Blog Personal Growth and Mental Health

When I Wasn’t Aligned with Self Love, I Literally Couldn’t Hear the Love and Support That Was All Around Me

I Set Out to Find an Executive Coach, and Ended Up Sharing My Deepest Insecurities with a Bunch of Strangers in a 35 Million Dollar Mansion

Last week, I went on a luxury manifestation retreat to the Bahamas. I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up, but it sure wasn’t what I got…

I stumbled across the retreat somewhat by accident. I had been feeling for a while that I wanted some type of coaching that was just for me. Since I own a business 50/50, this had never occurred to me as an option. My partner and I always worked with coaches and mentors together, went to the same retreats, etc. As our roles have become more defined however and I’ve stepped fully into the seat of CEO, I realized I needed something more. As the saying goes, it’s lonely at the top (lonely isn’t the perfect word, but you get what I mean).

I was coaching and mentoring and pouring into our highest levels of leadership (including my business partner) but had no one who was focused on me and helping me grow into my next level. I recognized that in order to pour into the business and mentor my people at the highest level, I needed someone to pour into me.

At a Mastermind meeting in April where we talked about asking for what we want, I got up the courage to tell my business partner I wanted my own coach. She was characteristically supportive, and I set my sights on finding what I would need for my next level.

My initial idea was to hire an executive coach. I spoke to a wonderful coach who was there at the Mastermind with us, and while I didn’t doubt the value she could bring me, the timing didn’t feel like a full green light.

Two days later as I was packing up in our hotel room preparing to head back to Rhode Island from our meeting in Del Ray, Florida, I felt an impulse to reach out to a friend and colleague to ask about her experience with a manifestation coach we both knew. I really liked her style, and wondered if one of her programs might be for me.

My friend responded that she wasn’t sure the program was a fit for me, but that this coach was hosting a retreat in the Bahamas in a month that I should attend. I had a strong intuitive hit that THIS was where I needed to be next.

After some initial raised eyebrows from my business partner and wife that I was spending my executive coach budget on a week in the Bahamas (lol), everyone eventually got on board and I booked the trip.

This is how I found myself in a 35 million dollar mansion on the beach, surrounded by hopeful strangers, confronting insecurities I thought were long gone.

Are You Hearing and Seeing the Things All Around You?

I didn’t have many hesitations about showing up to live in a house with a bunch of strangers. I assumed everyone would be super nice and supportive since they were all students of energy work (they were) and that it would be a relatively chill time (it wasn’t).

When I got to the villa, I gazed out of the floor to ceiling windows at the gorgeous ocean view with a pink sand beach that looked photoshopped, listened to the gentle crashing of the waves and felt… weird.

An internal battle started to brew.

What was wrong with me? I was in paradise; I should be feeling abundant and grateful and powerful. And I kind of was.

But I was also feeling uncomfortable, out of place, and insecure.

The group seemed to know each other from previous programs, but I was new to this coach’s community. I drifted around making small talk but it all felt a bit forced. I felt awkward and disconnected from the people around me, and daydreamed about being here with my family and best friend instead of these strangers.

After our first full day, I was starting to get to know people a bit better and feel a little more comfortable, but there was still an offness.

I found myself wondering, “Was this really worth it? Was this a good investment? Do I even want to be here?”

I experienced this discomfort rising up in me, and felt a familiar pressure that I recognized; it was time to speak this out loud.

Despite feeling free and more connected when I was honest with others about feelings like this, every time my initial response to the strong impulse to share was, “Oh God REALLY? THIS? But it’s so minor and pathetic!” (In my experience, THESE are the things we most need to share so we can become free, although it’s annoying in the moment).

As the mic was passed around the giant, live edge wood table (with a gorgeous ocean view of course), I felt the building anticipation of what I had to do. I would be fully honest about how weird I was feeling. I already felt a tightening in my throat indicating this wouldn’t be my most graceful vocal delivery, but I committed anyway.

When the mic was handed to me, I stood up and through a cracking and constricted voice, shared how I was feeling.

To my surprise, I saw the other faces around me nodding emphatically and even tearing up a bit. I realized I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. I immediately felt more connected to the group.

After we all got up and started milling around the villa having cocktails and snacks, a woman came up to me. She said she appreciated my share and could relate to how I was feeling. Then she said something that totally shifted my understanding of manifestation.

“Earlier today on the boat, I told you how much I loved your bathing suit but you didn’t say anything. I think you have such a beautiful and unique style.” Others around us nodded in agreement, saying they had seen and heard this exchange go down earlier in the day.

I was floored.

The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. When I was feeling self conscious about how I looked, what I was wearing, whether I fit in, I literally could not hear the compliments and support around me.

Everyone else heard it except for me. I was standing right next to her with perfectly good hearing, but I didn’t hear it.

I realized at that moment on a very deep level that the reason I couldn’t hear her was because I was not energetically aligned with her positive comment about my appearance. When I was focused on my insecurity and lack, I PHYSICALLY COULDN’T HEAR THE LOVE AND PRAISE AROUND ME!

How many other positive comments had I missed because I was too in my own head to hear them?

How much money had been trying to reach me that I hadn’t seen or heard because I was internally aligned with lack?

As soon as I had this realization, there was an immediate shift. I heard all the love and support from the people around me (maybe for the first time). Most importantly, I felt it for myself.

What if everything you want is already right in front of your face, and you simply can’t see or hear it because you are stuck in your own head focusing on lack?

What if manifestation is as simple as finally being able to experience the things that have ALWAYS been right in front of you?

Blog Business and Leadership

Understanding The Balance Between Healing Your Business and Growing It

Understanding The Balance Between Healing Your Business and Growing It

I was laser focused on rapid growth from 2016-2021, both in life and business. 

But something shifted for me in the last half of 2021. I started feeling my focus move more towards healing our company than scaling it.

It’s not that I’m stagnant now. Quite the opposite; this year I’ve helped generate more deep, genuine momentum in the business than I ever have before. And I still love to grow and go fast; healing and growth aren’t mutually exclusive. 

But I’m more patient and more willing to slow down to fully understand things instead of rushing along. I care more about health and alignment than momentum and vanity numbers. 

When I was focused on speed, there were little things, small tears in the fabric of the business that I brushed past. There were loose threads I didn’t feel ready to pull. I kept running and avoided the challenges I didn’t feel I had the time or the expertise to solve. 

This worked for a while, but eventually I started to feel unease. I didn’t feel aligned with the business anymore. I felt deep exhaustion. I knew it was time to go back and address everything that had gotten banged up during our breakneck pace, to meet the obstacles I’d been avoiding with compassion and patience. To give all those neglected aspects of the business the attention and love they needed to thrive. 

I don’t think that a focus on rapid growth is inherently a bad thing. There are certain periods where it’s necessary to get the momentum you need, but there are seasons for it. And aiming for fast growth during a season that should be focused on healing and strengthening is a mistake. 

When It Works to Focus on Rapid Growth to Build Momentum and Reach New Heights:

In 2017 our mantra was “Good Enough” (credit for this gem to my BFF Ella Fleming!) We labeled the entire year “Good Enough 2017,” and multiple times per day my business partner Jess and I would yell across the room in our shared office, “GOOD ENOUGH!” (Often followed by an enthusiastically dorky thumbs up). 

If you are a recovering perfectionist like me, you may be horrified by this. But “good enough” was the mantra we needed during this time, and we could not have achieved the business we have now without it. 

2017 was the year we made a massive shift from a team of contractors to a team of in-house, local employees. While we both had previous management experience, this was far more complex and challenging than anything we’d attempted before, and we were essentially winging it a lot of the time. We just had to keep going and figure it out as we went. It wasn’t always pretty, but we got where we needed to go.

By 2018 I was co-owner of Interview Connections and I was OBSESSED with getting the business from 400k (where we landed in 2017) to a million in annual revenue by the end of 2018. Every ounce of my focus was on hitting that revenue milestone and getting in the room with other women at that level. 

This dogged determination worked, and while we didn’t hit a million, we did double our revenue in 2018 and ended in the high 800s for the year. I kept my focus steady, and in 2019 we crossed the million dollar mark for the first time.

Not only was this intense growth focus necessary to hit the goal, it was a catalyst for a ton of important learning that wouldn’t have been possible if we had been going for a more modest pace. When you challenge yourself to grow that much that fast, your learning cycles become extremely rapid and the personal growth that results is incredible. 

Once we hit 7 figures, I immediately moved the goal post to 8 figures (as one does). I learned quickly that what it took to hit 10 million was very different from what it had taken to hit 1 million. 

Good enough was no longer good enough. 

2020 and 2021 were all about upleveling the company to be able to achieve and sustain 8 figures. (You can read more about that wild leadership journey here). 

What we learned in those years was exactly what we needed to get where we are now, and the lessons were invaluable. That learning gave us the experience and wisdom to recognize when it was time for a different approach.

What It Feels and Looks Like When Your Focus on Rapid Growth Needs to Shift:

If you are experiencing deep exhaustion, overwhelm, chaos, or a vague (but frequent) unease, it might be time for you to shift your focus to healing.

When we closed out 2021 at 3 million, it was clear that it was time to focus less on revenue and more on alignment, healing and strengthening.

Disharmony in the culture and inefficiencies in the structures of the organization that initially seemed minor had grown bigger as we grew. The stress on the team of living through a pandemic and the isolation of going fully remote only made matters worse. 

I had become too far removed from the service delivery side of things as layers of new leadership were put in place. There was misalignment and low level chaos resulting from not having the right people in the right seats, and leaders not having enough training and mentorship from us as owners. 

With all the best intentions, I had contributed to a culture of burnout and a general distrust in leadership. I told myself I was delegating and doing what I should be doing as the CEO, but I think part of me knew I was avoiding facing my team when I didn’t feel like I had all the answers.

I finally made a decision to stop avoiding and to face everything, regardless of whether I felt like I had the answers. 

When I made the choice to be fully present and face everything head on, the resources and knowledge we needed to solve our problems started to find me. We suddenly had the exact books and mentors we needed.

When you face what needs to be healed in your business instead of running away from it, you are able to attract the exact resources you need. 

Healing doesn’t provide the instant gratification of external growth, but the rewards are deeper. Slowly but surely, day after day, the culture has transformed. Team members are stepping up with brilliant ideas and solutions. Old inefficiencies previously written off as “just the way things are” are being rethought and dissolved. Trust and psychological safety are emerging and strengthening.

It’s not that things are easy now, but the newfound alignment is palpable. 

As CEO, I feel different. I feel powerful in a way that makes me realize how powerless I felt before. Misalignment had become so normal for me, I couldn’t even identify it until I experienced the opposite. 

The Unexpected Results of Focusing on Healing Your Company Over Growing It:

The deep irony of focusing on healing overgrowth, is that you end up growing.

As I write this, Interview Connections is thriving in a way I have never seen before, and soon the internal shifts will become obvious externally, as they always do.

And while it may look to the outside world like an overnight success story or the result of “hustle and grind” hard work, I’ll know that isn’t true.

I have absolute faith that our deep healing and re-alignment behind the scenes is what will launch us to the next level.

Blog Personal Growth and Mental Health

How To Manifest Your Dream Home as a First Time Home Buyer During a Pandemic

When I share about the ways my life has transformed both personally and professionally, I am usually not telling the whole story.

I’m not sure why. I think it’s partly because I am passionate about hardcore strategy, finance and leadership. I love talking about these things and they are incredibly important. But to focus only on those things is leaving out a key piece of my success puzzle.

I was also afraid of being labeled as “woo woo.” As a female CEO, I focused on more stereotypically masculine skills like strategy, finance and hard data to prove I was just as capable as all the men who far outnumber me in this role. But doing that does myself and my audience a disservice. 

The truth is, I have been a student of manifestation for over a decade. This started out as listening to The Secret audiobook every day on my commute, making vision boards, and compulsively journaling about what I wanted as if I already had it. 

These initial attempts yielded mixed results. The reason, I would later learn, was because I was focused on the asking and the wanting, but not focused enough on my feelings. My emotional state was not in resonance with the things I wanted, so even when I imagined I already had them, I wasn’t able to get there. I also didn’t have a regular meditation practice, which limited me. 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve continued to deepen my understanding and hone my ability to curate my inner world in order to attract what I want externally. Doing this, I have attracted circumstances that should not have been possible (like going from an employee to 50% owner of a 7 figure business in one year).

A year ago this month, we closed on our dream home. We got an amazing deal on a house in our ideal neighborhood that was much bigger and nicer than anything that we should have been able to afford in our price range. All this went down during an insane covid housing market that should have made these things totally impossible (especially for a first time buyer). 

The market was so crazy that as soon as the house was listed, they were fully booked for showings (within MINUTES there were no more times available). Our agent was able to pull some strings to get us just ten minutes in the house.

As soon as I saw it, I was worried by how much I loved it. It was the highest priced house we had looked at and by far the nicest in our price range (by A LOT). I couldn’t believe it was in our price range at all. They were only showing it that one weekend because they knew they’d be flooded with offers. I kept telling my wife not to get her hopes up. 

They received MANY offers, the top three within only a thousand dollars of each other. 

Our offer was the one accepted.

When we did the final walk through before closing exactly a year ago, the selling agent congratulated us on our “instant equity.” A house on our new street that was smaller and in worse condition had just closed for 100k over what we paid. Had our house been priced for what it was actually worth, we wouldn’t have even gone to see it.

I could write multiple articles on what I did to attract this house, but here are the basics:

1. I spent years dreaming about my perfect house, talking about it, and obsessively watching HGTV to learn exactly what I wanted. I focused on it all the time and had fun with it. I wasn’t upset at the absence, I was excited by the possibility. I focused on all the things I saw in other houses that I LOVED and made note of them. 

2. Before we started looking, I wrote a list of all the things my dream house would have (space for an office with lots of white boards, a yard for the dogs, an extra room I could turn into a giant closet, an open kitchen, space for a gym).

3. I did not compromise on houses that weren’t in the area we wanted or didn’t have the features we wanted (even when the market made us feel at times we were stupid not to just “take what we could get” in our price range).

4. I trusted my gut. When we put together our offer, I sent my realtor the number for the highest I could possibly go. Then, I got an impulse that I needed to up it. I scraped together an extra few thousand dollars which ended up being a deal breaker for our offer being able to compete.

5. During the offer process, I focused on the highest and best good (thank you to my friend Stacy Bahrenfuss for this insight!) Instead of focusing on winning and beating the other offers on the house, I focused on the joy the sellers would feel from our offer, the joy we would feel, and even the joy of the people whose offers weren’t accepted when they found another house that was more perfect for them. This shift was huge.

6. I spent years getting my emotions in alignment with positive outcomes. This took a consistent commitment to caring about how I felt and being mindful about what gave me boosts and what gave me dips in my good feeling. At the beginning of 2020, I started meditating every morning. After being a lifelong true crime fanatic, I quit true crime shows and podcasts cold turkey. I only consumed things that were positive and made me feel good. Then covid hit, and the world went into lockdown. This gave me an opportunity to focus more deeply on my inner state. Every day, no matter what was happening around me, I focused on feeling good. 

After over a year of doing the things above, I hit a tipping point, and suddenly the work I was doing internally became visible to the external world. Someone in a coaching group I was in said to me, “You are on fire! What are you doing?” What was manifesting “overnight” and the results she was seeing had actually been years in the making.

Today, I continue to focus on feeling good and trusting my instincts. I avoid entertainment that is low vibration, and actively focus on things that make me feel strong positive emotions. It’s not a perfect science, but doing this has given me something more valuable than any house or external thing could. The payoff of focusing on feeling good is that feeling good eventually becomes your natural setpoint; the external circumstances you attract as a result are just the icing on the cake. 🙂

Blog Business and Leadership

How to Create an Agile Organization Using Scrum and Kanban

Five months ago I read a book called Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. 

By the second page, I knew scrum and agile were exactly what I’d been looking for. I distinctly recall walking around my neighborhood listening to the audiobook and laughing out loud at how absurdly accurately the book described our issues (and how avoidable those mistakes could have been).

I jokingly said to myself, “Where was this book 3 years ago?!” But in all honesty, it probably reached me at the perfect time. 

I devoured the book and then set about finding the right consultant to help translate what I had learned, which was focused primarily on software businesses, to our agency. I knew some of the practices would require heavy adaptation to work for such a different type of business, and I wanted to make sure our custom adaptation stayed true to the heart of scrum. This task would require knowledge of agility much deeper than my own.

I posted all over social media and in every entrepreneur Facebook group I could think of until I was flooded with at least 20 names of potential agile consultants. I scheduled calls with my top picks, and after speaking with the first consultant I knew she was a perfect fit for our organizational culture and particular challenges. During this time, I also had all the leaders in our company read the book so they could start to get familiar with scrum and brainstorm how it might look for their own teams. 

While I was starting to get the basics of scrum and agile and knew enough to know it was the right move for us, the process of implementing it in the company still felt like walking into the unknown blindfolded. It required extremely high trust in myself, my team and our consultant. This was beyond the level of a trust fall and more akin to jumping out of an airplane.

We broke apart our separate departments on the service delivery side and reconfigured them into three cross functional scrum teams that had people from every department in each team. One person on each team became the Coach, responsible for helping the team eliminate obstacles, and one became the Product Owner, responsible for prioritizing and owning the team’s backlog of work. 

We didn’t have all three teams start implementing scrum at once, but instead chose one pilot team to go first. The pilot team began working in two weeks “sprints.” At the end of every sprint, they would review what had happened, what worked well, what didn’t work, obstacles that slowed them down, and how they would approach the next sprint to improve performance. After the pilot team completed two sprints, the other two teams began sprinting. 

At the time this article is being released, two of our teams are finishing up their second sprint, and our pilot team is finishing their fourth sprint. We are admittedly quite early on in our agile journey, but we have already learned a ton and seen some amazing benefits!

Here are some of our biggest takeaways so far:

1. Working As A Team Makes It Easier for Individuals to Take Time Off with Less Stress

This was one of the quickest wins we saw. Two people in the pilot team needed to take time off during the first sprint, and both expressed how much more relaxing the process was. 

When teams worked in silos as individuals with individual KPIs and client lists, going on vacation meant a lot of extra work needed to be covered by other team members. When people returned from vacation, they returned to a stressful personal backlog of tasks. 

By working as a team, individuals are more free to take time off without stress. When they shared this revelation in the very first sprint review, it brought tears to my eyes. One of my big goals with agile is to increase team joy and decrease burnout. To have this type of impact within only two weeks blew my mind. 

2. Interdepartmental Games of Telephone Waste Valuable Resources

By eliminating siloed departments within service delivery and restructuring them into cross functional teams, we eliminated the frustration and waste caused by miscommunications between departments, an issue that turned out to be much bigger than we had ever realized pre agile.

Communication was only made more challenging by our team being fully remote. The new cross functional teams have made communication so much better and more enjoyable for everyone involved, even while being mostly remote.

3. When You Remove Individual Performance Metrics, You Lower Stress And Allow Team Members To Focus on What’s Most Important

When we moved to a more agile way of working, we eliminated individual KPIs and performance metrics in favor of team goals. Instead of team members having to focus on their own booking metrics (i.e. “I need to send out this many pitches to hit my own numbers this week”) they are now able to do whatever tasks are the highest priority for the team and in their zone of genius. 

Without worrying about checking a box on their individual tasks, team members are free to focus on what the team actually needs. This is leading to a continued uptick in overall team performance and much happier team members!

4. Adjusting How Teams Approach Work Frees You From the Expensive and Ineffective Trap of Solving Problems With Addition

Before agile, my approach to solving problems was with basic math; If a team felt they couldn’t hit their goals with the number of people they had, I would add another person. This is common, but leads to bloated payroll and robs teams of the opportunity to explore other solutions. 

Of course, sometimes you do need to hire new people, but through exploring agility and how teams work, we’ve had huge breakthroughs in how teams can overcome obstacles and adjust workflow to get more done in less time without adding extra team members (who can sometimes just slow things down more). Identifying and eliminating obstacles, bottlenecks and inefficiencies has allowed us to increase productivity by multiplying our resources rather than adding more of them.

5. Working in Sprints Creates Rapid Improvement and Makes Big Changes Less Risky

Our scrum teams work in two week sprints. At the end of each sprint they have a sprint review where they present what happened to the entire company, and a retrospective with just their own team where they talk about how it went and what they want to change for the next sprint. 

Working in two week time boxes allows teams to test out new ideas on the court in a very low risk way. It also helps teams prioritize what to change with each sprint so they don’t change too much at once, leading to constant progress without the overwhelm of being inundated with too many changes at once.

6. Eliminating Top Down Decision Making is Good for Everyone

Giving teams more trust and autonomy to make decisions can be scary as a leader, especially if you have been burned before by bad hires (I definitely have). But ultimately, giving teams the freedom to come up with new ideas and test new things is what creates innovation and improvement. It helps your company grow faster because you aren’t being a bottleneck, AND it’s surprisingly freeing for you as an owner. 

Being in charge of all the ideas and decisions is a lot on you, and your company will get to a size where it’s no longer feasible. Not only does it hold back your team, it leads to you burning out. When you are free not to control every little thing, you get that energy back to be creative and in your own zone of genius.

7. More Role Fluidity Helps Teams Thrive and Individuals Stay Engaged

Successful agility has required us to be much less rigid with roles and job descriptions. Previously, we had show researchers who just found shows, and agents who focused on pitching and booking. This sometimes works, but is also extremely limiting. Giving teams permission to do what needs to be done regardless of whose job it is is a game changer in them being able to work more quickly and effectively. While team members still have specialty areas that are their main focus and expertise, they are no longer so set in stone. 

In addition to being good for the overall productivity of the team, variety in work is more fun, especially for super smart, creative team members. Often the cause of burnout isn’t the number of hours worked, but the repetition and perceived tediousness of the tasks. Role fluidity creates space for innovation, freedom and flexibility.

8. Team Happiness Is a Leading Indicator of the Retention and Profits You Want to See

There are numerous studies outlining the benefits of happy, engaged employees. Employee happiness isn’t just an afterthought, it is directly linked to productivity and profit. We created a happiness survey that team members fill out every two weeks so that we can track this metric and work to improve it. 

Team cohesion and trust is a big part of what defines a successful scrum team, and has a big impact on happiness. We now encourage team members to play games on the clock (within reason) and have more fun. We have found this improves culture and productivity more than using that time for completing tasks would. 

We are very early in this adventure with agility, but I am floored by the impact it is having already. If the way you are running your company isn’t feeling as aligned or effective as it could be, maybe it’s time to give scrum a try! 🙂

Blog Business and Leadership

How Your Body and Nervous System Impact Your Leadership

The past 6 months have seen some incredible shifts within our organization around how our teams operate. Interview Connections is becoming a fully agile company, using scrum and kanban to eliminate employee silos and create happier and more productive teams.

Seeing the ways I needed to improve my own leadership as a CEO to lead this change has been a humbling journey, but as we started embracing collaboration over control and leaning into agile methods, we immediately saw amazing results.

I started to ask myself, “Why isn’t every leader doing this?!”

My guess? Because doing what it takes to lead effectively can be SCARY!

Taking on organizational change and giving up micromanaging and traditional corporate structure to allow autonomous, agile, creative teams to thrive can feel threatening. So can facing your own gaps as a leader. But these scary things are what create great organizations, and great leaders.

What is Organizational Agility and Why Is It Terrifying?

Agility is a company’s ability to respond to challenges quickly and effectively. Under the umbrella of agility are more specific practices like scrum and kanban. These ways of working are not rigid frameworks, but a loose set of principles and basic agreements that allow teams to problem solve, test ideas, and work creatively, transparently and collaboratively to solve problems. For leaders used to a more typical corporate hierarchical structure, implementing agile practices can feel like totally giving up all control over your company. This can be terrifying. 

How Do We Need to Change Our Relationship with Control to Become More Agile?

Brandi Olson, founder of the learning and development consultancy Real Work Done explains that great agile leadership is not about relinquishing all control, but about being discerning about what to control;

“A lot of times leaders think, well, I need to be in control of the plan, I need to be in control of the people, I need to be in control of XY and Z. And we put a lot of energy into controlling how things happen, and how things get done, or put a lot of energy into trying to control the future and what happens next. But if we can flip that script to say, what are we actually in control of? Well, we’re in control of what problems we go after to solve, we’re in control of how we define success. We’re in control of how we plan so that when things change, which they always do, we’re able to respond without it being super costly.”

Why Does Changing Our Organization Feel So Dangerous?

Elisabeth Kristof, founder of Brain Based Wellness, a virtual platform where she helps leaders train their nervous system, explains why change is inherently threatening to the brain:

“Our brain functions on pattern recognition to make predictions in order to generate an output and keep us alive. So our brains are always looking for patterns. And the more difficult it is to find that pattern, the more inefficient it is, the more energy costly it is. So from a survival perspective, our brain likes to conserve energy. So change is threatening to our very survival at the level of the nervous system in the brain.”

Leaders who find themselves swinging like a pendulum from the two extremes of micromanaging (too involved) to avoiding their team altogether (not involved enough) may have their nervous system to blame. And by understanding what is happening in the nervous system and separating that from identity judgments (I’m just a bad leader) we create an opportunity to grow and improve. 

What Can We Do When We Feel Threatened?

Elisabeth recommends two drills in particular (she has lots more on her website) that leaders can do when they feel threatened and want to avoid panicking, dissociation or another ineffective coping strategy. 

Bag Breathing

“One of the most important things you can do is to start to train your respiration, because we take 20,000 breaths per day. What you want to do is start to bring that down so that you take fewer breaths per minute. A really simple exercise is to get a bag, a plastic bag or a paper bag, and just like you see in movies, when people are hyperventilating, put it over your nose, put it over your mouth, and train yourself for one to two minutes in the morning to bag breathe. What you’re doing is creating a different homeostatic set point for your body of how much co2 It needs in the blood, and then your breath will become more efficient because of that. So it’s a training process of making your breath more efficient. By breathing into a bag, work your way up to one to two minutes, it might feel a little panicky in the beginning. So start small 10 seconds, then go to 20 seconds, then 30 seconds and gradually make your respiration more efficient.”

Tongue Circles

“You could do some stuff to up-regulate your vagus nerve, that’s a nerve that helps our parasympathetic system or calm and respond network, and brings you down out of fight, flight or freeze. So something as simple as doing some tongue circles, taking your tongue and making big circles over your teeth just like this and going a little bit further each time, maybe five to ten in each direction. And that will actually bring you into more of a calm and responsive state where you can be connected and present.”

Leading an organization can be scary, and effective leadership isn’t always intuitive. If we as leaders can begin to understand what makes teams and organizations great, and also how we may be getting in our own way, we can have a massive impact on the world.

In what ways might your threat response be holding your organization back?

Blog Personal Growth and Mental Health

To Become A Great Leader, You Should Find a Great Therapist

I do not hear the mental health side of leadership talked about enough, especially in business. I struggled with mental health issues from a very young age and grew up in a house with parents who also suffered from mental illness.

I started taking antidepressants at age 11. I had an intentional drug overdose at 13 (pills) and an accidental one at 19 (heroin). As a teenager and young adult my drug and alcohol use was out of control. I was angry and negative. I was totally at the mercy of addiction, mental illness and a dysregulated nervous system. I was destructive both to myself and others.

For a very long time, I believed there was a ceiling on what I could do because of my mental health issues. I thought I was broken.

I saw others succeeding and building great lives and believed because of my brain chemistry, I was just limited in what I could do. Believing this made me more anxious and depressed and caused me to self medicate even more.

I’ve since learned this is called a “fixed mindset.” It’s the belief that intelligence, talent and ability are innate; something you are born with. I truly believed this and I know so many others do too. 

Alternatively, a growth mindset is the belief that you can become smarter, more skilled and in my case more stable with practice and coaching (and therapy). The shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is what changed everything for me.

I am not invalidating your feelings or your experience if you struggle with mental health. You are absolutely up against a huge challenge every day and you should be so proud of yourself for getting up and fighting on. That’s badass.

But if you feel disheartened and hopeless because of what you feel you can never achieve, if the world has led you to believe that you’re broken, I’m telling you today that’s bullshit.

My life now is a result of a ton of therapy, great mentorship and daily personal development. 

I have a healthy marriage, great friendships, a beautiful home and I am CEO of a multi 7 figure company. I absolutely still have bad days, but overall I have created a life for myself that I never would have believed was possible. 

You are not fixed. You are capable of constant growth and evolution. 

You can do anything.

Blog Business and Leadership

How To Go From Part Time Employee to CEO of the Company In Two Years

6 years ago this month, I received an email that would change my life. 


It was an offer letter for a part time, $15/hour contractor position with no health insurance or benefits. I would be responsible for finding guests for podcasts as well as pitching our guests to other shows.

The agency was bringing me on specifically to focus on real estate clients. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about real estate; I had never owned a home or any other type of property. I also knew nothing about podcasts. The only podcast I had ever listened to was Serial

Despite having zero knowledge about podcasts, real estate or business in general, I worked my way up to becoming 50% owner of that company within 2 years, and today I am the CEO. 


It’s a wild story (even I can’t believe it most days), and I often get asked what I did to advance so quickly. In order to answer that question as concisely and accurately as possible, here is a list of the 7 key things I did to go from part time contractor to CEO:

1. Do What the Business Needs, Whether You Feel Like it or Not

During my interview, my future business partner Jess emphasized the expectation that I would be getting on the phone cold calling potential real estate guests. The other bookers on the team didn’t want to use the phone, hence them bringing me on specifically as “the caller.” 


Like most millennials, I talk on the phone as little as humanly possible. In my personal life, if you call me, I will text you back to ask what you want. However, I understood that talking on the phone was a deal breaker and was what the company needed. I put my personal aversion to phone calls aside, and dove in. I cold called potential podcast guests whenever I could find a number, and even started calling all my clients once a week to check in and make sure they were liking all their interviews. 

By happily taking on a task important to the business even though it wasn’t necessarily something I enjoyed, I showed my boss that I was a team player ready to step up and help wherever I was needed. This quickly led to more opportunities. 


2. Show Up With the Mindset of a Leader Regardless of Your Official Title

I didn’t set out to advance in the company. My vision was to be a contractor for Interview Connections on the side while I built my health coaching business, and eventually be able to run my own business full time. Still, I offered to take on more responsibility whenever I could. 

Soon, I was managing the team and helping out with other things wherever needed. My role evolved into a hybrid of a general manager, administrative assistant and operations manager, while also being in a producer role pitching and booking my own clients. I took on more responsibility without asking for compensation up front.

Only after I had demonstrated my value for many months in multiple roles did I put together a raise request. I scheduled a call with Jess, outlined the ways my work had directly impacted client retention, renewal rates and the overall success of the company, and asked for the hourly rate I wanted. Because I had clearly demonstrated my value with my actions and in my summary at the raise request, she said yes. A few months later, I would be offered a new role.


3. Stick With It, Even When It’s Hard

In December 2016, Jess asked me to meet her in person for lunch. She presented me with a comically large name plate and asked me to be the first employee of Interview Connections. I said yes, and then went home and cried my eyes out to my best friend. I wanted to be a business owner, not an employee, and this felt like a huge step backwards.


But I loved the excitement and creativity of working in a young business, and I knew that staying on as a contractor wouldn’t be an option; I either had to accept a w2 role or move on. Even though it wasn’t the role I wanted, I stayed the course and was the absolute best employee I could be. When we transitioned from a team of contractors to full time employees, I was tasked with leading the changeover and hiring, training and managing our new team. I had no idea what I was doing and it was a steep and painful learning curve. It brought me to tears on multiple occasions, but I didn’t give up.

4. Personal Growth is the Path to Professional Growth

I started working for Interview Connections a year after losing my dad to suicide. That loss caused a major breakdown in my life, both internally and externally. A silver lining of this loss was that it forced me to face all my unprocessed bullshit. With all my trauma bubbling to the surface, I could no longer avoid or ignore my issues. 


In an effort to rebuild myself and my life, I set about finding a great therapist and working through my issues like it was my job. I’ve since come to realize that processing your shit is your job, and is the single most important way to grow as a leader. If I had to narrow this list to only one thing, it would be this one.

You probably already have the skills and intelligence you need to do an amazing job in a wide range of roles; it is a mental and emotional game to turn that potential into realized success. 


5. People Give You More Opportunities When You Are Easy to Work With and Fun to Be Around

I love to laugh and joke around, and I brought that to my work as a contractor and a w2 employee. Being able to laugh makes otherwise stressful things like growing and scaling a business a lot more fun. Likewise, maintaining a positive attitude even in the face of challenges goes a very long way. 


I put in a lot of effort not to vent or be negative even when things felt challenging. I would absolutely speak up and raise concerns, but I always tried to do it from a solution oriented place, not a complaining one. If I felt too upset or overwhelmed to communicate productively, I would take a walk and calm down before saying anything I might regret.

Nothing burns people out more than being around a coworker who is negative or rude. As a business owner, I know that a negative attitude is the worst possible trait a team member can have, regardless of how smart or talented they might be. It is toxic for the entire team and drains joy and energy from teams and leaders alike. 

This goes hand in hand with processing your trauma and focusing on personal growth. No one wants to be a negative, off putting person. Most people who act that way are suffering themselves, and likely unaware of the impact it has on others. Whether it’s working with a therapist or a coach, meditating, reading personal growth books or all of the above, taking consistent responsibility for your mental state and attitude will make you a dream team member (and leader).


6. You Must Become More Flexible and Open to Change

Most workplaces are dynamic and changing quickly. Working for a fast growing company is exciting and there is huge possibility for quick career growth. The flipside of that is you need a very high tolerance for change. 


I do not identify as an especially laid back or flexible person, but I understood it was a necessary trait to succeed in a startup, and focused a lot of my energy on developing the skill of flexibility. It is a muscle you build, and one you will need if you want to advance quickly.

7. When You Do All This, You Attract the Circumstances You Need to Thrive

I would be remiss not to list this very important piece of the puzzle. Whether you want to call it fate, manifestation, or plain old dumb luck, I was in the right place at the right time with the right skills.


We all have these moments of fate or luck where we are in the right place at the right time. With personal growth and development, we can more effectively create opportunities and recognize them when they cross our path. By processing our trauma, showing up as leaders, and intentionally cultivating flexibility and a positive attitude, we can effectively leverage that luck into lasting success.

Blog Personal Growth and Mental Health

My Story of Losing My Dad to Suicide, Facing My Pain and Becoming a High Achieving Griever

It’s evening on a city bus in Taipei, Taiwan. I’ve walked less than a block to get the bus, but my bright yellow shirt is already sticking to my skin. In this humid, subtropical climate, the AC is blasting year round, and the air on the bus smells old and stale. 

It’s 2015 and I’m 26 years old. I’ve been living in Asia as an English teacher for two years. I’m absolutely miserable, so naturally I spend every morning on the commute to my teaching job furiously journaling about gratitude. Often I’m writing down gratitude for things I WISH would happen, especially pertaining to my family. 

My dad had recently been diagnosed with some mild heart issues, so to channel my panic into positivity, I’m writing daily about how grateful I am for his amazing health. 

That day had been an uncharacteristically good one. As I rode the bus home that night, I did some extra gratitude writing. I felt a rare moment of optimism. I wrote with total conviction how grateful I was for the day and of course for my dad’s health and happiness. 

What I didn’t know at this point is that my dad was already dead. 

24 hours before, he had come home early, locked the dog on the second floor, written a quick note in thick blue highlighter and killed himself. The news wouldn’t reach me in Taiwan until about 15 minutes later. 

Losing one of my parents had always been my biggest fear. When that fear was realized, I was shell shocked. And suddenly I was out of control. And with no armor to hide behind, I had no choice but to face my reality head on. And then something surprising happened. My reality began to transform. That transformation wasn’t immediate though, nor was it painless…

When I arrive home from Taiwan and step through the door into my parent’s creaking 6 bedroom house, the acrid burn of cat pee hits my sinuses. The strap of my bag is digging into my shoulder but I know there won’t be any clear surface to put my stuff down on. 

I should probably mention that my dad was a hoarder. 

It’s been 7 years since he died, and I know that who I became as a result of that loss and the house clean that followed is the root of my success now as an entrepreneur. I can see clearly that my achievements haven’t been in spite of my struggle but because of it. Curious about my own path through grief, I did some research. I expected to find all the normal grief stats about health issues and depression and then some fluffy anecdotes about silver linings and “seizing the day”. I did find all that, but I also found something else. 

Grief IS linked in many people to negative outcomes. It impacts memory, aggravates physical pain, and increases the risk of heart attacks by 21 times. When the death is self inflicted, loved ones left behind are at an increased risk for mental health problems and suicide. These are the statistics we expect to see, and they are supported by science.

However, the impact of grief is not so black and white. Researchers like Malcolm Gladwell have been studying this a lot longer than I have, and they’ve found that for a small number of people, a parental loss appears to be what Gladwell refers to as, “a desirable difficulty. ” Almost a third of US presidents lost their father at a young age. Based on these findings, Gladwell coined the term “eminent orphans.” 

Psychologist Marvin Eisenstadt went through major encyclopedias, looking for people whose biographies “merited more than one column.” Of those 573 people, Gladwell reports that by the age of 20, 45 percent had lost at least one parent. 

I’m not saying that you need to experience tragedy to be successful, but what I have come to understand is that profound loss is JUST ONE of the many ways that life can tear down our beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of. And that can be an incredible gift. 

It was January 13th, at 7pm Taipei Time, 6am Eastern Standard time, when my mom looked me in the eye and said, “Dad’s dead. He killed himself.” 

I stared at her face on the computer screen. My hands started to shake and my body suddenly felt ice cold.

I can’t explain what this moment felt like really. Seven years later I still don’t have the words. There was a sharpness to the pain but also a coldness. A numbness. It wasn’t an immediate shattering like you might expect but rather a building momentum, waves of pain and realization that kept hitting me one after another, faster and faster as my heart pounded in my ears.

I had been avoiding my parents and their house for a long time. Traveling, living out of state or out of the country. Trying to spend as little time with them and the house as possible. Their living conditions and mental health made me too sad. It was easier to look away.

But when my dad died and I faced what I had lost, I also saw what I hadn’t lost; I still had one parent left. And when I stood at the crossroads of giving up and avoiding like I’d always done, or fighting forward, it was love for my parents that made me choose to fight. 

Even though my mental health was at an all time low, I knew I wasn’t going to ignore my reality like I had in the past. I decided to fight for my family in the only way I could think of; by cleaning the house. 

I didn’t believe the task was possible, but I started anyway. I worked all day every day for 5 months; throwing things in the dumpster, sorting, donating, organizing, shredding. When I finished, I had filled up a 40 yard dumpster, processed over 1,000 pounds of shredding and defeated a moth infestation that was straight out of a horror movie. 

As I stood on the porch on the final day and watched the dumpster get covered and taken away, I struggled to process the magnitude of what I had accomplished. The overwhelming, shame inducing mess I had feared and avoided for so long was gone. In its place, a home I didn’t recognize, that my childhood self wouldn’t have believed. I had taken on the most impossible task in my world, a thing I was sure I couldn’t handle, and I had done it. 

Cleaning the house didn’t magically solve all our problems. It didn’t heal our pain. But it did change my life. Overcoming something that had felt so insurmountable called into question everything I thought I knew about myself, the world and what was possible.

Before the house clean, I had a story about who I was that I thought was totally real. I believed there was something wrong with me, that I was missing something and I couldn’t do things that seemed to come so easily to other people. 

Maybe you feel like this, too. Like deep down there’s this vague fear that there is something wrong with you, a fatal flaw in you that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you feel sure you are somehow bad or less capable than other people. When you believe this about yourself like I did, even if it’s buried deep down, that shame and fear of being “found out” by other people will control you. It holds you back and keeps you small. It was only when my tiny, scared world exploded that I was able to see something bigger. 

For most of my life I would have described myself as an agnostic, although I was probably closer to a full blown atheist. 

It was only when I was truly at rock bottom with my back against the wall, that I began to open my mind up very slightly to the possibility that I didn’t know everything. 

I was so desperate and hopeless that I started a little ritual. In the morning, out loud and to no one in particular, I would say “help me” and at night I would say “thank you.”  In those days when I let down my resistance and skepticism and asked for help, I found myself guided in the direction I needed to go. The people and resources I needed started showing up in ways I couldn’t explain. And being open to this “help” that I didn’t fully understand, allowed me to accomplish things that felt impossible. When you open yourself up to more than the constricted, limiting world you have created, you begin to transform.

I remember exactly where I was when I read the quote I’m about to share here. I was on a beach in Tulum, Mexico with my best friend Ella, lying on my stomach reading a book with my feet extending off the edge of my towel onto the sand, and I had one of those moments where something cuts right to your core. It hits you as something you know with every cell to be true and something that is such a relief to hear. The book was When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodrin. The passage was:

”Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do.” 

On my very non linear path through personal development and spirituality,  I have been able to look back at times and appreciate how far I’ve come. At the same time, I am plagued by things I said and did in the past that were so unconscious, so, dare I say, toxic, that it feels like all my work may be in vain. After all, I can’t undo what I’ve already done. And no matter how much I grow and change, the flawed me is still very much alive. 

When I got into therapy after my dad died, I learned the term “ fatal flaw.” “The fatal flaw” fear is prevalent in adults who experience childhood emotional neglect as children. That doesn’t mean your parents did a bad job or didn’t love you enough. It’s a subtle thing that can happen if parents are distracted, emotionally unavailable, or have their own mental health issues. It’s common because even parents who are doing their best often don’t know how to be fully emotionally attuned to their children. It can be very tough to address  because unlike typical abuse, it’s more about the things that didn’t happen than things that did. It can be subtle, abstract and hard to pin down, but it is debilitating until you see it for what it is.

Children aren’t programmed to think their parents can do anything wrong, so we slowly and subtly start to weave a story that we are the ones who are flawed. A perceived lack of love becomes a deep belief that we aren’t lovable. 

I realize now that I’ve kept myself small because of my fear of my “flaw” being exposed. I’ve been so scared that if I stood up too tall or achieved too much, that someone would expose me for all my faults and flaws and deepest regrets. Shame and fear of shame are a powerful thing.

And with social media, the likelihood of that fear being realized has never been more present. Our past embarrassments are constantly at risk of being exposed and ripped apart by thousands (or millions) or strangers. We love to “heart” quotes about letting go of perfectionism and being #perfectlyimperfect, but it’s bullshit. Our mistakes now are punished so publicly and so viciously in the online court of public opinion, and most of us are quick to become the one shaming in the hopes it can save us from being the one shamed.

Don’t get me wrong, people who hurt others should be held accountable. I am not condoning bad behavior. But only a behavior or an action should be labeled as toxic or bad. When we write human beings off (including ourselves) using a descriptor meant for behavior, we create a reality where we are not allowed to come back from our mistakes. 

Maya Angelou said, ““Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” We need to normalize doing better once we know better. Not just for others but for ourselves. 

There is no such thing as who you “are.” There is only who you are being. And you have the power to change who you are being at any moment. There are times when I’m being selfish. There are times when I’m being kind. Neither is who I am. And they aren’t who you are either. 

Personal growth is messy. It’s contradictory and confusing. We want to simplify. We want to label experiences and other people as good or bad. We want it to be neat. But even as we’re doing it, we know it’s a lie. No one is just good and no one is just bad. When we put them in a box we lose all the beautiful complicated nuances of what they can become. 

And when we look at findings like what’s come out of Malcolm Gladwell’s research, we see that the same is true for experiences. They can’t be defined as either good or bad. My dad dying was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. It was also a key component in me finding more peace and fulfillment than I ever thought possible. 

No matter who you have been or what you have been through, you have the power to be anything now. The stories you have about yourself and your failures are just that, stories. You have no fatal flaw.

Blog Business and Leadership

How Reading Can Hurt Your Business

In my last blog post, I wrote a list of my favorite books; I love to read and I wanted to share the books that changed my life in 2021. After I made that post though, something was gnawing at me.

Those books did have a huge impact on me, and I meant everything I said about them, but I also couldn’t help but feel it was a bit one-sided. As much as I love to read, I’ve also noticed that reading isn’t universally helpful or productive for everyone in every situation. (I hear the collective gasp from my fellow book lovers, but just hear me out!)

Nonfiction books can absolutely provide amazing insights, breakthroughs and even lasting transformation. However, when information from books is applied out of context, or when reading becomes a source of stress and something we feel we should be doing but don’t have time for, it can actually do more harm than good. 

If you are in a season where reading is lighting you up and having an amazing positive impact on you, yay! Keep going!

If you are not in a time where excessive information gathering is helpful, or not in a place to effectively implement new learnings, maybe it’s time to give yourself a break. 

I hesitated to tell anyone, “How Not To Read,” because at the end of the day, you know what is best for you. The best things for you to do at any given time are what feel right to you, and no one else’s opinion matters.

That being said, in a sea of advice insisting you should be waking up at 5am and reading at least a book a week if you want to be successful, I want to offer an alternative perspective and shine a light on some ways that books can actually do more harm than good.


  1. Implementing Information Out of Context Can Sabotage Your Company

There is a plethora of valuable information out there in book form, especially if you own a business. This is mostly a good thing, but it can also lead to overwhelm and a race to implement as many things as you can as quickly as possible. I frequently see entrepreneurs grabbing pieces of advice without understanding the larger context in which the advice is meant. This leads to chaotic results and sometimes even disaster.

The great thing about a book is that if it is written well, it should lay out in detail the full context around the advice being given; this is why it’s a book and not just a blog post. Resist the urge to grab a piece of something and run with it before making sure you fully understand the larger context. 

For example, No Rules Rules is an excellent book about the culture and leadership at Netflix. In it, the CEO of Netflix advises that businesses remove all rules and policies and create a culture of total freedom, trust and autonomy. In their context of first creating a highly talented and trustworthy team, this is good advice that clearly works well for them. Implemented out of context by a business owner who has not done the work to increase the talent density and candor of their team, this would be an absolute disaster. The advice is the same, but the context is what matters.


2. Advice From Books is Not One Size Fits All

Business books are a general overview, and do not offer solutions that are customized to the complex nuances of your unique business; how could they? 

It is extremely important to keep in mind when implementing advice from business books that you will not always be able to lay the advice neatly over your company and have it fit perfectly. Masterful implementation of new information requires understanding the context and then figuring out how ideas need to be adjusted to fit your needs. This is where coaches and mentors can be extremely helpful.

When I read Scrum (one of my top books of 2021), I immediately knew it was exactly what I’d been looking for. I also knew that I couldn’t just take that book and implement it directly in our company. Most of the examples in the book were for software companies, and we are an agency. We’re also a fully remote company with a super unique and somewhat complex offering.

I saw the possibility, but also recognized there was a big gap between the information in the book and the successful implementation of its principles at Interview Connections. I felt that gap could be filled by a consultant who had experience implementing agile principles in non software businesses, so as soon as I finished the book, I got to work finding that person. Now that we have found her, we are successfully implementing a combination of scrum and some other agile practices to find what custom combination works best for our unique needs.

Sometimes you and your team may know how to adapt information to fit your own company, and sometimes you will need to call in a professional. Your challenge as the leader is to see where the gap is and take action to fill it. 


3. Not Every New Thing You Learn Needs an Action Step

Many entrepreneurs are doers who love the novelty of a shiny new strategy. It’s fun and exciting to switch things up, and this appreciation for change and trying new things can lead to a lot of innovation. 

But well meaning doers can get off track fast when they shoot before they aim. Over implementation of lots of new ideas with no consistency or follow up can quickly give your team whiplash and cause burnout and frustration. It also doesn’t allow you to get traction with any one idea.

You don’t have to implement everything you learn, nor should you. Keep your ultimate company vision and goals top of mind, and make sure anything you implement is in alignment with them. Don’t take action (or tell your team to take action) on something you aren’t prepared to follow through on consistently and commit to long term. This is especially important when you have other people in the mix. Wasting your team’s time on constant shiny objects with no real follow up isn’t fair to them or to you.

When considering implementing a new idea from a book, ask yourself: 

Do I fully understand the context of this idea/advice? 

Is it in alignment with our company and where we want to go?

Am I prepared to follow up consistently on the implementation of this?

Will I still be excited about this in a month?

4. If You Don’t Feel Like Reading, Don’t Force Yourself

If you aren’t excited about reading in this season of life, let yourself off the hook. There may be some books you have to read (especially if you have a crazy person in your life like me who keeps assigning them to you), but if you don’t feel like reading a book a week or even a book a month right now, don’t.

I would bet that the self imposed stress of all the things you think you should be doing has a bigger negative impact on your business (and your life) than not reading does.


Do you need to be a voracious reader to be successful? No! There is no one way to be successful. There are successful people who meditate at 5am and read a book a week, and there are successful people who binge Netflix and spend the morning scrolling through Instagram while sitting on the toilet. Some weeks, you might be both people, or you might be neither! And that’s ok

Blog Business and Leadership

5 Business Books That Can Change Your Life This Year

Important disclosure: This blog post contains an affiliate link. If you click it and sign up, I will receive a small commission. The motivation for this post is not to earn commissions, but to share my authentic recommendations in the hopes that they lead you to your next business breakthrough. 

I have always been a voracious reader. In Middle School we received a summer reading list of over 50 books. We were instructed to read at least two of the books on the list before the end of the summer; I read them all. 

In college, I started dabbling in nonfiction with personal development books like The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodrin. I couldn’t believe how immersive the experience of reading could be and how much my perspective and life could be shifted from a single book. 

Since becoming a business owner and CEO, I have branched out from pure personal development into business and leadership books. In 2021 I made a commitment to 10x my growth, so I joined a business book club called Thought Readers and started reading multiple books per month (a combination of the books from the group along with books I discovered on my own). 

A year after committing to becoming a student, my team is working together more effectively, I’ve launched an award winning podcast and we had our first 500k month (I go into more details on how we hit that huge milestone in this post). My leadership and my company are unrecognizable from what they were in 2020, and I owe so much of that to these books.

So without further ado, here are the top books that transformed my life and business in 2021. I hope you find them just as transformational!


1. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time 

by Jeff Sutherland and J.J. Sutherland 

WOW! Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I almost did just that with this book, and I would have seriously missed out. I took one look at it and thought it looked like another gimmicky productivity book. Pass! 

Luckily, my friend Lisa Larter (who runs Thought Readers) pushed me to give it a chance. She said it had really helped with her team. While improving my individual productivity was not of interest to me, improving our team and culture was.

On a brisque, chilly morning walk, I started chapter one on the audiobook version. Almost immediately, I was laughing so hard I was practically crying. The first chapter outlined everything we had done wrong with a recent project in our company that had been dragging out for years, and said exactly what we could have done differently to get a better result. The irony of getting this information after the fact was humbling and hilarious and immediately had me hooked.

Scrum solved the two biggest issues I’d been grappling with as a CEO (there are no magic bullets… but Scrum is pretty close to one). The first issue was team morale and burnout, specifically how to make roles in the company more fun and creative and less repetitive. The second issue was profitability. With such a high touch, labor intensive service, how could we increase our productivity and profits without sacrificing the level of care each client received? 

After learning about Agile and Scrum, I had total clarity on the direction the company needed to go to solve both of these problems. I searched for and hired a coach who specializes in implementing Scrum, and we are already feeling the incredible benefits in our team and company. Talk about a life changing read!

Note: As we get further in implementing Scrum and Agile in our agency, I will write more articles on what we’ve learned through testing and tweaking in case you want to implement the same concepts in your own business.

2. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

by Liz Wiseman

I read this book right after Scrum and I’m SO glad I did. This book is incredible and dovetails perfectly with the concepts of Scrum and Agile. This book is confronting and humbling in just the right ways, and totally changed the way I think about achievement and leadership. 

In the book, Wiseman details her research on “Multiplier leaders,” those leaders who have an almost magical ability to get the most out of everyone they work with. She lays out the qualities of a Multiplier leader and how the reader can intentionally cultivate those qualities in themselves and their teams. She also goes over the opposite type of leader, the dreaded “Diminisher.”

Diminishing leaders may be brilliant as individuals, but their leadership brings out the worst in their teams and causes burnout and resignation. Most interestingly, she also goes over all the ways that well meaning leaders inadvertently become diminishing leaders (she refers to them as “accidental diminishers”).

As a result of this book, I realized I had been focusing on sales to improve profitability, when really I needed to look at my leadership. We had naively been adding more resources (people) to try to solve problems, rather than multiplying the people we already had with better leadership. This book is life changing in every way and we are now having all the leaders on our team read it!

3. Who Not How 

by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy 

This is an exceptional book with a title that doubles as a helpful mantra. When we are stuck on a problem in our business, you will frequently hear someone shout out, “WHO NOT HOW!” With those three words, we find ourselves quickly unstuck.

If you are someone with huge vision and big ambition, you need this book. The impact you are out to have on the world is simply bigger than anything you have the time or expertise to implement. If you limit your impact to just the things that you personally are able to do without help, you cap your potential and deny the world of your full contribution. This is the realization I had from reading this book.

I love vision, strategy and leadership. I do not love day to day implementation. My best thinking and thus my best contribution to the business always comes when I have enough time and space to think and create in real time. Overcommitting my time with too many tasks drags me out of my zone of genius, and leads to mediocre results and general misery.

Having so many ideas but such (comparably) limited bandwidth to implement used to make me feel overwhelmed. Then I read Who Not How, and I now have a clear framework to engage others in my ideas, collaborate and hand off ownership so that I can keep creating. If you have a big vision and know the overwhelming pressure of having more great ideas than you can physically pursue, you need this book!

4. The Gap and the Gain

by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy 

I was very excited when this book came out because I am such a fan of Who Not How, and it absolutely delivered on my high expectations. The concept of The Gap and the Gain is that the main reason we are disappointed, both with our own performance and with the performance of others, is that we are measuring success incorrectly.

When we are “in the gap,” we are measuring ourselves or others from where they are currently to an aspirational goal. Since aspirations are constantly moving and changing, we always fall short when we look at where we are compared to this abstract ideal. This causes what Dan Sullivan refers to as “gap thinking” which leads to unhappiness and burnout. 

I was struck by how much I engage in gap thinking not only in how I evaluate my own performance, but also in how I evaluate my team’s. While on the surface it’s a personal development concept, it’s a very deep leadership lesson that I absolutely love! The opposite of “gap thinking” is being “in the gain.” We are in the gain when we measure ourselves from where we were in the past to where we are now. I’m sure if you do that right now, you will instantly feel happier and more grateful. It’s magic! 

By catching ourselves in the gap, and consciously moving towards gain thinking, we can be better coaches, friends, spouses, leaders and parents. This is a book I will definitely revisit multiple times. 

5. Stumbling on Happiness 

by Daniel Gilbert

I first looked into this one after hearing Daniel Gilbert’s excellent Ted talk. I found the talk funny and super interesting, and his book was the same way. Before I tell you about the book though, I want to make sure you understand what countless angry reviewers clearly did not; this book is NOT a manual on how to become happier.

This book is a masterful combination of research, storytelling, and dry humor. Gilbert outlines the research around happiness and why we are so bad at accurately predicting what will make us happy (or unhappy). If you find the brain interesting and find the fallibility of human logic hilarious, you will love this book.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety my entire life, the research showing that our worst fears won’t be quite as bad as we think was very comforting (as was the research showing that you will never be quite as happy on your birthday as you think you should be). Many of us go after big goals expecting that the success or money we achieve will make us happy. Understanding why it may not is strangely empowering. 


The ROI of reading is simple; the growth we want to see in our businesses needs to start with our personal growth. Books don’t replace mentorship, therapy or the information you get from actually testing and trying things in your business, but they can change your business (and life) for the better. Happy reading! 🙂