🏔Reinvent Yourself Without Losing Yourself
Or how to channel your inner Madonna
🥳 Hey, Kasey here! Welcome to this week’s 🏔High Growth Founders🏔 newsletter.
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In This Issue:
Big Announcement! I got a job! What?!
Founder Newsletter I Love: Check out The Daily Idea to help you find brilliant ideas to grow your business.
Growth Insight: How to Reinvent Yourself without Losing Yourself
High Growth Founders Episode of the Week: Interview with founder, Evan Stewart of Basewell — this one is SO FREAKING GOOD.
Thank you for your patience.
Can’t believe it, but last week, I joined Virtual as Managing Director. Virtual is a management consulting and professional services firm specializing in membership organizations, such as associations, consortia, and tech standards groups. I’ll be serving as a growth-focused consultant for their clients, but also for Virtual, developing business development and strategic growth strategies to help them serve a larger audience.
If there is ever a project or initiative you’re working on where you think I might be able to help, you know where to find me.
Founder Newsletter I Love:
Daily Idea is a free newsletter that shares interesting and novel business ideas every week. Totally free.
Growth Insight of the Week:
How do you define yourself as a person? If you were to explain to a stranger, who you are, what makes you you, what would you say? How would you describe yourself?
Last week, I started a new job…as an employee at an actual company. And a fairly sizeable one at that. This is after 5+ years of entrepreneurship. And being an entrepreneur, a business owner, a Founder, has been core to my sense of self for half a decade.
When Greg Kohn, my new boss, first approached me with this opportunity, I was intrigued, but wary. For years, I have held the belief that I could never go back to being an employee — both because I wouldn’t want the boredom, bureaucracy and oversight that came with being an employee, but also because it felt wholly anathema to my sense of self. My need to chart my own course, my resistance to playing by someone else’s rules, and my desire for constant change were usually the oil to company stability’s water.
As I got excited about the role, and fairly certain I would take it, I started to wonder when the idea of joining an organization would feel like it was directly undermining or coming into conflict with my sense of self, my identity as an entrepreneurship. I was sure this feeling of discomfort would come, it was just a matter as to when.
But as time went on, it didn’t. I only felt good. Only felt like this was the right next step for me, for my journey, and for my sense of self.
And then it dawned on me, yes, entrepreneurship is something I do. But maybe it’s not who I am anymore. At least not my entire identity the way it perhaps was at one time.
A friend once asked me a question that changed how I think about identity.
You have played a lot of roles in your life — daughter, sister, wife, partner, friend, founder, mentor, coach, advisor.
The list goes on and on.
If suddenly you were on a desert island and every single one of those roles was stripped away, how would you rate your value to the world? On a scale of 1-10, how would you define your worth?
“2 or 3,” I said.
I thought that without all of those roles, I wouldn’t be in a position to deliver much value to the world. My value would be based purely on potential, not reality.
“No, no, no, he said. You would be a 10 out of 10. Your worth wouldn’t be defined by someone else’s perception of you, but by your essence as a human. Your goodness, kindness, beauty, and strength as a person. You.”
I was raised with an emphasis on appearances and outward perception — so I have struggled in my 40 years on this earth to measure my self-worth based on my own perception of self, on who I believe I am, instead of how others view me.
Without this role of entrepreneur, would I lose my sense of self and purpose in life?
Turns out no. I wouldn’t.
As I explored these ideas, sitting with this sense that I would soon feel discomfort or awkwardness from a change in self-identity, I realized that my role isn’t what makes me who I am.
It is my sense of purpose in life, my values, and my intuition. My job in life is simply the vehicle by which I live out those values. And those stay the same, guiding me from one adventure to the next.
When I think about identity and transformation, I think about our most powerful cultural icon representing continual rebirth and transformation — Madonna.
Madonna is arguably the greatest example of reinvention.
From her constantly evolving style, to her genre-bending music, multiple forays into award winning movie roles, and beyond, she has been a vanguard of continual evolution. Sometimes eliciting sneers and jeers from the public, but still regularly earning awards and the respect, adoration, and millions from fans and critics alike.
Still, when you take a step back, you see there are some common threads that run through everything she has done.
Women’s empowerment. Every album and every role has portrayed women as strong, bold, and self-determined — despite the odds.
Sexual liberation. From the very beginning, she has pushed the envelope of what it means to be sex-positive.
Inclusive. Throughout her career she has celebrated (and sometimes some close to co-opting or appropriating) the styles and aesthetics of a wide variety of genres, cultures, and people, often leading to pop culture’s eventual embrace of those influences.
Even as she changes wildly, the core of who she is remains steadfast. Allowing for a certain nimbleness and flexibility without losing sight of her obvious North Star.
As I considered this new job opportunity and wondered if and when my excitement would come to a screeching halt, I realized that my work of self-discovery in recent years meant that my eagerness would not be fleeting and this change wasn’t a redefining of myself, but a revisioning of the vehicle through which I live my purpose.
How do you develop the sense of self to empower your own personal transformation?
A few key questions I asked myself
What are your values?
Your values, what truly matters to you, are unfortunately most often discovered during times when those values are betrayed, not when everything goes well.
One of my favorite exercises to uncover your foundational values is The Origin Story Exercise, I have adapted from the book The Buddha and the Baddas, by Vishen Lakhiani of Mind Valley.
Keep in mind, this exercise takes time and can bring up a lot of big feelings, so give yourself the time, space, and grace, to feel it all. I promise you will learn something about yourself, oftentimes quite a bit.
Step 1: Chart Your Peaks
Sit down and write your life story. Not about what school you went to, where you lived, or what job you worked. This is the story of your greatest highs and lows. Your most painful experiences and joyful or rewarding moments throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Write them in detail and explain what they taught you. Think about how these experiences shaped you as a person.
Step 2: Extract What Matters
Once you’ve written out your story, write down your personal values, what matters to you. Give yourself time to write it all down. The list will likely feel too long, but that’s okay. Don’t edit yourself right now. If you feel it is pivotal to who you are as a person and what matters to you, write it down.
Step 3: Distill It to Its Core
Now take a moment and group those values into smaller clusters. You’ll notice certain themes that jump out, tying those individual values together. Group them in whatever way makes sense to you, but try to organize them into 3-5 clusters.
Step 4: Define Your Values
Now it’s time to name each cluster. Your first instinct might be something like “innovation,” but that might not portray the full emotion or purpose behind the cluster. Perhaps it’s something more inspiring, as in Vishen’s case, “Envisioning.” Write out a statement about what that value means in your life and/or your business.
Note: yes, these will prove pivotal to defining your own personal North Star, but they can and should also help shape your foundational values as a Founder. Too often we try to pick “values” based on what we want our company to be or what model in our industry we want to emulate and they always feel hollow. Your company is likely about you. Act like it.
When Are You at Your Best?
One of my biggest concerns about becoming an employee again, and why I was sure I could never make the change, is that I have come to understand the kind of work environment where I thrive and I hadn’t seen an example of a company (aside from my own) which accommodated, let alone enabled, those conditions.
This can be somewhat challenging to uncover, but I have developed an exercise that has proven considerably helpful for me and several of my clients. It is not wholly dissimilar from Lakhiani’s Origin Story Exercise, but instead we chart the course of environments where we have thrived in our lives and where we have struggled.
Step 1: Chart Your Peaks
Instead of life experiences, think about relationships and collaborative environments — work places, athletic teams, creative pursuits, or any other relationships that either helped you thrive as a person or that left you feeling drained and maintaining a white-knuckled grip on survival.
Describe the environment, the people, the conditions, the way you interacted with people, the activities or work you were doing. Yes, include work, but also include your personal life. What people and environments energized you and which left you spent and exhausted.
Step 2: Define Your Conditions to Thrive
As you review your Survive to Thrive story, you will start to notice patterns in what energizes you and what drains you. This is true in your work, volunteering, relationships, everything.
List out everything that seems relevant to what lights you up. The kinds of people excite you, the work environments that get you excited to show up every morning, and of course, the kinds that suck the life force out of you.
Step 3: Distill It to Its Core
What are the themes that come up for you? Again, group these conditions and priorities into clusters. Except now we’re not talking about your internal values, but the ways the people and situations around you either set you up for success or failure. What resources are pivotal to your ability to thrive?
As you think about a transformation or a new potential phase of live, consider whether you’re setting yourself up for success or are you minimizing your potential by limiting your access to the people, resources, or environments that help you thrive.
Know your training vs. your instinct
Months after I left the hospital following my dog attack, talking to my therapist about how I knew I needed to reach out to him and my friends to start talking about what I’d gone through, despite my instinct being to crawl into a hole and not talk to anyone.
But he stopped me and said, “Kasey, your instinct was that you needed to reach out, connect, and share your story. It was your training that told you to retreat and hide from everyone.”
Ever since then, I’ve thought often about the difference between instinct and training and I’ve learned my training is to focus on appearance over reality, to sacrifice my own happiness to please or impress others, and to squash my own needs or concerns if it will upset someone else.
In what ways do you live out the behaviors your parents or society has trained in you, despite them going against your deeply held dreams, wishes, or desires?
There is no simple exercise for this one. It takes a lot of time, reflection, curiosity, and patience.
But identifying your triggers can prove to be the most helpful work you can undertake.
Here’s how I’ve learned to identify my triggers:
Step 1: Any time you have a strong reaction to something, take note.
This can be when you get in an argument with your partner, when someone says something that you just can’t stop thinking about, or when you’re watching a movie and a scene immediately puts you in a bad mood.
Don’t gloss over it. Don’t rush to the next thing or tell yourself to get over it.
Step 2: Get curious.
If you can catch yourself in the moment, great, but most of us can’t. So whenever you can, take a moment and close your eyes. Take a deep breath and conjure up that feeling again. Stir it up inside of you. Feel it.
Where do you feel it in your body?
What other memories, sensations or ideas come up for you?
Let yourself sit with these feelings and the discomfort they present. Be patient and you will learn more about what are learned behaviors and what are true to who you really are.
Know what holds you back
I used to think it was absurd when people would talk of being scared of success. I was hungry for it. How could someone possibly be afraid of achieving what they seemed to be working toward?
Though my understanding took years of peeling back the layers of my self-realization and actualization, I realized that I too am afraid of success. But it doesn’t show up the way normal fear does for me. There’s no quickening of the pulse or tightening of the shoulders.
No, I just avoid things that could make success happen. I always find an excuse for why I couldn’t make progress on the project that matters so much to me. I needed to do more research or finish a client project or whatever the excuse of the day, week, or month was.
When you think about those dreams of yours, why haven’t you made the progress you keep planning?
What is holding you back? Is it fear? Or maybe just plain avoidance? Or perhaps it’s always someone else’s fault?
Part of what appealed to me about this new job was that my go-to excuse has always been that I’m too busy. I just don’t have time.
But in reality, I didn’t make time. I was always adding more to my plate. And I realized I was addicted to being busy. It was my way of running away and avoiding what I really want in life.
And as soon as I realized this and started to cut away at the fluff and BS in my life, this job came calling. And I realized the last time I had real free time was when I was an employee. This wouldn’t be my prison, but my salvation.
I don’t know what kind of transformation may lie ahead for you. Or even what kind of transformation you may need in order to reach that next level of your journey, but do the personal work to know who you are and what you want — what you really want — so that when the opportunity comes knocking, you’ll know if it’s time to say yes. Or not.
HGF Episode of the Week:
This is hands down one of my favorite interviews thus far. Evan Stewart is one of the most candid, honest, thoughtful Founders, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to.
We cover a lot of ground in this episode, but you’ll quickly see why I instantly connected with Evan. We talk a lot about intention and how to turn trauma into Post Traumatic Growth.
In this episode, we discuss:
A series of formative experiences in his life, and the two essential facts he learned from those events.
How Evan grew his business to the top 1% of real estate businesses in Texas in only 5 years.
And why, despite his incredible achievements, he quit the real estate industry.
How he and his wife manage to be both romantic and business partners!
How he and his wife went from losing everything to founding Basewell.
Thanks again for reading and for sticking with me. Between taking two weeks off, COVID, my birthday, starting a new job, and a recent resurgence of COVID exhaustion, it’s been a wild and challenging month.
You opening this newsletter and giving it a read mean the world to me.
In Love and Growth,