool. Totally fine, it’s okay. But what’s beautiful is that it really filters out the people that do want something more and who are ready to make a huge change.

So, I get women from, like I said, all walks of life, all layers—and we have such a tiered society— but all income levels, all a job professions, you know, women in wellness, women in consulting, women in accounting, women in marketing, women in coffee shops. I think these leaders that want something deeper, that want to make a bigger impact are everywhere. It’s about, you know, creating the right call to action that has them say, “Oh yeah, okay, that’s me. I want that,” and it’s not for everybody.

Susan: Just putting people, leaders, speakers at a round table instead of a panel up in front, you’ve literally blew my mind. I mean, I am thinking back to all of those things that I have attended before in the past. And I’m like, “Yeah, the questions are canned, they’re very surface level.” It’s like, great, I’m glad you got there but there never really is a, “How do I do this?” like there’s not real good conversations. You just blew my mind.

Saren Stiegel: Oh, I’m so glad. Well, we’ve been hosting these events. They’re called ‘Give Growth’ for two years. We just had one last week actually in Orange County and they’re super successful. Like I get everyone it, but just like, I’ve never seen anything like this before, which blows my mind because it seems so freaking obvious. Like it’s so easy. It’s not, you know, you just don’t set up the chairs in stadium seating, you get round-tables, like not rocket science, you know. But the challenge, I guess, you know, the way we format the event is that I feel three questions. So over the Course of three hours, you know, it’s a very limited format; three questions. So the first question, you know, I think last week was what kind of impact you currently make? So then the round-table talk for about 15 minutes as a round-table and these featured leaders facilitate the conversations.

So I guide them and give them a ton of material beforehand on how to facilitate and listen and they’re there to call you out, to challenge you, and you go around the table and everybody speaks and then we come together as a large group. So we don’t usually have more than 75 people. And then as a large group, I facilitate a big conversation so everybody starts sharing their insights. You know, and some people don’t feel comfortable to share in that large group and that’s totally fine because they’re going to get the opportunity to share in their small groups.

Susan: That’s so cool. That is such a great idea. I love it. I want to go. So let’s shift just a little bit on some questions and then I’m going to come back to all of that. I want to talk a little bit about you. So you left a firm, you left the real world, if you will, you left a corporate job, even though you were burned out, there were things you were giving up by leaving 401k opportunities, healthcare potential, an income. So how do you bolster your confidence in moments—and maybe your past this, maybe you aren’t asking yourself this, these questions anymore—but what was I thinking? Like how did you get through those first couple of months where it was like or years where it was like, “Am I crazy? Why would I leave security?”

Saren Stiegel: Yeah. I mean I’m not over that, but I will say I will never—like in the beginning I would have urge people to do what I did, you know, like I’m so much more fulfilled. I’m absolutely poor, but fulfilled! You know, and that is poor coaching, and if you’re reading that anywhere, like just disregard it because it is so freaking naive. So I will never coach people to jump out of a corporate job like I did because I did it blindly, I did it without a cushion, you know, I mean I had a relatively—I had a saving because when I was an attorney I literally did not do anything but work. So I spent my money on car insurance and rent so I had money but not a lot and it didn’t carry me very long.

But I think the trick—and this is now what coach my clients to do—is two parts: You have to create an exit strategy. So if you don’t know what you’re jumping into, like don’t leave. If you hate your job, if you absolutely hate it, then get a job at a coffee shop, humble yourself, you know what I mean? Like get a side gig. Get something that’s going to bring you income because if you jump ship and you don’t have some kind of income or some kind of safety, there is no creativity. Don’t think that like, “Oh, I’m going to quit my job and then tomorrow I’m going to start my six figure business.” You know, like I’ve never heard of that. No, you need to know so many way—or being a business owner is not something that you are taught in school and not even if you go to business school, right? Like I’ve heard this from so many MBAs. The real world of business looks nothing like we learn in school. So you need to have a very crystal clear understanding of how whatever you’re going to do is going to bring in income like sooner than later if it’s not already. Like I would only tell somebody to jump ship if they are already bringing in income that is mostly sustaining their lifestyle. So that’s part one: is you need a strong exit strategy.

Part two is, and this is a touchy subject, but stop seeing being a business owner or having your own business as dichotomous with, if that’s a word, with corporate or a law firm or whatever. So I think for the first maybe year or two of my business, I was like, “I’m getting out of corporate. Like I hate corporate.” you know, “I want nothing to do with corporate and I’m just going to own my business and I’m going to make a ton of money and I just want nothing to do with corporate.” that’s so naive. That’s so naive to believe that you can have one or the other.

The reality is 1: 99% of my clients come from corporate, right? So why would I not find a way to partner with corporation, to partner with organizations that may be a little weak in their learning and development and work with them instead of being against them, right? So I think the real, like, my business opened up when I started to see it all as a partnership. Now I’ve never, and I will probably never partner with the law firm that I left, you know, I don’t want to put them down, but they’re not an open minded learning and development geared organization that would be open to this, so I’m not saying that you have to go back to your company and partner with them—that might be really, really toxic, but there is so much you can learn about what the corporations and organizations are looking for. Number one, they have a shit ton of money, not always, but corporate is where most of the world’s money is. So if you can find a unique way to stall their challenges, you will have a leg up in creating whatever endeavor you want to create.

Susan: That’s really good.

Saren Stiegel: Kind of a long-winded answer.

Susan: No, that was great. That was great. And I totally understand not necessarily going back to the place you left.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, but not as like…

Susan: The enemy.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, I left the corporate firm or whatever and now I will never go back to any of them. That’s only going to hurt you.

Susan: Yes, I agree with that. That’s very wise, very wise thing to say.

Saren Stiegel: It’s taken a lot of learning the hard way.

Susan: That’s fair. That’s fair. I think anytime you go out on your own that there is some of that figuring you’re always figuring things out, right? I mean that’s just life. So obviously, going out on your own is hard. How do you motivate yourself to keep going when it gets a little overwhelming?

Saren Stiegel: Well, I guess the number one way is rest a lot. And I say that because I learned the hard way. If you’re burnt out, don’t burn yourself out more because you think you should be doing more and you should be motivated. Respect what your body’s telling you and rest. And that’s been a really hard lesson for me. It’s just continually a hard lesson because I think there’s something about us where we just—when I say us, I mean action-oriented type ‘A’ people that I talked to literally every day and drove. I rarely talked to non-type ‘A’ people because non-type ‘A’ people don’t really want to do much of this stuff. You know, it’s type ‘A’ people that want to change the world. So the natural inclination is take more action, do more, do more, do more, and that’s not where we find inspiration and motivation. So much of inspiration come in, the quiet moments comes in the yoga class that you don’t quote unquote have time for and I really resisted that. I need to say that again where I’ve had mentors who say to me like, “You need to take a month off.” and I’m like, “Never! like what? Like that’s a nightmare!”

And when I say take a month off, it doesn’t mean like I cancel my clients, you know, maybe I just minimize and I don’t actively seek more clients, but I’ve been in those times when, you know, maybe I take a course or like I stepped back and I’ll take like an accelerator program, and the learning and the growth is absolutely exponential in those times and it helps you clarify what in your business is draining your motivation because it’s not always the day to day, I mean there’s the day to day motivation, but then there’s the possibly not running their business as a effectively as it could be running a because models need to pivot. They have to and if you are entrenched in the day to day, there’s no way you can get that perspective, you know what I mean, like macro perceptive, but you have to back away from the day to day and it feels like pulling teeth and that backing away but I promise, promise, promise that it’s going to be the best thing that you’ve ever done for yourself and for your business and for the people that you’re supporting so that’s kind of one thing that I do.

But then the next thing is once you have a clear vision, a clear business model, but some revenue coming in, by that time, it’s likely that you have a strong-ish network. It was only maybe like a year ago when I have so many people and mentors and like my network–that is the key to running a business these days is having a strong network. So I have these amazing people in my network and someone said to me, “So you have a formal advisory board, right?” and I don’t have a board and she was like, “But you have an advisory board.” and I was like, “Well, I have advisers.” She’s like, “No, no, no, no, no, no. You need at least three to five people who you get together maybe quarterly.” you know, and so now I have four women. We get together quarterly for brunch and we rotate who hosts the brunch and these women are just the most exceptional people and they hold me accountable. And it’s so scary because when you have random advisers, you know, you may meet with them like once every six months and you tell them about your accomplishments and maybe some of your challenges and then you go on and you write them a follow-up email and see ya! But with an advisory board, no, they’re going to hold you accountable, you know, regularly. And at first I was really freaked out about that, but you know, that they’re not there to beat me up they’re there to, “Okay so you didn’t meet x, y, and z goals. Let’s figure out why.” And before you have a big team, they’re your team and to get a diversity of thought into your business is so vital—so vital. So you know, strategically pick this advisory board and it will work wonders on your entire life.

Susan: I really appreciate that thought process or those words. That’s really helpful. That’s helpful to me and I know a lot of other women listening will find that helpful as well. And I also really liked what you said about self-care and how your body responds to the lack of it because I have definitely, you know, the breakouts, the, yeah, all of it. It’s just I’m horrible about that as well sometimes and when I am, my body tells me so it shows

Saren Stiegel: Totally, and it’ll show in your business.

Susan: Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

Saren Stiegel: If your business is breaking down, it’s highly likely that you’re breaking down.

Susan: Yeah, absolutely, and you’re so right that you’ve got to find your core support people and put them around you advisers or what you need, you need to find because when you’re in it and you’re in the weeds, especially in the beginning, the perspective is definitely something you can’t get on your own. It’s too easy to duck in and get stuck in the muck.

Saren Stiegel: Totally, just know that that is our go-to, like that is our instinct and our natural urge is to work harder, and that is counter intuitive to what’s needed. So if you feel like if I just work harder then I’ll, get out of the muck. Wrong

Susan: You’re getting deeper in the muck.

Saren Stiegel: You’re getting deeper. Mark my words.

Susan: Well that is very good advice. I have one last question and I hope, I hope, I hope you go back to The Glow Effect on this one, but if you don’t, that’s cool. I always like to leave our listeners with an action step. I know these women are hearing this and they think it’s great and it’s much like that panel sitting in front of you, you know, that’s kind of where we’re at a little bit with the podcast. There’s a panel, we’re talking, we’re having a great conversation or somebody’s sitting at the coffee shop and they’re overhearing us talking about life and whatever. What is one action step or a few action steps that you could leave our audience with to roll the ball forward, move the ball forward with whatever it is that they are thinking of doing next especially if they’re thinking about leaving their current role?

Saren Stiegel: The challenge of that question is we’re all at different places, right? So I’m going to say like, you know, for the people who are in a job that they hate, this is such a great opportunity to learn in terms of like, so you have income coming in, then great, get yourself a coach, take a program and I will happily offer up our program and specifically our aspire program. Our aspire program helps you kind of uncover what it is that you are just craving to do and what’s going to create the most value and fulfillment for the world and for yourself simultaneously. So find, you know, and again, like I said, it’s not for everyone, but if what I said so far resonates with you, please, please reach out because this is such an opportune time to hone in on that exit strategy that I was talking about. If you’ve already left your role and you’ve started a business, depending on where you are, I mean I would again say feel free to reach out into our aspire program because it can still help you get that perspective to see where you need to go next and how to shape your trajectory.

It’s not a cheap endeavor, you know, getting a coach or doing these programs, they do cost money. So if that’s not in the cards for you, I totally get it. I would say start learning locally. So go to events, find associations and conferences, and don’t think that you need to pay the $500 ticket price to these things. Get really creative and find the organizers’ information and email them and say, “Can I volunteer for your event?” Because the more you can integrate yourself and ingratiate yourself into the industry that you’re trying to get into, it will explode your business and there’s nothing better than humbling yourself with these organizations and with these organizers. They always need volunteers, they always need support, so go do that. And then once you start to grow your network that way, find your advisory board.        You know, write up a NDA, a nondisclosure agreement, and just write up the requirements of what you’re asking. So you know, to be on our advisory board is going to require you to meet with us four times a year, to have one call with me per month and in return, you’ll receive a network of people. And make sure you identify what they’re going to get out of it too because likely you’re going to be asking awesome people who need to get some value out of it and, and formalize this advisory board for yourself and create your little team even if you can’t afford employees yet or even if you can’t, there’s nothing better than having people vision the macro perspective with you.

Susan: That’s great.

Saren Stiegel: Great.

Susan: That is great and I never thought about the volunteering aspect of behind the scenes because I would think you would even get access to more people that way. Like that you wouldn’t necessarily have access to just as a quite frankly as a paying participant. So I think that’s a very creative idea. I like that a lot.

Saren Stiegel: You get access to the people but you also get access to the mechanics and the operation of the organization. I mean I have volunteered more than I have attended events and people look at me often like I’m crazy and like, “Why are you volunteering? Are you poor?” Like, no, it’s actually like, it was a best way to befriend all the people and you know, again, I’m a speaker or I do speak in engagements, so it’s so much more likely that you will build up your credibility starting at the bottom than trying to email your resume and you’re speaking to the organizer and they’re most likely going to ignore you if they’ve never heard of you, but if you’re humbling yourself and helping them, it just creates the most extraordinary opportunity. We can’t even fathom what it will create.

Susan: That’s great. Thank you so much for joining me today. Before we leave though, I want to ask you to tell us where we can find you: Online, on social media, The Glow Effect. Like how do we get in touch with you?

Saren Stiegel: Well, I mean the best way to get in touch with me is my email: saren@gloweffect.com. So please don’t hesitate to email me. I mean I read and I respond to every email I get. So that’s the number one way to find me and connect with me and get into our programs or volunteer whatever you want to do. And then you know, if you just want to learn more, go onto gloweffect.com and Instagram—thegloweffect, Facebook “/the glow effect” and then on Twitter is “you are the glow” so that you can probably search for the glow effective and find it as well.

Susan: Great. And I’ll make sure to link everything in on our transcript page for our listeners. So don’t pull off the road or try to rewind or anything. Just head on over to the website. It’ll be on the transcript page. All you have to do is click.

Saren Stiegel: Yeah, and again, put my email up there.

Susan: I will do that.

Saren Stiegel: In sharing my email address and please don’t have any shame in emailing me you will reach me, not my assistant.

Susan: Awesome. Saren, thank you so much for joining me today, I really appreciate it. This was a lot of fun and you have some amazing insight and I really, really appreciate your time.

Saren Stiegel: My pleasure. Really, this was so fun, Susan. Thank for having me.

Susan: Thanks so much Saren.

Outro: Hey sisters, so if you were still here, thanks for hanging in there until the end with me today. I know it was a little bit of a longer conversation than normal, but it was so worth it, right? Isn’t she amazing? I’ve learned so much from our conversation and I know you did too. I know you’re going to want to follow up and check her out online so we have made sure to link to The Glow Effect and Saren over on our website: howshegothere.com. I also want to say thanks so much for listening today. If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes and hit subscribe. And while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make It easier for others to find. I also make sure to read every review and email and Facebook posts you leave and I have always, always, always excited to hear your feedback. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here Community page, and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode as well as any other fun, How She Got Here content. So with all of that said, thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

Genevieve Strickland is a full time licensed marriage and family therapist. A full time artist. A Mom!  She reminds us of the importance of doing what you are passionate about.

Show Notes

Do you have something you are truly passionate about?  Do you have something you do for the sheer joy of it?  Have you considered turning it into a second career?  If your answer is yes to any of the questions above you’re in the right place.

Genevieve Strickland grew up on the South Carolina coast in Myrtle Beach.  She says she knew she loved drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil.

At a college fair in high school she discovered Converse College, a women’s college that offered a degree in art therapy.  She decided to try the all women’s atmosphere because, in her own words, “What’s the worst that could happen?”  She not only flourished there, but gained a whole sisterhood.

After earning her degree she got a second degree  to become a licensed marriage and family therapist and moved into private practice.

Always creating when she had the opportunity, but as more people began to ask for her work she was inspired to try being a full time therapist and a full time artist.  So she took two business classes on using Instagram.  After that, it was on!

As both a full time therapist and full time artist, art is still Genevieve’s passion.  It is what centers her.  It is how she cares for herself.

As a full time therapist she recognizes that there is sometimes still a stigma around mental self care.  Although, she says it is no different than going to a general practitioner or OBGYN for a check up.  Brain health is just as important as body health.

In this episode, Genevieve  offers inspiring insights and her professional expertise on both art and therapy.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Don’t be afraid to try new things
  • It’s important to mess up and fail – so you know you can start over
  • Therapy and taking care of your brain is just like physical therapy for your body

 

Genevieve’s commitment to her own self care and the self care of her clients reminds us of our own at How She Got Here. This past October, we committed to 30 Days of Self Care.  If you missed it, it is not too late.  The resources are still available on our  website, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Join our Facebook community and visit our site to download the free printable for self care reminders that are intended to pull you out of the hustle of life (even for just 15 minutes) and provide you time to focus on caring for yourself.

Just like Genevieve emphasizes, we’ve got to take care of ourselves, sister, so that we can go after those dreams of ours! And once we do that, we can start empowering other women and girls to do exactly the same thing.

Show Links:

Art by Genevieve Strickland (Facebook)

GenStrickland (Instagram)

Magnolia Counseling Associates (Facebook)

Magnolia Counseling Website

passioncolorjoy.com    (Instagram Classes)

 

 

Transcript

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey pod-sisters, my guest today is full-time artist as well as full-time licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Genevieve Strickland. Genevieve and I went to Converse together, and our conversation encompasses everything from choosing an all-women’s college to graduating and figuring out your career as well as turning a hobby into a second career: A great conversation that I cannot wait to share with you. So, without further ado, here’s Genevieve.

Hey Genevieve, thanks so much for joining me today.

Genevieve:  Thank you for having me Susan, I’m so glad to be here.

Susan:  I’m just really, really excited to talk to you and catch up with you and find out what you’ve been up to but for the audience who’s listening today, I’d love if you would give a little bit about who you are and your background.

Genevieve:  Okay, so my name Genevieve Strickland Y’all know that and I am originally from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—I  don’t know if your listeners are familiar with that area but it’s just a pretty popular coastal city but I live in upstate South Carolina now. I’ve lived here for about 20 years and I am a full-time marriage and family therapist and I’m a full-time artist so that is a little bit about me.

Susan:  So did you grow up in a family of creators? Like how did you find the passion for both things you do because I know you’re very passionate about both. Tell me a little bit about how you got to these places.

Genevieve:  Sure, you know, we do have a couple entrepreneurs in my family. My dad actually opened his 1st business when I was in middle school and we definitely thought we’re going to be homeless when he opened that because he left a regular job to do that. Thankfully it was fairly successful so we were not homeless thankfully and as far as like creative people, we don’t really have any other artists in the family. His dad actually was an architect but I did not know him as a kid: He died before I was born and—I’m trying to think—Nope: Yeah that’s it so we really don’t have anybody else in health care either so I’m sort of a unique person I think in my family as far as that goes and I got started with art really like as soon as I could hold like a pencil—I know a lot of artists tell that kind of story but I really did. I just always really liked creating things and especially drawing that was really my thing. I didn’t actually love painting until a couple of years ago funnily enough. I was going to go to college to be a Disney artist— that was my dream: To go draw like you know back when they drew movies still. I was going to go to school for that.

In high school, my teacher said, “Hey great dream, definitely do that but just in case, like let’s lay a couple other careers that maybe you could do.” which is a fair question right? It’s hard to be a full-time artist. And so I found art therapy actually in  like back when we had to look at things that were in books like and probably we did not have Google back then so we had to actually look up things in books and I looked it up and I’m like, “Wow, that sounds really cool. I can help people, I can do art it’s a win for everybody.”  and I found Converse—Susan and I went to Converse together: College— and they are the only school in South Carolina that had art therapy as an undergrad and I said, “Well gosh I guess I’m going to go there.” knowing nothing about it— It’s about 4 hours away from my hometown— and I went there like site unseen.

Susan:  Oh my gosh I didn’t know that!

Genevieve:  Yeah, I was like, “Well what’s the worst that can happen right?” and Converse was a great fit for me and I really loved it and the art program there was great and I got to take a lot of counseling classes and I figured out that I liked it a lot and I was about to graduate—and you’re going to like this story Susan—that I was about to graduate meeting with my advisor and he was like, “Hey by the way you really can’t use art therapy like for real as a job until you have a counseling degree your master’s degree.” and I’m like “What!!?”

Susan:  Oh, my gosh.

Genevieve:  I totally thought I could get out and just do that. So very quickly had to switch plans and say, you know, “Okay so the only art therapy program back then we’re all like several states away.” and so I was like, “Okay well what am I going to do?” and then I was walking it down the hall like after a class and there was a Flyer for the counseling program there Converse: The Marriage and Family Therapy Program which is an excellent program—love it to death and I said, “Well I’ll just apply to that.” and I got in and that’s what I did.

Susan:  Oh, my gosh. Wow, that would have freaked me out if I was getting ready to graduate and they were like. “Oh, by the way, this isn’t real. You can’t really do this yet.”

Genevieve:  Yeah, I was a little panicked there for a minute but I just said, “Well what’s the worst that can happen?” you know, “Let me just apply and if I don’t get in then I’ll just, you know, get a job but maybe not as doing that and make another plan.”

Susan:  That was really good and quick thinking.

Genevieve:  Well, I’m just lucky somebody put that flyer up Susan—honestly.

Susan:  That’s awesome though! That’s awesome because I don’t know, I am thinking back to undergrad and I really might have had a breakdown but it’s funny that you say that. You know my— I’ll just go off on a little tangent here for a second—I ended up majoring in business and marketing and so thank goodness the business administration piece was there because we graduated in 2004. So the things I was learning about marketing, I mean you’re right, Google didn’t exist, Facebook was really just launching like we didn’t have Facebook when we graduated. And so the marketing world was literally changing as I was graduating and that degree was not so great. So it’s like thank goodness I had the other aspects of that and I could use the finance pieces of that because the marketing thing was just never really going to happen. I would have had to have immediately gone back to school. It sounds like we both kind of graduated.

Susan:  Right and I couldn’t do it at that point like I really had to I didn’t have many student loans but I knew they were coming due and my parents were very much like, “You got to get out and get a job.” like that’s what—you graduate and you get a job. That’s what you have to do—and that’s just really funny, that’s really funny. Okay so let’s step back just a second because this gives me an opportunity.

Genevieve:  Sure.

Susan:  You came to Converse site unseen. Did you, in fact, know that it was a women’s college?

Genevieve:  I did actually know that. I found out about them and when I saw them at my high school college fair and they did say that and I remember telling my friends like, “I got into this college. Like I’m excited about the program and, you know, by the way, it’s an all-women.” and they were all like, “What!!? Why do you want to go to an all-women school? Like that sounds terrible. You’re not going to meet anybody.” you know all the things that people say about single-gender schools.

I really wasn’t worried about it. I mean I mostly had friends that were girls anyway so I wasn’t panicked about that. I was kind of like you know, “It’ll be in a town. I’m sure there’ll be people.” or “I’ll meet somebody in a coffee shop if I want to date somebody—whatever.” so that didn’t really bother me too much but my friends and even my parents were like, “Are you sure you want to go to a women’s school? Like what?”

Susan:  Yeah, yeah. Do you feel like— I mean obviously, you didn’t have the coed experience so it’s not like you changed and went from one to another— but do you feel like it changed your perception? What impact if any did a single gender piece of that have on your life?

Genevieve:  Well definitely one that gave me the room to, you know, be a little bit more outspoken in class. I don’t know I know you probably can’t tell, I use to be a very shy person in high school, didn’t really talk that much you know it’s sort of the classic quiet kind of, you know, unique kid. I came here and I was like, you know, again “Like what do I have to lose?” like trying to be maybe a little bit more outgoing and Converse was a great place.

Everybody was super welcoming and excited and, you know, a lot of y’all were already like outspoken and exciting people so that was a good atmosphere for me. I really like flourished in that, and two: I really got some good like you know I got some good hair stuff. I hate to say it like that but like I did not come from a family with good har stuff.  You got a cool hairstyle or that fun— and I got like a such a small piece but it did make a really big impact on me like, “Okay, I came out of this and I can look professional, I can feel good about you know presenting myself.” and not that Converse at all expects you to look like that in class because I know you probably just like I did went to class in pajamas a lot of the time.

Susan:  Yes.

Genevieve:  But it was almost like—because I’m an only child— I got a definitely a good like sister experience being at Converse and that was great for me.

Susan:  I love that because that’s exactly how I describe it. It really is a giant sisterhood. I mean I can meet somebody.  in Dallas, Texas and find out that they went to Converse and it’s happened and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” and it’s at an immediate like, “Yeah, we’re sisters.” it’s the weirdest thing that I don’t know that you get that— I know you don’t get that at a bigger university. I don’t know if it happens at smaller liberal arts colleges or not.

But anyway thank you for sharing your thoughts on that I really appreciate it. You said that you were creating, drawing as soon as you could pick up a pencil. You came out of college, you had the marriage and family therapy thing— that’s what you were going to do, that’s what you started doing—when did you realize that art could be more than a hobby artist, you could be like what I like to call a capital ‘A’ artist?

Genevieve:  So trying to think of when exactly that shift happened. I mean definitely after I had my second kid. He’s two and a half now and my youngest son and I had been you know painting and like every 3 months, I would sort of make something. When you’re in school and you’re doing art, you have a lot of deadlines, you have projects to turn in but once you get out without that structure unless you’re just motivated it’s hard to like, make time if you’re doing regular jobs or you’re doing regular responsibilities so. I was probably making something every couple months you know painting something fresh for this friend, painting something for a house that we could sell it— that kind of thing— and I started thinking like, “Gosh you know I’m getting more like requests from people like wanting me to paint something. Maybe I should sort of think on that. Like why can’t I do both? You know, why can’t I, be a full-time therapist and a full-time artist. I don’t see why I can’t.”

So I just I took two business classes and they’re both like Instagram business classes because that’s sort of the thing if you talk to any artist right now that’s a professional, that’s what they’re sort  of doing. That’s your own gallery for the whole world and there is a whole system to sort of know how to get like market your stuff to that audience and I said, “Well that seems like a good place to start.” you know, it doesn’t take me anything but time to learn that system right? I don’t have to create a whole website; I don’t have to do anything like that so. Right when I was doing that, a dad of a kid that my oldest son was in class with said, “Hey can I commission like this piece for a local restaurant that’s opening? It’s a big deal; we just want some local artist. You don’t have anything and anywhere else in town. Will you paint something for our restaurant?” I said, “Sure.” but that was really like it. That moment and then like two months later, I had been asked to be in an art show with a bunch of cool artist in town and then it was it with, it was on after that. So I guess that would be about, you know, two-ish years ago I became a professional— capital ‘A’ I would say.

Susan:  That’s so cool. It just kind of morphed into this thing. It wasn’t like it was a planned thing. That’s such a neat, that’s so cool how things have fallen into place. Tell me a little bit about your creative process and your method. I love that you do a lot of time-lapse pictures or time-lapse videos of pieces that you’re working on and so anybody who watches your stuff knows that you paint your canvas is red first. Tell me a little bit about your process why red?

Genevieve:  So I took one painting class at Converse—you know, when you’re an art therapy major, you do have to take studio art classes. I took one painting class and I did not like it but I did learn a couple of things. Even though I don’t paint in oil, I paint in acrylic, one of the things that you do no matter what you paint is have an under painting so that red is an under painting and basically that just gives you another like layer on your canvas—one because when you buy a canvas, sometimes it can take a couple layers of paint for the paint to look not like you can see through if that’s a good way to describe that. So one is for that and two, also the red I feel like pops my colors a little bit more so it’s a warm base instead of that white base and so I feel like that just makes my— and I’m a big color fan. I’m sure if ya’ll look at my work you’ll see that I really do love color so very much and so those kinds of things matter to me and I could, I guess paint on a white canvas but I just I like the way my color looks on that red that’s why I do it.

Susan:  That’s really cool. I know a lot of your stuff. I’ve had you commission a piece but I also know that you just paint it you just create it. Where does your inspiration come from and even in stuff that’s commissioned I mean you still have to have that picture in your head— how does that work?

Genevieve:  So I mean definitely a lot of the inspiration I have because I do a lot of like landscape pieces, are from the places around here. Upstate South Carolina is a great location because you’re near the coast, you’re near the mountains, you’re near farms, you’re near all kinds of just cool beautiful places and you can get them you know in an hour or a couple hours versus like a whole day. So, it’s just useful around here and that is truly where a lot of—I go gosh you know driving, I stop and take a picture because I’ll use that for later and you know as far as like my commission stuff, I just think that I’ve been drawing and you know creating stuff so long that I’ve never really had to like too much trouble just picturing—I’m just a visual person so somebody says, “Oh I want you to draw an alligator riding on a horse in the mountains.” I would be able to come up with something. It may not be a good picture always, I definitely do make mistakes. My work doesn’t always turn out well. I post the stuff that turns out well but that’s not always what actually happens. I think if you’re an artist you have to be not afraid of just paint over stuff—just starting over. I mean that’s just part of the process.

Susan:  Well that segways into a question I always like to ask and that’s, you know, even the strongest of us have moments where we lack self-confidence. How do you deal with that—is it the starting over?

Genevieve:  Yeah I think definitely I mean if you do you any kind of skill and I feel like art is definitely people will say “You’re just born with this talent.” whatever but I really felt like you know it’s just like any skill that you have in the world— you spend a lot of time getting better at it and you have to be able to do that to be a professional. You can’t be stuck in one place doing the same thing the same way— it just doesn’t work that way I don’t think to be professional. So, you know, you just spend a lot of time making mistakes. I think that’s important to experience. Not everybody have to or not everybody is afraid to mess up and fail, and I think that it is important to do that so that you know you can always start over. Like even I had a big commission earlier this year and I had gotten about you know a third of the way through and I was sending her a progress picture and she said, “You know I wanted that actually vertical and not horizontal.” so a third of the way through I don’t know why I didn’t check that— it was a terrible idea but I had for a panic moment for a minute like, “Oh gosh you know I just spent all this time doing this—poor me and then I said, “Gosh you know it’s fine.” I just turn it around and paint it again and it’ll be okay and it really is and maybe that’s just practice failing. I’ve practiced a lot being bad at stuff. I’m not good at math, you said you’re good at financial stuff but a long time being bad at math and so if I just based my whole life on how good I was at that, I would just be sort of stuck. When I have all this other stuff I’m okay.

Susan:  I would like to clarify: I said I did math, I did not say I was good at math. No one called me for math questions. I am very good in Excel— no one call me with your math questions I can’t answer them. Now I thought that was great Genevieve.

Genevieve:  Oh my gosh, Excel is hard.

Susan:  Again, you talk about a skill you can learn Excel. It is a skill, it is not a natural born talent but there is some natural talents you have. I mean it is a skill I think that there are things that you can learn but you really do have I think there are some things that a vision and I think you have a vision and I think it’s a beautiful vision and I really admire that because that’s not something that I have. I mess up stick people so yeah.

Genevieve:  Well thank you.

Susan:  Tell us a little bit about how because you are a full-time counselor which is so cool, you are a full-time artist which is also cool, you also have two children, tell me how do you recharge your batteries and is that art is for you at this moment— is that recharging your batteries or is there something else that does it for you?

Genevieve:  It definitely started out, like I said, I really started painting a lot right after I had my second child like kind of a sickly kid and he just was, you know, a lot of intense he didn’t sleep well that kind of stuff and we’re moving and the thought of change and so I didn’t really feel like I had much time to like go out and do stuff and I’m kind of a homebody anyway so I just started doing it like, “Gosh this is what I loved as a kid. This will be good for me to do my time.” it’s easy to fit in my life right now and so definitely it started out as that and then to kind of morphed into—it’s still that for me I still look forward to my time to do that so I start painting almost every night and I have my stuff just sort of set up in our little it looks like a studio but it’s really just the corner of our dining room, so I can be near my family if they’re awake or be near my husband— if he’s in the living room, I’m right next to him. So it’s my time to do it but it’s still there in my home and now I do more things out. Now I’ll go ride my bike or I’ll go you know out to eat breakfast with friends and I have more space to do that now but art is sort of what I’ always coming back to. I’m not a dancer but I sort of think about I’m not a yoga person but I feel like I think of it as my center I’ve had it so long in my life, that’s just my center.

Susan: That’s really cool. That’s really cool I like the centering aspect of that. That’s really, really neat. That’s really cool and that you’ve turned it into a profession so it can be both. That is such a—I don’t know, it gives me a sense of like peace about things I don’t know and I’m not an artist—that’s really neat. One of the questions I always like to ask is:  With this podcast, my whole goal is to inspire, empower, and encourage women to go out and find their thing. You have found two things that I think you must be really, really good at. One of them I know you’re really good at, the other one I’ve never used you as a counselor. I have been in therapy myself— full disclosure—but not living close by, I have not had the opportunity to use you. So tell me there are women out there who are thinking about finding their thing or how they find their thing and I envision them like, you know doing what I did: getting quiet, getting still like sitting down and really figuring out who you are. If you could leave our audience with like an action step of figuring things out for themselves, do you have anything that you would recommend anyone try or do or seek out?

Genevieve:  So I mean it would be hard for me not to say, “Hey, find a good therapist.” I mean that’s what we’re here for—is to help you walk through figuring out who you are and also we’re very different people than we were at 18 and at 10 and at 25 depending on how old you are. And so you know a good therapist can definitely help you walk through figuring that out like what you like and what you don’t like and how to set boundaries, you know, in your life or with your relationship. I mean I’ve done my own therapy before and I would be kind of a hypocrite if I didn’t. So I feel like that’s really helpful in one place and don’t feel like it’s unacceptable, I mean many counselors take insurance and payments of all kinds. So it’s not just for like people that can afford it. Therapists are in everybody’s grasp for sure.

But if it’s not that, if that’s not what you want to do, you know, again I kind of come back to like don’t be afraid to try stuff. When we’re kids we just go, “Hey I’m going to learn how to ride a bike.” and you just go out and like fall a bunch until you figure out how to ride a bike. One year for Christmas my parents got me a unicycle and I’m like, “Why?” I’m not a very athletic person so I don’t know why they gave that to me but you know I was pretty bad at it for a long time until I got kind of the hang of it. It was never my thing but I did figure out how to ride it where I didn’t fall immediately.

Not everybody in their childhood gets the space to like try stuff out so if you’re an adult and you don’t know what you like or you don’t have your thing or you’re trying to fit it in your life like try it. Take an online class, go get a unicycle and go, you know, find some new friends, go to be part of a group, you know, now we’ve got the Internet. There’s such a wealth of finding people or finding things—it doesn’t have to be costly things and my thought would be like go try stuff out. Don’t be afraid of it. I mean I’m 36 years old this year and you know, like I learned how to ride a bike again this year and that was exciting but it’s okay to be older and try stuff for you. You don’t have to have it figured out and you know just because you have kids so that would be my action step I think for everybody. Hopefully, I was clear with that.

Susan:  Oh, no, you absolutely were and now that you’re talking about this, I would love to just talk a little bit about your business and therapy and what that looks like because I feel like at the first real therapy I ever did it was when you know we did marriage counseling therapy type stuff and that was fine and that was good and I really enjoyed it but then I found myself dealing with some stuff that I just never dealt with and it just kind of all of a sudden popped up and I was like, “Oh what is this?” and I kind of had a little bit of panic attack and the target, it came out of nowhere, it was random and I told Stephen about it and he was like, “Maybe you should go talk to somebody about it.” and I was like, “I can’t do that! Therapy? Who does therapy? Only people who are crazy do therapy.”

So I don’t know if there’s really a taboo around it anymore, I feel like maybe there is so if you’d be comfortable talking about some of that, I would love to hear your thoughts on that and about how— I don’t even know. I don’t know where to start with this. This is something like totally off the top of my head— I have nothing prepared.

Genevieve:  Yeah I can definitely talk on that if you’d like.

Susan:  I would love to hear your thoughts on it from the therapist perspective.

Genevieve:  Yeah I think we’re still battling some stigma of people going to counseling. I think it’s much better than when I started 10 years ago but there is still you know especially— I don’t know about in Texas but definitely here in South Carolina, there’s still a lot of like, “Why aren’t you going to your pastor with that?” or, “Why aren’t you praying more about it?” and so you know not that those things aren’t helpful and not that pastors aren’t— I mean I don’t knock that at all but there is a reason why we have you know science behind why these things work for people and how there are things that you can do that have better-coping skills like when you feel panic and target and that kind of thing so, you know, we take care of our body, we could go to the dentist, most of us go at least once a year but you know that maybe the two that we’re supposed to. We go to the doctor, we’ve got a sinus infection, we take care of our body parts you know when things are wrong. We’ve got an achy knee whatever but we’re less willing for some reason to go when our brain won’t like, be quiet or it’s thinking about stuff all the time or it’s saying I’m fine thanks to ourselves we’re having trouble communicating with our partner or we have things that have happened to us like trauma as a child or a teenager or as a young person so.

I think about it that way like this is just maintenance of your body just like it is if you had to get the physical therapy and it’s a little bit less scary if you think about it. People always bring up like, “Oh you’re going to like lay on the couch and you’re going to cry the whole time.” and wow, people do cry a lot on my couch. Nobody is laying on it though. Nobody has ever done it. Therapy is much different than it used to be and so we’re really here not to judge what you bring into us because people will tell us all kinds of things that we may not agree with but that doesn’t mean that we’re judging them. We’re there to help you figure it out and walk with you.

Susan:  So you are specifically marriage and family is that correct?

Genevieve:  That is correct. That’s my degree but what that means if I can clarify that is I don’t just Marriage and Family Counseling. Some people do but I can see basically anybody that wants to come in for counseling as long as I can feel confident doing it. And honestly, mostly I do see individuals, I don’t see that many couples and families but what that means for you all is that a Marriage and Family Therapist is a system thinker so we think of people and systems:  So what their family system looks like, what their relationship system looks like, what their work system look like and you know, how are those things connected to potentially not helping or helping the person that’s in our office.

Susan:  What is something—I mean my audience is women—so what is something if a woman is thinking about seeing a therapist or maybe her kids need to see a therapist or maybe it is their marriage, maybe she is married and maybe she and her husband or wife need to see somebody and they’ve never seen somebody. What should they expect walking into the door?

Genevieve:  Well you know now that we’ve got the internet, I definitely recommend not actually googling people but you know The magazine Psychology Today, that’s a great place to start because they have not only good great articles about you know different subjects as far as counseling goes, mental health goes, but they have a therapist like search engine and you can search.

Susan:  I did not know that.

Genevieve:  Yeah it’s great so that’s a great place to start. A lot of people get referrals from their doctor, their primary care, their gynecologist—really it’s the gynecologist that refers us to most people but those are good people to ask. If you feel comfortable asking the people in your system, you can ask them like, “Hey, have you seen a counselor? Do you know anybody in town that you’re like?” But truly I like that therapist search because then you can see not only their face, which I feel like is important, and they feel like they’re going to be a good match. I’m not going to probably go see a man counselor cause I just don’t think that’s a good fit for me but that doesn’t mean that’s not a good fit for you. You can also search that by like topics. So if you want somebody that does you know, kids under 10, you can narrow the search down that way but when they come in though, you can expect a kind of experience at least initially, of like you got to start your paper work like you do when you see your regular doctor and then you have to run your insurance and all that stuff if you’re using insurance and then you’re going to come into the room and not tell your whole story but just giving a good like overall picture: What’s bringing you in today? What’s happening in your relationship today that’s causing you distress? Because usually, especially with marriage counseling, things have been bad probably for a while and something has happened like you know, something has gotten to bad and now is the time that we come in and I would say as a marriage— truly go in before you think it is late because when you come in when it’s really, really bad, it’s a lot harder to fix than it is when it’s like, “Oh you know we’re not getting along very well right now.” or somebody is not doing their chores or something like that—it’s easier to fix early.

You know what I help with all the time is—us as therapists, we’re like human beings too so you may come in and go, “you know, Gen’s really just not the right fit for me.” and my feelings will never be hurt. So go in like with the feeling of like, “I’m just going to try this person on. If they’re not a good fit for me it’s totally fine. Generally there’s at least one other therapist in town but usually, a lot more that I can choose from. I’m not committed to this person.” you’re not going to hurt anybody’s feelings if you’re like, “Yeah I probably need to see somebody else.” and usually we’ll help you find somebody else in town. We know everybody that’s in town generally that’s a therapist so that’s sort of what it looks like. Figuring out if this relationship and therapy will work and if we can help you.

Susan:  That’s really cool. I like that. Just backing up just a second: I think it’s interesting that you get a lot of your referrals from gynecologist because I think about that and I think about the doctors that I have and that makes perfect sense to me because 1: she is somebody I do see regularly. That is the one checkup that I’m like, “Okay that one has to happen.” she has seen every part of my body you know the parts that you know most people other than my husband have not seen, she has delivered my child like there’s like an intimate relationship there that you have with a gynecologist that—I mean I don’t have that same relationship with Stephen. I mean he was in the room when Will was delivered but he didn’t deliver my child. So it is such an intimate relationship, I never thought of it like that. That’s really cool. Well thank you for sharing that.

Genevieve: I was going to say you just need to have that trust with somebody. So even if you don’t go to a counselor but you have a good relationship with your gynecologist like you know you just need somebody you can trust and that gynecologist, you know generally if there’s delivering your child you probably trust them okay.

Susan: Yeah, yeah and I like that you said trying a therapist on and that your feelings really aren’t hurt when somebody says, “This really isn’t working for me.” because at the end of the day your goal is really to help people.

Genevieve:  Right totally and we’re not going to help somebody coming in to make us not hurt our feeling like that’s not a genuine relationship.

Susan:  Yeah. I really appreciate you talking about that because I think the more we talk about it out in the open and people are like, “Yeah I’ve been to therapy. Of course I’ve been in therapy. Haven’t you been?” because you’re right, it really is a checkup and I feel so much better after I’ve seen my therapist and after I’m like, “Oh okay, I got that off my chest.” and I can say it however and she’s not going to be offended. You have to be careful when you’re talking to a parent or a child or a spouse because you have to kind of— ‘eggshells’ is not the right word—that’s not what I mean. I feel like its helpful to word things in a way that doesn’t hurt people’s feelings or like cause I’m crazy blow up and my therapist, I mean I’m an open book. I can talk to my therapist however, you know, use whatever words and I don’t have to be careful about, “Oh I don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings.”

Genevieve: That’s great, that’s what you want. You’re not there to take care of their feelings, you’re there to take yours and again, we probably have heard this about anything or anybody and even if we haven’t, we’re definitely not going to go like, “What!!?” you know we have a whole, you know, couple classes of doing that, not doing that. Usually we’re pretty hard to surprise and I think that’s true, you know, we do have to kind of be more careful with like our actual relationship than we are with a therapist and that’s okay, that’s totally fine. You don’t necessarily want to say, “Oh my gosh, my spouse again did this thing that’s driving me nuts.” and it doesn’t necessarily need to be said all the time but maybe you do need to complain about it enough and go, “Well maybe that is something I can address or maybe it’s just like my own.” like my husband knows I’m never going to be on time. If he was going to therapy, he could complain all he wants about that because you know that isn’t worth the fight to bring that up.

Sometimes you just have to love your partner you know the way you bought them. He bought me not on time. I’m not saying I’m not working on it but you know.

Susan: That is such a good point that rarely does people change who they are. In fact, you really figure out who they are afterwards.

Genevieve: Definitely and that’s hard because like we’re definitely full of the idea of like “Well if you love each other enough, you would you what I’m asking you to do.” or  “You would make this better.” and the reality is like we can love each other to death and still be human beings and sort of be imperfect. The things that we do aren’t always because we don’t care but sometimes they can feel like that. I think, you know, going back to the business there for a second, I think having opened up a therapy practice first, like opening that business first definitely made me less afraid to start being a professional artist because I’m like I’ve already done this. Not that it’s the same in a lot of ways but it is the same in a lot of ways of, you know, it’s like the moving pieces part, the marketing part that kind of stuff is very similar with any kind of business.

Susan:  Yeah that’s a good point and that’s a good place to ask you— well first tell you thank you so much for joining us today this has meant a lot to me. I was really excited to talk to you, I really appreciate you taking the extra time to talk a little bit about the counseling side of your life and that business that you do. Tell us and I’ll make sure all this is in the show notes—but tell us where we can find you on social media, the Internet, wherever you’re marketing your businesses?

Genevieve: Sure so I don’t have a Website I’m just purely on Instagram and Facebook right now. So my Instagram is @genstrickland— just my name, not super hard and then my Facebook page is Art by Genevieve Strickland and they’re pretty easily searched and if you got them in the notes, you’ll be able to find—and then my counseling office is Magnolia Counseling Associates. You guys that aren’t in the area probably aren’t going to come see us but we do post often. I’m actually in charge of that marketing too so I do all of our postings of our, you know, visuals or our articles that we share for everybody— they’re just helpful articles about psychology things, mental health things so those are where we’re at or that’s where I’m at and all of those social media platforms and you can find me there and I’m happy to include my email address even to you if you want that?

Susan: Sure that’s great! Yeah absolutely we can put that in the show notes, very good. Awesome! Well thank you so much I really appreciate it and I know you have an appointment to get to so we’ll let you do that. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really, really, really appreciate it.

Genevieve: Thank you for having me again it was really fun I enjoyed it.

Susan: Hey sisters I hope you’ve enjoyed my conversation with Genevieve as much as I did. If you want to learn more about Genevieve and where to find her art as well as her counseling services, that will be linked over on our website: howshegothere.com. Thanks so much for listening today. If you are enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes and hit ‘subscribe’ and while you’re there I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. I also make sure to read every review and e-mail and Facebook post you leave and I am always, always, always excited to hear your feedback.

We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here community page and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode as well as any other fun how she got here content. So, with all that said, thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.

How to Follow Your Passion and Raise a Family, with Nichole Nguyen

In this episode Nichole Nguyen, Founder of Mommy’s Home Office, shares how she has married her love of online business strategy and her enthusiasm for supporting moms who have a passion for working while raising a family.

 

Show Notes

Do you ever get so caught up in your day-to-day hustle that you lose sight of your vision, your dreams, your goals… even yourself? If so, you’re not alone and you’re in the right place.

Today, we’re inspired by Nichole Nguyen , who created Mommy’s Home Office after realizing the first business she created, although profitable, wasn’t something she was passionate about.

Nichole is on our podcast talking about how her love of online business strategy coupled with her enthusiasm for teaching other moms how to have an online business, drove her to create Mommy’s Home Office.

She’s empowering other moms, like herself, who don’t feel whole as a stay-at-home-mom.  She is lighting a path for moms to follow their passion in work and raise a family.

In this episode, Nichole offers inspiring insights and her strategies for staying motivated and recharging her batteries. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Importance of outsourcing and not trying to do it all yourself
  • Moving from negative self talk to positive self talk
  • Filling herself with inspiration through audio books and listening to podcasts

Now that last one is something we can get on board with!

Nichole’s commitment to self care reminds us of our own at How She Got Here. This October, we are committing to 30 Days of Self Care with resources on our website, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Join our Facebook community and visit our site to download the free printable for daily self care reminders that are intended to pull you out of the hustle of life (even for just 15 minutes) and provide you time to focus on caring for yourself.

Just like Nichole emphasizes, we’ve got to recharge, sister, so that we can go after those dreams of ours! And once we do that, we can start empowering other women and girls to do exactly the same thing.

https://mommyshomeoffice.com

https://www.facebook.com/MommysHomeOffice/

https://www.instagram.com/mommyshomeoffice/

 

Transcript

 Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Hey, Pod Sisters, my guest today is the founder of Mommy’s Home Office, Nichole Nguyen. Nichole started Mommy’s Home Office after realizing the first business she created, although profitable, wasn’t something she was passionate about. Her love of online business strategy, coupled with her enthusiasm for teaching other moms how to have an online business, drove her to create Mommy’s Home Office. Her goal is to help moms who don’t feel whole as a stay-at-home mom. She wants women to know that you can have a passion in work and have a family. So without further ado, here’s Nichole.

Susan: Hey, Nichole, I’m so excited for you to join me today.

Nichole Nguyen: Yeah, me too. Thank you for having me. I was excited when I got the invite.

Susan: Yeah, yeah. So, friends, Nichole owns an online business called Mommy’s Home Office, and I kind of found her through a friend – actually your sister. And I’m just going to let you take it from here. Tell us a little bit about yourself and Mommy’s Home Office and how all this started.

Nichole Nguyen: Okay, yeah, great! I own Mommy’s Home Office. I’m an online business strategist, and I help moms build their businesses online while raising their families. And it just kind of started by accident or evolved into what it is today. I had a local service-based business in the Dallas area that I started about six and a half years ago, and it wasn’t doing as well as I wanted it to do initially so I decided to take it online. And when I did that—oh my God, it opened up this whole new world of online business to me that I fell in love with. And totally then listened to every podcast I could, every webinar I could get on, and I totally found the thing in life that I love, which is online business strategy. So, I decided that it would be so much fun to teach other moms how to create a business online that works for them. And that’s how it kind of started with Mommy’s Home Office.

Susan: That is so cool. And you have your own podcast as well that’s all part of all of this. You are producing a lot of content.

Nichole Nguyen: I have the Mommy’s Home Office podcast pretty much everywhere online. I’m @mommyshomeoffice. And the podcast was—because I’m a podcast junkie and listen to it all the time, I thought that could be a good medium for me. When I went to decide on the different types of content that I could produce, I tried a Facebook live show, I tried the YouTube videos, I tried all of those things. But let’s be honest—oh my God, that’s a lot of work and prep and editing. So, putting on makeup every day to your video and then reshooting 50 times because I didn’t like the way my eyebrows lifted and that kind of thing, wasn’t my thing. It was really annoying, and it got to the point where I just didn’t want to produce content anymore so I decided that I could do a podcast because I could record any time of the day or night when the kids weren’t around or not bothering me, maybe they’re sleeping already, and it wasn’t something that I had to get dressed for or put makeup on; I could just sit in my closet in my little hole and talk away, which I like to talk so that is another positive, too. So, that’s how it all started; it was the content format for me that just worked best.

Susan: Now…Why moms?

Nichole Nguyen: So, why moms? Well, because I’m a mom of three boys; they’re eight, five, and four. And it literally has changed the person that I am. I know everybody says that you change when you become a mom but your identity literally changes, and you are no longer doing anything for yourself; you’re doing it in betterment for your family, for your kids, for everybody else. And I feel like along that path somehow a lot of moms, especially myself, kind of lose themselves and forget that they have all these amazing talents and things that they can bring to the world in their own unique way, and they kind of get stuck in their mom loop where either they are working at a job and they’re just doing it so they can get by and go home to see their kids and be with their families or they quit working altogether, which is a lot of the moms that I know, and they have these wonderful professional degrees, maybe they’re an attorney or to do something like that or they were in online marketing for a big, huge department store, like my sister, and then they have kids and they quit and they don’t feel whole…I mean kids, yes, kids definitely make you feel alive and they are huge part of my life, but my personality is not the kind that can be a stay-at-home mom. And I wanted to share with other mom that it’s okay to have a passion and work and do things that light you up because that’s going to make you a better mom. So, I felt I needed to get that message out there and that’s why I chose moms.

Susan: I love it, and I love how on your website—and I think even in a lot of the content you produce you call yourself and you call other moms “work-at-home moms.” Did you come up with that concept yourself because I just love how you presented that?

Nichole Nguyen: Oh yeah, well, I didn’t come up with that phrase; there’s a whole subset of moms that work at home and it’s all over the web. But, yeah, I write all my own content, I produce it all, I do it all because I’m kind of a control freak and I can’t really let that part of it go yet.

Susan: Yup, yup.

Nichole Nguyen: And I feel like it’s my voice. This is my words that I want people to hear. I don’t want it to be necessarily somebody else. And maybe down the road that’ll change when I find a copywriter or I find somebody who can really sound like me and I can add my own stuff to it, that could change but right now it’s all me.

Susan: I love it. You are speaking my language, and it is a lot of work.

Nichole Nguyen: Oh my God, I did not realize how hard it would be to do a podcast. I thought; “Oh how hard could it be? I’m going to be super real and raw and not edit it very much.”

Susan: Right.

Nichole Nguyen: And it doesn’t work that way because you actually want people to listen and enjoy their listening experience, So, yeah, each podcast episode probably takes me anywhere between four and six hours to get it all written produced and edited, and then up on the site or scheduled.

Susan: Yeah, because your podcast is much different than mine; and mine is a lot of interview so I’m sitting here researching the individual that I’m talking to and writing questions, which in itself takes a lot of time, but you are actually writing a script, per se, correct?

Nichole Nguyen: Yeah, so I have this…I’m an ENTJ in the Myers Briggs personality, and I saw this hit the graph and showed exactly kind of how we think. And it basically showed my brain like a ping pong ball where I skipped a lot of steps, and I have this whole story that people can’t really follow it because I’m jumping ahead and I’m thinking too fast in my brain, so I decided that didn’t work best for a podcast because I wanted to actually have a good story for my listeners and I wanted them to be able to take actionable steps with every episode. So what works best for me is I actually go through and write the whole blog post or show notes first in a way that I think sounds like how I would speak it, and then I record it. And I change it sometimes when I’m talking just because it doesn’t flow as well as I thought it would or whatever, but I have to say that has sped up my podcast editing like crazy, crazy fast now compared to what it used to be.

Susan: That is awesome .Well, I am a podcast nut as well, and I really particularly love–I am all over your podcast right now. Starting my own kind of thing, it’s been really helpful for me. And I want to talk a little bit more about getting into Mommy’s Home Office itself. What is the goal of Mommy’s Home Office, and how your services help take moms to the next level? Because I know myself, I was really great at working for a company and then going out and doing something on my own is a whole other animal.

Nichole Nguyen: Oh, I 100% agree. I never actually wanted to be an entrepreneur, I actually at one time in my life I worked for this woman in a home health agency and said, “I can’t believe you want to own your own business, it’s so much work. I just want to work and go home and not think about.” But fast forward ten years later – or not even—fast forward five years later when I had my business. And Mommy’s Home Office was set up specifically to help take some of that guesswork and trial and error out of moms starting businesses because it’s extremely overwhelming when you first start, and you don’t know what you don’t know. So, you have all of these tiny, little components that go in and that are really crucial to the building blocks of a good foundation for your business, and a lot of times they get skipped over or miss and then you don’t have the result that you want, and you see a lot of businesses fail that way because they didn’t start with a big, strong foundation. And those foundational pieces are like the whys and the customer avatars and your online platform and all of those big things, and they can be so daunting and feel so cumbersome, and you don’t know what to do because this person says one thing and that person says it’s not important and the other person says you need to do it this way.

Well, I wanted to be a clear voice on what has worked for me, what I have liked, and what I have tried out because I love to try a million different things. And I’ve tried a lot of stuff so I know what has worked and what hasn’t at least for my business and what I can put out there to help other people. And so that’s how Mommy’s Home Office can help the business owner. I also work with local service-based businesses too, and I help that really meld the two worlds together for your online marketing and getting your online presence known, and then also to do your in-person gorilla marketing tactics to get your clients on the ground and in person. So I kind of have two ways, but most of it is about bringing your business online and how you can really make an impact in your family’s life and your business life by having the online business. And I do that with strategy sessions.

So a strategy session is basically like a 90-minute call where we get down and dirty with your business and we come up with a plan. Now, this could be somebody who is just starting and needs help coming up with an idea or maybe they have a little bit of an idea but they need to really like flush it out and see where it can go and figure out what they want what their next steps are. Or it could be somebody who are already have a business but they didn’t set up some of those crucial steps in the beginning and now they need to scale it a little bit and be able to set up a system that works for them and really can take it to the next level of productivity and getting more revenue and more clients in. And that can happen in the strategy session with me. And then after that, if they are someone who is like me who have to have the accountability piece, I offer accountability plans which are 90 day accountability plans that we set your goals in the strategy session and then after that we have weekly check-ins and weekly meet ups so we know that we are moving forward and that we are accomplishing the goals and we can make changes as needed but it’s really there to set up as a cheerleader, as somebody to motivate you and somebody to hold you accountable because you are your own boss and that is really, really hard to be. Because when you want to sit home and watch Netflix all day, there’s nobody stopping you, there’s no clock to punch, there’s nothing to do that’s going to keep you from doing that. Or if you want to spend your whole three days doing something, going down some random rabbit hole, which, oh my god, it is so easy to do, you need somebody sometimes to keep you on track and that’s what I do for moms.

Susan: Yes, the rabbit hole and getting stuck in the weeds is something I’m very familiar with.

Nichole Nguyen: I’m really good at it, too.

Susan: It’s just when you’re on your own it’s like; “Oh, I can do this or I could do this…”and sometimes it is hard to rein it in so that’s really cool that you offer that. And for my listeners, I just want you all to know I will have all of this linked in the show notes to the Mommy’s Home Office website, Facebook page, everywhere else you are. I will make sure it is all linked and we’ll talk about that before the end of the show for sure. So don’t worry about trying to write all this down now you can obviously go to the Mommy’s Home Office website and find all of this wonderful information. Back a little bit to you as an individual. You are putting this entire thing together yourself: your content, your web page, all of that fun stuff. So tell us what you’re not doing on your own because I think we all know that we can’t do it all all of the time, so who is the team behind you? What do you as an individual…What has been good for you to outsource—maybe it’s personal stuff, maybe it’s other business stuff. Tell us a little bit about that.

Nichole Nguyen: Okay, yeah, perfect. So, honestly, the very first thing I outsourced is house work because when you work at home and you have mountains of laundry and mountains of housework and all of that sitting around—I am a huge productive procrastinator where I will procrastinate hard things or business things that I have to do because my surroundings aren’t clean or my laundry needs to be done and instead of writing that email or putting out a podcast episode or making a call to speak somewhere or do something like that, I will fold 18 loads of laundry and find a pantry to clean out. So, I, first and foremost, outsource all of my house keeping. I have a weekly housekeeper that comes, and really, really my goal is to get someone to come Monday through Friday for about an hour every day just to do the chores and the straightening and the clean up. Like I said, I’ve got three boys so the bathrooms are always disgusting, there’s always something wet on the floor, there’s always a ton of laundry so it’s not my favorite thing to do and it’s something that I outsource. So, most of what I outsource is through my house because I…Even though I like some of it, it’s not the best use of my time and it’s not what I feel I need to be spending my time on.

So the next thing that I outsource is grocery shopping, actually. I use Instacart and Shipt and Amazon for every thing. So, Instacart is an online ordering groceries thing where I get online, tap a couple of buttons, have it delivered and I pay a yearly fee and then I tip on top of the total when they come and deliver it. Oh my goodness, you guys, this have saved me so much time. And I actually love grocery shopping, but when I look at the time that I save not going to the grocery store, and not to mention the money I save when I don’t go in the Costco and I just have my list and the shopper buys what’s on the list—oh my gosh, it was so worth it. It pays for itself in gold every single time I use it. So, I outsource all my stopping, I don’t do it anymore, just by clicking the button to buy it.

And then next one was childcare. This one was hard for me because when I first started my first business I had a nanny – I only had one kid at the time, and I had a nanny who came to the house every day. Well then he got to the point where he needed more socialization so we went to a daycare, and that worked out great. He was about a year old and he was out of the house and I was able to work. Even though I have only started my company six or so years ago, I always worked remotely so I was always either at home or in my car. And I got to tell you, working from home with little kids—little, littles that know that you’re there—is almost impossible.

Susan: Agreed.

Nichole Nguyen: It’s hard. When you need to be on a phone call…Because I was working with senior living so I was helping people find senior living, so they would call me crying because their mother needed to move or something like that and my two-year-old was banging on the door screaming bloody murder at me. And the nanny can only do so much, guys; it wasn’t an ideal. I even thought about going and getting an office down the street somewhere because I just needed some time and quiet to work, and it’s really hard to do that with a little kid. And when you have something like that business that I set up that I didn’t fall in love with the model I set up, but it was dependent on when they called me and it wasn’t something I could do after hours, it wasn’t something I could do on my own time. I was tied to my phone and dependent on them, and that’s why I kind of had to outsource the childcare part of it but I also had to change my business model, and when I started Mommy’s Home Office I knew it had to be something that I could fall in love with and actually do and not be tied to my phone constantly and just waiting for someone to call me; it had to be on my terms. So, that’s how I decided on that model. But childcare was a big one that I outsourced.

Susan: I was just going to say it sounds like you have really found your passion.

Nichole Nguyen: Yeah. Oh yeah. I have. It took me a while and it made me realize that I had to stop the successful business because I created a business that I hated. I didn’t love it anymore. I did, I had to stop, and it was profitable. It was actually more profitable than Mommy’s Home Office is at the current moment, but not for long. And I had to stop it because I could not…First of all, I was emotionally drained because listening to those story constantly—and then a lot of time not being able to help was just exhausting. Being tied to my phone the time was exhausting, and not knowing where the next paycheck was going to come from, you know, what was I going to have a big month with five, six, seven placements or was I going to have no placements that month? And senior living is kind of seasonal, which is weird, but it is kind of seasonal and I would go through drought and famines and you know….And what’s it called? I would go through famines and I would have then all of them have tons of clients and be so busy that I couldn’t figure out how to make it all work, and it just wasn’t something I loved any more. I got burned out on it, and that’s part of how I decided to switch. But switching was so hard because taking a business that was making enough money to cover my salary working and then going to zero….was so hard.

Susan: Yeah.

Nichole Nguyen: Really hard. But it’s all worth it in the end because I have so much more fun with this path that I’ve chosen, and feel like I’m making a difference and it’s all on my terms, so I’m loving all about. So, back to the outsourcing, that’s really all I outsource: the childcare, the housekeeping and then the shopping. And then in my business I do have a VA – she’s on a break right now, but I do have a VA that did all my Pinterest and tagging all the Pinterest stuff, and then I have a sound engineer which happened to be my cousin’s husband and he would just…He wouldn’t edit my podcast, I would to do all of that but I would send him the audio and he would clean it and make it sound really good. And before I moved into this little hole in my closet, my podcasting studio, I had a lot of background noise from the windows around me and different things so he would take all of that out for me, which I didn’t know how to do at the time but I do now. But, just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean it makes sense for you to actually do it.

Susan: No, I totally agree. In fact, one thing that I have found really helpful, and I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, it’s called Fiverr.

Nichole Nguyen: Oh, I love Fiverr.

Susan: Okay. I wanted to make sure you know about Fiverr because that has been a game changer for me.

Nichole Nguyen: It has been. Some time you have to get multiple people to work on the same project. But yeah, it can be really, really helpful when it comes to creating graphics or editing graphics or doing any of that stuff. For me, I found that’s where it works out the best.

Susan: Yeah, and also…This may sound really silly but I have a vision board, and one of the things that I put in it was I wanted to be a job creator. And obviously, this podcast isn’t that big yet so it was like I can’t hire someone full time, but oh my gosh, I can find fabulous women on Fiverr who can help me produce this amazing podcast. Oh, and by the way, I can you know contribute to their income, which has been a really neat thing to be able to do. So, I don’t know, I really enjoy finding people on Fiverr, I guess.

Nichole Nguyen: That sounds really fun, and I feel the same way when I pay my cousin’s husband, the sound engineer, and when I pay my VA. Sometimes it can feel very hard to pay them because I’m like; “Oh my goodness, I haven’t made that this month,” or something like that, and you have to step back and look at it like you’re contributing to their monthly income, they are able to put their kids in ballet or do something like that because you’re paying them so yeah, it does help with that mindset shift.

Susan: Yeah, it’s really cool. So, tell us real quick – I want to respectful of your time, but I have three questions I always like to ask all my guests, and one of them is, you know, even the strongest of us have moments where we lack self confidence, I presume you have that as well. How have you dealt with that?

Nichole Nguyen: Yes, I have that a lot in the struggle because I do have a lot of negative self-talk that goes on in my head. I did an episode all about this, and it was really hard for me to start overcoming that but I heard a quote from somebody that said “How would you feel if you heard someone talking to their child like that or to someone that they were coaching like that the way you talk to yourself ? How would you feel if you heard that? Would you feel like it was a good thing or a bad thing?” And I had to start thinking to myself, like, how would I feel if I heard someone saying this to somebody? The way I talk to my self is horrible so I had to start changing the story and the narrative a little bit and really start looking at the positive aspects of what I have accomplished and what I have done because I set lofty goals and I’m a high achiever kind of person, when I don’t hit those, oh my goodness, I can spiral into to a depression almost and really get down on myself. So I’ve had to turn those conversations around and really be cognitive of the way I talk to myself because I’m a really big believer that your words are powerful and your words create your reality, so when I’m talking really negative myself and saying really ugly things, whether it’s for work or for diet goals or whatever, it’s not helpful it’s actually creating more of that instead of creating the positive energy that I want to come out of it. So that’s what I’ve been doing. My self confidence has gone up some because I do talk nicely to myself, I speak nicely to myself, I try to say nicer things. And when I catch myself being ugly or negative, I try to take a deep breath and reframe to a positive situation.

Susan: Yes, I totally understand that, I totally understand. I don’t know if you’ve ever done the Enneagram, but it’s the same idea as a personality type thing; it’s been around for a long, long time and I’ve read a couple of books on it now and I have no shock to myself. I’m a one on the Enneagram which is a perfectionist so it’s really weird, it’s weird where I’m a perfectionist, like, there are certain aspects of the house that I don’t care about but if the dishwasher is stacked not what I deem correctly then I’m freaking out; it’s stupid stuff sometimes. And then especially when it comes to the podcast, I’ve had to really talk to myself differently about what success looks like and how I motivate myself. So I like how you have tamed your self-confidence. It sounds like you have found a way to motivate yourself through a different way of talking to yourself.

Nichole Nguyen: Yeah, that does help. And when I do get into those funk, because we all do, I feel like the biggest way to motivate and get back on the horse is just by taking action. So, if I feel like I’m having one of those funky days, the first thing is to realize that you’re not having the best confidence or your motivation is waning, recognize that it’s happening and then drink a big cup of water, get some fresh air, go want to walk, listen to some Abraham Hicks or James Webmore or whoever you listen to that gets you pumped up, and then take action. Make it some small actions. So I’ll make plans or I’ll make a goal and be like; “If I can just get these three little thing done today then I’m going to consider today a win because I really, really just want to lay on the bed and watch The Handmaid’s Tale or something like that, but if I can get these three things in, I’m going to call it a win.” And once I get those three little things in, I mean I’ve given myself permission already to quit and be done for the day and call it good. But, 99% of the time I get on a roll and I want to keep doing a little bit more and a little bit more, and I feel like the biggest way to get out of the funk is just to take action and action builds on itself.

Susan: Oh, for sure. I totally agree that. So since you’re a go-go-go person, and I love that about you and your personality, tell us how do you put it all down at the end of the day? How do you let it go? How do you recharge your batteries?

Nichole Nguyen: So, this have always been a struggle for me, and then a few years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune condition, and it also means that my thyroid is basically attacking itself and attacking my body. And then I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, PCOS, which can cause a lot of issues for me, but self care has to be number one priority on my own with because of those diseases because when I don’t take care of myself or I push myself too hard or I don’t eat right for a longer period of time, oh my gosh, I will crash and burn for a long time. So, I’ve had to make it a priority and it’s been super, super hard. But, I find sleep has to be my number one goal, that’s how I recharge if I focus on getting at least seven and a half hour’s sleep, getting about 60 ounces of water a day, and then trying to eat fairly balance with a really colorful, vegetable full diet—oh my God, my life is a million times better than if I don’t. But, you know, it’s taken a long time for me to get there and really know that this is what works. And I’m not always perfect, but that really does help me, and then just listening to podcasts or audiobooks; that’s my jam.

Susan: Yes, also helps with motivation, I think.

Nichole Nguyen: It does, it really does. So, I will listen to some good podcasts, I have my list of like 15 podcasts that I love and I can’t get enough of, and that’s part of that. You’ll see me washing dishes with my ear buds on, cleaning up or doing something like that, folding laundry, if I have laundry to fold with ear buds on, so…

Susan: Yes, I am right there with you. Okay, one last thing; I always like to leave with an action step. I feel like in sharing other women’s stories in sharing what other women are up to I love the empowerment of that, I love the inspiration of that but until as individuals we decide to take that next step it’s all just talk, so if you could leave our listeners with one action step at the end of our conversation today, what would that be?

Nichole Nguyen: Well, that’s a good question, I guess the biggest thing I want the listeners to get out of this is that you guys are enough, you truly are exceptional. And the action that I want you to take out of this is I want you to give yourself a pat on the back and know that you are doing everything you can to be the best person, the best mom, the best wife, whatever, the best partner you can be—and really give yourself some grace, cut yourself some slack and know that balance is a dirty word it does not exist, it’s a fairy tale so banish that idea from your mind and give yourself some grace.

Susan: “Balance is a dirty word,” I love that. Love it. it’s so true. Okay, Miss Nichole, tell us where we can find you because everyone should be calling you.

Nichole Nguyen: Thank you. Okay, so you can hear me every week on the Mommy’s Home Office podcast on any podcast player that you like, and then also everywhere online at Mommy’s Home Office, so Instagram, Facebook and the website, mommyshomeoffice.com. You can find me there. I’m always, always producing content weekly and then daily on Instagram. And if you guys love you know what I have for lunch or where I’m going today, then check me out on my Instagram stories because I’m kind of addicted. Thank you guys so much for having me. It’s been a blast.

Susan: Awesome. Thank you so much, Nichole, have a great, great afternoon. And I look for talking to you soon.

Nichole Nguyen: Of course, thank you so much.

Susan: Thanks. Bye-bye.

Outro: Hey, sisters, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Nichole as much as I did. If you want to learn more about Nichole and where to find Mommy’s Home Office, that will be linked over on our website, howshegothere.com. Thanks so much for listening today. If you are enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes and hit subscribe. And while you’re there I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. I also make sure to read every review and email and Facebook post you leave, and I’m always excited to hear your feedback. If you are listening to this podcast and it is still October, I’d also like to invite you to join us for our 30 Days of Self Care. You can get more information on that from our website howshegothere.com, as well as our Facebook page and Instagram page. And finally, one last announcement, we have finally created a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here Community Page, and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode, as well as any other fun “How She Got Here” content. So, with all of that said, thank you so much for listening. I’ll see you soon.

Diana Bacon

Diana Bacon is one of the co-founders of Financial Strategies Group, a boutique financial planning firm located in Dallas, Texas.  Shortly after having her first baby, she determined that “big firm life” just wasn’t the right fit.  She wanted to have more control over what she could offer her clients.  So with a new baby and an awesome “can do” attitude, she founded her own boutique financial planning firm.  We talk about everything from starting your own firm to the importance of financial self care and what that means for women of today (and their families)!  It was a great conversation and I learned a ton!

 

Transcript

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

 

Susan: Hi Friends, my guest today is Diana Bacon. Diana is one of the co-founders of Financial Strategies Group, (Financial Strategies Group on Facebook ) a boutique financial planning firm located in Dallas, Texas. I am so excited to share our conversation today because we discussed two very important topics; one, leaving a large service firm to go out on your own; and two, the importance of financial self-care. Even if you aren’t thinking about owning your own business, make sure to stick around for the financial self-care piece; I’m positive you’ll learn something.

 

Hey, Diana, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

 

Diana Bacon: I’m great. I’m really excited to be on this call today.

 

Susan: I am very excited that we are finally doing this. I know when I first started talking about even launching this podcast you were one of the first people I called and talked to, not even to come on the show but just to, you know, tell “Hey, I’ve got this idea, what do you think?” You’ve always been an inspiring woman to me that, you know, you’re one of the women that I look to who I think have already accomplished the world. So for you to come on and talk with us this morning, it means so much to me. I know when we first started talking about you coming on the show all I was thinking about was how fantastic you are and in your business and how you do all of that but you quickly brought up the fact that women really don’t talk a lot about financial self-care so that’s something that we’re definitely going to get into today while you are talking with us. But first, I just want to start off—and tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do you and how you got started and how you got to where you are now.

 

Diana Bacon: Okay, well, that’s a big one.

 

Susan: Yeah.

 

Diana Bacon: Well, I started in the financial planning field a little over 20 years ago now. So, I was in my mid 20’s trying to figure out what to do with a math degree, I decided I didn’t want to go into academia and be a professor so what to do with my life. So, I got in to fee only financial planning at the recommendation of a friend. I loved the idea that I didn’t have to sell anything—that I got to work with people. And I started working for a company that had a great training program. The company was not a good fit for me but they put me on definitely the right foot. They also moved me to Dallas, Texas, which I’ve been living in upstate New York and I’m from Southern California so that was quite a change for me.

 

So I’ve been in Dallas doing financial planning since the beginning of 1999. And I met my husband here. I went through several firms kind of looking for the right fit, you know, I was at one of the big four accounting firms and they didn’t really know what to do with financial planners. And then in 2004 and 2005 I left the big firms, tried a smaller firm; that wasn’t a good fit either just because of the differences in client bases. And so in 2006 I actually founded my own firm in my living room with a newborn baby next to me—well, she was at daycare so not technically next to me, but I just knew that I wanted to do things the way I wanted to do them, I didn’t want someone else telling me what’s best for my client. I wanted to work with nice people who were living their lives and doing the things they wanted to do and help them and not try to create this boxed product that I just ran everyone through.

 

Three years ago now I merged with another small firm—so two teeny tiny firms became a slightly larger small firm. And my partner, he’s in his late 70’s. He’s been doing this for 45 years, he loves it but he’s obviously at the end of his career, and merging with me gives him the chance to work with clients he loves but really let go of smaller clients or people who don’t need as much help, and you know he gets all the resources of my firm.

 

Susan: Wow! That’s really cool. Let’s step back just a second. So, in 2006 you’re telling me you had a brand new baby that you had just birthed and you were birthing a new company in your living room?

 

Diana Bacon: You know, I really wouldn’t recommend it, but during my maternity leave it became really apparent that the firm I was at was just a mismatch. We had, you know, I was working with a woman that I really respect and admired and she’s brilliant but it wasn’t a great fit and you know, it’s really important in life that we embrace those things that you’re like, “Wow, I tried this! This is a terrible idea and it’s not working, I need to cut my losses.” So I did that. Now, quite honestly, trying to go on job interviews while you’re carrying around a breast pump, it’s a little different—and not so surprisingly I had fewer job offers. I could have went into commission financial planning where you’re selling products.

 

Susan: Sure.

 

Diana Bacon: I have no issue with commission planners; it’s just not what I do and what I wanted to do. So instead I took that very naive approach which was, “How hard can this be? I just delivered this baby.” So I mean, simple things like getting registered with the Texas State Board of Security, I just called them up and got this great man who sat on the phone with me for, like, an hour, I took four pages of notes and that’s how I started doing my own compliance. I just did it and didn’t think too much about it because I wanted to keep working, I love what I do and to me it made sense so now I look back on it and just, “I can’t believe I did that,” but I made it work.

 

Susan: It’s amazing and I don’t know what it is about that period in life where—and I don’t know if it’s age, I don’t know if it’s because, you know, by the time you get your career going or where you think it should go, you know, you’re having children, or how that happens, I don’t understand it but it seems like so many women I talk to—be it friends or people on the podcast, whoever, there’s something about that time in life when you are six, eight months pregnant or you’ve just had a baby and all of a sudden here is this opportunity that’s in front of you and you’re doing them both at the same time and you are literally in the weeds, and it’s like you just have to go and there’s not a perfect answer and there’s not a perfect solution, you just do it, and it sounds like that’s what you did and I admire that, I really admire that.

 

Diana Bacon: I think it’s something about that period of time because your life, your sleep schedule, everything has been totally upended…

 

Susan: Your hormones.

 

Diana Bacon: Yeah, I think there is this thing or you’re like, “Everything is so different now anyway, I’m in a new body, I’m in a new life, like, what could possibly go wrong? And if it does, I already know that I can make it up because I am adapting,” that’s all I’ve been doing.

 

Susan: That’s a good point; you’re right, you have been adapting so you just keep adapting and just going with the flow. That’s a really good point. Tell me what success looked like at that time. Tell me how you were able to prioritize stuff. I know you said—you mentioned you had childcare at the time which is huge. That is of the utmost importance. I could do a whole podcast on how women need to have that available no matter what line of work they’re in, no matter what they’re doing. That’s a whole other issue. But tell me about how you did that time, how you prioritize that, how you how you had time for yourself, time for your family, built your business. I know it’s a lot of questions at once but kind of just give us an overview of how that worked.

 

Diana Bacon: I mean first—and I do want to touch on that point you just made about childcare.

 

Susan: Yeah.

 

Diana Bacon: I mean I want to make this very transparent. I was only able to do this because I had a spouse—well, I still have that spouse—but I had a spouse at the time that could support us and we could pay for child care. We had some financial help from his parents. Without any of that—if it was just me, if we were just struggling through I do not think that my firm would be where it is today, I think I would be in a very different spot. I had great childcare that I could trust my baby with, and that made all the difference. And then in terms of what that looked like in terms of taking care of me and everyone else, there were periods of time where I wasn’t great at self care, there were periods of time where I probably wasn’t the best spouse, there were periods of time where probably even my parenting…. My business maybe I wasn’t on top of things as I could have been but everything ebbs and flows and kind of just keeping in step with life and allowing things to happen and not beating myself up too much let me keep going.

 

You also asked about success at that point in time, and I believe in attainable goals and continually measuring against them. My undergrad is in math.  I’m in personal finance, I mean I love measuring things, looking at numbers, to me it’s just how my brain works, but the first thing I wanted to do was get in the black. That was my number one goal because I did have to pay for like filing fees with the state and setting up my business and buying a lot of software and all of those things. So the first thing was I wanted to be in the black, I wanted to be making money and making a profit. And then it was the next, you know, I wanted to be covering child-care with my income. And then I was able to look at, “Okay, I am getting clients, I’m not spending a ton of time marketing my business because I can’t take in a ton of new clients,” I mean it was just me for the first three years so I couldn’t do everything so I was slowly adding clients I started thinking about, “Okay, what sort of revenue do I need for each client? How do I want these clients to grow so that my business is growing with them?” And just I kept setting these smaller goals, and as I got closer to each goal then I would look at, “Okay, what else should I be looking towards so that I can quantify that and set in my measurable targets.

 

Susan: I love how methodical you are, and I know that’s your math background, and I love how you clearly had a method and I just find that so…I am a creative so I’m way on the other end of the spectrum and I need somebody in my brain like that to, say, pull it back and say. “Okay, this is how you need to proceed.” I like the planning aspect of that. So let’s switch gears just a little bit. We’ve talked a little bit about self-care. One of the things we really want to get to that you want to get to that you want to talk about, and this is what you do on a daily basis, is helping people with self care, with the financial aspect of self care. Tell me as a woman now you know me, I’m married, I have one kid, but what do women maybe…Is there a general thing women need to be thinking about? And I know one of the things that I’ve heard you talk about before and I want to get to is women finding themselves on their own. Whether they found it, whether they started out that way or they ended up that way, and I definitely want to touch on that and I don’t know how you want to frame this conversation of this piece but let’s think about that, let’s talk a little bit about that.

 

Diana Bacon: Okay, so I do work with a lot of women. My industry has very few women. It’s about one in five women and, you know, it’s what you’d expect, it’s white men, older white men. And it’s tough for women. A lot of my clients will say, “I really want to work with you because I know you’re not going to speak down to me. I can ask you any question.” And if you don’t understand your finances you’re just going to keep living your life like your money isn’t yours. And that’s the first thing I do with a woman is make sure that she really gets her head around that her finances, her money is hers. It seems so simple and it’s something that I just see women struggling with time and time again but we do this with our time as well you know we give all of our time and attention to our children, our spouses, our friends, we just give and give, and I see the same thing with people’s money.

 

So, you know, the typical client I feel like I’m seeing right now is a woman, you know, married or single but definitely in that she’s in her 50’s and she’s like, “Wow, I don’t want to work for ever,” and it’s just dawning on her that she’s been caring for everyone else and can she retire? Is she going to be able to stop working? And I’m seeing so many people, not just women, who are in their 50’s and have raised kids and poured everything into these kids: time, energy, and money. So it’s not uncommon that I’ll sit down with someone and they’re telling me about the college possibilities for their kid and the great private school they’re and how their kid is excelling, and all of these extra curricular activities and then when we look at, “Okay, what assets do you have that you could retire with? What does your savings plan look like? How do you go about investing?” And there’s just this blank stare because no, no, no, all the resources are going to the kid. Well, a lot of times the kid’s in high school, they still have to put the kids through school, they’re like, “No, I don’t want them to deal with the stress of student loans.” I mean the student loan issue in the country is really horrendous…

 

Susan: No kidding.

 

Diana Bacon: …And holding us back, our country, but you know they don’t want to saddle their kids with that so they’re looking at even more expenditures which means they’re going to hit their late 50’s and really not have much. So I really talk to women, men and everyone about, “You know what? This is really like we’re on that plane together and you got to put your oxygen mask on first and then put it on your kid. If you’re not taking care of yourself…And it’s just that thing, I mean you’ve mentioned a multiple times, like, you and I have a conversation but if you’re not going financial self care, how are you going to help your family? You know if you’re putting some accountability on your kid, whether it’s the student loan, whether it’s them working during a gap year or you know them pursuing scholarships, whatever that is but if you’re putting some of this on your kids and taking off your plate you can do so much more for yourself. So maybe your kid is going to spend a while in college and getting a grad degree and you can support for a longer period of time in different ways, that’s generally what I recommend to clients. Now, obviously, they’re living their life, I’m not living it so if they’re adamant in saying, “No, that’s not what we want,” I help them in advice but I just see so much giving and giving and giving. Even, you know, new parent in their 30’s and I’m saying, “Well, we’re not saving for retirement we have all this money in a 529 plan.” “Okay, well, look at that toddler…You’re going to have braces come up first but gosh, at least you already have money saved for college which they may or may not go to,” like, there’s just this disconnect. And then you know what? I’m broadening this to men and women but I do want to hold this back a little bit women and typically, you know, we’re not that involved you’re seeing a lot of times that if someone is staying home with the kids or scaling back their career it is the woman. And what that means is—especially if she’s going to wind up alone, whether widowed, divorce because she has taken that time out of the work force because she’s focused on her family, her earning potential is so diminished.

 

So, you know, men after a divorce, they get back to their previous standard of living pretty quickly because they haven’t had the hit to their earning potential. But women, because we’re either out of the workforce or we slowed down our career, worked part time for a while, we take something with maybe less responsibility, or as I also see, sometimes those opportunities just kind of go away when you have an infant or a toddler and elementary school kid so because we don’t have the earnings potential that means that post-divorce, women take a substantial hit to standard of living and most of the time will not get back to the previous standard of living, they just won’t. Women are more likely in their retirement years, A, not to be retired, and even if they are there, they’re living in poverty. Women are much more likely than men to be living in poverty in our elderly years, and it’s really because we have given our whole life and we didn’t take care of ourselves, we didn’t stop, look at what’s going on, look at our income and start saving because you have to start saving before you start investing. And investing really is this magical thing because it allows your money to make money for you so it’s not just what you’re earning through your effort, your blood sweat and tears, but your money works for you so all of your efforts are exponential but that’s really if you don’t start with the savings you can’t invest and then you don’t have a good plan.

 

Susan: Well, you can just drop the mic and walk away. And I say that because…

 

Diana Bacon: [Laughs]

 

Susan: I’m not kidding because I have been very involved within the past couple of years in the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and the research that has been done that I have seen talking about women growing older. And one of the other things is women often—even if you stay married your whole life—women tend to outlive their husbands, statistically. And so when he passes for one reason or another—and I don’t know if this is a generational thing because so many things are still in their husband’s names or whatever but you know, there’s a lack of like basic things like they didn’t have credit in their name. I mean it’s small stuff like that. And I mean obviously there are things like you know your house you can go back and through probate you can fix and things like that, but if you don’t have a lot of the savings and stuff on the front end, or if he had a pension and for some reason you know I don’t know how that works if that goes away or VA benefits or whatever… I mean you know my grandmother is a great example. My grandfather passed a few years ago and I think a huge…Now, obviously, she doesn’t have a house payment anymore and things like that but one of the things that her—a large chunk of her income is social security. And our generation is not going to be able to—that’s not even going to be…You should even be thinking about that so it’s you’re absolutely right, it’s one of those things women find themselves in this spot and it’s something we need to think about. Tell me if you—this is something we haven’t discussed but tell me if you see this; I have seen women, Diana, my age who’s husbands handle the entire financial everything and they have no idea how much money they have, no idea what investments they have if they have any, they have no understanding of their financial situation. Do you see that?

 

Diana Bacon: I do see it, and I have seen it as I worked with baby boomers, I don’t see it as much with Gen X, and then I’m seeing it again with millennials where they don’t pay the bills or if they do you it’s out of a household account that’s really separate from savings, from the investment. I’m really seeing that shift back to, “Well, he makes the money so he takes care of it,” and then something comes up where, you know, they’re splitting up, they’re divorced, or tragedy and the women are really unprepared, and not only does that set them up for financial missteps, you know, if you don’t know who holds your mortgage, how are you going to make sure that the mortgage payment is still being paid.

 

Susan: Right.

 

Diana Bacon: But it also opens up women to what I call a “financial predator.” So for an elderly woman, this could be that salesperson at the bank who now sells her an annuity, which I’ve seen too many times and it shouldn’t be allowed, or for younger women I’m seeing them take loans that they don’t need—just making decisions that if they had more comfort and confidence in managing their own financial affairs, they’d take a step back and not go that direction. So by the time I see these women a lot of time their personal balance sheet is a mess because they weren’t working with a degree of confidence.

 

Susan: It just breaks my heart. It’s just something we don’t think about and we need to.

 

Diana Bacon: You know I get that when you’re part of a couple you’re a team and one spouse takes this and one spouse take thats but I have a very difficult time with new clients when they say, “Oh no, he’ll be at the meeting, if there’s anything I need to know he’ll tell me.” No, especially when sitting down with your tax preparer, your financial planner, any additional investment advisers, your family attorney both spouses should always be there, always.

 

Susan: Yeah, if for nothing else that basic understanding.You don’t have to understand all the ins and outs; people can walk you through that but you just need to have the basic understanding for sure. Let’s switch gears just a little bit and go back and talk a little bit more about your business and how you have developed your client base and where you’re finding your ideal clients and how you’ve managed to grow that because I know that’s something that you’re really passionate about.

 

Diana Bacon: My client base has really changed over the years. When I first started I was working entirely with corporate executives. As they started in the early 2000, as those huge reduction enforced programs were going through with huge layoff, I start working with some small business owners because honestly, if you were laid off and you were 56 you’re not finding a job, you’re just not, no one’s going to hire you. So I started working with small business owners and really seeing some of them have an entrepreneurial spirit, which is really fun. I hesitate with entrepreneurs because the people who just start one thing after another never really become financially secure. I mean it’s very rare that it does, and that that’s one thing I want to see for my client right for them to reach financial independence you know I typically say I don’t really do retirement planning, I don’t care when you retire, I care when you’re financially independent because your decision process is going to change greatly once I tell you, “Hey, you know what? Your assets can now sustain your standard of living for the rest of your life so go to work tomorrow… don’t… I don’t care this is what you can spend, and so go live your life and make any changes you want,” and people do, they will start a business or start a foundation, or it’s probably one of the best things about my job.

 

But as I started my own firm, I really thought about who I wanted to work with and who I wanted to help.You know one of the things I do tell people and they’re like, “What do you do?” If I have just one sentence, I’m like, “I help people,” because I do, that’s all I do. I don’t make anything, I don’t build anything, I don’t sell anything; I just help people. Now, it is much more specific than that; I help people with their personal finances, I give them investment advice, you know all of that. But initially, when I started my practice I, you know, because I told you, I wanted to be in the black and so if someone wanted to sit down and talk to me and they wanted to sign my engagement letter and contract with me and as long as they weren’t doing anything illegal or unethical I was happy to take them. Now over the years as I’ve had clients leave because it wasn’t a good fit, either they decided that or I decided that, I’ve had more time to really cultivate good clients. So to me, a good client is A, someone that I can help and B, someone who sees the value in my help.

 

You know, when I do talk to people new to feeling financial planning, the first thing I tell them is don’t ever work with a client who doesn’t see the value in what you do because when you send them an invoice they’re not going to want to pay it. I don’t have clients push back on fees because they see the value I’m providing them and quite honestly, I don’t have a problem with reminding them of the value I’m providing them, but I really like working with people. And I don’t have a typical “I work with a woman who is this far in her career and she makes this…” my client base is a little diverse. And looking at the current division in America, I mean my clients are all over the board. I work with some very conservative families, I work with very liberal single women, I do work with every everyone, but the one thing that I keep coming back to is, you know, are they doing good in their little corner of the world? Am I providing value? Am I helping them, and do they do they see that value?

 

Susan: That’s awesome. That is just a cool way to think about building a business is really—you really seem to put your clients first, and I love that. I think that that’s not always an easy thing to do because in the day you’re trying to provide for your family as well. I find that very admirable; you don’t hear that a lot in big business, and maybe that’s why big firms weren’t the best fit. I really…I just love that. That just kind of warms the heart a little bit.

 

Diana Bacon: Yeah, I do think that that is a big part of the reason why I’m currently running the small boutique firm; I just don’t know that I would ever be back at a big firm because I just want to keep living my life, including what I do professionally but the way I want to do it which, you know, probably wouldn’t be in line with most of the bigger firms.

 

Susan: Yeah, one or two more questions because I want to be respectful of your time today. Tell us…You work a lot. I know you probably have a lot of hours you put in on the regular and I’m sure you have times of the year that are more busy than others. I think when we first started talking about this you were coming out of a busy time, so tell us how you, when you have the ability to, how do you recharge your batteries.

 

Diana Bacon: I really focus on the things that I know you know reinvigorate me, get me excited about life again. For me, I do need some quiet moments, but what really recharges me is people, being part of a community, feeling like I’m changing the world in some small way. I really love working out, being physical, you know, keeping a strong body but I actually also do that in a way that I’m part of a community. And being part of a community just speaks to my soul. I’m very involved in my church and that—yes, the church part of it you know I find very comforting and I do think it helped me be a better person, all of those things, but it’s that community, it’s having the people, it’s walking through the church playground on a Sunday and talking to several friends and the hugs and all the things that go along with it.

 

And then also I do, you know, I’m pretty busy, I work out, I have two kids, I have a husband who I adore, I have a business but I also make sure that I do give of my time. The best conversation I had with my mom was right when I was finishing my MBA and I had been working 50 to 70 hours a week and doing my MBA at the same time, I was exhausted. So mom’s like, “So, what are you going to do now?” And I was like, “I want to buy a television.” And she laughed a bit but then she said, “You need to figure out pretty quickly where you’re going to go volunteer.” She’s like, “You have this extra time…” she’s like, “You need to keep investing in yourself but invest in the world that you’re in,” and I constantly replay that conversation in my mind is investing in my community, investing in people around me. And especially now that I have kids, like, if I’m not investing in the world, I’m kind of dropping the ball because I’m not investing in them.

 

Susan:  And I’ve seen you doing some of your some of the stuff that you volunteer with and one,  it’s amazing, it is just amazing things that you that you found to get involved in; but two, you are investing in your kids but your kids are also seeing you do this, and I didn’t grow up—I  don’t know, it sounds like you did—I didn’t grow up in a family that was very philanthropic, they were with church but that was pretty much the extent of it, and so somehow that became a really important thing to me after graduating college is getting involved in giving back time, talent, finances. And I think one of the other things you’re doing is you’re instilling that into your own children so that they will have that to go forward with as well, and I think that’s really important, and I think that’s really cool.

 

Diana Bacon: Thanks.

 

Susan: Yes, one more question before we go, and that is the feedback that I’m getting on this podcast and the types of listeners who are finding us, they’re inspired, they’re empowered but sometimes they don’t know which next steps to take so I always like to ask the guest that I have on for an action step, what is it that if a woman is, for today, if a woman is seriously thinking about her financial situation and taking that next step towards financial independence, where should she start? What is one action step she can take today to move that ball forward?

 

Diana Bacon:  I mean, honestly, the most important part of this is don’t be afraid by your finances. Get to know your finances, get to know your spending, make sure you understand everything that’s on your paycheck, really take a look, make sure you understand at least most of what’s on your tax return but don’t be afraid of that. And then, you know, what I would hope every person listening to this would really focus on starting to save so that they can invest and have a bigger plan because that’s what really going to take someone so that ten years from now hopefully they are in a much more solid financial place.

 

Susan: Awesome, that is great advice. Thank you so much for joining me today, I really appreciate it. I appreciate you taking the time and I appreciate you sharing with us, your thoughts.

 

Diana Bacon: Oh, I appreciate the opportunity. This was really fun.

 

Susan: Thank you so much.

 

Outro: Hey, y’all, thanks so much for joining today; that was such a fun conversation Diana. If you head on over to howshegothere.com, you’ll be able to find the full transcript of this episode. The transcript page is a great resource because it is not only the interview written out in its entirety, it has links to some of the things we discussed. Y’all, this podcast is truly one of my favorite things to do and bring to so thank you for listening and for sharing it with your friends. And, if you haven’t yet, you can go on over to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. I’d also really appreciate it if you would rate and review it. You can also follow “How She Got Here” on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks again, friends. I’ll see you soon.

 

 

Marisa Klein

Marisa Beahm Klein started writing at a young age.  It began with a journal her parents gave her and she has been writing in one form or another ever since.  She expresses her talent for writing through poetry, prose, and journalism.  Currently, she is the creative content manager at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where she helps share the stories of Holocaust survivors.  

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: My guest today is Marisa Klein. She has had a love of words her entire life. She loved reading at a very early age and started journaling in the third or fourth grade and just never really looked back. We talk about everything from her college slam poetry team to how she parlayed a love of journalism and storytelling into her current role at the United States Holocaust Museum. So without further ado, here’s Marisa.

Well good morning Marisa. Thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Marisa: I’m great, Susan. Thanks for having me on your podcast. I’m thrilled to be talking to you.

Susan: Well, I am so excited to be talking to you. I know one of the reasons – and I haven’t really talked to you about this beforehand – but one of the reasons that I originally thought you would be perfect for this podcast, I think it was back in January you posted, or maybe it was… I don’t remember where you posted it, but you posted a poem that you wrote on Facebook, and I think you even talked about just how vulnerable that made you feel as a person to be putting yourself out there and putting your work out there. So I don’t even know if I ever told you that but that was one of the reasons that I was like, “Wow, that’s so open and honest and a really cool thing to just say out loud,” and I appreciated that as a human being and as a person and as somebody who is trying to do it podcast. So that was one of the reasons that I asked you and I don’t even know if I ever told you that.

Marisa: Thank you.

Susan: Yeah, I love your poetry and I love your work and you’re just such a good writer so I’m just so excited to talk to you today. A quick glance at your resume indicates a clear thread in all roles that you’ve ever had. You have a passion for writing, and I would love it if you would share a little bit about that passion with us and where it comes from.

Marisa: I’d be happy to. So to kind of think back to where my writing passion came from, I think it really blossomed first with just an absolute love of reading. I can’t recall a time in my life where I didn’t just have a book in hand and always been a voracious reader and my parent’s rule for me going up was no reading at the dinner table because I would try to bring a book with me everywhere and my parents really had to reign that in — they encouraged it of course, but within reason. And I’d say, of course, I always loved to read. And then one of the best things my parents ever did for me is when I was really young, probably third or fourth grade, my parents gave me a journal and really encouraged me to try to write every day in it. That just became a routine for me so I learn to just communicate and process what my life was like through words. So from the time I was in elementary school to today I still journal regularly, nothing as routine as I used to unfortunately, but it just became so natural to me to communicate through words, and as I got older I just tried to pursue as many writing opportunities as I could. I was on my school’s literary magazine, I was a editor of my high school paper, and then I studied journalism in college. And I love journalism and I love interviewing people and storytelling and I also love poetry so I always try to carve out space to write poetry and started going to open mics when I was about 15 or 16 here in Colorado where I grew up and performed for my college slam poetry team and so it just became such a big part of who I am. And it’s been a little harder, I think, as I got older to find open mics, to find the community that I had when I was in college or high-school to be with other writers but it’s something I’ve always sought out.

Susan: Wow! No reading at the dinner table and you’ve been journaling since third or fourth grade? That just blows my mind, just blows my mind.

Marisa: I also had a…Well I have an older sister who’s a really good athlete and she was on the traveling competitive soccer team so every weekend as a kid, too, I was thrown in the car and taken all over Colorado. So wherever my sister’s tournament would have been was that week. So thankfully, I don’t get carsick so I could just read all weekend long too, at her game. So she still teases me to this day that I never watched her play, I would just read my book on the sidelines. Actually, that paid off.

Susan: Yeah, obviously, no kidding. And the journaling from such a young age, I’ve never been a great at journaling, I think I think a lot, but I’m bad about writing stuff down. And I tried to get better at it over the years because I found it to be a calming thing for me. It’s a good outlet, even though I’m not always great at articulating myself. But that is fascinating that you were doing that from the third or fourth grade. That is just too funny. One thing it was funny when you were talking about reading all weekend, it made me think about something that I haven’t thought about in years. Did you ever read those Sweet Valley High books? Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Marisa: I didn’t but I knew of them.

Susan: Oh my gosh, this is so embarrassing, but I remember being in the fifth or sixth grade – I can’t remember – and we had gone to the library as a class that morning or something and I checked out one of these books, and I got so involved in it. And somehow between reading during class, which I wasn’t suppose to be doing or, you know, whatever, but at the end of the day, I had finished that book. And I’ll never forget that as long as I live, and the teacher was like, “I really appreciate that you like reading so much but you cannot be doing this.” That’s just something I hadn’t thought about in years. But tell us for our friends who are listening who don’t know what slam poetry is, would you tell us a little bit about what that is?

Marisa: Oh sure, so slam poetry evolved from an open mic in Chicago. There is one man attributed to kind of starting it, and so he was kind of sick of going to your boring coffee shop poetry reading so he decided to turn it into a competition. So slams are fairly formulaic wherever you go for them, but usually, everybody who performs has a three-minute time slot… roughly. I mean the time to perform a poetry piece typically it’s preferred to be memorized, and I think slam poetry kind of have more of a rhythmic musical element to it, maybe a little bit more, especially in some circle, hip-hop influence to it. It’s a lot…At least when I write it, I write it more for not thinking so much about metaphor or try to be a little less high brow, a little more accessible and engaging. So you really you want your audience to respond because after you perform then your audience rates you. There is judges randomly selected from the audience so they give you a score from 1 to 10. So there’s usually two or three rounds, so whoever performs best in the first round gets go onto perform more and more poetry. So at the end, somebody is actually a winner. And I’d say overall my style is not geared exactly toward poetry slams, but it’s certainly fun to try to write in a different style and really think about not just the language you use, but how you perform it. And it was just a great opportunity for me to get some experience on stage and conquer my fears of going before crowds in that manner. It was just a lot of fun. And I haven’t done slams in a long time, but doing it with a group in college too was great because writing can be very solitary so to have groups that you practice with and perform with was just a lot of fun.

Susan: That is such a neat idea. I have seen it performed but I’ve never actually written poetry or performed poetry. And I didn’t realize so much kind of went into it behind the scenes, I guess. I think I guess I saw it more – when I have attended something like that it’s been more of a spectator, so that’s fascinating. I didn’t even know that, so thank you for sharing that. I may have to try to find one to go listen to.

Marisa: And I think the great thing about… I’ll bet you can find some great ones where you are. And what’s fun about it is that it wants to engage that audience and I think it’s a little bit more accessible than most people think of standard poetry reading. So you get some purists in the poetry scene that don’t love it but I personally love it because it brings people who wouldn’t normally go to poetry events out to see that, and I am a huge advocate of any accessibility in art so I loved it.

Susan: Yes. And I want to talk about your views on art in a minute, but I think we can work it into maybe something, because I remember you said you specifically want to talk about everybody having the ability to be an artist. But I think maybe going into the next questions you kind of talked about that a little bit, you have had the opportunity to be a journalist on the international stage. So could you tell us a little bit about that experience and maybe how it’s different from journalism in the United States?

Marisa: When I was fresh out of college with my journalism degree, I bought a one-way ticket to visit the man who is now my husband who was living Budapest. And I kind of had the intention that I would go for a month or two and then come back and pursue a full-time job at a newspaper in The States, but I got really fortunate when I arrived in Hungary and I was able to connect with a few English-speaking journalists there, and I was able to find freelance work very quickly. And so I was working for two different English language magazines during my time there. And it’s not a straight timeline but in total I was over there for multiple years.

One of the types of writings I did a lot of business reporting so I was writing for the American Chamber of Commerce publication. And this was a really interesting experience because I wasn’t fluent in Hungarian so the events that I went to were typically done in English or things would be translated to me. And I was very young so I was 21 when I arrive to there. And a lot of the events I would go to, especially for those business communities, were very male-dominated. So I was very limited in that I wasn’t fluent in the language, I was very young and one of the only women. So I think I did hit some walls in which I didn’t feel like I was being taken as seriously as I wanted to be. I remember being very cautious about my clothing; trying to dress very businesslike, trying to kind of play up your age in that way. So that was hard. And certainly, that was something I would have faced whether I was in the United States or in Hungary, but kind of using the ability to articulate yourself easily is very challenging when you’re working with multilingual audiences.

And also a big difference of journalism in Hungary versus the United States is the press freedom in Hungary deteriorated while I was there so I did a little — just to put it in context, there is an organization called Freedom House that ranks freedom of the press internationally, and in Hungary when I arrived, the data for press freedom are currently — Hungary only gets a rating of 44 out of 100. So 100 means you have no press freedom so 44 is fairly high, and by contrast, the US is at a 23 level. So when I left there was still free press in Hungary but it was really under attack. And in terms of government I could go — that’s an entirely different discussion but I saw newspapers getting pressure and journalist being very divided, and even the business magazine that I worked for, received more and more political pressure and they doubt, myself included, I really started to transition to more tourism travel writing just because of that environment. So I would say Hungary is a struggling country in terms of press freedom. So to see that firsthand experience was very interesting, and unfortunately, it has only gotten worse since I left.

Susan: Really? That makes me sad.

Marisa: Yeah, makes a lot of us sad.

Susan: That’s just… I mean I think as Americans there are just so much that we take for granted, and when we see just a little bit of it touched we freaked out. I mean there’s no other way to say it; we just freak out. And to think that there are some countries that are fighting for it every day more so than hopefully than we ever will. I can’t imagine, and I can’t imagine being a journalist in that situation. No wonder you kind of shifted things around a little bit.

Marisa: Actually, it’s just hard to see places backslide; you just kind of hope that things progress and then the press gets stronger and more freedom and more ability to report on any story. And it’s very challenging and it’s disheartening to really see that backslide. Unfortunately, it’s not a case just unique in Hungary. It’s nothing you’d ever want to see or experience.

Susan: Yeah, wow. So kind of turning a little bit towards what you’re currently doing, you are currently the creative content manager at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. You also have – I would argue some serious expertise in not just online content but social media content and campaigns. I’ve seen some of the stuff that you put out, it’s pretty phenomenal and fun, and if you haven’t checked out their – even their Facebook page is pretty amazing, which I think you are in charge of, is that correct?

Marisa: I am not in charge of it. I do contribute or help our social media team, and you’ll see some of my videos and content on there occasionally. We’re a huge staff so our marketing staff works very collaboratively. So I do not run very social channel but I do work and share content. I’m a little bit more focused on the email side. We’re a very collaborative team there, too.

Susan: I guess what I saw, I’ve seen some of the videos at that you guys did. I think I remember seeing your first Facebook live video and I think you were in it.

Marisa: Yes. So I did launch our Facebook live pilot series. So we did a 10-week series that was aligned with another campaign we were doing. I was given a great opportunity to be kind of guinea pig that’s launched the weekly Facebook live series, which, of course, doing anything live is very nerve-racking and I had wonderful staff around the museum and we got to give behind the scenes access to people who may never get to come to DC so it’s a great project. So that on Facebook, yeah, I was very active, and I did kick off the whole series in the museum. It was the videographer I work hand-in-hand with; we were trying to get a perfect shoot and book the talent and I was like, “You know what? This one I’ll just to throw myself in and be on camera for the first episode and for the first teasing of it,” like, I’m asking people around the institution to take on this project and get in front of the camera and, like, I guess I can do it myself first too. So that was like good opportunity.

Susan: Yeah, it was so cool just from, again, the spectator side of things. It was fascinating because I have never been to the museum myself and just being able to see it from afar was so, so inspiring, just everything that is there. And what you guys can, I guess, bring to the public and what you guys do on a daily basis is really inspiring. But, tell us a little bit about how you were able to parlay a love of writing into your role, because it is content so you’re doing a lot of writing, I presume at this point, but tell us how this works for you on a daily basis.

Marisa: To back up a minute from how I kind of got to where I am from the journalism world is after I left Hungary I decided to pursue my master’s degree. So I had a great mentor in Hungary who was a professor of Arts Management, and it was a field that I’ve never even heard of prior, and he encouraged me to learn more about it and get some graduate school. So I got my masters in arts management at American University in DC. And this is a natural marriage to me because I was always covering business and I was covering the arts so that really fused those two together and gave me the knowledge I needed to transition from covering the arts to working with intercultural institutions. So I loved my grad school program and it allowed me to pivot my career into something more marketing-focused. And I worked for a couple years at a performing arts center called Wolf Trap Foundation of the Performing Arts, and that was a great opportunity and very fun. I got to see a lot of concerts and write about music for a living so you can’t argue with that.

Susan: Right.

Marisa: Yeah, so that was great, but I was ready for something new and I saw the job come up at the Holocaust Museum, and it really peaked my interest because it was I believe the mission of the museum and it was really a dream for me to get to work on the National Mall that I come everyday and get off at the Smithsonian metro. I’m four years in there, and that still is a great opportunity every day to do that and be around some of the best museums of the nation. And  so I came on as a writer/editor. And I would say even for people who love writing and especially people who are interested in journalism, think there’s a lot of doom and gloom around the industry, but I would say even if you struggle to find a job at a traditional newspaper or radio station or TV station, the skills you glean through journalism training are highly valued in a lot of fields.

So I studied print and broadcast, so the fact that now in my job today I get to do such a wide variety of writing that my journalism degree set me up for, which is just fantastic. So I mean on any given day I’ll edit a social media post, I’ll write radio copy for an ad for NPR, I’ll write for magazine articles, and then I’ll do video interviews with Holocaust survivors. I think it is hard for me to find a job in which I’ve been challenged in so many different ways of writing, and also get to do things to a cause that I care a lot about. So I like that I can — I still feel like I’m a journalist in a lot of way for the institution and I still get to use those skills, but I also just appreciate the ability of my job and the mission-based focus of it.

Susan: Well, share with us a little bit about that, if you would like. I would love to hear more about it.

Marisa: Yeah, so when I was in Budapest, I lived in the Jewish quarter there so that got me more interested in Holocaust history and covering the Jewish Community there. And so when I saw this job come open in DC, I was really kind of shocked that I would actually get to use any of what I learned while living in Hungary, especially historical content, and apply to a job in the United States. And of course, that really made me kick myself for not getting better at the Hungarian language because I interact with Hungarian speakers on a regular basis. But, I’ll say that I believe so strongly in the museum because really at it’s core it’s trying to preserve the memory of Holocaust Survivors, and I think that’s hugely important. And I’m entrusted to tell the story of survivors and victims of the Holocaust, and that’s a huge honor, and especially getting to work with Holocaust Survivors who volunteer at our museum.

We have about 80 survivors who are at the museum regularly meeting with visitors, doing translations for us, they travel around the country for speakers bureau, but I get to meet with them, I edit the essays that they write, I do video interviews, do some ghost writing for them, and the fact that I’m trusted to tell their story and just ride that really delicate balance of getting to reflect on this history and not sensationalize it but also really turn it into a teaching tool, because we teach the history not to just know the facts of it but to help people to act differently in the face of hate but to just learn about the dangers of hatred and where that can lead and where prejudice can lead so we’re of course showing the most shocking example of that, but it’s rewarding. I think a lot of us — it’s a challenging time right now and we’re seeing issues of xenophobia and other reoccurring  refugee issues in our nation. And this is me very much me speaking on behalf of myself and not the museum, but I think for me it’s important that I feel that my day to day work is doing some good and seeing the museum full every single day of visitors, and I just hope that they come and learn something at the museum that they can take to their own lives; that’s hugely important to me.

Susan: Yeah, that’s really powerful what you just said because I am in like-mind with you that we are struggling right now as a nation with some of these issues. And certainly, there are debatable things that can be talked about, which I’m not even getting into. But really thank you, thank you for sharing that and thank you for doing that work. I didn’t realize — wow, you guys have 80 Holocaust Survivors there on a regular basis.

Marisa: Yeah, it’s remarkable; just the willingness  of these individuals to share some of the most difficult periods in their life in the hope that it will carry on the memory of loved ones that they have lost and hopefully improve the future for other generations. I’m just in awe of their resilience and their openness. It’s been such a good example of me to get to work like this with them.

Susan: Well it sounds like it has become their life-work as well. For so many reasons that makes sense, but for so many reasons I’m impressed and just wowed that somebody could do that after going through something that is so unimaginable to me that I can only think of through images in a history book. I cannot even begin to come close to putting myself in that situation. And for them to share their stories and to do that on almost daily basis, I would guess, it just…I can’t imagine that. And I never really thought about it, but I really appreciate them doing that. And I appreciate the work you’re doing, it’s so important. I don’t know, that just really touched me in a weird way. Anyway, sorry about that, I might have gotten a little emotional..

Marisa: Part of my job.

Susan: So in that vein, even the strongest of us have moments when we lack self-confidence in what we’re doing, and you don’t ever appear to do that. I presume you do, I presume you hide it well, maybe I could be way off base maybe you don’t have these moments, but if you do, how have you dealt with that?

Marisa: Well that is a very kind assessment of me, but of course, I have moments where I lack self-confidence, really, like, everybody does. And I guess I do have a really outwardly view of…One of my high school teachers used to always just call me very self possessed and I think I of course try to exude confidence in what I do, but certainly, I have moments of self-doubt, and I have a really wonderful team of editors who work with me who always help each other out and putting our best work forward. I’d say one thing that’s always helpful – well, there’s a couple of things that has helped me and one is I really have the joy of surrounding myself with people who have far more faith in my skills and abilities than I do. I really could not speak more highly of my family and core circle of friends. I have a lot of cheerleaders and I cannot emphasize how important that is to have someone to… I just texted a friend right before this, I was like, “Oh, I am about to be interviewed for a podcast’ I’ve never done this before,” and she’s like, “Oh, you’re going to be great.” And just to have people who don’t ever mean it insincerely but just really kind of telling you that self-confidence or the affirmations that you want for yourself.

On this podcast you talk about seeing professional coaches, and I’ve been seeing one as well who I just adore and she really good at showcasing, making you see things through a new lens. And things that I struggle with is I worry a lot about how my decisions affect other people and the way that they make those people feel, sometimes then the way they make me feel or how my actions help or hurt me. And having other people just kind of to refocus how I see myself and my actions is so helpful. So I love that aspect. And then also I think something that helps me in self-confidence which is very funny is I am a total dabbler. I am very curious, I love learning new things but I like to take on new hobbies and projects — and I wouldn’t say I don’t see them through, it’s not like I’m building a house but I kind of like start doing one thing and then switch to another so. So for example, for the last couple of years I’ve been taking guitar lessons but I also have not picked up my guitar for many months. So I like to jump in these projects and try new things but never attained or frankly really try to an expert level. So in my life like a willingness to be a novice or very mediocre at activities is really healthy. And I don’t think enough people are willing, especially if you’re older, to just take up a new hobby, like, knowing that you’re not going to be any good at it, and it might just be fun for a little while.

Susan: Yeah.

Marisa: I try to do that and I think it’s just nice to just be humbled by something that, like, I’m not a good guitar player but this is really fun and it gives me a creative outlet that’s not writing and gets me to think about things or just try something new, and I think that actually really help people build up their confidence to intentionally fail at new hobbies and it’s fine to see that there aren’t always consequences and nobody in my life expects me to be a superstar at anything I take on. And the same with exercise, I love to work out but I’m not a world-class runner or swimmer or anything that I do but I still do it because it’s healthy and I like it. So a very long answer to your question but that’s something I’ve found and I encourage other people to do around me as well.

Susan: And within your answer I think you answered one of my other questions which I always love to ask is how do you recharge your batteries, but it sounds like that’s one way you do it. And those are several little ways you do it which sound awesome and fun. What’s your favorite? What is the one thing that you’re doing right now that you’re just loving?

Marisa: Right now?

Susan: If you had to pick a favorite.

Marisa: I’ll pick one that I’m not doing immediately but in the last year one of my good friend Amy and I and my husband all took beginner ukulele classes at a community art place in Washington and that was a blast. We have a very quirky teacher who is a brilliant musician and gives no pressure at all in the class; you just kind of show up and have some fun and play some music, you go home. And it’s doing that with friends and just having a good time and laughing a lot. It’s just wonderful so we’re going to try to pick that up again in the fall.

Susan: Well, that sounds fun and awesome at the same time. And I want to mention something because you said something a minute ago, you said you had called one of your friends to say you’ve never done a podcast before, and I just want you to know you’re a natural, and I think it’s because you are a good storyteller but you could do this all day long so, you know, in your spare time if you feel like starting one up, you go for it, just do that.

Marisa: Well this is very fun, and I hear it and not only my interview but the ones you’ve done previously that you really put guests at ease so you are also a natural.

Susan: Well thank you. I  just think it’s fun. I think it’s fun and inspiring and it inspires me to tell other people stories and in a day and age where I just feel like we need to give women a platform who otherwise may not have one. I mean you are certainly somebody who works at a world-renowned museum, you know, some of my guests are just next door neighbor’s who are doing some really cool stuff as well and I just want to make sure that there is a platform available to share our stories because I truly believe that it inspires, empowers and encourages others to figure out what their passion is because I feel like we were all born with one, I really honestly do. I feel like we were all born with some sort of something that we were put here to do, and if we all can somehow figure that out then we just made this world a better place. And so that’s what I’m hoping to encourage and inspire and empower other women to do. So, that’s my goal. But anyway, I want to go back to something that I kind of started to talk a little bit about earlier and then I dropped it but I said we’d come back to it, and I’m going to mess this up because I can’t remember your wording exactly and you worded it so well and it was so beautiful. You talked to me before this interview about how you want to make sure everybody understands the artists within themselves, or something to that effect. Can you share a little bit about what you were trying to convey to me in that conversation.

Marisa: Sure. I can’t certainly remember exactly what I told you but throughout my career, and I just talked a little bit about that was just trying my own artistic pursuit, but I believe so strongly in the power of creativity and expression and the finding a way, and I really just like our culture that people are dissuaded doing activities that they aren’t really good at. So I think we have a tendency to pigeonhole people of, “Oh, you’re a great drawer, that’s fantastic, do that.” And I myself is a terrible drawer, like, nobody want’s me on their team in family Pictionary, like, terrible at it, but it doesn’t mean I can’t try a bunch of other activities or still draw. And I am such an advocate for the amateur artist that I want people to go to community festivals, to go try their hands at creating something. It’s really healthy.

When I was in grad school I worked at a organization called the National Center for Creative Aging, and the project I got to work on was pairing graduate students in social work and healthcare and art with older visual artist. So they would help the visual artists set up their studio and help teach them to document their work and build on their legacy. I loved that project, and within it there was a major research project going on as well from Joan Jeffri who ran the project called Art Cart, and this is a long way of telling you this, but the study that she’s doing, anecdotally, I could easily tell you that doing arts or creativity can extend your life, but there’s actual science behind it and rigorous studying too to show how healthy it is to have something to express yourself through. And I just want more and more people to be willing to do that and there’s a Moto that I’m completely stealing from an organization called Creative Mornings that post lectures on creativity all over the world for free, usually once a month in every city. I’m certain that Dallas has them as well. And their whole motto is “Everyone is welcome; everyone is creative.” And I just think that is so brilliant and so succinctly put, that everyone should be welcome to create, not just top world-class performers and everyone should be welcomed.

So that’s one thing I just love that you’re doing on this podcast is not just focusing on people who are already recognizable but who are doing wonderful work. And certainly doesn’t have to be in the arts, that’s just what I’m passionate about, but just thinking how important each of our work is and we can create. It don’t have to be hanging up in a museum or some amazing published work, but I just want my work to encourage other people to be creative and tell stories and share things about other people’s lives.

Susan: Well, I think that it is, and I just appreciate you sharing it. I appreciate you sharing your creative talent through your poetry that you’re willing to put up online. I appreciate you writing amazing content for the museum or doing the Facebook live which I know is nerve-racking, or at least it was for me because you don’t know how many people are going to see this and you’re like, “Ahhh!”

Marisa: It is hard.

Susan: There’s no editing, there’s no edit in here. But yeah, thank you for sharing that because I think you’re right, I think people are often so many times either told no, don’t do that, or that’s not your outlet or whatever. And it’s important, it’s important to share anything if not for someone else then just for yourself to just to see what you’re made of sometimes, I think. So, I always like to leave with an action step, but it seems like you kind of already gave us one to find our creative outlet. And I don’t know, do you have anything else to add? Am I missing anything?

Marisa: I’d say I really of course encourage people to journal. I think that’s really healthy, and yeah, I think action steps of trying to find a creative outlet for everybody or to try something new is what I would like to encourage people to do. And it certainly doesn’t have to be in the arts, like maybe try running or walking or something, but I just love getting people out into the community and just taking part. So those are my simple action.

Susan: Well, I don’t think those are simple at all; I think those are things that we all need to think about and do, maybe, especially the journaling thing, that has been really, really helpful for me trying to do more of that. When I do it, I feel better. But tell us — one more thing before I go because I always forget this — tell us where we can find your work, either through the museum or if you have like a…I don’t even know if you have like a public creative outlet or anything at the moment, but if you want to share some of your museum content with us or anything like that, tell us where we can find you or where we can find your work.

Marisa: Sure. I don’t have a website at the moment. I’ve been kind of dabbling in and out of that. That’s a great action step for me to get back to that so I can say, “To read my work, go to…” And, you know, as someone who works in marketing you’d think I’d be better at that but I’d say that, I do have a book of poetry that you can get on Amazon called Opened Aperture, so that you can read; that’s some of my older poetry that I wrote mainly based on my time living in Budapest. And then for the museum, if you subscribe to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum email and I’m usually leading the content on a lot of our storytelling emails so if you read those you can see my work. And I also was the copywriter for a book at the museum published last year called The Last Witnesses. And that book is, every page is a picture of an item that’s in our collection, so personal artifacts and our designer, Mary, did a beautiful job laying it out, and then with the visuals I then tell the story of who the object belonged to, what the story behind it is. So that was one of the biggest projects that I worked on at the museum that I’m very proud of. Also, you can buy it at the museum or you can buy it online as well.

Susan: That is awesome, and I will make sure on our website to go and link all of those things so that people can easily find them. So you guys can just head on over to the website and check those out. Marisa, thank you so much for joining us today and taking time out of your work week and out of your vacation/work week. I really appreciate you taking the time to join us today and to just share what you’re doing, and just your thoughts on life. I really appreciate your time today.

Marisa: Thank you so much. I love doing this. It was very fun, and thank you for making this podcast.

Susan: All right, friend, I’ll talk to you soon.

Marisa: Bye.

Outro: Thanks so much for listening today. I hope you found just as many good nuggets in our conversation as I did. Y’all, I will make sure and have all the links to the things Marisa and I discussed over on this episode’s transcript page on the website. So if you didn’t have a chance to write something down, you can be sure to find the link at www.howshegothere.com. Y’all, seriously, thanks again so much for listening and for sharing this podcast with your friends. This show is truly a great love of mine and I really appreciate the opportunity to bring it to you. Y’all, your feedback has been overwhelming and I really cannot believe how many subscribers we have. It’s so exciting. I’m just so thankful that so many people have been able to find it and that it has resonated with so many women. One way that it makes it easier for other women to find is if you rate and review the podcast on whatever platform you listen to the podcast on. So I would really appreciate it if you would rate and review it so that it makes it easier for other women to find it. Y’all are my people and y’all are just the best, and I love, love, love sharing this work with you. Thanks again, friends, I’ll see you soon.