Bringing Hope to the Hopeless Around the Globe

Episode 22 with John Cotton Richmond of the Human Trafficking Institute

Are you overwhelmed by the problem of sex trafficking and forced labor in the world? Sometimes it feels like a hopeless reality. What can really be done to make a difference? Well, today I have a leader in the fight against human trafficking and he is on a mission to bring hope to this hopeless situation. Once you hear what he’s done for the fight in the U.S., you’ll see that with people like John at the head of the fight, it just might be possible.

John Cotton Richmond leads the Human Trafficking Institute as it works to combat slavery at its source. Numerous survivors of sex and labor trafficking have found victim-centered advocate in John. He has been named Prosecutor of the Year and expert for the United Nations and every trafficker’s worst nightmare by the head of the FBI’s human trafficking program.

Mentioned in this episode:

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Transcript

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have with me John Cotton Richmond. I am really, really honored to have him on the show today because he is doing some amazing work, and has done some amazing work in the area of human trafficking and justice in general.

Aaron and I met John a couple of years ago at a workshop. I was immediately struck by, not only his authority and competency in this area but, his ability to communicate it very empathetically and truly care about the person that he’s talking to.

John leads the Human Trafficking Institute as it works to combat slavery at its source. Numerous survivors of sex and labor trafficking have found victim-centered advocate in John. He has been named Prosecutor of the Year and expert for the United Nations and every trafficker’s worst nightmare by the head of the FBI’s human trafficking program.

As you can tell, this is going to be a great interview. So let’s dive in.

Andrea: Well, John, welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.

John:  Thank you so much! It’s great to be with you Andrea.

Andrea: Why don’t you introduce us to this idea of the Human Trafficking Institute, the human trafficking issue and why this all got started for you?

John: I think that it all starts with the realization that there are at least 20 million people in the world today who have the same problem. They don’t get to make the most basic decisions about their lives. Someone else decides when they wake up, where they work, and even who touches their bodies.   And I think it’s hard to sort of awaken ourselves to this reality that these people are trapped in modern-day slavery, and they’re trapped by a group of individuals who are traffickers, who are trying to profit by exploiting them.

As I began to be confronted with this over 15 years ago, I was in private law practice. My wife and I decided to move to India to help with International Justice Mission’s slavery work there and I got to direct their office and learned about forced labor in the Indian context and see and meet victims, see and meet traffickers and the law enforcement officers that we’re trying to intervene. And I was overwhelmed by the reality of the problem, by the scope of the problem.

And then I shifted to United States Department of Justice where I was a federal prosecutor for over a decade in a specialized human trafficking prosecution unit, and I started working sex trafficking and forced labor cases across the United States. And again, meeting with survivors every day, hearing their stories,

 

trying to figure out how do we bring their voice to courts so they can speak truths and let the world know what the traffickers have done to them so that we could stop and restrain them.

By doing that, I got to work with the United Nations on the human trafficking protocol and travel around the world training judges, prosecutors, and police. And through that we just begin to see these really predictable patterns and these proven strategies that can work to stop traffickers. And the Human Trafficking Institute was born out of the desire to help criminal justice systems in the developing world grow in their ability to stop traffickers and bring rescue to the victims.

Andrea: Where are you at with this Human Trafficking Institute at this point?

John: Human Trafficking Institute started just over a year and a half ago. I stepped down from the Department of Justice along with Victor Boutros, who was a federal prosecutor with me there and we’d worked cases, like we even tried a case together and Victor co-wrote The Locus Effect with Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission in which he has a ton of experience. And then we added to our team Dave Rogers who’s the former head of the FBI’s human trafficking unit out of their headquarters office. We worked together for years and we’re all in government and we come together with sort of these years of experience.

And the Human Trafficking Institute is actually going in and doing a few simple things. One is helping government establish specialized units so they can actually have people freed up to work these cases and then take them through an academy where they learn not just some sort of two or three days at a hotel conference room with Power Points but they really learn the way adults learn which is by digging into material over an extended period of time. It takes these specialized units through and advanced to county.

And the third thing is embed the inside of those units. Experienced and experts who have done these cases before who have gone to office with the specialized units and worked day in and day out with them as they work on these cases. And then wrapping around that the Human Trafficking Institute is to provide research, writing, and best practices in trying to move the thought leadership in this space towards recognizing ways that we can specifically stop this problem. We really believe that institutionalized systematic slavery can end because we’ve seen it end where it’s been attacked before and that just give us a lot of hope.

Andrea: So what is your role in the different processes that you’re talking about here?

John: Victor and I together had set out the vision for the institute and the different projects we have. And a lot of my works over the last years have been building relationships with government actors in the different countries as well as in the US on bringing people together to think about how we can identify and then use these proven strategies that actually work.

And then I also lead research efforts in terms of the type of work that we’re putting out on understanding the cases here in the United States where justice is going so that we can use these as examples in the developing world when we work with leaders.

Andrea: And I’ve also seen a number of news articles that the Human Trafficking Institute has shared that indicates that you have been at a United Nations, you’ve been at the White House, you’ve been sharing this thought leadership in these various faces what’s that been like?

John: It’s been so inspiring. There really are people of goodwill who wanted to do this work. And so yes at the United Nations, there’s amazing group of people that have been carefully thinking about this issue for a long time. We were very grateful that the White House wanted to call together leaders and just got a briefing and learn about the issue of trafficking. We were happy to participate in that and just share of what’s happening in the field and what’s actually going on the ground.

We’ve also met with prime ministers, attorneys, and generals from different countries and we just hosted two cabinet level, guests from police here in Washington D.C. One thing, Andrea, that is so important is that all of this is driven by people. There are people in government, in places of influence who have a voice on this issue and there are people who are trapped in slavery whose voice is currently being muted.

And the desire is how do we use the voice that is out there from leaders and from the general public as a springboard to un-mute that, to stop the traffickers from actually harming those victims. It’s been a great honor and privilege to have had a career building the relationships that are allowing us to do that.

Andrea: I want to come back to this idea of un-muting voices a little later, but I want to ask you how did you really get involved with human trafficking in the first place? You went to India 15 years ago, you said, and I’m curious why? What brought you to that point where you were ready to go to India and start learning about this?

John: That’s a great question. My wife and I, we’re processing it at the time with our friends and we really felt compelled to go. It was very simple and clear in so many ways. You know, I’ve been practicing law for about four years. We had worked hard and paid off all our school loans, and so we were to taking a fresh look at where do we want to be and what do we want to do. My wife was actually eight months pregnant when we left the United States to move to India.

Our second child was born in India, and she actually never even been in the country before. She went on faith and she went on a belief and a strong, clear compulsion that we could do something to stop slavery. And what was amazing is we had never met a slave before. We had never been involved in this work. I have been doing commercial litigation and employment law but it really sprung from seeing with real clarity the need that exists and then thinking how do we move to a solution. And we’ve been so up close as I began to travel in India and China and different places that there was such a need. There are people who are suffering because they don’t have food or water or shelter and there’s been a natural disaster and those people need aid and we can help them.

But then there’s this whole other set of people whose main problem isn’t that they don’t have food, shelter, or water, their main problem is that an individual is oppressing them and those people aren’t able to get the development aid that is out there. They’re not able to participate in the food program or this child’s fostership program or to go to the educational institutions that are nonprofits funded. They’re trapped.

And so how do we move in to solving that problem. We really feel like it was quite simple. There were lots of lawyers that wanted to work at my law firm. They were really smart and their resumes would flood in, but there wasn’t a whole lot of lawyers that wanted to go and say “We wanna be a part of changing this system. We wanna be a part of liberating individuals in restraining perpetrators.”

And so we thought “Let’s give that a shot.” And so it went and honestly, we built vision, we built strategy, and we built our understanding of the issue after we started. It all wasn’t clear. It was sort of like you start with a limited amount of information and as you go it becomes more clear.

Andrea: So you had this desire to change the world in a different kind of way. There’s such a tendency for people I think to get comfortable and stay where they’re at and a fear of adventure or moving fast where they are in order to be able to do some things significant. What was it about the two of you, you and your wife that made you willing, desiring to do that?

John: I think it was a couple of things. One was this understanding of the status quo not existing that there’s nothing stays the same. I think our desire to not venture out or the desire to not start something new is because we’re worried that it may not work out or that we may lose the safety security or comfort we’re currently experiencing. And the truth is it may not work out, so the risk is real in launching, in going forward. But the lie is that the status quo is real as well. There’s nothing really stays the same. If I don’t take the risk, I’m not guaranteed to have my current status quo remains. Everything is always changing.

The number one running back in the NFL this year is guaranteed not to be the number one running back in the NFL 10 years from now. Life changes: car accidents happen, unemployment, jobs shift, everything is a risk. And so once you realized that “I can’t really keep the status quo, I can’t, in the sense have an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and just hold it and expect it to stay the same. I can either enjoy the tasty treat or I can end up with a mess all over my hands,” right? The reality that if we’re not moving forward, we’re going to deteriorate. And I think that launching forward to do something really stands from the idea that we’re risking far less than we really think we are.

The other thing that motivated us, honestly was our faith, we were motivated by a really clear vision for what could be and by the sense that if I was stuck in slavery, if someone was trapping me or my family, I would want people to go and stop them. I want people to come for me. I want people to love me in a demonstrated way, not just by wearing the right color ribbon on the appropriate awareness day, but I want someone to make my pain stop. And if that’s true for me, I bet it’s true for those 20 million who are currently trapped. And believing that people have value really is a fundamental philosophical pivot point that allows us to confront evil.

Andrea: So you came back and you started working for the justice department at that point, right?

John: I sure did.

Andrea: And you started working with victims, talking to traffickers; what do you bring to those conversations? What did you get out of these conversations?

John: Oh I got so much. But what I brought honestly was time and availability. I’m going to make myself available and I’m going to spend a lot of time with the victims and hear their stories and allow them to tell their story at their pace. So it’s not rush in “Just give me all the facts.” If you ask someone to open up about some of the most traumatic abuse that they’ve ever experienced, it’s going to require a relationship. It’s going to require time of moving forward slowly to help them feel like they’re in a position where they can tell the truth they don’t want to share initially.

And with traffickers, it’s very much the same. It’s coming in and listening to their stories and hearing where they’re coming from and how they approach their crime, what they thought about and how they profit it. And understanding the crime from their perspective, add so much value as we try to stop others from committing it. But I learned a great deal about evil and trafficking and abuse from all of these conversations and then my job was to try to bring empathy.

Try to understand the situations that we could create for juries who are sitting in judgment in these cases and create empathy within them for what the victims have experienced and help them understand kind of how non-violent coercion works. How manipulation really works, how the traffickers was able to solve quickly sometimes to get the upper hand and control someone when it just doesn’t make sense to the averaged person. And so I think creating empathy for people is a real pathway for truth to be shared.

Andrea: At what point did you start thinking there’s another step beyond this one for me and my work in this particular realm and you have this friend, Victor, at what point did you guys start to dream of this Human Trafficking Institute?

John: It was in the last few years that I was at the Department of Justice. The first seven or so years was me just learning how to be an effective prosecutor and working these cases kind one after the other. In the last half of my time where I began travelling a lot internationally and I saw what we were doing to educate and help empower criminal justice systems around the world. We would go into these two or three days seminars or weeklong seminars and then we come back and work our cases and I saw very little changing. It just didn’t seem to have an impact the way we wanted it to and I worried that there was a lot of busyness but there wasn’t a lot of progress.

So we just begun to think “How could we impact this in a more substantial way?” About that time, we were ruling out a new program at the Department of Justice to improve the federal approach to prosecuting human trafficking cases and they were called the ACTeams. And the director of the Human Trafficking Prosecution unit at DOJ pioneered this and I was lucky enough to work with her. We developed the advanced curriculum and we basically created specialized units of federal agents from the FBI and Homeland Security and federal prosecutor counterpart in the region.

We took those groups to an advanced human trafficking course that I got to produce in developing and delivering. And then I would get on the plane fly to those districts and we would work cases together, either I would be on the ground doing the case with them or just advising and helping shepherd those cases and we saw dramatic results, Andrea. In two years, we had six districts that were selected. There are 94 total prosecutorial districts in the United States, six of them agreed to participate. We took them through this and create specialized unit, have significant academylike training and then we have people working cases within day in and day out.

And when we did that, we saw a 114% increase in two years in the number of traffickers charge in those six districts. The other districts saw a 12% increase. So they still improved some but the difference between a 12% increase and a 114% is tremendous. And what’s most amazing is that those six districts which represent about 5% of all the districts in America were responsible for over half of all the human trafficking convictions in those two years. 56% of all the human trafficking convictions came from those six districts alone.

And so we were like “Wow, this system really works.” And we realized there is nothing like that in the developing world where right now trafficking is exploding. Traffickers feel absolutely no risk that any law enforcement agency is going to come in and restrain them and stop them from making money by harming others. And so where traffickers seeing no risk where you are actually more likely to get struck by lightning than prosecuted for openly owning a slave, traffickers just operate with impunity. They can do whatever they want. So we thought, “we want to change that calculus. We do not want traffickers operating with impunity. We want them to feel a very real risk to engaging in their crime and we want to do it in a way that honors and values the victims at every stage of the process.”

Andrea: Wow, so at that point you guys started thinking about how do we do this? How do we turn this into a global effort?

John: Exactly!

Andrea: And how did you choose the model?

John: So we’re not for-profit organization. And we chose that I think because we wanted to work with government throughout the world. We wanted to work with the government here in the United States. And to that effectively, we thought the nonprofit model was far better than a for-profit structure. It would allow us to engage a whole community of people in this process as partners with us.

And so we are building a small army of individuals that are passionate about this issue and they want to make a difference. They’re tired of just people constantly telling them stories about injustice and then they don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to engage or how to really make a difference. There’s a lot of passion about ending human trafficking but there’s not a lot of clear structured plans about how to make that happen.

I think we just get fatigued sometimes. We experience in a very real way compassion fatigue or awareness fatigue. We feel like, “stop just making me aware and to know more stories in the sense of another 13-year old girl in a moon by brothel. Stop making me aware and making me feel like I don’t have a place to go with my awareness.” We want people to feel that there is hope because we can draw near pain if we have hope. It’s really hard to draw near the pain and have compassion if you think nothing could be done.

But I think what is animating about this is that we not left just to deal with the consequences, just to mitigate the outcomes of traffickers. So it’s not like a natural disaster where we don’t know how to stop earthquakes. So when earthquakes happen to the country, we all rush in with food and water and shelter and try to help out.

Unlike earthquakes, human trafficking is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It’s not a weather pattern. It’s not like a tsunami or typhoon or a hurricane, it’s a choice that an individual is making, and it’s a crime and we know how to stop crime. It’s just question of are we going to do the things necessary that we know where to stop this criminal activity that is trapped in 20 million people.

Andrea: The hope that you talked about, part of it comes from this idea that we’re not victims to the idea that it’s just going to keep happening and we don’t have any control over but there is something that we can do.

John: Absolutely, and I think where there’s hope we can come up with a plan. And when we can clearly identify what the problem is and we believe that a solution is possible, we can figure this out. I think the hard part is that you see a problem, even clearly see a problem but if you think “there’s nothing I can do,” it’s not really going to make a difference. And that causes people to give up and move on to another structure or another project.

I think that people trapped in slavery are worth our consorted intentional efforts over a long period of time, or what Eugene Peterson called “A long obedience in the same direction.” Like if we have longevity in this space and we are willing to commit ourselves, we can see massive change in the next few decades.

Andrea: I’ve also heard you say before that slavery have been around forever and it’s only recent phenomena that we begin to really realize that this is wrong. Could you talk about that?

John: Absolutely! This is one of the reasons for hope. So for most of human history, slavery has been legal. It’s been on every continent, in every culture from the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Romans, and the Greeks and all over. It’s been enshrined in our own US constitution. Slavery has been assumed as something that is always there and it’s been supported even by people of faith. It wasn’t until about 250 years ago that countries began to say “Wait, we think slavery is wrong.” Not that it needs to be regulated or the impacts of it needs to be minimized but just that it is illegal and what is stunning is most of human history, thousands and thousands of years, slavery has been legal. In the last 250, we’ve seen every country in the world pass a law that says slavery is illegal.

That is why in its major pivot point, historically where at least now we have the laws that say, slavery is wrong. Now, we need to take those protections of law that are written on parchment and extend them down to the people they were intended to protect. Now we have a delivery system challenge. How do we get the legal protections that say every human being has intrinsic value and should not be owned all the way to the people that need those protections?

That’s what we get to be about. I think the historic part of that is inspiring because it shares with us that this is doable, where there’s a special place in history that there’s never been a better time to fight human trafficking. As our friend, Gary Haugen has said “It’s not a question of whether trafficking would be defeated, it’s whether this generation will be a part of sweeping it into the dustbin of history.” And I just find that concept motivating and inspiring and it makes me want to move forward.

Andrea: Oh yeah, definitely. Somebody like me who isn’t on the frontline of this is thinking about this problem and feeling guilty, feeling stuck in my own inability to make much of a difference. What kinds of things can I do to help, you know, aside from giving money to organizations such as yours, what else can I do?

John: I think there are a number of things that can be done. One is to get informed about it because there’s human trafficking happening in the United States, in Western Europe but it’s exploding throughout the world. We’ll begin the process of understanding how the problem looks and what it’s like. There’s a lot of myths about human trafficking, a lot of misunderstandings about it and so kind of deconstructing those is a fantastic use of time because it means that we’re going to be able to detect it and we’re going to be better able to understand the scope of it and what strategies would work. So getting people informed really matters.

The second thing that you can do is think about how their talents could be employed in this fight. I think a lot of people think “Well, I’m not an FBI agent and I’m not a prosecutor, how do I get involved?” Or “Maybe, I’m not a trauma certified counselor or how do I help individuals.” But the reality is if you’re a web designer or you’re an accountant, all of these skills sets need to be employed in this fight.

We need forensic accountants. We need all sorts of people who can communicate the vision clearly, who can tell the stories and who can honor these survivors. And so I think thinking through and inventory of our own skills and talents and then beginning to explore “How do I get involved?” Or “How do I encourage young people to go become FBI agents. How do I encourage young people to go and engage as a career these big, hairy global issues and take them on.” So I think that is something that individuals could do.

I think individuals can also find organizations and there are so many good ones out there who are active in this fight and come alongside and learn from them. You mentioned earlier that there’s a group of people that have been joining us as justice partners where there’s sort of a monthly communication about what’s happening around the world with trafficking. There are many organizations out there that they could connect with the local and global and I think that matters.

The other thing that I think people can do is develop a culture of justice in their own lives and in their own communities on issues that are far ranging not just limited to human trafficking. And what I mean by that is that pursuing justice, seeking justice can become a habit. When I was studying philosophy in college and when I was learning about these things, people would bend themselves into pretzels trying to understand what is justice and it’s so unhelpful.

But oh yes, justice is quite simple. Justice is making wrong things right. It seems something wrong and working to make it right; big things, little things, local things, or global things. And I think if people want to develop culture of justice, they start making wrong things right in their community. They’re identified on their street, on their neighborhood, on their school system, or on their companies and they see problems and start working to make them right. And as we build a culture of justice on the local level in the little things in our lives, we build the muscle and create a platform that allows us to seek justice and make the wrong things right on the big picture global level including trafficking in persons.

Andrea: I love this. There are a couple things that come up as questions for me as you’re talking about seeking justice in our own personal spaces. And one of those is that I see a lot of people struggling to know what to do with- recently this issue in Charlottesville, the event that took place in Charlottesville with white supremacy- and there’s a lot of angst and confusion about how to approach the subject.

And for this one thing, I might be against this other things that matters to me too and there’s so much confusion it seems about when to speak out and not to speak out, when to do something about it, and when not to. Do you have anything to say to this confusion that we feel and conflict that we feel about things that might in some ways feel wrong but then another aspect of it feels wrong too, so we’re not sure how to deal with that?

John: I would say where there is that conflict, move towards it. We move towards that conflict because it’s going help us clarify where we’re at. And I think we have to be able to embrace nuance, that there are different positions or different thoughts even within ourselves. But I think the other thing to move forward is really clearly and boldly identifying what is wrong and identifying what is right and then speaking to that. And I think that oftentimes, we don’t want it in their end because we don’t want to even admit to ourselves sometimes that these are paragraphs answers in a Twitter sort of world, right?

Andrea: Yeah.

John: These things aren’t solved with 140 characters, it takes more information and more new ones but once we process it, I think worth understanding in our own hearts that we want to move towards love. We want to move towards good and I think we go there full esteem ahead. We want to see the problems of the world and we want to bring hope by the truckload, I mean just lots of it. And where there is pain and there’s suffering, we want to push that away and resolve it.

I think that sometimes, we over complicate things. I think sometimes, we want to access that everyone on the team that there’s white hats and black hats out there, good guys and bad guys, and the reality is there’s a lot of us who are just gray hats. We’re messed up and we need to move for its clarity and truth and we’re going to address the issues in our own hearts and address these issues in our culture.

Andrea: I find that for myself it was difficult… You know, couple of years maybe when I was still trying to figure out what do I do with this voice of mine. It was difficult for me to want to identify my voice with any particular issue because I was afraid of being thrown into a box, categorical box and then I would only have a voice with those people in that particular box. So religious, political, whatever it might be but usually a combination of those two things, how do we have a voice of justice to sort of transcends these boxes so that we can actually have dialogue that’s going to move things forward?

John: Hmmm that’s a great question. I would love to learn from you as you maneuver through that. I believe that if we’re going to develop expertise, if we’re going to develop experience in a space, we have to dive in and get into the deep end of whatever pool that we’re going to swim in and figure it out and develop mastery. And so I would, in some ways, tell people don’t worry about getting in the box. Go deep into an issue. Work over the long term and really become good at it. But then find that principles that make it work because the principles out there that are going to really allow you to do well at a specific thing are going to have general impact and applicability across the board. In a sense, they’re going to work in lots to different boxes.

So the real principal behind the idea of trafficking is that people has value and that we should go love other people in a demonstrated way that we can go and actually change systems to benefit people. Well, those same principles applied to lots of things. People have value. We should go address and meet the needs in other spheres and in other topical areas. So I think diving in deep is worth because I think it builds expertise, it builds credibility, and you can have a greater impact on a specific thing, but then find those threads that are common to all and they’re always there. Speaking up close to encourage others in this big, big fight to go and seek justice around the globe.

Andrea: Yeah. You’ve mentioned before this idea of different hats that we see people wearing, these teams that we feel like we’re on and I guess that was sort of the same thing as this box that I’m picturing. But I think we’re looking for identity, wanting to identify ourselves with something that’s bigger than ourselves. And it’s tempting to have it be a pat or box rather than a principle because principles seem to be a little bit more messy. If you’re in a box, you know what the rules are and you just follow these particular set of beliefs or things that we’re supposed to do or to be and to talk about. But if you focus on a principle then you have to kind of wrestle with every issue that comes up based on that principle. It’s just more complicated it seems.

John: Right. I mean, every relationship is complicated and messy and unstructured and these principles of joy, hope, love, and truth that are going to win the day. And so I think that the great joy of life is getting in that mess of all of these principles and figuring them out in midst of all these wonderful relationships and seeing them grow and flourish. When you think about that who would want a tidy little wife inside a small box? It would be much more fun to live out our days pursuing something bigger and more joyful than that.

Andrea: Yes. And I love that you can bring the philosophical side of things but also you’re taking massive action. I don’t know, when we talk about peace, joy, love these sorts of things, it feels a little you know heady and not practical but you’re making it very practical.

John: It is in the practice. It’s in the day to day kind of ordinary moments where I think these ideas are really refined and shaped. And I think that people do want to see practical actions. People want to have concrete plans that they can take and things that they can do and they’re there. If there’s a destination that we want to get to, we can find a path to get there and it’s just going to be a question of are we going to do the hard work of finding that path or creating that path and I think it’s worth it.

Andrea: I do too. I really also appreciate the fact these threads that you said run throughout other things. They really reached to a personal level as well and so I’m curious how you and your wife’s values about the importance of human life and dignity and voice, how these things reached into your own home?

John: Hmmm. You know, it has a huge influence. In fact, the way we parent to our kids and the way we think about our marriage and the way we think about finding trafficking are so inextricably intertwined and I don’t know which feeds the other. They very much go together and our kids have lived this life with us as we have been working on these cases and travelling the world and obviously their time growing up in India has had a big impact on them.

But I think it comes in some really clear ways. We have a group of kind of family rules that apply to every phase of our lives and they really shaped how we think about each other in our marriage but they also impact how we think about work. And so like one of them is that people are more important than stuff. So we have a choice to make and it could be reduced down to whether we’re choosing people or stuff. We should almost always choose people.

And so when we think about what shall we do on this next case, how do we approach this? What’s the cause of it going to be? There’s a person at risk there and we’re going to out that person who’s a victim ahead of stuff or material interests. We also applies that at my kids when they were learning as toddlers to share, building that friendship is more important than who’s playing with that toy. Or it applies as we plan out, now that we have adolescence and two kids and high school, like how we’re dealing with the demands of their schedules and thinking about how we value people at each turn.

And so I think that these ideas of making wrong things right and honoring individuals as well as respecting systems and authority and thinking about innovation or how we want to refocused on getting things done more than the forms that we’re building. Each one of these ideas is just another step towards integration and flourishing and that’s what we want to be about. So we’re really happy to be engaged in this journey both as in the messy parts of resolving conflicts at home and loving each other well. Or the messy parts of resolving conflict at work and loving our team well but also loving survivors well and trying to demonstrate what real love looks like to traffickers.

Andrea: It’s beautiful! So what’s the future for the Human Trafficking Institute and how can we get involved or support you?

John:   Right now, we’re in the process of working with agreements with a couple of countries that are interested in building out specialized units and having them trained and having _____ and really trying to end the impunity that traffickers enjoy. So we’re very excited over the next few years to see the results that can come in the individuals that will be free but also how deterrence and ending impunity can be reflected.

We got a group of amazing law students who are joining us in the next few weeks at Douglass Fellows and Dr. Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist who went on after he had gained his freedom and taught himself to read and write. He ended up being; I think most people don’t realize this, the chief law enforcement officer for the District of Columbia. He was a United States Marshals and he had just this amazing life. In his honor and with his family’s initiatives, with their participation, we formed the Douglass Fellowship and we got some law students who are going to be Douglass Fellows this year doing research and writing and helping us build out these practices.

I’m excited that new process and we’re excited about that new process and we’re excited for people and your listeners to join in this movement. They can join us as justice partners on our website and connect to a monthly community that is thinking about this in finding new ways and innovative ways to tackle this problem. And we’re excited for what’s going to come over the few years. We got a great lean team that we’re building. We’re developing the model that we think can have the greatest impact.

Andrea: I love it. I love every bit of it. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention before we sign off?

John: I’m just so grateful for you, Andrea, and for letting your voice into all this and encouraging people to have the influence in the communities that they’re engaged in. I think that as more and more people stepped forward and say they want to be a part of making wrong things right, the world is going to continue to become a better place.

Andrea: Well thank you so much for your time here today, John. I really appreciate the way that you’re using your voice in the world.

John: Thanks Andrea! I’m glad to be with you!

 

 

END

How to Find People Who Will Challenge You to be Your Best

Episode 21 with Laurie Hock

Laurie Hock’s coaching credentials through Gallup and the John Maxwell Team define her specialization of helping people stop living life, and start leading it. Through her company, Growing Points, she creates and delivers individual and group growth experiences purposed to “set the caged bird free and empower those already flying to soar higher.

Laurie is a personal friend and one of the many powerful things we discuss on this episode is how we started and developed our own friendship to challenge and encourage one another to be our best.

Find Laurie at www.lauriehock.com and sign up for her monthly video series.

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Transcript

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have my friend, Laurie Hock on the line. And Laurie is somebody that is really into her calling and who she is kind of continuing to grow and develop her own self as well as the offerings that she makes the to the world.

 

Andrea: So Laurie, I’m so thrilled to have you on the Voice of Influence podcast.

Laurie: Thank you! It’s a total joy to be here with you!

Andrea: Well, Laurie and I have been friends for a couple of years. I don’t know how long have we been friends, maybe about three or four years?

Laurie: Yeah, probably around there.

Andrea: Something like that and she lives in North Platte where I live. A few years ago, we’re in the same bible study, small group kind of thing and Laurie took off on some trip and she came back and was like ready to go with this whole new purpose in her life and it was just amazing. And since then, she has really grown and she has really inspired me to look at what I offer as something that could be done as a business. I don’t know, we just had quite a little journey together, Laurie.

Laurie: That’s right. Yeah, it’s fun to think about as each of us grew individually; we also grew together as well. What a beautiful thing.

Andrea: Yeah. So Laurie, why don’t you tell the Influencers listening what it is that you do right now?

Laurie: Right now, I have found my true sweet spots and some of these will probably be described as our conversation continues, but moving from working with people one-on-one primarily to creating growth experiences. And I’m both a coach, speaker, facilitator; I’d feel probably describes me best as I get to come alongside people in their growth journey and help them really navigate their way from where they are to where they want to be and getting in touch with the core of their true self.

Being able to celebrate what’s great about them and really creating this kind of transformation in the context of community and relationship with others, which is what I think is one of the greatest and most significant aspects and elements of any growth. So I serve people locally. I serve people in different states as well. Much of what I do can be done virtually or in person, so there’s really no geographical limits and there are needs all over the world. It’s a wonderful, wonderful exciting privilege of watching other people really come alive and step into their greatness.

Andrea: And you have a couple of credentials really behind you. That credentials and also these influences tools that these things have offered you which would be like the John Maxwell Team and the Gallup StrengthsFinder. Do you want to tell us just briefly about those?

Laurie: Sure! Yeah, I’m very privileged to be able to be connected with really some of the global experts on the planet in the field of personal development and what really started this journey for me several years ago as becoming a coach and speaker with the John Maxwell Team. John is by far and has been for years the world expert on leadership. He is the number one leadership guru and I get to be affiliated with him. He really has been on a mission in his later years of his career of wanting to leverage his name and his influence to give other speakers and coaches a platform to open opportunities for them.

So he’s been a big influence in my life. I use some of his materials in what I do and his ideas have helped me shape my own ideas around what it means to be a leader. I continue to stay connected with the team on many levels. So there’s that and then also the privilege. The experience you mentioned in the introduction was when I went to Gallup to be trained as a Certified Strengths Coach and that’s really about leveraging their Clifton Strengths Assessment. To help people identify what they do best and their innate talents and strengths that really indicates where their greatest potential lies and how they can develop that to achieve the greatest results and sense of fulfillment and satisfaction and success in their lives.

So I have some really amazing tools that both of those affiliations gave me that the true joy in finding my voice of influence has been, not just in speaking from one of those lanes or the other, but allowing them to marinate and come together within me. And then speaking my truth of how those blend and how I find my own voice and make my own ideas from that foundation of how I can best serve and support clients, friends, peers, family, and all the people in my life.

Andrea: Hmm I love that idea of wanting these other influences and letting them saturate and become like really a synthesis and I guess to come out as your own voice. Yeah, that’s really cool!

Laurie: Yeah, exactly!

Andrea: I know that I you didn’t start out your career path with this particular thing in mind. If you want take us back to what you were doing that moment that you knew that you wanted to move in this direction of finding business and developing your voice of influence in the space where you can really utilize your own strengths and offer that to other people?

Laurie: Yes. I will give you a brief insight into my life in 2007 that’s really where this revelation started and then it’s been a process over the last 10 years. Oh actually, let me go farther back even than that. In sixth grade, I really set my sight and got very clear for some specific reasons that I wanted to be a dietitian, a nutritionist in terms of how I understood it then. So I pressed on with that in pursuing all my educational requirements to be a registered dietitian. And everything that I aspired to do in that, I now see the motivation underneath that is the same thing I am doing now. It was just going to be expressed toward helping people create positive changes in their health and developing healthy lifestyles. What wasn’t correct in that fate was the specific industry that I was applying that in.

And so as passionate as I was to help other people to create positive change, I felt a lot of limitations in that particular career path of being a dietitian that wasn’t going to allow me to do that the most fully and in a way that made me feel most alive and engaged. I had great coworkers and colleagues there but it felt like it wasn’t the right fit. And I came to that revelation in 2008 or so that I needed to really be willing to lay down that part of me and being able to create and new way forward.

That was a really huge identity crisis in every sense of everything I thought I was was no more in the sense that if I lay down that career path, I knew in my heart it wasn’t the right fit anymore. It would be a disservice to stay there knowing that just because I had all my educational investment and requirements met there, it would be a disservice to not only my own destiny but to the lives that my life is purposed to speak into. There were too many limitations and restrictions in that industry for my voice to be most heard.

And so I had to find out who is Laurie Hock without that career. Who’s Laurie on her own? Who’s Laurie without any sort of work-related attachments to it? And I think that’s a question very few people ask themselves and that begin a very deep soul searching journey for me because I didn’t have the answer to that. I knew different things I enjoy and was good at but I’d never thought just who I was at the core of my identity without anything else defining that.

So it took several years to come into that but the biggest decision and that turning point was making the intentional choice to create a new way forward that I could redefine myself. I could find my deeper truth that I didn’t have to stay with what it was or who I had been to that point, but that I could define who I was going to be outside of what I did.

Andrea: Hmmm. Laurie, was there anything in particular that helped you to realize that you didn’t have to stay there, that you could be something new? Do you remember?

Laurie: You know at that point, I didn’t have a lot of community. I didn’t have a coach I was working with. I was totally unaware of this whole personal development industry and all the opportunities of working with people that are experts at this. I remember I started going to the library. We were living in San Antonio at the time and I picked up a few John Maxwell’s books actually.

And I began to feel that there was something greater within me that was begging to be awakened. And through the practice of reading some of these leadership-related materials and paired with journaling to really get in touch with the deeper things going on inside me. This restlessness, this cry for more when I could sit and really allow those feelings from within to be exposed and surfaced and expressed in the form of my nightly journaling, wow, I just heard such a longing in me. That even if I didn’t know what it was and as risky as it felt to lay that other piece down, I knew it was far riskier to stay. And so it was just this light-bulb moment. It’s a combination of all those. Does that make sense?

Andrea: Sure! So really, I mean John Maxwell has a huge impact on you from the get-go.

Laurie: Yeah. I think this is true for all of us that there are certain voices that the spirit within us just clings to and it resonates with us so richly and so deeply even if it’s far beyond that we can’t understand in the moment. It speaks to us and it awakens something inside that knows it’s going to continue to unlock more of our potential and more opportunities for what’s ahead.

Andrea: Yeah that’s cool! Okay, so what happened after you kind of had this light-bulb moment like “Wait a second; I don’t have to go down this path that I was going down. I could choose this other path.”

Laurie: Yeah, it came with a lot of tears. I’ll be honest, I feel a lot of grieving and searching and then from just the decision to find a new way to create a new way, it probably took about five years actually. My husband had a job changed. We relocated back to Nebraska. I sensed heavily then that I wasn’t to look for a position here in North Platte as dietitian. I had left that in the past life and so I had some times. We started a family. I had some years with some kids all the while doing intensive searching within me and that’s a real discipline.

It takes time to truly find who we are but in that, the fruit of that is within over that compounding effort, the voice of influence we carry becomes clear. So yeah, I encourage everyone listening to this to give yourself the space, the time, and the freedom to enjoy the process. This cannot be manufactured overnight. It’s not an overnight success. It is something that really takes consistent commitment. And I believe we find our message when we first find ourselves.

Andrea: Yeah I like that. I really like that! We find our message when we find ourselves and we have to enjoy the process and kind of let it just set it in and keep moving. I love that. Yeah, because five years that’s a long time and it’s hard when you have little kids. That was definitely a struggle for me to try to understand who I was in the middle of having kids. But you were really processing all of that in the midst of that. At what point then did you decide it was time to move forward that you found yourself, you found your message?

Laurie: Yeah, I’d say the awakening really became clear, I was in some other leadership roles in our community but was feeling like in those situations, people were looking to me for the answers and I was wondering who can I look to for the answers. I know I was too young in my journey to have all the answers. I needed someone that could lead me so that I could lead them and that came through this incredible process of then discovering that John Maxwell had a team of people he was training and equipping and credentialing to be leadership coaches and speakers.

So I joined and made the investment in myself to join his team strictly for personal growth. That was back in 2013 with no intentions of it becoming anything more than just me growing as a leader so that I could feel this bigger call in my life, this leadership mandate. Even though I had no idea what’s that look like, I could sense it that I needed to be equipped and grow as a leader to be able to carry out my life’s mission.

So I found out that you can join the Maxwell Team. I did it for personal growth. I went to my first live event in 2014 with John in Orlando and it was rather unexpected but I really looked back at that moment and now see that I received my life calling there in the middle of one particular session.

It just became incredibly clear through a lot of just emotional eruption of joy and gladness and tears and all sorts of things that God was really calling me to make a business that would empower leaders and help them understand and recognize their true potential to be alongside in this journey and developing it. To call out who they really are so they can step forward more boldly and confidently and to fulfill their life’s purpose.

And it was just very clear that this is my time. This is my time and I didn’t have a clue that business was on my radar at all. It was so clear in that moment. Of course, I said yes immediately and everything shifted in that moment. Even before going to that event, I remember sitting out by the pool before the first session and I love to journal my thoughts before going in to some experience like that and just really putting out there “I’m expecting this to change my life. I’m coming to be transformed.”

And I remember just this _____ before going into that first day was that I wrote down in my journal “Your whole life has been leading up to this moment.” So I felt then like “This is my voice” and it’s been a process in the years since of finding what it looks like to do that and to be that but that day changed everything for me.

Andrea: Yeah. I remember you coming back from that experience and coming into this little small group of a number of basically stay-at-home moms and saying “I’m supposed to start a business.” Your joy, your excitement, it was such a clear picture of how affirmed you felt in that decision, in that call.

Laurie: Yeah. It felt like everything had been leading up to that moment and what I thought was _____ so that I can grow others and it can go a pinnacle in receiving that calling and then coming home thinking “I’m doing this no matter what.” It’s so obvious to me even though it’s so unknown. It cannot be bought. It’s so clear and so unknown at the same time. I think so the big picture vision is so clear and how to get there is the unknown but we find that one day at a time.

Andrea: Yes, yes, so true! Yes, I love that because you knew it was ahead but you didn’t know exactly what steps to take, what does it mean to run a business, and all those things. But that vision you had seems to be really motivating you to be able to keep your nose to the grinding and keep figuring that out even if you don’t know what’s next.

Laurie: Because we know the why. See I got my why that day in Orlando. The how is negotiable. The how doesn’t matter in the big picture when we’re connected to that why that’s what drive us forward. That’s what’s drive our influence is the why, our why.

Andrea: Definitely! Then basically you started this business and it’s kind of turned into what it is today over the course of a few years. Do you want to say anything else about that transformation of your business?

Laurie: I think what has been really critical for me in that and this is truly a main message I would love to emphasize to your audience is that it really takes the help and support of other people for us to find our voice however that’s expressed. If it’s in terms of business or personal things in terms of your relationship and the influence you have with other people in your life. I believe we can’t find our voice on our own.

So when things begin to get really clear of what I’m best at and what my business is most effective at doing and how it can meet the needs of the people around me that my voice is called to reach. That clarity all came from the context of being in relationship and connection with other likeminded peers and experiencing the benefit of really feeling support, and I’ll define support in just a moment, for people to help me clarify my own value.

We don’t understand what we’re best at or where we really shine because it’s so familiar to us. The same work I do with strengths. People don’t recognize their strengths or that significant because they’ve always been there. They’re so normal to them. We don’t realize that it’s exceptional to others. And so in the context of me being a participant in several masterminds with my colleagues and peers that are in the same industry really allowed me to get clear on what my voice can best accomplish.

Andrea: So what is that look like for you in terms of finding those other voices, those other people in your life that could give you that kind of feedback?

Laurie: I know. Isn’t that powerful that in order to find our voice, we need the voice of others? I think that’s so perfect of how we’ve been designed to need and really have to depend on one another but it’s a _____ to depend on one another. So what is that look like to find people? I think what that’s really look like for me and what I would encourage your listeners to consider as well is really finding the people that are willing to challenge you. When I began to experience this environment of support, I discovered that supporting one another doesn’t mean agreeing with one another.

Andrea: Hmmm yes!

Laurie: When we think of “Oh I support you in that,” or when we think of people supporting us, we think of kind of people maybe standing and applauding with us or celebrating us in some way and really _____ in a way that means they’re probably agreeing with us, encouraging us, and behind us sort of thing in what we’re pursuing. But what I have found as the strongest support that I can both receive and that I can give is the support that means I stand for your best, I stand for you. I stand with you, for you, and your highest good no matter what it costs me or what it cost you and being willing to really play all in on behalf of the best interest of others.

The support that I found has been instrumental to me really owning my voice of influence is embracing my role as a challenger. I feel like that best describes it where the best way I can support others and I encourage you as you’re looking for what kind of voice that could speak into you and help you define your message and your sphere of influence and your life mission. Who’s going to be willing to disagree with you or to risk your approval to speak your higher truths and speak into you and show you your best assets, your blind spots, and some of the other things that we have to have that outside perspective to do for us.

When I began experiencing that through this peer connection, I begin to grow faster than I ever grown before. It was truly and epic exhilaration of explosive growth when I had people and it’s a handful. It’s not multitudes that are willing to speak with us and be with us in our journey like this; it’s a handful of a select few that are willing to walk that road for us.

But I think in your heart of hearts if you begin to look around and see who you’re naturally drawn to, who inspires you in some way and being able to kind of mind what it is that draws me to them and what I admire in them and show me something I need to grow in in my own life that’s what happened for me is that some people that I admired were exceptional setting boundaries and being very clear and very direct in a loving way.

But that was radically different from what I’ve experienced or really taking a strong stand in letting their voice be expressed no matter how it was received when given from that place of care. But I realized “Wow, I’m admiring that in him because I need more of that in me.”

Andrea: Yeah. This is making me think about how really when we hear, and I’ve seen this in my relationship with you and my relationship with other people but as you have expressed a certain kind of style or voice, tone, or challenge; when you see that in other people and you see that there’s something in you, it almost gives you permission or you start to realize that you can do that too.

It may not be the same as the other person but I’ve noticed that for myself for sure that as I’ve seen that in you and other people, it’s just different things, confidence, whatever it might be that “Gosh, you know what, I could step into my confidence too.” And I think that what you’re saying about being in a community like that in an environment where somebody would be willing to push you and challenge you most certainly I can see how that would help the actual leader that’s involved and that put themselves in that position that they would then get some of those attributes for themselves as well where it awaken those in them.

Laurie: Yes, exactly! I think we all have people in our lives that support us in the traditional sense of love and celebrate who we are and what we do. But the rare jewels are those that are willing to tell us what other people either can’t see or unwilling to say. Those of them are the most meaningful relationships in my life in helping shape my voice in a way that nothing else could of those ones that are really willing to say the hard things and stand with us through that.

Andrea: And you know when someone is in a position of leadership, which I know that you’re working with people who are in positions of leadership, when they’re in that position, it’s very uncommon for other people to feel like they can or want to or want to risk that idea of challenging that leader in any sort of way. I can see how that would be incredibly valuable for that person to find it outside of their normal environment. I guess, by coming to a group like yours or the sort of community that you seem to be talking about.

Laurie: Exactly. I have two distinct programs right now and that’s really the sole purpose that were gathered together to be a group for women, women rising above the lies that limits us and helping us overcome those things that are holding us back from speaking and being our true authentic self and being willing to challenge one another in that. And a group for company leaders called Catalyst where again it’s a community thing. But what I wanted to share just for a bit though is about the process.

I love how you said “we have to give ourselves permission to kind of go there with people.” And I think giving myself permission to really embrace my role as challenger took a while. That was months in the making. It just becomes really clear in the last year. It’s been unfolding over the past year actually of realizing I’d always seen myself and this relates to what I shared a few minutes ago about the traditional way where we understand support.

I’ve always seen myself as the cheerleader and this natural encourager that came so easily for me and people really seem to appreciate and be inspired by how I could really instill belief in them through the encouraging words that just very effortless for me to give but very sincere and genuine. But when I began to recognize that there was a deeper part of me that was waiting to be discovered in this challenge or piece, it felt very unsafe initially.

And I really had to wrestle through “But I’ve always been a cheerleader” like I’m not sure if it’s okay for me to really stand in that place of what seemed to me, to conflict with celebrating and honoring who they were. So I’d always limiting beliefs I had to work out which is true in most cases. That’s why I feel like I’ve gotten very good at identifying limiting beliefs in the people I work with because I’ve gone so much practice on myself. Being able to hear the ways by limiting beliefs and talking about the things that we’re believing either on the conscious or unconscious level, but how I define this are really beliefs that limit our present ability and restrict our future potential.

So this belief I had, “It’s not okay to be a challenger like I am cheerleader. I’m nice. I’m friendly. People call me smiley wherever I go and they have my whole life sort of thing.” This whole persona that I had wrapped around that but was not going to allow me to tap into this challenge or piece of me that’s really the challengers where my true voice of influence is.

Andrea: Oh Laurie that is really cool and I certainly see that. When you talk about a persona that’s the kind of thing that does not come down easily, a persona is something that you know we really construct around ourselves that is there for a reason and can often…I don’t know be really painful to let go of. Did you find that for yourself that it was hard to let go of the ones so that you could embrace the other?

Laurie: It took probably at least six months of working on myself and just a lot of reflection, a lot of writing and processing, and trying to figure out what always going within me. A lot of conversation with my peers and working with my coach, a lot of conversations and really examining how I was showing up in my life and what things indicated where limiting beliefs was hiding or holding me back. But what I realized in that was that I didn’t realize…I thought the smile was me and it is…hear me on that, it is. When I smile, it is sincere. It’s who I am. It’s the expression of my DNA and all that I am.

I didn’t realize how much I was hiding behind it as well that it was actually, yeah to some degree this a mask or this persona that there was deeper truths inside me. But because I felt I had to maintain this smiley demeanor because that was who I am, right? And that’s what people expected me to be that if not Laurie starts poking people from a place of love but still poking them in the sense of calling them to more and saying “I disagree with that. You’re making an excuse for yourself there. You’re lying to yourself. You’re putting below your means,” whatever that looks like.

Yeah, that took a lot of work, internal work I’m talking about to be able to say, you know it’s grounded in care when my voice comes from a stand of love and they can see my heart in that. I have the power. I have the authority. I have the commissioning, the call to speak into those things that my eyes have been gifted to see and call forth the things within them that they can’t see in themselves, to call out those limiting beliefs and help them discover the higher truth. To be able to identify those things and to create new life in them by challenging their perspective or their way of beings so that they can become more and who they’re designed to be.

When I began to see that my heart _____ in that of calling them to do their best and helping develop their potential, it doesn’t always look like nice. But I don’t think any of us want nice more than we want growth and to really sense that someone is willing to advocate for our best no matter what, that’s where the real value is. That’s what my clients experienced with me. They say that means more than anything else. That they don’t find that in other relationships in their lives because most people have too many insecurities to allow them to speak freely and directly and fiercely like that. But you got to hear me; it’s from the grounding of love that allows my true heart to come forth and for it to be able to be received in a place that others see as a gift not a threat.

Andrea: Yeah that’s like the surgeons’ merciful knife. It’s not malicious. It’s what the purpose of destroying of building up and yeah…

Laurie: Yeah, strengthening.

Andrea: And restoring yeah. That’s really refreshing to have somebody come in and say “Hold on a minute.

Laurie: Yes. I think we’re all starving for those voices in our lives whether we realize it or not and that’s why they were so meaningful when I begin to find a few challengers in my life to be able to really experience the value of that and that gave me the courage to really be able to take my stand and own that that’s what my voice says “I am the challenger.” And as terrifying as it felt at first, it feels so free now. I’ve never felt more at peace with myself and more powerful in the sense that this is my purpose.

Andrea: I’ve really appreciated our relationship. I feel like we should share a little bit about just the way that we have interacted a little bit because I think that it could be really beneficial to other people who are looking for other people that they could walk through this journey with. And while I think it’s really beneficial to have a coach, it’s also beneficial to have peers. And so how would you describe our relationship in the way that we have pursued this?

Laurie: You are a priceless gift to me, Andrea. You have brought so much value into my life by you being who you are and freely expressing and generously giving your gifts through our conversation has been really key to me sharpening my voice, my clarity, my stand that I wish that for everybody that they would be able to find a peer, a friend, a true support. And I believe it takes time because I’ve longed for a friendship like this for a long time and someone that could really get me and that could hold all of me.

And you’re big enough, you’re great enough, you’re grand enough and all of your power to be able to hold all of me because for all of these influencers here, man, we have a big call on our life, right? I believe everybody on the planet has unlimited potential but they’re not all accessing it. They’re not all engaging it. They’re not stepping forward in an intentional way to do something truly remarkable, globally remarkable for that matter.

But I believe that’s your thrive, Andrea. That’s the people you’re attracting of this incredible stellar global leaders and I would say, keep your eyes open and be persistent. I’ve had to try on several different relationships to explore and see what space that friendship would allow me to have and I think we all are aware that we have different levels of relationships, different flavors of relationships in our lives.

But for you and I, I think we’re we both come together anytime we’re in a conversation or in experience together. There’s just such mutual respect for one another, such clarity on the great things that are happening now and the bigger things that are to come. There’s not a sense of competition or comparison I think that can sabotage relationships very quickly, but just this expectation that both of us are creating our own unique journey. And it’s going to look so differently even though we’re called to such similar things.

The way it’s going play out, it’s going to be very unique and individualized to us being able to come together to celebrate that and to show each other what one of us can’t see. And being able to just provide both kind of equal measure encouragement and balance, I think that’s truly what makes the recipe for a very fruitful intentional friendship. And wow, being able to also stay consistently engaged with that that it not be something that we know is there but that we’re not intentionally continuing to nurture.

And as you and I tried to be as diligent with getting together and catching up and regrouping and speaking into one another on a regular basis because a lot of life happens in between a week or two or a month. And when we can lose sight on the intricacies of one another’s journey, we have less leveraged to really speak into them because we’re less aware of where they’re at. So yeah, I’ll pause here. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you too.

Andrea: Yeah, that was such a great description and I want to highlight one of the things that you said the comparison and competition thing because when we first…well, first of all you were the one that initiated the relationship, I would say that. And I think what other people, an influencer listening, what you probably should take away from this is # 1 – you start out with figuring out what you have to offer somebody else because Laurie came to me and she said she had the strengths training that she was going through and she wanted to invite me to participate to take the assessment and to do a little bit of coaching with that and I was like “OK we’ll let’s try that.” So I feel like we’re really kind of started to take the turn, don’t you Laurie?

Laurie: I do and can I go back a little bit further than that?

Andrea: Sure!

Laurie: Sometimes, we really have to be diligent to pursue the people that we want bring into our life and be in relationship with. I observed you speaking at one of the Mocks meeting a few years, can you hear me?

Andrea: Yes!

Laurie: Prior to that, the message you gave spoke to me. And I thought “I need to meet this woman. She speaks my language. We are deep. We are likeminded. I could just feel, even though I probably don’t have all those words in that moment, but I just knew like “Hmm, there’s some rich connection here.” But you had a lot going on in your life and it was a matter of trying to kind of figure out, “How could I initiate some sort of friendship or some level of connection here?”

And it really required me coming to you, kind of on your terms, I guess might be the easiest way to say it. But then in the right time and in the right season, it truly blossomed. So don’t lose heart along the way. If there’s people you’re drawn to that you really feel or to be voice in your life and critical to you developing your voice, don’t lose heart. Keep engaging and yeah, I love how you said figure out what you can offer them instead of wondering what it could bring to you.

Andrea: You know, I remember you’re using that way to describe how you come into me in my terms before. You actually said that to me one time and I was like “What?” You know, I didn’t know what to do with that but basically what that meant was and practically speaking was that you joined my small group, those small groups that I was leading. And in that sense, it was like an opportunity to start cultivating that relationship and then came that moment when you were ready to offer…we had a relationship there but it just wasn’t the same as you know up to the notch, a few notches.

Laurie: Yes that’s true.

Andrea: And really, you came and started speaking into my life at the time when I really desperately needed it because I was in a frustrated mood of being because I knew and I felt that I had more to offer. But I did not know how exactly I was supposed to do that so you brought strength to me at that time and opened my eyes. Maybe the way that I thought that I was maybe wasn’t exactly who I am.

And so just as you found your challenging voice, I found my kind of strategic voice in learning about the StrengthsFinder and what I had to offer and thinking that I was supposed to be mostly empathetic and mostly helping to develop people when I started to realize that “Oh, I actually really able to see the big picture and know which way to head next. That was life changing for me and it also helped release in me the idea and challenge that limiting belief in your words that I couldn’t write. I really didn’t think I could.

You helped call that out of me and I could see that “Oh gosh, you know what, I do have what it takes to make a decision, to make a decision about what I’m going to write about and how to formulate arguments and whatever. I just need the time and space in my head to get it done.” So that was huge for me. I mean, that was the very pivotal time for me and we just kept going and going and going and going and going.

And another thing that really hit me about that was when we were first talking about this “What are we called to?” “What am I called to?” “What are you called to?” “How are we different?” Became one of the questions that I was really interested in answering because I felt like our messages were so similar, but yet I knew that we didn’t need to be competing with one another. So in my head, I knew that but at the same time there’s that like “What do we do with the fact that we’re so similar. What do we do with that?”

And so for me, one of the greatest benefits since then has been to really kind of dissect who we are and see that “Gosh, Laurie is so good at this and I’m good at that.” And the way that this message that’s very similar inside of us is coming out of us has so much to do with who we are in our gifting, in our strengths, in our personalities and that sort of thing, in our experiences and what we’re drawn to. It’s actually coming out in very different forms but yet so similar at the core so that has been super helpful for me.

Laurie: So there again in context of relationship and support of others, we get clear on who we are.

Andrea: Yes. Yes, yes, yes! OK so also practically speaking, I mean we get together maybe once every two or four weeks, I would venture to say. And when we do get together, it’s not for an hour.

Laurie: Yeah, a minimum of three hours.

Andrea: Yeah. And really, I think this is interesting too. We don’t talk a whole lot about our day-to-day lives. We don’t talk a whole lot about our families. We’re really concentrated focus on our personal growth and development of our messages, our voices, and our business which I think is interesting.

Laurie: Yes. It’s not the surface level day-to-day grind stuff. Yeah, I don’t think we really give any attention to that honestly. It’s the deeper things because that’s the rare gift we can give one another. Most other people in our lives don’t want to or unable to relate at that level.

Andrea: Uh-hmm. I think there’s so much value in both of them. I think about different people in my life who… gosh, we have such a different kind of relationship and I love them. I love them all but this is the kind of thing that when it comes to developing your voice of influence, if you’re wanting to do that, this is one of those relationships that you need to be looking for and pursuing like Laurie said and really intentionally pursuing it.

Laurie: Yeah. You can’t wait for it to happen to you. You need to go and create it.

Andrea: Yeah, so true! Do you have any other suggestions for people that are listening for how they could pursue other avenues that would give them those relationships like maybe they have a friend like you and I kind of have this relationship. Maybe they have something like that or maybe they don’t, but what other kinds of ways can people cultivate, find that support, and challenge in their lives?

Laurie: I think you need to enroll whoever is in your life currently with the fact that you want to grow and giving other people access to speak into you. If it’s a sibling, a spouse whatever that looks like or a boss for that matter, but when you can first make yourself available to being open and willing to receive that then you’re giving them permission to be their voice and inviting that to come into your freely.

As we look at our relationships, people probably, I don’t know what percentage of time there actually, honestly reflecting and expressing what’s going on inside of them with us. But if we take away those barriers of “What are they gonna think? Are they gonna upset with me?” Whatever that looks like even friends in a marriage if you’re able to say to your spouse “You know what, will help you see where I’m falling short?” Or “Will help you see the blind spot of where I can’t see that I’m getting in my own way?”

I just had an amazing conversation with my husband last night about that of sharing something I was struggling with and he said, “I tried to tell you that last week but you didn’t hear it you know.” And I said “Stay with me on this.” Sometimes, it’s such a blind spot. We can’t see it and it doesn’t resonate initially. But he persisted. He helped the course and now a week later, I had this incredible revelation that I really needed to be able to move me forward in a bigger way instead of holding myself back.

And so his persistence and then me celebrating that and saying “Keep doing this,” like even if it doesn’t seem in a moment like I get it or that I appreciate it or that it resonates. I mean that. I mean that and now I could see it. So I think we open a great door of opportunity for us and them. We’re open and willing and inviting it from whoever that looks like. Did that kind of answer your question?

Andrea: That was great! I mean, I was really expecting you to say something about finding a coach but that was so wise advice. I love it! You know, it reminded me about what you said earlier that when you went to the John Maxwell event that initial one, you were journaling ahead of time because what you like to do is you like to journal beforehand and expect something significant to happen in your life.

Really, it’s that opening up of your heart, that opening up of your spirit to say, “I’m ready to receive whatever it is that you have to offer,” and that is super powerful. Gosh, I just think that it’s a great way to wrap up what we’ve been discussing here because when you are open to receiving the challenge that somebody else has to offer, you have no idea until you experience it.

Even though it feels so terrifying because it might rock you at the core in the end, like Laurie said, she is standing more confident and free in who she is now more than ever before because she continually put herself in that position. I’m experiencing that as well. Oh man, so good. Love that. So Laurie, where can the listeners find you?

Laurie: My domain name is my name www.lauriehock.com and you can find me there. I am on Facebook as well. I have real joy realizing a great platform for my voice of influence in it’s infancy stage, but it still tons of fun, is making a monthly video where I share my latest class and insights of what’s growing and challenging me. But then I releases tools to be something significant that can challenge the growth in my email communities.

So you can go to my website and if you want to be a part of receiving those monthly videos, just enter your name and email address and I’ll include you in the emails that I sent out, the challenging messages _____ that would be appropriate. Yeah, I just want to celebrate and honor everybody on the line and be able to encourage you that in time you’ll find your voice. And it’s a lifelong process of developing it. I don’t think we ever end that quest. It continues to unfold and develop layers upon layers of more richness.

Andrea: Well, thank you Laurie for being here today. I will make sure that your website is in the show notes. You kind find those at voiceofinfluence.net or if you’re listening on iTunes, you should be able to just click right there in the show notes on iTunes. Remember that if you’re interested in continuing to listen to this podcast, please subscribe to wherever you listen to podcast. I also have an email list and you can subscribe there at voiceofinfluence.net.

I just want to encourage you that wherever you can find community. I tell you, I listen to podcast when I first started getting excited about growing my voice of influence. And for the past two and a half or three years that has been one of the biggest blessings for me and challenging me too. So I just encourage you to keep making your voice matter more.

 

END

Creating a Business That Frees People: Pacha Soap

Episode 18 with Andrew & Abi Vrbas

Andrew and Abi Vrbas are cofounders of Pacha Soap Co., a social business that creates delightful bath goods that do good. Together, their company and its customers are putting the solution in the hands of those most affected by WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) issues and the cycle of poverty. Give-away bar soaps are made in the very communities that they help, using local ingredients and local talent. Nationals are trained to manually drill clean water wells, creating jobs for those in-country and providing much-needed clean water to hundreds of people per well.

Andrew is CEO and passionately drives the mission and vision of the company. Abi is Pacha’s former head designer and marketing/brand manager. Together, they take on the co-founder role to help spread the mission and build relationships with customers, retail partners and mission partners. In their free time they like to rollerblade and bike ride to the local snow cone shop, fix up their 1890 home, and watch The Office together.

Mentioned in this episode:

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Develop Your Voice of Influence, Volume 1

I’ve put together this special PDF of 15 tips and strategies for emerging thought leaders and message-driven creatives from experts interviewed on the Voice of Influence podcast. It’s a quick win that will encourage, inspire and equip you to make your voice matter more. Read up, listen in and make your voice matter more.

Download it here.

Transcript

Hey, hey!  It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.  Today, I’m excited to share with you Abi and Andrew Vrbas who are the owners and cofounders of Pacha Soap out of Hastings, Nebraska.  They have quite a story.  This is a business with a purpose.  And so Abi is with us right now and Andrew is going to jump on in a little while.

Andrea:  So Abi, it’s so good to have you here on the Voice of Influence podcast.

Abi:  Thank you so much, Andrea, it’s an honor to be asked and have this conversation with you.

Andrea:  Now, Abi, you and I met when you were back in college at Hastings College and we lived there and I remember having a couple of conversations in particular with you.  So it’s been really fun for me to watch you and Andrew from afar and see this company go from zero to hero, truthfully in a few years.  And so I would love for you to share with the person listening what exactly is Pacha Soap?  What do you do?

Abi:  Well, in a nugget, we create engaging bath products that change the world.  So we create organic handcrafted bar soaps.  We have froth bombs which are similar to a bath bomb that you use on your tub and it fizzes but it also creates a nice frothy latte like foam in your bath.  We have some other Willy Wonka just really fun, engaging, and delightful products that we’ll be launching later this year.  So our products are super fun and super clean ingredients.

We use organic ingredients, well-sourced ingredients, and we have a lot of fun with what we do.  And then the part that changes the world is we have a mission to help with the WASH sector which is (water, sanitation, and hygiene).  So that’s a part of our mission, but really the root of our why for our company is we believe that business can free people.  So what we do is we help to create opportunities for people in developing countries through soap making and clean water well drilling.

So like I said, we’re helping with the WASH sector, but really it’s a vehicle which we can help others help themselves.  So water sanitation and hygiene is a huge issue in developing countries and the best way to help people with those issues is to allow them to be the heroes in their own countries.  Through the sale of our products, we’re able to help startup small scale soap shops in places like Burundi, Africa and hopefully some other places in Africa soon.

And we have a heart for South America as well, wherever the partnership leads us and then also providing jobs for clean water well drillers.  So these are well drillers who are natives in the country.  The team that we help start is called Intwari Drillers, which means brave drillers.  Yeah, they are local Africans who are helping other Africans have access to clean water.  So soap and our mission with the WASH sector is the vehicle in which we’re able to further our mission of helping others help themselves.

Andrea:  Wow that’s amazing! So how did you guys get going?  What’s the origin story of Pacha Soap?

Abi:  Yes, so Andrew was in Peru, South America in 2010 for a semester, he was going to Hastings College at the time and wanted to study abroad.  And during this time there in Peru, or I should say, he was a construction management and Spanish major obviously very helpful in starting a soap company.

Andrea:  Really?  That’s awesome!

Abi:  Yeah, so he was down there in Peru to further his Spanish and also he was volunteering with some construction projects.  But what really transformed him in his thought process was, he’s this Kansas boy, who you know hardly get any rain fall where we are but he goes down to Peru and then they get the worst flooding that they never got in like a hundred years or something.  So Kansas boy brought the rain with them to Peru.

Anyway, it was really terrible flooding and it closed off the train that went into Machu Piccu, which is the biggest tourists destination in Peru.  He just saw how fragile the economic system is in Peru that it was very dependent on Americans and Europeans and without things like Machu Piccu and other touristy places, their economy was just super fragile.

So he had this idea of starting a company that would employ local people for the local good, so it wasn’t again, not depending on other people for economic stability but being able to provide that within itself.  So then he was thinking and it sounds like it’s from a movie, but he was riding on a bus on his way to work.  There was a couple of hours bus ride to where he works for the day.  He was on this bus and he was reading a certain book at this time and was just really influenced by the philosophy and thoughts behind it and just thought “Oh, I could create a business that does good.”

And he said like there were tons of people on this bus, really hot and sweaty, there’s no air conditioning on it, bumpy road and he just gone through Peru and he got to this place that he’s going to be working for the day and just had this light bulb moment that he went into and create a business that could free people so then he got to thinking like how he could do that and soap was the vehicle in which he could do that.

So the great thing about soap is the ingredients are found in many places where there’s extreme poverty.  So things like palm oil and coconut oil and then even plants that can be distilled into essential oils are found in a lot of the places where there’s extreme poverty and then soap making also is a very simple process.  It’s been made for thousands of years.

You don’t need special equipment or lots of education in order to do it.  It doesn’t take any electricity or lot of funding to start a soap shop.  So he was thinking that soap would be a great way to bring jobs to people and country without saying “Okay, you need all these equipments to do it – very, very simple so that is the answer to why soap?

Andrea:  Did the soap thing just kind of come to him as well or did he did some research, do you know that?

Abi:  His very, very first thought was tea but then got to thinking of all the complexities of like bringing in tea to another country and then his very next thought was soap.  He has always been interested in fragrances.  And actually, he is able to join now so here he is.  This is Andrea of the Voice of Influence.

Andrew:  Hi, Andrea!

Andrea:  Hi there Andrew!  It’s good to have you.

Andrew:  Yeah, thanks for having us.

Andrea:  I was just asking Abi about your origin story for Pacha Soap and she kind of took us through the ‘why’ of soap.  But maybe you could share with us how you moved from your idea to actually turning it into a business, would you mind just jumping in like that?

Andrew:  Yeah.  Well, I think you kind of answered it in your question.  I’m just jumping in because, you know, there’s obviously people just talk about how difficult to start a business but I think, especially when you’re younger and you’re passionate about an idea that could change the way things are done, you just jump in and figure things out.

So we started really small scale with just Abi and myself just dreaming what the future could be, so just experimenting and learning and busying with people and spreading our idea around and I guess you just quickly learn how to do what you need to do, I guess.  So yeah, the specific recipe for us was definitely just jumping in and being passionate about what we’re doing and loving to create, yeah I guess that’s it.

Andrea:  Yeah.  The youthful naïvite was certainly playing in your favor.  I mean, why not just jump in and go for it.  It seems like the older people get the harder it is for us to start things.

Andrew:  Yeah, it’s like you don’t know what you don’t know and ignorance is bliss and all those things that you don’t know how to do, so you just kind of do it.  And I think the more that we can keep that as a part of our mentality sometimes, it’d be better off to be and so yeah.

Andrea:  I remember seeing pictures of you guys selling at Farmers Market or things like that, is that where you kind of started out?

Andrew:  Yeah that’s exactly right.  One of our most favorite memories from when we first started was when we’re in the garage in the house that I used to live in where the first soap shop was, we’re just preparing for Farmers Market for the next day and it was like the first time we ever sell our product and telling our story.  And it was just funny to think that that was while we’re both in college and it was so much fun.  I remember at the end of the night, we just ended up just dancing the music, so it was fun.

Andrea:  Oh that’s so fun.  We’re you guys dating at the time or what was your situation together?

Andrew:  Yeah, we were dating at that time but we didn’t start out dating.  We’re friends initially in school and started dating while we’re still in school.  I think it was like our interests were aligned and both loving to create things, be creative, and be innovative.  And we’re still learning about each other and we feel like we have each other peg down but then we’re learning something new about each other.  It seems like every day, like yesterday, we learned something that we both share similar traits and we always thought that we’re innovative but really like in taking that test that you sent over especially was kind of interesting to see how closely we did align.

Andrea:  Yeah, yeah.  Now, he’s talking about the Fascinate Assessment that I invite guest to take if their interested.  They both took it and they both came out with innovation on their top #2.  So yeah, that was really, really fun to see that I could see how that just really makes it easy even for you guys to take risks probably.

Abi:  Yeah, and it makes it a lot of fun to create together because like I was saying with our products, it’s really fun to innovate and think outside the box.  But also it’s our mission to think forward and have innovative ideas with our mission, it’s also super fun.  So we can kind feed off with each other in that way and I think that’s what kind of hold us move forward and starting a business is that you just don’t get down when you think about “Okay, we hit a roadblock.”  It doesn’t mean no, it means no for that but there’s another way around that.  You can make it work.

Andrea:  Yeah you can work around it.

Abi:  Yeah, exactly.  You got to figure it out someway and having a partner on obviously helps a lot.  It helps to be together because if you had to do that by yourself, I can see how terribly difficult that would be to approach those roadblocks with confidence.

Andrea:  For context, did you guys start the business, graduate, get married that sort of thing?

Andrew:  Well, it’s funny like when we actually first started the business, we used several start dates but really the idea came in 2010 but we officially started beyond just like Farmers Market and really got serious and hired our first employee in 2012 it would have been, but we used kind of like 2013 as our first or like our official starting of our company.  We got married actually in 2013 as well.  We bought our first house in 2013 so that was a big year.

Andrea:  I was reading in your website today too, was it 2013 that you guys got into Whole Foods?

Abi:  Yeah, it was.

Andrea:  That’s just huge first of all but it’s also just really so much has happened so quickly.  Even though I’m sure it felt like a long time from 2010 to 1013 that happened pretty quickly.  Did it feel like it took forever or were you feeling like it was clip in along at a pretty good pace?

Andrew:  Oh man, I guess both of us like we’ve lived a lot of life being 27 and 26, so it doesn’t seem like it was really quick.  But you know from the outside when people talk to us, it seems like it wasn’t that long ago but for us, sometimes like we show like we’re on our 50’s.

Andrea:  Old souls.

Abi:  Yeah, like the day-to-day maybe seems like a little slower, you aren’t moving so fast.  But then when you look at it as a whole, when you look back it does go pretty quickly.  I don’t want to take things for granted because you know we were really blessed to be doing as well as we’re doing.  So I don’t want to take that for granted because I know it is just really difficult to start things and put yourself out there and be vulnerable in that way.  So yeah, it does seem like it has happened pretty quickly but it’s definitely not all because we have an awesome team like both here in Hastings working with Pacha and also in the field working in commenting our mission.  It is way beyond Andrew and me.  We cannot be where we are without our team.

Andrea:  I have so many questions written down and floating in my head because you’ve got a really substantial thing going and there’s so many things I think that we could cover.  So one of the first questions that I want to ask at this point is how many employees do you have in Hastings?  What’s the team look like in Hastings?

Andrew:  We’re like around 40 people.

Andrea:  That’s crazy!  No, that’s wonderful.  It’s so great.  I mean, that’s a lot of employees.  That’s a big team.

Andrew:  Yeah.  It is.  We’re so blessed to have the team that we have.  They make the culture what it is and it’s just so much fun to work with the team that you respect and love to work with every day.

Andrea:  How did you manage going from just the two of you to starting to add people into your team who I assumed for the most part older than you as well.  Is that true?

Andrew:  Yeah, we’re some of the younger ones for sure especially in leadership.  I think the main thing when you’re looking to grow or bring people on is making sure that your core values are set and that your hiring based on those core values.  You’re living everything through this core values and so that’s something that we learned along the way just recognizing how important that is and making sure that everybody is onboard with those core values.

Andrea:  Do you feel like your core values were pretty set when you started or did they really develop as you kept going and growing?

Abi:  Yeah, I think like the fundamental purpose of our company has remained the same.  It’s just kind fine tuning how that’s played out on a day-to-day like how you write those core values out.  So I would say like nothing has drastically changed from when we first started but you know, it’s fine tuning it.  And one of the greatest things that we got to do with defining our core values is looking at all around and saying “Yeah, I really like about this person.  I really like that about this person.”  And then integrating those things that we are inspired by our team members and using those as guidelines in which we created our core values, so using our actual team as our guide for creating those core values or fine tuning those core values.

Andrea:  That’s really cool.  So you took a look at who was here and how they’re functioning and what you really appreciated about them and said “Okay, yes that’s something we wanna keep.”

Abi:  Yeah, exactly!

Andrea:  Wow!  There’s a lot of wisdom in that.  I wonder if you being younger when you got started might have had an impact on the way that you respected the people that were working with and for you.

Andrew:  Yeah that probably is true because we had a lot to learn.  I feel like when you’re not as full of what you already know and you’re more just like trying to learn and maybe it’s just more of a humble way of being a leader because you’re forced to be humble.  You don’t really know a lot and I think that’s something that every human probably struggles with and we all will struggle with to remain humble and have a learning attitude and learning mind all your life.  And that’s a hard thing I think probably for all of us because we get to a place where you know we feel like we know what we’re doing.

Truth is like there’s not one person that knows and has all the answers as much as our cultures kind of push towards and are looking towards that you know like “I wanna find the answer.  Just tell me the answer.”  Although, there’s lots of answers in solving everyday problems especially when you’re growing a business like there’s not one person that can tell you every move you make to grow that business.  Yeah, that’s probably a good point.  I never had really followed with that.

Andrea:  Well, I want to qualify my statement by saying that not every person who’s younger would have had that attitude though.  So while it may have helped in some ways you’re willing to learn like you said, it’s a quality that we should all be striving for life, for willing to learn from other people.  I love the respect that you guys have for your team and for the people of the world that you’re trying to serve and I think that that respect comes somewhat from that humbleness too.  I don’t know, it’s just seems really grounded.

Andrew:  Well, sometimes.

Andrea:  OK that’s good.  I love that.  Let’s keep it real, right?  So you also have the partnerships carrying out your mission.  So what are those relationships like with the people around the world, what do you mean by a partnership that’s helping you carry out a mission in Africa for instance.

Andrew:  Yeah, so like in East Africa, we have a couple partners that we work with both on the soap side and in the water side.  Those partnerships start with organization here in the US that we work with and then the mission enacted in the developing world and namely in East Africa, we work in Burundi.  But we also work in other countries through water nonprofit that we partnered with waterfall.org.  So yeah, we break our mission down into two basically like two ways of impact and there’s presale impact and post sale impact.

So presale is like before any product is ever purchased, how is our company having an impact.  And then post sale, once the sale is made then how’s our company having an impact to our customers having an impact with their purchase after the sale was made.  Largely, in East Africa, where folks come is after the sale of our products, we are helping to start businesses in both soap production and clean water well drilling.

And so it’s essentially soap and water – two very critical elements for development and for health sanitation and hygiene but it’s done in a way that is actually creating, self-sustaining enterprise.  That’s the piece of it that is really, I would say, it’s not necessarily the most important element because saving people’s lives with clean water like people have access of clean water obviously that has a huge impact.  If people are able to wash their hands and children namely in schools; you can see that that would a huge impact.

But I guess the reason why I mentioned the aspect of our mission to be considered really important and maybe most important is that the people themselves are able to provide the answers for themselves and we’re just the catalyst somewhat of an injection and not an IV you know.  And truly that business through clean water and business through soap production is the way that people are employed and that their business are able to flourish and grow on their own overtime, whereas, we just act as catalysts.  Anyway, that’s kind of how we partner right now and I guess it all comes back to our why in our purpose for being which is that business can free people.

So we look at a lot of issues that are related to poverty, the way we can help with extreme poverty that people are able to have their own economic freedom or economic independence because these people are able to provide for themselves then issues can overtime be diminished.  Like the people can afford to pay for education.  If they can afford to buy soap, if they can afford to buy clean water, you know lots of issues can be reduced overtime if people are able to escape poverty.   And really the only way that’s done in there in a long term basis is if they’re able to opportunities to do it themselves through business, through the Wealth Creation process.  So anything we do comes back to the fact that business can free people.

Andrea:  It sounds like when someone is talking about social justice, there’s one-on-one charity kind of like “Let me help you with this thing.”  Or there’s the systemic change that happens and it sounds like what you’re talking about is wanting to provide not only that bar soap to save somebody’s life but the systemic change by giving them that opportunity to be empowered to have their own income and everything that’s really, really exciting.

Andrew:  Yeah, they’re both okay you know.  Sometimes, there are people who maybe would be really staunch and say “No,” like there’s no place to give anything because you’re creating dependence.  I understand that because I’ve seen it, we all have it.  We’ve travelled in the developing world and that’s not good.  That is not empowering.  But at the same time, sometimes I want to say like “You know there is a place to give things and that’s okay.”  It just has to be very limited and it has to be in a way that is not creating habit-forming dependence.  It’s something that it can be done in a good way and it’s not like always a bad thing to help.

And we see it firsthand with like the World Food Program for instance like children coming to school and for some of them that could be their only meal that day.  So in that way, children are able to receive education and come to school because they are being subsidized a free lunch.  I would say that’s not a bad thing.  Obviously, the better thing would be how can we have, you know that food is coming from the outside, how can more acres be converted into small farms for the parents that overtime maybe our food can be purchase locally like obviously that would be better.  It’s process and a transition so there’s a place and time.  We definitely like to focus on both of those things but if it’s not creating self-sustaining jobs then it’s probably not a long-term solution and could be creating more harm than good, maybe.

Andrea:  Interesting.  So what is exactly is your role as Pacha Soap, what is Pacha Soap’s role in Africa?  What do you actually provide?  Are you providing the funds?  Are you providing the training?  What all are you providing?

Andrew:  Well, we provide funds so we kind of act you could say as an initial customer for well drilling team, for soap shops, say help to set up soap shops.  We provide some advice in how to do that but then we’ll be that initial customer so we’ll buy soaps from those teams initially and that soap is then given to schools in the surrounding area for children for hand washing.  All the while, those teams are growing their own sales with different soap products so that overtime, those giveaway bars could be transferred to another soap shop that could be set up and the process can start over as established team sales increase.  So that’s the goal and same with clean water.  So Pacha as a company funds those operations and it’s essentially the first customer through subsidizing bars of soap and clean water wells that overtime will leave in a established teams that can sell products on their own and be self-sustaining.

Andrea:  It seems like there’s so many different plates spinning, how do you guys manage your time?  What percentage of time are you working on soap and sales and stuff overseas, and your mission, your message?  How do you guys decide what your roles are and how to divide up your time?

Andrew:  We go by the system called Traction.  It’s a book and it’s really been helpful process with our time up, but honestly, I think that the main thing that helped us is having an awesome team.  We can’t really stress out enough because as much as somebody might say they’re so awesome like it’s a team to do anything.  So I think the real answer to that is the fact that we just have a team that handles so many things and does it so well and has extreme ownership over of what they do and so that’s probably it.

Abi:  Yeah, it’s hard to balance your time because you want to do everything but you know, you can’t do everything and that they’re actually people who can do that thing better than you.  So knowing what to let go and what to still maintain for yourself is a hard thing to kind of figure that out.  But like Andrew said it’s just the team that we have that it’s a well-oiled machine.  There’s always new things to try and things that we’re currently doing that could be better or different but we just have such a great team that’s willing to jump in there and may use the word ‘scrappy’ a lot.  We’re just part of that sort of mentality and we never want to lose that no matter how big our company gets or how many years its life is, just having that scrappy mentality of saying “It’s just a road blocks” but yes we can get pass those barriers and do that together.

Andrea:  So as cofounders then since you guys started and everything, I would imagine that quite a few people that are listening to this podcast or people that are dreaming about starting something or they feel like they want to live a purpose-driven life.  They want to feel like their message is a part of what they do.  So I’m kind of curious about how you guys work together as a couple?  Was it hard when you first got certain and kind of got going to figure out who was in charge of what or was that pretty clear from the get-go or did you have any road bumps?

Andrew:  I think we worked pretty seriously like at the beginning and on.  I think as we grow and things got more complex in some ways that was a little bit more challenging because you had more people to the equation then you have to split up tasks way more.  So there’s always some more roadblocks or road bumps there but I think it’s just a constant learning thing.

Abi:  Yeah, it is hard as life partners and business partners finding the balance between how you spend your time.  When you’re at home, it’s impossible to not talk about work because you’re passionate about it and it’s a big part of your life.  And then at work, it’s hard not to talk about your personal life because it’s your life so there’s that overlapping.  We really tried to keep those two things as separate as possible because it’s too different mind frames.

When we first started out like that things showed we’re both innovative, so I think that was really good to help kick-start something new.  But individually, I graduated with a degree in advertising and public relation so kind of marketing and had some experience with graphic design.  So from my tactical standpoint, I was able to help with the marketing side of things and help create the graphics and different visual elements.

And as we progressed, I started understanding what it means to build a brand which that’s a monster in and of itself so that’s kind of like where I had my focus.  And Andrew had such a passion for the vision of the company and just always reaching for how can our mission be better and just dreaming of those ways in which it can happen.  It’s cool to be able to look at each other’s strengths and appreciate how each of those strengths helped build the company.

Currently, I have stepped out of my marketing role and I’ve taken on more of just a cofounder role and that has been a big transition for Andrew and me personally.  It’s just the decision that we made together that we’re both just thriving so hard in the day-to-day in the company so it was easier to continue that.  If someone is in the boat and the other one is drowning, it’s a lot easier than both of you drowning together.  So yeah, it’s a partnership and it’s give and take and it’s having grace for one another and don’t know within the next few years are going to look like so just being willing to hold life with open hands is really important.

Andrea:  You know that’s funny because I was going to ask you what’s in the future for Pacha Soap?  Do you have a vision for the next few years or is it something that you are truly just going day-by-day or what’s that like for you guys?

Andrew:  We have lots of visions of what it could look like but the main thing is how can our mission be amplified, so how can we framework people?  How can that be the heart of every decision we make?  So whether it’s new products that we launch or new categories that we’re in and new channels of trade like the way in which we’re bringing products to people, it will all lead back to how our mission can be amplified and how people can be a big part of that.

I guess it’s not really a specific vision but that’s such kind of the way it’s looking.  A lot of ideas of how to get there but it will definitely just take time and the right people who are also believing in the overall mission and message that care about, not only a business doing well and having an awesome product that people love, but also caring about what that product represents.

Andrea:  Yeah.  So when you look to make those decisions, do you knock on doors and just see which one opens or how do you know what next step that you’re going to take in the moment?

Andrew:  Usually that, yeah.  Usually just researching things and trying things out, asking a lot of questions, and talking to people you know that’s kind of how and like big decisions are met is trying some things out and asking a lot of questions before we move on something.

Andrea:  What advice do you have for someone who is kind of in that dream stage where maybe they feel like there’s something on their heart or maybe they’re in that position where Andrew you were on that bus thinking “There’s got to be a way to help.  There’s going to be something that I can do.”  Do you have any parting words of wisdom for these influencers who are listening?

Andrew:  Yeah, I think just have fun.  Ultimately, it’s just got to be something that you like.  It’s not every element you’re not going to like and that’s maybe why a lot of business fails because there are these things in starting a business that aren’t as much fun.  But if overall what you are passionate about or what you’re doing you like it too, you like the people you’re with; I think that’s the biggest piece is of just being real to yourself about what you like or what you love to do.  I think it’s also about why you’re doing it, so just asking yourself these questions.

It’s different for every person but the advice for somebody like myself is just to try it out.  There’s nothing stopping anyone from really accomplishing whatever they want to accomplish but you just have to be willing to stick with it and push forward.  And I would say the other biggest piece is don’t be afraid to learn along the way.

I don’t feel like you have to figure it out all in its entirety right away because you probably won’t and your idea might shift for the better.  Your initial vision might be one thing but maybe you’ll figure out a way that could be even enhanced and just don’t be afraid to learn.  That’s probably the biggest piece that prevents people, they feel like they need to have it all figured out right away.  But you can figure it out as you go along, as you’re able to learn all the way.

Andrea:  That’s a great point.  Abi, do you have anything you want to add to that?

Abi:  If you’re going into business with your life partner, just try to communicate and have grace with one another.  If you’re doing it on your own, look for people to support you through it and be vulnerable with them and don’t lose heart.

Andrea:  Well, this has been a very short 45 minutes but I am so thrilled that I could share you with my audience that we could learn more about what it meant for you guys to start something.  And you’ve taken it so far and I know that it’s just going to keep skyrocketing because just the humility that you bring to it and the willingness to take risks to listen like you mentioned and to not lose heart like you mentioned, and to communicate like you mentioned are so important.  And so cheering you on from over here and looking forward to seeing what Pacha Soap does to change the world in the future.  Thank you so much for your voice of influence in the world!

Andrew:  Yes, thank you for having us!

Abi:  Thank you so much Andrea!

 

DOWNLOAD Develop Your Voice of Influence, Volume 1 here.

Perhaps It’s Time to Stop “Leading” and Focus on Influencing

Episode 14 with Dr. Neal Schnoor

The concept of leadership is a good one, but is it possible that we’ve turned it into a list of behaviors we “do” in order to get people to do what we think they should do? Dr. Neal Schnoor, Senior Advisor to the Chancellor of UNK, presents an interesting proposition to focus on influence, rather than leadership.

In this interview we discuss:

Connect with Dr. Neal Schnoor here:

 

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher

 

Dr. Schnoor provides counsel and assistance to the Chancellor relative to the comprehensive executive portfolio. He is a member of the Chancellor’s Cabinet and Administrative Council and serves as UNK’s chief compliance officer. Previously, Dr. Schnoor served as Dean of the School of Education and Counseling at Wayne State College. For thirteen years prior he was a member of the faculty at UNK, where he held tenure in both the College of Education and College of Fine Arts and Humanities and served as Coordinator of K-12 and Secondary Education and Director of Bands. He has published articles in state and national journals and presented papers at state, national, and international conferences and served as a higher education representative to the Effective Educator 2020 Summit and on Nebraska’s statewide committee for developing state teacher/leader standards. Dr. Schnoor is one of only a few individuals to have been elected President of both the Nebraska Music Educators Association and Nebraska State Bandmasters Association and he continues to present clinics and leadership development sessions for students and educators. Dr. Schnoor earned PhD and MM degrees from the University of Nebraska Lincoln and BFAE from Wayne State College.

 

Hey, it’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast. I am honored to have Dr. Neal Schnoor with me today. When I first decided that the premis of this podcast would be helping creative leaders develop their message and their voice of influence, there were a few names that immediately came to mind as people I want to interview and Dr. Schnoor was one of them.

I met him at the University of Nebraska, Kearney when I was a music education student and he was the director of bands. And he also taught a secondary education class that I was in and it really felt like that secondary education class felt a lot more like a life leadership kind of class. So I gained so much from his influence and I loved the way that he communicated and it just seems to resonate with me.

 

Andrea: So today, I’m so thrilled to have you with me on the podcast, Dr. Neal Schnoor.

Dr. Schnoor: Well, Andrea it’s just a thrill to catch up with a former student and find the wonderful things you are doing to help people and to see your life unfold. That’s the best part of being a teacher. It’s sort of like being a parent; you get to watch your kids grow up and it’s just a pleasure.

Andrea: Well, thank you. Now, you’re not a director of bands of UNK anymore, what is your position now?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: So currently, I serve as the Senior Adviser to the Chancellor for executive affairs. While I was band directing, I got involved in teacher education and kind of did both of those things and then have the opportunity to go back to my alma mater, Wayne State College and served as the Dean of Education and Counseling and then I’d been back in this role for about five years now.

Andrea: So what all does this mean that you’re a Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, it’s sounds like right hand man king of thing, it’s that kind of description of it?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It is and it’s a little hard to describe to people because it just sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. But in general, I work with strategic planning, compliance. Chancellor refers to me as this crisis manager, so I can get some of the sensitive, legal and personnel things, just really trying to help the executive team here function best, and think short term and long term. So every day, is an adventure and that’s what I love the most.

Andrea: Are you in a classroom at all now?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Not very often, although, I still try to do at least one honor band every year and I’ve probably stayed more active trying to do leadership. I just love working with teenagers and we’ll probably talk as we go on. I’ve almost gotten to where I hate the word ‘leadership.’ I’m really more into influence and helping kids, not to get sidetrack at the beginning, but to help them deal with the anxiety in that process because I’m just seeing them what are college students here, adults or high school students, their level of anxiety are so high. So I try to work that in as well.

Andrea: Oh yeah, we definitely need to get into that. But before we go there, I’m excited about that.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: I sidetrack you are ready, didn’t I?

Andrea: No, not at all. You know, I was thinking today again about how…I just cannot help but go deep fast. I invited you to take the Fascinate Assessment®, which you haven’t heard of before, and you did and it was so fun to find out that you and I are so similar in our voice.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: But it’s really interesting, isn’t it?

Andrea: Yeah, so the two things that come out on top are Innovation and Power and they’re just flipped for you, Power and Innovation which is kind of a language of leadership. But you don’t like that word, so I love that you don’t like that word, you’re ‘going to tell me more about that later. But I suppose, it’s a language of influence then willingness to share your opinions and guide people and then innovation is creativity. So you come out as like the Change Agent as what the thing says and so the archetype is. So I’m wondering what was your impression when you found that out about yourself?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, my first thing is I ran it across my filter, my wife, Theresa, and I showed her those things and I said “Do this described me for better or worse?” And she said “Yeah, most of them. That really is you.” I’ve never gotten too hung up on it but as I read those descriptors, I really did feel like they fit a lot of aspects of what I hope to do. Some of what I do in this job, again for better or for worse is just to ask good questions. I think that just, is there another way to do things? Are we looking at all the information? Are we considering people’s strengths and weaknesses and things like that?

So the word probably caught me, you have to explain it to your listeners better but the word power kind of took me aback because I don’t want to be authoritarian. I think I explained in our class one time, that that’s how I started teaching. I simply was demanding and, kind of my way or the highway, and the kids taught me pretty quickly that there were a lot better ways to engage them. So tell us a little more about power, Andrea, what that means?

Andrea: Yeah, I was definitely taken aback by that word too and that was my exact experience is that I think I have this natural bent towards telling people what to do, which is not a form of real influence. I mean, you can tell people what to do and try to get them to comply with you, but that doesn’t really change who they are in the inside.

So I really struggled with that word as well. But at the same time, I realized that for me, when I looked at it, because I didn’t want that, I pulled back in some ways where I wasn’t sharing as passionately or intensely or whatever as maybe I could in a way that was not. I guess in a way that’s compelling instead of, I don’t know what’s the different word, yeah authoritative.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, instead of drawing people in, it can kind of turn them off. And so I think sometimes in our passion, some people misread that as maybe even arrogance and so on. So yeah, such fine lines in there.

Andrea: I always considered you to be very powerful. In this more positive way, your voice is that way and when I say voice, I’m talking about your style, your tone whatever. I mean, it’s confident.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yes. You know, one of the things I was thinking about, Andrea, and again this can go a lot of directions, but you had kind of talked when we initially visited about have we always had this voice, or have I had this voice? It really made me think really hard about something we’ve talked in class as Stephen Covey described to as secondary traits people have a hard time seeing that. And the more I’ve developed, the more I think I’m finally catching up with where we really are, our intellect, our passion, charisma, and communication skills, those were actually all secondary traits.

And I guess one way to understand that as he explained it, those are things you could lose. Say you had a traumatic brain injury, those things would go away. But the essence of who you are is still the same and will hopefully .. a little bit but some people call it the soul or consciousness or those kinds of things. But the real challenge for me is that I think I’ve always been able to use those secondary traits that I had to influence other people, where over the years I’ve tried much harder to get at the “But am I doing it for the right reasons?” Because you know, there have been a lot of leaders who have all these leadership skills that we’ll talk about.

And if you go down as I often talk in my leadership presentations, I’ll ask the students when we set lists who are your leaders and always was positive ones. But I’ll draw them to figures like who are some other leaders that who really had these skills very powerfully and some horrible leaders have had those skills that even Adolf Hitler had all these leadership skills what’s missing? Well, we might argue consciousness. So yeah, have we had this voice? I think so. Have we always used it? Well, that’s another therapy session for me I think.

Andrea: That’s the reason why I love the idea of developing one’s voice. Yes, we have a style or we have these secondary qualities that you’re talking about. We have even a message and things that we’re wanting to share but then it’s really important to take it through a process of development that edits the message and turns the voice into a tone that is compelling, that is drawing in and inviting instead of pressure and that sort of thing. Who have you read or what are some of the things that you have encountered over the years, beside your students that you’ve already mentioned, that have influenced the development then of your voice.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, you know, it’s interesting. And we may work into faith but my Christian faith has been strong throughout my life, and yet I think as all people are aware the stronger that is probably the more you question it. And to me that’s always actually a good sign, but it is interesting. I started reading a philosopher, his name is Jacob Needleman, and what attracted to me initially is his efforts to put together Judaism, Christianity. He looked in Hinduism and so he’s looking for some central truths, so to speak. And I just like his voice, his message, and how he looked for rather than differences similarities.

And so that kind of led me looking for things and lately, I’ve really, really found Michael Singer’s work to be powerful, a book called The Untethered Soul. It kind of profoundly moved me to look more at that consciousness. And I’ve shared it with family members, nieces and nephews and they’ve all found it to be compelling. There’s another one called, The Surrender Experiment, The Power of Now is a very strong book and then different things I just looked at these universals and what I’ve gained is somewhat say that’s leading away from Christianity, it’s actually kind of reinforced that stronger.

So I guess digging, you say, you like to dig deep. For me, it has been a real challenge just because of my nature to quite the voice in my head. So I was drawn to your voice because for about the last four or five years, I have tried to really identify with it’s not a false voice, but our thinking minds will think around problem. And if we allow it to do that and where are psyche in it’s kind of overactive, freaked out way to constantly talk in our head.

If we can identify those for what they are and realized where the consciousness within that perceives those voices, that perceives the emotional state where in, then those things quit running our lives and instead, we simply fully experience each moment. And we know that we’re the one watching even though we might be sad, even though we might be happy that’s not us. That’s just something we’re experiencing.

Andrea: How does that tie in to your message about anxiety?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It’s actually the major point. We really do talk, you know, our psyche to put ourselves in touch with it, that’s what I think Singer talks about it really eloquently which is, you know, for hundreds or thousands or millions of years with these biological creatures for a great period of time, the psyche kept us from – it’s that hair on the back of your neck that told you a bear was coming and you reacted. Most of us don’t have to fear for our physical safety walking to work in the morning, and so we kind of set this psyche, we’ve given in a different job which is to really kind of fuss about how we feel all the time and it just talks to us if you hear it.

The best example I always give to kids is that’s psyche and your thinking mind, if you pass a friend in the hallway and you say hello and they ignore you, just pay attention to that mind “What did I do? I didn’t deserve that. What’s wrong with her today? Oh my God, I’m so stupid. I bet she’s mad because I didn’t call.”

It’s everywhere. If you start listening to it and paying attention to it then you see that it’s not going to solve your problems, it presents every possible option that’s out there. And if you become aware of it and simply watch it, it’s amazing how much power you have to not live in that reactive state.

Andrea: So watching it is the answer. Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah. Just watch it; do not get involve with it. If you do, it will suck you in. I mean, we’ve all done it before. So for instance, it could seemingly a silly example but we spent 90% of our lives in that silly example. My wife is quiet. My mind starts working. I wonder what I did now. I wonder if she had a bad day. I wonder for something I can do to help. All of those are not bad in and of themselves but that’s just are thinking mind. And if I sit back for a moment and say “Wow and how’s that making me feel and some of those things?” I’m less apt to say, “Well, what’s wrong today?” It’s just amazing how reactive we are, not even fully reading.

So back to the example, then I ask the kids the person passed in the hallway and your mind is going a thousand miles an hour and 15 minute later, your friend comes back up and says “I think I just passed you in the hallway but I get a text and my pet died, I was really busy.” And all of those negative thoughts that we wasted 15 minutes crucifying ourselves didn’t even need to happen.

So much a more proactive responses might even be to give them a little space or simply to follow them and say “Hey, just now I said hello. Is there anything happening with you or something?” You know, it’s just more proactive ways. It’s been a journey for me for five years to see how frequently my perceptions, attitudes, emotions, thoughts, or mood can negatively affect a reaction. It’s not about me. My job here is to solve problems or help others find their solutions to their problems. And the clearer I can be and the more I get my emotions out of it, the more help I can be to them.

Andrea: That is so true. I think there was a time when I realized that…I mean, I’m sure everybody kind of goes this at one point I hope, but when you start to realize that not everything is about you, people’s reactions are not necessarily about you. It’s hard a thing to swallow at first because when you’re a baby, everything is about you.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah!

Andrea: And then as you start to realize that other people are having other experiences that are unseen. And you may never know about, you may never understand what’s going on inside of somebody then the question for me became “What do I have to offer them?” Instead of “What do I need from them? Do I need them to tell me hello? Do I need them to acknowledge me?” Or “Do I have something to offer them instead?”

Dr. Neal Schnoor: You know, Andrea, it’s along those lines reading your book and we could talk about that for an hour. I so enjoyed that, but one key thing that really hit me is that I got to know you better. I realized I was interacting with you every day and had no idea what was going on in your mind. You know, we get so focused on, well it’s a class and…

I perceived whether you might be understanding a concept, or you read your students to see if they have a performance look. But we frequently looked true life either assuming or not paying attention but there’s a whole consciousness in every person we talk to and we’ll get very complex. You know, it hit me very powerfully and wonderful reminder for me.

Andrea: Thank you. I think the other part that’s hard is me knowing that I have so much going on in my head. It’s easy for me to assume that other people have a lot going on inside of them. And I think that one of the hard things for me is to say, it’s okay if I don’t know and to let people just have their experience and not need to be a part of it that inner experience. I don’t know if that’s very common but…

Dr. Neal Schnoor: I think so and the other piece there is you talk about, for instance my work here in this current role and what a slippery slope it can be. I mean my job in some ways is to be problem solver. And so I find a world of difference in a very slippery slope between problem solving and helping people come to their solutions or help them find some that are inevitable. And doing that for the right reason which is to serve or that slippery slope  because 180 degrees worse I derived my value and sense of worth and it strokes my ego to be seen as the problem solver.

It sets a challenge I think in all of our lives that we identify with our roles, and yet, even the most noble “service” we do or the donation we give, do we give it in the spirit of true for giving. The right hand doesn’t know what’s the left is doing, although we do it to stroke our own ego to feel better about ourselves that we’re a “giving” person. I find that to be a dilemma I’ll continue to wrestle with for my life.

Andrea: I agree. I think that that’s something that is, especially for people as we have both described ourselves to be, we care about that motivation. Sometimes, it can be tempting to like you were talking the voice in your head and it can be tempting to analyze that and pick up that part so much that we don’t end up offering what we have to offer them because it feels, am I doing this for the right reasons? And it can become that cycle inside of the head that’s just like “Well then maybe I shouldn’t offer that at all.” What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, that’s interesting. My first reaction there to what you said is absolutely, many of the things that I share aren’t that place of consciousness I’m talking about, it’s my mind. There are wonderful instruments. I hope anyone that listens doesn’t think I’m negative about that or think that “No, that’s the beauty of it.” But our greatest asset can be our worst weapon, and so that constantly thinking, I mean, Singer’s book made me just sits back. And he describes it in this early chapter that he was just sitting there and you started listening to this.

I mean, when you first do it, you will be amazed that it’s just an incessant noise in your head. It is a voice that constantly talks to you and we can so identify with it. Don’t get too involved, just watch it. It’s a notorious flip-flopper like I did the example in the hallway. She did that. He did that. Why is that? I’m so stupid, I mean there’s the self-blame and self-loathing comes in then it would be followed up almost immediately if you watch with “Oh but I have the right to do that.” She’s just unfair. She’s unkind and that’s not right.” It’ll switch to righteous indignation. It’s just everywhere.

So that’s our thinking mind and it’s not bad. It’s not trying overtly to harness it. Honestly, both in The Power of Now, I think that’s where it’s presented and in Singer’s book most directly, I’m sure many, many, many other excellent resources. Just notice it and don’t get involve in its energy and overtime you become quieter inside. And the quieter I can be then I’m tapping into that ability to think beyond my history, my own perceptions.

Honestly, Andrea, I see it in myself and maybe I’m just the scoundrel out there. But we really build up a veritable wall of our mental perceptions how we think the world should be. We even have a belief system and some of those beliefs, we don’t question very often and then we turn around and either judge ourselves or judge others based on not reality, just the reality that we’ve created of how we think the world should go and often how the world should go just to make us happy. It gets really, really complex but my take away and what I’ve tried to do is to be quieter. These things happen and I think we touch the Divine in those moments of quiet.

Andrea: I’ve recently, and when I said recently pretty much since I don’t maybe last few years, and I think that this is part of when I was trying to accomplish with the book has explained this change at least the start of the transformation of me being so in my head starting to realize that I could let that go. I didn’t have to or I guess like what you’re saying engage with it. When I get stressed out now, I think what I end up doing is, I see things that happen. Like the dogs, the dogs get into the trash.

This happens quite frequently at our house and I feel attacked. I’m like “Uh these stupid dogs,” and start to get really frustrated inside and then I start to realize that I’m doing that. “What service is this to me?” Like these dogs could care less what I think about the fact that they got into the trash. Only it’s doing is making me more frustrated, burning these pathways in my brain to negativity and victimization and those sorts of things, which puts me in a position where I end up being more bitter or irritated or whatever. I have less of the things that I really want to offer my family. I have less of that to give.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, it does. I love that example because we often think of such things and we’re going to change the world, but the dog knocks over the trash is so immediate. I mean, you just nailed it. Why did that hit your stuff so to speak so hard? Well, one reason is because you’re busy, you got something else to do and you got to go clean up that trash. But really, it goes that step further to think for whose mental model thought they could set the world in a place the dog wouldn’t knock over trashcan and that’s what we do.

We, literally every day…we don’t even have control of our own thoughts and emotions many times, and yet we project that and think somehow we can influence and control other people’s thoughts. And there’s a whole a lot of consciousness that work in there, but yeah, what a great example. Those things still suck me up, you know, like “Oh man, I don’t wanna go clean that mess up.”

Andrea: And what’s funny is that Aaron will try to tell me, “Andrea, they’re dogs” and try to tell me that “that’s what happens.” In which actually this makes me think of something that you’ve said before in that class that I ended up writing about a couple of years ago because it was burned in my brain. Well, what you said in class was “don’t you dare yell at the kids in your classroom essentially, don’t you dare yell at them for your lack of classroom management.” So I’m thinking about how Aaron would say to me, “these are dogs. This is what happens and probably we should have let the dogs outside or something instead.” But now, it feels like “Okay, well, I’m gonna look it that way then it’s my fault.”

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Oh I see, yeah.

Andrea: So how do you balance that you know just sort of saying “Well, I could have let them out. I guess, we’ll let them out next time and not let emotion get tied with it,” or what would you do?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, I mean that’s certainly one thing right there because there are four different directions we can go. But if I think about those and I’m going to tell on myself here, so I’ll sound like and might be a little arrogant first but then the next part will come. So one of the things when I do presentations, the best comment I like and especially with the young teachers, one of them come up and say “Oh, it was so good to hear that someone like you had those problems.” They feel like and we often listen to gurus, we seek out all these resources and we think that person has the answers.

So now, to tell on myself, why could I tell the class with such genuineness and honesty and seemingly know-at-all-ness these because I’d screwed it up for three years, because I had gotten mad at students for how they were acting when I realized that had I done my sitting arrangements the first day, so they knew what to sit. Had I spent the first day or week even if needed to be to explain to them what my expectations were or behavior for how to enter the room so that we could maximize…again, the end goals, some people think that’s a power trip. No, I wanted to maximize every possible second of making music, and I didn’t want to waste it scolding a kid or whether they needed to ask for permission to use the restroom.

So all of those discipline problems, that hundreds of thousands of fires I put out every day or simply a matter that at the beginning I didn’t think through of a set of procedures and explain my expectations to those students because I still believe, sure I was a willful child and I broke the rules and did things like that. But in general 85% of kids will do 85% of the things you asked them to do, simply because you clarify and didn’t ask them to do it.

So that really resonates with me but not to miss that fact that how do we know this? I tell my kids all that or “How do you know how to get around there? How do you know not to drive there?” Because I did it and I blew up my tire and I had to learn the hard way. So yeah, part of it, you would go back and say, “You and Aaron must go out and buy a trashcan with a lid on it,” because you might say…you spent this whole psycho analysis of “Why does it bother me so much that the dog knocked over the trashcan and it shouldn’t bother me. Haven’t I grown up that these things don’t hit my stuff or whatever?” And the solution is perhaps, to buy a trashcan with a lid on it, you know. It’s kind of fun.

Andrea: So first of all, it’s such a great advice about the classroom management.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: About trashcans.

Andrea: Yeah and about trashcans. I knew this is going to happen, you know that right? Anyway, it’s a joy to be able to talk with somebody when you do kind of speak the same languages and that sense that we’re talking about before. And I think anybody, no matter what your style is, it’s just easy to have those conversations with people they’re kind of like you. I want to go back to what you said about why you’re able to share that message about classroom management with such conviction. Now, you hesitated, you didn’t want to use the word power, but I would say that was powerful.

When you communicated that we shouldn’t blame kids or yell at kids for our own lack of classroom management, it was an incredibly powerful statement. And I want to suggest that maybe it’s because like you have said, you could speak that because you would experience it. And I would call that a redemptive message. I would call that, you know what, this is something that comes out of your experience of either pain or messing up, whatever it might be.

There was some sort of transformation that occurred that got you to a point where you could say, no that is not the way. And then it comes across so authentic, genuine and powerful because it is born out of that pain and that experience that you had previous. I feel like maybe that is where the power really comes in. And I say power again as we’re talking about before I guess. It’s powerful because it comes from that place.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, and I think we’re unpacking again that word power, gave us both pause, but I like where you’re going with it. I noticed my power wasn’t being smart and what I knew about classrooms. My power was learning from experience trying different things, being able to share that with you. And I think hopefully the other message that came across is you all have unique gifts and some of what I do may not work for you and some of what you do won’t work for me. And so it’s kind of aligning with those elements of ourselves that are authentic I think.

Andrea: I think it also helps give us permission to not look at those difficulties that we face, the struggles that we’re having with so much, I don’t know and feeling like it’s a catastrophe. Because then when we do experience that pain and that suffering that messing up essentially, hurting other people or messing up yourself that there is potential to turn that into something really beautiful in the end.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely!

Andrea: And so when we’re in the middle of it, though maybe we need to feel the weight of it, there’s still hope.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely! I’m so glad and just like you said, I knew that something would come out that we weren’t thinking. And for me is how many times you’ve mentioned and what a great topic that I think we avoid and that’s pain. And in general, and this is very general, we tend to either look at the past and cling to those things which we should not do that led to joy. We want to feel good and we reject or repress pain.

And so it’s a hard step for some people but we should experience pain fully. And when I said to be quiet, I’ll use the phrase, I haven’t use it a lot but I used it a lot is to sit with pain, is to sit with joy, sit with jealousy, just be present with it. Don’t try to change it. Don’t judge yourself. So when I get back of that, I know it’s going to sound freakish to people but the answer is not to try to fix it. They answer is to get quiet simply experience it. And really, most people who have done any kind of meditation, always talking about meditation. Yeah, I am but a lot of people meditate with the purpose of becoming a better person and you’ve missed the point already.

It is a process that can happen and will happen by itself if you’re able to sit with, and I hate to say it but people think “You’ve lost your mind, dude.” But sitting with pain, pain is part of life. I don’t want to not experience part of my life but then to bring in that other piece we talked about, so we start building these mental models. And here how dangerous it gets, people think it’s Muslims versus Christians.

I grew up in a little town of Nebraska and there was literally sort of a philosophical and almost we don’t talk to each other. We certainly don’t date each other between Lutherans and Catholics. We’ll find ways to differ if we allow ourselves to and so sitting with these experiences of pain and not building these walls of our concepts. Because as soon as those walls get hit, we experience discomfort which leads back to that word, anxiety which causes us pain. And if we repress those, it’s not good. So just sitting with it, just recognizing it that this is just something I’m feeling. It’s not me.

So my big message to students, if you looked in the mirror this morning and saw your face and then you had plastic surgery tomorrow that totally transformed that face, would that be the same you in there that’s looking at that image? And they get that. They connect with that. Is it the same you that’s sitting there, that’s experiences pain as well as joy, as well hurt? It is unless we allow our emotions to be us, and then we’re simply bouncing all over the world wishing that would make us happy. It’s tough. It’s really tough to not get involved in that negative energy.

Andrea: I like the idea of… like I don’t want totally separate myself from my emotion. I like the idea that my emotion could still be an indicator of what’s going inside of me or who I am as a person, and yet that I could ground that in something deeper like observe it like you were talking about. But then run it through, you know, ask myself then what do I really believe about this.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yes. I’m really with you, Andrea, because I think I could negate that. It’s a human endowment. Well, as we talked about with learning, if there’s an emotional tie in, people learn. If it’s a purely academic tie in, they tend not learn as well. So I guess it’s just flipping the onus. It’s the you that experiences all these things, but you are not just what you experienced. There’s a level of control. So here’s the simple one, the next time the dog knocks it over, instead of going right it, my thinking mind kept this and I’ll say “Well, go buy a trashcan with a lid on it.”

You might spend two minutes simply going “What part of me is so bothered by that being knocked over.” It would be an interesting two minutes. I don’t know what you’d come up with. I guess that’s where us going with leadership and not lose that way. We go out and we talk about having charisma, having passion, discipline. What are some other ones, Andrea? Great communication skills.   Those are all secondary traits. Where do we have to go to find that core that allows us to be disciplined?

When I’ve had a disagreement with my wife, it affects my mood. I sure hope people hear when they come to me, don’t think in their mind “Well, don’t go to him today, he’s in a bad mood.” We have to be deeper than how we feel at the moment but that is not negated all of sitting with those emotions and what they teach us. Does that help a little bit because I don’t want to say the emotions are childish and we should get rid of them?

Andrea: Right, I do think so. I think that’s good. So when you were talking about leadership then, you’re saying, we don’t want to…I want you to explain this leadership concept here before we go. I want to understand what your distinction between leadership and influence.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Okay and this is maybe just my hang up, but as soon as something becomes a $10 billion cottage industry, I get fearful. So I’m telling you if you want to make money right now, if you’ve got a shlick thing and you go out there and tell them, you know, great leaders are purpose driven. I have nothing against purpose driven leadership, it’s good. Okay, so the real challenge is finding your purpose because it’s the most searched for. So anyway, that’s just a silly example probably shouldn’t be used because that’s way more in-depth.

But 90% of time when you go to them, they talk about this secondary traits. We have to be more confident. You have to be firm but approachable, communications strategies. They’re all good. But how are you able to come to a place where you’re able to truly open up and listen to what another person’s saying without already trying to solve their problems. So where I’m going with that is, I started thinking less about leadership which implies, you are going to go out and do something that move these other people and try to bring it more inside, “where do I develop that inner sense of right and wrong of consciousness, of awareness of openness to the needs of those people?”

I rarely see those presenters get up and start and say, “what are you hoping to get today? Where are you at your life because it will be all over the place?” And I used the word carefully because I don’t mean to their deep concepts that are quite superficial. If you just tell somebody, “You got to be more positive.” “Oh people say, that’s it the power of positivity.” Well, what is that mean when you just lost your job or your child is sick? There’s another powerful book out there that I didn’t talk about called the Prosperity Gospel. There’s a very dangerous that a lot of people and this happens to be Christianity but I put it in leadership. They go out and say, “If you do these things, you will not only be successful but you’ll be rich.” Not true, not true. I mean, if we take at the core as a Christian, Christ, was he happy all the time? Was he rich? Did he have a nice house?

It so subsumes to me the gospel and what it really means which is to find that internal presence, that connection with the divine moving. It doesn’t matter if you’re sweep on streets or president of the United States, it influences us. I’ve often thought, maybe my role here is not the work I do. Maybe my work was to be a good dad to Graham and Graham is going to do something in the world that’s transformation or maybe he is the transformational figure. And I was simply the support network or the training ground.

So I hope that’s not too vague of an answer, but to me when you go into leadership, too much of it is about do these things and you will be successful, win friends and whatever rather than, you need to get in touch with yourself and be really authentic about that and really think about what success means for you. If it’s having a nice car, nothing wrong with that necessarily but you find out, you buy that new car and a day later, you’re just worried about the payment you got to make. That’s a rumbling answer, I apologize.

Andrea: No, no. You got me thinking. I find that I also tend to shoot for the being of who we are instead of a doing and I’d like to talk about that. I’d like to figure out why we do the things that we do and all those sorts of things. The difficulty I find is that in communicating this message of being an influencer versus doing leadership, it’s easier to communicate how to do leadership. It’s easier to say, this is the path because when you’re talking about becoming an influencer, you’re talking about things that are harder to pin down.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It really are, and I think too and not in a bad way, but we often project this out in the big thing, changing the world. I’m ever more challenged to be a positive influencer just in my own home and in one-on-one relationships. I find it much easier to go out and say motivate or large crowd and not one-on-one. Sometimes it’s really hard to explain this but I think that’s the importance of your work because all around this, I think I’ve seen it on your website so much, none of this stuff can we give to someone.

We can only hope to inspire them and get them on a path, but for instance when I talk about solitude and taking the time to think to realize this becoming you’re talking about or I might have called it consciousness or awareness or enlightenment as good Buddhist would call it, you have to do it. No one can do it for you and you can’t read it in a book. As a matter of fact, one of the favorite things I’ve heard, her name is Pema Chodron, a Buddhist priest who said “Quit looking at this library of resources, just pick one and do it.”

I think there’s tremendous wisdom. I go to a lot of workshops and good friends of mine “Have you read this? Have you read this? Have you read that?” I’ve actually slowed down my reading in some ways and I tried to pick a few that resonates and go deep and try to really do what they say rather than just being able to go out and say “Here’s what you can do” to experience it myself in some way.

Andrea: Hmmm, because when you experience it then you can offer it in a different way than you could before and then you could if you just learn it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely! Well, the other thought Andrea, and I don’t want to interrupt where you’re going as you think through this, but I think we’ve also given ourselves, our mind that says but also our emotions and our sense of who we are. We’ve given ourselves an impossible task. We have said to be authentic, we have said to be open and all those things and yet we’ve given ourselves the impossible task in our mind, we want everyone to like us. And so you want to talk about another one. None of these things I talked about as in either/or.

When I interact with people and I get feedback from them that can lead me to “Oh Neal, you’re being a jerk, you need to stop doing that.” So it’s valuable feedback. At the same time when you’re authentic and you share your voice and you say it very passionately and openly, there will be some that not only dislike you but truly hate you because they disagree so passionately with you. And to be comfortable with the fact which I’m not yet, it still hurts me especially if I offended them in some way.

But we’ve given ourselves the impossible task. We’re going to be a mother or a father and my wife is going to like this because of what we do and people will all like me. There are two different people and they will like and dislike different things. So we struggle with it and if anyone has answer, I’ll be tuning in to your future podcasts. But anyway, we have to surrender to the fact when we thought through well and we’re confident in who we are without offending or judging or hurting other people, simply speaking that truth with our authentic voice is going to make us some enemies or at least cause some people to be aggravated. The best compliment you could ever pay me is when you said I made you think. If I did that, please don’t say “I’m gonna do what he said.”

Andrea: Right and that’s what I look for in their leaders. That’s what I look for people to have influence. They have more influence over me when they get me thinking than if they were to tell me what to do and I went out and did it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, yeah. I agree.

Andrea: Yeah because when we really integrate that into who we are and we apply it, we think through it and we decide, we start to become that, you know. Maybe we move in one little step in that direction where the person was trying to lead us. But that’s more powerful than it would be to just put on whatever they told us put and doing it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Uh-hmm, absolutely and staying open to the influence of others. Obviously, there are some bad ideas out there for people. On the other hand, we are snap judgers. We often look at something that they tell you and say I either like it or dislike it. It’s just what we do. We categorize traits if you think about. Again, let’s take it out of the realm of psychology and the incredibly complex human. We walk down the street and say I like that kind of tree but I don’t like that kind of tree. What’s wrong with just letting the tree be a tree? Why do we have to label it?

Well again, it’s not psychosis but we just have a tendency to build these mental models of how the world should be and that’s our likes and dislikes and even our beliefs. Just to take a step back and say “I can just appreciate that tree,” rather than say “I like the color of its leaves.” Yeah, if you catch yourself doing these simple things, I think you’re on a good path that many traditions have pursued which leads believe it or not to some really, really deep understandings. But if we jump to “How do I solve this problem myself?” And “Why I’m aren’t getting better at this?” Or “Everything is gonna go well.”

I know when I’m near where I can sit quietly for 30 minutes. Sit for three and then tomorrow, it’s four. That’s growth. Many people set health goals. I just experienced it myself. I’ve workout for three weeks because I got this nasty virus and it’s driving me crazy. But if you start a goal and you get sick and then you don’t exercise for a week, often that’s all it took for us not to start. And so we get dissuaded very quickly. So it’s a journey. I just love folks like you for taking the time to help us think through that.

Andrea: Oh yeah, I feel the same way. Okay, so Dr. Schnoor, if anybody wanted to engage you in conversation about this or invite you to come and speak to their teachers, their students to do a band workshop, where could they find you.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Where they can find me at schnoorn.unk.edu or I got a Gmail account, schnoornealatgmail.com, LinkedIn, Facebook. Again, to me it’s that interaction with other people, I would love to talk with folks about this.

Andrea: Awesome! Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking time to do this and this has been just a great conversation for me. I love just the fact that we could dive in so deep, and hopefully, there are people out here, the Influencer listening that maybe even us digging in-depth like this makes them feel less alone, because I think it’s hard to think about things like this and feel like you don’t have anybody to talk to. So thank you for engaging with me and engaging with the listener.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, it’s a pleasure, and Andrea, if you ever get the chance in the future if somebody, I’d love nothing more than somebody call and say, that guy is full of it and I’d love to talk again.

Andrea: Yeah that would be fun.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: This could sound condescending, but I mean it with all good thoughts. I’m just so proud of you, the work you’ve done and to catch up with you and to see the journey you’ve been on since you sat in that classroom. Well, I won’t say how many years ago. We won’t give our age or what, but the work you’re doing is so important and I thank you for it.

Andrea: Thank you!

 

 

Finding Convergence Between Your Calling & Career

Episode 12 with Josh Erickson

For the past 20 years, Josh Erickson has been utilizing his experience, intuition, and insatiable drive for success to help transform businesses and teams into champions. After being proven successful in his own ventures, his innovative methods have expanded in reach, helping institutions like FedEx, Catholic Health Initiatives, and the University of Nebraska take their employee engagement and team collaboration to new heights. His ability to navigate the cyclical patterns of human behavior, coupled with his dynamic and personable presentation style have established him as a pioneer in his field, paving the way for emotional and professional empowerment in collaborative environments, large, small, and everywhere in between.

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Transcript

Hey, this is Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast. I’m really glad that you’re here with me today. And today I have a fun guest. His name is Josh Erickson and Josh and his wife, Nikki – we, Aaron and I knew them back, I don’t know what was it, 10 years ago or so and when we’re living in the same town. Now, we both moved away from that town and we haven’t really kept in touch. I’m really looking forward to hearing from Josh about what he’s doing with his business, Team Concepts. 

Andrea: Josh Erickson, it is really good to have you here today!

Josh: Hey thanks, my pleasure to be here.

Andrea: Let’s start a little bit with maybe where you’re at right now and then we’ll go back and find out how you got to where you are right now. So what is Team Concepts? What is this business that you have?

Josh: Well, Team Concepts is a consulting company. Basically, we work with all size of organizations to improve employee engagement organizational proficiency. We really believe that in order for an organization to be successful, everybody needs to lead. People need to take ownership and they need to figure out how they can lead within that organization. And we have a phrase that says “When everybody leads, everybody wins.”

And so we try to help organizations build the team where everybody is leading. And in order to do that, we need to understand personalities, styles, profiles, and the different leadership components of any group. So we worked with athletic teams. We work with, obviously businesses, schools, with the high schools assemblies; middle schools assemblies, teachers and services. We work at nonprofit organizations and just any organizations that require teamwork which is pretty much everything.

Andrea: So true. So I know that you have been always doing Team Concepts, so why don’t you take us back to kind of…I guess, I’d love to hear about where you started out and how you’ve gotten to this point right now. So what were you doing when we met you guys like I don’t know, was it 10 or 15 years ago?

Josh: Yeah, 2003 or 2004 I suppose. I’ve always done Team Concepts on a part time basis and that is ever since college. I really got into this idea of team building in order to be a more successful coach. I was a wrestling coach, so just figuring out how to get my team to collaborate together and to develop leadership with my team because I know if I could just get them to lead themselves, it really just made my job easier. And so I started practicing different methods and investigating

But the whole time I was coaching wrestling, I taught school. I was a youth pastor. I started a nonprofit organization and I really give my life to public service, different groups, and being involved. But I always did this team building stuff on the side. And then about eight years ago, I really started a sense of change in what I wanted to do, obviously still serving the community but probably from a more influential role. I felt like my overall community influence as a youth pastor or somebody, ministry, or nonprofit was minimal.

And I really want to have that ability to impact the whole community with the things that I felt and the way that I see the world. So I realized, in order to do that, I would have to be a successful member of the business community also. My wife and I started dabbling in some different business ventures trying to figure out how we could really just kind of gain influence in the community. And we knew that it had to be from a financial aspect that we just had to be seen as successful.

So while I was doing Team Concepts and doing these other things and I also started doing investment properties, flipping houses and some commercial properties. Then we got into a restaurant business and started several restaurants and owned and operated. At one time, we were doing 13 restaurants at a time and then when the opportunity presented itself, we started getting out of that.

And four years ago, I had to say just kind of pivotal moment from myself. I just realized “You know, instead of Team Concepts, and teambuilding being my hobby, this is really what I wanna do. And I wanna run it like a business not as a hobby.” So the business experience that I’ve gained from the construction and then the rental property management then the restaurants, I just started applying that to Team Concepts. I thought “You know, I’m gonna put a budget together. I’m gonna put a business plan together. I’m gonna start advertising and will start marketing and really solidify the product offerings that I have for different organizations.

And so I would say that that journey is what’s that kind of led me here. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I didn’t know that it’s what I wanted to do until I went through some other things. And it’s been unique because I find myself in a very influential place for a definitely a lot of organizations especially my clients. They allow me a lot of power when they hire me to come in and work with their employees and work with their staff and help lead and guide their organization.

Andrea: I find this really interesting because I think that there are a lot of people who do have that heart. They want to be an influencer and so the gravity towards those… I mean, the two things that you were doing beforehand, teaching schools and being a youth pastor, and being a coach those are really great ways to influence people. But like you were saying you kind of had this. I don’t know, did you just feel it like a deeper call? Did you just keep feeling called to more, how did you know?

Josh: Yeah, I think as I matured and just had more experiences in life, you know, I used to believe that I have the best ideas for kids and how they should look their lives and had the best ability to influence them. And so when I was younger that’s young in my professional career that’s really all I saw myself doing. I supposed as I gained experience and just life grew, I started realizing that I wanted to impact, not just kids, but I wanted to impact the city.

We started a nonprofit organization in 2003, called One City and that was a city-reaching organization to really empower people to take responsibility for the condition of their city. As I started doing that, I just realized that there’s only so much influence you can have as nonprofit which is great. It’s a great influence but yeah, I just needed more. I really felt like even governmentally like I had ideas and things that I wanted to be able to share. And not just share through a letter or not just share through an empty, you know, a blank stare from somebody who didn’t respect me. But I really wanted to gain the ability to speak government policy to political institutions to the business community.

And I didn’t want to counterfeit it. I didn’t want to find the way in. I knew the only way to get there was to really get involved in business and feel the struggles. You know, we got some successes and we’ve had some failures. And we had to make some really hard decisions when it came to the cost-benefit ratio and the return of investment. The experience gained in running my own businesses and having the employees has really helped me feel a big part of society. I can emotionally relate to people at all different levels.

I know what it feels like to be a teacher. I know what it feels like to be a government worker. You know, I was a soldier in Nebraska Army National Guard. I remember that feeling and then I also remember the feeling when people started to perceive us as successful when we bought a bigger house and we drove nicer cars. And when we started to do that to feel the different perception of how society feels about us, it’s just different. And to live the experienced life on both the sides where people perceived you as not successful and then the other side when people perceived you as successful or at a higher social status.

I don’t think you can really empathize and lead effectively. And so through the process, I’m just thankful for the journey that Nikki and I had been onto, to really understand where people were at and how to influence people at all levels of socioeconomic status.

Andrea: You know, just personally, I always thought that it wasn’t good for me to try to gain different kind of status in society or whatever. You know, I almost thought that being in ministry or having that kind of mindset that I shouldn’t try to get people to perceive me in a different way. Does that make sense?

Josh: Uh-hmm.

Andrea: Did you ever feel that way? Or did you just kind of…

Josh: Yeah.

Andrea: I mean, was that a struggle?

Josh: You know, I would say the first part of our marriage in our life; we never officially did it but we kind of talked about poverty that we were not going to be successful for the sake of our ministry because we didn’t want to make anybody believe that we were any better than anybody. So we lay that aside, although, it’s kind of funny because Nikki and I, we’re just very gifted people. And I think that they led me out of that realizing that I have the ability to be way more successful with even very little effort than a lot of people do. And it’s not because anything I did. It’s just that the way that I see the world, people find value in.

And so when I expressed it and when I used the intellect and the lens that I see the world with, it adds value to people. And for me that’s really what influence is, is the ability to add value in a simple way to other people because we can be influential over our children because we add so much value but that’s not really scalable. I mean, I have five kids but I don’t think we can handle another one because they’re so time-consuming.

But when we started talking about influence, it’s really the ability to add value or even to have the perception of adding value to somebody’s life. And when you can add value to somebody’s life, you have influence over them. And to have that the scalable model of influence in order to grow in your ability to influence others, you have to add value with your words. You have to add value with your ideas.

And because you can add value to tens of people or maybe even hundreds of people physically, now you can share, you can invest in them. You can be one-on-one with them or you can help meet their physical needs or even their emotional needs. But in order to really have them influence on society, on cities, on a larger organization or even worldwide influence, you really have to be able to add value with your words, your thoughts and your ideas.

And I think what led me out of or into this next season of life, it’s not even out of anything but is when I started to realize that my ideas and my words were influential no matter what audience I got in front of. I used to believe that they were just influential for kids. Then I just had some opportunity to speak to larger groups of people, adults, and I got the opportunity to speak to some politician and through some different experiences. And I just started realizing that every time that I had the ability to voice my opinion that it’s influential to people at all varying levels.

I just realized that my ideas, my thoughts, my words, add value to people at varying levels. And for me to stay at one place and just say this is my position would really be kind of robbing me of my destiny and maybe robbing God of the glory that he deserves who created me the way He did. He put ideas and thoughts and creativity in me in order to really live out my destiny and live out my purpose in life. I have to expand that and see how much influence do I have and what platform can I build to just share my ideas and my thoughts with the world and how far would they reach.

And now that’s where my goals has changed in life is to see how far this voice that God has given me can reach and see where He wants it to go and how He wants it to look. And in that Team Concepts as a platform I’m using right now, because I just seen more and more difficulty for organizations to really build a solid team to understand the concept of teamwork as we deal with, especially with multigenerational organizations, the lack of communications and understanding between the generations as we lead in a world we’re leading.

A generation of people that in the baby boomers that really believe in positional leadership and authority that you respect authority for the sake of authority and we’re entering into a generation, the emerging workforce generation does not believe in positional authority. They do not have a respect for any title or position. They have respect for people who show them respect.

Then we have this organizations that are really struggling to find the balance of “Okay, how do we attract or retain new people to our organizations with this multigenerational concept, and how do we have the influence over different generations all at the same time?” And it really requires some skill, some understanding but I really believe that I developed the system with Team Concepts that’s easy to remember, easy to use and that can benefit organizations of all type.

Andrea: Wow! Yeah, that’s a huge need. I find myself being a person who resonates with the younger generation maybe, who wants to be respected and have a hard time grappling with or putting myself into this position where I really appreciate positional authority if you will. So I find that a very personal thing. Do you have any suggestions for people about how to communicate with somebody who really just wants to be respected not just told what to do?

Josh: We did them look at the life experience and the quality and just what life is teaching people in each generation. So it take the baby boomers, you know, they were born shortly after the depression. Their parents lived through depression and they were taught that if you don’t work, you starve to death. They were thankful for the opportunity to work and they were also thankful for education because anytime they got out of school, it didn’t make any difference how boring school was or what was being taught, it meant that they didn’t have to work.

So school and education was just so much different because it was either “Oh if I’m not here working on blackboard then I’m gonna be digging potatoes.” So it’s obviously was a much better thing to be educated. So the teacher became the one who is the one who got them out of this work. And the teacher was seen as a hero because their position of authority that they had was automatically respected because it was an improved quality of life but what they’re being asked to do, right?

And so anybody who was in a depression or let’s just say a boss then, let’s say this baby boomer got his first job, well they remember that if we don’t work, we don’t eat. That we’re going to starve if we don’t eat. So that position was being shown to automatically give them respect because it improved their quality of life. They gave over the influence because the title alone of being a boss meant that “My family is not gonna starve or I’m not gonna starve.”

And so positional authority, those people had influence because they were adding value to life. And so the switch is comes over the last two generations is that work no longer adds value to life. So it’s not a direct comparison because nobody remembers or nobody thinks that we’re ever going to starve, that we have to do these things. And so I think about teachers now instead of being respected automatically, they’re giving a classroom full of students that could be playing video games or doing some incredibly fun but instead, they have to be sitting, they’re listening to them.

And so the difference in the educational environment and the culture is just…I mean, you can’t even compare them in how they grow up. So what we have here is people, the older generation and baby boomer generation that they’re in a position of leadership right now. They believe that “I’m adding value to your life.” They believe that intrinsically where young people come into a job thinks “I’m adding value to your life; you’re not adding value to mine. I showed up to work today.” Obviously that adds some value and neither one is wrong.

That’s what people realized is that nobody is wrong. It’s just as our culture has emerged and changed and we transformed into a much more prosperous culture, there’s a negative and positive consequences. Obviously, we don’t want anybody to think about starving because it’s not fun. But fear-based motivation is effective and it does work. It’s not where we want to live, but it does work. But now, we’re trying to motivate the kids and motivate this emerging workforce just from a compensation package.

Well, compensation really doesn’t even work either because you have to find the way to add value to who they are as a person. And I would say that the baby boomer generations never even dreamed that finding convergence. They didn’t care about convergence, they just wanted survival. And if they found more than survival, they were thankful and they work harder to start giving extra and to start allowing their kids to do extra and then their grandkids to do extra, to do more. So it’s the very fact that they paved away for people to do more that has led to the change in culture where people automatically thankful. People are automatically appreciative of a gift or appreciative of an opportunity because they have millions of opportunities.

And so this idea that everybody can come into the environment and just know how to get along is ludicrous, because it takes a lot of thought and it takes a lot of skill to navigate that all the different world views that are coming into the workplace right now, because they’re so opposing. It just really becomes important to understand that “You know what, if you don’t know how to navigate, they said, nobody is wrong.” And they can’t throw us aside because it’s people world view. It’s how they experience life and experience culture.

So as far as like for me automatically, you know, I’m in between and if somebody who automatically wants respect because they’re human being or because they have a title, they’re both right. Everybody deserves respect, but it’s how you give it, how its felt. And so with the emerging generation and I really just try to focus on what I’ve already talked about here today and it is how they add value by being just who they are. How do we help them find convergence as quickly as possible because obviously, the younger we get, the less patient people are too.

You know, I’ve got a millennial employee who wants to find convergence in his 18-months in. He’s like “I’ve done convergence this life’s over.” I was like “You know, it was a 25-year process for me to find convergence.” And my father and my grandfather didn’t care and didn’t even understand what convergence was. They didn’t care because they were just happy not to be starving. And now we have a next generation who’s trying to find convergence and they understand it even if they don’t have that as their title. It’s what they’re looking for that ultimate value satisfaction and stuff. But they want it quickly and so there’s just a lot of balance there.

Andrea: I love hearing your thoughts on this. It’s definitely something that I’ve thought about as well and the idea of having a voice of influence and one of the things I say is “Your voice matters but you can make it matter more.” And it sounds like we’re talking about both of those things. It’s like yes, inherently, you matter inherently you add value. But at the same time there is a perception and putting yourself in a position where people are ready to listen to you is different.

How did you get to this point where you had built yourself this platform where you could speak, where you did have the opportunity to speak to people in all kinds of different scenarios? Was that something that you also set out to do or did you just find yourself in these different positions and the doors just kept opening up, or how did that build for you?

Josh: Yeah. Whenever I try to build my platform, I fail. Whenever I just try to look at the world and see where I can add value, my platform grows. You know, the even flow of economics, there’d been times when my families has been in need and I really thought “Man, I really need to build my platform and need to get out there because I prosper financially when people want to hear what I have to say.” But it just that never seems to really work for me. So how I’ve grown more than anything is just really looking at organizations, looking at people and start really giving away my advice for free and just see how I can add value and then build rapport with those people and that’s where my clients came from and referrals.

And I’ve got several from advertising also but the majority of the clients that I’m working with have just been because I care about their organizations and I really want their organizations to succeed. And I thought, “You know, I got these thoughts and ideas that I believe can add value to you, do you think this is valuable?” And we see if there’s a mutual beneficial situation there. But I would say more than anything, my platform has grown just when I observed the world around me, organized my own thoughts about it and then share those thoughts in a way that I believe that’s right to the people involved and that’s really how it’s grown.

Andrea: Uh-hmm, so it’s that been mostly in person? Have you done much building online or is it mostly been in person?

Josh: Yeah, all in person. Yeah, one-on-one phone calls and personal. Obviously, you know after our little staff this morning trying to get this thing done that I’m not very tech savvy guy, so I don’t… I barely uses technology for any of my platform.

Andrea: Well, it sounds like you don’t have to because you have that natural ability to connect and the desire to share what you’re thinking and what you’re learning. I mean, that’s powerful in it of itself. I asked you before I noticed that you’re strengths finder coach, Gallup’s strengths coach, is that right?

Josh: Yes.

Andrea: So do you want to share your top five for anybody that is listening.

Josh: Yeah, I’m a big fan of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. Yeah, I was part of the second class they offered when they decided they were going to outsource their coaching and I let other people from outside their organization get certified. Anyway, my Top 5 – my number one is Activator. My number two is WOO, which is Winning Other’s Over. My number three is Maximizer, which means nothings ever good enough for me, and number four is Strategic, and number five is Self Assurance.

Andrea: Hmmm, I mean it’s just sounds like you to me, especially after everything that you just described in your story and everything. Of course, I have a pretty good idea of what all those things are but that activator, that desire to get people going, right?

Josh: Yeah definitely.

Andrea: And the WOO is being able to easily connect with people and draw people in. I mean, all those things together I think are really just powerful combinations. So do you think that you’ve always been all those things? Have you seen that in yourself since you were like a kid?

Josh: Yeah, you know, seven on my top 10 strengths are in the domain or the category of influencing others and this is what my life is has really I think always been about. I tried to be great athlete, but I wasn’t that great. I was good but not great. I was an amazing coach. I was a much better coach than an athlete and I think that’s kind of been my life, my skill sets are, not that outstanding in an out of themselves. But when I have the ability to activate other people and when people around the cause share ideas and get people excited, motivated, and organized around an idea or concept that’s when I really get to add the most value.

I kept talking about adding value because I believe that’s the source of all influence but great things happens when people get to add value by being who they naturally are. And that’s when you start to hit what I would call convergence in your life or the switch part of your life is when you get to be who you are and you’re adding value to a lot of people. That’s where influence really starts to increase exponentially. And through strengths and through self-evaluation processes, I just realized that what I bring, I had energy and ideas to any organization. But I don’t add a lot of work value. I don’t add a lot of hourly value for the stuff that I do. I can do those things but it’s very minimal value that I add.

But when I have the ability to share ideas, when I have the ability to encourage and motivate and get a platform to set an objective and tell people why it’s important to  objective, that’s when I have the ability to really be influential at the highest capacity and I love the idea of convergence where you find the thing that you love to do, that’s your passionate about and that becomes the thing that you’re able to provide for yourself and your family through.

And I think that’s what I’ve been able to do through Team Concepts is I’ve created a platform where I just going to be myself. I get to add value the way that I add most value to an organization and be the most influential. And it’s now the way that I’m providing for my family. First is running a restaurant. I mean, it’s a tough thing to do but it didn’t need my specific skill set to do that and I was moderately successful at that but nowhere near as influential as am in this current role.

Andrea: Yeah and the journey that you been on to get to that point where you could find that convergence, that’s a long journey. It wasn’t just overnight. You didn’t just decide and then it happened. It sounds like you had a vision and you started walking down that path. Did you feel like you had a pretty good idea of each step along the path?

Josh: No, not at all. I really believed that my life have been a little more just like Forest Gump. I say that often that I’m just going to force my way through this. You know, you try to make the best decisions with the information you have at different stages in life and try to pick opportunities when you see them. Whenever I create, I try to create an opportunity for myself, it fails. Whenever I just sit back and look and see what opportunities are available to help others or add value, it works.

I would say that the biggest pivotal moment, the only time I knew that there was a moment was when I just realized we had just kind of suffered a business loss and some hard time and I knew that I had to find to make up the difference for the money we had lost in one venture and I say “You know, the only way that I wanna make this money back and the only I wanna provide my family is Team Concepts.” And I said “That’s what I love to do and that one was a pivotal moment for me where I said “You know, I just got to do this. It’s either gonna work or it’s not, I’m gonna go all out. I’m gonna give everything I have and try to find this convergence.”

You know, I’ve been doing this for 16, 17 years on the side and loved it but you know all of my…I don’t think anybody except for my wife told me that it was a good idea. Everybody said, that’s such a…well the first thing is I’m creating a market especially in the Midwest. There’s people that do some other things on the Coast, but in the Midwest, there’s really none. I don’t really have a direct competitor here. For that different thing I do, some competitors that indirectly compete with some of the services I offer. But as a whole, nobody offers the services we offer.

So you have to create a new market. You have to create the need around that new market and let people know that they have a need and then you also have to tell them that you’re the person to meet that need and that your organization is going to meet that need. So we go through a lot of difficulties in our sales process because very few people are out there looking for “Hey, I need somebody to come in and teach my team how to work together, how to be more efficient and effective.” It’s because it’s indirect result from a bottom line for an organization, not a direct result.

Andrea: Right. And it’s so valuable but like you said it’s indirect, so people don’t necessarily feel that right away especially with small businesses, it can feel like you’re just trying to survive anyway and not necessarily financially. Maybe just trying to survive the day-to-day, and the idea of taking time away from whatever you’re doing with your employees or whatever, that’s a hard sale but so worth it in the end. And I’m sure that you have plenty of testimonials to attest to that.

Josh: Yeah, you know when people are busy living life; it’s tough to work at improving your life. The same way most home owners go through or business owners and/or business managers is that you know, the only time my houses ever done is the week before we list them to sell them. The rest of the time, we’re just too busy living to actually work at our home improvement and do the projects that we wanted to do and make things actually the way that we want them. But when we get to the end or we decide we’re going to sell our home or we’re going to move on then we’re like “Oh we got to make this look like we’ve always want it to look so other people would buy it.”

And I think business owners get in that in their mind, they’re like “Oh this is gonna be great. We’re gonna be like this. We’re gonna be like this.” But yet, day to day living in an existence where their company isn’t, their workplace is not the environment, it’s not the culture, or it’s not all the things that they want. But in the back of their mind, it is and that they’ll get there someday but how do you create that deadline for yourself when it’s not. We’re going to sell that over, we’re going to move.

And unfortunately, a lot of the times for business owners and managers the deadline creates itself and that you have a crisis. You start losing key employees until it affects your bottom line because your culture isn’t what it needs to be then that crisis will call them to action. But I would much rather see organizations work on the top end and that is “What are you dreaming about? What are you trying to look like?” And make them believe that “You know what, you can’t have that, you can’t be like that but it’s really tough to do yourself.” But when you bring somebody else in that knows exactly how to influence people to create that culture, it just works better.

Andrea: Yeah, it actually kinds of reminds me of your story and how you’re kind of dabbling in Team Concepts until there was an actual financial loss and then you went for it. Do you think it would have happen quite like this if whatever business opportunity didn’t fail?

Josh: No. I don’t think so. I think it’s actually what had to happen for me to launch into this business, because it was hard for me to really push or sell this because it’s so personal to me. It’s like selling myself.

Andrea: Yes, I get that.

Josh:  And that part is really tough to do aggressively. It’s easy to do when it’s passive and people are talking great about you and they’re friends and that but to aggressively say “You know what; you need what I have to offer.” It takes a lot of confidence and it takes a lot of drive. But it’s amazing if you go home at night and you realize that if you don’t do this your kids are going to be hungry. It’s pretty easy to find that confidence and it’s very easy to find that drive. So when we found ourselves in a hard spot, I realized that there’s only way out and that was for me to really find convergence and get paid to do the things that I love doing the most and what I’m best at. So we had to create that opportunity.

Andrea: Yeah, I love that. This is all very, very interesting. And I’m so glad that you’re doing what you’re doing Josh. I’m glad that even though you had to experience some loss and frustrations and whatever else came with that a few years ago that you could come to this point where you really living into who you are and sharing that with others in such a powerful way. So thank you so much for that.

Josh: Oh thank you!

Andrea: And so now that we know who you are and everything, if somebody were to want to get in touch with you, are working on mostly of local level then or do you do any travel?

Josh: No, we work nationwide. So if a local in the Central Nebraska area, I have some different program and a more in depth program available, obviously logistics. We have three different training facilities that we use here in Central Nebraska. But when I travel nationwide, we have scaled activity based programming, obviously my speaking and consulting. Team Concepts is pretty…we have a lot of different products offered.

We offer activity based learning Low Ropes training for larger organizations and schools. And so those require vehicle travel with trailers so that scale is different there. But when I travel and speak and consult on managing millennial engagement, managing the engagement cycle of others and building teams that lead themselves, all three of those topics I travel nationwide on because it’s just me who showcase of activities.

Andrea: Yeah that’s cool. Well, how can people get a hold of you, Josh? Go to teamconcepts.com?

Josh: Yeah that’s perfect. And my phone numbers are on there too. I don’t mind people to contact me directly and just see if there’s anything I can do to add value to any organization or anybody’s life. That’s what we’re here for.

Andrea: Awesome! Well, thank you so much for your Voice of Influence and for sharing it with us today.

Josh: Oh thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

 

 

 

END

How to Dress Your Identity & Message

Episode 11 with Author & Stylist Toi Sweeney

If you think you know what fashion is, Toi Sweeney is going to blow your mind in this interview. This interview isn’t about superficial tips to be sure other people like how you look, oh no! In fact, this is what I said in the middle of the interview:

“People are going to you for fashion tips, but what you’re giving them is identity.”

In the first few minutes you get to hear us discuss our experience of working with each other when I went to Philadelphia to get styling assistance from Toi. It was a blast and I am sure you’re going to love this interview with author and stylist Toi Sweeney.

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen here, on Stitcher or iTunes

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If you are interested in learning more about your own identity, message and business, check out my one to one offerings here.

Andrea: Toi Sweeney, welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast.

Toi: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be speaking with you today.

Andrea: I don’t think we’ve talked since we did shop, since you shopped for me in Philadelphia.

Toi: It was so much fun. It was so much fun.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. Well, we’re going to tell everybody about that but first, let’s tell the Influencer listening where we met, shall we? Do you want to do the honors?

Toi: Oh my goodness, sure. So we met in the Fascinate Advantage advisors’ group. We were two of what maybe like 14 exceptional leaders that are in that advisory group and it was really, really, really fantastic…fascinating I might say.

Andrea: Indeed, always. And if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you’ll know that sometimes I talk about this Fascinate Assessment because it is something that I use to help me understand people’s voices, to understand what they’re communicating and how they’re communicating that to the world and how other people perceive them. It just seems like a really powerful tool. Have you used it a lot with your clients and other people since we took the class, Toi?

Toi: Honestly, since I’m finishing my book, I hadn’t use it that much as I would like. So I was really excited about meeting you and then being able to communicate that because you were kind of helping to test drive my big idea about how I would use it on my clients. And so as you’ve been probably talking about on your podcast with all of the different archetypes you know if you are Maverick Leader and I’m the kind of or whatever then what is that look like when it comes to your real identities. So I really wanted to play around with that a little bit more and you gave me the opportunity to do that so that’s why I have to make sure I thank you wholeheartedly for that.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. Yeah, it was a real privilege. So after we met in this Fascinate course which was a virtual thing, we actually got on the phone and talked about business and Toi’s book that is out now. And we were talking about these things and then she started talking about branding and possibility of using me as an example. So I was all about that because I’m somebody who, I so want…you know, Toi, I really want to express who I am on inside and let that come out but at the same time, I’ve been hiding it for a long time.

So when I found out that my archetype for the Fascinate Assessment was the Maverick Leader and that’s innovation plus power which means the language of creativity plus the language of leadership, that wasn’t was I was expecting. And I think I have been softening my voice and my self-expression for long because I don’t want to appear too bossy, you know, powerful I guess. So when I took the assessment and that’s what came out, and I was like “Oh my goodness, I…”

And I started looking at myself and my clothing, and I already knew that I wasn’t very trendy but fashionable. But I mean, you know, I walked in to this shop with you, you had already….anyway, when I walked in, I had on very blend clothing. I had tennis shoes, jeans and this very plain like navy blue shirt.

Toi: And that was okay.

Andrea: Yeah, it was okay.

Toi: You haven’t had the Toi Sweeney experience yet.

Andrea: No.

Toi: So that was okay.

Andrea: Yeah, but when you looked at that, it communicates a different message than probably what my voice really communicates which is that creativity and leadership and it wasn’t very powerful image, my clothing. So anyway, Toi ended up going through process with me ahead of time that helped her identify some things about how she wanted to help me convey who I am. So Toi, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you did?

Toi: Well, the first thing that we talked about was I wanted to talk to you about your mission. We talked about your vision. We talked about your values, you core values, your perceived value and all of those things and then what’s more important to me was just a little a little talk about your image where you are versus where you want to be. And isn’t just the way every aspect of our lives are so we want to be here but we’re actually over here.

And so once we kind of talked about those things, I think and pictures. So as you were talking to me, I was listening and kind of formulate in my head what I think you should look like. Then as per the usual with my clients, I give them my style test which is just kind of tell me to pick the right items off the rack, which is going to tell me that you like separates over dresses.

It’s going to tell me you know your level of comfort if you prefer sneakers or strappy sandals that when you walk into the room, do you care more about being powerful? Do you care more about being innovative? Do you care more about being comfortable at the end of the day, because if you’re not comfortable then if you’re speaking in front of a crowd obviously, right then you’re not going to be your best self. And my greatest intention is to always lead you better than I found you. And not knowing necessarily in a negative way but just like, you know, I want to do my part to encourage and inspire you as well.

And so we just talked about all of those things, and so we did your style test and it just revealed that you really love feeling in being effortless. There’s a level of comfort there but at the end of the day, you want to be powerful but you also really want to be very comfortable. So we decided that we’re going to give you a very effortless style but that speaks to the Fascinate, you are an innovative leader and that you are very creative. If anyone has ever had the opportunity and the privilege to speak with you regarding your business, you have ideas. I tell you, you’re doing this all the time.

And so I wanted to take all of those things and just really incorporate it into your look and so that’s what we did. So after that when we hang up the phone, I looked at your skin color, your eye color, and your current hair color and I looked at the colors that were going suit you best. I think I reached back out to you and said the most important question “What do you wanna say, what do you want to say?” You know, because you can do all those things and what’s a normal image consultant would do.

So all of those things are as for normal, but for me I took that all information and I felt through it through your brand and I felt through your Fascinate Advantage and then I helped you kind of create this unicorn if you will that looks so… I mean, if anybody have seen the after pictures that was so effortless and it looked like it took no time. But honestly, it was a lot of work, right?

Andrea: For you… I thought it was pretty effortless myself.

Toi: Which is should be for my client. Yeah, it was effortless. You show up and everything is done for you. You just tried things on and when we’re kind of we’re through what we’re going to purchase and why we’re going to purchase it. And then we grouped it all together and then you were pretty much finished unless the next step is that you’re travelling and have a big event and then I’ll come over and you know how to get packed and put some different outfits and stuff together.

So that’s the main thing that kind of sets me apart from other fashion stylist and other image consultants is that I care so deeply about your voice and the message that you’re conveying. And you know, you really, really walk into a room and before you say one word, people want to get to know you. You are so fascinating in the sense that they come over to you. So you don’t have a message that you go over to them, because it is the conversation piece like “Oh, I like that jacket. Oh I like…you know whatever.” It’s just that I really want you to be able to walk into the room, feel your absolute best and crush it and I think you did that.

Andrea: Oh my goodness, yes. So I’ll share my perspective as somebody coming in. I travelled a long way to get to Philadelphia, which was amazing and I walked in and you brought me into this dressing room that was huge and there’s clothes, like so many clothes lining the walls already. She’d done all this work previous to me coming. So all she had me in the nerve. She was on the floor, so she started having me tries things on and I think it was maybe the second thing I tried on. I was just like my whole being in countenance and everything sort of lifted because I was like “What?”

Toi: And I was nervous because you were saying anything at last. I was thinking “Oh man, I might have messed this one up.” And you looked in so cute and you were looking at the mirror and you were smiling and you started giggling. You have my favorite laugh in the world and you started laughing and you like “Yeah.” And I was like “You like it?” And you like “Yeah, I like it a lot.”

Andrea: Oh my goodness. I could not believe what I was looking at the mirror.

Toi: It was great!

Andrea: It was. People have asked me since then you know, “Would you have picked these clothes off the rack?” And I said “No, I wouldn’t have because first of all I don’t know anything about fashion. But second of all, even if you told me there was this big line up of things that were fashionable; I wouldn’t have the guts to pick up stuff off the rack because I just don’t feel confident in my ability, first of all. But also just understanding the fashion, understanding what fits me like I wouldn’t have known, you know. I just wouldn’t have known.

And so when I put it on, it was so different than anything else that I owned and then you put shoes on me and different pair of pants and what not, and I just about fell over. Because I was like “Oh my gosh.” And there was this one girl that I had in mind but she’s in her 20s and she’s the cutest little thing and I saw myself in the mirror and I’m like “I’m just like her. I look like her,” and I’ve been admiring her and her style for so long and I’m like “Oh my gosh.” You just said to me, years have fallen off of you.

Toi: Yeah, I mean there are so many A-ha moments in that fitting room, you know. I think that we walked away with you looking a lot younger. The most important thing that I do for my clients and then I stressed in my book is that “You wanna look relevant.” So it’s not about the trends. When we were picking items, we don’t mean a $5,000 dress or a $2,000 shirt or anything crazy like that. It wasn’t this like costume made pieces. It was really, really about at the end of the day making you look longer, you know less essentially the parts of our bodies that we love until we can work on the other stuff. We might want to talk some stuff a week for now.

Andrea: Yeah exactly.

Toi: You know, we talked about…and we did that. And so I was saying you know, “See the difference if you put this top on?” And then you took it here and we tied it there. If you’re like me that tend to gain weight in your belly, you know, I know how to make myself look long and lean because I’m only 5’3”. And so it was just manipulating basic, classic, beautiful clothing just to make you look your best and then adding the right accessories.

And so you showed up and looked like you came to shut it down. I have to tell you what blown me away the most about the shop, it wasn’t what we did in the fitting room but I have to tell you like the next day, we shoot some pictures and we did all that stuff but it was after everything was completely finished.

And you could have put back on your clothing that you travelled in and you didn’t. And you put on this gorgeous denim top, which was a basic denim top and I was like “We’re not doing the button-down.” We ended up doing like more of a pull over because button-downs for anybody is they’re very difficult to wear. And you saw that because they tend to open, if you have to put it down and if you don’t have the fattest belly then it folds there.

So you put that on, you put your new jeans on and you had your new fashionable sneakers on, because again, it was your style about effortless and it was very polished and it was powerful in the sense. And you looked a million dollar and all you were wearing was like denim on denim look. You know what I mean, like were sitting in a restaurant and having brunch and I’m looking around and I was like “Does she owns this restaurant?” You looked like you belong there.

Andrea: Yeah, my confidence level just walking into that nice little restaurant that we went to, I mean, it was just so different. Even the shoes that I was wearing, I always wear tennis shoes because my feet hurt all the time. But you got me shoes, you found me shoes that didn’t hurt my feet but was cute and that’s what… So anyway, walking in this different kind of shoes and let alone the hair and makeup and the clothing, I felt so much more…I just felt like I was standing in my power.

Toi: You looked fabulous. I mean, it was so obvious. And I just kept saying like “Look at her, look at her confidence.” I mean the way you sat or everything. You spoke differently.

Andrea: I did.

Toi: I mean everything about you completely blown me away and I mean it wholeheartedly. I was in awe of what we accomplished. I really, really was and then you went to read your post afterwards and I just like you know, I got to see this like 5-year-old giddy little girl giggling in the fitting room and you walked out this fabulous woman that looked like she was so ready to take on the world. It was awesome. It was so awesome.

Andrea: Yeah and it was wild. I got a speaking gig like the next week at a conference and I was “Oh my gosh, I have my weeks’ worth of clothing and I’m gonna rock it.” I just felt so amazing just knowing that I was prepared in that way so that I could bring my best. I honestly, I think I have always felt really uncomfortable. I feel very comfortable in front of a crowd but as far as my appearance goes, I’ve sort have done it besides the fact that I don’t feel comfortable in my appearance, like I’ve sort of reason above the fact that I don’t feel that great about my body or that I don’t feel that great. But when you put clothes on me, it was like “I felt great in this body too, like I don’t even care.”

Toi: Absolutely. Right, I mean because at the end of the day, you know like I have in seven days, I have to go on television, and you know I got on the scale this morning and I was like “Oh so, the last 45 days, you have been finishing your book and doing this different tours speaking engagement and all those these things and you’re not taking care of yourself because you decided that it was going to be okay that you went all on your book, right?

Andrea: Yeah.

Toi: And so right now I have to be honest and say “Well, can I lose 25 pounds in seven days, probably not.” And so what do we do, we show up and rock it out where you are. And so the difference is in what I talked about in the book is that not only are you going to the biggest things are, so now you’re able to dress your message, right? But what you’re saying, right here you say is that it’s easy like you can focus on preparing for the main things and you don’t have to worry and fret about how are you going to look. The worst thing is showing up and not looking the part.

Andrea: Yes.

Toi: You know because we talked about this in Fascinate Advantage group. And in those 8 seconds, they’ve already decided if you have deserved or earned the right to be on that stage. You know, we all know that we have, right? But isn’t it so magical standing there knowing that you do so that you feel that way also, right? And so that really is what is about and so the continued process would be that we’re going to work on is just getting your closet to the point where you can wake up in the morning and you can have 15 minutes to get somewhere and everything that you grab is magnificent.

And that everyday even if you just dropping the kids off of the bus and it’s a tunic and leggings and a fashion sneaker and shirt, and wear your sunglasses on and grabbed that gorgeous handbag that you bought, and you’re still rocking it out where you are like “Okay, so I have my coffee, and I have 15 minutes to get dressed and still look amazing.” That really is what it’s about.

Andrea: And I looked amazing and I don’t know, there’s something about that putting on clothing that matches who I am on the inside and sort of draws out the best of me. And I think that’s what so powerful about what you’re offering people in general is that we don’t have to master it up on our own. Like there is a way to sort of put these things on that are going to call out of us and release it out of us. Whereas, if I’m just dressed in my sweats and a t-shirt to take my kids to school, what are my kids seeing up me? You know, what am I feeling about who I am and how I’m going to attack the next thing on my list of things to do today. All those sorts of things, I’m like “This is so transformational.”

Toi: It is. You know, I always say, when you look and you feel good, when you’re feeling good, you’re confident and when you’re confident the world is yours. But I will take it one step further and since we’re talking about the kids was I sight this in the book that there was an article that was written about the headmaster in the UK, and she sends out letters to all the parents that basically said “Hey, when you drop your kids off in the morning or you pick them up in the afternoon, can you please not wear your pajamas.” What kind of message are we sending are we sending to the kids,” you know, and that just blew my mind.

Andrea: Wow! Shoot!

Toi: You know, I’m like “If you saw the way I drop my kids…” and I’m guilty of it too. You know, but I’ve got my closet to the point where it is a ____ somebody is like “Oh that was amazing.” I’m like “Really?”

Andrea: Oh my goodness, yes.

Toi: You know what I mean, and so that’s what I’m really talking about is that if you put together a brand, you know, dress-the-message type of closet right then anything that you grab and so can you imagine that being at home and receiving that email of like “You did not show up today and we need you to not only show up for yourself but to show up for the kids.” And what are you saying to them and then you think about the fact that in our Fascination group, one of the guys released an article about the fact that everybody was hiring freelancers and personal branding was so important. What are we teaching our children about dressing the message? What are we teaching them about being able to sell themselves, because we’re all selling something rather yourself or a product, right?

Andrea: And when you’re saying selling, you’re saying compelling communication which is exactly what this podcast is about, compelling communication. So even if you’re oppose to the word selling, dear Influencers, understand that compelling communication is sort of that same thing. So that’s exactly what you’re talking about.

Toi: Yes, so you know, it’s so important and I think that at the end of the day, I’m talking about simple things. You know, I want you to show up as your best self. I want you to be able to give a 100% to all of the things that are so important to you and I’m saying “Hey, do you need some help with dressing your message, then let me help you with that part so that you can be the best writer. You can be the best podcaster; you could be the best leader. You can be the best mom. You can be the best entrepreneur so that you don’t have to worry about these things. If you can’t hear some simple steps that you can take, you know, if you’re saying, “You’re in Philadelphia. I can’t afford to fly there,” here are some steps that you can take to at least start the process.

I’m really excited about your journey and what you have coming and all the things that you’ve been able to accomplish and just how gorgeous you looked now. Now listen, your headshots look great but when we took your picture that day you looked amazing and we just kicked it up a knot, that’s all we did. If you look your headshot and the images that we took side by side, you looks great. You look fine, but I don’t allow my customers to dwell on the possibility of fine or okay. Why would you settle for being great when you can be exceptional, when you can be amazing?

Andrea: Yeah. Okay, so last week I had some friends get together, they said, we want to see these clothes. So this is the best and I want to tell this story because I think it’s so important to copying up this part of your message. But what happened was they all sort of just sat down and I told the story about how we met and why I went out there and all that sort of thing. When I went back into this bedroom and I put on my first outfit and I walked out and they were like…first of all, before anybody saw me, I was in the hallway grinning from ear to ear, almost like trying to hide my grin, you know, like “Oh my gosh, I don’t wanna look like a little kid right now,” but I feel like that little girl who’s in her brand new dress running out to spin in front of her dad. You know like “I know, I’m beautiful and just enjoying the way that I am.”

You know, that is what’s going on inside of me and then I walked out there and they all just like gushed. They were just like “Huh, oh my goodness.” And this is just the clothing, you know and the shoes and the look that you gave me then I went back and I went back and forth, and went back and forth. And you know even the most casual things were like, I sort of progressed in I guess dressiness as I went through in the most casual things, they were like “Oh my gosh, I can totally see you speaking in that.” And I thought, “Oh gosh you haven’t even seen me the good stuff.”

So anyway, it was working and they’re saying this is the image that you should be in front of people you know. And then this is the really funny part, the next day, I got I snap from my one of my friends and she was like “Okay, I just want you to know that I was looking through my closet and I’m trying to figure out what to put on and I kept thinking to myself, “I wonder what Toi would think of this.”

Toi: I hear that.

Andrea: It was so great.

Toi: It’s so humbling. I think that that is just “Hey that’s awesome, that’s so fantastic.” You know, just message me next time and attach images.

Andrea: Well, I think they all came away wanting to buy your book.

Toi: Oh that’s nice.

Andrea: You know because they want to know…they saw the transformation in me, in one of their dear friends, and they saw how you had been able to make inside come out on me and they were so inspired and they were…these are the things that they were saying. So I see all that too because I think that people should know that there are so much more potential that we don’t have to stay where you are. I felt stuck in that, in my brand of clothing because I didn’t know what to do. And so I really, I’m excited for your book. Now this book, let’s talk about your book for a little while. So tell us about your book and the format that you chose.

Toi: So the book is titled Secrets of a Well Dressed Brand, because we are all while we choose to believe it or not, everybody is a brand because you’re already putting something out into the world. People are already perceiving that brand; good, better and different. So if you are a brand, you might be a well-dressed brand. And so it’s really funny because when I was meeting my book designer, he showed me the typical kind of eBook layout and I hated it to completely being honest. I hated it so much. I was like “This is horrible. I hate everything about this.”

Andrea: Because it was just words?

Toi: It was just normal, you know, and I don’t do normal. I think you’ve got to spend a weekend with me so you know, I don’t do boring and I don’t do normal. So I was really bored and I was just too typical. And so what I asked him to do was to lay out the same way you would lay out a fashion magazine. And he said “We’re gonna need a lot more images.” I was like “Oh boy!” So leaving Corporate America just seven months ago and having a bunch of gorgeous talented friends, I reached out to a couple of people and say “Can I ask some pictures?”

And so I’m really, really excited to bring you guys something that’s more like a fashion magazine and also you know video. It’s an eBook that features video and images. I’m so proud of this. It is so exceptional and I just can’t even believe that it’s here. I can’t even believe that it’s done. So I’m so excited for everybody to kind of dive into it and really it’s a quick read and like I said, it’s really engaging. It’s kind of like part television, part fashion magazine if you will.

Andrea: Yeah. So what do think the results are for the person who buys your book and reads it and watches the videos, what are they going to leave with?

Toi: It’s funny that you asked that question, or I find that interesting that you asked that question, because when I was talking to my copywriter, she said “I have to be honest…” You know what I’m thinking, “oh boy.” And she said, you know, and I heard this before, I haven’t thought much the way that I looked like. I put myself together and I feel like I was doing just fine but you really make look at it from a different perspective.

And so if you walk away and you’re thinking about your clothing the same thing that was happening with your friends when they saw you, if you just have that moment of “Wow, what I wear really does matter, number 1.” Number 2, it’s so important for me to not only create a look for myself, but also to create a signature style for myself. Have that set things that you’re known for would be my second thing that I want people to kind of walk away with.

And the third thing is what you can do. It’s actually really simple to kind of create a signature look, and I just kind of give you some things like if you wear glasses and you can’t leave without wearing your glasses then make that part of your look. It’s really is about embracing who you are and just exploding that out into the world in a way that they cannot ignore you. That really is what it’s about.

Andrea: So what are some other examples of signature style? You said glasses or just to give me a couple of tangibles.

Toi: Yes, so if you’re someone like I have a client who loves…I have two clients actually, who are both completely obsessed of stripes so then don’t wear them because right now, stripes are very relevant in the industries. So don’t wear them the same way that somebody else wears them. Right now, it’s trendy to wear stripes with floral, so you buy stripes shirt and you have a floral design on top that’s different than the traditional nautical what everybody else is doing. Don’t do that. Don’t do what everybody else is doing.

Maybe you wear it this way and instead of you wearing maybe a stripes shirt, again that’s everybody else is doing, maybe you got a cute sundress and you wear stripe wedges or stripe flats or get a stripe handbag. You just incorporate your signature whatever it is into your lives and you should wear it everybody. It should be a reflection of something that you’re going to do every day, and so that’s it. It can be pop of color on your lips, you know, regardless if you wear all black or if you wear whatever color.

Regardless, I can expect that when I see you, there’s going to be red or pink or whatever on your lips. So think about Victoria Beckham, you know, she does wear a ton of color if any on her lips, regardless of whatever they’re wearing. Kim Kardashian, regardless of whatever they’re wearing, it’s always a smoky eyes and a nude lips that’s their signature style. Just think about those things in your life.

I always say for busy moms and busy mom-preneurs if it’s your kids then maybe you have a necklace that has a meaning to you or something that signifies when you started your business, whatever it is that’s important to you that should be your anchor and build out from there. Like a lot of men, collect watches, cufflinks and things like that. Those are things that you can build around and start to build your personal brand image around the things that you love.

Andrea: I can imagine at this point, but I’d like to hear from you what is the benefit of having that thing that signature thing?

Toi: That’s a very good question. I’ve never been asked that before and I’m so excited to answer it.

Andrea: Yay!

Toi: Well, I just think that it anchors you, right? Because every time I ask someone what they want to say, everyone wants to feel most, and out of all my clients, I have one that give me a different style. Everyone wants to be approachable; no one wants to be seen as someone that doesn’t get along with others and all those type of things. Approachable, it is probably the number one answer, right?

Andrea: Interesting.

Toi: And I think that we all seek or should seek in all of our greatness to be humble because it’s never, it’s about us right? We never really got to anywhere by ourselves and I think that that’s just an important message for me and that’s just kind of me projecting them on to my clients like you need a place to call home. You need a home base, because when you’re that nervous and when you’re that excited and you’re really up and against and it’s stressful to do all the things that we all accomplish in a day. It’s stressful to try to working out at a fulltime job, your business is a fulltime job, working a fulltime job and taking care of your family, and so you just need a place that’s home base.

So we just kind of need that something that we can touch or look at that reminds you that somebody loves you, somebody has your back that you got this that you didn’t get there alone. Like I wear a lot of crosses because of my faith, I wear a little M sometimes for my son that passed away, you know, that just reminds me that like I’m okay, you’re okay. We can do this. It’s like a quiet way of screaming, I got this, and then you build all the other stuff on top of that so that at night when you strip the lashes off and you remove the lipstick, you’re back at home base.

Andrea: Okay, first of all I’m tearing up here. No, I mean for anybody that has ever said that fashion and your appearance is superficial, if they just hear what you just said, they’ve just totally taken back everything they ever said about that because that was so beautiful. What you just said was so beautiful and deep and meaningful. That’s speaks to me personally in a way that being trendy or just looking your best for other people and that sort of thing, that doesn’t speak to me. But when you just said what you just said, that is just so convicting and it opens my mind to “Oh wow, there’s something really meaningful in my appearance.” Wow that was so powerful.

Toi: Because it should be, and I think that again that would kind of sets me apart because I really do when I think about the sounds like not humble but it’s true. When I sign into social media and I say to you that I love you then when you get to know me, you know that it really is coming from a genuine place. And so it’s important to me that you have a home base, because life gets tough. It gets tough for all of us and so if it’s just about the stuff, you lose that stuff.

You know all the stuff will come and go but if you’re anchoring yourself in your home whether that’s your faith or your family or whatever that’s for you then you have a better chance of being unshakable. You know what I mean? And so at the end of the day when I’m saying dress for message that’s what it is about. That’s why I’m saying that it’s important for you. I want to know what’s your vision is because I want to know where you’re going. That’s all about stuff. I want to know what you’re values are because that’s the piece that we’re going to choose that represents something to you.

Andrea: This is like therapy. I mean, yeah retail therapy exactly. No, you know, it’s not. It’s so different in that. It’s so good. So many important things for us to really consider and I can only imagine the kind of impact that your book have on the hearts of the people that read it because they might be going to you expecting fashion tips. But what you’re giving them is identity and that hope that anchoring themselves in who they are and expressing self-expression and those really deep things that I love so much.

Toi: You know, I kind of like see some fashion in there and that I feel like…

Andrea: Oh yeah, I’m sure you did, yes.

Toi: You know, It’s a fashion book, but thank you for what you just said because…and now I’m going to try not to tear up because it’s so much more to me than that. I feel like my purpose is about so much more than that and I think that God has given me the life that he has given me and all the trials because I have something bigger to say than just the clothing.

Anybody can go out there and put an outfit together and that’s not what I do. You can go to Nordstrom, you can go to anybody. There are a thousand fashion stylists. Everybody is an image consultant and that’s not really…at the end of the day, I hope that I deliver so much more than that and that when you look in the mirror like you did, you see your own story for all of the glory that it is and for the all the things that made you use of that when you stepped up on the stage and you’re talking to people about their voice, it’s authentic. But not in the way that we’re all tossing that word around and it just gets on my system. It truly really is authentic, for real.

Andrea: For real.

Toi: For real, authentic.

Andrea: Yes, yes. Oh gosh, yeah. That’s a good stuff. So Toi then can I ask you where does your fashion for this come from? What is in your story? Where you’ve been? What sort of things has happened that has motivated you to be so passionate about this?

Toi: Oh my goodness, so many things like all of us. I mean, the short answer is…I’ll give you the quick notes, you know, it’s just like everybody. You come into this world and you have natural loves, right? I’ve always love art, music and fashion. I grew up thinking that my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She still is. She has such a great sense of style and I was left to my own so I really learned to depend on myself a lot and just not allowing all the negative things, learning in my 20s to love myself because I didn’t love the negative stuff in, right?

And so my goal in my 20s was really learning and to made a conscious effort to really learn on how to love myself. I did it because I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I was funny, you know, and I always had a great sense of style. But I didn’t really love myself. So once I realized that, I kind of put that as a priority so that when I finally did met my husband, “you have to accept me and all of me, for who I am. I love myself too much to settle for anything less than what I deserve.”

So when we got married, you know, he travelled a lot. He would be gone 14 weeks at a time and I really wanted to start this business. I really wanted to start a family so when we comes home, we tried for three years to have a baby and nothing was happening. And then after all of the infertilities in six months and I have a uterine eruption. I lost our first son, Myles, and it ripped my heart out and it just drawn me to nothing, to ground zero. By the way, I was still working in Corporate America just really trying to dive into this career that I had of time to make it a different aspect of the fashion industry and dealing with just the tough stuff there as well.

And so before that, we talking about divorce and all these hard things that you kind go through and just really, really standing that ground zero and decided to still look up. And fashion and putting on my power was such a great part of that for me. It’s always been my saving grace as far as like “Okay, Lord, I’m gonna anchor myself,” and you still have to get out of bed and I need a look. If I dressed how I feel, there’s going to be a problem. So let me go one better and I take it until I made it and then it really just it.

And so now, when I see women who don’t stand in their power, and I see women not dressing and living up to their full potential, I take it on us like personal vendetta like “Oh, you can do this.” This is not okay. This is not just okay and so you got to get up and I take my own advice. You have to get up, put your big girl panties on and go seize the day. I’d stopped and nobody cares, work harder like nobody cares about your personal problems. I care about that big thing and for me it was just being stuck in my career, losing my son and almost losing my husband and almost losing my life. It was all of those things.

You know, I also was told I was stupid that I wasn’t pretty. I was told all of those things and so if I don’t know how to do anything else by the grace of God and because of my love for Christ, I know how to survive. I know how to do that so when I’m telling you, it does kind of matter if you have messy hair and red lipstick on because it might just change you in that moment. One moment leads to another moment because now you’re talking to a stranger at son’s doctor appointment or on your daughter’s recital, right?

And it turns out that she is the blah, blah, blah, of blah blah and you’re like “Oh my gosh, thank God, I showed up that day. Oh thank God, at least even though I was wearing the leggings or the jeggings but at least I had on a good shoe and a handbag, you know what I mean? Because what you’re doing is telling the world that you care enough. You care enough to be treated a certain way. You care enough to show up for them and for yourself because that’s always saying at the end of the day, you say, I love me enough to do this and I love you enough that I’ll do it for you too.

Andrea:  I’m so inspired and I can’t believe that I teared up so much on this podcast today. But obviously, I mean I know personally what you’re talking about now. I get it. You know, it’s not just the longing inside of me anymore like you’ve given that gift to me and what I think, I think that your message is so desperately needed amongst women of all ages. Men too for sure, men definitely applies but hey, you’re going to gain a stronger voice with women as you have the opportunity to speak in colleges like you have in various settings where you get a chance to really speak to the heart and address that. I mean that’s really powerful stuff right there.

Toi: Yeah, that means everything. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Andrea: So Toi, why don’t you share how we can now, now that we’re so inspired, how do we go find your book?

Toi: So you can log on to iTunes into your account and purchase a Secrets of a Well Dressed Brand. My name is a funny name. And my social media under that name except for Twitter, it’s sweeneytoi. But yeah, if you have an Android, we loaded it up on Cobo so you can still be able to get it that way. I’m really, really excited to spy it and let me know your thoughts. Please reach out to me on social media and say hi because I love that. I hate the term fashion profession. So hopefully, it’s much more, more than that but I have a passion for people for sure and just helping you to dress the message.

Andrea: Yes, and we will definitely link your book into the show notes. So if you’re listening on iTunes, as soon as you’re done with this, go poke the link to the book and your already on iTunes or Apple podcast is what they’re calling it now, you’re going to be taken right to the book. Just go ahead and get that thing because this is pretty exciting stuff and I know that you’re going to appreciate the things that Toi has to share with you. And if nothing else to say thank you for everything that she just gave us today. So thank you so much Toi from the bottom of my heart, from myself personally and for the audience who I know this Influencer that’s listening is really touched. So thank you so much!

Toi: Thank you so much for having me!

 

If you are interested in learning more about your own identity, message and business, check out my 1 to 1 offerings here.

How Influencers Can Develop a Vibrant, Happy Voice

Episode 10 with Dr. Jen Riday

Dr. Jen Riday is a Women’s Happiness Expert and mom of 6. After struggling with depression and general dissatisfaction with life after the birth of her 5th child, Jen began a quest to “get happier” and now shares her journey with other women wanting to do the same. Jen lives in the woods just outside of Madison, Wisconsin with her family. Jen loves yoga, meditation, time in nature, and regular moments of quiet reflection.

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen here, on Stitcher or iTunes (Apple Podcasts)

 

 

Transcript

Andrea: Jen, it is great to have you here today.

Jen: Thanks for having me, Andrea. This is fun. It’s Friday, so we can have a little chat together.

Andrea: Yes. You’re in the middle of a big launch right now, I know, and maybe you could tell us a little about it. What are you launching right now?

Jen: Yes. Well, it’s a program called Time Mastery for Women. It’s an A-Z system essentially to help women find more time to do more what they love. To regain control over their time in life because so many of us get to that place where we feel like our life just kind of growing dim. And we kind of forget who that person was that we used to be prior to being busy or having kids or having work and juggling all these things.

And it’s just a way to get a grip on your time and schedule and your beliefs about time, plus producing guilt and shame and perfectionism that like so many women so that you can really feel like you’re in control of your life again. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun and if anyone wants to learn more that’s timemasteryforwomen.com

Andrea: That’s great, and I know that probably when this episode finally airs, I don’t think you’ll have it open at that time but…

Jen: Yes. We’ll have a waitlist for the next time around. We’ll be launching program again in the fall, so people are welcome to jump on the waitlist. It’s a great program and I think it’s a game changer for many women.

Andrea: You have a podcast that’s a really, really powerful podcast called Vibrant Happy Women. I was thrilled to be a guest on your podcast. So Jen’s voice, when I invited her to take the Fascinate Assessment, she came out with power and trust up really high. And that’s really interesting to me because I think that those two things – the ability to lead that language of leadership that you have and the consistency that you bring with the trust, I think are really suited for this topic of Time Mastery. So it makes sense that you would be a really great person to teach that.

Jen: Well, I don’t really know where it came from but I suppose someone told me the term superpowers. They’re these things that you’ve probably always been good at that you even realize were abnormal. And for me, organization and managing time are those things. I didn’t realize it was abnormal until about the hundredth time someone made a comment about this chart on my refrigerator and asking me, “How did you get everything done with six kids?”

And I started to think “Okay, well if we need to know what are talents are or our superpowers, I guess I need to look at what people say I’m good at.” And when I would ask people, they would say “Oh my gosh, you’re so organized.” I finally had to come to terms with “Okay, fine maybe this is something I’m good at.” So when I learned I was the guardian with the power and trust, I guess it makes sense. But I still kind of bristle a little against that because I really imagine I wanted to be Maria from the Sound of Music.

Andrea: Oh I think there’s quite a bit of power entrust in her. That’s really funny though. You know, doesn’t it seem like that when we’re really good at something, it’s really hard to realize if that something we’re actually good at. I mean, especially something like, I would imagine something like being really organized. You just kind of probably a little more naturally bent towards at and it doesn’t necessarily…you don’t realize that not everybody is as organized or whatever it is.

Jen: Yeah. Well that’s so true. So I married the complete opposite and I know it’s true that opposite attracts because physically, we just seemed to be like magnets. There’s just like, not that you want all this too much information, but we just have this massive physical attraction and I wonder if it’s because we are so different.

Andrea: It’s great!

Jen: So anyway, he flies by the seat of his pants, he didn’t even start. He’s a scientist and somehow he managed to get through his life. Only he started to use a digital calendar, maybe three years ago. He thought he could remember it all. It’s true, I didn’t realize that other people don’t think like me, so I found that a little exasperating when people can’t keep track of themselves because it always came so easy for me. But I’ve gotten better at recognizing “Okay, maybe I’m actually a little different here.”

Andrea: Right and that that’s something that you have to offer other people which I think is really cool.

Jen: Right. And I think some people are born with it and love it, but I think there’s a certain level of learning that can happen where people can take what has worked for other women like I have a week at a glance. And I can see everything that’s happening in my week, and people find that so intriguing. And once they get that, they feel like it’s a complete game changer to say “Hey, this is my week. This is where I’m feeling in time for recharging myself. This is where I’m spending time with my kids.”

And another thing is knowing the top four priorities of your life. For me that’s spirituality and self-care, family, health and then my career. And I want to make sure my use of time balances all of those four areas appropriately. So if I’m spending all of my time on career which can be tempting, I don’t feel an alignment and I have to look at my week at a glance and say, “Okay, well I don’t have this right and I’ve got to put back this time for taking care of myself, getting enough sleep, exercising, and spending time with my kids like movies and one-on-one time and a date night with my spouse then I feel really more balanced in life.

Many women feel like they’re kind of lacking that balance. They just want to do it all or when you narrow it down to those four areas that are really most important that’s the game changer part of it, where you can say “I’m gonna do these four things really well.”

Andrea: So you’re focus seems to be on happiness. What it is happiness to you? What do you think that women are really looking for? And you know the podcast here, we’re talking to Influencers who might be women or they might be speaking to women, whether they’re men or women. What is this idea of happiness that you think people are really drawn to and what your messages?

Jen: Well, I think to explain that the best, I need to take you through my low point and what happiness is not.

Andrea: Sure!

Jen: So long ago, I got my PhD in Human Development and Family Studies. I learned all the theories about what it means to a “good mom” and so I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. My husband got a job in Madison, Wisconsin and proceeded to have six kids. And somewhere after my fifth child was born – a daughter, Jane, I kind of hit rock bottom because my whole focus had been on being this “good mom” defined my textbooks that I have studied and defined by society and magazines and TV shows, and I realized I couldn’t do it.

I was making home-made bread. I was doing elaborate birthday parties. I was keeping a pristine house, but it was so exhausting and I was empty, so empty and so tired. So about that time, I actually suffered a miscarriage and it was on Christmas day, in fact, my husband had to drive me to the hospital. We had a big argument the whole way there. It was an hour away because we we’re in a very remote area where my parents live in Iowa and that day was just such an emotional low, like it was the biggest emotional low I had experience up to that time.

And I guess those rock bottoms are really a gift because that’s when I decided “You know, what my life has kind of sucked for a while and I’m tired of this. And I wanna change everything.” And we got back after Christmas back to our own home in Wisconsin and I said to my husband that week “I’m joining a yoga studio. I’ll be going at this in this time and you’ll be in charge of them on those nights, goodbye.” And it was just baby steps from there.

Andrea: How did he take that when you told them that you’re going to be doing that? Was he encouraging or just kind of…yeah, what was his response?

Jen: Well, for a scientist who is very who’s very left-brained, he does seem to have ability to clue into the emotions around him. And he was thrilled because he said “I’m so tired of you being stressed. I’m so tired of you having this look on your face like you want to die and yes, please go to yoga. We got this.” And he has totally stepped up. He’s able to get our kids to do their chores after dinner. He makes them their dinner and it just got better and better as I let go of that control and taking care of me instead of trying to manage everyone else first. I’m happier. They’re happier, everything is better.

So back to your original question – what happiness is not is trying to do “something be the good mom or the good wife” based on who knows where that definition even comes from. And when I started to notice how I felt inside like yoga left me feeling amazing, book club. I came home smiling and happy going for that walk or that hike in the woods. I started to notice my happiness and listening to my feelings and intuition. So that’s what I teach people, they’ve got to listen and have this quiet moments and really know how you feel inside and do those things. It’s scary because you have to define what your life should look like on your own based on your feelings so you have to have a bit of trust in yourself so that’s my definition of happiness.

Andrea: Hmm, that’s an interesting thought. You have to be able to trust yourself. Do you think that people have a hard time doing that? Or that they have a hard time stopping to really listen? What’s the issue?

Jen: Two things, yes. So taking the time to get started and I recommend 10 minutes of meditation each morning. Check in to ask yourself how I’m feeling in my body, how I’m feeling emotionally. What are my thoughts. Just having that self-awareness because when you check in and have quiet meditative time or prayer time or journaling time, they’re all essentially the same thing of getting grounded and centered and knowing yourself then when the stressful moments happen all day, you can remember “Oh, this feels way different then what I felt during that meditation time this morning and I don’t like this feeling. I wanna go back to that calm and sane place, so how I’ll get myself there?”

And then you’ll remember “Hey, okay, yoga, walks, nature, reading, napping; all of these things recharged me and I wanna get back to that feeling.” So that’s one thing, making the time and then having that awareness and now the second thing is going to allude me, what was that? Remind me of your question, Andrea.

Andrea: What do you think that gets in the way of people taking that time or understanding that they can trust themselves?

Jen: Okay, yes that was the first one, taking the time to know how they feel, taking the time to reflect and slow down. And some people find that really scary at first too going in that quiet place because they never been there. So that’s the first thing, it’s just going there. But the second one, I find that women still they want that permission – permission to take care of themselves.

So that’s why they love joining the Vibrant Happy Women Facebook group online because I’m constantly saying, “Oh good for you, you took a nap today.” Or “Awesome, you went on a walk with your kids and you left the dishes filed up.” They just love having a place where they can be praised and have a little bit of validation to start a new way of thinking in doing things. So those would be the two big things.

Andrea: That’s really interesting. I’m wondering about the people, whether be men or women Influencers who are listening right now. It’s sounds to me like what you’re saying is the part of what women in particular might need is that permission to do whatever they need to do to take care of themselves. I’m just wondering like if you’re to give a suggestion to men about how they could speak to women whether it’d be their spouse or other women around them or how they could sort of speak up life-giving kind of message to them, what kind of things do you think women want to hear from them?

Jen: I don’t know about all women, but two stories come to mind. Well, first my own spouse just constantly giving me that kind of permission that I would need that, but I don’t want to leave and go to yoga thinking the world is going to end at home because I left. So to have them say “Go, we want you to be happy.” Huge words so you don’t have them to have any guilt.

So step one, men say to your women, your loved ones, or your daughters, whoever you might be interacting with, “Go, do what makes you happy. I want you to be happy. I want you to be happy.” And repeat it over and over and often. And I guess that would be the main one, but the second one, I’m reminded of a story from someone in one of my groups. She felt like her husband just didn’t really care what she did but then she realized he too just wanted her to be happy.

It was almost like she was preventing herself from the happiness and imagining that he wanted her to be at home taking care of the house and creating these amazing meals. And in reality when she started doing things for herself, he was thrilled and he started doing all the cooking. So she was creating this misery that lasted for over a decade for her which had no truth at all. So I guess, men, communicate really clearly that they want them to be happy and that they don’t need to be doing all of the household tasks or all of the cooking which so many women still hold to this model from the 50’s where that was the case.

Andrea: Yeah, that would really, really helpful. I think that even for me, I know like this week, I taught a class last night at our local community college and the night before that, I needed to work. I had a lot to do and so for two nights in a row, my husband had the kids after work until he put them to bed. And that’s a really big deal for us to kind of make that shift because he had been the one that had been working all the time.

So I was trying to make sure that he didn’t have to constantly feel like he was on and that sort of thing, but it seemed that once I started to have another purpose outside of the family that we all agreed upon, we’re all comfortable with, this is how he sees that he can help me and help that message that I have too.   And that is so freeing to be able to leave and say “Huh, he’s got it. I’m not gonna sit her and wonder if they’re in bed yet. I’m not gonna sit her and wonder what they had for supper, you know. I’m not gonna prepare ahead of time. I don’t have time to do you know for such a thing.” That’s freedom.

Jen: And I think that’s a huge thing for female Influencers. We like to think that we’re empowered, which we are. We like to know hold to the fact that things are getting more and more equal and that’s awesome. But still, if you look at Facebook ads or TV ads, it shows the women doing the laundry. It shows the women doing the dishes. We still have this massive pressures and stereotype which causes all that guilt when we, women want to step up and be Influencers and make a difference. So we have to kind of squash that guilt and give yourself the permission and just say “I’m gonna do this.” I constantly have to that.

Andrea: So let’s go back to the topic of happiness again. When it comes to being an Influencer, why do you think that we should be pursuing our own happiness? How does happiness affect our voice? How does happiness affects our message and what we’re able to communicate to others?

Adrienne: Okay. Well, depending on who you’re influencing. Let’s just start with let’s say the family for starters. We’ll when I hit my low point and was at that emotional rock bottom, I was empty. There’s no way I could be an Influencer for my family because they probably thought “Man, mom is grumpy and impatient and I don’t want to be like her.” And was only when I realized what I wanted my kids to learn, what I wanted them to become that I could start influencing them because I had to model it.

So when I said, I want my kids to be happy and productive then I had to get myself there. I had to know how I felt inside and do those things that made me happy. And you know, I like to imagine that sometimes at the end of my life, I’m on a mountain looking back down at the path of my life and I see my loved ones, my kids, my spouse and asked, where they’re going to remember me for? And I hope that it’s for being vibrant and happy.

Those are my two key words that guide everything I do and I definitely have down moments and mistakes but I want to keep moving forward. Explaining that further, if you’re an Influencer for others then it’s the same thing, what do you want them to learn from your example? So doing those things that you love that light you up and feel amazing inside, maybe it’s writing that book or being a violin teacher or having a message online for people. Whatever it is, you know what you feel passionate about.

And when you follow those feelings, the things that make you feel good inside or probably the things that other people need to hear from you. So pursuing your happiness really comes back to pursuing what you’re passionate about. They’re very connected. And when you’re doing those things that light you up, those that simultaneously makes you happy, and you’re probably doing what you need to do to be an Influencer.

Andrea: Yeah that’s a really great point. Yeah, I think that it seems that…I know when I can think of myself at least when I’m not feeling happy inside or whatever you know balance or feeling like I’m centered and when I’m feeling unhappy if you will, it does seem like my voice ends up projecting this more negative outlook. And yeah, my kids, I know my kids can even see it in me. There are times when my daughter will say “Mom, please don’t do that. Please make sure that you do this because you’re more happy when you do this.” And that’s really interesting. She knows me well enough that I need to get sleep at night, you know. So I told them enough times, you know, “Mom really needs to get to bed so you need to get to bed so that we can have fun tomorrow because it does affect everything.”

Jen: Right. And people could see through you when you’re not practicing what you preach or when you’re operating from that place of empty. The message won’t have power. You’ve got to feel that first and I feel like there’s really an energy that emanates from you whether it’s just through audio or even video or in person, you got to live it first.

Andrea: Why do think that Influencers, people who are wanting to have a voice in the world, wanting to have a voice at home or whatever, why do you think that we don’t pursue happiness? Why do you think that we hold back from doing that?

Jen: I think the biggest one is that idea that we’re fraud, that we’re not good enough or that we’re not worthy of happiness. We all have these stories that we grew up with or that we’ve told ourselves over the years. And essentially we trying to up level our lives when we lived more and more happily but this voice that nagging little voice that hold us back, “You don’t deserve it. You’re not good enough. You’re fraud.” So it’s just really loving yourself and knowing that you are worthy of that happiness and sharing it with others, sharing whatever message you have.

Andrea: Yeah. I think there have been times I know for myself when I feel like I need to take one for the team but it’s not necessarily that. Sometimes, it’s really that martyr, kind of in a negative way that martyr complex where you really feel like you need to feel bad so that you can do something that’s important.

Jen: Oh that’s interesting. I haven’t considered that one before but that make sense just some guilt. Oh that’s interesting, Andrea. I’m going to have to dissect that and think about that for a while.

Andrea: You know, it’s that “I’m just more serious than everybody else, or I’m just more whatever than everybody else so I’m gonna have to bear this burden for everybody else.” You know that sort of thing, I think it can definitely be something that I’ve certainly felt before and I’ve seen that happen before too. But in the end that doesn’t seem to really accomplish the end goal, does it?

Jen: Well, no because if you’re negative, you can’t be an Influencer. I really think Influencers have a bit of charisma. But by charisma if we dissect that a little, it’s an energy and a confidence that only comes from knowing clearly who they are, knowing their worthy, knowing that they have an important message and really, essentially knowing that they have “a calling” to share. And when you have that, you don’t need to feel guilty or to shrink back and feel not good enough because… You know there’s a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert that I’ve watched before. And she said back in the Ancient Greece, I think Greece or Rome, one of two, people believe then what was called a genius which is like a muse and they thought that all creativity comes from their genius.

And so if they’re feeling creative, well they blamed they’re genius and if things we’re going well, they could think they’re genius. But it took all the pressure off of the person and they put it outside of themselves. That’s kind of true for us too if we believe kind of that we have a calling from God or the Universe, then it’s easier. It’s not around things or an assignment and it’s takes some pressure off.

Andrea: Yeah that’s a good point too. Well, Jen, this has been really helpful. I really appreciate the idea that we can organize our lives in such a way that maybe we can actually have some happiness then go ahead to offer to others as well. Do you have any suggestions or references, any resources that you might suggest that we take a look at?

Adrienne: Yes. So my audience is primarily women, so most women might be interested in this. But men, you’re welcome. It is cared through for women, but I have what’s called the self-care tool kit. And it’s a little mini video training with a workbook and some other tools including some guided meditations that just help women to take better care of themselves. So they have a place of energy and positivity to give from and to be that Influencer. So that’s at jenriday.com/selfcare.

Andrea: Alright. So thank you much, Jen. I appreciate you sharing your story and your advice with us today

Jen: Thank you for having me, Andrea. This is great. I love what you’re doing.

END

 

The Terrifying First Step Is Usually the Best One to Take

Voice Studio 09

In this 7 minute Voice Studio episode I talk about the interview with Chad R. Allen in episode 09. He encourages all writers, makers and creators to take the first step and then take it again. In this episode I share about how I got started writing in 2014…taking the first step over and over again until I had a blog, then a book and now a podcast.

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode 09 with Chad R. Allen
Frozen Top Ten (blog post)
UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You (book)

Listen on iTunes (Apple Podcasts) here.

What I Learned About Myself from Working with A Fashion Stylist

oh yes I did!

I’ve never been someone who wanted attention for how I look, but when I started writing and wanting to offer my voice of Influence in the world, I realized that my appearance was getting in the way of that happening. So I recently took a trip to work with Toi Sweeney, a fashion stylist for entrepreneurs, professionals and TV personalities. This is what I learned about myself in the process.

This video is going to be included in a longer video about the process. I’ll post it here again when I have it ready for you!

Find information about the Fascinate Advantage assessment here.

Follow Toi Sweeney for information about her upcoming book release.

 

Also, I’d love to have you join in on the conversation in the Voice of Influence Facebook Community group. Join here.

Step Out from the Shadows and Into Your Calling

Episode 05 with Trivinia Barber of PriorityVA

Trivinia is the founder of Priority VA – a boutique virtual assistant agency that matches elite level online entrepreneurs like Amy Porterfield and Todd Herman with highly-skilled assistants who “get” the online space and come prepared to deliver massive ROI right out of the gate.

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen here, on Stitcher, iTunes. If you can’t find us where you listen to podcasts, let us know and we’ll take care of it if we can!

Transcript

(approximate transcript)

Trivinia is the founder of Priority VA – a boutique virtual assistant agency that matches elite level online entrepreneurs like Amy Porterfield and Todd Herman with highly-skilled assistants who “get” the online space and come prepared to deliver massive ROI right out of the gate.

 

Andrea: Trivinia, it’s so great to have you here.

Trivinia: Oh Andrea, it’s my pleasure! I’m so glad to get to connect with you here today.

Andrea: Yeah this is fun. So I met Trivinia on an Amy Porterfield webinar actually for B-School, which I ended up signing up for that day and Trivinia was in the chat box. And I just remember, Trivinia, I was just so impressed by your combination of competence and confidence, but you delivered it in such a relational way. And that just really continued throughout my time like my experience with you through that program or all of our online stuff.

And then when Todd Herman launched his 90-Dar Year program which we’ll get into later, and I Trivinia, was an affiliate. And I signed up through here because number one – I could tell that she really embodied the transformation that was promised in the program and was so enthusiastic about it. And number two – One of the bonuses was a call with Trivinia and I really want to get to know about her, and I’m so glad I did. So Trivinia, it’s so fun to have you here.

Trivinia: Thanks so much and you know I think it’s really interesting that I have been able to build some really amazing relationships with people that all started in a chat box in webinars. It’s just so interesting because I think that sometimes people feel like their personality can really come through in online or a chat box, or in these tiny little micro-interactions that we have with people. But I feel like I’ve been able to prove a lot of people wrong in that area that we can absolutely build relationships in this little micro-moment together, so thank you so much for that.

Andrea: Yeah, I love that and it’s like this little snippet but it’s not fake, you know. Whatever, it’s just like a little window into your personality and as you get to build more, it’s a neat thing to be able to see so yeah.

Okay, so Trivinia, you took the…I just wanting to say your name all the time, I think. It’s such a fun name. This year, I invited my guests to take the Fascinate Assessment because it’s fun and I’m curious about when we’re talking about Voice or Voice of Influence that sort of things. And so Trivinia took it and she came out as the maestro which is power plus prestige.

Now, if you don’t know anything about this, go ahead and go back and listen to Episode #1, where we discussed the whole thing if you’re interested in learning more about the Fascinate Assessment. But anyway, the point is that power plus prestige – this is a really leadership-driven, high standard kind of voice that Trivinia carries. And Trivinia, I’m curious, was this something that you’ve seen yourself kind of always have, or this is something that has developed throughout time?

Trivinia: Yeah, that’s such a good question. I feel like when I was younger, when I was in let’s just say maybe middle school and high school, I always wanted to be the leader. I didn’t want to be the follower. I was a captain of my swim team, little things like that you know. I wanted to be the best and I wanted to be in charge of things for sure.

But I think that what I found as I’ve gotten older, especially as I started my own business is that I typically ended up taking the backseat to people that were stronger than me and I would be the assistant. I started my career really as a virtual assistant, and so I was always behind the scenes sort of making things happen that I wasn’t really in the spotlight.

And as I’ve grown my business, what I realized is that, I do have a voice. I do have something to say and I want to be heard and that’s been probably the biggest change that I’ve really sort of stepped out from behind the shadows of other people that I’ve served and developed my own voice and really stepped in to that power and that prestige personality type.

But it has been not necessarily something that I’ve chased after but something that I’ve had to have revealed to me by other people that I really admired and say like “No, Trivinia, you do have something to say and there’s a platform. There’s room up here on the stage for you too.”

Andrea: Wow! What it was like for you then to have these people speak into you like that?

Trivinia: Well, I didn’t believe it. I think a lot of people can really struggle with taking compliments, you know very well. I mean, I know sometimes people even say like “Oh I like your outfit.” And we’ll downplay, right like “Oh I got it on sale at Target.” We just always want to just give an excuse or downplay whatever it is.

And I think the same thing was true when it came to my business acumen. People would make comments and say “Oh well you know, I’ve got some great mentors and I always just deflect to giving someone else the credit and so it was hard for me to accept that. But then I started to see that it wasn’t just people that I was paying, you know. Maybe it wasn’t something they were saying because I was in their course. I was paying to be a part of the Mastermind. It was peers also started to tell me that as well.

I started to really look a long hard at myself and be like “Well, do you want a voice? Do you really want the stage, because it’s kind of up here and if you step up on it, I think that there will be people to listen to you?” And that’s really weird and it’s just came down me making a decision that I wanted to kind of step out of the shadows.

Andrea: Wow, yeah that’s such a powerful image of looking yourself in the mirror like that. So do you think that you’re – as you’ve taken steps and where you’re at in your business right now and how do you think that your voice has sort of developed?

Trivinia: It’s such a great question. I remember I used to call my business, ‘my baby business’ and then I would say “Oh it’s toddler now.” And I think were like on full and grown-up mode now. I recently start doing all client works. I used to really have this safety net of client work where I was literally still being a virtual assistant to people and that provided me a stable steady income.

And I used to think like “Well, if all that fails, at least my mortgage is paid.” And I’ve recently just about doing all that and I’m just fulltime running my own business right now. And so I’m a real entrepreneur now, right? There’s nothing else to fall back on. It’s sink or swim with making this business successful.

And so we’re starting year four. We wrapped up 2016 at about $1.5 million in revenue, which is just insane for me to think. And we’re going to look toward potentially in doubling that this year and just continuing to transcale and hone or our systems and reach for people. So I feel like we’re definitely at that stage where it’s like “We can make this thing go as big as we want to.”

And that’s terrifying and when I say ‘we’, I say my husband and I because he actually quit his cushy corporate job with amazing benefits a couple of years ago to join me in my business. And so we are fulltime doing this thing now, and it’s scary but really exciting to think about the lives that we can impact really as a result of me just deciding to step fully into this. It blows my mind, Andrea!

Andrea: Oh my goodness! Yes that’s so exciting and I just have been watching this from afar sort of. And seeing all the steps that you’re taking that you mentioned on social media or what not, and you know really investing yourself, investing in your business and in your people, how does the investment that you’re putting into your business? I mean, how do you look at that and say “What is the ROI on this? How is our return on investment?” Why is it worth spending so much and putting so much into your business instead of just trying to get more clients and match more VA’s with clients?

Trivinia: Yeah that’s a really good question because I think that just like clients come to us and they look at using virtual support as an expense, I have to always flip those tables for them and help them understand that it’s really an investment in themselves and in their business when they come to us and really decide to put their money where their mouth is and get some help where they need it.

So I think the same thing is true for me. I can talk about all these great ideas that I have in my head but unless I have someone to help me strategize and figure out how to actually execute them, then I’m just talking too right? And so one of my biggest challenges is I can sit across a table from you Andrea and I can brainstorm a ton of ideas about how we can grow and scale your business, or maybe how can get you more exposure and things like that and really support you.

But when it comes to my own business, I kind of have these blinders on and I just don’t see possibilities. So for me, it is well worth the investment for me to bring alongside people like Todd Herman or Dan Martell and invest in their leadership. I do it in Mastermind. It was very expensive but in the three months that I’ve been in that Mastermind, I’ve had ideas or discussions with other people or with the leader of Mastermind that can potentially 10x my business.

And that just from a conversation at a dinner table after a Mastermind meeting and that’s the kind of things that I think people will often put in the back burner and say like “Oh yeah, I’d love to join the Mastermind,” or “I’d love to maybe sign up for a course or whatever but I need to do it when, right?”   We only say “We’ll get there some other time.”

But for me, I’m more adventurous I guess or more of a risk taker. I’d rather invest the money right now, get innermost conversations with people at a further down the road than me and take one idea that they have and scale this business more rapidly that I could by myself and try to figure it all out. So it’s definitely worth it but it’s scary. When I was paying the invoice for this most recent Mastermind that I joined, I was literally shaking because I was like “I can’t believe I’m joining this. What if it doesn’t work?”

But I did it anyway because I feel like if I’m going to grow my business and I’m going to surround myself with people that are doing amazing things in their own kind of niches that they’re in then I can’t like keep dreaming about joining in. I got to start doing it. You know, Todd Herman talks about like, “I don’t care about your potential; I care about your performance.”

And so for me, it really is putting money where my mouth is because I’m a kind of girl that if I pay for it, I’m all in because I’m going to milk every single dime of that experience. So whether that’s an online course that I’ve taken like 90-Day Year or a Mastermind that I paid 40 grand for, you know I’m all in because I want to recoup that investment multiple times over.

Andrea: Right and I don’t know that everybody really sees how that could actually become that big event, an actual investment that’s actually turning into revenue. But one of the things that I gathered from and got from you and Todd Herman and that experience with the 90-Day Year was that I needed to be spending more of my own time working on my business, not just in my business that sort of thing.

And that when we’re doing that, it’s worth more that that’s it’s actually worth more for me to spend time strategizing I’m going to execute that I’m going to have eventually, execute on that of course but to spend that time on it. So I think that most people, and I say most people just because I think that’s what I experienced, but I think a lot of us, a lot of people who maybe do have a Voice of Influence, Influencers at home, maybe it’s easy to get stuck in that mindset where you’re thinking that this is the way life is.

And I can use my voice right where I’m at and I’m not going to try to push out the boundaries at all. But no matter whether you’re an entrepreneur or whatever you are, if you take a step back and look at life and say “Well, how do I want to take that time away investing yourself or howcould I put my voice out there in a bigger way like Trivinia is. I mean, that’s pretty huge for anybody I think, not just entrepreneurs.

Trivinia: Yeah. It’s interesting because I had a lot of people telling me like you should create a course on how to become a virtual assistant. It’s kind of everybody tells me all these different ways that could diversify my revenue and all these things but it wasn’t until I paid to join this Mastermind and these courses. And I was encouraged to again kind of take that look back who I want to be and how I want to use my influence.

And I really realized and was like “No, I don’t want to create a course like that. That’s not anything that I have any desire to do. Now, do I want to speak on stages, sure! Do I want to write books, absolutely! Those are the ways that I want to be able to influence a community, but I don’t want to have online courses that’s not something that I want. I don’t want to teach VA’s how to be VA. I would rather teach CEOs how to be CEOs instead you know.

But I was very close to going down a path that ultimately would not have left me fulfilled just because people were telling me I should. But when I took the time a way kind of by myself to really look at where I wanted to use my influence, it would just came clear that what people were telling me wasn’t really where I wanted to go.

Andrea: Oh that is so powerful too because I know even for myself, looking at what I’m doing, trying to think about which ways should I listen to. And in the end, it has to be true too, like inside of you I think. It does feel like a calling, doesn’t it?

Trivinia: Yeah. I think sometimes I still do battle with that because I know that the impact that we’re making. I remember telling Amy Porterfield this all the time like “We’re not caring kids here.” But we are making changes in people’s lives because of the work that we were doing together there. And I feel the same is true for PriorityVA. I have VAs tells me they had no idea where Christmas is going to come from but now they do you know because of the opportunities that were affording them to work at home as a VA.

And so I know that we’re making changes in people’s lives and it’s important what we’re doing. But me, sometimes it’s so hard to see that because we get caught up in looking really what other people are doing or what other people, family, and friends, whatever tells us we should be doing. You know, you just get to set with yourself and just really figure out who you want to be and go for it.

And I think that’s where if we take any consideration the Fascination Advantage thing that that’s where my power lies or that’s where my prestige lies is in really being able to take hard look at myself and then go full board ahead to get what I want that’s kind of cool.

Andrea: Love it. So you said that you’re interested in writing books and speaking on stages which you would be fabulous at. What would you want to talk about? What is that thing that you really want to get out there? What is the message?

Trivinia: You know that’s just a great question and I think that it will evolve and change as I get more comfortable in this new space of not being the assistant. But I think for now, one of the biggest things that I still want people to understand is that we don’t have to do it alone. I feel like as we’re growing our businesses in this entrepreneurial space, we’re all sitting behind our computer screens and getting fatter and just becoming more isolated. And I feel like we don’t have to do that alone.

We don’t have to barricade ourselves in our office and become martyrs to our own businesses and things like that and not just a really important message. Obviously, it ties very closely into the need that I feel all entrepreneurs have to have a virtual assistant or to have some sort support system for them. So that’s really important to me. Other things I’m really passionate about of course, adoption and foster care so you know, it could be that that I spend more time speaking and writing about those things.

It’s interesting to me, Andrea, that now I have the choice to think about it and that’s what so weird to me is that if I want to talk adoption, I can talk about adoption. I don’t have to talk about virtual support. So that just kind of interesting is that I can grow up into whatever I want to now because no one else is just tell me what I have to do.

Andrea: Sure, yeah that’s exciting. It’s interesting too to think about how we can have this. And one of the things that I love about this is that you have a business that is supporting you. And then if you want to talk about your passion, your mission for adoption and foster care then you don’t have to make money doing that necessarily.

You’re making money in your business, so this allows you to have the freedom to be able to pursue a mission that may not make money at all, maybe giving money a way for you to give back or whatever that is and whatever how it placed out. But I think that it is easy for people who have a passion like you’re describing because you have adopted two children, right?

Trivinia: Yup!

Andrea: So that’s one of the reasons why you’re so passionate about this, and I think that it’s easy for us to get stuck in that passion and not think about how we’re going to support it.

Trivinia: Yeah, absolutely. I used to do all this in your free talks and I’d write in forums and blogs and all that sort of things to try and get the message out about foster care and adoption. And I actually had to take and that would be put in the back burner for a little while for me so that I could build a business that could sustain my little side projects that really fill me up and I really feel good doing them.

But I still have four children that need to be fed and they have school uniforms that need to be bought and my love of adoption isn’t going to be necessarily feed them. So it’s important I think that we get our priorities straight. And for me, creating a business that could give me the time – I mean, my whole business started because we adopted a child and she needed me to be home for her.

And so I had to really focus on that for a few years to get to a place where I could sustain now. And now, I’m like “Alright, where can we go?” “Who can we talk to about adoption?” How could we view these things and it’s only because I put the time to build something that could sustain this new sort of fun side project that I have. And you know that could be something as time goes on as well. So we’ll see how it plays out but it’s fun for right now.

Andrea: Yeah and in the meantime, you’ve built yourself a platform.

Trivinia: Exactly!

Andrea: And continuing to grow that one and that’s pretty important, so I think these are great, great lessons for the Influencers that are listening because I think that it is so easy to get stuck. So thank you for that. Now, I’m really fascinated by how you’re passionate about something that I’m also passionate about which is pairing your VA’s with the right client. Tell me a little more about that because I’m really interested in this.

Trivinia: Yeah, so this all really started because I was working with some higher profile clients and people were starting to ask me if I could work with them. And really that’s where the entrepreneurial being kicked in for me and I kept thinking “Well now, I can’t take anymore on myself but I can find you someone that has the same characteristics or the same traits that you think you want in me.” And that really started this business.

And so the way that I’ve really utilized a couple of things – I say that we have to figure out the right skills that you need someone to have. You know, do I need to know where and all these things because I need them to be able to do and execute what you need done. But more importantly, in my opinion, it’s personality and temperament, character, and values that are going to drive a relationship and really make it work.

I can teach someone many pages. I can show someone how to set up Facebook ads, but if they don’t care about your business and your mission where you’re going, it’s not going to matter. There’ll be a little kind of crash test dummies, right? They’ll be filling out forms or clicking buttons and doing things but they’re not going to care. And to me, the best relationships or where can I place a VA with the client who’s not…they’ll never be equally as passionate about what you’re doing because I just don’t think that’s possible.

But if they are driven and motivated by what you’re doing in your business and they have the skills that you need, that is a recipe for magic and for, really, what I call long term collaborative support. And one of the best things that I found in my career is working with Amy and being able to kind of look behind our shoulders and say “Holy cow, do you remember our first launch together, it was like $30,000” and then looking at doing nearly $2 million launches.

And not that I was solely responsible for that but I played a part in it and I was able to see sort of where we had come all along the way in our relationship and in the business building and things like that. And that’s really magical if I can create that relationship for people. So I spend a lot of time working with not only with more personality tech profile stuff that really digging in with our clients and asking politically incorrect questions. I’m just really trying to figure out who they really need.

Because most people, I think 90% of the people that come to me looking for virtual support, they’re all about the ‘what.’ I need someone to manage my account. I need someone to schedule trips for me and that is all they are concerned about. But when I can sort of put the tables on them and say “Okay that’s great,” like “got that part.” Now, who is the best person to come alongside you and work with you, because you’re B-Schoolers, you know creating your ideal client avatar and we get that down. We know what kind of music they listen to. We know where they shop, like we know all of those things but nobody does that to figure out their ideal teammates.

Andrea: That’s crazy, isn’t it?

Trivinia: Yeah, exactly because they’re the ones helping you build those things. And so I try to get people to really flippant and to think about that for a little bit, and let’s create a profile of your ideal teammate and then I go to work to find them. And obviously now, my team is growing and I have fulltime recruiter that helps me with that now so it’s not just me anymore.

But that is so, so powerful when I can then introduce a client to a virtual assistant and I can say, you know “Here’s Sarah and here’s why I chose her for you.” And the clients were like “I cannot believe you were able to find somebody that aligns so wonderfully with who I am and where my business is going.” It just does magic for me, and it makes me so happy and it’s kind of exciting.

Andrea: Oh yeah, it’s magic and it’s gift that you’ve been given. You obviously have a gift for being able to do this and understand your client, understand your VA and look for these deeper things. Would you be willing to share any of the things that you’re looking for when you’re trying to match?

Trivinia: Yeah, I mean it’s different for everyone. So it really starts out with, I would not hire any VA who doesn’t align well with my values, because I would assume that if a client aligns with my values and then I bring on VA that aligns then we’re starting off on a right foot. And so that would be things like truth. I mean, it’s tattooed on my wrists if that’s important to me like I can’t stand liars. Oh, integrity and just commitment. I need people that are going to be committed not only to me and PriorityVA but to their client and really to themselves.

I think that a lot of people who are trying to get their foot in the door in a VA world, you know, they used to work at Target and so they’re going to try this VA thing and they’re going to see how it goes. But they’re not really committed to learning what they need to learn and so commitment is really important and then service. Having a heart to serve is massively important to me because being a VA is hard and sometimes you’re going to be asked to do things that you’re not really interested in doing, at times you don’t really care to do them.

And so I need people that ultimately have a heart of service and just really get filled up by serving other people, so that’s kind of where it all starts. If people can align with that then they can at least get into the fold of the next level of conversation with PriorityVA and then from there, it’s just me. And right now, I’m the only that’s doing this. But I’m the one that engages with their clients and I’m the one who talks to them and figures out really.

I get kind of deep with them and I make them answer hard questions that they’re like “Oh, I never thought of that before.” But it’s like “Do you need to work with someone who shares the same, maybe spiritual views as you?” Because maybe their business is all about their spirituality and maybe having somebody on their team that doesn’t share that so it’s going to become challenging for them. Or maybe it’s somebody who they really, really need somebody who’s very techy because they’re technophobic, right?

So it’s just all figuring out “Do you need someone who’s gonna say, “Yes, Mrs. Wenburg,” or do you need somebody who’s like “Andrea, you told me you’re gonna give me this stuff and you didn’t get it for me.” You know, so it’s figuring that out and those are hard questions I think people don’t want to answer sometimes, because they don’t want to seem like rude or they don’t want to seem like maybe they’re kind of a bad boss.

But if I can get them to go deeper and answer those questions then I have higher much success rate of like 85% success rate in the matches that I make because I’m not having to uncover stuff later that like they really don’t like somebody that says all the time “Okay.” You know because that’s an annoying word to you and I give you someone…

The funniest story, Andrea, that one of my clients told me one time like “I don’t care if they’re college educated. I don’t care if they have babies on their lap while we’re talking, but please don’t give me someone that has a Boston accent.” You know that’s so funny. I was like “Okay, that’s the kind of stuff I need to know, because what if I did. I got them some great person but they were from Boston and not just great on you every time you talk to them.

So I love hearing the funny, funny kind of non-negotiables that some people have, but yeah it’s fun. And then from there, we kind of do the same thing with the VA’s, so we talk to them about who they’re ideal client is and where they can make the most impact. And so if it’s somebody who really needs to be a behind-the-scenes person and they’re more task oriented instead of collaborative relationship oriented, they’re typically not going to work well in our company, because I don’t do task stuff. I think we can outsource that to offshore companies for much cheaper. So I don’t want more collaborative relationships. We start to dig it deeper and ask questions and then it just all comes better.

Andrea: Yeah, that’s great. So some really great advice for people who even have a business maybe whether or not it’s internet business or brick and mortar but it’s hard. It’s neat that we’re in this day and age when you can and you have a lot more to choose in the internet world. You can do a really interesting mix and match in ways that we really can’t when you’re brick and mortar or they couldn’t years ago I’m sure.

So I’m curious when it comes to that relationship between a VA and the client, I’m wondering about how they interact and how you help them interact. Again, this is about voice because I’m sure that your VA’s…it sounds like the way that your VA’s interact is definitely more collaborative as you mentioned. And so they do have a little bit of a voice, maybe more so than a normal VA. But do you have any recommendations or suggestions for people or either that Voice of Influence as a VA or somebody who is in a superior and somebody who’s supporting that superior if you will?

Trivinia: Yeah. You know, the easiest thing, but people look at it as easy, but the easiest thing to create an amazing relationship with anyone we’re working with especially when the relationship is virtual, it’s just consist of communication, right? It’s just like when we’re building our audience and we email them maybe once every nine months. Well, that’s going to be hard to build their relationship with our ideal audience.

And so the same thing is true when it comes to virtual support. I work with subcontractors and so my team is not built of employees, so they’re not W-2 employees. So I can’t demand that they have weekly meetings, but I strongly encourage that they have weekly in meetings with their clients. And I like those to be face to face whether it’s just real quick on Skype or Zoom or Facetime or something, and talking 10 minutes. This is not need to be an hour-long meeting because most clients hate meetings because they’re busy and they don’t want to get caught up in stuff.

But that face-to-face interaction does a lot for building trust in really solidifying relationship, so that’s probably step one for me. And another thing that we do is we have our VA’s give a weekly report of basically what they did get accomplished, what they’re going to start working on for next week, and then what any impediments to progress are. Because oftentimes, the clients are the ones that the impediments to progress.

And so it’s just becomes really, just really transparent about what’s going on and that helps the client to know “Okay, these are sort of my shortcomings. This is where I really need to step up to the plate and help this relationship continue to progress.” So that’s really important I think with any relationships. You just get to communicate a lot and then really utilizing tools that we have at our disposal.

There are so many different things whether it’s things like Teamwork, a project management software that we use here or Slack for quick force of communication. And then of course if people can afford it and it allows in their schedule like get together in person with your VA at least once or twice a year and have a little brainstorming session and that will just again solidify their relationship as well. It’s been really fun to get my team together. We’ve started doing quarterly retreats and we just go rent a VRBO in a different state, in Plymouth and this like 3-day implementation weekends and that’s really fun. And I’ve been able to find out so much about my team now, like for instance – oh I wonder, I’m might be blowing a surprise but that’s okay.

One of my VA’s, Kim, is the most amazing assistant on the planet and so no one even try to steal her from me, but she is coming up on anniversary working with us. And so one of the cool things is like I started asking my team like where would you go if you could go anywhere? And you know, she was talking about different cities she wants to go to. And so I’ve kind of been conspiring behind the scenes, plotting to send her and her husband on a trip for her like anniversary after working with PriorityVA. But I wouldn’t throw that out really just like through email, you know.

It was just around the fire at VRBO in Phoenix, we’re just chatting. And so I think if people will take that relationship to another level with their team, it’s so cool. It’s just so fun, right but you have to step out of your comfort zone and do it and really be interested in having relationship. And that’s the main difference I think, Andrea, between working with other virtual assistant companies and working with PriortiyVA is that I want people to have relationships with their team. And I want them to really be a part of the team not just some button pusher behind the scenes.

Andrea: Oh man! I mean who wouldn’t want to work for you Trivinia. I mean, did you hear what she just said. She’s sending somebody on a trip with her husband and that’s so powerful and it just makes it feel like you truly care.

Trivinia: Yeah, because I do and a lot of people don’t. I mean, we’re just really being honest. A lot of people, they don’t really care about their assistants because they’re disposable. And I want to create relationships that aren’t disposable. So that if you’re assistant got hit by a bus, yes there are systems and there are processes like work could still continue, but I would want that to matter to you.

A lot of people in this online marketing and digital world that we live in, people are so replaceable. And I’m kind of looking at flip the tables on that a little bit and bring it back to kind of old school where people had a secretary for 15 years, you know, that’s normal. I just want that relationship to be really important to people again.

Andrea: Oh I love that! Okay, so one of the other things that I want to ask you about was I know that you have passion because of this is what you’re doing, you’re supporting people who have ideas, you’re giving them support staff or support whatever. Anyway, when people who have a Voice of Influence are growing and wanting to become and develop their voice, get a bigger platform perhaps, or figure out how they want to interact in the world, or whatever it might be; I know and I’ve heard you said this before, it’s so easy for us to get lost in our heads and not actually execute. And part of that problem is the fact that we’re not willing to delegate.

Trivinia: Oh yeah.

Andrea: So what advice do you have for the Influencer that’s sitting here listening right now saying, “It’s going to be years before I ever get anything off the ground.” How do they decide when to actually delegate and that sort of things?

Trivinia: Yeah, stop it. That’s one of the things you know, it’s like people stop being a martyr in your own business. And stop feeling like if you’re not touching it and you’re not pushing the buttons that it’s not going to be done right. I have often said like “There will be spilled milk. Your system is going to mess up.” I sent an email to at least nearly 200,000 people from a client’s private email address one time. Yeah, it sucks and it was horrible and I was crying hysterically, but you know, we fixed it and it was fine and nobody died.

And so I think that that’s the biggest thing that we can do as Influencers or business owners. As we’re getting started, stop thinking that people are going to die if an email is not sent out right or if a link is wrong on a Facebook post. Just stop taking yourself so seriously and really start small. I think that getting your feet wet in delegating and outsourcing, like do something on 99designs or something and just start flexing that delegation muscle, because I think that it is a practice that we have to get better at.

Now, I tell my team like take it. They’ll ask me questions and I’m like “Oh, I don’t care. You do what you do, you own this.” Dan Martell tells us something that I think that if more people would really embody, I think their business would scale so much faster. We need to put people in place and he calls it, ‘we need someone to LMA that.’ And it’s Lead, Manage, and be Accountable, and I have fully embraced that in my business especially in this past couple of months is that I’ve said, outsource-outcomes and not tasks.

So instead of you outsourcing the task of booking a flight, why don’t you outsource the outcome of that entire trip, right? So you’re not worried about the hotel, rent a car and all that stuff like you have an itinerary that such to go. And when you arrive at your hotel, they’re going to have whatever it is that you need. Maybe you’re gluten free or something. You know, outsource the outcome of that and stop worrying so much about the individual tasks that you need to get off of your plate and lets someone lead, manage and be accountable for the outcome of something.

And that’s going to be a part of your team, it’s going to let you sort of rest easier in knowing that it’s not all on your shoulders now. Now, if you picked the right team then you should feel confident in LMA-ing different part of your business. And you should have one for your marketing, you should have one for your finances, you should have one for the administration, and then you obviously have for the delivery of whatever product or service you’re selling.

And so yeah, you got to start small and flex that muscle. You will get burned, you will be disappointed, you will feel like “I should just do this myself,” but if you push through just like when we were working out, right? If you push through that breaking point, you will develop muscles instead. And you’ll get really, really excited about what else can you get off your plate.

Andrea: Oh Trivinia, thank you so much for all of this amazing advice. You are definitely a powerful, beautiful Voice of Influence. And I think you’re definitely already speaking to those CEOs. You’re going to grow this platform even bigger and I want you in front of more and more people. So I wish you well. I’m excited for you and I will always be your cheerleader. So thank you so much for being with us today!

Trivinia: Absolutely! Thanks for having me.

 

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