How to Accept Your True Voice and then Find the Grace to Let it Go

Episode 13 with Dr. Anne Foradori

We have a great episode today, filled with information about accepting your true voice and navigating the changes in life while finding a new expressions for your Voice of Influence. Don’t miss the great lesson at the end where Dr. Foradori helps us learn techniques for making our speaking voice resonate and carry through a crowd.

Anne Foradori has appeared in recital, concert, and opera in the Midwest. She has performed works by several American composers, and has presented at national MTNA and NATS conventions. She made her New York debut at Symphony Space in 2007. Dr. Foradori has published in the Journal of Singing and contributed to the American National Biography. Dr. Foradori teaches voice and coordinates opera and musical theatre at the University of Nebraska at Kearney where she is Professor of Voice.

Transcript

(approximate transcript)

 

Andrea: Well, I am here right now with my former voice professor, Dr. Anne Foradori. I’m so excited to be here. We’re actually sitting here in person. Thank you for meeting me.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Thanks for asking me. I looked forward to this since you brought it up a while ago so…

Andrea: Yeah this is so fun. So we were already kind of started to talk about voice a little bit but I think, we should start…we’ll go back when I was here. I came in as a junior.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Right.

Andrea: And what was really funny is that I started, and this is something that I will tell everybody and show off from the rooftops, but I started doing voice major at another school. That’s a very pretty famous music school in Nashville and I got here and just working with you blew all of that away, all of it. I learned so much like I walked in the door, and first of all, you were just nice and then I remember you asked me if I could belt.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes. Well, because of where you’d gone to school and what I could hear in your voice. So I wondered if that was anything you had a background in.

Andrea: Yeah and I was like “Oh sure I can.” I had no idea what it was. I just thought that singing loud. So you had me start to sing and I just started singing loud. You were like “Whow, wait a second, you’re gonna kill yourself.” I don’t know if you remember that but I do.

Dr. Anne Foradori: I do and later on that you another student were both accepted to the NATS winter workshop master class. And so we had to prepare for that. So we had a trip to New York that was very exciting.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. It was unbelievable. I mean, again, it was sort of like you came out of blue and you just sort of handed it to me, “We’re gonna go to New York.” You found a grant and you just took us to New York to be on Broadway and see Broadway. I started to sing and that was unbelievable. I think it was one of those things that helped you to see that even though you’re in a little small Nebraska school, because you’re in _____ right now. I don’t think I introduced that but University of Nebraska at Kearney, which is really close to where I grew up, and just the idea that we’re not limited by our geographical situation. Of course, you are to some degree but you really help me to see that you could really reach beyond that. It was so cool.

Dr. Anne Foraderi: And fun for me too, fun for me to be a voice teacher of students who may not have had opportunities yet to spread their wings and go to other places and to provide those experiences for them.

Andrea: Yeah. I think you do that all the time. It’s just what you do, right?

Dr. Anne Foraderi: Well yes.

Andrea: Definitely it is. Yeah, so how long have you been teaching voice?

Dr. Anne Foraderi: Okay well, the short story or the long story? I finished the master’s degree in 1979, and started to teach right away. I’ve gone to Cleveland Institute of Music, and I taught for their preparatory adult education students. So I had a great big voice studio, and I also taught for a community college in Cleveland and taught music appreciation class. And I taught for music for senior citizens classes then I taught voice class and class piano at a community college to teach a lot of preparations.

And was a music director for a couple of shows then I taught four years at an all girls’ high school. So I had a choir, large mixed choir and a show choir, those were sort of up and coming and I taught a drama class and was music director for whatever we did for musicals. So I did that for about 10 years and it was very satisfying and I love working with high school students.

But there was something in me that when the students were ready to graduate, high school students are ready to graduate and going to college, there was a part of me that “Oh I just wanna give them two more art songs. I just wanna have them lessons as college students. I just wanna get you to a competition.” So I made up my mind to go back to school and get a terminal degree. I had always thought at the back of my mind I might get a doctorate but I was teaching and I was enjoying it.

So it took some soul searching. I don’t make decisions quickly and at that point, I thought, well there are three areas that interested me. One would be to get a doctorate in voice, which I did and the other was to get a doctorate in  comparative arts for that then you end up going to teaching in combined college arts program. And the other one was to be an attorney.

Andrea: Really?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes, because I had the energy for it and I had interest in the law. And I thought “Well, if I work as an attorney and I want to do anything very much with it and that makes it difficult to balance that in the family,” and I could not get singing out of my system. There was more to be sung and more to be taught. So that it made that choice pretty easy in the long run. So then I went to school and got a doctorate and then taught for a year in Indiana State before I came here 23 years ago.

Andrea: Wow!

Dr. Anne Foradori: I know a long time.

Andrea: But that’s impressive that you stuck yourself a long here.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, a lot of people change career paths, but I always found something new and exciting, either developing a class or students I’m working with or my own singing and research that just keeps me motivated to work at this.

Andrea: I’m just wondering, why teaching and not performing, you know as far as a focus?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, you and I have spoken a little bit about personality types and I was telling you about different, not assessment, I’m not sure what to call them, tests. Everything from the Myers & Briggs to other personality tests and I always have…well, two things, first my mother who was both a teacher and then a theater administrator. The professional side that she works in, she was a managing director. She did all the business end of the theater for professional theater. But she taught before that, she taught high school and she taught college. So I had that role model.

And the second was, because I love them both, and they each that needed to be scratched as performer, I could do in a city large enough like Cleveland, I had a soloist position in a large prominent church in the city. I could do whatever gigs I want to during the year and balance that in my teaching. So it was sort of the best of both worlds to be able to do things and then it was also a way to get invested in both but not that to commit to one till I felt like I went back to get a doctorate.

By the time I went back to get a doctorate, I was already in my 30’s and that’s not late. But in terms of making opportunities as a performer that’s older than most of the summer assistant programs and things like that usually dry up by the time you reach your late 20’s. And by then I had firmly thought that really what I want to do was continue to develop my own voice and to work with others. I had made that firm decision and then got to work in graduate school as teaching associate, so it sort of cemented it and I’ve been in to look for that path.

Andrea: That makes sense.

Dr. Anne Foradori: It does and I think for people who want to teach in a college level, there are kind of two ways to get there. The first is to have been a famous singer off somewhere and made a career in that and then come to college teaching with the information you have from your experience. And then the other is to follow a path where you do some performing but do a lot of more studying of pedagogy in working with students and that’s the path I took.

Andrea: It fits you so well and one of the things that I always really appreciated was you’re so attentive to your students from you walk in the door and you sense that some things is off.

Dr. Anne Foradori: It’s an interesting balancing act, because we are not your counselors, we are not your parents; we’re your voice teachers. But that being said, we teach this discipline in a one-to-one manner. It’s not the same as going to a lecture class where other students in it where the teacher may notice you or may not notice you unless they call on you. There is no escape, it’s just the two of us for the half of hour or the hour whatever the time period is.

And so there’s that and that kind of symbiotic type of relationship we have. The other is that, I think I’m biased because I’m a singer, more than any other musician, we have a different personal investment in what we do and we just do. If you’re singing and you don’t like the sound of your voice and it’s not a technical aspect that can be fixed, we go through a lot of soul searching and learning to love our voice giving ourselves permission to love our instrument. That’s a hard thing to do. We joke about it, we say “hate my voice, hate me.” We cannot take it personally. Can I get spiritual here for a moment?

Andrea: Of course.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Just the gift God puts on each of us to be an individual as a singer, you might be able to tell a certain pianist by a style or certain wind player by their tone. But you can always identify a singer. So with that comes both this great celebration of the gift we have, the individual gift and also the horrifying responsibility of having to achieve at a certain level. And if you don’t, is it because I have not learned my techniques enough or is it because my voice is unworthy and not beautiful enough instrument?

And that’s the thing that young singers struggle with a lot and even older singers struggle with and getting through that discovering your voice literally and figuratively is a challenge. And that’s one of the things I hope I do with students by the time they enter the studio and then by the time they graduate that they’ve had enough Aha-moments and have come to the realization that they are worthy. And that their instruments are worthy of developing and that their voices are intrinsically tied to their being but it’s not the sum of all their being.

So I have a framed card, it was a greeting card with a code on it that’s on my desk and I love it because it was , but she said she really got it from her French writer. So good for her for giving up the credit there, but it says “The end is nothing, the road is all.” And that’s really profound and it’s true in terms of finding your individual voice, but it isn’t true entirely with musicians because what we do is very public.

So for students having to come to groups with knowing that the journey is always present and the journey isn’t less as important as what you discover. Because you discover things about yourself along the journey before you get to the end. But no one wants to hear a C- choir. We have this struggle all the time of wanting to invest in the journey and know that we’ve grow and our voice grows by following the path and the journey. But knowing that still we have to be a little product oriented and that can be tough.

There are a lot of students who studied in high school or were involved in their plays, musicals, and choirs in high school, when they get to college and maybe start as a music major but then, I don’t want to say it’s no longer fun, the party came easily to them and their voice grows and developed and they find that it’s not fun as they thought it would be. And so it’s time for them to leave that in a good place in their hearts and spirit and to be participating musical where they want but maybe not pursue it as a career.

Andrea: Oh, of course while you’re talking, I’m remembering both my experience as a student but then also my experience in the last few years of this figurative voice that you’re talking about. This Voice of Influence that I’m trying to grapple with and I love the comparison of the two because it’s just seems so incredibly powerful and true that everything you just said also applies finding your voice that’s going to make a difference. And I have this saying that your voice matters but you can make it matter more and it’s that idea of developing your voice that yes, there is a product.

And so when you do put out something whether it’d be singing in front of people or a black poster whatever, it needs to be edited. It needs to have gone through a process of refinement in a sense to really make the biggest different that it can make and really connect to the audience or whatever. So all that you’ve just said I feel like it totally applies to this other voice as well. Do you feel that way?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes, and that’s why I said, the voice is not the sum of your being. Sometimes when the students will do a recital, I will tell them specifically to do not listen to your tape for at least two weeks. Don’t listen your recording. You need to live in a moment of euphoria that comes with performing and with feeling like you put your whole heart into your activity and that you communicated with your audience.

And you don’t ever really hear that entirely on a sound recording because you don’t see their facial expressions and their acting and how visual they are with it that they don’t experience what they’re experiencing in life with the audiences reactions and things. And so just know that this is a little museum piece of what you did and this is a snap shot of a moment. You will sing these songs different ways on different occasion.

If I can count on one hand the times in lifetime when I think I had a perfect performance, then it’s just not entirely there. I remember saying to a colleague once when I was performing some new music and I wasn’t sure that everything I sung was a correct pitch. Some of it maybe a little “ish” and this colleague said, “Well, you know when someone is hitting a 3.33 batting average and they’re on a baseball team, that means that every three times they come up to bat, they get a hit.”

And we think that at 3.33 batting average is pretty damn good. So why do as musicians, because we’re in the midst of creating live art that’s very fluid and changing. If I sang only a third of the right note, I would think I was a failure. Yet in other aspects of life, someone would get a third or something accomplished and depending on how you view project as a whole, then you would think it was a great success otherwise.

And that was a really good way for me to look at approaching performing, and in this case, performing a new music where you part of bringing a piece to life is working with the composer. And sometimes, you’re a little wrong and you have a note that flipped up, you have to be kind yourself about that. Know that you’re creating fluid art. This is not a sound recording or commercial sound recording…

Andrea: Where you go back and make all these little changes, yeah.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So yeah, I think that discovering your voice whether it’s your voice in a classroom as a teacher or in a studio as a teacher or as you said writing a blog post or doing a podcast, finding your voice is a life-long process. I mean, it isn’t anything we ever entirely get to…we get to stages I think where we’re happy with our voice.

In 2007, I had West Nile encephalitis, probably bitten by a mosquito of gardening in the evening and I ended up in the hospital for several days and then home for three weeks. And it was difficult for me to think clearly because of the encephalitis and I eventually came through it well. But it started sort of an emotion of other things happening that my immune system and defense system were not strong.

And so I had that in 2007. I had aortic stenosis and a heart valve replaced in 2011, and then in 2015, I had two kinds of cancer. And with each one of these episodes, each one of these challenges, I begin to look at my own message, my own voice what was my next step, what was next role. And I have, one doesn’t say bounce back, but I have recovered from each of these, thank God and I feel like I have more to give to things.

But the last voice from the cancer combined with turning 60 and then having a very aggressive chemotherapy treatment really did the end of my singing voice. And you can hear my speaking voice is rough now. So again, that was me looking at what is my voice as a teacher and if my singing voice is not going to be my singing voice, what will be my voice? What is going to be my outlet for creativity and what will be the next step I take? And it’s unlike when I got to the sort of the end of the road teaching high school and teaching for 10 years between degrees. And I was thinking, what was my voice be next, will it be in the classroom, will it be in a courtroom which would mean going going to law school. Where is my voice most connected to the core of me?

And so for me when I was going to chemotherapy, I talked to a lot of great school friends on Facebook who have lots of advice for me. And someone said “Oh, write a blog, do a blog.” And then someone suggested, “Oh do a blog about getting through cancer.” I was like “Oh my gosh, how horrible would that be.” Because I don’t want any illnesses I’ve had to define me. I feel like that’s part of as my sister said, “Any scars you have in surgery is like the path or the map of your life, different travels you take.” And people do that now saying “Oh see these stretch marks on my elbows when I blah, blah, blah.” “See these stitches on my skin I got as a kid.” And mine are much bigger stitches but they’re just a part of the story of my life, not my whole life. So that’s how I got involved in the other blog I’m doing now.

Andrea: So tell me about the other blog. It’s a food blog, but I would love to hear more about why that?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, since I was going to not try to sing on a professional level anymore, I thought “Well, what was I thinking of when I went to college? What would I have majored in if I didn’t major in music?” You know, go back to the things that you like the most. And before we use the word foodie thing right, other people got subscriptions to National Geographic. We got subscription to housing garden magazine and gourmet magazine. So that was the reading magazine around my house when I was growing up. And my parents’ idea of a good time was to go to New York for weekend, go out to eat and buy some French cookware.

Andrea: Really?

Dr. Anne Foradori: So I guess I had no choice I was sort of indoctrinated at an early age. And I remember even as preteener or teen when the gourmet magazine came, there were two things that always struck me. One was a gourmet travel section where some would just go and snap pictures of wonderful food all over the world and I would think, “What kind of job is this, this is great?”

And the other one was something they put out every month that was called gourmet meal of the month and it was a whole menu that was some kind of a protein that would be a roast, turkey or goose or whatever and then several side dishes or maybe a salad of some kind and then dessert. They’d have it all in a sort of a big banquet table and then they even suggest wines for it.

And every month, my parents made at least a portion of the gourmet meal of the month. They never bought the fancy wines but they would do things like make the roast or whatever and several side dishes and maybe the dessert every month. I just thought, it was the most wonderful way to grow up. My parents, one of their combined voices they had as a couple was in the kitchen. My dad is like the chef. My mom is the baker and I have more pictures of us with my parents in the kitchen cooking or serving big family meals.

And this was just a part of our lives that, part of my getting my new voice because I was going to use the singing voice so much was my culinary voice and my storytelling voice. So I worry the first I thought for every recipe I put, and I have an eight paragraph story that goes with it. And I wondered if people would respond to that, and so far, they have been. I have a small following but I can only do it as much as time allows because I still teach fulltime.

Andrea: Right. How does your story connect with your food?

Dr. Anne Foradori: It might something as simple as…or there was one week, I went in the recipe files from my mom’s. We moved out here. My dad moved out here and lived with me. And they’re all handwritten cards or my grandmother’s cased typed cards. She typed them and she had always would have the date and who gave her the recipe on it. And then she’d have her own little stories to tell about “you can use this or this, but I like to use this first or something.”

And there are some recipes in there. I made a pineapple upside down cake, a recipe that belonged to my great aunt, who I’m quite sure was my mother sister-in-law, my grandfather sister. And she was Aunt Ally who was smart and a smart, snappy dresser and really beautiful and would show up for these family events with this pineapple upside down cake. I’d remember this as a child, and I think she finely relented and gave the recipe to my grandmother who felt it was triumphant to get all if she gives her this recipe.

So these family stories about food, and I have another recipe card that’s in my grandmother’s handwriting marked 1919 that was from her mother-in-law about sort of a homemade Fig Newton cookie, sugar cookie with a ground fig filling. And the back of it, my grandmother had thought and wrote something like “Oh mother I love these cookies, her eyes lit up every time she made them and she thought she was a making a delicious cookie and it was still frugal.”

And just this whole little narrative that went around this and you know, that is not anything new. There are new family stories told around the dinner table and family occasions. And so a part of what I’m doing is finding recipes. Some of which are re-imagined that have been family recipes and stories to go with them. This week is going to be about Mother’s Day and I have a picture in the blog that will be my grandmother holding me as an infant and my sister who is about 16 months looking at my mom sort of smiling next to her, introducing my sister to me.

So three generations there and just the joy in my mom’s face and her voice what she did as a mother and what she discovered in a creative hand she had in our upbringing and what she introduced us to. That’s all part of the side stories about my grandparents and my dad. And it has been good because whenever I do the blog, it’s sort of a family affair because I cook what I want and then my son who is artistic takes beautiful pictures. And I’ve had a couple of other former students who are now photographers take pictures.

And I told students “No, I wasn’t making money on this but you can take home dinner to your family.” And I said come on over, have a meal and when I was writing this up originally, the narrative word or something has become sort of a catch phrase I use in it. There was just sort of our life that I use in this now was there’s always room for one word at the table. And that’s sort of a philosophy of life that I live and a philosophy that my parents always lived.

So for me, room for one more at the table means you have someone wants a voice lesson and I’m not horribly overloaded, there’s room to squeeze another one in during the week. Or someone needs some extra advising and something like that, there’s always another hour to make that happen. Part of my voice is wanting to have a generosity of spirit. I felt that sort of drives to me. So anyway, that’s a little bit about with the blog is about.

Andrea: Have you always felt this connected to your family?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes

Andrea: Or it’s just a new thing?

Dr. Anne Foradori: I would hear my grandmother tells us a story of their youth and then I would say something to this aunt who’s 10 years younger. I said, grandma told this story of such and such. And she said, “I didn’t remember that.” Or she’d say “I didn’t remember those details.” Well, of course, they may have lived over the same thing but with 10 years of difference in their childhood. So I always thought that that was interesting in terms of hearing my grandmother relayed that she had a great sense of drama in telling our family story and how other siblings who were younger may have lived through it. But the experience was not the same because of the distance and that. So yes, my grandmother was a great story teller. I’ve always had this connectedness.

Andrea: I’m curious what it was like for you when like emotionally when you realized that you didn’t have as much of a singing voice anymore? Was that difficult?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes and no. You are prepared for different stages of life, different ways. When I was 49, once I got 49 and a half, I just started to refer to myself as almost 50. So I said, “Well, I’m almost 50, I’m almost 50.” When I turned, I thought “Well, I’m only 50.” So I think in my mind I have prepared myself and knowing having said in that voice in pedagogy to understand that woman’s voice have changed and cartilage that was once flexible becomes more calcified and with that all the things that come with it and that some people are singing to their 60s and some do not. It’s like preparing yourself for anything when you get to middle age and then wake up one morning and say “Oh I couldn’t have any more babies, could I?”

So there was not sadness, there was just an adjustment to other things and my students have said “Well, come and sing, sing first.” And the truth is if I got one drop enough, I could do more singing and I can always demonstrate lessons. But again, that comes to how I judge myself and what I want to experience to be and if the experience is going to be such that it’s difficult for me or painful for me because I can’t sing as I do when I was 40, 20 years old, then instead of being sad about it, I turn the corner and say “But there’s other things I can do. There’s so more I ca n do and my interests are broad.”

So I’m working on a paper now to send up to publication and five musicals that changed the face of musical theater in America. So I’m interested in that and food blog and working on projects with students. So I don’t miss it because the minute that one thing was taken off the table, many things came in in it’s place. I think there’s a passing of that and I think because I always combine singing with teaching, it’s not like one day, I woke up from the Metropolitan Opera and couldn’t sing, you know.

I always knew it had to be part of a balance for being a teacher and a musician. So sad for about five minutes and then I thought and through chemo and I’m alive. And so the bigger picture for all of that was…I had my surgery done in Omaha and then I had chemo back here but I know when I was in the hospital in Omaha and due to complications I had to stay about 10 days. And I remember the physician, my colleague just come in and said she could not believe what a positive spirit I had. I was just so positive and I just said to her “You know, I’m just glad this was caught and I’m alive and I’m just glad to be here, just grateful to be alive and so what was there to complain about. I have so much more than so many other people.

I tried to keep that as my focus and my approach of things. I remember when my son was little, we had many talks about the difference between need and want. He would just “I need, I need, I need.” And I said, “No, you want, you want, you want,” and that’s different than needing. So do I need to sing? No, I don’t need to sing because there are other things. I need to live. I need to have a voice. I need to feel like that voice matters. But it can be done through many different ways. One of my friends once said that the people who are most successful in life have a good Plan B. So I’m okay with going with Plan B sometimes.

Andrea: You mentioned the desire to be generous before and the fact that you feel that gratitude and also you have this attitude of abundance that you can be generous then. And I think that that is a really powerful thing too to have those core beliefs that there is enough, there is always room for one more, there is always…and I’m grateful for what I have. That puts you in a position of power to be able to offer generously.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Here’s a saying in among the philosophers that a reflected life it is worth living. So I try to be thoughtful in how I make decisions especially if it all includes other people. I try to be thoughtful and I try to examine my life a little bit everyday and that’s different from beating yourself up for the things that you aren’t accomplishing immediately. You have to be patient with yourself. But in the long run of life, I see…some of like I mentioned my mom about being a good role model. And one of a very few people I think I know in life who I think died with maybe no or very little regret because she lived a very honest, very true life. And she when was at her most ill and I went home to visit and I knew I would not see her again and I was teary, and she used like great line from A League of Their Own,”There’s no crying in baseball.” We had that as running joke and we cry “There’s no crying in baseball.”

And I think that was her way of saying, I have lived a good life. Don’t be sorry for me. So that would be the greatest thing if anybody said at the end of the day, the end of whatever my end of the day is I lived a good life. I was a good person, I lived a good life. I think that’s a huge accomplishment. It sounds very basic and it sounds like a “Are you underselling yourself? You don’t want to cure cancer? You don’t want this, you don’t want that?”

But I think that some people are made for overt big changes. Some people are meant to discover things scientifically or go to the moon. And then some people work consistently and quietly for change and good things through their own way. And I think I’m in that category B. I always want to be in the classroom or in a studio with the students. I didn’t want to be an administrator running a program.

I think half of discovering your voice is recognizing what your gifts are. Not feeling dwarf by saying “Well, I’m not really good in this,” but understanding what your gifts are and how to use those gifts to speak to others. What are your gifts? What do you bring to the table? And from that, how do you develop those gifts to be a voice that you can use to bring your point of view for an advocate for others or whatever you want to do with that.

And I think that’s interesting, understanding and recognizing that your voice comes from your gifts. So the first part of that is understanding, recognizing, and appreciating yourself and your own gifts. And if you appreciate your gifts then you think you are worthy to bring them to the table and then you develop your voice and serve others too. But it comes with the recognition of “These are the things I do that are good and worthy and are good to share with others.”

Andrea: I think maybe everybody does this to some degree but where we view other people’s gifts and we admire them and then we kind of make this assumption that our gifts aren’t as powerful, strong, meaningful, or effect2ive or whatever it might be that we’re trying to aspire to be. How do you think that people can recognize their gifts as being good?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Sometimes, it’s good to what I say as a personal inventory. What are the things I like and what are the things I don’t like. So I might make a list of “Here are the things that I wish were different in my life.” I only can put down things over which I have control. I can’t say world peace, because that isn’t my personal responsibility. I’m only responsible for myself contributing towards that. So I might make an inventory or I might do that with singers, I might say “We’re gonna talk about your voice today.” Especially if they’re having a hard time with something technical and they’re frustrated, I’ll say “Here are the things, I can write down five things about your voice that I really like.”

And I then I don’t let them necessarily write down things they don’t like in their voices. And you write down five things about your voice that you like and then we’ll compare the notes. So they have to start by looking at themselves in a positive light instead of do’s and dont’s, what do I like and what do I don’t like. So I’m just going to say, this is what I like about your singing voice and this is what I like and I want you to write down five things about your voice.

Andrea: How does that affect them?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, I think they’re surprised because it’s usually hard for them to come up with five things because they want to be critical of themselves and I just make them do it.

Andrea: Why is that, why do we do that?

Dr. Anne Foradori: We blame it all on original sin. I think it’s in our human nature if you were raised in an atmosphere family whatever where you taught humility. It becomes a habit. But I mean, it becomes sort of something that informs how we view ourselves and we view the world. But there are also as false humility and that’s something we have to be careful of. If you have a gift like a gift of a voice and if you choose to develop it and develop it to the best of your ability then bravo for you. And if you don’t then that is your loss, but everybody has some gifts. Everybody has something to give and it’s precious because it was given to you.

We don’t self manufacture gifts. Those are given to us. We develop them. We bring them to the light. We can do that but we’re hard on ourselves. I think understanding where gifts come from really important. We don’t receive gifts unless there is some good intention behind it. After my junior recital that’s way back, I wasn’t entirely pleased with how I sing. I was very hard with myself. And sometimes after recital when visiting with friends and family and a couple of people came up to me and said nice things to me and then I tried to talk it the way like “Yes, but then there was then one note and dah dah dah.”

And my voice teacher, a wise woman, came stood up next to me and I felt a little pinch on my arm and she said “Just take a compliment.” I remember thinking “Yeah, why can I just say thank you and be done with it.” That’s hard to do, but I think it’s important to do and important to recognize that you have the gift. And I think you mentioned earlier people comparing themselves with one another, “Is my gift big enough? Is my gift good enough? Is it good enough to develop?”

I have heard more voices what I would consider a very good instrument, not the top natural instrument to come to school but a very fine instrument who work like dogs. And in the end, you know, it really is a little story, The Tortoise and the Hare of who gets ahead. The person who was taken what they have as a gift and work and work and work to develop it. So that’s a puzzling question on why we’re so hard on ourselves and why we don’t just accept gifts.

Andrea: Okay, so I have some like technical questions.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Okay.

Andrea: Now, I think that most of the people they’re listening, Influencers who are listening is not necessarily thinking about their singing voice. But I think if they just got a ton of other information which is fabulous, but I do think that we each have a speaking voice. I think that so much of what you taught me about singing applies to speaking whether it would be one-on-one or in front of a crowd.

And so I’ve noticed this in some speakers who might have a powerful voice in a sense. They have very strong opinions but in particular women tend to hold back on the way that they express those opinions. And I’m not even talking about theoretically now or figuratively. I’m actually talking about actual vocalizing of the way that they’re talking, where almost that connection of breath and phrasing those sorts of things, and breath support, they aren’t there. And I’m thinking I want to get them singing so I can show them what’s this means. So I think that you do a better job than I do right now explaining what connection of breath is and why that matters.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, if I spoke this whole time where I should be speaking, my voice would probably not have been tired. So if I were going to work with a professional voice user and developing there tone and timbre and strength with their speaking voice, there are few things I would address. The first is define what we call an optimal speaking pitch. We are not valley girls anymore but we’re in a society fry in the end of it. I hear from mostly young actresses and people who are interviewed, they talk and all of a sudden their voice fries at the end.

Andrea: Yes that vocal fry.

Dr. Anne Foradori: And that’s not very good for your voice, so to find the optimal speaking pitch, should I do this in piano?

Andrea: Sure that would be great.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So to find your optimal speaking pitch, so I’m going to say for a mezzo-soprano your two octave range, I’m just going to say is a e. So we’ll just pick that up [played piano]. So the top note of the bottom third…is about where your optimal speaking pitches. So what I would do first in working with someone is I would just say, I want you to talk and I’m not asking you to sing but I want you to keep this pitch in your ear, this is your optimal speaking pitch.

So my name is Anne Foradori and I’m doing this interview today with Andrea Wenburg and we are talking about developing voice or finding your voice. So if I had spoken like that through the whole time this interview, my voice would not be roughed, but it might sound affected. But when you’re speaking it in front of a crowd, you do not mind a little bit of a lift because we don’t want to fry at the end. So I would say the first thing would be defined about where your optimal speaking pitch is. So for here, I would say would be about for you is e. So you want to give it a go?

Andrea: I really do enjoy speaking and read about that tone.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yeah, okay. It seems high.

Andrea: Yes.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So I usually say to people if it seems a little high, give yourself a break and go back down half a step and work on it like that. So finding an optimal speaking pitch is the first thing. The second is to do some exercises with that where you are whether I have that pitch still in my head, I would be saying “Unfrozen, stop holding back and release the real you.” Then I would start to try to connect voice to it. And for people who are Harry Potter fans, I say it’s the professor Trelawney School of Divination.  So I have students play that for fun on their optimal speaking pitch or trying to speak an elongated fashion.

The other thing to find if you see my voice cleared up breath, part of the other thing you find if you use an optimal speaking pitch is that you cannot sustain that higher pitch of speaking without graph. So speaking quietly, you don’t need breath support like that but if I want my voice to carry, I have to have breath connected to it or you run out of it.

So I would probably work on some exercises and made them do that too then I would also work on the two what I just call ‘quick’ or exercises that are great that are noninvasive singing exercises. But first is a lip throw like a motor boat and they put voice on that. A lip throw is one the fastest way you can warm up a voice if you can’t be somewhere where you can sing loudly and that you can take that high. Shall we do it together?

Andrea: Sure.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Let’s go ahead. Okay, so when you take that high, you don’t feel pressure on your throat but you can feel pressure up on your resonate area in your face. And you see how much breath pressure you need to get up that high to sing so that’s a good reminder of how much breath pressure you need when you’re going to speak. But I would say for anybody who wants to develop their speaking voice to find their optimal pitch and then they warm up their voice like they would as a singer.

There’s a phrase in Italian: sing as you speak, or I’d say, you speak as you sing. And so the same rules apply to singing as applied to speaking. And there have been an occasion to hear a professional singer speak whether on the stage or somewhere else, the voice is elevated like this, you know, you hear resonate sound. Those are the first things I’d start with that would help somebody or professional speaker to develop their speaking voice or their singing voice.

Andrea: Uh-hmm and that vocal fry thing, I remember you’re giving me an article actually and you’re explaining too that that’s just a vocal chord beating each other up really and that’s what I’m doing right now kind of. But I speak up higher then my vocal chords are not hurting each other so I can do it longer.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Right.

Andrea: I’ve got more longevity with this particular voice at this particular time and in general. I’m not going to end up with vocal nodules so not be able to really talk. The other thing I remember you’re saying too which I think is very interesting and powerful is that well placed vocal abuse is okay sometimes.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, so…alright, for instance say your singing a musical theater piece where you want to growl and a sound like that, so someone wants told me in terms of…I don’t know if I heard this on a funny episode or something like phrase or what, but someone was talking about how dry they wanted their martini and the response was, I want a fork full of liquid. Well, the joke of course is a fork full of any liquid is just a teeny bit of liquid as you can imagine. So you want a fork full of a liquid for anything that you do that would enhance the sound or for something in the sound like a vocal fry or a glottal stroke or any of those kinds of things…

Andrea: Explain the glottal stroke real quick?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, instead of starting with the air puffing the glottis apart, the vocal chords apart, and the truth if you’re singing in German and start with a vowel sometimes that vowel starts with a hard sound or glottal stroke. So a little bit of bad is okay, won’t kill you or people. Ethel Merman of whatever she was singing in a hard belt with a lot of some vocal abuse in there too.

But a phrase I use a whole lot with students who are using especially learning belt is I’d say “Don’t make your sound breath starved. Don’t cut it out, you know, you don’t want your voice to sound like you pulling the neck on a balloon. Let me hear out that the breath is what feeds us all the time.” So having the breath in the sound is important terms of the development of speaking voice too.

Andrea: I think that that’s really important. Breath is huge and we often don’t take a big enough one.

Dr. Anne Foradori: We often and we often sort of speak to the end and impress the sound. All of that is hard and the voice in terms of the fatigue factor.

Andrea: Well thank you so much for this time.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well thank you. This has been sort of gone all over the place but that’s okay.

Andrea: That’s the great thing about having your own podcast. You can do whatever you want to.

Dr. Anne Foradori: I guess.

Andrea: Well, yes, thank you so much and I appreciate your voice in my life on so many different levels and the experiences you have given me. Thank you for what you’re doing to students as well. I appreciate it.

Dr. Anne Foradori: And I especially like before we started that you’re articulating through this in a voice that each voice is worthy to be heard. Everybody’s voice has something to add to conversation with your voice no matter; even it feels like it’s a small contribution. All contributions are welcome and that the table is big enough for people to be there and every voice deserves to be heard.

Sometimes even the voice that may seem like it’s a voice in the wilderness or they may seem like the message is a small, it’s important to that person and so it’s important that it’s heard. We all become more generous and are giving if we feel like what we offer is acknowledged and appreciated even on the most basic level, even if what we do seems like the most basic act of kindness. Sometimes even just someone saying, thank you is all we need to feel inspired to be more generous and to be a better giver.

Andrea: Uh so true. Thank you!

Dr. Anne Foradori: You’re welcome!

 

END

The Four Elements of Your Voice of Influence

Voice Studio Episode 12

I am so excited to share this episode with you today because this is the introduction to the hearty nourishment I hope to provide through this podcast. If you’re wanting to develop your impact, today I’m revealing the four elements I believe make up a Voice of Influence.

Not mentioned in the episode is the fact that there is an inward awareness and development and then there is an outward awareness and development. The inward elements are Identity and Core Message. The outward elements are Creative Contribution and Strategy.

We’re getting down with the good stuff of purpose and calling here today. Enjoy!

Join the Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group

…where I will be doing a Facebook Live going into more depth on these elements on Saturday, June 3rd. If you’re reading this in the future, check into the group. There will likely be a number of posts about these elements in the future!

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher.

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.

Mentioned in this episode:

 

 

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher.

Thank you for subscribing, rating and reviewing the podcast. Future listeners who find it because you made that effort will thank you!

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

What I Learned About Myself from Working with a Fashion Stylist

Voice Studio 11: Reflections on identity after working with Image Consultant, Toi Sweeney

This is a special Voice Studio episode. It is the audio from a video I recorded right after returning home from Philadelphia where I worked with image consultant, Toi Sweeney. In this episode I share my reflections about what I learned about myself from the experience and what I most wanted to share with you.

Mentioned in this episode:
* SECRETS OF A WELL DRESSED BRAND by Toi Sweeney
* My Fascinate Advantage® offerings
* The original video of this episode (below)
* Episode 11 How to Dress Your Identity and Message with Toi Sweeney

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher

This is the original video where the audio from this episode comes from. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more.

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

Thank you for rating, reviewing and subscribing!

 

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.

You Can’t Succeed as a Writer Until You Take the First Step

Episode 09 with Chad Allen

Chad R. Allen (@chadrallen) blogs about writing, publishing, life, and creativity at www.chadrallen.com. He is an editorial director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, and works with such authors as Mark Batterson, Larry Crabb, Kyle Idleman, Chip Ingram, Kyle Idleman, and N. T. Wright. Allen was featured in Christian Retailing’s “Forty under 40” report and has written articles for Conversations, Radix, Relevant, and PRISM. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has an M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife, Alyssa, live with their two children in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Chad R. Allen’s website

Book Proposal Acadamy

Brendon Burchard’s book, The Millionaire Messenger

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher

Transcript

Andrea: Chad it’s great to have you on the Voice of Influence Podcast.

Chad: Ah I love this! Thanks so much, Andrea, for having me. I appreciate it!

Andrea: Okay, so I can’t go any further without asking you about Nebraska. Did you grow up in Nebraska or did you just go to school here?

Chad: Well, I was an Air Force brat, so I move around quite a bit in my childhood. But I did both high school and undergrad college in Nebraska.

Andrea: Aha, and so I’m from Nebraska so that was definitely something that I wanted to ask you about. So how did you get from Nebraska? You’ve been all over and now you’re doing so many amazing things with Baker Books but then also on your own. So did you get from there to here?

Chad: Well, so I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhuskers in the spring of ’96, and from there, I wandered around a little bit trying to find my way. I ended up volunteering for Douglas Gresham in Ireland of all places. Doug is the general consultant for the C.S. Lewis Foundation, C.S. Lewis PTE Limited. He’s also the stepson of the late C.S. Lewis. And so some of your listeners might know C.S. Lewis, he wrote The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and the whole Narnia chronicle series as well as many other books.

So I flew out there in ’97, and I volunteered at his ministry there in Ireland. But part of that was just assisting him with his C.S. Lewis work. With that ministry, I got to see anything related to C.S. Lewis. New books would come across his desk for review and approval. And so I was exposed to the world of publishing through that volunteer opportunity and was just blown away. Because what I saw was that there was this whole back end to publishing and that people had actually an influence on the final product, and I was really captivated with that.

So that led to an interesting publishing and eventually working at Baker in Grand Rapids. I started out as a copy editor or project editor and then eventually made my way to acquisitions and now have been editorial director for six years.

Andrea: I know that you write as well, but not just write your own books but have an influence on other people that are writing books. You and I share very similar interests in that. That’s really interesting. So how did you decide that that was something that you wanted to pursue instead of going right after writing or something else like that right away?

Chad: Yeah, so you know, I was immediately intrigued with the ability to make a book better than when I received it and to really help an author craft their manuscript in a way that would make it as compelling as possible. So that was what initially brought me into publishing and I continue to do that work today.

About six years ago, I did start to feel this kind of pull toward doing my own writing, and so I started my blog to write about writing and publishing and creativity. So I do both now. I write my own stuff. And by the way, my wife is a great editor who helps me refine my own content and then I also continue to do the editorial work.

For me, it’s all about bringing what’s inside out. It’s about helping people do their art and get their content into the world. There’s just nothing that brings me more joy than that work.

Andrea: Why do you feel like it’s that important that people are able to bring that inside out?

Chad: Well, I think that we each have a unique voice. I was just talking to a coaching client earlier this morning and she was really struggling with…I think a lot of people struggle with this. You know, what I have to offer unique and to other people who talk about these things.

And I said, there’s nobody who’s going to do it the way that you do it. What you have to offer is unique. What comes easy to you does not come easy to others. The expertise you have in your particular area, you know, other people don’t have that and they need you to the extent you’d feel called to offer it. They need you to do that.

So, so much of work, Andrea, and probably this is why you have your podcast is to encourage people that their voice is valuable and it’s not going to happen unless they take the risk of getting it out there.

Andrea: With me, when it comes to this podcast and the passion that sort of drives it, it does have a lot to do with my own struggle in that area and then finding my voice and overcoming and that sort of thing. I’m curious if that is a similar thing that you found for yourself. Do you think that’s part of the reason why you’re so interested in helping other people find their voice in writing and creativity and drawing that inside out? Is that something that you struggle with personally?

Chad: Absolutely. I remember reading Brendon Burchard’s book, The Millionaire Messenger, not because I wanted to become a millionaire but because my friend, Andy Traub recommended it to me. He was the first person I heard say, “People really want what you have to offer if you just have the guts to offer it.” You know, there’s something here about trust and taking a risk and maybe a little bit of faith. And I just sort of trusted him and I went for it and that was six years ago when I launched the blog and I’ve been pleased to help a lot of people.

So I think that’s the other thing about this Andrea, as you do it, you know, we’ll make the road by walking it, right? As you do it, you get more and more confidence because you do see people reading your stuff and interacting with it. Yeah, sometimes I’ve seen a blog post in the world that doesn’t get much activity. That happens but then the next one I write does get some activity.

And so a little bit of success can be a big encouragement. You don’t have the opportunity for that success if you don’t get the first blog post out there, you know what I mean? Or the first article or the first podcast or whatever it is.

Andrea: Or the first 10 to see that all of them sort of matter and not everyone of them like you said will end up being that important or that popular. Yeah, I’ve certainly struggled with that in trying to figure out with what is the thing that resonates with the audience, who is the audience and that sort of thing. Is this something that you help people figure out?

Chad: Yeah. So I created this course called Book Proposal Academy. And again, this comes out of just putting myself out there and seeing what might happened. I was in a little Mastermind group when we’re talking about whatever we’re up to. And one of the people in the group said “You know, Chad, if you could show me how to write a book proposal that would be awesome.” I was like “Well, I’ve reviewed a few thousands in my career. I think I could help with that.”

So I created this course called, Book Proposal Academy. And what it’s specifically helps non-fiction writers do is write their book proposals and book proposals are how you eventually get published in the traditional publishing world. But what I found is that book proposals are also just a great way to develop your concept, to build out the structure of your book, to learn how to talk about your book, to make your concepts stronger, to think about the marketing of your book, and to begin actually writing your book because any book proposal that’s worth it. So includes a writing sample of the actual book.

So it’s been this great sort of tool for helping writers break through the barrier of getting started on their book projects. So that’s one way that I’ve helped people do that. The course is called Book Proposal Academy. Your listeners can find it at bookproposalacademy.com and that’s been a wonderful tool to help people. A lot of people have these scattered thoughts about a book they want to write. They struggle with getting started and I found that writing a book proposal is great way to break through that barrier and actually get your book into the world.

Andrea: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense and I can only imagine how valuable that is to people who are longing to write a book but they’re not sure where to begin and to develop their concepts. This idea of developing a concept I think is really interesting. What kind of things do you suggest when people are thinking about that maybe they have a book in their mind that they’d like to write? How do they turn that idea into a concept that’s really, really powerful and could get the attention of an editor or publisher but also would actually sell?

Chad: Yeah that’s such a great question. So the first thing to know is that the formula for publishing success is platform, big platform, plus great concepts, plus great writing equals publishing success. So you wouldn’t want to leverage a platform and service to a concept that’s weak because it’s just a waste of influence. You don’t have to spend all the time and energy into writing a great book if it’s not in service to a great concept because then you just invested a lot of time and energy that’s not going to go anywhere and that sort of wasteful.

So a great concept is really important. What I encourage writers to do is to first think about the need that their book is addressing, the itch that their book is scratching, and to really brainstorm what that is. What is the need that your book is responding to? And then even talk to people, would you buy a book that helps you do so and so, and even go to your Facebook tribe or just friends and family and ask that questions to get really clear your mind what’s the pinpoint that my book is going to relieve.

Once you have that firmly in place then I encouraged writers to brainstorm possible book titles and subtitles. When we talk about concept that can sound really amorphous and hard to get your mind around but titles are concept labels, they make concepts concrete. So as you play with different titles, you’re playing with different concepts. So with the need that your book is addressing in mind, you brainstorm working titles and subtitles for your book.

What I encourage people do, and I have folks who have actually done this through a pizza party, they’ll invite over all their most creative friends. You describe the need that your book is addressing and then you get them brainstorming titles and subtitles.

Andrea: What a great idea!

Chad: Yeah, so you just keep doing that until you have three or four strong titles, subtitles combinations and then you go to your Facebook tribe wherever you go for feedback and you say “Here are my top three or four titles, subtitle ideas, which of these would you been most likely to purchase?” And that’s the process that I encourage writers to use to develop a great concept.

Andrea: Yeah, those are great tips and great suggestions so one thing that you mentioned that you start with the need. And I think that a lot of times as somebody who really cares about making a difference and wants to get a message out into the world, sometimes we start with our own desire to share something instead of starting where other people are at, which sounds like you’re suggesting. Start where people actually feel the need.

So yeah, I just find that really interesting. How do you bridge that gap? How do you go from having an idea that’s inside of you and a passion that’s inside of you and turning it into something that’s actually going to meet a need?

Chad: Yeah, that’s the kind of million dollar question because we have these passions. We have these desires, this internal pull to write about something or to get some sort of message into the world and that’s really, really important. It’s important to know what that passion is to have a sense of that, but the real magic is when you can find the intersection between your passion and the world’s need.

You know, Buechner has this great quote about the place you’re called to is the place where your deep gladness meets the world deep need. And so I think both are really important, but definitely making a priority of determining what the need is and using your passion to meet that specific need. That’s the place where you are going to find the hearing and you’re going to be able to have increasingly more influence.

Andrea: There are a lot of people I think who might say “Well, I don’t need other people to read what I write.” I hear this a lot. “I’m just doing it even if it’s just for one person,” and that sort of thing. I can see why they would say that and I can say why I may have said that in the past at the same time I think that’s almost like cut out to finding this intersection that you’re talking about and it’s really hard work to find that.

Chad: Yeah. I mean, I do write just for myself sometimes. That’s called my journal.

Andrea: Right.

Chad: That’s really valuable, you know, there’s definitely a place for that. And there are things that I share my journal. I certainly wouldn’t share with the world. But I’m doing my blog, I want to serve people and yes that’s good for me. It helps me kind of untangle my thoughts and help me figure out what I wanted to say.

There’s a great quote about “How do I know what I think until I see what I say.” So am I getting something out of it? Absolutely, I’m getting something out of it, but I also want to help people and I just find that I get more readers when I’m speaking to issues that they’re really facing, that they’re really struggling with. And so I get a much better response when I’m zeroed in on serving people that I do when I’m focused on, you know, what do I have to say?

So it’s finding the intersection. And it’s a dance and it is difficult work. It’s also really energizing work when things go well. And like you said, sometimes you got to do this for 10 posts. Sometimes you got to do this for five years before you really see the results of your efforts, but the journey is worthwhile. So I hope that’s helpful.

Andrea: Yeah. Well, what’s the journey been like for you? So you already have a job, a really good job and doing something that’s really important and that’s your calling then you started to blog and what not. Did you immediately find a readership or has it taken a while to kind of get going?

Chad: It has taken a while for sure. Yeah, I mean what I did and what I encourage beginning bloggers to do is to get your first 10 articles written, and you know save on your hard drive before you even publish the first one, just so that you start getting into the rhythm of writing and sending your work into the world. So that you have 10 posts in the queue and then you can tweak them before you actually hit publish. That was how I started.

And you know, Andrea, those are some very fun memories for me of waking up early in the morning. Like you said, I have a fulltime job, but I would wake up and still wake up early in the morning most days of the week, and I often go to a coffee shop. And those are some of my best moments, right? Just me and my keyboard making something happen. I still love it. I get goose bumps even thinking about it now.

But yeah, it does take a while and it takes savvy you know. You learn ways of getting more and more eyeballs on your contents. I think a lot of it begins with learning that it’s really okay for you to ask people to read your stuff. You know, “Hey, I just wrote this. You might find it interesting, check it out.” You know, getting past the initial hurdle of asking people to check out what you’ve done is an important stuff to take. So it does take time.

And definitely if you’re going to do this, it’s important to have the long view in mind. I mean, there are stories that people who have sort of overnight success, but they’re the exceptions that make the rule. So definitely, you have to be content with the journey and the satisfaction of just giving your stuff into the world. But recognize that as you do it overtime and as you learn more and more techniques for attracting readers to what you’re doing or listeners to the podcast that you’re broadcasting. The longer you’re out it, the more people will learn about you that’s been my experience.

Andrea: Hmm, so when people are going through this process of trying to find that voice in writing, whether it’d be through using a book proposal or blogging, do you have anything in particular that you suggest people do in terms of taking care of themselves or how that relates to finding their voice?

Chad: Ah, I think that is so important. I’ve always been fascinated with the interplay between sort of caring for ourselves and serving others. I travelled quite a bit for work and we’ve all heard…anybody has been in an airplane has heard the flight attendant talked about, you know, if the pressure in the cabin goes down and the oxygen masks fall off and you have a small child with you, please place the oxygen mask of yourself before helping others. And I think that’s a metaphor for how we should approach creative work. We have to be taking care of ourselves if we’re going to help people to the best extent possible.

So when I talk about self care, I think about things like getting enough sleep. I think about eating well. I think about being connected relationally with people who are supporting me. You know, who’s your team? Who’s helping you do your creative work and how are you interacting with them on a regular basis? I think about the stimuli that I put in front of my cerebral cortex. What books am I reading? What shows am I watching? What podcast am I listening to that are going to help me do my most creative work? What’s my calendar like?

What kind of time am I committing to my art and how do I do that in a way that honors the work that I’m doing but also the person I am and my need for sleep and taking care of myself. So I encourage people to think about, how are you going to take care of you as you do this creative work? Because it’s when you’re living a full healthy life that you’re going to be able to produce the best content and help the most people possible.

Andrea: That’s some great advice. I self published a book recently and in that time of me writing, everything was so focused on getting this message out of my body and my head. Like I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. I didn’t even attempt to be published because I didn’t have that platform yet, and I just have this message inside of me that I had to get out somehow.

So I think I got so focused on just getting it out that it was easy to let other things slide, and yet I think if I were to look back and talk to myself back then, I would say something along the lines of “You have time. Take a breath. Make sure that you are doing these self-care things that you just suggested.”

One thing that really stood out to me was this idea of having a team around you that you connect with relationally and talk about. Is it easy to find that or how do you develop? How do you know who belongs in that position in your life when you’re trying to develop a message?

Chad: Yeah, I think there are at least three ways you can go about that. One is to enlist a mentor, and just think about somebody who’s farther along than you in the journey that you want to be mentored in and whether it’s creativity, health, blogging, or podcasting. Think of somebody in your current circles who may have more experience than you do and it could be somebody who lives near you, or it could be somebody that you’re just connected to via the internet and ask them.

You know, “Could we get together once a quarter?” Say, once a month or once a quarter, whatever works. “And you don’t have to do anything but show up and I’m going to ask you questions. I would just like to spend that time with you.” If you’re going out to lunch, make sure that you pick up a tab for lunch. I’ve done that to really great effects.

Another way is just a 1 on 1 meeting, so maybe somebody who is a peer of yours. It may not make sense for them to be your mentor but they’re somebody who’s also on the journey. So you have a rhythm of going out with them for coffee or lunch once a month again, once a quarter, or once a week whatever makes sense and you commit showing up with say 15 minutes of content that you’ve picked and they commit to the same thing. And you take notes when they’re talking or at least mental notes so that you are learning from them and they’re learning from you and you’re on the journey together.

And the third way would be developing what Todd Henry calls a ‘creativity circle’ where a group of people get together and they talk about, you know, “What are we working on right now?” Why do we need some accountability? What do we want to have accomplished by the next time we get together? And I’ve done those once a month, and again, they’ve been extremely helpful to me and supportive to me as I move forward. There are of course paid opportunities out there; coach, different mastermind, coaching groups that you can pay to enter and those are also worth checking out.

Andrea: What do you think is the value difference or why would somebody choose to seek out somebody like you to be their coach, their writing coach instead of finding a friend to talk to? What’s the difference there do you think?

Chad: Well, I think it’s just a different kind of help and somebody maybe the help they need is the help that only a friend can offer. I think the value of a coach is that a coach has walked this path before and they’re going to help you save time and energy so that you can just be more efficient and see progress more quickly. A coach can also help you with the accountability piece.

A friend maybe able to help you with that but if you’re paying a coach to keep you accountable then it tends to… You know, what I’ve noticed, Andrea, I guess when I pay for something, I’m much more likely to be invested in it with my own time and energy than if I’m getting a service for free. So that’s just the reality of human nature but I think both are important. I would hate to pick one against the other, but coaching does offer some things that other relationships don’t tend to offer.

Andrea: Yeah, that’s a good point. What else do you think you would like to cover, anything else that we haven’t really talked about?

Chad: I think this had been a really good dialogue. Sometimes an interviewer will ask me, you know, they’ll think about the audience they have in mind and they’ll say the people who are listening this podcast are tat tada tada tada. If you could only offer one piece of advice, what would it be? Maybe, we could end like that if you wanted to.

Andrea: Yes, absolutely! And also I’ll ask you where to find you, where people can find you and that sort of thing too. But I want to make sure that we didn’t have anything else that we need to cover. So Chad for the Influencers that’s out there listening, thinking that maybe they have a book inside of them that they’re not really sure where to begin. We know that they can come to your Book Proposal Academy and potentially take that course from you, but what was be the first step that you would suggest that they do in order to get that book out there to explore that idea?

Chad: That’s so great and it brings to mind a story, Andrea, if’ you’ll indulge me.

Andrea: Of course!

Chad: I remember when my son was about 4 years old; we went to Chuck E. Cheese. And this is not something I recommend usually to anybody because it just a lot of noise and a bunch of consumerism. But one thing that he came away with from the trip was slinky. And I think slinkies are pretty awesome toys. And it wasn’t long before we got home and he was trying to do what they do in the commercials.

He was trying to get the slinky to walk down our stairs. He just kept trying and took the top front of the slinky and slams it down to the next step, and to be honest, it was not just going off. And I thought “Oh boy!” You know, I’m going to have to break it for him. He was 4 years old and I’m going to break it to him that what they’re doing in the commercials isn’t possible in real life.

But little Lucas, he just kept trying. He kept trying to put that top of the slinky on the next step. And all of a sudden, I don’t know what he did, but he did something just right because he did the same thing again. He put it down on the next step and off it went 17 steps all by itself and it was like an incredible moment.

I remember, he was at the top of the stairs and I was at the bottom of the stairs and we both looked at each “Well, it’s happening.” And I looked at his mouth, it was wide open and it jumps up in the air and his hair was all over the place.

Now, what I want your listeners to do is post that image in their minds that image of a little boy jumping into the air with his eyes wide open with his hair flying everywhere because that’s what is possible for them if they keep trying the first step. So the first step could be writing a blog post once a week. It could be writing 250 words every week. It could be writing that chapter every month. It could be posting their podcast once a week or once a day or whatever it is.

Whatever it is to take the first step and the key to taking it over and over again until something hits, until something happens that goes just right, that’s what they need to do. Focus in on that that first step. They need to take over and over again, and if they do that and they do it faithfully, they can’t go wrong.

Andrea: Wow that’s a great advice. Thank you so much for all of this advice about writing and publishing. So Chad, where can people find you if they’re wanting to learn more about you?

Chad: Yeah, I’m at chadrallen.com and the same both on Facebook and Twitter, chadrallen, and you can find me on those various places.

Andrea: I’ll be sure to link to your website and that show notes. And I would also mention to the Influencers listening that there are a lot of great resources there. So please go ahead and check them out and the things that are free. I love some of the things that I’ve seen on your website. So thank you for all of the things that you’re doing to help us, to help people like me and the Influencers out there to be able to develop their own Voice of Influence as you’re using yours.

Chad: Thanks, Andrea. It has been a lot of fun!

 

 

A Family Miracle: Polygamist Cult Survivors Part 2

Episode 08 with Anna LeBaron of THE POLYGAMIST'S DAUGHTER and Ruth Wariner of THE SOUND OF GRAVEL

In Part 1 of this interview with cousins, authors and polygamist cult escapees Anna LeBaron and Ruth Wariner we learned the back story of what makes their relationships so extraordinary. In this episode we hear how the cousins relate to one another’s painful experiences, healing journeys and the messages they feel called to speak to the world.

Share this one with a young woman you love (teen+). There is so much we can relate to here and their examples are powerful for helping others realize that their voice matters.

Mentioned on this episode:

Ruth Wariner’s Website

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner

Anna LeBaron’s Website

The Polygamist’s Daughter: A Memoir by Anna LeBaron

Shannon Thomas – Healing from Hidden Abuses

Brene Brown – Website

The Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group (Join here)

Listen here, or on iTunes or Stitcher

Thank you for subscribing, rating and reviewing the podcast on other platforms! It really does make a difference!

 

Transcript

Hey, it’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast. Today, we have Part 2 of extra special interview with Anna LeBaron and Ruth Wariner. Now, these ladies are both authors, they’re cousins, and they’re polygamous cult escapist. And if you have not heard Part 1 of this interview, you need to go back. Stop this right now, and go back and listen to Part 1.

So many amazing things that they share about the way that they met, their interaction, and how that’s been healing for them. It’s fabulous. Now, in today’s interview and today’s episode, we’re going to dig a little bit more into what it was like for them to not have and then find their Voice of Influence.

Andrea: Welcome back to the podcast Anna and Ruth!

Anna and Ruth: Hi!

Andrea: Okay, so we’re we left off in the last episode was that you were discussing the fact that sharing your stories, even quoting your stories out there for each of you was healing for you. But it kind of brought up some other things with other family members know that it’s difficult for them. So have either one of you had any resistance to sharing your stories with the world?

Anna: Oh my gosh, I know that for me having witnessed other people in our family, having written their stories and then listened as people reacted to and responded to the things that we shared, the difficult situation to be in telling such an intimate details about your family. And then finding out those things have impacted other people sometimes in negative ways.

And that has been a reality for me hearing from family and then hearing from others who hear from family where you know that what you’ve done by sharing your story has impacted others negatively and that’s a hard thing.

Ruth: Uh-hmmm. It is.

Anna: It’s a hard thing to process and navigate and work through; however, I knew that it will impact people just because I’ve seen it happen so many times before because there have been so many books written about our family, even made for TV movie that was just horrible and horrifying to watch myself.

Ruth: It was for me too, yeah.

Anna: Just watching what happened, and the fact that these things transpired in our lives and then having to _____ them through other people’s lives.

Ruth: Through another perspective, absolutely.

Anna: And the key was that, it’s somebody else’s perspective.

Ruth: Yeah.

Anna: So when I watched that made for TV movie in 1993 on television, it was impactful and that it was told through somebody’s eyes that I wasn’t very familiar with. And so the scenes and the things that played out, I was a little bit surprised like “Oh my gosh, these things are odd or unreal.” But it was actually very real but it wasn’t my perspective. The story wasn’t told [crosstalk].

Ruth: It wasn’t your experience.

Anna: And so when I started writing, I had gone to the place where I knew that everyone has a story and every story matters. And even me writing my story was going to impact people that my story mattered. And so, me being able to tell my story even knowing that people were going to be having to make shift their inside….

Ruth: In their own understanding.

Anna: Their own understanding of what happened. Those shifts were going to happen and it was going to be difficult for some people, I just felt like I needed to…I’ve known, I needed to tell my story for decades.

Ruth: Me too.

Anna: And had to go through a long healing process personally before I could get to the point where I could tell my story and share that was really intimate, really impactful things that happened to me with the world.

Ruth: And that was something, as I was writing, it was a conflict that I had honestly I was writing because it was so important for me to be honest and for me to share my truth and my experience because I hadn’t felt this as a child. And really when I started writing my book, it was more for family. I wanted my younger siblings to remember our mother and to know who she was because they didn’t have a memory of her.

But I wanted them to know who she was through the experience that I have with her from my perspective and that part of it was really important to me. And so my memoir ended up becoming more of a we-moir I guess. It was about our family experience but I was very concerned about how that was going to affect my family. And that definitely influenced the way that I wrote about the religion in the book because I have so many family members that are wonderful and I adore that are still practicing polygamous and practicing Fundamentalist and still believe that my dad is the prophet.

I knew that I was writing and I took that into consideration. But at the time I was ready to share my manuscript with the publisher, I had my siblings that I’m closest to, which are all of my mother’s children, I had them read it and I want a feedback from them. And I wanted them to be okay with the way that I told the story. But it was impossible obviously to break outside and to get feedback from people outside of my nuclear family.

So my brother Matt, he was still in the religion. He still lives in Colonia LeBaron, he read it and he loved it. So for me, that was important and he also helped me. You know, I had been 20 years removed from my childhood in LeBaron when I first started writing and I was reflecting and remember. I used a lot of photographs. I’d been back to the Colonia LeBaron a few times and it helped with my writing and my memories.

But he definitely helped fill in a lot of little memories and little stories that we both remembered. We spent a lot times of impactful conversation about what happened. And I remember asking him, I’m like “Did this happen? Is this true?” You know, because it was so bizarre to me after having left the town for 20 years basically. It was important for me that it was okay with him because I didn’t want to hurt our relationship in real life.

It was exciting that he was able to not only understand my perspective. And he said that, he said “I know that this is your perspective.” He was very understanding of that and not only understanding but he was excited for me and he wanted to know as the book was being released. He wanted to know how it was doing.

So that part, I felt really good about that my mom’s family, the family that I’m closest to was okay with the story. And not only okay with it but they loved it and they all said that it was healing for them to read from my perspective and understand where I was coming from and really understand why we ran away. That was a very big part of me for my little sisters to understand that.

Andrea: Because you played a big part in getting your sisters out as well.

Ruth: Yeah, my mother passed away in a tragic accident and we lost a little brother and they were 5 months, 2 and 4 years old. And my brother Aaron was only 10, and I a special needs brother who was Luke was 17 and I was 15. And we grew up with a stepfather, another polygamous man who also believed in my father and his priesthood. He then incredibly _____ us as we were growing up and I found out not long after my mom died that he was continuing to abuse my special needs brother.

And it was at that point that I called my brother Matt working in the States – he was only 18, already out on his own. He left home at 14 and has been working hard labor in construction for those four years. I called him. I explained situation the situation. And you know, after my mom died, there was this part of me that was so profoundly just this really strong primal mother bear instinct that I had for my sisters because my stepfather even right after my mom’s funeral wanting to take my little 4-year-old sister and be alone with her.

And I was like “There’s no way you’re taking that little girl anywhere without me.” And you know, he had apologized for his abuse of all different kinds. He apologized and everybody was like “He’s repented, you need to forgive him.” And that’s how the community responded to him. When I found out about my brother, I was like “There’s no way, we’re staying. There’s no way that he’s gonna start taking my little sisters and being alone with them.”

And so I called my brother Matt. My stepfather had left. He had work in the States so we didn’t know when he was coming back. And I called my brother, I told him exactly what was going on and I said “You are not gonna leave us here anymore.” I was just like “There was no way.” My mom wasn’t there anymore. She wasn’t keeping us and that had always been. She had been the rock. She was the person that did everything for us.

And he came down literally the next night and in an old ____ station wagon. We throw all the kids stuff in the car. We turned off the lights and we literally just lurched out of town so nobody would notice in the middle of the night. It was terrifying because we didn’t know when he was coming back. We didn’t know his family was going to see us leaving. And by the time we got to the border, the sun was rising and going into the border at Arizona.

It was probably a few of the longest seconds of my life as we were waiting. I don’t know for people that have been in border town situations, the lines are long. And it was always frightening to me to cross the border either to Mexico and or to the United States, but it was something that we were definitely well practiced with. But we had never crossed the border without my mom.

And my brother was in the car. I was in the car with my sisters and I was teaching them how to say, you know, to say Americans, so that when they ask us our nationality, we’d all be ready to say American. The border patrol woman, I remember she shined a flashlight inside the car. She looked at each of us and said “Why were you in Mexico?” And so my brother said same thing that my mom had always used to say and it was “We were buying clothes for the kids over the weekend.”

She looked around. She didn’t have any reason to believe that we were newly orphaned or that our mother had just passed away. We were taking the kids away from their father and she let us through. And that was literally the moment in my life definitely when my time and my childhood in LeBaron….it was like that night that cut my life into parts. Yeah, coming out of that was we were safely lived at my grandmother. So that part of it was good but also left behind my family and life that I knew and I was raising a family at that point, my little sisters. My grandmother wasn’t in position to take care them by herself, so I stayed home with them and her with them and then eventually moved out when I was 19 with my sisters and I raised them in Southern Oregon.

When I was raising my sisters, I first just a teenager, a woman in her early 20’s, a single parent with them and you know, it was so important for me for them to understand what had happened that they have a memory about. But since the book has come out, I’ve had a little bit of resistance from the people in Colonia LeBaron, my family there. And I think really the hardest thing for them, you know, my half sisters like I said who they’re wonderful parents and they’re wonderful people but they don’t understand the situation that I left in. I think that they’re the most resistant that I’ve had or had been from people that haven’t even read the book. They haven’t read it and they don’t understand the perspective.

I’ve had one sister in particular call me out pretty _____ on social media on Facebook publicly. She hadn’t had a conversation with me in years and in fact, I don’t know her very well. She’s quite a bit older than I am. But I also realized too that she’s in her 60’s or in her late 50’s, and she remembers my father. She remembers the man who was charismatic and who was a leader and who created this church.

He was obviously very confident and a visionary and that’s the person she remembers him being and I don’t have that connection with my father. And I think that just the fact that I’m questioning whether or not what he said was true, whether or not he was a prophet has really impacted her personally that I would consider that “no, he was not a prophet.” Does that make sense?

Andrea: Oh yeah.

Ruth: Yeah, so that part of it is very personal and very real for her in a way that’s not for me and I understand that.

Andrea: Yeah, Ruth, this idea that the people who have provided the most resistance to your book and to you. Those people haven’t even read the book that sounds a lot like growing up and not having a voice, not being able to share the story, to share your perspective. When other people were telling you, you needed to forgive your step father, when they were saying he’s repentant, you know, you need to just forgive him now; did that cause you to question your own perspective?

Ruth: Oh I definitely did not feel this in to and the fact that so many people supported my stepfather in spite of knowing this had he’d been definitely affected the way that I felt about myself. I’ve struggled with feelings of very insecure feelings and also not knowing how to value myself because I didn’t feel valued. I didn’t feel heard, and that was definitely part of it. The way that the community reacted, but really more importantly the way that my mom reacted and her decision to stay, had a profound impact on my life.

I did struggle with a lot of self doubt. I thought I was going crazy like I know. I had always been very intuitive that there was always something about my stepfather that really bothered me. I didn’t want to be around him. And even before he became abusive, he was very religious and I knew there was something that wasn’t right about him. So part of me learned to trust that little voice inside me, that intuition that I felt and that I felt very alone in feeling.

But as my stepfather became more and more abusive, I realized that there was something real about the way I felt and that I needed to listen to that. And it was the same intuition that when I found out he was abusing my special needs brother, it was that intuition again that told me I needed to leave. And because I had been right before just in that instance, especially in regards to my stepfather, I knew that I needed to listen to it.

Andrea: Yeah, your book indicated that you’re really resolute at that point. You just knew.

Ruth: Oh yeah. No doubt.

Andrea: Whereas before, you might have been questioning but then when it happened to somebody else and when it was possible that it might be happening to other people in your family that mother bear said “No.”

Ruth: No way.

Andrea: So Anna, Ruth mentioned her mother and the fact that her mother stayed was a significant difficulty for her, what it was like for you knowing your mother and her background and the fact that after you left, she stayed?

Anna: Well my mother is still alive so that was one of the things that I had to consider strongly in deciding to write my book. For the longest time, I thought I’ll wait until she passes because she didn’t know a lot of these things that happened to me and I know it would just break her heart to read about them. But then that’s not how things ended up being which I wrote the book even though she was still alive and with us. And I knew that it would impact her life to read these stories and for me to talk about the ____ of polygamy that she’s still very strongly believes in and resonates with and that guides her faith and her practices.

And so I had to overcome some of that resistance within my own self to talk about the things that happened to me knowing that it would be very difficult for my mother to read those things and to share those things like a lot of people don’t tell their parents when negative things happened to them. There’s just some kind of silence or something that happened inside of children when bad things happened to them and telling others is just hard especially telling your own parents. And so that was something that I had to overcome.

Andrea: Why do you think that it is the way that is? Why is it so hard to tell your parents?

Anna: When things are happening to children, oftentimes they’re being told don’t tell and threatened and bullied into not telling so that’s part of the experience. But then you also have that internal dialogue that happens that makes you afraid to speak up or to say what’s happening.

Ruth: Absolutely! I think there’s a tremendous amount of my experience with the same and that there was a tremendous amount of emotional manipulation from stepfather. He was always saying….as I was watched my mom, she has 10 kids and was 38 when she died and she had three special needs kids. It was a tough situation and I had watched her suffer so much. And so when my stepfather was abusive, he asked me not to tell because he didn’t want me to hurt her and so that was something that was very sensitive to me.

And because of the narcissistic personality that he had, he knew the part of me that was easy to manipulate. And there’s also the part in children that blames ourselves and so it’s scary to tell somebody else that we may have done something wrong. It was hard for me really as a child not to blame myself to what was happening in my life and to not have as sense of shame for myself and my body and who I was. And that made it harder to talk about for sure.

Andrea: Yeah. So Anna, you eventually did share your book with your mother, right?

Anna: Yeah, I did.

Andrea: Will you tell us about what that experience was like?

Anna: When I started writing, I knew I needed to tell my mom that I was writing and she was actually very nervous about what I was going to say. So one of the things that I did during the process of writing book was I just maintained some contact with her periodically and sporadically letting her know what was happening in the publishing process, because it was a very long process.

So it was several years of updating her and letting her know where we’re at and then I told her that once I had turn in the entire manuscript to publisher that I would get on the plane and come visit her and talk with her and read it to her. And I wanted her to know what was in the book or what was going to be written about before that book showed up on her doorstep delivered by the postman.

I didn’t want her to be blindsided and to _____ understanding that her choices, her actions and decisions impacted my life so negatively. I didn’t want her to sit with that alone. I wanted to be there beside her and allow her to see that I had grown and matured and healed. I wanted her to see with her own two eyes in flesh and blood. I wanted to be in her presence to be a comfort to her heart with my very presence.

Ruth: Giving you that space that you talked _____.

Anna: I know that like so many people in my family, especially my immediate family. My mother’s children – they have a lot of conflicting feelings as well as I do. I have conflicting feelings about my own mother because she holds to those faith practices that were so devastating to so many people’s lives. So there’s a lot of conflicting feeling even though I feel tenderly towards my mom, there’s still that aspect of being in a relationship with her that’s in conflict with my own values, moral standards and things that I hold as dear in my own faith practices.

So that conflict is there. It’s internal and it’s ever present in every interaction I have with her, however healing or whatever. But I will say that having her grieved and mourn while I was reading even though she regretted because one of the things that you touched on earlier is that there are people in the community we’re born and raised in, they’re still believe that Joel was the prophet. I will say that there is nobody that I’m aware of that’s alive today that believes that Ervil was any kind of prophet at all, not even my own mother who followed him through his death.

Ruth: Wow, I didn’t know that.

Anna: She does not believe that he was a true prophet anymore. She does believe that there’s another that was and you’re probably familiar with that thinking that would cause her to kind of shift gears in that way. So just knowing that she shift and make that shift away from that kind of thinking and that mentality that kind of keeps you _____ sort of kind of stuck. In her mind, she’s not stuck. She has a different [crosstalk] than I do. But from where I was sitting, she was very stuck and the fact that all of her children have now left that way of thinking as far as that who she believes as a prophet currently.

It’s just a lot of conflicting feelings that’s where I was going with it. There’s conflicting feeling in this relationship that I have with my mother and yet, the community that she’s involved in right now doesn’t require her to not have contact with people that are outsiders or considered outsiders. So for that I’m grateful because I have been able to have this experience with her even though internally there’s still that conflict.

Ruth: Absolutely. That makes sense. It totally makes sense and that’s something about my story that has been really hard for me as to not have that opportunity to have a conversation with my mom.

Anna: Is there a part of you…now, I’m talking and…I’m having a little…

Ruth: She’s having a little interview right now.

Andrea: Please, please, please feel free.

Anna: Is there a part of you that can look at my experience with my own mother and think she might have had that thing response.

Ruth: She might have and that’s a good question you know when I think about my childhood. Had my stepfather been the one who passed and not her, would she had married another polygamous and stayed?

Anna: I have not thought about that.

Ruth: Yeah, so you know that’s a good question and I spent years in therapy. And my idea about my mother was always that she would have eventually left because all of my stepfathers’ wives did leave him eventually and you know that we would be friends because I still felt so close to her as a teenager when she died and there were so many feelings of betrayal that I didn’t get to resolve with her.

And thinking back during my therapy actually and this is something that my therapist said to me, she said, do you think you’d have a close relationship with your mother had she survived? And my initial feeling was, yes of course. I would have forgiven her. It would have been amazing. She would have been my friend and I would have known her as an adult and all of my life’s problems would have been solved.

But you know, that might not be the case. I mean, I don’t know extensive the abuse might have been towards my other siblings and how disturbed I might have been have my mother never left. Those are all unanswered questions for me.

Anna: Well, I have siblings. We have _____ feelings with my mother.

Ruth: Yeah, I can imagine.

Anna: Because she still believes those things and still practicing and still…she’s walking down that road.

Ruth: Yeah and hearing your story about your relationship with your mom too, I realized that mine probably wouldn’t have been very perfect either. I probably wouldn’t have been dealing with a lot conflicts and in fact it is true for me and my brother and I. My brother, Matt and I were very close when we’re young. And when he decided to go back to LeBaron and take a second wife, he has 15 children now and has been married a few times but that’s something that’s hard for me.

It’s been hard for us to be able to continue to have that close relationship and relate to each other’s experiences in life because the decisions that my mother made and that my stepfather made in polygamy were so devastating to my life. And so it’s hard for me to watch and go back to it even though I don’t think his situation is not as harsh as ours was growing up. So he has evolved in that since and he’s not nearly as abusive. They have a better lifestyle than I did when I was there but yeah definitely the way women and children were treated, it’s hard for me to watch. It hard for me to see that happening again in my family.

Anna: Agreed.

Andrea: At what point did you each begin to believe that you voice actually did matter, that you mattered and that you expressing your thoughts and feelings, that people might actually listen? At what point that that actually happens for you?

Anna: Well, I’ll just start and kind of ____ with what was being said earlier about therapy.

Andrea: Please do.

Anna: It was for me was when I started my down the road in the healing path that I took when I accepted an invitation from a friend that offered to make an appointment for me with the lay ministry counselor at her church. And I didn’t know I needed therapy but she could obviously see the signs that I was in distress emotionally. And so she made that appointment for me and then after an hour with this woman, she wisely referred me to a licensed professional therapist and that began a five-year journey of what my therapist called ‘peeling back layers of an onion.’

And when I first sat down in her office with her emotionally, I was very stuck. I was very shutdown. When you’re raised in that environment and even after getting out, finding your voice, finding your feelings, or finding expressions for the emotions and the thoughts was really big part of my healing process. I learned how to cry, how to grieve, which those are things that I…I was a grown woman with children of my own and did not know how to express grief. I didn’t know how to express emotions.

I had what I called ‘a very limited range emotionally.’ I couldn’t go very far negative, I couldn’t go very far positive just because being raised in and groomed for eventually becoming just wife, you’re taught to shutdown emotionally.

Ruth: You have to.

Anna: You’re taught to restrict your emotional expressions and so you live a very limited human experience without that big wide range of emotion that’s possible and that’s very normal.

Ruth: That’s human.

Anna: That’s very human and so just being able to tap into and access that emotional expression was such a big part of my healing journey.   Just having tears come out at the corner of eyes, you know, it took my five years to heal.

Ruth: To give yourself permission to feel.

Anna: Yeah. And so the way I talk about it now is because I’m now able to express the negative emotions, grief, and anger and you know rage, sometimes I have permission for that expression in a healthy environment, in a healthy way. There’s a healthy expression of anger and just having access to those negative emotions and the freedom to express them has given me access to the range on the other’s end of spectrum to all the joys and the peace and love in its very wide space.

Ruth: Yeah, it’s so inspiring. That’s amazing.

Andrea: How did other people respond to you when you did start to express yourself? The people that were around you, did they notice sudden change? Did they accept this new expression of your humanity?

Ruth: Good question.

Anna: It wasn’t sudden. Like I said, it took five years for me to open that inner space inside of me that had just been held down for so long. And then I mean, once the dam broke I think I cried for days and months to have let all that grief out that had just been held in for so long. Even years after that, my healing journey has been decades long and I would say that my sister that’s closest to me, Cecelia, that I write about a lot in the book just because we have so many shared experiences.

She has said probably in the last two years or so, that’s why I’m saying this is a decade long process. So none of it was instant, none of it happened quickly. But she has watched me just locked them into the person that I naturally am, the person that’s me, the real me. And just seeing from her perspective and from her eyes and hearing her talk about what she sees in me and how beautiful it is to her that I have finally found my voice. That I have found my full expression of who I am and just seeing that through her eyes and having her expressed that to me has been such a powerful experience.

Ruth: Yeah, I can imagine.

Andrea: How about you Ruth?

Ruth: We’re still healing. We’re still in the process, we’re still finding our way and I’m still finding ways to express my voice to say what I have, find the confidence within myself too. Express myself and to feel those feelings too.

Anna: Yeah because you are.

Ruth: For me while I was raising my sisters, I really feel like I was on autopilot for so many years and I just got up. I got up and I make sure everybody was fed. I was in a state of survival for many years. And when I finally finished graduate school and started teaching and I had the benefits to get help. I started to go first to counseling and I started there and sat down in a group situation with a minister and there were other.

You know, there were other people who have just suffered tragedy and I started to talk about my mom and my brother and my little sisters and my situation. I was shaking and crying and after the meeting, a couple of people walked up to me afterwards and asked about how long it had been since my mom passed and we left LeBaron, and I said, it had been 15 years. And they were like “You know, you looked like it something that happened yesterday.”

And I realized, you know, there was so much going on inside of me that I had not given myself the permission to feel and to heal and in a lot of ways raising three kids by myself was a distraction from who I was and how I was suffering. So because I was so young, I think it was something that I eventually became okay because I started to seek counseling and help.

When I was about 30, I was 29 I guess when I first started going to therapy. And I think I was ready, you know, I was ready to express that trauma and I was ready to begin to let go of it. It was definitely…I felt like I started to learn about who I was really when I was going to college. I took a lot of world’s religion classes and I was just fascinated by the idea of comparative religions and the philosophy. I wanted to dig so deeply into that because I wanted a loving God, and I wanted a God that was not what I grew up with.

So I just looked for that everywhere and I found little negative truth everywhere and it ended up becoming a very personal journey for me that part of it. And I really felt like sitting in some of those classrooms and thinking about those things and feeling inspired, I remember sitting down just being lit up with inspirations about what I was learning and how exciting it was that I got to choose what I believed in. Yeah, so I think it started there and then it was the way that the therapist called it peeling away layers of an onion. It was definitely like that for me too and it’s still is that way.

I was seeing a therapist for ____, gosh I think I still go, I probably need to. But that’s where I really started to find different ways and started to break away from that fundamentalist way for women where they didn’t really get to express their feelings or ask for what they wanted. And even as I was raising my family, when my sisters finally moved out, when they were teenagers going up to college and everything and I was on my own for the first time, I think I was 33 years old. I’ve been in therapy for a few years at that point.

But I had a major identity crisis because I had never learned, like I taught my four younger siblings all how to drive and we always were in the car together. We took our trips together. We did all together and I always listen to their music. You know, they were listening to Pearl Jam and all the 90s, big 90s rock people. And you know, I love that music too, but it was always their choice. It was what they wanted and so when my youngest sister moved out, I literally like “What do I like? What do I want?” And I was in my mid 30’s.

I had never considered those things before again, because I never had the permission to do it. I was on this earth the way I was raised and as I was on this earth to get married and have children, period. There was no room for wants and desires and choice. And I found a tremendous amount of healing and freedom and realizing that I had that choice. Yeah and it’s been actually…it was intimidating at first having so much choice and trying to decide and really taking responsibility for my life and what I wanted to do with it. Those were huge steps for me. Therapy definitely helped me get there.

But you know now, it’s fun for me. It’s exciting to plan a trip and go somewhere and you know, to have the freedom and money to be able to do that. So that it was a tough road but really, it has been incredible to me to realize that who I am inside of me that what God gave me was a spirit that could survive and that’s stronger than the circumstances I grew up in. It’s powerful. It’s been empowering for me to recognize that.

Andrea: Wow, I look at both of your stories and I realize that you both left your families, the polygamous cult at a young age. And Ruth, you were 15?

Ruth: That’s right.

Andrea: And Anna you were 13?

Anna: 13

Andrea: Just think about that for a minute. You know the children who are out there who are 13 years old or 15 years old, how strong they are and could be. I was also just really struck by the idea that what you did and the way that you have continued to heal since then has said so much about what it means to escape this feeling of being trapped and emotional manipulation or physically being trapped. So I would like to ask you to consider here for a minute, what would you want to say to someone, be a young woman or an older woman even a man, who feels like they are trapped in a situation that is not good for them? What would you want to say for them?

Anna: I’ll just go first.

Ruth: Go for it.

Anna: What I would say is find a safe person and talk about your experience, about the feeling of being trapped and then see where that conversation goes. Brene Brown talks about safe people in her book, Daring Greatly and the Gifts of Imperfection and even Rising Strong. There are safe people in the world whether that’s a friend that you can have a cup of coffee with, a small group of people that you’ve come to trust with your stories. When you tell someone your story, it’s important to have someone like Brene Brown quotes that somebody that has earned the right to hear your story.

Ruth: I love that.

Anna: So that’s my thing. It’s finding the safe person, someone that has earned the right to hear your story and even if that friend, a mentor, a counselor, or somebody that a minister type person that you have trust their guidance or just a professional counselor. Find someone and speak.

Ruth: Absolutely and Brene Brown too when I read one of her books years ago said that there is a tremendous amount of shame in silent and shame grows in silence. And that makes so much sense to me so I think the methods to speak to someone and to speak your truth, to say your truth and to talk to somebody is very important. And that was definitely my grandparents for me having a place to run to when we escaped.

And also what were important for me in my survival was that intuitive voice and listening and trusting yourself and what’s inside of you and you know develop your intuitive muscles and question your feelings about situations that are uncomfortable. And even though things might seem okay, I think it’s so important that we listen to ourselves. For me I feel like it was that part of my intuition that warned me and told me there was something terribly wrong with our situation when I was LeBaron.

You know, listening to that and trusting that gave me so much strength and it literally saved my life. And we are given this intuition to protect us. I feel that it is a tremendous gift from God. It’s something that I’ve always felt very blessed to have and you know finding that part of ourselves and realizing that is…it is stronger than a situation and it is possible to get help and survive and finding the people you trust, that was a big part of my life for sure in addition to that.

Anna: The part that helped me all along was reading books that shaped the way I thought and felt and thought. And I say books mentored me.

Ruth: Uh-huh, I think me too.

Anna: Because I was a voracious reader and for anyone that feels stuck in a circumstance whether it might any kind of trauma or abuse, there’s a really great resource from an author named Shannon Thomas. She has a book called Healing From Hidden Abuse and that is a resource that I would recommend to anyone who has been through to any type of abuse situation. And she calls them hidden abuses because there are so many abuses that don’t need marks and scars in the body. They leave marks and scars on the skin of your heart and your soul and your spirit. And so healing from those types of abuse that may not be visible for the human eye or the people around you, or even to yourself. So that’s the great resource that I’d love to recommend people who are beginning a journey. It helps you recognize what’s happening around you.

Ruth: What’s the name of the author again?

Anna: Shannon Thomas.

Ruth: Shannon Thomas.

Anna: She’s a license professional therapist specialized even this type of…helping people heal from this type of abuse. So I think a lot of people…you don’t have to grow up in a polygamous cult…

Ruth: Absolutely. It’s just an extreme situation but it happens everywhere.

Anna: Right, it resonate with the things of our story.

Ruth: It’s universal – a lot of universal aspects to our stories.

Anna: And the other part was when work with the therapist who’s very recently been involved in my life in the last few years and she was able to tell me that it was post-
traumatic stress that I being triggered by posttraumatic stress just being able to name it so was so helpful to me. And it was like a relief to me like “Oh my gosh, of course.” You know, it never occurred to me what I’ve gone through was traumatic or even trauma.

Ruth: Well, we didn’t recognize because that’s the way everybody was treated.

Anna: It was normal. It was our normal.

Ruth:   It was our normal.

Anna: And so having her identify that and named it made the healing process go a little bit quicker for me.

Ruth: That’s great.

Anna: And the other part of it is that healing is the moment, you know, you can have moment in time where you make huge strides and you think “Okay, this is it.” And then you realize a little bit later “Oh healing is a process.”

Ruth: Yeah, I thought I was better _____. I need more help.

Anna: I still need more work so healing has been long process for me decades long journey. And so I want to encourage anyone listening that if they’re just getting started or they’re significantly down the road and ____ if there’s bump down the road that make you realize, oh I need to kind of seek something out, seek more then it’s okay.

Ruth: I think to your point of stories and books, I’ve always been influenced by them. But I have had experiences that are often just from reading people’s stories even if they’re fiction. But if I can relate to a particular character, I’m one who needs meaning in a story. I don’t always just read for entertainment although that’s been sometimes, but I really love having takeaways and being able to resonate with characters and learn from them and find meaning.

And there have been some books in my life and stories and books that helped created little _____ shifts. I don’t know if you ever read like that amazing good books like you could just feel your self changing and growing as you’re reading because the stories are so incredible. And that’s been a huge part of my healing process. And I think that’s so important for us to find our voice and to find the ability to express it and tell it.

Andrea: Some great advice.  I want to close with one more question and this is related to each of you and your mission now, like how do you want to use your voice in the world? You each have a platform now. You’re authors, you’re speakers who would you want to hear what you have to say? And what is it that you want to drive home?

Ruth: The first word that comes to my mind with my own story and my own speaking practice is courage. To empower people to feel courageous, to take responsibility for their lives and to know that who they are is stronger than what they grow up with their current circumstances. And that we all have within us the power to change and to create a life that we live and make choices that are positive and impactful both in our lives and the lives of others.

And also too, I think it’s important that we tell these stories in spite of how sometimes hard they can be in a way that’s powerful and empowering and not victim minded if that make sense. I think it’s so important for us to tell our stories in a way that it doesn’t make other or ourselves feel like a victim because I don’t think that’s naturally who we are. I know for me personally, I had learned victim behavior and I held on to that pattern and it created a lot ____ in my own life.

And I was able to recognize that in myself and the choices I was making that brought that about and how I felt like a victim even after I became adult mature woman. That was something that helped me change quite a bit. I think that’s so important for people to understand.

Anna: For me, I would say that one of the biggest ideas that helped me has been one that I’ve been pursuing for the past decades, or a little more than a decade and that’s the idea of freedom. And the way that was defined by one of my spiritual mentors is freedom is becoming the person that you were created and redeemed to be. And so find that freedom journey that I have been on. I hope that any time I have the opportunity into the lives especially of women. And just because I’m a woman I resonates, I find that women can relate to me even though men have related and spoken out and sent things to me about the way my story have impacted their lives, mostly it’s women that I kind [crosstalk].

Ruth: It has been for me too.

Anna: It’s an incredible privilege and honor to kind of enter to people’s stories and hear them and listen to them tell their stories. Everywhere I’ve been hearing people say “me too,” even though it’s not polygamy other things that resonates. And being able to kind of point out the path for where people can begin their own freedom journey that’s a privilege for me and shining the light on “Here’s my story. This is where I began my freedom journey and here’s the path, I’m shining the light on that path.” So that others can begin walking their own that’s been important to me.

Ruth: The freedom to be yourself.

Anna: Yes!

Ruth: Absolutely!

Anna: Yeah.

Ruth: It makes sense.

Andrea: Wow, this has been just truly an honor. It’s been an incredible experience to hear you interact with one another and hear your story, your collected stories and then to really honestly be a witness over the past couple of years, myself personally, to see you guys really stepped into your Voice of Influence in the world. And I want to thank you for your courage and for your freedom that you have found, that you have courageously pursued and that you are now offering others. So thank you so much for your Voice of Influence. Thank you for being on this podcast.

Ruth: Thank you for having us.

Anna: Thank you. It has been an honor.

Ruth: It’s been an honor.

Andrea: Right before we leave here, Ruth, where can people find you?

Ruth: Through my website. I hear from a lot of people through email basically. My website is through ruthwariner.com and my book comes out in paperback this spring. So it’s available in I guess wherever books are sold.

Anna: Tomorrow.

Ruth: Tomorrow but it’s comes out tomorrow but it’s going to be in the future.

Anna: The paperback is already out.

Ruth: Yeah that’s a lot interesting. And my paperback is out and it’s great. I’m really interested about the paperback actually because there’s an interview with me in the back of the book and it’s also got the addition with the book club questions so that’s enough and it’s a beautiful book. And I’m super excited about this next page and about writing again and yeah. This has been awesome.

Andrea: How about you Anna?

Anna: My website is annalebaron.com. I’m on social media AnnaKLeBaron, my social media handle everywhere. So you can connect with me this way. My book is in store everywhere. Both of our books are audible.

Ruth: Yeah, we both write our audiobooks.

Anna: So our journeys have been a lot both similar so my book just came out a month ago, just released.

Ruth: Hers is called the Polygamist’s Daughter and mine is the Sound of Gravel.

Andrea: Awesome. Thank you so much and I hope that you have a wonderful lunch together and time together and so glad that it has worked out.

Ruth: Thanks for being a part of this and for welcoming us. You’ve been a wonderful host.

Anna: Thank you, Andea.

Andrea: Thank you!

 

I would love to hear from you. Share your personal reactions and reflections below, on social media or join our Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group.