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)
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.
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.
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:
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:
The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner
The Polygamist’s Daughter: A Memoir by Anna LeBaron
Thank you for subscribing, rating and reviewing the podcast on other platforms! It really does make a difference!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
In the fall of 2015, Anna LeBaron (author THE POLYGAMIST’S DAUGHTER) sent a Tweet via Twitter to a new author she wanted to support. Unbeknownst to her, the author, Ruth Wariner, was her cousin. She is the daughter of Joel LeBaron, who was killed by his brother Ervil LeBaron’s followers in 1972. Anna LeBaron accidentally broke a decades’ old silence between their families with a simple Tweet. But after a tenuous introduction through social media, the cousins bridged the gap between their families and Anna offered to help Ruth promote her book, New York Times Bestseller, THE SOUND OF GRAVEL.
Mentioned on this episode:
The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner
The Polygamist’s Daughter: A Memoir by Anna LeBaron
(This is an approximate transcript.)
I’m on the line with authors, cousins, and polygamous cult escape’s; Anna LeBaron and Ruth Wariner. I really knew that I wanted to interview both of these authors for this podcast because I’ve witnessed the emergence of their own voices into the world as an advanced reader for each of their books.
And because of that, I’m also aware of the difficulties that they faced as young girls and women trying to find their voice, while in similar environments but in unique circumstances. In fact, Anna and Ruth didn’t even know each other until recently. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
So I knew that I wanted to interview each of them. But a month ago, it occurred to me that it would be really fascinating to do a joint interview, and they agreed. And so that’s why we are here today.
Now, I’m breaking this interview up into two different episodes. But don’t worry; you won’t have to wait long. If you’re listening right away to part 1, part 2 will be out later this week. Now, let’s get to it with Anna and Ruth.
Andrea: Anna and Ruth, welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast.
Ruth: Hi, thank you for having us. This is exciting.
Anna: Hi Andrea this is a long time coming.
Andrea: Hi! Yes, it really is. It’s actually amazing when I think that to a couple of years ago when you and I met online to how this has come and this is just a full circle in the sense. So I’m so honored to have you here and excited that we’re getting to do this together. So thank you!
Anna: I’m excited to talk to you and I’m excited to get to meet you in person in a few days basically.
Andrea: Yes, like after we air this interview, the full interview very next week that Monday, you’re going to be at my house and I’m so excited. And Ruth someday, we’re going to meet too.
Ruth: Oh yes, we are.
Andrea: There’s no doubt about it.
Ruth: I keep making it a habit to meet people online and then become real life friends with them.
Andrea: That’s a very good habit to have. Okay, so I want to introduce you guys to the Influencers that are listening with us today. I’m going to read your bio just to start out with.
Anna LeBaron is one of more than fifty children of infamous, and polygamist cult leader, Ervil LeBaron. Anna LeBaron endured abandonment, horrific living conditions, child labor, and sexual grooming. At age thirteen, she escaped the violent cult, gave her life to Christ, and sought healing. A gifted communicator and personal growth activist. She’s passionate about helping others walk in freedom. Anna lives in the DFW Metroplex and loves being Mom to five grown children.
RUTH WARINER is an internationally renowned speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir THE SOUND OF GRAVEL. At the age of fifteen, Ruth escaped Colonia LeBaron, the polygamist Mormon colony where she grew up, and moved to California. She raised her three youngest sisters in California and Oregon. After earning her GED, she put herself through college and graduate school, eventually becoming a high school Spanish teacher. She remains close to her siblings and is happily married. The Sound of Gravel is her first book.
So it is significant that you guys are cousins but you didn’t meet until just recently. So Anna, since you kind of got the ball rolling on that, why don’t you tell us how you met?
Anna: Oh my gosh, that’s a fun story! I love telling it if it wasn’t so…it was very emotional. Here’s how we meet, let me just start from the beginning because you have to start there. I was on Twitter one day and Ruth’s publicist (that I was following because of another author) posted a tweet saying “Here’s this new memoir coming out in January. It’s a must read.” And there was nothing on there that would have alerted me that Ruth was my cousin.
So I tweeted the author of the book. And one of the things that I enjoyed doing is promoting new book. And so I tweeted the author and said “Ruth, I can’t wait to read your book. Do you already have a launch team,” thinking that that would already be a work on progress and I could join in and read and promote the book because I love memoir.
So a little bit later that day, I’m reading a Goodreads review on the book and I haven’t think I told you this, Ruth. When I was reading the Goodreads review because I thought “Well, shoot. I’ve already offered to promote book, I should see if it’s any good.”
So I’m reading the review and the review was amazing but there’s still wasn’t any clue that there was any connection between myself and the author. Then in the comments of the Goodreads review, someone says “I’ve read a lot of books about polygamy and this is one of the great ones.” And I went “Whatttttttttt?”
So in my mind, I’m thinking “There’s a lot of polygamous communities and I wonder which ones she’s part of.” So I went back to her Twitter feeds, found her website, started scrolling through her history tab, and long before I see a picture of her father, my Uncle Joel. And my blood kind of ran cold at that minute and I went “Oh no!” Then I kept scrolling and I’ve seen my father’s mug shot from when he was arrested.
And there’s a long story behind, that whole sentence that I just said. I sat there and went “Oh my gosh what have I done? I’ve tweeted the author publicly and she’s part of my family that we haven’t spoken to of more than four decades because of the events that transpired more than four decades ago that separated our family.”
So I felt horrible at that moment in time and didn’t want to go and delete the tweet because that would even make it more awkward if Ruth had already seen it. And so there was a little bit of awkwardness there while I decided what to do.
Andrea: Now, would she have known who you were based on your Twitter handle? Did it say Anna LeBaron, would she have recognized that?
Ruth: It did say Anna LeBaron. When she tweeted me the first day, I was in New York City, which is why my publicist was tweeting about me because I was doing a media event and I was also recording my audio book. It was in October of 2015, and I was stuck in the studio for three days and she had reached out to me literally on the first day that I was in the studio.
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I saw that the Twitter handle, and I was like “Who the heck is Anna LeBaron?” Because I didn’t know, and so at that point literally, I was in the studio for 10 hours that day. And when I got back to my hotel room, I Facebook messaged one of our aunts and I just asked her if she knew who Anna was and what her story was.
So she responded almost immediately, Irene Spencer was her name, and she said that Anne was a really positive person and had nothing but wonderful things to write about her. And that point I don’t think I even realize then that it was Ervil’s daughter. I knew she was my cousin but not that it was Ervil’s daughter.
And then the next day, I still hadn’t responded to Anna, and she tweeted me back and totally apologizing for reaching out to me so casually and not understanding that I was her cousin, which I totally understood. So I private messaged her at that point.
You know, my initial thought when I found out that she was Ervil’s daughter, because she tweeted me that she was at that point, so I private messaged her and I said “Hey, if you want to talk, if you want to connect, and if you want to help promote my book, I’d love that.”
But I wanted her to read a copy first, you know, before we decided to meet or to talk on the phone or to do anything just so that she knows who I was. And I wanted people to believe in the story and to love the story because that really – it’s the springboard for making things happen.
Andrea: It’s also very, you know, the story itself is an intimate story, so if they don’t understand that and yeah…
Ruth: Yeah, and it was an opportunity for her to get to know who I wasn’t and for her to know if she wanted to meet me and to help me with my book. So we set up a time to call. I had sent her the book to her home in Dallas in the meantime right when I got home back to Portland, Oregon. And we set up a time to call within a week and a half, within the first two weeks of the initial tweet. She had finished my book at that point she received it. She finished it.
Andrea: I’m sure!
Ruth: And it meant for a very emotional conversation, obviously. I mean, both of our stories are so intense and emotional and so profound and powerful that the phone conversation…I heard her voice when we called each other for the first time and it was like “Oh my gosh, she totally sounds like LeBaron.”
Ruth: It felt like family right away totally and so interesting because even though our families broke apart so many years literally – I was born in 1972, and the brothers and the churches had already split at that point. And so, I had never in my life thought about my Uncle Ervil and his children or what they might be doing in life.
So it was such a shock but also such a nice surprise to realize that because I had ran away from the LeBaron when I was so young, I didn’t have that family attachment that I left and I really felt like I’ve missed out on not knowing my sisters and my half sisters from my dad’s side of the family.
So it was a delight. She was a delight and I was so excited that we were able to connect. And it was so interesting to meet too because even though our family had split, there was so many similarities in our stories which I thought was, you know, really speaks to that mentality, the mentality that we were raised with and how that affected our lives.
But as we were talking on the phone, she said, “You know, Ruth, I have sisters in Portland.” And I was like “Are you kidding me?” Like I had no idea that Ervil LeBaron’s children were here in Portland. So at that point, my husband, Alan were like “We really need to meet these women.”
So Anna ended up visiting that December. So it was literally within three months. She was up here. I met two of her sisters that live here and it was an incredible experience. It was amazing and it was enlightening in the sense that it was familiar and I felt connected to family again, to the LeBaron side of my family. And so that part of it was very special for me.
Andrea: Anna, let’s go back to that phone conversation when Ruth sent you her book and you read it. What was it like for you to read The Sound of Gravel?
Anna: Well, it was completely an emotional experience, like overwhelmingly emotional. I cried my way through it, and I had received the book the day before our scheduled conversation phone call. I started at that night, stayed up until probably 2:00. I could not put it down.
It was so riveting. I couldn’t put it down until my eyes just refused to stay open. I woke up at 5:00, made a pot of coffee and kept right ongoing and I finished the minute before our conversation was going to happen.
Andrea: Really? Oh my goodness, I just get goose bumps.
Ruth: So did I.
Anna: I was so grateful to have completed and finished reading the book because my heart was just split right open at that point when the phone rang and I was talking to Ruth. And just experiencing her life through her eyes and through her writing and then getting to talk to her after the history that our family shares, was an honor. It was emotionally impactful and I won’t ever forget that conversation ever, just because of what it meant to both of our families.
Ruth: And there has been a ripple effect, don’t you think?
Ruth: From just our conversation and then meeting in person.
Ruth: So it was early December, right that you’d came?
Ruth: And Alan and I picked her up at the airport and we were supposed to videotape it, but I was pretty emotional and nervous. So I forgot to take pictures of that moment but…
Yeah, I saw her waiting outside the airport and I was just like “Oh my God, she even looks like me.” It was pretty incredible so yeah. The familiarity with her reminded me so much of LeBaron and my childhood.
Andrea: Now, I think it’s pretty important for us to give some context, just a little bit more context about the background at this point, because you’re saying Ruth that when you saw Anna and knowing it was Ervil’s child and everything that you were feeling familiarity. You were not having bad feelings it sounds like about it, but can you tell us why that is so significant?
Ruth: Well, I had never known my father. I was three months when he was killed. And when I was a child, I had always been told that it was Ervil LeBaron that had my father assassinated. And so, you know, later on we found out that definitely it was true and it was a scary childhood because Ervil had been like literally this very real threat and shadowy ghost that haunted our community. There were threats.
He and his church members were threatening our people, as we used to call them, are the ‘LeBaron people.’ So he had always been like that monster in childhood, that terrifying thing that I knew had my father killed. But when I talked to Anna, I realized, the meeting was so important for me and meaningful for me because I had escaped too.
And so once I talked to Anna and she told me her story, I identified so well with that part of it. I identified profoundly with her experience and her need to get away and her need to tell her story. And so there was that connection and I also because I was able to break a way. I knew that it wasn’t, in spite of what had happened with our fathers and me having grown up without a dad as a result.
That was not her responsibility or was not her family’s responsibility. And you know, I think because of our stories in our childhoods, I had a natural compassion for her and her story that really reflected unto me.
I mean, it helped me be more compassionate for myself too, understanding that other people had gone through similar stories. Again, like I never imagined in spite of how scary the idea of Ervil was growing up, I never imagined that he might be inflicting that kind of horror unto his own family in different ways.
And you know, after reading Anna’s book, it was incredibly eye-opening and so heartbreaking too. But yeah, for me, it was meaningful to reconnect that part of the family because I had shut the door on them in a lot of different ways. And so it was that opportunity to heal even a little more and a little deeper.
Andrea: So Anna were you nervous? I mean, it sounded like you were nervous when you realized who Ruth was. Were you nervous to break that ice? Were you nervous about what she would think of you?
Anna: Yes. I was absolutely nervous about that because there’s always been a stigma attached to being Ervil LeBaron’s child and because of the atrocities that he was responsible for and that he had ordered and committed against people that we love and care about.
So wearing that stigma and that shame has been a part of my life, of my entire life. And knowing that we were not welcome in that community where Ruth and I were born into and raised in – I was born there too but we left when I was 9 months old. And our whole family had left in the part of that community.
We knew that with Joel’s family and the impact that our father had on that entire community of people that cared and loved and respected and even revered Joel, my father’s brother, and so we knew that there was this Chinese wall, this big huge chasm between the two families.
Ruth: Definitely that was my feeling about. That was definitely me growing up in LeBaron and Joel’s as my father – he was also the prophet of our community and the prophet of our church. And that’s definitely what my mom believed and what our family believed. And they still in Colonia LeBaron believe that my dad was indeed a prophet.
He was 49 when he was killed. He had 42 children and seven wives at that time, and you can imagine the whole in our community and how that affected so many of us. And for me, my dad was more like that mythical Christ-like figure in my life. He was one of the founders of our church and a spokesperson for God, I mean that was I was always taught.
And so, I think there still is, even today, there is a fear. And I don’t know if it’s a fear or a judgment, and I don’t know what the word would be exactly to describe what the LeBaron’s feel – the Joelites which I hadn’t realized. We always called Anna’s family the Ervilites and the Joelites, but I didn’t know that until I met Anna. So now, we distinguished our families between the Joelites and the Ervilites. But yeah, it’s been a wound to that community that has not yet healed, I would say definitely.
Anna: So when I tweeted her not knowing who she was…and here’s the thing, if I had known who she was, I would never have sent the tweets. We would have never met.
Ruth: That’s right.
Anna: Because I wasn’t familiar with the name Ruth Wariner…
Ruth: Yeah, I took my mother’s maiden name. I have never had the legal name LeBaron even though my dad was Joel LeBaron. And lots of different reasons behind that but all of my mom’s children were named after her. Her name was Wariner, and so people have always been that confused, right? And I knew Anna was a LeBaron. I knew she was my relative when I saw her name but there was really no way that you would know that name.
Anna: If I had known who she was and who’s daughter she was, I would have known my place, and my place would be no contact, don’t reach out, or don’t reach that. It’s not my place to bridge that gap.
Ruth: Right and you would have no idea either that I escaped too.
Ruth: She wouldn’t have known my story was what it was and that we have similarities in that way.
Anna: So it was a memoir and I love memoir so…
Ruth: Yeah, nonfiction.
Anna: So I just randomly and off the cuff just tweeted the author and…
Ruth: And Anna had worked on books before. So you had already been interested and she had been working on social media – she’s very good at it by the way. But yeah, so she had a history in promoting books. So it was kind of a natural fit. I mean, interestingly enough about how it all came together. But you’re right about that, I hadn’t thought about that myself that you wouldn’t have reached out to me had you known that I was a LeBaron. That’s interesting.
Anna: Right. So I’m grateful that I didn’t know that she was and that I had the audacity to tweet one of Joel’s daughters and then make this connection that has just become part of our story.
Ruth: It has been.
Anna: And I say that you’re part of my half away ever after.
Ruth: I think so too and in fact, I’m going to write about this in my next book when I get to meet you. It would be awesome.
Anna: And I should write about it in mine too.
Ruth: Yeah, when I’m writing that getting published and reading my audio book. It’s going to be so exciting.
Anna: I’m excited to read that. Can I help you with that one too?
Andrea: I’m in.
Ruth: We’ll take all the help we can get as we know all three of us are authors, we need help from each other for sure.
Anna: That was an experience that I will never forget. I’m grateful that I didn’t know who you were so that this connection could become something what it is now and just so special.
Ruth: It is very special. And Anna is awesome, not only she’s doing tremendous good in the world but are her sisters. They live two neighborhoods away from me. They’re so close, 20-minute drive from my house here in Portland and so that’s been pretty awesome.
Andrea: Wow that connection, a family connection. It sounds like the healing that has come with that has been so significant even beyond… I mean, writing a book about your story, there’s so much healing that can take place with that. But then like you had no idea what would happen when you came together. I mean, you would never been able to orchestrate it. You never would have been able to ask for it. It was such a gift, it sounds like.
Ruth: Oh a tremendous gift, a tremendous blessing for sure.
Anna: For both of us.
Ruth: For both of us and I feel like I’ve been connected in a way to my father in a way that I haven’t been before. And actually, I’ve met a couple of times now with Anna and her family, her siblings my family too. And just hearing their stories and their perspectives about what the stories were about my dad, you know, and what the stories about that side of my family that I didn’t know a lot about. It’s been amazing.
Andrea: Now, Ruth, one of the things that you’ve mentioned was by meeting Anna and hearing her story and having compassion for her, you were able to have more compassion for yourself. Can you expound on that a little bit?
Ruth: Part of my journey with what happened in my life, there’s been a lot of…you know, growing up in fundamentalism that way, I didn’t feel…gosh it was such a big family but not only that, just the beliefs about women and their place. And there was also a lot of abuse in my childhood, and so I was always very hard on myself in my journey. And I separated with a lot of guilt because my mom really wanted her family to be raised in the fundamentalist church that my dad started.
So that guilt and the shame has been, you know, it’s been a lot of suffering and my sufferings has been a teacher in a lot of ways but it’s also been torture in a lot of ways. And just seeing that Anna and her sisters have done so well with their lives outside the church that they grew up in, and to see how far Anna had come, I could see the same in my own life that I was able to do the same thing. Does that make sense?
Andrea: Yeah. It almost sounds like by seeing somebody else experiencing what you experienced in the sense, there was almost like permission.
Ruth: Yeah, to give yourself permission to forgive yourself and forgive the situation.
Andrea: That you’re not the only one and…
Ruth: Yeah that’s right.
Anna: And to know how far you’ve come.
Ruth: Yeah exactly that was part of it too, absolutely!
Anna: They were huge steps.
Ruth: They were huge steps and it was awesome too that it kind of fell in line with the publication of my book. I mean the timing of it that way. I met her in December and it came out in January, and it was time for me to heal and it was time for me to let go a lot of those things, yeah.
Andrea: So, Anna, I can only imagine that there were a number of things that this has brought about healing in you, what for you have you noticed in particular this interaction with Ruth? How does has impacted your healing process?
Anna: Well knowing Ruth, knowing what she has been through and having read her book, knowing our family history, and being able to process that in terms of that I’ve been a part of the healing for both of us. Just knowing that what I’ve done and how I am, just me being myself on social media. And doing the things that I’m gifted at, and just being the person that I’m created to be has helped. It’s just amazing that I can be myself and make an impact in the world and that me being myself is enough.
Ruth: Uh-hmm I love that.
Anna: That has been one of the biggest realizations that has come about in the past two years. Is that I can be myself and engage with the world and make an impact and that is enough.
Ruth: It’s enough and it’s enough to create miracles.
Anna: I know.
Anna: I’m just thinking about it. It still gives me chills. I mean, out of all the billions and billions of people…
Anna: And tweets yeah. All the billions of tweets online and I just happened across the one, that to me is not an accident.
Ruth: I don’t think that’s either. Not at all.
Anna: So I’m eternally grateful.
Ruth: Yeah, I’m too. It’s been awesome. And now, we get a book to do a book reading together.
Anna: I know, oh my gosh!
Andrea: Ah you do?
Anna: So by the time this podcast airs, it will be in the past so probably not fair to talk people…
Ruth: Oh yeah sorry, sorry.
Andrea: Maybe if you record it. You could record it and then air it on your social media channels and we can go back.
Anna: It’s going to be on Facebook Live.
Andrea: There you go.
Anna: Well, combine it on there.
Ruth: Yeah that sounds good.
Anna: We’re not just being really cruel.
Ruth: Oh no.
Andrea: So how did you choose what you would each read from your books for this joint book reading?
Ruth: We haven’t done that yet.
Ruth: We’re going to lunch after our interview with you and we’re going to decide that.
Anna: How exciting.
Ruth: I know it is exciting.
Anna: Oh this was like so much fun.
Ruth: Well, it is a lot of fun but it’s also as you know I am Andrea, is it Andrea?
Andrea: Yeah, Andrea uh-hmm.
Ruth: I know that it’s so interesting because as you point it out earlier, I mean, it’s such a sensitive topic like what do we talk about. It’s like “Should I say something about Anna’s father in public and in front of an audience live? You know, those are good questions.
Anna: And then I say, do I say anything about her father and what happened between us?
Andrea: How beautiful is it that you guys get to asked each other that question. You get to have lunch and discuss what you’re comfortable with and it sounds like you’re both pretty comfortable with a lot of things. So you’re not going to have a hard time figuring this out. The healing has taken place in each of you individually and then in the relationship between the two of you seemed to have freed you to be able to offer what other people might need to hear from you. So you don’t have to worry about all that fear and trepidation of what the other person’s is thinking but you’re able to just…
Ruth: Be ourselves like what I was saying earlier. There’s an authenticity on that. I think that’s really important and that will have an impact on people who hear our stories.
Anna: One of the things that I have read about that I love the idea of is holding space for someone. And I think Ruth and I have done that for each other very well. We hold space for each other to kind of navigate.
Ruth: And be ourselves like you said.
Anna: Yeah, it is.
Ruth: And that is so important and that is so impactful on other people because then they see that they can do the same on their own lives.
Anna: So I’m navigating this relationship as tenuous as it started out and keeping in mind that each of our family which they’re very large and many people are impacted. I know from my perspective and from where I’m sitting, me telling my story has upset the applecart for a lot of people.
Ruth: Yeah, I can imagine.
Anna: And so having both of us in a short period of time, you know, relatively speaking and both of us telling our stories and people being able to see the impact of our family history on each of our lives. And then all the people that are impacted by the fact that we’ve decided to tell our stories. So I feel like in a way, I’m holding space for a lot of people to kind of navigate through the feelings that are brought up and bubble up as a result even if they haven’t read the books. Just the fact that the books are out there impacts people’s lives.
Anna: And so there’s that little bit of “Ahhhh!” You know, or you just hope for the best outcome possible.
Ruth: That’s exactly for everybody involved, yeah absolutely. And I think another important part to this is that Anna and I can be a support for each other because of the type of stories that they are, because of the impact it’s having on our families. We have an understanding for that part of our lives and that the choices that we made to tell our stories and I think that’s been important too.
Anna: But it applies to even small families.
Ruth: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Anna: Normal families, you know.
Ruth: Yeah absolutely…normal.
Anna: Normal family where you know people grow up and there’s any type of trauma or abuse…
Ruth: It happens everywhere.
Anna: Anybody that finds their voice and speaks up and tells the story of what happened that the whole family is going to be impacted.
Ruth: Right, I agree.
Andrea: Man, that is a really good place to break for this part of our interview because I’m really looking forward to continuing this interview and digging more into of how you each found your voice and what this means for the future of both of your families and what not. So thank you for what you have offered us in this short first segment and first part of our interview. And I’m really looking forward to finishing this in the next episode.
Ruth: Thank you, Andrea, this has been wonderful.
Anna: Thank you!
Terry Weaver is a speaker, author, event producer, podcaster, and ideapreneur whose passion is to see others live life alive; whether through helping others see their dreams become reality, traveling around the world challenging students to change the world, leading teams of people to do more together than they could alone, or hanging out with Mickey Mouse.
With a background in the music business, Terry has helped creatives navigate the journey from the garage to the biggest stages in the world. Whether it’s getting to the stage of Grammys®, helping entrepreneurs with a six-figure product launch, or leading conversations with key thought leaders his mission is always the same to help leaders take what they are doing to the next level. Terry and his wife Leslie live outside Nashville, Tennessee with their miniature schnauzer.
Mentioned in this episode:
- thething.live – use the code TERRY for $200 off.
- Making Elephants Fly (book) Get updates on terryweaver.com on this soon to be released book!
- Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group
I don’t have a transcript for this interview today, but grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair and listen in by pushing play above or in iTunes (here).
I’ve never been someone who wanted attention for how I look, but when I started writing and wanting to offer my voice of Influence in the world, I realized that my appearance was getting in the way of that happening. So I recently took a trip to work with Toi Sweeney, a fashion stylist for entrepreneurs, professionals and TV personalities. This is what I learned about myself in the process.
This video is going to be included in a longer video about the process. I’ll post it here again when I have it ready for you!
Trivinia is the founder of Priority VA – a boutique virtual assistant agency that matches elite level online entrepreneurs like Amy Porterfield and Todd Herman with highly-skilled assistants who “get” the online space and come prepared to deliver massive ROI right out of the gate.
Mentioned in this episode:
Listen here, on Stitcher, iTunes. If you can’t find us where you listen to podcasts, let us know and we’ll take care of it if we can!
Trivinia is the founder of Priority VA – a boutique virtual assistant agency that matches elite level online entrepreneurs like Amy Porterfield and Todd Herman with highly-skilled assistants who “get” the online space and come prepared to deliver massive ROI right out of the gate.
Andrea: Trivinia, it’s so great to have you here.
Trivinia: Oh Andrea, it’s my pleasure! I’m so glad to get to connect with you here today.
Andrea: Yeah this is fun. So I met Trivinia on an Amy Porterfield webinar actually for B-School, which I ended up signing up for that day and Trivinia was in the chat box. And I just remember, Trivinia, I was just so impressed by your combination of competence and confidence, but you delivered it in such a relational way. And that just really continued throughout my time like my experience with you through that program or all of our online stuff.
And then when Todd Herman launched his 90-Dar Year program which we’ll get into later, and I Trivinia, was an affiliate. And I signed up through here because number one – I could tell that she really embodied the transformation that was promised in the program and was so enthusiastic about it. And number two – One of the bonuses was a call with Trivinia and I really want to get to know about her, and I’m so glad I did. So Trivinia, it’s so fun to have you here.
Trivinia: Thanks so much and you know I think it’s really interesting that I have been able to build some really amazing relationships with people that all started in a chat box in webinars. It’s just so interesting because I think that sometimes people feel like their personality can really come through in online or a chat box, or in these tiny little micro-interactions that we have with people. But I feel like I’ve been able to prove a lot of people wrong in that area that we can absolutely build relationships in this little micro-moment together, so thank you so much for that.
Andrea: Yeah, I love that and it’s like this little snippet but it’s not fake, you know. Whatever, it’s just like a little window into your personality and as you get to build more, it’s a neat thing to be able to see so yeah.
Okay, so Trivinia, you took the…I just wanting to say your name all the time, I think. It’s such a fun name. This year, I invited my guests to take the Fascinate Assessment because it’s fun and I’m curious about when we’re talking about Voice or Voice of Influence that sort of things. And so Trivinia took it and she came out as the maestro which is power plus prestige.
Now, if you don’t know anything about this, go ahead and go back and listen to Episode #1, where we discussed the whole thing if you’re interested in learning more about the Fascinate Assessment. But anyway, the point is that power plus prestige – this is a really leadership-driven, high standard kind of voice that Trivinia carries. And Trivinia, I’m curious, was this something that you’ve seen yourself kind of always have, or this is something that has developed throughout time?
Trivinia: Yeah, that’s such a good question. I feel like when I was younger, when I was in let’s just say maybe middle school and high school, I always wanted to be the leader. I didn’t want to be the follower. I was a captain of my swim team, little things like that you know. I wanted to be the best and I wanted to be in charge of things for sure.
But I think that what I found as I’ve gotten older, especially as I started my own business is that I typically ended up taking the backseat to people that were stronger than me and I would be the assistant. I started my career really as a virtual assistant, and so I was always behind the scenes sort of making things happen that I wasn’t really in the spotlight.
And as I’ve grown my business, what I realized is that, I do have a voice. I do have something to say and I want to be heard and that’s been probably the biggest change that I’ve really sort of stepped out from behind the shadows of other people that I’ve served and developed my own voice and really stepped in to that power and that prestige personality type.
But it has been not necessarily something that I’ve chased after but something that I’ve had to have revealed to me by other people that I really admired and say like “No, Trivinia, you do have something to say and there’s a platform. There’s room up here on the stage for you too.”
Andrea: Wow! What it was like for you then to have these people speak into you like that?
Trivinia: Well, I didn’t believe it. I think a lot of people can really struggle with taking compliments, you know very well. I mean, I know sometimes people even say like “Oh I like your outfit.” And we’ll downplay, right like “Oh I got it on sale at Target.” We just always want to just give an excuse or downplay whatever it is.
And I think the same thing was true when it came to my business acumen. People would make comments and say “Oh well you know, I’ve got some great mentors and I always just deflect to giving someone else the credit and so it was hard for me to accept that. But then I started to see that it wasn’t just people that I was paying, you know. Maybe it wasn’t something they were saying because I was in their course. I was paying to be a part of the Mastermind. It was peers also started to tell me that as well.
I started to really look a long hard at myself and be like “Well, do you want a voice? Do you really want the stage, because it’s kind of up here and if you step up on it, I think that there will be people to listen to you?” And that’s really weird and it’s just came down me making a decision that I wanted to kind of step out of the shadows.
Andrea: Wow, yeah that’s such a powerful image of looking yourself in the mirror like that. So do you think that you’re – as you’ve taken steps and where you’re at in your business right now and how do you think that your voice has sort of developed?
Trivinia: It’s such a great question. I remember I used to call my business, ‘my baby business’ and then I would say “Oh it’s toddler now.” And I think were like on full and grown-up mode now. I recently start doing all client works. I used to really have this safety net of client work where I was literally still being a virtual assistant to people and that provided me a stable steady income.
And I used to think like “Well, if all that fails, at least my mortgage is paid.” And I’ve recently just about doing all that and I’m just fulltime running my own business right now. And so I’m a real entrepreneur now, right? There’s nothing else to fall back on. It’s sink or swim with making this business successful.
And so we’re starting year four. We wrapped up 2016 at about $1.5 million in revenue, which is just insane for me to think. And we’re going to look toward potentially in doubling that this year and just continuing to transcale and hone or our systems and reach for people. So I feel like we’re definitely at that stage where it’s like “We can make this thing go as big as we want to.”
And that’s terrifying and when I say ‘we’, I say my husband and I because he actually quit his cushy corporate job with amazing benefits a couple of years ago to join me in my business. And so we are fulltime doing this thing now, and it’s scary but really exciting to think about the lives that we can impact really as a result of me just deciding to step fully into this. It blows my mind, Andrea!
Andrea: Oh my goodness! Yes that’s so exciting and I just have been watching this from afar sort of. And seeing all the steps that you’re taking that you mentioned on social media or what not, and you know really investing yourself, investing in your business and in your people, how does the investment that you’re putting into your business? I mean, how do you look at that and say “What is the ROI on this? How is our return on investment?” Why is it worth spending so much and putting so much into your business instead of just trying to get more clients and match more VA’s with clients?
Trivinia: Yeah that’s a really good question because I think that just like clients come to us and they look at using virtual support as an expense, I have to always flip those tables for them and help them understand that it’s really an investment in themselves and in their business when they come to us and really decide to put their money where their mouth is and get some help where they need it.
So I think the same thing is true for me. I can talk about all these great ideas that I have in my head but unless I have someone to help me strategize and figure out how to actually execute them, then I’m just talking too right? And so one of my biggest challenges is I can sit across a table from you Andrea and I can brainstorm a ton of ideas about how we can grow and scale your business, or maybe how can get you more exposure and things like that and really support you.
But when it comes to my own business, I kind of have these blinders on and I just don’t see possibilities. So for me, it is well worth the investment for me to bring alongside people like Todd Herman or Dan Martell and invest in their leadership. I do it in Mastermind. It was very expensive but in the three months that I’ve been in that Mastermind, I’ve had ideas or discussions with other people or with the leader of Mastermind that can potentially 10x my business.
And that just from a conversation at a dinner table after a Mastermind meeting and that’s the kind of things that I think people will often put in the back burner and say like “Oh yeah, I’d love to join the Mastermind,” or “I’d love to maybe sign up for a course or whatever but I need to do it when, right?” We only say “We’ll get there some other time.”
But for me, I’m more adventurous I guess or more of a risk taker. I’d rather invest the money right now, get innermost conversations with people at a further down the road than me and take one idea that they have and scale this business more rapidly that I could by myself and try to figure it all out. So it’s definitely worth it but it’s scary. When I was paying the invoice for this most recent Mastermind that I joined, I was literally shaking because I was like “I can’t believe I’m joining this. What if it doesn’t work?”
But I did it anyway because I feel like if I’m going to grow my business and I’m going to surround myself with people that are doing amazing things in their own kind of niches that they’re in then I can’t like keep dreaming about joining in. I got to start doing it. You know, Todd Herman talks about like, “I don’t care about your potential; I care about your performance.”
And so for me, it really is putting money where my mouth is because I’m a kind of girl that if I pay for it, I’m all in because I’m going to milk every single dime of that experience. So whether that’s an online course that I’ve taken like 90-Day Year or a Mastermind that I paid 40 grand for, you know I’m all in because I want to recoup that investment multiple times over.
Andrea: Right and I don’t know that everybody really sees how that could actually become that big event, an actual investment that’s actually turning into revenue. But one of the things that I gathered from and got from you and Todd Herman and that experience with the 90-Day Year was that I needed to be spending more of my own time working on my business, not just in my business that sort of thing.
And that when we’re doing that, it’s worth more that that’s it’s actually worth more for me to spend time strategizing I’m going to execute that I’m going to have eventually, execute on that of course but to spend that time on it. So I think that most people, and I say most people just because I think that’s what I experienced, but I think a lot of us, a lot of people who maybe do have a Voice of Influence, Influencers at home, maybe it’s easy to get stuck in that mindset where you’re thinking that this is the way life is.
And I can use my voice right where I’m at and I’m not going to try to push out the boundaries at all. But no matter whether you’re an entrepreneur or whatever you are, if you take a step back and look at life and say “Well, how do I want to take that time away investing yourself or howcould I put my voice out there in a bigger way like Trivinia is. I mean, that’s pretty huge for anybody I think, not just entrepreneurs.
Trivinia: Yeah. It’s interesting because I had a lot of people telling me like you should create a course on how to become a virtual assistant. It’s kind of everybody tells me all these different ways that could diversify my revenue and all these things but it wasn’t until I paid to join this Mastermind and these courses. And I was encouraged to again kind of take that look back who I want to be and how I want to use my influence.
And I really realized and was like “No, I don’t want to create a course like that. That’s not anything that I have any desire to do. Now, do I want to speak on stages, sure! Do I want to write books, absolutely! Those are the ways that I want to be able to influence a community, but I don’t want to have online courses that’s not something that I want. I don’t want to teach VA’s how to be VA. I would rather teach CEOs how to be CEOs instead you know.
But I was very close to going down a path that ultimately would not have left me fulfilled just because people were telling me I should. But when I took the time a way kind of by myself to really look at where I wanted to use my influence, it would just came clear that what people were telling me wasn’t really where I wanted to go.
Andrea: Oh that is so powerful too because I know even for myself, looking at what I’m doing, trying to think about which ways should I listen to. And in the end, it has to be true too, like inside of you I think. It does feel like a calling, doesn’t it?
Trivinia: Yeah. I think sometimes I still do battle with that because I know that the impact that we’re making. I remember telling Amy Porterfield this all the time like “We’re not caring kids here.” But we are making changes in people’s lives because of the work that we were doing together there. And I feel the same is true for PriorityVA. I have VAs tells me they had no idea where Christmas is going to come from but now they do you know because of the opportunities that were affording them to work at home as a VA.
And so I know that we’re making changes in people’s lives and it’s important what we’re doing. But me, sometimes it’s so hard to see that because we get caught up in looking really what other people are doing or what other people, family, and friends, whatever tells us we should be doing. You know, you just get to set with yourself and just really figure out who you want to be and go for it.
And I think that’s where if we take any consideration the Fascination Advantage thing that that’s where my power lies or that’s where my prestige lies is in really being able to take hard look at myself and then go full board ahead to get what I want that’s kind of cool.
Andrea: Love it. So you said that you’re interested in writing books and speaking on stages which you would be fabulous at. What would you want to talk about? What is that thing that you really want to get out there? What is the message?
Trivinia: You know that’s just a great question and I think that it will evolve and change as I get more comfortable in this new space of not being the assistant. But I think for now, one of the biggest things that I still want people to understand is that we don’t have to do it alone. I feel like as we’re growing our businesses in this entrepreneurial space, we’re all sitting behind our computer screens and getting fatter and just becoming more isolated. And I feel like we don’t have to do that alone.
We don’t have to barricade ourselves in our office and become martyrs to our own businesses and things like that and not just a really important message. Obviously, it ties very closely into the need that I feel all entrepreneurs have to have a virtual assistant or to have some sort support system for them. So that’s really important to me. Other things I’m really passionate about of course, adoption and foster care so you know, it could be that that I spend more time speaking and writing about those things.
It’s interesting to me, Andrea, that now I have the choice to think about it and that’s what so weird to me is that if I want to talk adoption, I can talk about adoption. I don’t have to talk about virtual support. So that just kind of interesting is that I can grow up into whatever I want to now because no one else is just tell me what I have to do.
Andrea: Sure, yeah that’s exciting. It’s interesting too to think about how we can have this. And one of the things that I love about this is that you have a business that is supporting you. And then if you want to talk about your passion, your mission for adoption and foster care then you don’t have to make money doing that necessarily.
You’re making money in your business, so this allows you to have the freedom to be able to pursue a mission that may not make money at all, maybe giving money a way for you to give back or whatever that is and whatever how it placed out. But I think that it is easy for people who have a passion like you’re describing because you have adopted two children, right?
Andrea: So that’s one of the reasons why you’re so passionate about this, and I think that it’s easy for us to get stuck in that passion and not think about how we’re going to support it.
Trivinia: Yeah, absolutely. I used to do all this in your free talks and I’d write in forums and blogs and all that sort of things to try and get the message out about foster care and adoption. And I actually had to take and that would be put in the back burner for a little while for me so that I could build a business that could sustain my little side projects that really fill me up and I really feel good doing them.
But I still have four children that need to be fed and they have school uniforms that need to be bought and my love of adoption isn’t going to be necessarily feed them. So it’s important I think that we get our priorities straight. And for me, creating a business that could give me the time – I mean, my whole business started because we adopted a child and she needed me to be home for her.
And so I had to really focus on that for a few years to get to a place where I could sustain now. And now, I’m like “Alright, where can we go?” “Who can we talk to about adoption?” How could we view these things and it’s only because I put the time to build something that could sustain this new sort of fun side project that I have. And you know that could be something as time goes on as well. So we’ll see how it plays out but it’s fun for right now.
Andrea: Yeah and in the meantime, you’ve built yourself a platform.
Andrea: And continuing to grow that one and that’s pretty important, so I think these are great, great lessons for the Influencers that are listening because I think that it is so easy to get stuck. So thank you for that. Now, I’m really fascinated by how you’re passionate about something that I’m also passionate about which is pairing your VA’s with the right client. Tell me a little more about that because I’m really interested in this.
Trivinia: Yeah, so this all really started because I was working with some higher profile clients and people were starting to ask me if I could work with them. And really that’s where the entrepreneurial being kicked in for me and I kept thinking “Well now, I can’t take anymore on myself but I can find you someone that has the same characteristics or the same traits that you think you want in me.” And that really started this business.
And so the way that I’ve really utilized a couple of things – I say that we have to figure out the right skills that you need someone to have. You know, do I need to know where and all these things because I need them to be able to do and execute what you need done. But more importantly, in my opinion, it’s personality and temperament, character, and values that are going to drive a relationship and really make it work.
I can teach someone many pages. I can show someone how to set up Facebook ads, but if they don’t care about your business and your mission where you’re going, it’s not going to matter. There’ll be a little kind of crash test dummies, right? They’ll be filling out forms or clicking buttons and doing things but they’re not going to care. And to me, the best relationships or where can I place a VA with the client who’s not…they’ll never be equally as passionate about what you’re doing because I just don’t think that’s possible.
But if they are driven and motivated by what you’re doing in your business and they have the skills that you need, that is a recipe for magic and for, really, what I call long term collaborative support. And one of the best things that I found in my career is working with Amy and being able to kind of look behind our shoulders and say “Holy cow, do you remember our first launch together, it was like $30,000” and then looking at doing nearly $2 million launches.
And not that I was solely responsible for that but I played a part in it and I was able to see sort of where we had come all along the way in our relationship and in the business building and things like that. And that’s really magical if I can create that relationship for people. So I spend a lot of time working with not only with more personality tech profile stuff that really digging in with our clients and asking politically incorrect questions. I’m just really trying to figure out who they really need.
Because most people, I think 90% of the people that come to me looking for virtual support, they’re all about the ‘what.’ I need someone to manage my account. I need someone to schedule trips for me and that is all they are concerned about. But when I can sort of put the tables on them and say “Okay that’s great,” like “got that part.” Now, who is the best person to come alongside you and work with you, because you’re B-Schoolers, you know creating your ideal client avatar and we get that down. We know what kind of music they listen to. We know where they shop, like we know all of those things but nobody does that to figure out their ideal teammates.
Andrea: That’s crazy, isn’t it?
Trivinia: Yeah, exactly because they’re the ones helping you build those things. And so I try to get people to really flippant and to think about that for a little bit, and let’s create a profile of your ideal teammate and then I go to work to find them. And obviously now, my team is growing and I have fulltime recruiter that helps me with that now so it’s not just me anymore.
But that is so, so powerful when I can then introduce a client to a virtual assistant and I can say, you know “Here’s Sarah and here’s why I chose her for you.” And the clients were like “I cannot believe you were able to find somebody that aligns so wonderfully with who I am and where my business is going.” It just does magic for me, and it makes me so happy and it’s kind of exciting.
Andrea: Oh yeah, it’s magic and it’s gift that you’ve been given. You obviously have a gift for being able to do this and understand your client, understand your VA and look for these deeper things. Would you be willing to share any of the things that you’re looking for when you’re trying to match?
Trivinia: Yeah, I mean it’s different for everyone. So it really starts out with, I would not hire any VA who doesn’t align well with my values, because I would assume that if a client aligns with my values and then I bring on VA that aligns then we’re starting off on a right foot. And so that would be things like truth. I mean, it’s tattooed on my wrists if that’s important to me like I can’t stand liars. Oh, integrity and just commitment. I need people that are going to be committed not only to me and PriorityVA but to their client and really to themselves.
I think that a lot of people who are trying to get their foot in the door in a VA world, you know, they used to work at Target and so they’re going to try this VA thing and they’re going to see how it goes. But they’re not really committed to learning what they need to learn and so commitment is really important and then service. Having a heart to serve is massively important to me because being a VA is hard and sometimes you’re going to be asked to do things that you’re not really interested in doing, at times you don’t really care to do them.
And so I need people that ultimately have a heart of service and just really get filled up by serving other people, so that’s kind of where it all starts. If people can align with that then they can at least get into the fold of the next level of conversation with PriorityVA and then from there, it’s just me. And right now, I’m the only that’s doing this. But I’m the one that engages with their clients and I’m the one who talks to them and figures out really.
I get kind of deep with them and I make them answer hard questions that they’re like “Oh, I never thought of that before.” But it’s like “Do you need to work with someone who shares the same, maybe spiritual views as you?” Because maybe their business is all about their spirituality and maybe having somebody on their team that doesn’t share that so it’s going to become challenging for them. Or maybe it’s somebody who they really, really need somebody who’s very techy because they’re technophobic, right?
So it’s just all figuring out “Do you need someone who’s gonna say, “Yes, Mrs. Wenburg,” or do you need somebody who’s like “Andrea, you told me you’re gonna give me this stuff and you didn’t get it for me.” You know, so it’s figuring that out and those are hard questions I think people don’t want to answer sometimes, because they don’t want to seem like rude or they don’t want to seem like maybe they’re kind of a bad boss.
But if I can get them to go deeper and answer those questions then I have higher much success rate of like 85% success rate in the matches that I make because I’m not having to uncover stuff later that like they really don’t like somebody that says all the time “Okay.” You know because that’s an annoying word to you and I give you someone…
The funniest story, Andrea, that one of my clients told me one time like “I don’t care if they’re college educated. I don’t care if they have babies on their lap while we’re talking, but please don’t give me someone that has a Boston accent.” You know that’s so funny. I was like “Okay, that’s the kind of stuff I need to know, because what if I did. I got them some great person but they were from Boston and not just great on you every time you talk to them.
So I love hearing the funny, funny kind of non-negotiables that some people have, but yeah it’s fun. And then from there, we kind of do the same thing with the VA’s, so we talk to them about who they’re ideal client is and where they can make the most impact. And so if it’s somebody who really needs to be a behind-the-scenes person and they’re more task oriented instead of collaborative relationship oriented, they’re typically not going to work well in our company, because I don’t do task stuff. I think we can outsource that to offshore companies for much cheaper. So I don’t want more collaborative relationships. We start to dig it deeper and ask questions and then it just all comes better.
Andrea: Yeah, that’s great. So some really great advice for people who even have a business maybe whether or not it’s internet business or brick and mortar but it’s hard. It’s neat that we’re in this day and age when you can and you have a lot more to choose in the internet world. You can do a really interesting mix and match in ways that we really can’t when you’re brick and mortar or they couldn’t years ago I’m sure.
So I’m curious when it comes to that relationship between a VA and the client, I’m wondering about how they interact and how you help them interact. Again, this is about voice because I’m sure that your VA’s…it sounds like the way that your VA’s interact is definitely more collaborative as you mentioned. And so they do have a little bit of a voice, maybe more so than a normal VA. But do you have any recommendations or suggestions for people or either that Voice of Influence as a VA or somebody who is in a superior and somebody who’s supporting that superior if you will?
Trivinia: Yeah. You know, the easiest thing, but people look at it as easy, but the easiest thing to create an amazing relationship with anyone we’re working with especially when the relationship is virtual, it’s just consist of communication, right? It’s just like when we’re building our audience and we email them maybe once every nine months. Well, that’s going to be hard to build their relationship with our ideal audience.
And so the same thing is true when it comes to virtual support. I work with subcontractors and so my team is not built of employees, so they’re not W-2 employees. So I can’t demand that they have weekly meetings, but I strongly encourage that they have weekly in meetings with their clients. And I like those to be face to face whether it’s just real quick on Skype or Zoom or Facetime or something, and talking 10 minutes. This is not need to be an hour-long meeting because most clients hate meetings because they’re busy and they don’t want to get caught up in stuff.
But that face-to-face interaction does a lot for building trust in really solidifying relationship, so that’s probably step one for me. And another thing that we do is we have our VA’s give a weekly report of basically what they did get accomplished, what they’re going to start working on for next week, and then what any impediments to progress are. Because oftentimes, the clients are the ones that the impediments to progress.
And so it’s just becomes really, just really transparent about what’s going on and that helps the client to know “Okay, these are sort of my shortcomings. This is where I really need to step up to the plate and help this relationship continue to progress.” So that’s really important I think with any relationships. You just get to communicate a lot and then really utilizing tools that we have at our disposal.
There are so many different things whether it’s things like Teamwork, a project management software that we use here or Slack for quick force of communication. And then of course if people can afford it and it allows in their schedule like get together in person with your VA at least once or twice a year and have a little brainstorming session and that will just again solidify their relationship as well. It’s been really fun to get my team together. We’ve started doing quarterly retreats and we just go rent a VRBO in a different state, in Plymouth and this like 3-day implementation weekends and that’s really fun. And I’ve been able to find out so much about my team now, like for instance – oh I wonder, I’m might be blowing a surprise but that’s okay.
One of my VA’s, Kim, is the most amazing assistant on the planet and so no one even try to steal her from me, but she is coming up on anniversary working with us. And so one of the cool things is like I started asking my team like where would you go if you could go anywhere? And you know, she was talking about different cities she wants to go to. And so I’ve kind of been conspiring behind the scenes, plotting to send her and her husband on a trip for her like anniversary after working with PriorityVA. But I wouldn’t throw that out really just like through email, you know.
It was just around the fire at VRBO in Phoenix, we’re just chatting. And so I think if people will take that relationship to another level with their team, it’s so cool. It’s just so fun, right but you have to step out of your comfort zone and do it and really be interested in having relationship. And that’s the main difference I think, Andrea, between working with other virtual assistant companies and working with PriortiyVA is that I want people to have relationships with their team. And I want them to really be a part of the team not just some button pusher behind the scenes.
Andrea: Oh man! I mean who wouldn’t want to work for you Trivinia. I mean, did you hear what she just said. She’s sending somebody on a trip with her husband and that’s so powerful and it just makes it feel like you truly care.
Trivinia: Yeah, because I do and a lot of people don’t. I mean, we’re just really being honest. A lot of people, they don’t really care about their assistants because they’re disposable. And I want to create relationships that aren’t disposable. So that if you’re assistant got hit by a bus, yes there are systems and there are processes like work could still continue, but I would want that to matter to you.
A lot of people in this online marketing and digital world that we live in, people are so replaceable. And I’m kind of looking at flip the tables on that a little bit and bring it back to kind of old school where people had a secretary for 15 years, you know, that’s normal. I just want that relationship to be really important to people again.
Andrea: Oh I love that! Okay, so one of the other things that I want to ask you about was I know that you have passion because of this is what you’re doing, you’re supporting people who have ideas, you’re giving them support staff or support whatever. Anyway, when people who have a Voice of Influence are growing and wanting to become and develop their voice, get a bigger platform perhaps, or figure out how they want to interact in the world, or whatever it might be; I know and I’ve heard you said this before, it’s so easy for us to get lost in our heads and not actually execute. And part of that problem is the fact that we’re not willing to delegate.
Trivinia: Oh yeah.
Andrea: So what advice do you have for the Influencer that’s sitting here listening right now saying, “It’s going to be years before I ever get anything off the ground.” How do they decide when to actually delegate and that sort of things?
Trivinia: Yeah, stop it. That’s one of the things you know, it’s like people stop being a martyr in your own business. And stop feeling like if you’re not touching it and you’re not pushing the buttons that it’s not going to be done right. I have often said like “There will be spilled milk. Your system is going to mess up.” I sent an email to at least nearly 200,000 people from a client’s private email address one time. Yeah, it sucks and it was horrible and I was crying hysterically, but you know, we fixed it and it was fine and nobody died.
And so I think that that’s the biggest thing that we can do as Influencers or business owners. As we’re getting started, stop thinking that people are going to die if an email is not sent out right or if a link is wrong on a Facebook post. Just stop taking yourself so seriously and really start small. I think that getting your feet wet in delegating and outsourcing, like do something on 99designs or something and just start flexing that delegation muscle, because I think that it is a practice that we have to get better at.
Now, I tell my team like take it. They’ll ask me questions and I’m like “Oh, I don’t care. You do what you do, you own this.” Dan Martell tells us something that I think that if more people would really embody, I think their business would scale so much faster. We need to put people in place and he calls it, ‘we need someone to LMA that.’ And it’s Lead, Manage, and be Accountable, and I have fully embraced that in my business especially in this past couple of months is that I’ve said, outsource-outcomes and not tasks.
So instead of you outsourcing the task of booking a flight, why don’t you outsource the outcome of that entire trip, right? So you’re not worried about the hotel, rent a car and all that stuff like you have an itinerary that such to go. And when you arrive at your hotel, they’re going to have whatever it is that you need. Maybe you’re gluten free or something. You know, outsource the outcome of that and stop worrying so much about the individual tasks that you need to get off of your plate and lets someone lead, manage and be accountable for the outcome of something.
And that’s going to be a part of your team, it’s going to let you sort of rest easier in knowing that it’s not all on your shoulders now. Now, if you picked the right team then you should feel confident in LMA-ing different part of your business. And you should have one for your marketing, you should have one for your finances, you should have one for the administration, and then you obviously have for the delivery of whatever product or service you’re selling.
And so yeah, you got to start small and flex that muscle. You will get burned, you will be disappointed, you will feel like “I should just do this myself,” but if you push through just like when we were working out, right? If you push through that breaking point, you will develop muscles instead. And you’ll get really, really excited about what else can you get off your plate.
Andrea: Oh Trivinia, thank you so much for all of this amazing advice. You are definitely a powerful, beautiful Voice of Influence. And I think you’re definitely already speaking to those CEOs. You’re going to grow this platform even bigger and I want you in front of more and more people. So I wish you well. I’m excited for you and I will always be your cheerleader. So thank you so much for being with us today!
Trivinia: Absolutely! Thanks for having me.
Michael Tringe co-founded CreatorUp to empower anyone to have the opportunity to tell their story through video and all forms of digital media. He loves helping people learn, and watching the impactful stories and videos they’ve created after learning with us has been incredibly rewarding.
As a teacher in Morocco, he started a film program, and was inspired by his students’ stories. For the first time, Mike could see the world through their eyes. That changed him, and inspired him to go to film school at USC. For Mike, films and videos are not just entertainment. They are a means to get to know each other and ourselves. A way to communicate new ideas in a powerful and exciting way.
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(this is an approximate transcript)
Mike Tringe co-founded CreatorUp to empower anyone to have the opportunity to tell their story through video and all forms of digital media. He loves helping people learn and watching the impactful stories and videos they’ve created after learning with CreatorUp has been incredibly rewarding.
As a teacher in Morocco, Michael started a film program and was inspired by his students’ stories. For the first time, he could see the world through their eyes. That changed him and inspired him to go to film school at USC. For him, films and videos are not just entertainment. They are means to get to know each other and ourselves, a way to communicate new ideas in a powerful and exciting way.
I am truly excited to have Michael Tringe on the podcast with us today. He’s a dear friend going all the way back to elementary school. We participated in a number of activities together throughout our school years and graduated together in stayed in contact since then.
Andrea: Mike, it is an honor to have you here with us.
Mike: Well, it is an honor to be joining this. So thank you so much for the opportunity.
Andrea: Now, before we get to CreatorUp and the work that you’re doing to empower people’s voices through video, I’d like to go back to where it sounds like this part of your story begin. How did you get from Harvard to teaching school in Morocco?
Mike: Well, I really wanted to travel and I knew that I was a little burned out from college, so I applied to a lot of different international schools. Harvard had something called, the Harvard overseas teaching program, and so many of those schools had relationships with the university. That meant that it just a little easier to apply, that didn’t mean that it’s easier to be a teacher.
So I applied to schools all over the world and the one that seemed most interested in me was the school in Morocco. And I think you can appreciate the story, but the last time that I had been to Morocco was on our band trip to Epcot Center and that’s where we had, I think, our first O’Doul’s.
So my memory of Morocco was like you know this little Moroccan hat or whatever who was in the Epcot Center. I was thinking “That sounds like a fun adventure.” But in all seriousness, I really was excited about the chance to try something completely new and different. And that’s why I really was gravitating towards Morocco, even more so than some of the programs that I applied to.
Andrea: You didn’t go to school for teaching right?
Mike: Well, I didn’t and I did. I always knew that I enjoyed teaching and I did take some classes in educational psychology and behavioral science, and so in some ways like it was in the back of my mind. But you’re right, I was premed and I thought I was definitely going to be a doctor and this was, you know, I’d taken [unclear 03:09], so this was my break year where I was going to go teach for a year and that turned into three years and the rest is history.
Andrea: So you went to teach English is that right?
Mike: I did.
Andrea: And I remember you told us a story about somebody that you’ve helped find their voice through writing.
Mike: Yeah I know, I could name; his name is Karim, and I’m really among all of the students remember him because he’s a very quiet student and someone who I knew was intelligent and knew had something important to say but he never spoke up. You know, it’s intimidating, you’re in high school and my classes weren’t huge and most of the students really did know each other quite well since it’s a small school. But for whatever reason, he seemed too uncomfortable talking in front of the class.
So we worked on his writing and I could see that he was starting to get better at articulating his thoughts and then I noticed when I opened up the film class that he was the first one to join. And I thought “Oh this is interesting.” He wasn’t my first thought of a candidate. And man, when he picked up the camera it was just like he was singing.
He was really just like in his element and I think that taught me that this is a medium for, you know, sometimes people who don’t know what to say or how to say it but they want to share their vision in a visual way. So it was just really revelatory for me as a teacher to discover that this is a different form of communication that really works better for some types of students.
Andrea: That’s really powerful. Do you tend to notice these people that have something to say but they just don’t seem to be saying it?
Mike: Yeah. I think every filmmaker I ever met has this kind of sort of background where even YouTube creators. I could say just like maybe they’re not so good at communicating in traditional ways but this [unclear 05:21] thought or vision or idea that they have has to come out on the screen, somehow. That’s the journey that a lot of filmmakers and visual creators I think are on. This is one of “Okay, this is in my head, how do I get it out?”
Andrea: I’m curious. Did you always know that you were going to start a film course in Morocco, or it that something that developed overtime?
Mike: No. No, totally overtime. I had brought my own camera to Morocco and had been filming my own stories. That was really enjoyable for me and it was very natural extension as I was asked to teach a photography class or to coach track or whatever to say “Hey, you know, I have this camera, why don’t we start a film class, you know.” It seems like a natural thing I want to do.
The headmaster was very supportive. And he was a very special person because he started working at the school 40 years into his time there and I came in after he’d already been there for 40 years. He had done a theater program and he had this very famous plays produced. He had people like Tennessee Williams and Oliver Stone coming to this place [unclear 06:43]. And I was like “Who is this person?”
But he was from the Deep South and very connected to literature and plays, and so he was very supportive of the film program when it started even when we were getting this max with 4 gigabytes and one camera that cost $4,000 or whatever.
Andrea: Just for context, approximately how long ago was this?
Mike: 2001, so it’s 16 years ago.
Andrea: So video and using video anywhere outside of your home videos, I think was still really a new idea, right?
Mike: Yeah for sure. It wasn’t really even until, I would say platforms like YouTube came along later when it really became a thing because if you’re going to do more with other than like send it off to festival or share with your family like a slide show.
Andrea: Yeah and the barrier to entry who’s just starting something like that is so much [crosstalk]. You said that you had this sort of revelation in Morocco that film was a big deal, when did that translate into your own personal like “I want to learn how to do this better?”
Mike: I think it’s a very deep question but I think that most of what I realized when I was there was there was I was pretty frustrated with my ability to communicate. I spoke English. I never know how to speak Arabic and so part of it was like “Wow!” And for three years I’m not able to express myself outside of the classroom, and so I have gone better with my Spanish. They spoke Spanish there and I studied French and studied some Arabic.
So I really worked very hard at my capabilities for any language. And I still felt really limited and I was like “Hmm, there’s something about video which is very universal.” I mean you can watch it and see it and experience it, and sometimes there are subtitles and sometimes there are not. But to me, I really saw it as a universal communication tool and one which allowed me to access through the eyes of my students. They’re used of their culture and for my own perspective; I was able to share how I saw the world. And so, I think for me, it was like that desire to really learn another language or visual language.
So I started going to festivals more and sort of experiencing the world of film festivals and people telling stories. And I really feel, they just fell in love with that because I think [unclear 09:39] you than anyone. I feel the same sort of need than I do to kind of deeply communicate with people. And really we are most vulnerable when we’re making films or telling stories for others to see. So for me, I was just really attracted to that as a communication medium and a tool and experience.
Andrea: I’m curious about what you said, “I’m most vulnerable when making something for somebody else to see.” What do you mean by that? Vulnerable because why?
Mike: Well, it’s the artists’ dilemma, right? Which is you’re sharing ideas that you might not normally be able to share in conversation or think about when you’re writing down your deepest thoughts and then you translate those into stories. And then you have a team of people that comes in and helps you tell that story because filmmaking involves other people. And then it goes on to spreading somewhere or out into the world.
So I can see how it’s scary. You know, it’s very scary especially in today’s day and age where media is pervasive and things [unclear 10:55] and I was like “Oh my God, can I really do this? What’s gonna happen? Where it’s gonna go? What are people gonna think?” And all these thoughts and I remember going in festivals and hearing people talked about my films afterwards. And being both like on the edge of seat wanting to know what they said and so being like “Don’t say anything bad about it,” you know, which inevitably happens, some people like it and some people don’t.
Andrea: You know, I haven’t thought quite like this before but I haven’t really done a lot with video myself yet. I think someday I’d like to, but I’ve just been trying my voice in writing and audio. And what I have not done is other than my editor for a book, I have not really submitted myself to somebody else’s win as far as, not their win but maybe their artistic expression of what I’m trying to create.
So I can imagine what it’s like to pull a team together around your own story, around the idea that you’ve developed and then somehow trusting. I mean, I know that you’ve done directing but is that part of the vulnerability too, also just like putting other people and giving them that power?
Mike: Oh for sure, absolutely! And I love being in film’s school because it was very supportive and I think that’s why people go because you really do feel like you’re on the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s like everyone’s there to do something and say something and you want to help them to that because they want to help you do that. So in a lot of ways that’s what you’re paying for to be a part of this community of supporters where’s there’s no judgment and there’s really an openness, yet finding people who are going to get it is hard or it can be.
Andrea: So we’ve kind of moved on to film school then you went to USC, and do you want to share anything about your experience there?
Mike: From an academic perspective, I was all in. I mean, I loved every class and learned so much and I was excited about learning about the entertainment industry, meeting new people, and met some really incredibly talented people. It was like a challenging period though because, on the hand, I was going to school. And on the other hand, I was making films with friends on my own for homework on nights and weekends. And then I was working two or three jobs, so all in student’s paycheck.
So for three or four years, I was really sort of subsisting and I know that’s kind of like whatever grad student says but I was surprised by how hard it was. And I think a lot of people were like “Oh film school that sounds so funny, sounds so easy.” It’s like “No, you’re driving and unloading 2-ton [unclear] trucks and there’s a lot of like physical-ness to it and emotional-ness to it.” And probably one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done you know and it just last a long time.
But having said all of that, it was cathartic in a lot of ways because I was able to write stories that I’d never been able to write and have some success with what I was doing. I had films start to get into the festivals and people started to recognize my talent as a writer, as a director, as a producer, and all of that was really made it all worth it. You really don’t think about the long hours with a low pay. It was more about “Wow, this is really exciting!” The shocking part came at the end when it was like “Okay now, we’re moving into this exciting industry.” And then the industry all changed and all the rules have changed and it’s just kind of like starting all over again but not in a bad way.
Andrea: So when you say the industry changed, was that something that was happening from your experience going from grad school to the industry or was that in general a big change that was happening in the industry?
Mike: It was in general, it wasn’t just my experience. I mean, the digital revolution has happened. This is a sort of the reason I started this company. But in general, the business models were changing; who they hired to do things was changing because the business models were changing. So it used to be okay, well you “break into Hollywood and you get discovered and hired in the other group.” That make it sounds a little easy but at least it was kind of like a system for 30 years you know.
Andrea: And you go into film school thinking that’s their system that you’re going in to.
Mike: That’s a system, yeah that’s the system. I think every industries kind of been disrupted in one way or the other, so that system have changed. Basically, the rules forced you to move into [unclear 16:03] models a little faster. So in order to get funding to do anything, and in that we’re talking about crowdfunding more than getting a production company, to invest in you because original stories are not what studios were looking for. I mean, the big realization for me was like “Wow, what of superhero movies going on?”
Yeah, because the studios were like “Yeah, we’re not just taking risk anymore.” They fired all of the studio heads and they replaced them with marketing directors and that was just a thing because all the studios were required by conglomerates. So no longer was art as important as it once was to the system. Luckily, YouTube happens, Instagram, and Facebook so people have these other outlets, right and crowdfunding happened.
Mike: But in that netherworld from 2008 to 2012, which is when I was working. After I graduated, all these shifts were happening. And I think all of us were really like grasping for what’s the pathway here. You know, one student asked “What what do I do with that?” “I don’t want to take that and make it a thing,” so…
Andrea: It’s so amazing that you were in it right in that time and those things were changing, you were trying to figure out what to do then that eventually led to the new steps that you were going to take. So what was it about industry then that led you to move towards starting CreatorUp?
Mike: Well, it was hindsight. I think looking back at what I saw and experienced in wanting to change things. I didn’t like a lot of things that I saw. And I think you know me well and you know that I’m very principled person when it comes to making things feel right. I saw a lot of privileged in the system in terms of who was given access and why, and I thought back to my personal story, a gay person who had come out and was making and telling gay stories and realizing “Well, that’s not really marketable.”
I mean, it was in some ways starting to break out with things like Brokeback Mountain. And then I think with Moonlight winning an Oscar, it has come to kind of full circle. But at that time, I just realized that for me and other minorities or other voices of people who don’t have as much money or access, what happens to them? And always, those were the stories that need to be heard.
So for me, it was a mission about how can I take the knowledge that I have learned in four years in film school as I was interning and working? Or maybe closer to 10 years in the industry, how do I take that and give it away and make it accessible and give people tools? And so for me that became more important even in telling my own story was “How do I help other people tell their stories?” Because I feel like I have told my story, you know, I have said what I wanted to say and will continue to do that but how do I help other people do that.
Andrea: When you think about the minorities’ story that ideally you were just sharing that does the story that you really need to hear, why is it so important to make sure that those stories are told?
Mike: It’s so, so important. It’s about representation. We go up in Nebraska and we knew what we could see that was that, right? Whatever was in front of or you could read about, but I think especially at this time in our nation, in our society, we need to see more. And if we’re not able to see and hear those other stories then out of sight, out of mind. It’s almost like those other people don’t exist because we’ve never heard about them. We don’t know about them and maybe the reason we don’t know about them is because they’ve never been given that opportunity to share who they are.
Andrea: You know, I also think that empathy…that’s one of the things that were given when we can really experience somebody else’s story through video, especially…
Mike: Oh for sure.
Andrea: I’m more able to really understand somebody else and their perspective and what they’re experiencing and I’m seeing their facial expressions and I’m hearing the tone of their voice. And seeing their perspective I guess to film in a way that even writing doesn’t really quite allow.
Mike: Absolutely! I mean that was like Directing 101 for me in the first semester of film school was that like this emotional element. And this empathetic element is the thing that sort of makes this medium different.
Andrea: You know, respectful dialogue is one of my core principles that I’m longing to promote and get people behind, because obviously there’s demonization of other people all the time. And it’s very difficult to move forward in any kind of way when we can even be respectful to one another.
So empathy and being able to understand other people what’s going on with them, what’s going inside of them and they’re real people. The other people are real people and not just…I think it seems to help me when I think of myself and my experience of film, it helps me get in touch with my own humanity in a lot of ways and what I feel and what I’m thinking. It makes me think more about that.
Mike: On that note, I have to just mention because a friend of mine was involved in this project. There’s a project called Project Empathy, and it’s actually uses virtual reality to help you experience…I mean their tagline is Help us see the world through the eyes of another. So it might just be, you know, I know virtual reality as well is starting to be an extension of filming video in terms of what we’re able to experience in terms of other people’s perspectives.
Andrea: Yeah. So let’s move on to how CreatorUp got started?
Mike: Okay. Well, I think I can give you the idea side of it and I can tell you the people side of it. So from an idea perspective, it was about…I mean, looking back at my time as a teacher and knowing I enjoyed that and knowing I enjoyed film school and wanting to continue that and have that be something anyone could do. I think I mentioned this before but I worked in the admission office at USC. And I remember this, they were rejecting everybody maybe because there were such a limited number of slots or you know…
Andrea: That’s interesting.
Mike: I was like “Hmm, okay…well, a lot of people wanna go to film school, not everyone can get in and it’s so expensive because we all owed over $100,000.” So how can we change that a little bit? And at that time, other interesting shift that was happening was that education models were changing, right? So these massive open online courses were becoming popular. Salman Khan has started the Khan Academy and so our reaction in making things accessible was to start filming ourselves.
So we gather our friends together and said “Hi, you know about cinematography and you know about editing and started making courses and putting money in the internet, 25 bucks a month, all [unclear 24:45].” And that’s literally how it started. So we started as a consumer-focused website that had online courses around storytelling production, marketing, or crowdfunding.
And then as we were going along, we realized “Well, how we can make this even more impactful and more meaningful?” And so we expanded our online offerings to live classes and that soon became something companies wanted as well. So right now, we’ve gone from one, two, three people to 11 or 12 people working here. And we serve primarily schools and companies, but we also serve individuals. And we help people tell their story and use media to reach people with their ideas. That’s what we do.
Andrea: So when you’re doing you have companies, are you doing production work for them or are you teaching them how to produce?
Mike: Both. So I think you know, the people inside of those companies who need a lot of their staff who are working and most of them in the marketing department. So oftentimes, we are working directly with marketing departments to train them around best practices for next generation communication. The big industry trend that I just shared with you is that people are not watching as much TV and they refused to watch commercials.
So what do you do with that? Well, you actually have to make a change. You have to create content that people want to watch and that is the new method by which you reach people, you create value. You create education and you create entertainment. You create inspiration, so those three tenants or some of the tenants behind. But types of content happen to work well on YouTube, which by the way, is now being watched with a rate of 1 billion hours every day. So it’s a thing. It’s a real thing.
Andrea: Wow! How does one even bother getting started? How do you get over the hump of thinking, how do I do that?
Mike: Here’s a dirty little secret, everybody started somewhere and there is so much opportunity around who you are and what you know. And it’s the same thing your grandma told you, “You’re special.” You are, you’re a special person and other people will appreciate that specialness about you because you’re unique and that’s like an easy way of saying that every voice has an audience, every voice has a niche that they’re feeling.
So that’s the beauty of the diverse stories out in the world. We have been living in a broadcast world for a hundred years where it was really like a few channels and one distribution pathway and that has been revolutionaries and that’s great. That’s good for us.
Andrea: One of my mantras is your voice matters, but you can make it matter more.
Mike: Right. I see where you’re going. So the medium allows to amplify that and platforms across social media are one distribution mechanisms. They’re not the only ones, but technically it gets started because this is a technical medium and a lot of people are afraid of that technical element. I think that…yes, it has a small investment whether that’s educating yourself and some equipment or borrowing equipment.
So to get practical about it, you need to identify basically your process and your tools. So from the process perspective, it’s just about mapping out your ideas. I can recommend Evernote for doing that and not necessarily writing all the scripts down or thinking what’s going to be in every video. It’s some of the bullets around you know “What do you wanna say from a big picture perspective? What’s the mission behind your message?”
And then bullet out, what are the topics underneath that that you would want to talk about for let say 10 videos? Once you have those things then it’s about “Okay, well let’s get a camera that works.” DSLR camera or an iPhone could work with a road microphone or something that put into it so that your audio quality is good as well, and editing software which is really just kind of your visual storytelling tool.
You don’t want to do that directly through Instagram stories or Facebook Live with live audience just stream directly which is another medium. But if you want to kind of have that editing element into it, Adobe Premiere is a good tool.
Andrea: Adobe Premiere for both Mac and PC?
Mike: I think it’s probably the best one, the easiest one.
Mike: Yeah, the other element that I want to talk about in getting started this is just more about making time, finding a way signing a way that kick start what you’re doing. And what I found with anything new they’ve ever done is that requires help that requires other people. You know, they say when you go diving, you need a dive buddy?
Mike: I think need a buddy to keep you accountable and maybe to help in areas where you might not make it so good. Maybe there’s some compliment or skills that’s there around and somebody is good at organization and the other person is good at ideas. I don’t know but I think that’s helpful and I think getting involve in your local filmmaking community. That might not so far as you think.
I mean, a lot of towns and schools and cities will have film festivals and film organizations and you’ll be surprised really how accessible they are if you just walk in. In Nebraska, I know the Omaha Film Festival has a really great community, and I think there are festivals all over the state at this point.
Andrea: It seems like I’ve read some place or saw some place that you were doing some work with helping schools get into film a little bit or start a film program in their own schools. I mean, is that something that CreatorUp is involved to it?
Mike: Yeah, we do. That’s one of my favorite parts of what we do. So our course library can be made accessible, video textbooks about everything from cinematography to editing and writing. A lot of schools work with us to provide our curriculum in those materials to their schools.
And so at a base level, schools that don’t even have a program can literally plug in CreatorUp and we can have their instructors, their teachers whether they’re be English teachers or enthusiast teaching this as an extracurricular program, very similar to the type of program that I would have thought when I started high school when I was teaching.
So for that, we are literally plug-in-play solution for any school that does not have a program to have a program and that is one of the things that I want to emphasize is like “This is why we started the company to make this more accessible.”
Andrea: What is that someone needs to do to get started if they’re interested in using CreatorUp in their schools? And who would it be for? I mean, surely anybody could participate but it seems like this is really ideal for students, who, like you mentioned before might have something to say but aren’t sure how to express it. They might be in accelerated learning program but they might not. They might be somebody who just doesn’t know how to express themselves.
Mike: To answer your second question around, who is it for? Is it for teachers; is it for students and what type of students? I mean, it’s for both so we actually offer professional development training for teachers as well. And I really do believe that it’s critical for teachers to teach themselves how to use these mediums because they need to be creating more dynamic materials for the classroom. They need to be empowering their students to create video essays to get into college as an alternative method to turn in homework, whether it’s history or English or math or you name it. It’s another engagement tool for teachers to take their classroom to the next level.
And then on the student’s side, video and media making should be viewed in the same way that other critical skills are. Some people might say that coding is now a critical skill that students must have. But in addition to start learning a language or learning math, to me video should be right in the next. And I think it really just kind of gets either overlooked or people think it’s too artsy or this or that. But I think you and I both know the importance of this type of program, I mean with music or art that it has an emotional development of a student which is so important of that stage of your life.
Andrea: Absolutely! I know and another one as you go through life and just that ability to be able to express yourself in various ways. It seems like film is just a video or is just becoming more and more important culture in our social media [unclear].
Mike: Yeah, yeah and I think a lot of times people look at they’re like “Oh it somebody’s obsessed with the camera,” or something like that. But they don’t see that media and storytelling is also a community-building opportunity, because you’re starting to bring people together in ways that they’ve not been brought together before to think and talk about things that are uncomfortable sometimes. Or if not uncomfortable that are celebratory you know. So it’s just a really, really lovely nice medium to be able to bring people together as well.
Andrea: Great! Thank you for what you’re offering. I think it’s really powerful. And so if somebody wanted to get in touch with you or somehow use CreatorUp, do you just suggest they just go to your website? What’s the best…
Mike: Yeah, go to our website or you can have them email me directly. I’m in charge of a lot of these partnerships, and so just email@example.com and we’ll be happy to start talking.
Andrea: Awesome! Alright, one last question, the aspiring filmmakers out there, somebody who might be a little bit more interested in actually utilizing film or video as their job, what would you recommend? Do you recommend going to some place like film school or where do you suggest they start?
Mike: You know, I think classes are good. I think classes are helpful to create structures and timeline and deadlines and get you to create projects. So whether that’s school or whether that’s something we’re doing or whether that’s filmmaking buddy, you really just have to start making things and showing them to people and getting feedback.
I think the best part about having a small community whether it’s in a school or outside the school is that you can improve. You can get better in a safe place because no one starts out perfect. You’re always going to make mistakes and you kind of have to be open to overcoming some of those challenges if you’re going to get started.
But once you have some videos whether those are promotional for a business or just your ideas, you can put them on Vimeo and then put your Vimeo links on your website and show people you’re real. And that’s when they’re going to hire you and pay you to do the work. So it’s as easy as that if that’s your video or resume but you have something to show.
Andrea: Thank you so much for sharing your story and your passion for video and giving people voice through video. Mike, I really appreciate the time you spent with us today and I’m looking forward to seeing more videos popped up because of CreatorUp. This is fun!
Mike: Thank you so much Andrea! I’m loving what you’re doing and thanks so much for having me be part of it.