Fresh Blood Podcast Episode Guest - Anna Oakes

Anna talks about curiosity, the importance of being true to yourself, the prevalence of imposter syndrome in our lives and how to find that alignment within yourself.

Anna Oakes is a change agent with a love for humanity. Anna had over 20 years of corporate experience in human relations roles working with companies such as Manpower and Baird, before becoming an entrepreneur. Acting as a leader, coach and strategic business advisor, Anna helps organizations, teams and leaders enhance performance through a focus on humanity and the bottom line. She is also the host of the podcast, Culture and People and the podcast, Build High Performing Teams.

Sandy talks about the importance of believing in yourself, supporting other women, overcoming a great storm of difficulties and how it feels as life finally begins at the age of 40.

Sandy Lowres is a writer, creative and podcaster based in Melbourne’s west. She is the founder and Creative Director of Wb40 – Women Beyond Forty Magazine and the podcast host of The Good Girl Confessional. Sandy has enjoyed a diverse and interesting career spanning business owner, manager, coordinator, writer, blogger and creative. She has never been afraid to challenge herself and has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Sandy has always been passionate about women’s rights and through her long standing blog she created a community of amazing woman who are now a part of this Wb40 tribe.


Anna Oakes - Company Culture Expert, Entrepreneur and owner of Oakes Co. and Podcast Host of Host, Culture and People ‘Cast and Build High Performing Teams

Jolie Downs: [00:00:00] Today we are speaking with Anna Oaks. Anna is a change agent with a love for humanity. Anna has over 20 years of corporate experience in the human relations roles, working with companies such as manpower and Baird before becoming an entrepreneur herself. Acting as a leader coach in strategic business advisor and helps organizations, teams, and leaders enhance performance through a focus on humanity and the bottom line.

[00:00:28] She is also the host of the podcast, culture and people and the podcast build high performing teams. Anna I thank you so much for joining us on fresh blood. I'm excited to learn more about yourself. Story. Could you tell us a little bit about your path leading to where you are now? And maybe about the transition from the corporate world into becoming an entrepreneur as well.

[00:00:50] Anna Oakes: [00:00:50] Yeah, I think that's a great story. And it's a great arc, a great connection because really, I spent 19 years, so almost 20 years inside organizations, it started when I was really young, had the benefit of working for a great company, state farm insurance. When I finished up school a while I finished up school at school, I should say.

[00:01:06] And. I spent those, I guess it was probably almost 10 years in operations, supply chain, other things. And then I suddenly switched because I was asking interesting questions of my CEO at the time. And we had high growth plans and I was asking about like, how are we going to pull that off? And what's our strategy and what's our people's strategy.

[00:01:27] And he said, Oh if you have so many ideas, why don't we put you in that role? And I said, okay, sure. And then they moved me to HR. So I was like, Oh, wow. I'm an HR. Now I know nothing about Asia, and I was it was a small high-growth company. And so it was a team of recruiters. It was all these recruiters.

[00:01:41] And then me. And they're thinking, what is your role? And I said, I don't really know what my role is. I'm here to help build the employer brand. I'm here to move us out from being the best kept secret. And, I'm in the Milwaukee area and move us to some accompany where people are attracted and want to come work with us and want to help us grow where we're going to go.

[00:01:59] So intuitively I knew these right questions and strategies, and that really pushed me into this people's strategy space of working in people, operations in HR. we refer to as people's strategy. And that journey Jolie led me to then pass the chief human capital officer job at Bayard

[00:02:17] Jolie Downs: [00:02:17] Oh, wow.

[00:02:17] Anna Oakes: [00:02:17] go out on my own five years ago.

[00:02:19] And I think the thing that me the best is looking back at my internal career, realizing that I was an impactful in entrepreneur often owning her voice, her time and her talents. So it was an easier jump for me to entrepreneurship. And if I ever choose to go back, I think it will be an easy jump into.

[00:02:37] Jolie Downs: [00:02:37] No, that's great. There's a couple of things there. So it really, you fell into this and I love that you fell into this because you were asking the right questions. How. How impactful is that? So often just asking the right questions can open up amazing doors. What I'm curious about is how you dealt with that though.

[00:02:56] Jumpy. So being dumped into this position, and you're like, what am I doing here? Which, is a big part of imposter syndrome with people deal with in consistently, really in so many different times. How did you deal with that process and getting comfortable into that role?

[00:03:09] Anna Oakes: [00:03:09] Yeah. I, I, again, some of this is upon reflection, so people hear me until Oh, it's easy for you to say it is easy for me to say, because I'm saying it in hindsight, I'm looking back. But I'm really trying to hone in on what were the differentiators for me. And so me not holding back and asking questions that it wasn't my business Jolie to be asking those questions.

[00:03:28] I was a supply chain leader. I should have been in my nice little dance space, keep minding my business over here, but I thought. Aren't we all in it. And that's where I came from a huge organization, like state farm, a small organization where I was the director of customer care. And then hearing him in another sort of small, high growing organization and thinking isn't it, all of our business, shouldn't we all be asking these questions.

[00:03:51]So the girl who was once called nosy now, it's paying off because I'm curious. So that's a more positive way to say it. So

[00:04:00] Jolie Downs: [00:04:00] Yes.

[00:04:00] Anna Oakes: [00:04:00] did I not hold back. But I think the mentality for me is that I realized pretty early on because I had been in leadership roles in my church, in the community, in these other organizations that.

[00:04:12] Pretty much everyone is making this up. Like we're all making this up. So for me, that has helped me all along, pushed down that imposter syndrome because I realize in my own leadership journey, I've seen people's imperfections and my own. And then I started coaching executives in-house and saw that, Oh wow, you don't have everything figured out either.

[00:04:33] So that helped me go Oh, Okay. None of us really had this figured out. Then I'm going to just keep playing in this space and making it up while I go trying to leverage and stay aligned with my time, my talents and my strengths.

[00:04:46] Jolie Downs: [00:04:46] Perfect. It's brilliant. That's exactly what we all need to keep in mind. We are all just figuring it out as we go along.

[00:04:52] Anna Oakes: [00:04:52] I think that's the connection between, everybody thinks it's sexy to be a business owner and an entrepreneur. First of all, it's not in my opinion, and I coach a lot of founders and executives do and startups, it's not that sexy. It's not that glamorous, it's tough work. It's not harder.

[00:05:07] It's different from being an entrepreneur. So I think the commonality between people who are able to make an impact externally as entrepreneurs is the same commonality as the intrepreneurs that they own, their time, their talents and their voice and whatever they're doing. They're going to put a lot in it and want to make an impact.

[00:05:26] It's not about getting ahead. It's about wanting to make an impact. And so that's the commonality and I see people very successfully weave in and out of intrepreneur and entrepreneur. And I want more people to do that. Not necessarily the weaving. I want more people to do the ownership part.

[00:05:42] Jolie Downs: [00:05:42] Yes, I'm I completely agree. A hundred percent. And now you also had mentioned that you were offered a very senior level role and you decided not to take that and instead go on your own. What helped you make that decision? Why did you go on your own.

[00:05:56] Anna Oakes: [00:05:56] Oh, I'd love to say it was easy, right? That they said, do you want this? And I said, Nope, I'm very clear on what I want. was not, I was being groomed to be the chief human capital officer at Baird mid-sized corporation financial services industry, but it is a best place to work on the fortune.

[00:06:11]Lists so high standards in terms of where their culture was. And then I was brought in as a change agent to improve, even improve our culture even more right. And to work with leadership as a strategic partner for people strategy. So when they started grooming me for this, I was, I had that moment where Oh me, cause again, I wasn't even 40 at the time.

[00:06:29] And I'm thinking that is where it probably a little bit Joliet, my imposter syndrome came in is Oh, you think I'm ready for this? I'm not sure I'm ready for this, but then I hear my parents' voice. My dad is always my voice in my head saying if you don't do it, who will. And who's ever ready.

[00:06:44]So that reminder, like what does ready mean? My dad said, don't ever think you have to be ready to get married. You have to have this much money in the bank. Like this much, savings to buy that house. Maybe from a financial perspective, we could talk about that, but you have to push forward.

[00:06:58] And so I looked at it that time and there was a two year period Jolie where I thought, okay I'll try this on. They're not giving me the role right now. She's not retiring today. Let's play in this space together. But I'm a Libra and I'm usually very all in or all out. Like my skills usually tip like this and they weren't tipping towards this is the role for me, so I couldn't figure out why. So I was very honest with them, had very open conversations and did a lot of exploring, so I thought, okay, maybe it is going to be this role, but let me just confirm. Do I want to go run a nonprofit? Do I like this role somewhere else? Do I like a different role inside Baird?

[00:07:32] I explored it all because I was thinking. Does this feel better? No. What about this? No, nothing I didn't have that like light bulb moment. And you don't always get that. So I was, I thought maybe I'm not going to get it. Maybe I'm just at that stage in my career where this is a big jump.

[00:07:48] It's scary. I should just do it. But finally I locked myself in a cabin. After two years of self-inflicted torture. I locked myself in a cabin with no internet for two days, and I was reading a book. Do you know Parker Palmer? He's an author. He's from Madison, Wisconsin. He's a great guy. He wrote this, he wrote many books, but the book I was reading at the time was called, let your life speak. a short read, but it's so meaningful Jolie. And I was reading it and it was exactly what I needed at that moment. I would read two sentences and I would journal 10 pages and I would read another sentence and I journal five pages. And suddenly I just had this knowing it was not a light bulb. It was just this knowing of I'm going to go out on my own. I think I need a break from being inside organizations at the time. I think maybe I had developed a little codependency on I'm the savior, I'm here to save all of you. And it wasn't good for me probably. So I thought, why don't I take a break and I'm going to go out on my own.

[00:08:41] And then I, then it was almost a conversation with myself where I went what are you going to do? how are you going to do that? And because I was so loyal, let me be really honest. People are like, Oh, you must've had a business plan. No, I didn't. I gave them. I think nine more months, I said, I'll stay nine months.

[00:08:56] Find the successor, do all the preparation things, because I had put so much into that and I loved the company. And then I ended up staying seven and it was a great time. And then I was so dedicated to how I say not going out like a punk and like tying up all the loose ends. I didn't spend any time thinking about it.

[00:09:13] So then I quit had a six month sabbatical and people like to say Oh, in the sabbatical, did you figure everything out? No, I detoxed. I detoxed from 19 years of hustle and go. And then I got to work and it's slowly been coming into clarity over the last five years. there's no like clarity moment.

[00:09:34] We don't arrive at that. I think it's a practice where we just have to keep doing the work and we keep you remember those nineties, like you'd stand in the mall in the nineties and they had that you'd like stare at with your eyes crossed. would appear. I think it's like that the longer we sit, we stand in it the longer we cross our eyes and let our like inhibitions go and what everybody else tells us, we should be seeing the more, the picture becomes clear.

[00:09:59] Jolie Downs: [00:09:59] It's a great analogy. It really is. And I applaud you for realizing that because not everyone does. You were able and you were younger too. I To have the insight to be able to say, is this really what I want? And then test out these other avenues to see what they felt like, and then giving yourself the space for a couple of days to really dive deep.

[00:10:18]That is wonderful. It's so important just to give yourself that clarity and thank you for sharing the there was the magic pictures. Weren't they? The magic pictures.

[00:10:27] Anna Oakes: [00:10:27] they're calling it. I'm going to have to look that up.

[00:10:29] Jolie Downs: [00:10:29] It really is. And then, I'm going to think of that every time I am just sitting in that space.

[00:10:34] Anna Oakes: [00:10:34] love the aspect of what's really important to that analogy. To me, Julie is the actual, and if you're too young for this, I'm sorry, but for those of us in our generation who are listening to this, that you remember when your eyes started to cross. And that's the moment. That's the key moment when your eyes start to cross and you start to blur out everything else around you that I think we get more clarity.

[00:10:55]I look back Julie, if I would have took that job, would it have been the end of the world? No, because I believe in the concept of whatever you choose to do, give it your best. It will be your best next. It will be your best next. It's not your best forever. It's your best next. And you can make it good.

[00:11:11] So could I run a nonprofit? Sure. Could I have stayed there? Sure. Did I have I tried to make this my best? Yes, it's incredibly hard, but I've done my best over the five years and I'm going to keep doing my best at whatever I choose to do.

[00:11:23] Jolie Downs: [00:11:23] I love it. Make it your best next. I think that's perfect. So tell me, after all of these different things that you've done, what do you feel has been one or two of your greatest successes in life and what have you learned from them?

[00:11:34]Anna Oakes: [00:11:34] Oh boy, I'm really proud of trying to no, I'll take the word trying out. I'm really proud that I've been able to get closer to true Ana in the sense that I found more definition to my purpose. I'm not saying it won't evolve, I always say, look, I was raised by hippie. So in like inherit in my DNA plus the way that I was up raised is that you don't just live in a community, you serve in it.

[00:12:08] You don't just go to a church, you serve in it. You don't just work in a company you serve in it. So that servant leadership, that idea of true community is in my blood. And so I could have easily rejected that, especially being in these at times, big corporations or even mid-sized corporations that were a system in and of itself, you could easily get lost in the politics in the system, but I believe even then, and as much as that didn't always help, cause I was often brought in as a change agent, but then, given feedback, don't be that big of a rebel. It's pick, so I was constantly trying to say Oh, you have a group of apples, but you're hiring me because I'm a banana, but then you want me to act like an Apple.

[00:12:50] So it was a little bit of the back and forth. And in that I could have said, I'm doing it wrong. Oh, I shouldn't be a banana. I should be an Apple, but I was really able to stand in and go, I don't even know how to be an Apple. I'm a banana. So what do you want me to be an Apple for? And so it was almost not abstinence as much as it was. How could you even ask me to be an imposter? How could you even ask me to put that costume on? I don't know how to do that. And so I think maybe it's a skill gap in the sense that I actually don't know how to do that, but I'm very grateful that I don't, because I've been able to find this. Thread that's been interwoven into what I've done, not always perfectly, but this thread of humanity.

[00:13:31] And I saw the gap in the workplace and knew that my passion for humanity and my experience in the workplace and the way that my brain thinks I could be a value to restoring humanity into our work and our workplaces. So I'm proud of it.

[00:13:46] Jolie Downs: [00:13:46] Oh, yeah. I just heard that your greatest success is your ability to be completely true to you, who you are and who you are as a person yourself. I That's for a lot of people that is the definition of success.

[00:13:57] Anna Oakes: [00:13:57] Yeah. And all of its messiness too, right? It's not always pretty.

[00:14:04] Jolie Downs: [00:14:04] Speaking of which, is that your definition for success or do you have a different definition?

[00:14:07] Anna Oakes: [00:14:07] Ooh. When you say success, the word that I keep hearing in my head is alignment And I feel like the definition of success for me is probably closer to my mantra, which is peace and progress. If I can be at peace, if I can have progress, not perfection. And that's my wish for other people to write it.

[00:14:27] If I can have that, then that success. And that that could mean I could live on an Island somewhere and I'd be good with it. If that felt like I was at peace and I was grounded and I was making progress as a human, then I'd be good with it. Now, I don't have that pole towards that right now, but maybe someday I will.

[00:14:44]And I'll be able to. Bob and weave, which is one of our company values. And it's one of my personal values of being flexible with that, to say, alignment today might look differently than alignment does in five years, because it sure looks differently than for me than it did five or 10 years ago.

[00:15:00]Because we evolve. So success means to me that we're open to that evolution and that change.

[00:15:06] Jolie Downs: [00:15:06] Yes, I love it. It's very true. And it does evolve and it is consistently changing. So you have to constantly be checking in and making sure that you're staying true to what it is that you need.


[00:00:00]Jolie Downs: [00:00:00] What about the flip side of this process? , what has been your biggest obstacles or challenges perceived failures, if you will, and what did you learn from them?

[00:00:10] Anna Oakes: [00:00:10] Let's see. Let me go. In-house maybe as an entrepreneur and I do think it'll probably, it's going to weave into my entrepreneur too. Cause I've been doing a lot of reflection on this lately, Julie, because I just hit my five-year Mark. And as much as I'm proud of that, first of all, we put an asterix on that because of the pandemic.

[00:00:27] I was home for eight months with my ten-year-old twins and

[00:00:30] Jolie Downs: [00:00:30] Good times, right?

[00:00:32] Anna Oakes: [00:00:32] and I had surgery at the end of 2019. So I this weird year and a half where I'm almost like I didn't count it, but I've survived. So I'm going to count it.

[00:00:39] Jolie Downs: [00:00:39] Oh, you survived through that. It counts and it counts double. If you ask me.

[00:00:42] Anna Oakes: [00:00:42] Yeah, thank you. Thank you. But I look back my biggest challenge probably when I was an intrepreneur was people appreciating that I was a banana people appreciating that I was a change agent.

[00:00:56] They knew they wanted this type of energy in their organization, but then I would get there and I was a banana in a bowl of apples. And they knew how to lead apples. But they didn't know how to lead bananas. And I was like one of the only bananas often, do you know what I'm saying? So that change agent that, that rebel spirit that they said they really wanted.

[00:01:17] And as somebody who helps organizations look at their ecosystem, I get it. I get it is real. Leadership is hard running a company is hard, so I don't expect them to be pros at it. But it, it was often very lonely. And then that did constantly make me question and I can see how imposter syndrome is a big problem for so many humans, because we're pushed into this mold, we're trained from the time we were little to ask for permission, for example, permission to go to the bathroom from our teacher, what my kids like now they're like, Oh, I didn't get to go to the bathroom.

[00:01:48] So yeah. You have to go to the bathroom, go to the bathroom, right? So permission to go to the bathroom permission to choose this major, go to this school from a counselor who may have met with you for four hours in your whole high school life, right? It's permission, and society raises that way.

[00:02:04] Then we get to these employers who are running so fast and doing so much Jolie. They don't have the time.

[00:02:11] we're waiting for the permission. And the permission we do get is scaled down and scrappy when really what we need. Yeah. That permission needs to come from inside. So I would say look, expecting our employer to fulfill us is like expecting a life partner to fulfill us.

[00:02:25] It's not going to happen. It's unrealistic expectations. So I didn't really expect them to fulfill me as much as I did expect them to provide the ecosystem where a banana could at least not die on the vine. So it was challenging and lonely at times. I had to go back to remind myself what, who I was and why.

[00:02:43]So that thing that I'm

[00:02:43] anna-oakes_recording-2_2021-04-20--t09-56-40pm--joliedowns: [00:02:43] okay.

[00:02:44] Anna Oakes: [00:02:44] of, and I think that has impacted my entrepreneurial journey because I guess I, I get jiggy sometimes, in terms of Oh, Is this what I should be saying to people is this the message, right? And I hear the message, like niche down, niche, down, niche, down as an entrepreneur.

[00:02:59] And I'm like, I know I'm not down enough. So you're still feeling things out. And I know that maybe I have sacrificed time or money because of that. But. I'm obviously not ready to do that yet. So I keeps going back to I'm still a banana and they're asking me to be an orange now and I'm not ready to be an orange, so I'm an okay.

[00:03:18] Banana at this. And maybe I'd be a better orange at it, but I'm actually not an orange and maybe I won't ever be an orange. So

[00:03:26] Jolie Downs: [00:03:26] be the best banana.

[00:03:29] Anna Oakes: [00:03:29] I just go back to that and I hope people are not like losing me in the analogy, but I think the theme is. Going back to this is who I am and not in an obstinate way, but in a self-awareness way, which is by the way, Cornell university did the study.

[00:03:45] The number one predictor of success for CEOs is self-awareness, it's not strategic thinking, it's not analytical skills, it's not charisma. It's how well do you know what your highest and best uses, and your lowest uses. We just need to know that. And then when we have self-awareness, we get other awareness.

[00:04:02] Jolie Downs: [00:04:02] It sense

[00:04:03] Anna Oakes: [00:04:03] just continually remind myself and give myself permission myself, permission that it's okay to

[00:04:10] --joliedowns: [00:04:10] Yes.

[00:04:10] Anna Oakes: [00:04:10] way. And it might not look like everybody else, but that's okay too.

[00:04:14] joliedowns: [00:04:14] Yes, I think that's great. And that's really impactful too. That's the number one thing for CEO's self-awareness I think it's really vital number one thing for living that fulfilled life too. Really it's how we get in touch with ourselves. It's how we realize what is out of touch as well.

[00:04:32]And helps us get aligned. To find the right things, to help align us, if you will.

[00:04:35] anna-oakes: [00:04:35] we can push that down, but, look, I coach enough people from intern to intrapreneur at that senior level who's deciding what's next to entrepreneur, who's saying this is what I really want to do. We can keep pushing ourselves and saying Oh, it's fine. I'll just keep on this track.

[00:04:50] It would be like saying like well I went to law school and I hate being a lawyer, but I should still be a lawyer. There's 20, 25 different kinds of lawyers by the way. So maybe you could stay a lawyer and you could do something different or maybe you use those skills in a different way, just think we need to keep.

[00:05:05] Not don't ignore that feeling, push into it, acknowledge it, feed it a little bit, not the insecurity imposter, I can't do this, but that, that itch that saying, is there something more, and maybe it's not huge more, maybe it's just a little micro better or different. My favorite question is what could we do better or different to get results, better results.

[00:05:25] Ask yourself that maybe it's

[00:05:27] joliedowns: [00:05:27] Small tweaks and follow that edge. Definitely. Now I think you have, because you have unique perspective working with as many CEOs and executives as you have throughout the years. What do you think is key to continued success in life?

[00:05:41] anna-oakes: [00:05:41] Oh I really do. I just think giving that permission to yourself that you're gonna, you're gonna make mistakes. You're going to do it differently. And. And the desire and maybe even the pause to, to measure or to reflect on how you are doing it differently. Because look, everybody wants to.

[00:06:04] I talked to very few people who don't want more fulfillment and more joy. I would love even more fulfillment and more joy in my life. We're not going to turn that down. No, but I think the way that we get that right, is by really reflecting. Why don't we feel that are there small tweaks that we could make to get that?

[00:06:18] So I feel like when I look at the most successful or most impactful people who do feel in alignment, They found some peace and grounding that this is not the perfect job for them and it doesn't have to be, they're going to give it their all. And I do believe it's a give and a get. You give a lot, you want to maximize your impact.

[00:06:36] And when we serve, when we say, I want to make the biggest impact with this volunteer role that I took, or with this job that I took, or as a parent or as a partner, when we really accept the responsibility that our energy, our execution impacts a lot of different things. I think then we just, we fall into it.

[00:06:56] We really do. We're like, Oh, look at this impact that I can make. Then we're empowered. Then the imposter syndrome is like, who are you talking to? Because I'm really great. Not at everything, but

[00:07:06] joliedowns: [00:07:06] These things I'm feeling real good. Yes. That's very true. So is there any advice that you would give, let's say there's a lot. I There are a number of people that are struggling right now, trying to find that right next role. There's many people out of work, still trying to find new work. If. If someone's just in that spot and they're either trying to find that right

[00:07:25] next role, or even just trying to figure out what that right role is for them. Is there any piece of advice that you would offer?

[00:07:33] anna-oakes: [00:07:33] Yes for sure. The and look, listen, guys, I've been doing research for a book that I'm not actually writing yet. I'm still in the research. I've been doing it for two years. I just like to talk to people apparently, been in talking to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs for a while trying to figure out like, what's that commonality.

[00:07:49]. So for me, the commonality between all the people that I've talked to is that they take full advantage of their right now. I got asked to give a TEDx talk about two years ago, and I pitched this whole idea about being raised by hippies and what that's done to me.

[00:08:02] And then they said, yes. And then I got into the process of the TEDx talk and I said, Oh, I don't really want to give that talk. Here's the talk I want to give. And I can't believe they said yes, but the talk I wanted to give was I stepped back and I thought, how many hundreds and thousands of people have reached out to me and said I don't really know if this is what I should do.

[00:08:19] And my answer is leverage where you're at now. And that will take you to your best next. So my advice is double-down unless you're in a toxic environment. That is harming you as a person or effecting you in extremely negative ways, double down, because the grass is not greener on the other side, it's a different color and there's always dog poop in the yard.

[00:08:41] It's imperfection. So you're not going to solve it our problems by jumping, cause trust me, I did a lot of hopping right? I was at places like an average no more than five years. And then there's people like I coach right now has been at a company for 26 years. I'll never be that person. So I had this like hopping nature, but what that did for me is that I just leveraged the heck out of where I was.

[00:09:05] And then suddenly it's almost you know what they say when you're, when you first date someone and then all these other people come out of the woodwork because like stop worrying about it. You're like, Energized and empowered and sexy. And that's what all the people, I feel like that's what happens when you can just double down on your role saying I'm not done here.

[00:09:26] There's more for me to learn. There's more ways that I can grow. And when I do that's data that's going to help me make. And either heart-centered or data centered or both decision about what my best next is, and it doesn't have to be the best role. It doesn't have to fulfill my true life's calling people.

[00:09:45] Don't always get that clarity, but it could be really cool. And so I just say double down and I think reposition, what have you thought about it? Like this, Jolie I get paid. To learn and grow and get better and get ready for my best next, this company is paying me. To learn and grow and look around like a kidney candy store, learn about all the departments, learn about everything that's going on.

[00:10:11] I don't care if you work for a small startup of three people or a huge organization of 30,000 look around, start internally because there's, it's again, you get paid to play in this candy store, take advantage of it and then start to inch your way externally. And you're going to have more information.

[00:10:28] And things, I don't know, law of manifestation, right? Law of attraction. I just have seen it time and time again, that once we can find more of that confidence in alignment, things come out of the woodworks and we surprise the heck out of ourselves. Just like I did. I surprised the heck out of myself. I thought consulting my babies were five.

[00:10:44] At the time I have twins. I thought consulting was something I would do when they were in college. How fast did I speed that up? But I was prepared as I probably could be based on the experiences that I had and the mentality that I had at the next, at that stage, I knew that I could make the best of it.

[00:11:01] joliedowns: [00:11:01] No, you're so right. I think we, I'm sure the listeners can all remember a time when they experienced that exact phenomenon that coming into where you just feel it, you come into your own, you're just rocking the car and then yes, the opportunities start coming out. What's happening.

[00:11:17] anna-oakes: [00:11:17] And when you can do that Jolie with going like, all right, there was a bunch of stuff you don't like about your company. Cause look, it was my job to poke at that stuff. So I always had a long list of all the things I wanted to change with the company, probably because it was my role, partly because I'm that person, but everybody has that.

[00:11:33] So just acknowledging that it's not perfection. And a lot of that is out of your control claim. What is in your control, Really smart. And by the way, get really smart doing your day job that they hired you for, because this isn't about trying to offload things and have less responsibility.

[00:11:48] This is saying you asked me to do this. I'm gonna get really smart at doing that. So it doesn't take me a hundred percent of my time. It takes me 80% of my time. And then I'm gonna use that 20% of that time to start playing in the organization.

[00:11:59] joliedowns: [00:11:59] Good advice.

[00:12:00] anna-oakes: [00:12:00] meet people. I'm going to get curious and I'm going to find out information and that's going to help me be better at my day job.

[00:12:05] And it's going to help me have information that gives me a broader perspective. My blinders are continuing to come off and now I'm better and I'm more prepared for my best next move.

[00:12:17] joliedowns: [00:12:17] Yes. Really good advice. So let me ask you this now of all the things that you've learned in life, can you pinpoint something, that one thing that has brought the most benefit to your life?

[00:12:30] anna-oakes: [00:12:30] Ooh. So all the things I've learned, all the most benefit. Oh man. I'm going to go with what my, my, my gut told me at first, I was trying to filter through and think was there a better answer, but honestly, Jolie I think the thing that I've learned that has helped me the most is that humans are imperfect, it's just enabled me and maybe that goes to my strengths because I'm like, I love psychometric testing and assessments, right?

[00:12:56] So I use Gallup StrengthsFinder, Clifton strengths in my coaching. And it's such a simple thing to get this like list of 34 strengths, but it's such a powerful tool. One of my top ones is individualization the ability to see the unique strength and beauty in individuals and pull that out of them. So maybe I'm playing up on that strength, but I can't, I believe as a leaders, we have to push into that.

[00:13:17]If you are a people leader, either by title or influence, you should be pushing into this understanding, like wanting to see like truly see, the person for who they are and all of their beauty and imperfection and be able to go like, all right, you're not perfect either. Am I? But how do I help you leverage your own strengths?

[00:13:40] How do you leverage my strengths? How do we leverage those together? Ooh, what do we do if we partner in these certain strengths together, what's our result. So it's almost like this little science experiment going like, all okay. There's great things that we need to use and things that we probably could push on the back burner and let take a break, right?

[00:13:55] Strengths or skills or personality traits. Let's see what happens when we do that. So for me, that's probably what I would say has helped me the most is the ability to, people might hear this and think Oh, she's got low expectations of humans. I don't, I do have high expectations of humans. I am hoping that they will Excel in who they really are and come into their own and just have this huge impact.

[00:14:19] And I realized that probably from years of butting my head against the wall related to organizations that like, we have to start right where you're at and all of the honesty and imperfection, and then we grow and evolve together.

[00:14:32] joliedowns: [00:14:32] Oh yeah. We have to embrace the imperfection is honestly the people who are trying to be perfect they're, they get frustrated. You can't be perfect. They can't be perfect. Other people can not be perfect. And it's just going to cause a lot of frustration and anger in life. And especially, when people try to give constructive criticism, cause we're all on a road to be better people.

[00:14:53] Again, nobody is perfect. We're all trying to be better people and people who are really who feel like they can be perfect are obsessed. They can't take that, any kind of constructive criticism cause they're like, wait, does that mean I'm not perfect. Does that, , what are you trying to say?

[00:15:10] anna-oakes: [00:15:10] What I think to Jolie just occurred to me and I've never said this out loud. I've never had this thought, so let's see how it comes out. But I think sometimes when people get jiggy about feedback, It's because they were trying something on that might be a stretch or maybe not as aligned to who they really are and they really wanted it to work.

[00:15:30] And then they were disappointed that it didn't. Sometimes the feedback is truly just about who you are, right? So for me, like if somebody said it feels like you're getting a little distracted with everything that's going on outside of your role. That's probably true, right? Like I love that 20%.

[00:15:45] I will always play in that space. So some of the feedback is valid to who we are, but I do think there's an authenticity factor that sometimes comes up with people when they're thinking. When they hear me say, I want you to evolve as a human. I actually don't want you to change. I don't want you to move from a banana to an Apple.

[00:16:02] joliedowns: [00:16:02] Yes.

[00:16:02] anna-oakes: [00:16:02] to become a more vibrant Apple or more vibrant banana.

[00:16:06] joliedowns: [00:16:06] Yes. Yes.

[00:16:08] anna-oakes: [00:16:08] feedback, when you give it to me, it's not a personal attack because I'm secure that I know in all my imperfection, that is who I am. I'm a nosy person. So when you give it to me, I go, Oh, okay. Overusing that I'm overusing that it's a muscle that I have that now I've overused.

[00:16:24] So I need to give that a little bit of a break and leverage these other strengths and skills that I have, because guess what? I have a lot of them.

[00:16:30] --joliedowns: [00:16:30] Exactly. Exactly. Perfect. You brought up your hippie parents a couple of times. I have to ask it, especially you were going to do a Ted talk on this. So give us a little synopsis. Like what were those key points that you learned from your hippy parents?

[00:16:42] anna-oakes: [00:16:42] They always do, they always are like Anna that saying that because everybody pictures like that, I grew up on this commune. I didn't, I grew up in middle class family. My dad was an attorney. My mom was a high school teacher, but I think this is where another thing where I'm like stripped back the roles.

[00:16:57]My dad was a serial side hustler. He always had this side hustle going on. He was searching for this way that he could increase his impact and maybe even potentially increases fulfillment. I don't know that we've had a little conversation around that, but regardless of their roles, there was this culture in our family.

[00:17:14]And that's important because people I'll get brought in to companies saying like our culture's broken, something's going on, we've got to fix it. It's Oh, okay. Then we've got to figure out, are we trying to be something that we're not right? Because culture really is the outcome of our attitudes behaviors in the way that we treat each other every day.

[00:17:31] So at a company, culture of our family was that you served, I gave you some hints of that earlier. You don't just come you come and you serve, you don't just come to the potluck. You bring a dish, you help clean up, you help set up. So there was always this like maybe obligation. And I won't get too sorted with how my religious upbringing, like maybe I misinterpreted those things at times, because it did cause me some confusion of sacrificing my own needs for that of other people. to the point in my age, Jolie, where I was able to say Oh, I get it. Yes. I'm not the savior. I shouldn't be sacrificing myself. I actually have to take really good care of myself, but then I can serve too. So that that to me is at the essence and saying that they're hippies. Yes. My dad had a peace protest fast that by the way, I've worn to the protest in the last few years.

[00:18:19] And, he hung out with the black Panthers and he did all these things and, they, they were. Dating in like the sixties, late sixties, early seventies. The bell bottoms and the whole look, I could show you the picture, but at the essence, what I'm saying is that they were humanity focus.

[00:18:33] They were servant leaders in their hearts and still are right. And so that, to me, I'm so grateful for. And if there's anything, the cycles that I do want to continue right, with my own children, is that is that not that you should sacrifice yourself for the care of others, but that.

[00:18:49] We should leave this place better than we found it.

[00:18:52] --joliedowns: [00:18:52] it's a really important distinction, really. And I understand where you're coming from because I had that same figuring out if you will, as I got older in life. Yeah, it's an, it is an important distinction. And the clarity is a beautiful one. I have to say

[00:19:07] anna-oakes: [00:19:07] because look, I spent, I'm a domestic abuse survivor and I had my dad in my head for a long time saying if you don't help, who will? And so I would meet, I met this young man in high school and I, he definitely had a lot of violence issues and a lot out of anger. And I thought if I don't help him, who will.

[00:19:27] So I'm not going anywhere, instead of saying I'm not a professional who is certified and trained and able to actually help him. I'm a 14 year old girl whose hormones are raging and has her own things to think about. Sacrificing your whole self and that whole, if you don't do it, who will, I hope that somebody will do it for you, but I can't do that.

[00:19:48] I can't be the one that sacrificed my personhood for you. And I repeated those cycles, Jolene and my career too, because I would take on, as I said earlier I'm going to save this whole organization. No, I can do a lot. I can make a huge impact, but I am one person and I might be able to plant seeds that later get watered, but it's not my job to water them.

[00:20:09] It's my job to play them.

[00:20:10] joliedowns: [00:20:10] On the note of domestic abuse I'm sorry that you went through that is, I'm just wondering if there's anything that you have to share that you would share advice wise for anyone who might be experiencing that right now.

[00:20:21] anna-oakes: [00:20:21] Ooh. Yeah, that's a tough one. Advice on that is seek community. It's a really isolating experience. And even today, when I get the most stressed or the most fearful I can tend to isolate that pattern is still there. And so community for me is the answer. I remember my dad saying I was crying over a boy or something when I was younger and he says let's go, we're going to go, we're going to, I think we were going to go to the soup kitchen and serve.

[00:20:56] And I was like, look at me like, anyway. And he's let's just see what it does to serve others. Even when you're hurting. And so I don't want to say that, Oh, you're, you're being abused, start, go volunteering. That's the answer. No. The connection for me there is that you're moving out of the isolation and your, much earlier, when I was talking about pursuing the career opportunities and getting the data for yourself, you're broadening your perspective.

[00:21:23] Your blinders, mine were, I'll speak for me, my blinders were so tightly fixed that I couldn't see clearly. And so when you spend time with others, when you experience new things, when you see how their lives could be your blinders start to come off and perhaps then maybe empowered to make a really brave decision to leave in some way.

[00:21:44] joliedowns: [00:21:44] Yes, that's very true. Thank you for sharing that. I really appreciate it. I know it's not an easy topic, but I imagine a lot of people All right. I know a lot of people struggle with that, but I would imagine after this past year and being stuck in the homes

[00:21:57] anna-oakes: [00:21:57] on my heart this year. Totally. I'm thinking about these people who had nowhere to go because I felt isolated and trapped. I'm in a safe space. I have a great marriage and happy home and rooms to stay in. And yeah, it was, it's been an impactful year. And my hope is that as people come out of this cocoon, if it wasn't a healthy cocoon in any way that we'll start to figure out what we need and just like those butterflies coming out of the cocoon, we can't move too quickly.

[00:22:22]If you pull a butterfly out of a cocoon that they won't make it, so it's gotta be on their own terms in their own time.

[00:22:28] Jolie Downs: [00:22:28] No now, have you adopted any particular habits that you feel contribute to your fulfilled life?

[00:22:36] Anna Oakes: [00:22:36] Yeah. Ooh. Couple ones. I would say, like from a habit perspective I just discovered over this last year that I have ADHD and I probably had it since I was younger. My mom said, yeah, in third grade they did say you might have that. And I was like, Oh mom, great information earlier on is I was like getting tutor after tutor, study coach after steady coach and me always feeling like I was doing something wrong.

[00:23:00] Oh, I just don't get how you're supposed to study. Apparently him tell me again, but I have found ways. And so when I told my daughter last year about the ADHD, she's listening, and she said, mama, I thought I was really impressed by you that you help these leaders and companies be stronger.

[00:23:13] But now that I know your brain works differently, I'm super impressed. I was like, first of all, it's so sweet. Please say that again in the recorder. Second of all, me too. You mean?

[00:23:24] too, that I've been able to figure this out, even despite being neuro-diverse. So I started looking at I've had to come up with habits.

[00:23:30] So for me, I didn't enjoy school until probably my master's degree where I was like, Oh, this is fun. Learning can be fun. And I had maybe figured out by that point because of my professional experience, what I needed. So I need to be very. I time block my whole calendar. I try to work in 90 minute increments when I'm actually trying to get work done.

[00:23:49] I try to block like tasks so that I can stay in a zone. So if I'm, for example, recording, we have a new podcast out called bar from the best or recording the 10 minute video casts for culture and people. I try to do those back to back because I'm in this, like I'm in this mode of curiosity and listening and facilitating.

[00:24:09] And then I do my one-on-ones. I try to be in that zone of Empathy and leadership and support. So that helps me understand because the switching that's required. It's too much. It's too much, man. I don't do well at that. So I've learned that over time, probably from hundreds and hundreds of errors. So I would say time-blocking is one blocking, like events is another, those are really tactical habits that I leverage.

[00:24:31]And then when I'm at my best, I'm getting up every morning and I'm spending time in meditation. And I added, so at first I developed that habit. Then I added at least 30 minutes of reading every morning. And if I can get that meditation, even if it's five to 15 minutes in and then read for 30 before everybody's awake because I'm an early bird.

[00:24:49] My day is just so my brain works better. My day is better. I feel fed because I have a need for high input. I like stuff. I like to learn stuff. learner, high input. I want all the things. So I've got to satiate that. So I ground first I give myself a little nibble of a book that I'm really loving it, set that timer.

[00:25:09] And then I go about my day. So those are the things that I feel like structure, really helps us get creative. And even innovation, people think it's the opposite. Like I tried for a long time, I was saying I was raised by hippies. I don't like rules. I don't like structure. It did not work, Jolie

[00:25:24] I was just Spinning person who wasn't really having an impact and didn't feel grounded. okay, you can be raised by hippies and still have structure. You can love to say fight the power, screw the man and still figure out what the structure is. That's going to help you be not only productive, but just feel impactful.

[00:25:45] And for me, the difference between productivity and impactfulness is this is a lot of meaning. When you are making an impact, there's meaningful work for you. Productivity is just getting a lot of crap done. That's nothing wrong with that, but I want to be more than productive. I want to be

[00:25:59] joliedowns: [00:25:59] Yes. Perfect. Anna. I love that answer. It was great. And you mentioned that you like to read, I, it makes me curious. , what book have you read that has brought the most impact to your life? You can give me a couple, if you want to. I can choose. Cause I know if someone asks me that I'd be like, Oh man, just how do I answer that one?

[00:26:19] anna-oakes: [00:26:19] out again that left your, let your life speak. I give it to all my new coaching clients. It's just such a good read. And I said it, you don't even have to be thinking that you want clarity on your vocation. Everybody would give that book too. And when I reread it, I feel so seen, just understood that th that there's this. IL content inside of all of us that were desperate for more, but don't know how to get it. And that's okay. And that there's thing that we're missing out on. It's just a process. So for sure, Parker Palmer, let your life speak. He's written some other really great books. I'll also say the fountain.

[00:26:54] --joliedowns: [00:26:54] , okay, so let your light speak and the Fountainhead. Okay.

[00:26:57] anna-oakes: [00:26:57] by Ayn Rand, like I know people think I Rand is like this, she's way out there. Put that aside. I have read Fountainhead so many times and every time I go back to it, here's what I get out of it. I don't read a lot of fiction. I really re I read a lot of business books, a lot of like progressive self-help I'm a huge, like I've always got a coach and a therapist, so for this book, though, it is a story, and I read about these lead characters and it reminds me that the lead character, Howard Roark, he stands so strongly in his power of being the banana and not the Apple. It's just this like delicious reminder that he's such a rebel. And that even though people were disappointed along the way and he didn't do it, like they thought he would he ended up in this really aligned fulfilled space where

[00:27:43] it didn't matter how many people thought he was doing it. Because he felt really good about it. So I would say I'm going to pick those two books is probably the most impactful.

[00:27:51] joliedowns: [00:27:51] fantastic. I have two new books to add to my list. Thank you. This has been great. Before we go, a couple of things first. Okay. I'd like you to tell us a little bit about your podcasts, because we didn't really talk about that. So if listeners are interested in your podcast, tell us a little bit about those.

[00:28:05] anna-oakes: [00:28:05] Okay. So we were running a long form podcast called build high performing teams. There's some really great solo episodes or some amazing guests that I've had on there. Like my mentor, Alonzo Kelly came on he's a black man and he talked about talking about race and other taboo topics at work.

[00:28:20] And this was after the murder of george Floyd. So so proud of that work. We put that on pause when the pandemic came along, because we had to like really buckle down, what should we really be focusing on here? Cause I didn't have a lot of time. So we started then the culture and people cast.

[00:28:36] I said, I still love to talk to people. I still want to be giving free content. Let's do it in 10 minute episodes and we'll make it a video cast. So we've had a ton of fun with that. We did over a hundred episodes in eight months, which was an amazing, yes. I just love offering that gift to people.

[00:28:50] And it's been a great experience for me too. But I felt this call to really this itch, to do another long form. And I thought what do I really want to do? Like why do I want that? And I just saw this opportunity to get very targeted. It's like I was bringing on big authors and all these other things I really want to help companies and leaders borrow the best ideas.

[00:29:11] And there's so many good ideas out there, right? Whether it's a program, whether it's a mindset, whether it's a very simple process that you do that somehow just raise your team up. 10% more time. I don't care what it is small to large help us borrow from the best. So I've had some great conversations.

[00:29:25] We've got four episodes out. I've talked to HubSpot about, that's a huge company who's transitioning into hybrid. How are they doing that? And staying true to their values, right? What, what nugget can we borrow from them that might help these companies who are figuring out what to do with return to work hybrid, remote, talk to Claude silver.

[00:29:42] She's the chief heart officer for Vayner media. Do you know Gary Vaynerchuk? Gary V. Huge, but like she's his chief heart officer. So we talked about what's it like, first of all, I work with Gary V and then she wanted to focus on attracting and hiring the best. So tell us, how does this great company attract and hire the best.

[00:29:59] And maybe we don't work in this sexy industry of like marketing and advertising, but there are so many great tips in there, Jolie. So I'm hoping that people will check that

[00:30:08] joliedowns: [00:30:08] That's great.

[00:30:08] anna-oakes: [00:30:08] Reels on my LinkedIn. They can find all the podcast on all your platforms. And then we host the video out on our YouTube.

[00:30:15] So you can find that all at our website, which is the Oaks co and Oaks is O K E S there's an E in there.

[00:30:20] joliedowns: [00:30:20] Perfect. And we'll put that in the show notes too. Are you taking on new clients yourself as well?

[00:30:25] anna-oakes: [00:30:25] Yes. Yes. We're, I'm trying to move to more I've got two app ideas that I really want to work on, so I would love to start to move to Not having to show up, to get paid all the time.

[00:30:35] Cause it's a lot of pressure for an individual. I'm the only practitioner on my team right now, the rest are support. So I still take coaching. I still take consulting, but it's on a scale basis. Yeah. And for clients that I really feel like I can help. Are you really serious about putting in the work?

[00:30:50] Because it's hard. It's not easy. It was easy. Everybody would do it. Yeah, we've just got to get that clarity and I'm not asking for transformations. I don't really love that phrase, culture, transformation, company transformation. I'm asking for evolution,

[00:31:03] joliedowns: [00:31:03] Oh, yeah, that's great. That's what we all need to be working towards. So before we go, I love this. This was such a great talk, but I want to finish with my, one of my favorite questions is, cause I think it's always interesting the answer that comes. So Anna, tell me, what are you sure of in life?

[00:31:24] anna-oakes: [00:31:24] I'm sure that connection and community are the answer.

[00:31:28] joliedowns: [00:31:28] Yes,

[00:31:29] anna-oakes: [00:31:29] am. I'm just sure that connection and community are the answers to a lot of things.

[00:31:35] --joliedowns: [00:31:35] I agree.

[00:31:36] anna-oakes: [00:31:36] individually and collectively.

[00:31:38] joliedowns: [00:31:38] I agree. Connection is that component that keeps us going across the board in life? Yes. Yeah.

[00:31:45] anna-oakes: [00:31:45] helps us grow and evolve. Without that connection. We have nothing to bump up against.

[00:31:50] joliedowns: [00:31:50] Ooh. All right.

[00:31:51] anna-oakes: [00:31:51] things and see how that feels. It's what does it smell? What does it sound like? That's the key,

[00:31:56] joliedowns: [00:31:56] you're right.

[00:31:57] anna-oakes: [00:31:57] really experience it and connect and keep moving.

[00:32:01] joliedowns: [00:32:01] Thank you, Anna. This was so wonderful. I really appreciate your time.

[00:32:04] anna-oakes: [00:32:04] Oh, thank you, Jolie, I'm sending you and everybody else. Peace and progress.

[00:32:08] joliedowns: [00:32:08] I love it.

I loved Anna’s story

Right away she shares how she started on her career path, which was simply by asking interesting questions.

How great is this?

Using her curiosity she harnessed the power of asking questions, to try to understand something better. Questions are powerful because they create change and open the mind to what is possible.

It wasn’t her business to be asking the types of questions she was asking but she adopted the mindset that we are all in this together, that we should all try to understand so we can grow better. Think about the impact of this mindset? What would happen if every person in an organization, if every person in a family even, moved forward with this perspective. We’re all in it together, how we can help each other understand and grow? The positive strides would be significant.

Anna’s curiosity, openness and caring completely opened a new path of discovery for her. Most situations could use additional curiosity and caring, How can you bring more curiosity and caring into your work? Into your family? Into your community? Think about the impact you could make with this simple shift of the mind.

Anna also shared an important universal secret, this is something that I’ve learnd through my countless recruiting calls over the years and through all of these conversations around success – here’s the big secret – are you ready?

Everyone is pretty much making this up as we go along. Most people are flying by the seat of their pants at any given moment just doing the very best they can in that instant.

90% of the population is plagued by Imposter Syndrome – that feeling of not quite being enough. It’s the feeling CEO’s get in their big office when they think, I don’t know what I’m doing here, I’m just making this up and people are going to find me out!

We all have those feelings – these are normal, human feelings. They happen because our brains are naturally hard wired to think pessimistically rather than optimistically, it’s a genetic effect passed on to us from our caveman ancestors. Developing a negative thought process saved our lives a thousand years ago but today, - that is no longer the case. This negative mindset, however natural, now hurts us.

When the negative voices come in, recognize that it is happening and that it is completely normal – ah, here’s that imposter sneaking in my head again, hello there old friend, I’m not interested in playing today - and then proactively focus your mind on the right questions and the right visualizations. Remind yourself of why you are doing this and focus in on the value you can bring.

What if what you are doing helps even one person? What if everything worked out exactly how you had hoped? And then visualize the situation going exactly as you wish. Using the power of visualization you are actually retraining your brain to fight that imposter syndrome. Visualization activates the neurons in your brain as actually doing that thing, so whatever you are visualizing, you’ll have much more confidence and likelihood of succeeding when you do it in real life. See yourself succeeding at your goal. Picture everything working out smoothly, even if a mistake happens, picture people smiling, congratulating you, thanking you. You want to force the happy picture, Repeatedly. Make the conscious decision to lead with all the positivity and enthusiasm possible. By doing so, you will retrain your nervous systems response and feel better about every step moving forward.

And bottom line, a tweet a read (@dangerouswco) wrapped it up perfectly – anytime that imposter syndrome sneaks in – I want you to remind yourself,

that whatever you think you can’t do, there is someone out there right now confidently doing that thing, wrong, and they have no intention of learning how to do it better. And people are paying them. Please believe in your own excellence as much as they believe in their mediocrity.

When Anna knew she was ready for a change but wasn’t sure what that change was, she explored different options. She made sure she looked into a variety of different aspects so that she would make sure she was going in the best next direction for herself.

She looked at other roles within her company, looked at roles within other different types of companies and would ask herself, how does this feel? Is this what I really want?

Then she gave herself time and space to really think about it until she found that internal knowing inside. This is really important, because so often we don’t spend the time really thinking or putting ourselves in different situations – this is incredibly valuable, to try and feel, what would this feel like? What would this experience be like? You can talk to others who are doing the work and get that added insight before you make any changes yourself. Clarity is a gift. With clarity comes conviction and originality. When you have Clarity of intention the universe conspires to make it happen with you.

Before you make a change, Get in touch and figure out what is the right best next for you?

I loved Anna’s anology with the apple and the banana. She talks about being hired as the banana and then her company expecting her to be an apple. Can you relate to this? Whether in a previous job, organization or even your family? How many times have you found yourself the banana when someone else expected you to be the apple? How did you feel? How did you react?

I can remember many of these types of moments and thinking, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I be more like that apple? But there was nothing wrong with me, only something wrong with my thinking and my reaction. Anytime you feel this way in the future, I want you to remember Anna’s words. Why would you want me to be an apple when I’m a banana? Why would you want me to put on a costume? Why wouldn’t you want to play to my strengths?

Why indeed.

Stay true to yourself.

Find the place where you can be completely true to who are you as a person. Where you can flourish as the banana.

As Anna said, success equals alignment and you can’t find true success without finding the situation that aligns with you, allowing you to flex your strengths and bringing you that peace and grounding.

As humans we are all constantly evolving, this is what leads to your progress as a human. Which is why it’s important to stay in touch with what alignment looks like to you. This vision will change as the years change so make sure you are spending that time, getting in touch with yourself to make sure you know what you really want and need. Being aware and open to that evolution and change is what brings us that overall success. We are unable to find fulfillment if we don’t know what truly fulfills us.

So what does that alignment look like for you? Have you found that self awareness?

As Anna shared, the number one predictor of success for CEO’s is self awareness. Not strategic thinking, not analytical skills, not charisma, it’s how well do you know yourself? How well do you know your strengths and weaknesses? When we know ourselves, when we have that self awareness, an understanding happens that teaches you how to best work with yourself and with others. Research shows that the more clearly we are able to see ourselves the more confident, creative and satisfied we become. Not only that, it leads to better decision making, stronger relationships and more promotions.

How strong is your self awareness?

If you need some help with this, try looking at yourself and your situations from another perspective, take yourself out of it and ask yourself how someone else might see you or the situation? Keep a journal. Write down your goals and plans and perform daily self reflections. Utilize meditation and personality tests. Ask friends to describe you or ask for feedback from co-workers. All will help you find that self awareness which will in turn help you find your success.

I appreciated Anna’s suggestion for finding that fulfillment, for finding that peace and grounding – as she shares, you don’t have to be in the perfect job, you just need to give whatever job you have, your all. It’s a give and get kind of a universe. When you try to make the biggest impact with whatever role you are doing, when you accept the responsibility that your energy, your execution, impacts a lot of different things, then you are empowered. When you are embodying that empowerment, people notice, they are attracted to that energy and you’ll find things start to happen.

Let’s be real – there is imperfection everywhere – as a recruiter I deal with this every day and I can tell you that Anna is right, the grass is not always greener elsewhere. Obviously if dealing with a toxic or harmful situation, get yourself out of there, but for general discontent, the best advice is, to go inside. Double down internally, focus on the things you can control and find all the ways you can grow and learn. I loved how Anna put this, the company is paying you to learn and grow and get ready for your best next. Play in the garden where you are planted, bloom and grow utilizing every tool your company has to offer and as you light up internally from this process, you’ll find confidence from alignment followed quickly by opportunity knocking on your door.

I thought Anna’s advice for productivity excellent- she wisely shares that structure actually helps us be creative. I found this insightful, I tend to do a lot of switching back and forth within my work and I like her method of the 90 minute time block. Not too long but enough time to be productive and then blocking the like events together to help with flow. Once I implemented I found my week to more productive and because I was uninterrupted, my creativity definitely increased.

Anna brought up a couple of really important points that I want to discuss together. She talked about the importance of being a part of your community and building a culture of serving. It’s important to live a life where you bring value to your organization, your family and your community. It is vital to a fulfilled life to bring value to others. However, it’s also important to remember that you are not the savior. While we bring forth our value, that does not mean we should be sacrificing ourselves. It does not mean a giving up of yourself. Remember we focus on what we can control and the only person we can control, is ourselves. What this means is that when you sufficiently fill yourself up, you overflow with what you have to offer, with what you have to give. That is the space we want to find ourselves. Filled up with our own light and ready to share with others. Each and every one of us can make huge impacts by planting the seeds and being the light, but it is important to remember that it is not our job to water those seeds for others.

Finally, I want to leave you with one final thought from Anna that has benefited her life greatly, the absolute knowing that humans are imperfect. All of us. We are all imperfect. In fact, it is our imperfections that make us perfect. The ability to really see a person for all their beauty and imperfection, to be able to see their unique strengths and appreciate the individual for who they are is one of the more incredible gifts you can give yourself. Put down your judgement for yourself and others. Really look at the people around you. Remind yourself that we are all souls on the same type of journey trying to become our best selves.

This makes me think of one of my favorite quotes by Ram Dass

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”

This is my wish for us, that with every person we meet, just like with the trees, we can appreciate them just as they are.

Until next time

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