Koya Webb of ‘Get Loved Up’: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness

Only offer what you know you can give. Many of us are stretched to our ends so as much as we want to be there for others, we also have to be honest with how much we can give them. It’s important to be a person of integrity because people need to know they can trust right now.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Koya Webb.

Koya Webb is an internationally recognized yoga teacher, celebrity holistic health coach, author, speaker, and vegan activist whose core mission is to promote daily self-care, oneness and ecofriendly living to combat some of the world’s biggest challenges including mental health, social injustices and global warming. Koya is the founder of Get Loved Up, an international lifestyle community and Yoga School that inspires mental, spiritual and physical health through an app, online courses, retreats, in-person yoga teacher training events and the Get Loved Up Podcast.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I had received a track scholarship to college and I was excited about the opportunity. I loved running and meeting people from around the world as we traveled. One day I was walking across campus and fell and couldn’t stand up. I soon found out I had a stress fracture in my lower back. The coaches and doctors told me I was out for the season. I was crushed. A counselor recommended I try yoga. I wasn’t into it at all and felt out of place and sad. My instructor at the time told me to just breathe. I began to breathe with her and instantly felt my mood lift so I kept going to class and started practicing more and more and fell in love with it. After a year of practicing my back healed and I led my track team to their first women’s championship title. Since then yoga has been my best friend and now a gift I share with the world.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One year I met a very friendly guy at the convenience store and every day I came in he was happy and smiling. One day he was very sad and I asked him what was wrong and he said his trainer had given up on him. I told him that I could help him but he would have to be 100 percent committed. He committed and after a year of mental, physical and nutritional training with me he lost a total of 200 pounds. It was a wonderful experience for both of us.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Remember to have fun. Work can be very stressful at this time so incorporating weekly team meetings and ice breakers could help warm your team up to each other.

Virtual happy hours where you let your employees pick what they want to do during that hour can promote creativity.

Inclusion is very important as well when hiring so as you build with your team you have different perspectives from many different cultures.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I love “The Course Of Miracles.” It helped me simplify life into two emotions: Fear and Love. So, when life gets complex, I just simplify it by asking myself am I thinking from a place of fear or love.

From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

The state of being mindful is about being fully aware of the present moment. Allowing yourself to be immersed in what’s happening right now. We’re so used to multi-tasking and having our minds on more than one thing. When we can fully take in the present that is being mindful.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

Physically being mindful is to be present in the body. Aware of the sensations, the energy, and responses to what is currently taking place. Allowing the body to feel as it is without judgement. Movement and mindful eating is something I incorporate daily with a mile a day and a handful of almonds when I need a natural energy boost. Almonds are rich in nutrients that help you feel energized to be at your best. Snacks that are high in fiber, offer protein and good fats are more than just nutritious — they are the secret ally for you to keep your own daily flow.

Mentally being mindful is being aware of the thoughts that are coming up in your mind. Say for instance a negative thought or a past thought comes to the mind. Being aware that you and the thought are separate and allowing your awareness to observe the thought without getting caught up in whatever is coming to the mind. As humans we’re typically operating in two places: the past and the future. Being in that space does not allow for present moment awareness.

When we are emotionally mindful we can become aware of the energy we have and generate to ourselves and others. Emotions are so powerful and play a huge part in how we show up in the world. When we are mindful of our emotion it allows us to be more self-aware and we can direct the energy those emotions give off into a place of positivity or negativity. Having that awareness is liberating for the entire being.

The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

First- Speak about what you are grateful for. We hear a lot about how important it is to be grateful and that’s because it dispels negativity causing us to focus on the good and/or positive in our lives.

Second- Move your body. Sitting around all day or if you’re working a lot can cause low energy and that can cause depression and/or lethargy. Moving the body gets oxygen moving and the blood flowing. The increased blood flow stimulates you and gets your brain and body activated!

Third- Breathe deeply and fully. Oftentimes we are moving at such a fast pace we don’t realize our shallow breathing. Shallow breath isn’t good for the body. Taking the time to breathe fully and deeply into the lungs and blowing the breath out of the mouth causes you to exhale pent up stale energy. You want the body to feel release so getting rid of the tightness by doing quick and simple breathwork exercises can be a game changer

Fourth- Enjoy healthier meals and nutritious snacks. The quality of food we eat matters. Having a balanced meal of foods that nourish and energize you rather than weigh you down and spike your sugar levels is what you want. If you can take the time to prepare a meal that has fresh ingredients and eat for energy and not emotionally or just to indulge you last longer throughout your day. I like a handful of almonds whenever I need an energy boost. Almonds’ power-packed nutrition makes it easy to snack healthy — just one ounce deliver 6g of natural, plant-based protein, 4g of filling fiber and good fats.

Fifth- Get rest. I believe in getting 8 hours of sleep at night and or unplugging from social media and the demands of the world. Some of us are still operating in our jobs and home life at full speed and I get it but taking the time to relax and reset is essential to a healthy body, mind and spirit. Recharging yourself with some form of self-care is essential as we go through these challenging times.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Step 1: Call and check in on people: Offer words of comfort and empowerment to them to let them know we will get through this

Step 2: Listen. Be an active listener. Take the time to hear people out, everyone is going through something. Many people want to know they matter so listening attentively provides the opportunity for them to fully express their feelings. Creating these moments builds trust and allows people to be honest with where they are.

Step 3: Only offer what you know you can give. Many of us are stretched to our ends so as much as we want to be there for others, we also have to be honest with how much we can give them. It’s important to be a person of integrity because people need to know they can trust right now.

Step 4: Invite them to do an activity (via social distancing) as this time of isolation has been hard. Get together to go for a run or for tea: Having a little bit of face to face time can make a big difference in someone feeling just a little more connected.

Step 5: Encourage them to journal. Flushing out one’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions on paper can really release anxiety and stress. We are not meant to hold all this trauma in our bodies so writing a beautiful way to let go. Then to go back at some point and read what was written can be motivating for them to see the areas of growth and improvement they’ve made over time.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

Breathwork, yoga, meditation, and reading books that enhance those practices.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Love yourself, love others and love the world in that order to the best of your ability and you will feel peace of mind. This reminds me that I can’t pour from an empty cup and how important it is to place self-care first on a daily basis, so I don’t exhaust my energy by doing too much for others without refueling which often left me burnt out.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

My movement is Get Loved Up. I believe in the power of love and with it anything is possible. People need to know and believe that they are loved and whenever they feel fear, frustration and doubt they can “get loved up” to raise their frequency to love.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

KoyaWebb.com

Instagram: @KoyaWebb & @GetLovedUp


Koya Webb of ‘Get Loved Up’: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr. Douglas S Steinbrech of Alpha Male Plastic Surgery: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Be

Dr. Douglas S. Steinbrech of Alpha Male Plastic Surgery: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

If you have a vision and innovative ideas, something that’s truly different, then the rest really focuses on providing the best product and the best services. You do with a high degree of quality so that you can set yourself apart from the others. If you do this well, the money will follow. It gives me a great deal of freedom to not have to worry about or have no desire to have people say at my funeral that I was rich. I would rather have people so that I was a loving father and that I had carved out a successful business life.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Douglas Steinbrech.

Dr. Douglas Steinbrech is a Plastic Surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons under the American Board of Medical Specialties. Dr. Steinbrech specializes in Minimally Invasive Aesthetics. He incorporates this philosophy into all of his surgical and non-surgical techniques. He has been selected as one of America’s Top Plastic Surgeons by the Consumers’ Research Council of America.

Thank you so much for joining us Dr. Steinbrech! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had finished up my training at NYU which is an amazing place to learn about plastic and reconstructive surgery. I was in my office, frustrated and struggling to try to be yet another plastic surgeon that did the ladies tummy tucks and the facelifts — it was very challenging.

I had several friends that were men at the time. They wanted to get their abs done or remove some fat from their love handles and I started to do more and more of those procedures.

My patient coordinator saw that there was something to this and we created an educational website approximately eight years ago. The practice took off. After that, we took the Male Plastic Surgery LA operation to Beverly Hills. We’ve been out there for four years now.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting story that was a game-changer for me since I began my career was realizing the power of BodyBanking. BodyBanking is taking out the bad fat from the bad areas in men and women and isolating the cells for structure and for volume in desired areas.

I was frustrated initially with the results that we were getting with traditional Liposuction. Then the lightbulb went off. I realized that we have to stop throwing away the fat and I started to add it back in like a sculptor uses clay to enhance and create volume in desired areas.

When we started doing this to increase chest cleavage, bigger shoulders, traps that pop, or a more athletic contour. That is when I realized that we were onto something that was very significant. Since that point, BodyBanking has been the cornerstone of the practice.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

There was one specific tipping point in my career where I started to see success. My secretary made more than I did during my first year because I was pouring all of our revenue back into the company. I was frustrated.

When we started shifting and aiming at innovation and excellence in a different field, I noticed that there were more patients that we’re seeking out our services. The schedule was filling up and as a surgeon, we take great pride in being the operating room, doing surgery and I realized at that point that everything was going to be OK. The practice and the Alpha Aesthetics company going to be a success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started out I thought that the patients needed to see a crisp professional surgeon in a suit and a tie with the pocket square. I would do consults and talk for hours.

I realized that the patients didn’t see that a surgeon should be in a suit and tie. A busy surgeon would be in his surgical office in scrubs. So this is where I am today. The ties are for going to work and heading home only.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

After we expanded the practice to Alpha Male Plastic Surgery Los Angeles in Beverly Hills we knew that that was proof of concept and could be scaled to other major metropolitan areas.

With a great product and innovative techniques, we felt that we had something different to offer in other towns. With that, we are currently training an excellent surgeon for Chicago expansion and also moving into the Miami area. I think these are very exciting projects which will help people because we will continue to bring quality techniques and services to people in these areas.

I’m also particularly excited about Alpha Wear which is a line of postoperative garments that are critical to the healing process after patients have had one of our extensive total torso transformations.

They are designed for comfort and they are designed for men. Whereas many of the current surgical garments have frilly lace on them and are white or nude in color for women, these garments have no lace and they are designed to look more masculine/superhero rather than a man being in women’s underwear.

I think this will be a game-changer for postoperative man surgical care.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You don’t need an MBA degree. I always thought that a doctor or someone without a lot of business experience wouldn’t be able to start a new business. I’ve learned a lot from books and from online stories and just from hard work and making mistakes. But I realized that everyone needs an MBA to start a business.
  2. I also realized that so many things are just being prepared and taking the jump to execute. A lot of things in life are just not executed because people missed their opportunity. There is no grants ministry to entrepreneurial spirit or execution.
  3. If you have a vision and innovative ideas, something that’s truly different, then the rest really focuses on providing the best product and the best services. You do with a high degree of quality so that you can set yourself apart from the others. If you do this well, the money will follow. It gives me a great deal of freedom to not have to worry about or have no desire to have people say at my funeral that I was rich. I would rather have people so that I was a loving father and that I had carved out a successful business life.
  4. There’s a great business bar called blue ocean that talks about finding your new niche away from all the red ocean where all the sharks are going after the same bodies. When everyone else is gone right I decided to go to left, but when you do that you still have to have a plan and you still have to have hard work. I’ve found that hard work with a good idea is the key to success.

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To thrive and not burn out my advice to college is to find your passion and make your passion your work. I became passionate about men’s aesthetics and this allowed me to flourish rather than to go and do the same work that all the other people were doing.

On a personal note to prevent burnout, I would tell my colleagues to exercise, I like tennis, going to the gym and golf. Get plenty of sleep so you can really focus on key tones of the morning.

I got a lot of work done early in the morning before everybody wakes up.

Love your family, that’s what it’s all about.

None of us achieve it without some help, one of the great plastic surgeons that I have always looked up to because of his career and his dedication is Sherrell Aston.

When I first started my practice, I went out for dinner with some colleagues. I walked past their office after dinner and found that the lights were still on and at that point. I realized if I was going to get anywhere in this life it was going to be because of hard work and extra time spent at night and on weekends (as my department chair at NYU Dr. Joe McCarthy used to say).

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

I would start a foundation that inspires kids and tells them not to be a victim of work. Rather, to expose them to ideas and the pathway for good education to be able to elevate them to do and be whatever they want in life. I would encourage that same foundation to teach parents to make sure their kids stay in school and stay away from drugs and bad elements. Avoid the darkness when they need to see the light of the power of education and hard work.

How can our readers find you on social media?

Website: http://MalePlasticSurgery.com

You can find us on Instagram under @maleplasticsurgery


Dr. Douglas S Steinbrech of Alpha Male Plastic Surgery: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Be was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Raj Beri of Elegance Brands: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

Focus on the journey, not the destination — I’ve said this a few times and that’s because I’ve learned it the hard way: success really is a journey. A lot of young entrepreneurs focus on the profits early on, instead focus on the journey and what you’re about to create.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Raj Beri, founder and CEO of Elegance Brands Inc.

Raj Beri is a serial entrepreneur having founded, scaled, and exited dozens of companies in a multitude of industries before focusing on the beverage industry as a founder and CEO over the last 12 years.

Raj has launched and scaled numerous lifestyle-focused brands in the alcohol and functional beverage markets, scaling distribution globally with Coca-Cola Amatil in Australia, Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits in the USA, and several large export markets. In his 12+ year beverage career, Raj has led the scale and exit strategies for some of his brands which were acquired by Brown-Forman and Coca-Cola Amatil respectively.

Raj currently leads a sophisticated sales, marketing, and distribution team in the USA as the founder and CEO of Elegance Brands Inc, a US public beverage company with over 10,000 shareholders and operating facilities in Australia, and the United States.

In his personal life, Raj is a seasoned poker player and a Whisk(e)y collector.

Raj is married to his wife of two years, Elizabeth Cardillo-Beri.

Raj is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) in the Palm Beach chapter.

Thank you so much for joining us Raj! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I started my first company while I was in college and since then, I’ve launched several different companies in various industries.

Around 2005, I was a property developer in Sydney, Australia where I was designing beautiful luxury homes, but I was not proactively trying to grow my business. I had always been drawn to the hospitality and beverage space, and around this time, there was an opportunity to partner with an industry expert. So, I partnered with that gentleman and we started my first beverage company. It started as a passion project — I was making a healthy profit through my property development company, so this was more of a side hustle.

Unfortunately, the Global Financial Crisis hit shortly thereafter, and my property business was decimated. The GFC impacted Australia more than the US, and in my case, it was a very substantial hit. It was at this point where I decided if I’m going to build another business, then I want it to be one that I can carve out a legacy with. So, I pivoted to the beverage business that I had just started, and it became my full-time job.

I had done my research — I looked at the Australian landscape holistically and noticed the opportunities that were available. Australia is a country where there are a lot of big players in the dominant spaces and, as a result, I saw a significant opportunity in the beverage industry. At the time, there were four major companies that controlled most of the beverage brands and there were two major retailers that controlled most of the product sold. This ultimately contributed to my decision and the rest is history.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

In the height of the Global Financial Crisis, plans for growth in my first beverage company were hard to come by. There was almost no speculative spending and as a result, there was literally no capital available to scale in a beverage opportunity. That was a very tough time.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I’m a very philosophical person and I believe that, in the fate of a challenge, there are two options — as humans we either fight or flight. So, you can either run away from your problem and hope it doesn’t follow you or you can fight it. In my case, my philosophy is inspired by the desire to succeed, and my desire to create and scale to every possible solution.

What I would tell young entrepreneurs is that if you have that fire inside and the burning desire to succeed, then you’ll find a solution for any problem that you encounter. Also, capital should not be a problem — if you have great ideas and a strong vision, there are opportunities to get capital to scale and grow your enterprise.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Success is a journey not a destination, but some may think I’m very successful today and I say that I’m just getting started.

However, there are 10,600 shareholders in my parent beverage company, Elegance Brands. Those 10,600 individuals are backing and believing our vision, and that says a lot.

I’ve also sold two brands in my beverage career — one was sold to Brown-Forman in Australia and the other brand I sold to Coca-Cola Amatil — which adds to the notion of success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I used to be a semi-professional poker player and during a trip to Las Vegas I saw people drinking frozen cocktails, which gave me an idea. I was living in Australia at the time, which is culturally similar to the US, with tons of young people looking for the next trend. I noticed that no one was doing frozen alcoholic drinks in Australia, so I created a brand called Cocktail House and it quickly became a success. Soon enough, Cocktail House was in all the large volume bars and nightclubs across Australia.

To dispense high volumes of frozen beverages you obviously need the equipment to do so, and the funny story is that I did a deal with a US frozen beverage equipment manufacturer — a very prominent company — and unfortunately we purchased a bunch of this equipment in a US power voltage instead of the Australian equivalent. Apparently, we were good at creating beverages but not good at managing the equipment!

It was an easy fix moving forward but I learned that sometimes entrepreneurs can be so eager that you forget to do your homework.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Elegance Brands stands out through innovation, speed-to-market nimbleness, analysis of consumer trends and beverages, and creation of brands and new products that appeal to a core demographic and consumer.

For innovation specifically, there are four innovation aspects for beverages — flavor, brand, packaging and marketing innovation. So, Elegance Brands focuses on all four of those to ensure that what we’re launching appeals to the core consumer that we’re targeting. Every 10 or so years there’s a new generation that emerges and they’ll become new consumers in their own right, and what larger companies forget to do is create a product or brand that resonates with this new movement and new consumer. Elegance Brands right from the start is doing just that.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

You have to follow your passion, focus on your strengths and let the experts around you focus on whatever your weaknesses may be. Personally, I am not a great financial person, but I have a team of financial analysts and our CFO around me that are exceptional in that regard.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There’s been a lot of people that have helped me in my journey but the most influential for me has been my father. He’s been a mentor to me and has always had a very positive attitude. He never gets phased by negativity or tough situations around him.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Again, success is a journey so goodness can be brought by something as simple as helping the people around you.

Elegance Brands employs about 25 people in the US and Australia, most of whom are shareholders in the company. I’m not just building this business for myself but for my team. They all have an opportunity to grant shares based on their performance and many become equity stakeholders in the business. This is something that’s rare in an organization today and, it not only allows us to empower current employees and grow towards hundreds more, but it’s also giving back to our immediate community and to the people that we work with.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Focus on the journey, not the destination — I’ve said this a few times and that’s because I’ve learned it the hard way: success really is a journey. A lot of young entrepreneurs focus on the profits early on, instead focus on the journey and what you’re about to create.

2. Focus on your strengths — a lot of people do too much too fast. I know what my strengths are but everyone is different, some are strong financially others are strong creatively and others are strong in sales.

3. Creativity is key — have a creative mindset around new innovations and think creatively about your business in general. With Elegance Brands, we’ve raised capital in creative, new formats that most people don’t know about. This has allowed us to be the first beverage company managing a new format of capital aid.

4. Don’t get involved in distractions — unfortunately, early on in my career I was involved in heavy litigation and that can stunt one’s growth and be a big distraction. Instead, focus on the core tasks at hand and avoid getting involved in other distractions.

5. Hire the best people and make sure they’re people you can learn from, not people that learn from you — this is the most important one in my opinion. I hire most people in my organization based on what I can learn from them and that has allowed me to be a better leader. You have to hire people that have an undeniable passion and drive to learn and to teach.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am about to embark on a movement that would provide clean water to everyone in my birthplace of India. India is a country where fundamental basics — that we take for granted in the US or Australia — are not easily accessible for citizens. It is an age-old issue that I want to be a part of fixing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Raj Beri of Elegance Brands: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author-Illustrator Gregory Buissereth: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway

Make sure your motivation for accomplishing your goal is inherent. If your goal exists just because you want to prove the naysayers wrong, that may not be enough to get you through the challenge. Your goal has to be something you genuinely want to accomplish for yourself.

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gregory Buissereth.

Author-illustrator Gregory Buissereth is a seasoned creative with years of experience in painting, storytelling, and animation. He’s written and illustrated two books; the first titled Simple Mathematics: A basic guide to being the best version of yourself and his latest, a picture book written to help children learn how to combat negative self-talk titled The Doubt Bug. Gregory’s passion for community service, comedy, and design are what primarily fuel his work.

For the last five years, Gregory has been immensely involved in his community. He had hands-on roles in everything from operations coordination for one of Chicago’s most influential nonprofits, SocialWorks — whose sole mission is to empower and inspire youth through arts education, volunteering on The Night Ministry’s outreach bus handing out food and supplies to Chicago’s mobile community, in addition to being a youth-worker and program specialist for an emergency youth shelter, mentoring Chicago’s most at-risk teens.

Gregory is passionate about helping those in need, specifically those experiencing homelessness. Through his experience, he’s learned that the greatest way to combat poverty is to invest in the youth through education and mentorship.

As a kid growing up in the underfunded Chicago Public Schools system, Gregory never imagined himself becoming a published author-illustrator. Not because he thought he wasn’t smart enough, or unable, but because he didn’t see many people like himself (a person of color) in those positions. Through his writings and illustrations, he aims to extend the reach of his mentorship to kids of color in the inner cities and expose them to not only the arts but reading and writing as well.

His goal is to serve communities by encouraging tomorrow’s leaders to be the best version of themselves.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

I’m a second generation Haitian American and Chicago native. I love art, I love people, and I love creating art that helps people. I grew up watching my mother be active in and serve her community, which has inspired me to do the same.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m currently illustrating a flipbook for SocialWorks’ newest initiative, My State Of Mind (MSOM). SocialWorks is an organization that I have been involved with for a number of years, which aims to empower youth through the arts, education and civic engagement. Through the MSOM initiative, the organization is working to create a mental health guidebook that will provide a range of information about mental health services available in Cook County, using tools that help people access the mental-wellness services they need most, no matter their race, language, or economic background. The flipbook will serve as a fun and colorful guide and resource for those just getting started on their wellness journey.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

I believe what makes my work different from others is that my work is an extension of my passion for service. I create to reshape culture positively, to let people know that they aren’t alone, and I create to empower and inspire folks to prioritize producing a better tomorrow.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

All the time. Whether that idea was going to Colorado to run my first high altitude marathon at 10k feet above sea level (never having been in high altitude before) or writing my first book, people tell me what they believe is impossible all the time. The usual reaction is laughter because they think I won’t do it.

Andre Muir, one of my closest friends of 20 years (and amazing filmmaker by the way), laughed when I told him I would write my first book Simple Mathematics. And, let me tell you, I thought about that laugh up until I published the book! But, in his defense, he knew that laugh would fuel me, so I thank him for that. People will always try to put you in a box; they will always try to limit you because if they can limit you, it validates whatever limits they have put on themselves. You should be motivated to accomplish the impossible because by proving the naysayers wrong, you liberate them and let them know that they too can do more than they think they’re able to.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

I went on to run that marathon in Colorado and beat my personal record for a half marathon. And with that, I inspired some of my other coworkers to run the Chicago marathon the following year. I published Simple Mathematics and went on to publish a second book The Doubt Bug, and now that same friend Andre Muir, who laughed at me before, may be one of my biggest fans today.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I wouldn’t say there’s one particular person; rather, it’s a group of brothers that helped me get to where I am. Oscar Salinas, the former global copywriter for Wilson sports, helped me identify the importance of finding my writing voice. Even before I could afford a copyeditor, he was there helping me out — copyediting for Simple Mathematics.

Then we have Andre Muir, who challenges the thoughts that need to be challenged and is brutally honest with me. He helps me identify and face questions I’m often reluctant to face. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s essential to have someone who cares enough about you to be brutally honest with you.

Lastly, we have Grant Chappell. This guy didn’t just say he believed in me or how incredible my work was. He has purchased every poster, sticker and book I’ve put out, and he believed in me so much he became an investor for The Doubt Bug. Talk about “helped you get to where you are” The Doubt Bug would have never been printed, published, and this interview wouldn’t exist if Grant didn’t believe in me.

So to these guys, my brothers, also known as “The Vault,” I am truly grateful.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

My experience growing up with two competitive older brothers definitely contributed to building my resiliency. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to prove the naysayers wrong. We competed about everything from who would get the best grades in school and who had the best drawing skills — to who could run the fastest. My resiliency to naysayers, no question, comes from my experience growing up competing with my older brothers Cliff and David and proving them wrong.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

5 strategies I believe people can use to harness a sense of tenacity when proving naysayers wrong:

  1. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim. Don’t feel bad that naysayers don’t believe in you; channel that negative energy into fuel to prove them wrong.
  2. Every challenge sets a precedent. If you accept defeat today, you may find yourself accepting defeat tomorrow. Keep that in mind when you feel like giving up.
  3. Combat the negativity with positivity. When the naysayers give you ten reasons why you can’t do something, go out and find 20 reasons why you CAN do it.
  4. Make sure your motivation for accomplishing your goal is inherent. If your goal exists just because you want to prove the naysayers wrong, that may not be enough to get you through the challenge. Your goal has to be something you genuinely want to accomplish for yourself.
  5. Keep your eyes on the prize, respectfully heed warnings, but ultimately tune out the noise and distractions and focus on how awesome it will feel when you have accomplished what you set out to accomplish.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

You can either be the victor or the victim. I refuse to be the victim, let alone let anyone limit or discourage me from what I believe I can achieve.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The movement that I would like to inspire, that I believe would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, would be changing how people see service; changing the way people view being selfless; and above all instilling kindness for one another. I want to inspire people to be themselves by overcoming themselves.

I think being detached, “it’s their problem, not mine,” is so deeply embedded in our culture today. I want to inspire a movement where everyone discovers how beneficial it is to give back — a movement where people aren’t afraid to be kind to themselves and to others.

A great example is SocialWorks in Chicago and the dedication of its leadership — Justin Cunningham and Essence Smith. When Chance the Rapper and his nonprofit SocialWorks donated one million dollars to Chicago Public Schools, their continued and consistent work empowered youth. He not only inspired the nation to invest in education and ultimately the youth, but he inspired all of us here in Chicago to be great artists and use our talents to help others. That opened up a lot of people’s eyes (including mine) to the wonders of service and giving back. So I can’t even really say I want to “start” this movement; rather, this is a movement that I aim to continue. My goal is to continue the movement of people being kind to themselves and others.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Yes! They can follow me at @boose._

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!


Author-Illustrator Gregory Buissereth: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Steven Cox of TakeLessons: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

Believing Your Own Hype — There is a delicate dance an entrepreneur must do. In the words of Steve Jobs, you have to ‘suspend belief’ and convince yourself, investors, and customers that you’ve built something bigger, better, and bolder than the competition. This sort of light bravado is helpful in powering through and getting your first proof points. However, we let that sense of invincibility spill into our decision making. It gave us unwarranted confidence in our ability to ‘get things right the first time’ and we failed to listen deeply to customers and data. Because of that, we made a lot of wrong decisions. My advice is to keep the BS out of your decision-making. Look truthfully at what the data is telling you and make decisions based on it. You’re generally not smarter than data.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steven Cox.

Steven Cox is the Founder and CEO of TakeLessons.com, a venture-backed education technology company. TakeLessons operates a platform that enables instructors to organize and offer their services for sale, and consumers to purchase and take lessons and classes anytime and anywhere — both online and in person. Over 25 million people a year use TakeLessons.

Steven has been building Internet startups since 1998. The companies he has been a part of have raised a total of over $150 million in funding and include one IPO and an acquisition. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors for three tech startups and is invested in several technology and real estate businesses.

Steven graduated with honors from Eastern Kentucky University with degrees in Investment Finance and Human Communication.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s a pleasure being with you today!

My journey started when I was just a kid in Dayton, Ohio. I grew up in a very musically oriented family. My grandparents cut gospel records, as did my parents. So playing music and singing were part of my life from the time I was very young.

I played in bands and DJ’ed my way through college. After school, I quit a good-paying job with Eli Lilly and moved out west to join a new technology startup during the first wave of internet companies.

We were at the right place at the right time, and that company went from eight original employees to over 800 people in just three years. We went public and were one of the best performing companies of the year.

However, we learned that what goes up quickly can come down just as fast. Luckily, I was able to sell a few shares off before the first internet crash.

After a successful exit, I decided to take a bit of time off and joined an alternative rock band for fun. I was goofing off and enjoying the music experience, but my drummer, Enrique, was playing music full-time to make a living. One day, he came to me and said that he had to quit the band because he couldn’t make ends meet. That really bummed me out, because Enrique was a fabulous person and an incredible artist. He had studied his entire life, received multiple degrees, and was trying to do something that he loved. But it was difficult for him to earn a living, so he had decided to quit and give up on his dream.

I asked him if he was teaching. He told me that he was trying to get clients by hanging up his poster on a telephone pole. You know, the poster with all the little tabs and phone numbers at the bottom? Yep, that was Enrique. But he was having a hard time finding clients.

I asked him why he didn’t use the internet to find students, and he told me that he just didn’t know how to go about it. So I set off to help him try to gain more students for his teaching business.

Enrique and I set up a little office in a spare bedroom in San Diego, and we went to work building TakeLessons. We discovered there were hundreds of thousands of artists, teachers, and experts who wanted to share their passion and knowledge, but that most of them didn’t have the right outlets to earn a living doing it. On the consumer side, it was very difficult for parents and students to find a trusted instructor, read reviews, and to pay and book services over the internet. Our goal was to make it easy for learners and teachers to connect and transact online.

I’m happy to report that Enrique never quit being an artist, and still teaches on the platform today. It feels great to know we’ve helped so many millions of people do what they’re passionate about.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I self-funded the business for several years out of the gate. I went more than three years without a paycheck, and my original team started off making about five hundred bucks a month.

It was hard times for several years as we worked through the business model, talked to customers, and tried to build technology that made people’s lives better.

I wish I could say that we were an overnight success, but far from it. We had months where we weren’t sure that we were going to make it. We just kept our heads down, kept working, kept putting one foot in front of the other, and kept believing we could build a company that made a difference. I’m glad we never quit. 🙂

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I grew up really poor; as in, well below the poverty line. My dad was a pastor and mom worked beside him as a traveling minister. Needless to say, that didn’t quite pay the bills. I remember watching my parents struggle year after year, and decided that I didn’t want to live that way. I didn’t want my future family to have to struggle. So I started looking for ways that I could Make a Better Living. Being a sort of rebellious kid, entrepreneurship seemed to fit me well. And after I got the bug, I never looked back. Giving up would have been much more painful than the challenge of pushing forward. So I just kept going.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

When we first started the company, every dime that went into it was my own money. This was novel for a technology company. We didn’t have a big bank account or venture capital. That meant we learned how important it was to keep tabs on expenses and to focus on generating revenue. We also had the unfounded belief that we could build a great company that made a difference to millions of people. I said many times that the only thing that got us through was our refusal to give up. Frankly, there were many times the company could have died. We just decided not to. That level of perseverance is the only reason we are still here today.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our value system is one of the things that makes us stand out, and helps us make a difference in people’s lives. Very early on, we started talking about what sort of company we wanted to have and the values we wanted to portray. Over time those values have kept us focused, and prevented us from veering off too much.

For instance, one of our values is: “Build things you’re proud of.” This came from a time very early on when we were struggling for cash, and had found a way to insert Google ads into our search results. People would click on them unknowingly, and Google would pay us. We did this for a couple of days and then decided that even though we were making money, it felt like we were duping people. My co-founder, Chuck Smith, said he wasn’t proud of it. Right then and there, we dropped the ads and decided we didn’t want to run a business that kept us up at night.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Remember that your business is not you, and you are not your business. Keep it in perspective. A thriving business doesn’t matter if you’re bankrupting your family. If you have a ton of money but you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it, what does it really matter? Just keep things in perspective and allocate your time accordingly.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Early in my TakeLessons days, I was fortunate enough to be asked to join an unpaid mastermind group. That group consisted of John Assaraf (best selling author), Darren Hardy (founder Success Magazine), Eric Berman (CEO, Brandetize), and Mike Koenigs (serial entrepreneur). Throughout the years, this group has kept me grounded and helped me in both my personal and professional life. I highly recommend all entrepreneurs find a group where they can be real, speak about the bad as much as the good, and find trust and help along the way.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We believe that education is the great equalizer, and the more we can assist by helping others gain skills and knowledge, the better place this world will become.

Each year, over 25 million people use TakeLessons. It’s fulfilling to see educators — who are typically underpaid and underappreciated in our society — use TakeLessons to inspire others, teach their craft, and make a better living doing what they love.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Our company, TakeLessons.com helps people upskill themselves with online learning. We started in a spare bedroom, scaled to raise over $20m in venture funding, and now serve over 25 million people each year.

Here are three struggles I faced that new entrepreneurs might also encounter as they look to build their business.

1. Going Too Wide

When we first started off, we developed a platform that allowed anyone to find a teacher across hundreds of subjects. We miscalculated how time-consuming and costly it was to go so wide. In fact, it almost put us out of business. About a year into it, we trimmed down and just focused on helping people learn music, and we got really good at it. This allowed us to get the product right for a group of people, and produce enough income to eventually add more subjects to our roster. If we hadn’t gone narrow, we would’ve gone out of business.

2. Believing Your Own Hype

There is a delicate dance an entrepreneur must do. In the words of Steve Jobs, you have to ‘suspend belief’ and convince yourself, investors, and customers that you’ve built something bigger, better, and bolder than the competition. This sort of light bravado is helpful in powering through and getting your first proof points. However, we let that sense of invincibility spill into our decision making. It gave us unwarranted confidence in our ability to ‘get things right the first time’ and we failed to listen deeply to customers and data. Because of that, we made a lot of wrong decisions. My advice is to keep the BS out of your decision-making. Look truthfully at what the data is telling you and make decisions based on it. You’re generally not smarter than data.

3. Some People Won’t Scale — And That’s Alright

Early on, I had a dream that I would find a group of like-minded people and ride the growth wave the whole way. One thing I wish I understood before I started TakeLessons is that most people you start building with will not be the company that you keep building with. There are people who do better when there is just a small group of five people in a loft, figuring out how to land that first customer. There are other people who do better when a process and infrastructure is in place. As a founder, your job is to know when someone isn’t going to scale, and be willing to have those conversations early and often. It will save you a lot of time and you’ll still probably be able to stay friends.

4. You Won’t Get It Right Your First Time

There’s a high probability that your first product release won’t meet the expectations of you or your customer. That’s why it’s really important to use a system like agile development, which allows you to very quickly iterate on your product, make changes, and continually improve your software when you get new information or data from the customer.

5. Don’t Skimp On Resources

A mistake I made early was trying to get by on a minimal amount of capital. Instead, I wish I’d raised more money sooner. It would have given me more opportunities to figure things out earlier. We call this ‘shots on goal,” meaning that you have a greater opportunity to try more things, fail faster, and build a product that hits the mark with your customers in an accelerated time frame. Another thing I realized is that we only have a few times in our life that we can start a company. So, the quicker you can find out if it’s going to work, the better. And the way you do that is to have enough smart people around you and enough capital to give your project a fighting chance.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As a leader, I’m considering how I can make the biggest impact past my company. I’ve been reading on issues such as social inequality, the role of capitalism, and how our legacy as a nation should be tied to helping those who cannot help themselves. There are many problems to solve — from conservationism to polarization, and I believe I’m just getting started on being able to make an impact.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow Steven:

Instagram at @mstevencox

LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevencox/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Steven Cox of TakeLessons: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jessica Sweeney of SunGlow Counseling: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness

Invest time in you: You are deserving of at least the same time and energy you put into others and the responsibilities that you carry. Try giving yourself back at least a fraction, a quarter or a third of that time, and you will see what wonders it can do for your mental health.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Sweeney.

Jessica Sweeney is a Master’s-level, licensed mental health counselor (MA, LMHC, NCC) who specializes in trauma informed therapy. Sweeney works with adolescents, families, and individuals as well as those who identify as LGBTQIA and gender non-conforming. She owns her own private practice, Sunglow Counseling (www.sunglowcounseling.com) located in Stuart, FL and is in the process of completing her certification in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Absolutely, and thank you for taking the time to speak with me. While attending University of Florida, I worked at a career counseling center as an undergrad and all my supervisors were counselors. During this time, my family suffered a sudden and tragic loss and I sought out my own therapy, receiving much-needed support from the team at work. Very simply, the therapist I worked with changed my life and I made the decision that I too wanted to help others in that same capacity.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Early in my career, it was a goal of mine to specialize in trauma informed care and after learning more about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), I felt this was the right path for me both personally and professionally. I can say, hands down, that continuing to move forward with my training in this area has been one of the most incredible experiences in my career thus far. I recall one client that I was working with, and in the middle of a session, they were able to break ground on a goal that they had been struggling to achieve. It was a moment and an experience that I will never forget, and I remember walking away feeling so empowered and inspired by what the client was able to achieve that day. As therapists, we sometimes see the fruit of our client’s labor but often it comes out in less tangible, visible ways. Nevertheless, in general, when clients improve or meet their goals, it is usually time to discontinue therapy and allow them to move on. However, in this moment with this client, I felt the real, tangible impact of just how powerful EMDR can be and I was flooded with gratitude that I was able to be a participant in their healing.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

For those who know me, they know that I have an incredibly expressive face. It has been both an asset and a challenge for me to learn how to work with that, both in and out of sessions with my clients. I was in session one day and I remember seeing a pesky little bug in the corner of my office. It took every ounce of effort that I had to avoid focusing on the bug, but to no avail. After some time, the client caught me and finally asked, “Are you even listening to me?” I replied with a simple, but honest, “Not as much as I’d like. There is a bug drawing my attention away. Can you help me get it out of the room?” With the client’s help, we were able to re-locate the bug outside, and promptly resumed session. I can look back on it now and laugh, but it remains a powerful lesson learned about myself — that despite what I may try to convey to others, my true feelings will ultimately show through, and it’s ok to be a little human now and then, even in front of clients.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My first supervisor, Amy Grabowski was, and still is, one of the most influential mentors that I had the opportunity to work with. She carried herself with such knowing compassion and I remember thinking to myself, “I want to be just like her when I grow up.” She also inspired me to further my career by starting my own practice, showing me that it was possible. I remember a supervision session I did with her years ago when she began working with me on guided meditations. I remember feeling so safe and encouraged by her openness to teach me, much like I would want to make my own clients feel when I was working with them. It was a high-impact moment for me, and I think of her often when I am working with clients on grounding or meditation.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Find a strong supervisor or group of colleagues to use for ongoing supervision and stay accountable to yourself to remain engaged in that process. This is especially important for anyone in private practice, which can be extremely isolating and difficult when it comes to gaining additional insight and support as a company of one. Our ability to do our work relies heavily on our ability to take care of ourselves too. Many of us forget that and hold ourselves to impossible standards. It is also important to remember that it is not just ok, but essential, to ask for help when we need it. This is something most of us find difficult to do, but is critically important to avoid undue stress, fatigue, and exhaustion.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

The most important thing anyone in a leadership position can do to foster a positive work culture, is to maintain an open dialogue with your employees and listen to their ideas and concerns. After all, they are the front-line and are in the best position to identify issues and provide meaningful solutions that serve the greater good. Meanwhile, it is also important to develop a workplace environment that encourages staff to support one another and build each other up rather than tear one another down. But these practices are only effective if they start at the top. Leaders must practice the same policies they ask of their employees. This is probably the single-most effective way to keep your team motivated and achieve success. Team work REALLY makes the dream work!

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

Great question here. In much the same way we employ good habits that enhance our physical health, we must also take care of our mental health, which requires just as much of our time, energy, and attention as well. Five steps anyone can take to optimize their mental wellness would be to learn the power of the breath, learning to say no, developing a support system, investing time in yourself, and remembering that all feelings are temporary.

Power of the breath: When we are caught up in a feeling, it is very easy to get lost in the moment and completely detach from what our body is doing. Something as simple as closing your eyes and just noticing or feeling your breath can be very healing.

Learning to say no: This can be so empowering! When we learn how to say no to things, we make room to say yes to that much more. The important part to this step is learning how to say no, but also reflecting on what we would say yes to if we had more time, energy, etc. As someone who likes to please others or make others happy, I got into a pattern of saying yes to everything and everyone, stretching myself so thin that I saw everything I said yes to as nothing but another arduous chore. Learning how to say no left more room for me to make deliberate decisions about where I wanted to dedicate my time, which allowed me the opportunity to enjoy the experience that much more!

Develop a support system: We all seek out people or places that help us feel safe and comfortable being ourselves. It is about quality over quantity here, and a willingness to maybe be a little vulnerable so they can be there for you. It can start small, and the support can build from there.

Invest time in you: You are deserving of at least the same time and energy you put into others and the responsibilities that you carry. Try giving yourself back at least a fraction, a quarter or a third of that time, and you will see what wonders it can do for your mental health.

Feelings are temporary: Feelings come and go like waves on the ocean. Sometimes they are big and over-powering, other times they may be small and manageable. They can be rough or smooth. Either way, like the ocean, our feelings are always changing and evolving. Learning to remind ourselves that our feelings will change by simply telling ourselves, “this feeling is temporary, I won’t feel this way forever,” can be a game changer. Just because you may be experiencing feelings that are uncomfortable, does not mean it is your ‘forever’.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

For someone preparing to enter retirement, I recommend taking the time to reflect and rediscover yourself. Transitioning out of a lifetime centered around work and starting a chapter that is focused on something else entirely can be both extremely exciting and enormously jarring at the same time. We prepare and work towards our retirement for years, and yet, once the moment comes, it is as if we do not know what to do with ourselves. In this case, bring it back to the basics, rediscover the things you love and go from there. For example, this could be a valuable time to start something new, like finally taking up yoga and joining that class you have been wanting to participate in. Or give in to your spirit of wanderlust and make an actual plan to travel with a set list of where you want to go and when. This is the time is for you to enjoy the fruits of your labor and doing that “thing” that you’ve always been yearning to do, but perhaps never felt you had enough time or opportunity to be able to do it. This could be a “bite-sized” avenue to help cultivate more time for you and the things you enjoy. But it is important to begin mentally planning for retirement before it actually happens whether that means starting to scale back on your career, adjusting your schedule to make more time for hobbies, or identifying new projects, goals or plans for yourself. We have seen so many success stories among those who embrace retirement and make the transition one step at a time by focusing on those things that bring you true happiness. The pieces will come together and in time, you will adjust to this new and exciting stage of your life.

How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Absolutely. Young people often find themselves feeling disregarded as if their opinions do not count or their views or beliefs are not justified. It can be extremely frustrating, particularly for a younger person who may find themselves in an environment where they are not encouraged to share their point of view or perspective. They also have not yet developed their communications skills fully to be able to articulate what they mean. First and foremost, they need to understand that their feelings are valid and that it is ok to have them. The key is to find a friend or family member you feel comfortable talking to and letting them be there for you. The ‘right person’ is not only someone who they will be able to relate to, but also the person who takes the time to show true understanding and compassion. Think about what you value in others — is it feeling understood, is it their humor, or perhaps how reliable they are and how that shows through in their actions. Whatever is meaningful and stands out to you, think of what you need from that other person to help you feel that they are worthy of your trust. People always teach us how to treat them, it is simply a matter of whether we listen and are aware of the signals they put forth and if we follow our own intuition (or not). Once you have found someone who you feel comfortable with, perhaps begin by sharing something that is mild to moderately vulnerable and see how they respond. If you feel a sense of genuineness, care, honesty, and compassion, then you know you have found the right person.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Brene Brown’s “The Gift of Imperfections” is a book that I would recommend to anyone. Brown is a leading researcher of shame and vulnerability and its impacts. In her book, she guides the reader along the journey to what she describes as ‘whole heart’ living based on a set of guide posts designed to help us find and realize our true strength of character by finding courage in accepting our imperfections. This book struck a personal chord with me on how guilt and shame translate differently across genders. Brown’s insights not only gave me more awareness of my own feelings, but also helped me identify and practice compassion towards others, especially with some of the men in my life that I’m close to, family members and partners. When I see how they may be feeling or experiencing shame, I have a better understanding to be able to practice empathy. She is such an amazing storyteller and as I read the book, I felt as though she was speaking directly to me, telling my story. The way she spoke on vulnerability and shame came from such an understanding and accepting place.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My movement would be It’s ok to not be ok. So many of us feel a sense of defeat or failure when we are not happy or content. It can also feel extremely uncomfortable and unsettling. But we need to understand that it is normal for our mental health to fluctuate and change over time, and for us to experience different feelings — some comfortable, some uncomfortable. We are meant to change and adapt as we age and grow, and we need to experience different feelings in our lives to be able to do that. Growing means experiencing some discomfort, and discomfort means growing!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

That is an easy one — “Be here now.” I am all about being present and in the moment. I remember attending a conference, and during a breakout session, the group was focused on counselor self-care and wellness. During that experience, this affirmation stood out and really resonated with me in the moment. I have carried it with me ever since and have incorporated little reminders of it in my office so that I am able to reflect on it daily, especially more recently. With the COVID pandemic, my family and I have become more creative about how we stay connected and involved in one another’s lives, specifically following the birth of my sweet baby girl in April of this year. We’ve taken to video chatting more regularly than we ever probably would have otherwise, and with life changing so quickly for all of us from one moment to the next, it serves as a reminder of how important it is to “be here now” for myself as well as for the ones I love. As much devastation as COVID has caused worldwide, I see clearly just how deliberate it has made me, as well as my loved ones, in how we make the effort to “be here now” for each other, and for that I am enormously grateful.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Readers can find me on Facebook @sunglowcounseling, with a blog and Instagram page coming soon so stay tuned!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Jessica Sweeney of SunGlow Counseling: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Eric Yaverbaum of Ericho Communications: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

You’re going to have good days and bad days. So you can’t ride the highs and lows, or the rollercoaster as I like to say. Don’t place too much value on your big wins or big losses; instead appreciate your moments of victory and learn from your mistakes and losses, while knowing those moments will pass. Every situation you encounter as an entrepreneur has the opportunity to teach and enrich you, so keep yourself grounded and be open to new things.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Yaverbaum.

Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of Ericho Communications, is a communications, media, and public relations expert with over 35-years in the industry, having co-founded Jericho Communications and served as President from 1985 until its successful merger in 2006 with LIME Public Relations & Promotions. Eric has worked with a wide-range of top-of-their-industry clients including Sony, IKEA, Progressive Insurance, Domino’s, Beachbody, H&M, and fitness guru Jack LaLanne. Eric is also a bestselling author who literally wrote the book on public relations — the industry-standard bestseller PR for Dummies — as well as six other titles including Leadership Secrets of the World’s Most Successful CEOs (over a million copies sold). His expert commentary has been featured on Forbes, The Washington Post, The New York Times, HuffPost, CNBC, Fox Business, and PR Week, among others.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

To be completely candid, I was 19 years old, a sophomore in college, and I needed a job that actually paid me. When I first enrolled at American University, I majored in Accounting — I didn’t even know what marketing, let alone PR was. However, shortly after turning 19, I met a friend of a friend and an aspiring author at the time, Matthew Lesko — who gave me the “break” of a lifetime by asking me to promote his first book. Matthew was fully aware that I had no experience or any idea what to do as it pertained to conventional practices. For the first time in my career, an adult embraced what became the hallmark of my career — “out of the box thinking.” Truth be told, I had no idea about any box at all! I developed my own unique strategy and PR plan for the book, flying by the seat of my gut instincts and literally tossing my textbooks aside.

There was one class that really made a deeper impression and basically solidified my career path though. A professor who fascinated me gave an assignment to develop a strategic marketing document for real-world applications. Unlike most of my classmates, I didn’t choose a Sony or General Mills sort of company; since I was already in the middle of implementing my own strategy in the real world, I simply wrote a document based on what I was already doing for Matthew’s book.

My professor, whom I respected greatly, didn’t think so highly of my not-so-theoretical strategy, giving me a C and saying that what I wrote wasn’t realistic. It both baffled and thrilled me in equal ways as the practices I outlined had in actuality worked. The end result was that what was essentially a cut-and-paste of a federal document written by my now life-long friend took off and became his first New York Times Bestseller. Many years later, we ran into each other at the Washington Post retirement dinner for Katharine Graham. I couldn’t wait to tell her! She already knew and felt the very same. Her enthusiastic congratulations were such a great compliment to me both personally and professionally. And never forgotten.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

One of my biggest challenges was the learning curve I faced when I first gave corporate America (or Canada as it were) a spin. I moved to Toronto at 21 to be the head of the PR department for a large technology company. It was my first time in any sort of managerial role, my first time having people reporting to me, and the first time I really had to earn respect in a professional environment. I had colleagues some thirty years my senior who did not take kindly to my youthful energy and “hot shot” attitude. In retrospect, I would have not liked it one bit myself! I had to learn that respect is something that must be earned, not simply given with a title. For the first time in my life, I had perspective and realized earning respect meant working hard, being humble, and always learning along the way. To this day, I still have so much more to learn, but this difference is I’m always aware of and excited by that fact — the first 50 years, when you’re still figuring that out, are the hardest!

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Honestly, I was often driven by people telling me, “that’s not possible,” or that I couldn’t do something because it hadn’t been done before. A lack of precedent was something I gravitated towards — I feel like I’ve spent my life racing into the eye of the hurricane, figuring out what and how to do what I do best in the heat of the moment. I like the heat. It suits me well. In my youth, I pushed hard to break barriers and while many observed me as being on the cutting edge, I truthfully just didn’t realize that there was an “edge.” Though I like to think that I’m used to challenges and living outside of my comfort zone, like hundreds of thousands of other people, the pandemic took a personal toll on me, confining me to bed and lingering for 90 days. I did find that in the midst of all of these crazy times, my old habits have come in very handy! I have sought out positivity and always kept moving forward. If your lungs are ever compromised, they will forever remind you how much of a blessing it is to simply breathe, how audacious it is to find a silver lining even when absolutely nothing is guaranteed. Not that it ever was — that age old illusion of control is just that: an illusion. My own personal experience even inspired me to write my eighth book, The Audacity of Silver Linings, due to be released in January 2022. While I’m waist deep in writing the book I said I would never write, I’m also learning something about why they say, “never say never!”

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

I’ve had a few “lives,” to say the very least, in my industry and in life. We all do. In the 40 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve been wealthy, and I’ve been flat broke. Today, business is going extremely well, and I truly feel that Ericho is the culmination of all the tough lessons I’ve had to learn — and am still learning — through the decades. I believe resilience is the key to running a successful business under any circumstances but especially in the context of 2020. My COVID diagnosis showed me just how effective my team is and how much I can rely on them to keep the engine moving even while I’m forced to stand still. Thanks to them (and my friends, family, and doctors) I never lost one iota of hope in the notion that I would be just fine. This learned optimism, which I’ve been practicing since I was 12, might be something akin to a secret weapon in difficult times. But the truth is, it’s not a secret and absolutely anyone can hone it; all it takes is an open mind and a ton of practice. It certainly wasn’t something that came naturally to me. The hardest part about thinking this way for just about anyone who thinks they can’t is to simply start. It’s really that simple. Crossing the threshold is the hardest part. Practicing it is a lifelong adventure. At least it has been for me. So I’m going to keep practicing!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In 1985, I had my first real brush with what I thought was “fame.” I started a widely-covered and influential citizen’s action organization — which my partner and I called “Strike Back” — during the Major League Baseball threatened strike of that year. We went viral before there was such a term! The commissioner of Major League Baseball even cited Strike Back as one of the three reasons that the strike ended so quickly. I did Nightline and Good Morning America. We were covered by the New York Times and papers from coast to coast. We ended up on the cover of USA Today the day the strike ended — a huge feat for me at the time and one for which I was certain I’d be recognized and applauded. But no one noticed. I spent the entire day in anticipation waiting to be recognized. Finally, after last call at the bar that night, a random stranger on the street looked at me as I waited for a cab and said, “Hey, I saw you on the cover of USA Today!” That day taught me humility, and I learned to manage my own expectations from then on. I realized that the relative “fame” my career provides doesn’t change who I am fundamentally, not in the least bit. Basically and as I counsel my own clients, I don’t get too wrapped up in believing my own press. I am who I am. Accomplishments, awards, magazine covers, they’re wonderful to remind me of all the hard work and be proud of in retrospect, but that night I learned my sense of value and worth has absolutely nothing to do with recognition.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think what makes Ericho unique is the fact that we really try to have our values and practices carry through the entire organization. The work we do for our clients mirrors the work we do for ourselves (Google me and you’ll see what I mean), and that makes a big difference. We practice what we preach, and the level of personal commitment, focus, and care that our team puts in really makes the difference to our clients. I know what I don’t know which is plenty. My people are all smarter than me. You know how lucky it is to be the dumbest one in the room? That’s the room you should want to be in. That’s a great place to learn. And that in a sentence defines and describes the company I run today. We’re not successful because of me. We’re successful because of everyone else.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

One mantra that has really helped me make adjustments as I’ve grown up with the hectic nature of this industry is, “if you love what you do, it’ll never feel like work.” And I really love what I do, not only because I enjoy storytelling, but because I believe in the work that I’m doing. I’d tell others in the industry to be motivated by working on projects and with people you truly believe in. That personal connection makes it easy to devote my time to it and not feel drained. We get to make a difference and we get paid for that! That’s not working to me.

The other side of that though is to find some balance in your life. I know far too many people who search for this their entire professional lives. Work hard for sure. Do it with integrity and consistently and you’ll be successful regardless. And if you’re reading these words thinking that’s not working for me, there’s plenty of time left. But you have to have more than just work. Don’t miss a piano recital. Don’t miss one little league baseball game. Don’t forget your friends or your family ever. Make your hobbies as important as your career. Balance is uniquely yours. I found mine a long time ago. Like everything, that took some work and still takes practice!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have had so many mentors. So many influential people in my life. When you sit at what I call the “winners table” the conversation is different there. Try to get a seat at that table. You don’t need to ask for permission.

The very first person (besides my parents) that I really credit for influencing my professional philosophy is Henry Kissinger. My Uncle Abe (also a huge influence on me) introduced us in my youth, and of all the wise things he said, this phrase stuck with me the most: “Does anybody have any questions for the answers I’m already giving?” That was the match that lit the fire for me. I spent four decades teaching exactly that. My associates have come to know this as “messaging.”

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think our client roster is indicative of what matters to us as an agency — work that tries to help the world become a better place. When I started Ericho, it was important to me that we only work with clients that we really believe in and were doing good in the world, and we’ve firmly stuck to that. We have clients using technology to help patients with dementia and traumatic brain injuries, bridging gaps for underserved communities, making strides in health and fitness, and even making investing more accessible for everyone. We have a diversified portfolio of clients, each of which we’ve consciously selected to work with. And when I say “we,” I mean my entire agency. Our clients all have one thing strikingly in common, they make the world a better place. Getting to facilitate the work of our clients and help carry their messages is why I love what I do. We get to help them, help the world.

After my personal battle with COVID-19 and a very uniquely challenging year (like so many others have and are still facing), I’m excited to get to use my forty years of experience to help spread a message of positivity, optimism, and perseverance in the face of adversity. My upcoming book, The Audacity of Silver Linings, will explore exactly how I’ve incorporated these necessary lessons in learned optimism into my life to be able to continue to grow and move forward (but definitely don’t wait on the book to start practicing it yourself).

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You can’t ignore finances. I was the guy who never kept a checkbook or a handle on my finances. After years of struggling with yo-yo budgeting, I finally realized how important it is to understand the ins-and-outs of cash flow and what healthy margins mean (what they mean is a lot if security is something you like in life).
  2. You’re going to work long days. So make sure you’re doing what you love because long hours are longer if you don’t like the work. You have to believe in what you’re doing.
  3. You’re going to have good days and bad days. So you can’t ride the highs and lows, or the rollercoaster as I like to say. Don’t place too much value on your big wins or big losses; instead appreciate your moments of victory and learn from your mistakes and losses, while knowing those moments will pass. Every situation you encounter as an entrepreneur has the opportunity to teach and enrich you, so keep yourself grounded and be open to new things.
  4. Respect is earned. No amount of money, status, or influence will replace respect earned genuinely through a strong work ethic and developing meaningful connections. Be open to learning from any and everyone and give people the respect you would want for yourself.
  5. You need balance in life. It’s about loving those closest to you, loving yourself, and loving what you do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wish I could teach everyone that the goal in life is to have inner peace. Being happy with yourself will empower you to seek and cultivate the good in others. While having some money in the bank is certainly easier than not, it won’t buy you love, happiness, or good health. Don’t get too old before you realize what I just said. Life will teach you that lesson one way or another. What matters most is just not for sale. The goal is inner peace. Now you know. Work on that single piece of advice and my entire career will have been more worthwhile than I could have ever hoped. And I’m a hopeful guy.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me and my agency on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and on my website.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Eric Yaverbaum of Ericho Communications: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Peter Leighton of RE Royalties: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A COO

Choose your co-founders with care. This is my third start-up. The first was a great success for everyone and I had 4 great partners. We were pretty well aligned from the start and that was key to our success and key to the great outcome for our shareholders. The second start-up I got involved with was a situation where I came in after the original founder ran into difficulties. In retrospect, I can say that I did not do my homework on the working style and values of the founders.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Leighton.

Peter is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of RE Royalties Ltd., a publicly traded company that provides innovative financing solutions for the renewable energy industry. Peter has been involved in the renewable energy industry for over 25 years and has delivered over $750 million worth of wind energy projects from the embryonic stage of development through to the ready to build stage. He was a winner of Canada’s 2020 Clean 50 award for Advancing Sustainability and Clean Capitalism and is a past Director of the Clean Energy Association of British Columbia.

Peter holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Queen’s University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of British Columbia.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I would like to answer that question in two parts. Firstly, I was drawn to the renewable energy space in the early 1990’s when I moved to beautiful British Columbia to pursue my MBA and realized that the application of business skills was a key mechanism to reducing and eliminating environmental impacts. This issue is front and center for us all as we attempt to mitigate the impacts of climate change and I am passionate about promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency as being part of the solution.

Secondly, throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have had the ability to work in a variety of corporate environments, ranging from very large multi-nationals to very small start-ups. I love our current small team environment where it truly is “one for all, and all for one”!

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Starting a new business is hard. There are a lot of people who have great ideas but have difficulty getting their business ideas off the ground. My co-founder and I started with what we felt was a great idea: applying a proven business model called royalty financing to a new business sector, the renewable energy industry. In the early days the difficulty was convincing both investors and clients that we could make our idea into a successful reality. The expression “chicken and egg” was one we discussed a lot as we were looking for both financial investors and clients with exciting renewable energy projects!

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Bernard Tan, my co-founder and I come from very different backgrounds, he has experience utilizing royalty financing to enable projects that he worked on to get built and I have the experience of trying to find financing to build and develop renewable energy projects. We share a vision of leaving the world a better place for our children and we both have a strong desire to do something to try and solve climate change. More importantly we are both relatively pragmatic, and we knew that we could offer a product that would deliver growth and yield to investors while allowing investors to participate in helping solve climate change, and we also knew that we had a product that would allow our clients to build more renewable energy projects. Knowing that you have a truly win — win solution makes difficulties easier to overcome.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We are entering our fifth year in business and I would say that so far we are on track. We have raised over $24 million to date and have invested that money into a portfolio of 84 royalties on solar, wind and small hydro projects operating across Canada, the US and Europe. Combined, these projects generate approximately 800,00 MWh per year of clean energy, enough to power approximately 117,240 homes and we remove the equivalent of 360,000 tonnes of Green House Gases from the atmosphere on an annual basis.

In 2018 we took the company public on the TSX Venture Exchange and we started paying our shareholders a dividend at the same time. We are currently offering our inaugural Green Bonds to the public market with a five-year term yielding 6% per year. We are really excited about this offering; it is available to retail investors and can be held in registered accounts. We believe that this democratizes the ability for retail investors to participate in growing the green economy

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made in the early days occurred about two weeks prior to closing our first royalty financing transaction. We were just in the midst of getting through all of the last minute legal, accounting and approval issues when Mother Nature decided Bernard and his wife’s second child should arrive two weeks early. My mistake was in deciding to bike into work on a 0-degree day winter day — call it true Operator error! I hit some black ice, had a spectacular wipeout and spent the next month immobile. Despite those challenges, we closed the deal!

We learned a few lessons:

  1. If we could close a transaction with two hands tied behind our back, we could do anything;
  2. We needed to expand our team to diversify risk;
  3. Support of your family is mission critical to success; and
  4. I now have a temperature cutoff, where if it is below two degrees Celsius, my wife locks my bike in the garage and won’t let me have the keys!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think there are two things that really make us stand out. The first is that we are very quick to transact. Our fastest wire to wire transaction was a loan and royalty structure for a solar developer in Texas. We started discussing a letter of intent on December 1 and we had the loan proceeds in our client’s bank account by December 14! Secondly, our entire team has experience developing projects and we understand the pain and roadblocks our clients face. Our royalty financing product is designed to help our clients grow their business and maintain control of their assets. It is also designed to match the production of their energy so when our client does well, we do well, and when they are felling a financial pinch due to a cloudy or calm month, we share their pain.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The renewable energy industry is tough because electricity is a commodity, but it doesn’t trade like a global commodity. Electricity trades on a very regional basis with approximately 12 regional markets in Canada and approximately 150 regional markets in the US. For this reason, I always recommend to colleagues that they branch out across several markets in order to diversify and maximize their opportunity to succeed while minimizing the risk that they get frustrated by local regional politics or local regulatory decision making.

I also recommend that colleagues make work-life balance a priority. This is an easy thing to say but it takes an incredible amount of personal discipline to make it happen. One has to have both the self-awareness to understand what is truly important for you, and the confidence and the support to make work-life balance a priority with your work colleagues. At RE Royalties we take a flexible approach in order to ensure that all of our team achieves this balance. For some it is the flexibility to ensure that they can meet childcare or parent care needs, for others it is time off to reach new educational milestones and for others it is time to pursue exercise or hobbies. We firmly believe that we get superior performance and results as a team if everyone has the support to feed their inner soul.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been very fortunate to have had a number of strong mentors throughout my career. Some of these relationships were direct supervisors and some were very senior leaders who still took time to share their wisdom and guidance. There are too many stories to tell but the one guiding principle I always turn to was my Dad. “Measure twice and cut once … but don’t hesitate … once you start cutting, have confidence in your measurement”. I cannot tell you the number of times I have applied that maxim to business decisions.

Despite all of the mentors, the one person who I am most grateful to has been my wife. Over our 20 plus years of marriage she has been the rock that has allowed me to take calculated career risks; knowing that she has my back. We have very different academic training and careers, but she is still the one person who I can turn to for guidance when I am stumped on a business problem that I can’t solve!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I would like to think that I will be leaving the world a better place then I found it but that is a difficult measure to assess at this point in my life. From a business perspective, I am passionate about renewable energy and the benefit it can bring our world by helping us transition away from burning fossil fuels. I really feel that today, with what we have done at RE Royalties, we are making an impact. Our portfolio of investments have helped reduce global Green House Gas emissions by over 360,000 tonnes per year. This is the equivalent of powering approximately 117,000 homes, or removing approximately 69,000 cars from the road, or planting approximately 5 million trees.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Choose your co-founders with care. This is my third start-up. The first was a great success for everyone and I had 4 great partners. We were pretty well aligned from the start and that was key to our success and key to the great outcome for our shareholders. The second start-up I got involved with was a situation where I came in after the original founder ran into difficulties. In retrospect, I can say that I did not do my homework on the working style and values of the founders. With RE Royalties, my co-founders and I have been completely aligned right from the start; not just with respect to our goals for the business, but more importantly with respect to our values. Starting a business involves dealing with a lot of uncertainty and a few curveballs, you absolutely need to be aligned with your partners!
  2. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? RE Royalties is innovative in that we are the first group to apply a proven business model, royalty financing, to the renewable energy sector. We had lots of clients with projects that we knew could use our product but we needed to raise the money to help our clients. Herein the classic question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg. Investors liked our idea, but wanted to see that we had the keys to the projects before they would invest, and project owners wanted to see that we had the cash in the bank before they would give us the keys to their project. Our solution was to start small and prove the business model, and then go back for more investors. We are now at 84 royalties under contract after starting with 1, so I guess that approach works.
  3. It is amazing how little tax you pay when you don’t draw a paycheck. If you don’t like to pay tax, not paying yourself is an amazing way to reduce your tax exposure. Although we started at zero, we eventually increased our salaries to minimum wage. This gave rise to one really funny story. We were interviewing our first employee, Bryce, and we told him that he could have the CEO/COO pay package. He was pretty excited until we told him that was minimum wage. To his credit, he jumped at the chance!
  4. Investors at an early stage are investing in you as much as they are investing in your idea or your company. We were fortunate to have a group of wealthy entrepreneurs who invested in us during the early days. They liked the business idea but more importantly they invested in us. They had to believe that we could deliver results, that we would look after their investment, and that we had similar core values. I feel indebted to those who have supported us but more importantly, I don’t want to disappoint them!
  5. There are a lot of barriers to getting a start-up off the ground. You expect some of them, some of them are completely unexpected. For example, my partner Bernard came up with the first name of the Company, Renewable Energy Royalties, but when he went to the BC Company Registrar to select a name, they told him that Renewable Energy Royalties was not descriptive enough. He then tried RE Royalties, and they were fine with that. Now at every investor meeting we have to explain what the RE stands for!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

My single biggest passion is active transportation. Personal physical and mental health both benefit hugely from the is approach and the environmental benefits to our shared community are also massive. We need to address urban planning and design, and infrastructure but the single biggest impediment is people’s attitudes. Getting outside and getting moving is mission critical to our health and for every challenge and obstacle there is a solution, if you look hard enough!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-leighton-b104151/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Peter Leighton of RE Royalties: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A COO was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Alyssa Hoffman of Fearlyss Entertainment: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness

Create Awareness. Identify your triggers. Notice when something starts to bother you. You do this by listening to your body. Notice when you start to get too hot or too cold, when your chest tightens or there’s a lump in your throat. Bring awareness to the sensation and identify it as what it is. Instead of identifying as the emotion itself identify as the person having the experience. When you use “I am feeling” statements instead of “I am” statements you’re able to disconnect from the label and reconnect to the witness who can take action. I always make it a point to say “I am experiencing this emotion” and I describe what that experience feels like. This gives me back my power.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Alyssa Hoffman.

Alyssa Hoffman is CEO of Fearlyss Entertainment and manager of rock and roll band Wayland. She reminds you how to fearlyssly manage every aspect of your life through shaking your ass + save your soul. Learn how to do exactly that at www.alyssahopehoffman.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

The music industry chose me. I didn’t choose my career. My parents and brothers and sisters (all 5 of them) would travel across the country to see the band Wayland perform. They would literally drive to Michigan from South Carolina. I traveled for work and never made it. The first show I ever went to, I ended up on the bus at the after party, and making plans to leave on tour.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Since starting my career the most interesting thing has been my own self development. My business has expanded my heart, my awareness, and my consciousness in ways I never would have imagined. I have created myself through creating my company.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

One of the funniest mistakes I ever made when first starting was thinking that I had to know it all. I look back and laugh so hard at myself for thinking that “I wasn’t qualified.” I remember sitting at lunch meetings with men who had 30 years more experience and millions of dollars of success that started out with less than what I had. I learned to always trust myself.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mom is single handedly the person who got me to be where I am. My mom was who took me to ballet, drove me to the bus stop that was only 100 feet away from our house so I didn’t have to stand in the cold. She took me to school, to trips, she encouraged me to follow my heart and ignore what everyone else thought. I remember calling my mom and telling her that I was going to join the band on tour and she told me I could pack her attic and leave my car with her. She has never questioned me.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

The only advice anyone ever needs is to listen. Listen to your body. Listen to your gut. When you know it’s time to rest, rest. When you know it’s time to pause. Do it. Your body has the intelligence, not the mind.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Relationships create culture. What is your relationship to your business? To your calendar? To your employees? What is your relationship with cleaning the office? What is your relationship to yourself and your demeanor?

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

Mental health is physical health and just like physical health requires maintenance, our mental health requires the same awareness.

Five steps that you can take to improve your mental wellness are:

  1. Track it. The same way you would track your health and fitness goals, you want to track your awareness. Each day I write down what my energy levels were, how I felt, and where my mood was. A few random notes on a calendar help me to find patterns and cycles within my energy. You start to notice and bring an awareness to how the environment contributes to your health and then you’re able to make necessary schedule changes.
  2. Create Awareness. Identify your triggers. Notice when something starts to bother you. You do this by listening to your body. Notice when you start to get too hot or too cold, when your chest tightens or there’s a lump in your throat. Bring awareness to the sensation and identify it as what it is. Instead of identifying as the emotion itself identify as the person having the experience. When you use “I am feeling” statements instead of “I am” statements you’re able to disconnect from the label and reconnect to the witness who can take action. I always make it a point to say “I am experiencing this emotion” and I describe what that experience feels like. This gives me back my power.
  3. Meditation. There’s a reason why everyone says to meditate, it works. Meditation is not what you think it is. You don’t have to be sitting on a mat in a yoga pose chanting and void of all thoughts. Meditation is a practice where no matter what thoughts are coming (and trust me, they come) you are able to breath and bring your awareness back to your body instead of your mind. From this place, you begin to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, AKA the part of your body that helps you emotionally regulate. This is just as important for mental health as stretching is to physical. I used to struggle to meditate for five minutes. Now, an hour goes by and I forget I have to go to work.
  4. Move Your Body. You are energy. Your thoughts are energy. Your emotions are energy. This energy can get trapped and stagnant and that’s what a lump in the throat, a knot in the stomach, and tightness in the chest stems from. Move your body and move the energy that wants to be released. When you move you are able to release that energy in a way that’s healthy. The mind-body connection is real, and the more you cultivate it, the bigger your muscles get- the physical ones AND the mental ones so you feel strong enough when you need to flex them. I used to feel so weak in my anxiety and depression and my triggers would collapse me to the ground. I am now able in a lot of situations to just flex my muscle and take a stance and they go away, because of the strength I have cultivated.
  5. Rest. The “hustle” mentality is so not for me. I don’t believe that you have to constantly be doing and producing to be who you are meant to be. In fact, the more you are able to live a balanced, grounded, life the more efficient you will be resulting in less work and definite time scheduled for rest and play. I believe that giving myself permission to take time for myself is one of the keys to my success.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

Retirement is a massive transition that there truly is no preparation for. There’s no “retirement prep” classes or support, and most people think that you’ll know exactly what to do once you get there. Just like having a baby, moving states, or any other major change of life requires great care, so does retirement. To optimize your mental health after retirement, be in a relationship with your retirement. In any relationship, communication is key. Communicate with yourself, “how was my day?” “Do I need some space to go out and see my friends?” Do you need your own hobbies outside of the relationship? Think of it like that and make “date nights” a priority, meaning, check in with yourself and your retirement to constantly check the temperature to see what’s needed to keep things hot.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Teens and preteens are already experiencing a change with increasing hormones and unique social experiences. Mental wellness at this age is crucial because the habits that you build during these years will provide you with the foundation that you will rely on as you get older. I recommend all preteens and teenagers to make their mental wellness a priority. Be honest with your parents or teachers about what you need and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Inner-stand that you are worthy beyond your performance or results. You cultivate this through being in relationship with yourself. I recommend setting an alarm just like you would for school and every night before bed ask yourself how you felt that day, what triggered you, and what you appreciated. Start looking for ways to increase what you appreciate. Can you spend more time on those things? How about the triggers? Can you start to notice patterns and problem solve? It’s all about awareness. Teenagers are smart, they just need to be given permission.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

I love to read and one of the most important books I’ve ever read is The Four Agreements. I’ve read it multiple times and keep it on my nightstand. The actual agreements are typed out in “Notes” on my phone as my background and just the other day a friend came to town and had the same background. I knew it was a sign.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Love is the greatest movement, and the only movement anyone could ever need. It takes all of us to start it within ourselves.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is “Shake Your Ass and Save Your Soul” by my grandmother. My grandmother was a woman of many catchphrases with a mouth as colorful as her cooking, and this was the quote that has always stuck with me since she passed away. My grandmother would pull over on the side of the road going 60MPH to take a picture of a flower. She would count her quarters to take all the grandchildren for $1 ice cream cones so no one was left out. She invited strangers to holidays and cooked pies for the church. Anything she could do to spread joy and kindness was her mission. I hope to continue it.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I am at www.alyssahopehoffman.com and on Instagram/Facebook @alyssahopehoffman You can watch me live on WaylandTV Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on www.youtube.com/waylandtheband

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you so much.


Alyssa Hoffman of Fearlyss Entertainment: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Anisa Telwar Kaicker of Anisa International: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

To trust my intuition: My gut is almost always spot on when it comes to assessing professional relationships and business decisions. The times I’ve found myself in difficult situations, whether mentally or professionally, is when I’ve discounted what I felt to be true about a situation, a person or an action step needed for my business. Over the years, I’ve learned to always trust my gut and never doubt myself.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anisa Telwar Kaicker.

Anisa Telwar Kaicker is the Founder and CEO of her namesake business, Anisa International. She started her business in 1992 and for almost 3 decades has pioneered the leadership, product development and culture of this globally branded business through the design and manufacturing of cosmetic brushes for makeup and skincare. She partners with the most esteemed brands in the beauty industry.

In 2003 Anisa International vertically integrated their operations by opening their own manufacturing facility, Anisa China, in Tianjin. Fast-forward to 2020 and through substantial investment in social and environmental sustainability, Anisa has expanded her operations by opening two new state-of-the-art facilities: Anisa Tianjin and Anisa Jinghai. Committed to cleaner, safer and responsible manufacturing, these facilities employ over 500 individuals dedicated to the practice of cruelty-free and ethically made products.

Now, after almost 3 decades of providing superior products to the best brands in the business, Anisa has chosen to further expand her innovation with a specialized category of cosmetic brushes focused on skincare application through ANISA Beauty.

Anisa’s personal reputation is equally notable and includes long-standing philanthropic contributions that span causes for homeless families, animals and the conservation of our environment.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It was mainly luck and chance that brought me to this career path — by meeting my mentor, who understood a niche element of the beauty industry and taught me everything he knew.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

When I first started this business journey, it was mostly made up of hard times — it is tough in the beginning when you’re starting out. My biggest challenge was to convince my new customers to trust me. After all, they didn’t know me or anything about me. I was the ‘new kid on the block’ so to speak, and a complete outsider to the cosmetic tool manufacturing industry. My first customer gave me momentum; I not only earned their trust, but their confidence to believe in me and my promise on what I could deliver. From there, my momentum was born — I learned to leverage that trust over and over again, never taking advantage of my customers by putting their needs and expectations first.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

In my eyes, I had to succeed — I truly felt like there was no other option. I was on my own and it was a make-it-or-break-it situation. I had no safety net or plan B to fall back on. That tension was my driving motivator to continue pushing forward every single day and to never give up.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are definitely going! Considering we’re in a pandemic, something to keep in mind is the effects this pandemic has had not only on our health, but also the global economic crisis it has caused and the most extreme societal polarization of our nation. It is stressful to say the least, yet throughout all of this, I find the strength to get up and show up every day for my people, my business and for the hope that we will still create a positive impact. Throughout my 20+ years of experience in this business, I feel confident and well-prepared both emotionally and mentally to weather this storm. I often remind myself, we will turn the corner and this too shall pass!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made was when a customer called me and asked if a cosmetic brush sample he had was one made by Anisa International. This was in 2001, when FaceTime and Zoom didn’t exist, so I mistakenly answered yes, based on how he described the brush without physically seeing the brush. I later found out it was not our brush he had. He got into trouble for mis-crediting the brush but ironically, it was a mistake that worked out — I got my first $1M order from it.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

A big signifier in why we stand out is being a woman-owned business in a traditionally and dominantly male-owned industry. Even though we are in the beauty business, a lot of the supply chain and customer base is traditionally run by men. We are female founded, led and represented throughout my company and as a woman who uses cosmetic brushes myself, I offer first-hand insight to my customers that my male counterparts cannot. I understand my female consumers and what they need, which sometimes can differ from what they think they want. I am proud to help my customers project their businesses forward in a sustainable, long-term way.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It’s okay to feel stressed or overwhelmed at times, we are only human! Take a break and walk away, look inward to reapproach with a clearer mind. For me personally, I find peace of mind and comfort in my meditation practice; I started meditation 4 years ago and have not looked back. I encourage those close to me, whether my employees or customers, to seek this out and give it a shot. Each person’s meditation practices or mantras to re-align can differ in unique ways. The most important thing is to find what’s meaningful to you, to bring you balance when feeling overwhelmed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

One of my first business partners was Norman Brodsky. He is a true entrepreneur, who understood me and my goals from the start of my business. He once told me, “you are not crazy, most people will not understand how you are built” — this resonated deeply with me; it gave me the confidence and feeling of freedom to build my company the way I saw fit. I will always be grateful for his belief in me.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Bringing good to world is about being better and bringing better! We give back in many different ways, both philanthropically and through our new direct-to-consumer brand, ANISA Beauty. In light of the pandemic and social injustice, we have launched ANISA Advocacy, a philanthropic venture that gives a voice to those who are unjustly repressed. We promise never to compromise our values for greed — humanity matters more!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. To trust my intuition: My gut is almost always spot on when it comes to assessing professional relationships and business decisions. The times I’ve found myself in difficult situations, whether mentally or professionally, is when I’ve discounted what I felt to be true about a situation, a person or an action step needed for my business. Over the years, I’ve learned to always trust my gut and never doubt myself.

2. It’s crucial to delegate responsibility: As much as I wish I could, the truth is, I can’t take on everything by myself. It is ok to delegate responsibilities to my employees, and to trust them to get the job done. No matter what level we hire someone to work for the company, it’s important that their roles and accompanying responsibilities are clearly defined, with the ability to measure success quickly; without this, there could be gray areas where miscommunication happens, or important tasks are not completed.

3. Always have empathy and give customers what they want and need, NOT what we think they want: It’s vital to understand the needs of my customers and clients, knowing their goals for success allows us to make sure we accurately execute the necessary actions to attain their ‘end-game,’ so to speak.

4. It’s okay to take time off and not feel bad about it: Burn-out from overworking and stress is real, and I have made many mistakes in the past in my business because I was exhausted and did not take the time I needed for myself. Yes, running a company is an immense responsibility, but I am also human. Taking time to pull back for self-care helps to avert creating further challenges and frustrations that could have been avoided. Giving yourself that mental break brings you new perspective and clarity that you may not have while you’re in the depths of your daily work.

5. Have a network of support, especially mentors and mentees: It’s important to have the guidance of a mentor and to have a mentee to give those lessons back to. We all have something to offer the next generation of entrepreneurs and having the ability to giveback is truly just as educational as learning from someone else’s experience. As a CEO, I believe I have a responsibility to lead the next generation, as my mentors led me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Eradicating oppression against all people and living with equality and equanimity.

How can our readers follow you on social media? @TheRealATK on Instagram.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Anisa Telwar Kaicker of Anisa International: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.