Ryann Liebl of REL Films: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway

Operate with integrity. Be a good person, a thoughtful person. Be the friendliest person in the room. Be the person that anyone can tell anything to and be worthy of trust. Be the one who listens to people and is interested, not interesting. This might sound weird, but when you value decency and treated people well, it doesn’t matter what opposition you face, because you’re operating based on your own integrity and no one can take that from you. I remember being offered a role in a film and the part would have required me to do something that I thought it wouldn’t really add any value to society or to representing women. Even though it would have helped forward my career, I said no to it. Be willing to say no. That’s integrity.

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 award-winning actress, successful filmmaker, writer and director, Ryann Liebl.

Ryann’s longstanding career has culminated in the launch of her production company REL Films and its first feature Mags and Julie Go On A Road Trip, dropping November 24 on iTunes and Amazon Prime. The film can also be pre-ordered on iTunes here.

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 was born and raised in the Midwest and grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents, being outside and getting my hands dirty. Where I’m from it’s expected that you do physical work, mow your own lawn, clean house often and work hard. My grandfather lived with us for most of my childhood and he introduced me to art, acting, musicals and opera. He was born in Austria and started a manufacturing company with his brothers. My other grandparents whom I saw every weekend were from Philadelphia and that grandfather fought in World War II. So my grandparents helped shape me as an individual. They taught me about decency, about fighting for what’s right, about love of country and about why the arts are so important. In fact, I doubt I would have gotten into the arts if they hadn’t been around to encourage me and show me things and ideas I wouldn’t have been exposed to if I had just learned in school alone. I spent a lot of time outside when I was growing up, I knew my neighbors, I had many friends that I’d go visit on my bicycle and I had a lot of freedom. My parents were very into film, and also into home renovations and interior design. So we moved often. I had to think on my toes and reintroduce myself to new people and new schools. So in that way I was able to adapt to new situations and make new friends. It made me reliant and malleable. I had to get good at getting along with different people every few years (new schools, new situations, etc.). I went to LA for university at the age of 18 and studied theater and film. When I was 19, I started working in the film and TV industry.

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

My new film, Mags and Julie Go On A Road Trip, was made to help people laugh and also to encourage people to go after what really matters to them. It is out on VOD November 24 and available for pre-order on both iTunes and Amazon Prime now.

I also have five films in pre-production. Sunshine Detour is a character based drama about the lengths a mother will go to protect her child and it will shed light on some human rights abuses in our country. We’re planning to start shooting that this winter in Florida. This Is My Life? is a comedy to be shot in the UK/Scotland. Plus, I have a few others which have been semi-announced and I’m working on fine-tuning those scripts.

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

I’m not so much concerned with standing out in a crowd. I’m more concerned with creating material that has value, writing stories that have real meaning. I think, more than ever, it’s important to entertain people but also set a good example. I want to uplift people. My philosophy is to leave people better than I found them. Also, I bring a female perspective. I’m a mother, a friend and I care about community. I highly value good storytelling. It’s needed more than ever. I love what Clint Eastwood does…he’s been a big influence for what I do. His stories are strong, they are character driven and they are grounded in decency and what human beings struggle. In terms of comedy, I love what Melissa McCarthy does. She and her husband make very funny stuff that is purely entertaining.

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?

As an artist you are constantly told everything is impossible. I remember having a meeting with a top acting agency when I was nineteen years old. “You should have come to us when you were younger.” “You don’t have enough credits.” “You seem too mature for your age”, etc. I was a teenager, I heard things like that a lot in my first few years in the industry.

Every big idea I ever had was met with opposition. But I never listened to any of it. I persisted even as I was told, “It can’t be done.” I think that’s the most important lesson for anyone that thinks big. Stop asking permission from others for your survival and to get into action. Get going creating your vision and eventually you’ll get the support you need to pull it off. Persistence is the only thing that actually works in the field of the arts. Plus, obviously be easy to work with… If you aren’t, forget it.

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

I think sometimes people lack the ability to see what someone’s vision is… They also are afraid to take risks on people if someone else hasn’t done so already. I see that all the time. I do the opposite. I love working with people who don’t have huge resumes. I look at what they can do and cultivate that… There are so many talented people in the world and they all deserve a bit of support, a leg up and someone to cheerlead them on their journey. I didn’t have mentors. I could have used them. I needed them. I made it up as I went along. Now I mentor people.

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’ve had a lot of cool people help me along the way. Mostly it’s been my close friends. They are also artists. So they get it. My husband has been amazing. My son is a big influence to making good work. My mom has always helped me. I have a lot of people that have my back, love my work and do what they can to help me. I had some great teachers, too. My high school drama teacher, Ken Miller, was great. He put me in my first play when I was fourteen, Steel Magnolias. He was focused, he was patient and he made magic out of nothing. I do what I do now because of what I learned observing him and admiring his gift to bring out the best in people. There are too many great people to list! What I do is a very specific group effort. So building groups of supportive individuals who enjoy the process is key.

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?

I’ve always been a believer in justice. I’ve never liked bullies, or people who undermine people of goodwill. I was the girl who would chase after bullies at recess, run them down and tell them to leave someone alone. Other classmates came to me for help when teachers looked the other way. So early on I got a taste of what it is to work in large groups. Sometimes they were fine but more often than not a few bad seeds could make it miserable for the majority. So I stood up to them. I can’t even tell you how many times I got sent to the principal for standing up for myself or someone else but I always had great principals who would tell me “good job” for standing my ground. I guess in that way I’ve always been a fighter and when someone tells me I can’t, I say, “watch me.” I’m a firm believer in standing up for what’s right and I find if you can communicate you can fix anything.

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)

1. Operate with integrity. Be a good person, a thoughtful person. Be the friendliest person in the room. Be the person that anyone can tell anything to and be worthy of trust. Be the one who listens to people and is interested, not interesting. This might sound weird, but when you value decency and treated people well, it doesn’t matter what opposition you face, because you’re operating based on your own integrity and no one can take that from you. I remember being offered a role in a film and the part would have required me to do something that I thought it wouldn’t really add any value to society or to representing women. Even though it would have helped forward my career, I said no to it. Be willing to say no. That’s integrity.

2. Be specific about your goals. What are you trying to accomplish? What effect do you want to create on others? If you don’t know that, it will be hard to know what you want to create. So get so specific that if someone asks you out of the blue, you could respond easily with the answer. My new film Mags and Julie Go On A Road Trip was specific. I wanted to write a comedy from a female perspective. I wanted it to have a clear message. I wanted it to entertain people like the show I Love Lucy with old school physical comedy. That’s what I did. So, that’s why you get specific.

3. Surround yourself with people who understand you, who also want to do similar work and have a sense of play about life in general. Nothing kills a dream faster than a Debbie Downer. So I purposely choose to work with people who like to create, who have a positive attitude, don’t think in terms of barriers but instead think in terms of solutions and who like to work hard to accomplish their goals. I recently won a Best Director Award for a music video I did for actress/songwriter Franki Moscato (she’s also in Mags and Julie). She’s an incredible talent, works hard to uplift people and helps her community. She’s a person who is filled with light and cares about the world. So working with her was a no-brainer. And because of that we had fun on set. It was pleasant, not stressful. And then I won an award. So that concept is very important, it helps cultivate good work.

4. Push yourself past your comfort zone. A lot of people say to themselves that they can’t do something. They limit their scope by saying they can’t. But it’s just not true. A person is capable of so much more than they realize. And if they just get busier, move a little faster, eat a little better and push a little harder they can create really cool stuff. Also, be aware of those around you who tell you to slow down, to not work so hard or say that you can’t do it. They can’t have the dreams, the ideas and the big goals. And they’ll try to undermine yours. In order to pull off the big stuff, you’ve got get out of that comfort zone and just leap off the cliff. I remember doing a play a few years ago. I hadn’t produced a play in LA before and I had a lot of people tell me it couldn’t be done, it would be too expensive, etc. But I took the leap. I built the sets myself, did the costuming, the casting, finding the theater, negotiating contracts, the lighting, etc. And we sold out every single weekend. And it was hard work, a tremendous amount of effort and work, but it paid off. We got great press and I got to produce a Tennessee Williams play. Which is something I’ll always be proud of.

5. I believe the purpose of art and the value of art is that it rises above the boring, mundane aspects of life. It shows people what is possible and how the world can be. I think far too many entertainers are getting involved in politics and other things that divide people. I think the greatest entertainers decided to really entertain. They put their positive messages in their work and that’s why they reached such a wide audience. I think of people like Charlie Chaplin, who made great, epic art. He reached the whole world with their art. I believe art can bring people together and we need more of that because none of us are exactly the same and the thing that unites us is our humanity, our desire to do better, be better and accomplish more. Anything else is playing politics. And art is not politics; it’s above politics. I’m a painter and I remember doing a show a few years ago, I had thirty paintings hanging and I got this question from someone about my art. It was along the lines of “this is what this art makes me think of…” and I remember thinking “that’s not what I was painting at all.” But I didn’t say that. It was my first real lesson that people will interpret things no matter what you do, so let them. What they get out of it is for them. It’s not my job to be serious about art or over think it. It’s my job to make it and get it out there and move on to the next project.

So these are ways to rise above naysayers. The biggest thing is to believe in yourself no matter what happens. Because if you know you can create quality, you must persist.

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

“Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential.” Winston Churchill. And “Imagination means nothing without doing” — Charlie Chaplin

Life really is a journey. I’ve realized you have to enjoy the journey, not the end product. The hardest worker in the room who has good intentions will do much more for society than a critic, an expert or a thinker. I like people that do.

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.

I think we need an enormous focus to get back into reading and the arts. A culture is great when you have individuals who have seen all viewpoints, understand history and get to work in the creative arts. The Renaissance came about because people decided to focus on the fine arts and support artists, writers and philosophers. From that came a huge surge of beauty and hope. The world changed for everyone during that time. The art and focus on it gave rise to hope and a shift in the culture. So we need art, we need museums, we need libraries, we need live theater, live music and we need to give people access to these things. From that you’ll have a positive shift in the culture. Also if a culture doesn’t know History they are doomed to repeat it. So you’ve got to teach it and show people how every decade there is improvement. If someone can’t compare now to before, they’ll think now is bad.

Also, bring back humor. We need comedians more than ever. We need to be willing to make fun of ourselves and others. It’s how you balance the bad things in life. Comedians are being cancelled and targeted right now, which is a horrible idea. It was always humor and comedy that brought people through the wars and tough times. So encourage in others the necessity to laugh, to make fun of what is ridiculous in life. That’s needed more than ever.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Yes, I’m on Instagram at @ryannlieblisreal and @magsandjuliemovie. You’ll find me on Fcebook at @RyannLiebl and @MagsandJulieGoOnARoadTrip. They can also get updates from https://www.magsandjulie.com/.


Ryann Liebl of REL Films: 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.

Dr. Avital Beck of MilkStrip: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

Make people as passionate as you are: As founders we are passionate but it doesn’t mean that everyone around you is. It’s important to make everyone understand your vision and why you are passionate while also making them excited to be involved. The success is that of the whole group and not just the top-level founders and managers. Success comes from everyone involved really caring about their work.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Avital Beck, Ph.D., CEO, CSO & Co-founder of MilkStrip.

Dr. Avital Beck is the CEO, CSO and co-founder of MilkStrip, overseeing all business decisions for the biotech and wellness company and subsidiary of DiagnoseStick. In this role, as a leading innovator in the baby-tech industry, she brings to bear her expert background in biotech and science. MilkStrip is the only company that offers breast milk diagnostic kits that deliver real-time results and actionable results at-home without the long delay of lab work.

Prior to co-founding MilkStrip, Avital spent over six years in the Israeli biotech industry as a Research & Development Scientist and an intellectual property manager. She received her Bachelor of Science in biotechnology from Bar-Ilan University and Ph.D. with a direct track followed by two post doctorates at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Avital’s expertise extends to molecular cell biology, diabetes, stem cell research, microbiology and bioinformatics. She is also the mother of six children, all of whom she breastfed while pursuing her full-time STEM career. Avital is passionate about helping mothers thrive in their professional careers while raising babies in the modern world.

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

It was a surprise journey. I didn’t plan a career in the biotech industry or know from a young age that I would start my own company. My dream was to stay in academia as a scientist. I was on the right track and interested in going to Boston to further my academic career having been accepted to Harvard Medical School for post-doctoral at their lab. However, at the time, I was going through the process of receiving fertility treatments in Israel and ultimately had to postpone my post-doctoral plans for the benefit of my family.

Thus, I finished my Ph.D. at 28 and received an offer to join the biotech industry in Israel, an industry I never thought of entering. It opened a whole new world for me with its multiple job opportunities and fast-paced energy. Working in academia, the day-to-day is more or less the same, and it became too mundane for my high energy level, leaving me feeling like I could do more. Biotech was the perfect option for me.

However, there were changes in my company that resulted in me having more free time than usual, and to fill my days I decided to create my own startup. I opened a WhatsApp group, added a few friends from my molecular biology Ph.D. program and asked if anyone wanted to join. Dr. Hadas Shatz-Azoulay was part of this group and became my co-founder, we soon came up with multiple ideas and realized that moms worldwide were struggling with the same breast milk problems we were, in determining whether their breast milk had expired and in meeting their babies’ nutritional needs. This led to the creation of MilkStrip, the only company on the market that offers breast milk diagnostic kits that deliver real-time results and actionable insights at home, without the need and long delay of lab work.

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

In the beginning, we experienced the startup honeymoon phase. I had nothing to lose, other than a vision and a dream. The hard times came later. Some people questioned why we created MilkStrip and made us feel as if it was impossible for two female scientists and working moms to successfully run a business. I would receive feedback including, “you’re a woman”, “you’re a scientist”, and “you’re a mother”. Other times, I would be asked who the real boss was, but overall I had to believe in myself, I knew that I had the right experience and couldn’t give up. There is a glass ceiling for mothers and women and sometimes you may feel that there is no road to follow. That’s when you have to pave a new road for yourself, which is exactly what I did. Each time I got a negative reaction, I would look for a signal, something that lifts my energy up and keeps me moving forward. Even if it is just one small positive factor from the day.

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

I’m a religious woman. I always feel that God gives me signals that prove to me that if I got this far already, I’m okay and everything will turn out for the best. As a CEO and co-founder, you do a lot of networking and business pitching. You don’t always get responses or an immediate benefit from meetings. Or you may go to a conference and it’s not the most helpful, but then three weeks later you get an email from someone wanting to learn more about the company. One time I was asked to speak at an event for female, religious entrepreneurs, which I thought would be great but not have a direct benefit for my business, but afterwards, someone approached me and it turned out that they wanted to invest!

It’s always great to see your work pay off, even if it doesn’t have immediate results. You always see the benefit at the end and that’s my motivation to work hard and be patient.

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

My background in science led me to study the baby-tech market from a biotech perspective and learn more about women and their needs when it comes to breast milk. We have successfully raised money and launched our two breast milk test kits in the U.S. this year and are excited that women can now find certainty during this uncertain time. We are currently working on developing new products and working toward our latest funding round.

Additionally we have been selected to join Google for Startups Accelerator: Europe, a three-month program designed to boost European and Israeli startups’ business growth. MilkStrip was chosen as one of the nine participants and the first-ever biotech startup focused on breast milk.

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?

Both my co-founder, Hadas and I are mothers with five and six kids respectively, so you can only imagine what juggling working full-time and helping the kids around the house is like. One day we had a meeting with an American investor on Passover Eve (we’re based in Israel) and we were in the middle of cleaning the house trying to prepare everything for the holiday. In all the frenzy of the moment we forgot about the meeting. Just in time, we were able to quickly pull ourselves together, change outfits, and put on makeup. Once we joined the Zoom and saw each other, we started laughing at our situation and how quickly we switched mindsets to be professional.

Moving forward, we are always careful to check in with each other about our schedules but keep in mind that it’s important to have fun at work during our downtime.

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

MilkStrip provides the first real-time testing for evaluating the nutritional profile and degree of freshness of breast milk to empower parents with detailed insights into the sustenance of the breast milk their infants are receiving. It is the only diagnostic kit on the market that delivers results in real-time and at-home with actionable insights.

When mothers become uncertain of the vigor of their breast milk, they would rather be safe than sorry. They often throw away milk that they are unsure of and prefer to feed their babies formula or pump new milk instead of potentially making their child sick. In fact, 40.6% of women question whether or not their breast milk is sour before giving it to their baby. Moreover, more than 60% of women throw out stored breast milk, which is usually still good for consumption because they are unsure of its quality profile. In the United States alone, a total of 85% of mothers breastfeed their babies in the first three months postpartum, which means a large portion of breast milk is being unnecessarily thrown out.

In addition to throwing out perfectly good milk due to uncertainty, mothers are often unaware if their breast milk is optimal for their growing babies. While the overall benefit of feeding babies breast milk has been well established and will always be the optimal option compared to any formulas on the market, mothers need and want to know more about the nutrients they are feeding their babies.

MilkStrip opens up the possibilities for parents to use real-time diagnostic kits at home to learn more about the quality of their breast milk, their babies’ vitamin levels and how to best care for them with actionable insights. There is no packaging up a test kit, no mailing, no labs, no wait and parents get results in just three minutes.

In addition to having a stellar patented new product, we are also incredibly lucky to have massive family support as two mothers with five plus children and fantastic partners. During the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, we had a big delivery of one thousand boxes that we had to fulfill but since we couldn’t hire employees to come in due to the COVID restrictions, we mobilized our kids and spouses to help! We packed from day to night and could not have done it without their help.

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

Continue networking and try to bring 110% to everything you can. You’ll benefit from your hard work even if you don’t see the return immediately. Always have a plan by trying to set your calendar for the month to help you stay focused and remember all the details. Also try to set aside times for all of your tasks to increase your productivity.

When you feel like it’s too much, just take a day and return with new energy and always be grateful for your progress — no matter how small. You’ll benefit from your hard work even if you don’t see the return immediately.

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’m grateful to my co-founders and our first investors who believed in us, and gave us a chance to make MilkStrip an awesome product and company to be a part of. I’d also like to give a special thanks to all those that believed and supported us along the way.

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

I recognize that a lot of people have helped me during my journey so I try to do the same for other entrepreneurs or anyone in need amongst my fields and beyond. Any time I receive a call from someone that needs help or advice, I am always happy to help because I’ve been in those shoes before and I know I wouldn’t be where I am without sound advice and insights from business owners, investors, entrepreneurs and other scientists.

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. Make people as passionate as you are: As founders we are passionate but it doesn’t mean that everyone around you is. It’s important to make everyone understand your vision and why you are passionate while also making them excited to be involved. The success is that of the whole group and not just the top-level founders and managers. Success comes from everyone involved really caring about their work.
  2. Be open to changing things: Whenever I have an employee leave, I always make sure to have an exit interview with them to gain insights into what they were happy with and what they weren’t. This allows me to learn and understand what I can do to improve myself as a leader and my company to foster further success.
  3. Having a company is like being on a rollercoaster: One day you could be on top of the world and then the next you might feel like you’ve made a big mistake and are not sure what you’ve gotten yourself into. Sometimes there are big intervals to navigate but by having the dedication to achieve your vision you will stay on the right track.
  4. Be a good leader: There are many challenges in running your own company, and no matter how hard it gets it’s good to keep going and set an example for the rest of the team. You have to make sure your team and business are aligned to foster your company’s growth and lead it toward success.
  5. Be happy about the little things: For instance, even if your company hasn’t launched yet it’s still great that you have your product ready. Maybe an article was written about the company and it was a small mention, but it’s still something worth celebrating. In the end, no matter how big or small your successes are — they lead to the big successes down the road.

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. 🙂

In my position as a CEO, I have many opportunities to volunteer in promoting women and teaching them how to be more influential. I volunteer at high schools and talk to girls about science and how they can still have a family while working. As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Women need to shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that — and I’ll learn by doing it.” I work to help women overcome the glass ceiling and that is the movement I’d like to see move further along.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn here.

You can also follow me through my company MilkStrip’s platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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


Dr. Avital Beck of MilkStrip: 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.

Jim Lamancusa of Cusa Tea: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a CEO

Hire fast and fire faster. With a small team, each person’s impact on the business is multiplied 100 fold. Hiring is tough for every company, but a mediocre employee won’t sink the ship in a medium or large company. It will in a small company. I hired a Director or Sales and within 2 weeks, I could tell that it wasn’t what we needed, so I made the tough decision to move on immediately. It was a hard discussion, but the ramifications of having an underperforming employee were even harder to accept.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Lamancusa, Founder and CEO.

Jim Lamacusa is the Founder and CEO of Cusa Tea & Coffee. A lifelong outdoorsman and accomplished Eagle Scout, Jim’s love of nature led him from his hometown of Cleveland to the Colorado Rockies, where — in between epic hikes and rock climbing excursions — he earned his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Colorado and then MBA from Argosy University. As an undergraduate, Jim spent a semester abroad studying international business in Hong Kong, where he first fell in love with the world’s beloved beverage, tea.

Driven by his sense of adventure, after graduation Jim taught English in Thailand and spent a year meditating and exploring the Himalayan peaks of Nepal before moving back to Boulder for an entry-level job as a salesman for Eco-Products, maker of eco-friendly foodservice products. He worked his way up to VP of Sales, followed by VP of Sales and Marketing positions at GoodBelly, Dynafit/Salewa and, later, a small water bottle startup, but he always dreamed of following in his grandfather and father’s footsteps and starting his own company.

The opportunity to take the leap came after a round of unexpected layoffs at the water bottle startup, and in 2017 Jim launched Cusa Tea & Coffee with the goal of bringing truly delicious instant beverages to the world. As CEO, Jim oversees the brand’s growth and beverage R&D, and the company has rapidly grown to over 2,500 retailers, with a robust direct-to-consumer business.

Jim continues to spend every moment he can outdoors in Boulder, CO, where he lives with his family. He also teaches meditation, serves as Executive Director at a meditation center in Denver and (when he’s not drinking Cusa Tea) enjoys a smoky whisky.

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

My grandfather, father, and mother were all entrepreneurs, so I guess I have a bit of it in my blood. But after working at three fast-growing startups in Boulder, CO over the past 15 years, I’ve gotten a good sense of what it’s like to be an emerging company. My roles at these companies were always in Sales and Marketing, but as at any startup, you end up wearing every hat at some point. I love so many things about the startup world, but my favorite thing is the ability to take an idea from inception to reality in a matter of days, versus years, at a larger company.

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

Where do I start? I think the hardest time was when I was trying to create the product itself. I tried all of the methods that currently existed to make instant beverages, spending $75,000 of my wife and my savings, and they all completely failed to make a good tasting cup of tea. I experienced two weeks of depression and self doubt, questioning why I had blown so much of our money on a pipe-dream. Then I discovered botanical extraction technology and found a partner willing to work with me to modify it for a food purpose for the first time. As they say, the rest is history!

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

There are two areas in my life that help me continue, even when things are hard: meditation and mountaineering. I meditate daily for 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. The benefits are too numerous to list, but it is also really hard to meditate that long and make it a daily habit. Part of the “meditation” is to continue to stay in the present moment, even when your body hurts, you’re bored, you’re tired, etc. I have been doing this for 20 years, so I guess I have gotten used to just continuing even when it gets tough. I also do a lot of mountaineering and it’s a similar story here. People tend to remember the exhilaration of the summit, but the journey to get there can be really hard. You have to keep moving even when you’re cold, hungry, and tired. I have learned to keep my head down and put one foot in front of the other

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

I like to say that entrepreneurship is similar to a game of whack-a-mole. If anyone tells you that “everything is great”, they’re lying! Even when sales are great, you have to watch inventory and cash. You will order what you think is your most popular item, and then some other flavor will take off. Things are going well for us at the moment, but there is always another mole to whack! As for grit and resilience, both are the reasons we are still in business. It is extremely rare for a startup to find their way right out of the gate. The key is to always look for new opportunities that arise, test small and then go big, and don’t think that just because you “think” it should be a certain way that it will be. For example, I thought the easiest path to success for Cusa Tea would be with grocery stores. It turns out that getting a customer’s attention in a 25ft tea section is a lot harder than it sounds. We have found a much easier path with our eCommerce line.

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, I was running things very bootstrapped, so I couldn’t afford a big, expensive photo shoot. So, I hired a friend to take our first round of pictures focused on outdoors and camping. We had a small window of time, so we went to a local Boulder park, pitched a tent and started taking pictures. Within 20 minutes, rangers showed up and gave me a $100 dollar ticket for “setting up a structure” in the park. I tried to pay them off with free tea, but they weren’t having it! I learned from that experience that we need to be a bit more detailed and research local rules before we try to do something like that in the future.

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

I think that we stand out because of how nimble and innovative we are. I refuse to do things a certain way because that’s what has always been done. I could have easily given up when my initial R&D work failed miserably. Even though my background is in sales and marketing, that didn’t stop me from searching for a technology that I could use to achieve my dream. When I found a botanical extraction process that could work for a food purpose, I jumped in and didn’t stop until we had something that would blow our customers away.

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

I know it has become a lot more widely known, but the benefits of daily meditation are incredible and I would recommend it to everyone. Most people I know have tried it and felt like they weren’t doing it right, so they stopped. It is really hard to do it wrong and you won’t see a benefit from just doing it every once and a while. Just like training for a 10K or a marathon, training the mind takes commitment and dedication. The end result I have experienced is far less anxiety and stress, and a huge boost in innovation and creativity.

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 are so many people that have helped me along the way, but no one more than my wife. She has been the best partner I could imagine in this process. She believed in my vision and was willing to let me spend our savings on my pipe dream. She has also been my sounding board, shoulder to cry on, and biggest source of support and love during all the hard days. Let’s face it, starting a business from scratch is really hard. There are more bad days than good, and if you don’t have support from your spouse, it can be difficult for the relationship. I will say that I have seen other entrepreneurs throw everything they have into the business and forgotten their spouse. That usually doesn’t end well. I have made a goal of at least one date night a week, and I try to work smart versus work long hours so I can keep our relationship strong. I think we are doing something right after 17 years!

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

I think this comes from all the small things you do and small decisions you make that add up to a bigger benefit. For example, I try to treat my employees how I have always wanted to be treated. Even though we are a small company, everyone starts with 4 weeks of PTO, a very flexible schedule, health insurance, retirement savings, and a one month sabbatical after 5 years of employment. I have also tried to make environmental responsibility a pillar of the company. We compost all of the used tea and coffee, use recyclable and compostable packaging, and our manufacturing facility is 75% powered by solar. I think all of these small things add up to a lot when you put them all together!

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 are going to need to raise a lot more money than what your original business plan says. As I said earlier, it is rare for startups to find their way immediately. We have had to make multiple pivots to find the right customers, the right products, and the right pricing strategy. Unfortunately those learnings come with a cost, and you are going to burn some money. For Cusa Tea and Coffee, we invested heavily into grocery stores for the first few years and spent a lot of money to push velocity only to realize that it was going to cost a lot more money to go this path than what we expected originally. Once we pivoted to direct-to-consumer, the business has skyrocketed and we are seeing a great return on investment for every marketing dollar we spend.

2. Early feedback from first customers is indicative of the future. Don’t ignore it. When I started Cusa Tea, I did everything, including hundreds of demos at grocery stores. Our original price was $9.99 for 10 servings because that’s what Starbucks Via sold for. Many people said they loved the taste, but told me that it was too expensive. It took me a while to drop my own ideas of what should be and take a hard look at what the reality was. We were too expensive. We are now at $5.99 and selling like crazy. So it’s a lower margin, but sales are phenomenal.

3. Entrepreneurship is like a game of whack-a-mole. You will never feel completely at peace with the state of the business. When I started, I kept thinking that once I got through our Series A fundraising, or once we got into REI, or once we launched coffee, everything would be easy. Unfortunately that’s not the way it works. Once you solve one problem, another will take its place. The challenge in a leadership position is to determine which problem is the biggest deterrent for growth and focus there, then go to the next, and then the next.

4. Yes, your business is important, but it does not define who you are. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs in our community throw their entire life into their company and define themselves on their success or failure. From what I’ve seen, having a successful startup comes from three main things. A great idea, a lot of hustle, and a bunch of luck. There are a ton of companies with great ideas and strong work ethic that didn’t have the luck in market demand to make them a success. I try to constantly remind myself that even if this doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean I am a failure. It doesn’t define who I am.

5. Hire fast and fire faster. With a small team, each person’s impact on the business is multiplied 100 fold. Hiring is tough for every company, but a mediocre employee won’t sink the ship in a medium or large company. It will in a small company. I hired a Director or Sales and within 2 weeks, I could tell that it wasn’t what we needed, so I made the tough decision to move on immediately. It was a hard discussion, but the ramifications of having an underperforming employee were even harder to accept.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow us at @drinkcusa on IG!


Jim Lamancusa of Cusa Tea: 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.

Running and Fitness Expert Bonnie Frankel: 5 Ways To Develop Serenity During Anxious Times

Listen to Others — This is a lost art and probably one of the most important things to do. You can phone, text, or email someone who needs to vent. Listen and don’t interrupt them until they give you the signal to do so. Everyone needs to have someone they can communicate with.

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

Bonnie Frankel is an author, athlete and inspirational exercise/sports training specialist. With her experience in instructing others, she has developed a unique plan utilizing the elements of Fire, Air, Earth and Water that are shared in her book, Bonnie’s Theory — Finding the Right Exercise.

She made history by changing an N.C.A.A. (National Collegiate Athletic Association) rule, now known as “The Bonnie Rule.” Ms. Frankel became the oldest woman to compete in a Division 1 women’s sport — swimming. She is also known as a world-class runner, and trained to quality for the Olympics, as she still trains today.

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

I returned back to school as an older student. I was attempting to triumph in something that I had failed at before, and this made me feel very anxious and insecure. I took on this challenge in the hopes of succeeding. And quite happily, I found that this decision led me on an unexpected new career path called running/fitness.

I was also healing from breast cancer, and six other surgeries affiliated with this condition, with an attempt of suicide during my divorce. I went to court, and the judge asked me knowing my background, “What are you going to do with your life?” I replied, “I didn’t know.” I had been in art school and taking classical piano lessons at that time. He suggested that I return to school, and find out what I wanted to do with my life. That thought rummaged through my brain, and I decided to go back to the same college and try again. Talk about a stressful situation. I was also saying good-bye to living in an entitled environment, with the rich and famous.

I was going back to college with kids half my age, and adapting to a whole new lifestyle that was far from the wealthy and the privileged, to an entirely different atmosphere of how the average person lives. I was overwhelmed and not necessarily resonating with it. One of my new young chums suggested that I carry a tape recorder and capture my lectures. I was having trouble absorbing the information, as I had an undiagnosed learning disability. Because of my unstable situation and temperament, the kids called me “Bonster the Monster”.

One of my new friends suggested that we take a running class given by the activist (Tommie Smith) a gold medalist in the 1968 Olympics. When accepting his award on the podium, he put his arm up with a black glove in a gesture to salute black power. He was a legend in his own right. I then decided to try something that was new for me. He saw me run, and asked me if I would join the track team at Santa Monica College (SMC), and compete with other schools. I said that I would try it. He referred to me as the George Foreman of running. I was around forty-six years old, and competing with a younger generation that could have been my own kids.

This thing called running not only shaped me up physically, but it brought serenity to my life, and helped with the way I processed information. It aided my learning, it enhanced the way I communicated with the students and the teachers, and it even helped to downplay my ego. My classmates starting calling me “the Energizer Bunny”.

This new career path emerged through uncertain times, and had I not gone back to school, and pursued this change, I would have never found my beloved career in exercise/fitness.

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

I have many interesting stories to tell, but this one was so unexpected. I had been anxious before, but now I thrived with the results.

Once I began my career in running, I was able to change a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility rule for women that were returning back to college, in a Division 1 sport. It was named the “Bonnie Rule.” This was a challenge, and brought me much uncertainty and anxiety. I felt the run was worth the fight, because it improved me as a human being in many ways. If it did this for me, it could also do so for many others of all generations.

As I transferred from SMC to Loyola Marymount University, I approached their coach to see if I could continue running. He told me my time clock had run out. I thought what a silly rule. So, I fought it by having the media behind me, and spoke with the Athletic Director to back me up. I also reached out to the Vice-President of Student Affairs. and finally, to the West Coast Conference Commissioner. We worked as a team, and the rule was changed. I became the oldest woman to compete in the NCAA Division 1 sport. Originally, they said I wouldn’t win, it was a waste of time, but instead, I did it anyway.

The uncertainty of going through this process was well worth it, as it brought tranquility to not only me but to others as well. Women now could compete in a Division 1 collegiate sport, where they were once denied. I wanted to have women of all ages be able to compete and learn from one another. This rule engaged all races, and no one was left out. Every woman matters. Satisfaction and peace prevailed.

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

The most important thing you can do to thrive in your exercise is to use an activity that you resonate with. It’s like having a BFF. I mention in my new book Bonnie’s Theory Finding the Right Exercise, of how to find the most appropriate form of exercise for you. When you execute this activity, you can look forward to doing it because you will enjoy it, and not lose your enthusiasm. In fact, it will bring you the best fitness, not only psychologically, but physically as well.

It is very important to diversify your fitness routine, and it’s also smart to vary your workout with your exercise of choice. Don’t do the same routine every day. Also, the body and the mind get too used to it, and your fitness regime doesn’t reach its fullest potential.

I am a firm believer in cross training, because it not only is a change, but it also helps your body not get injured, and promotes your exercise of choice to be a stronger one. Indeed, it strengthens the muscles you don’t use, and often can add tranquility to your mind/body. And you also then acclimate to the changes in our world. Cross training is a good example of this. Burnout teaches us that we must make a change, which can lead to thriving in your exercise. It abstractly crosses over to other areas in your life that enhance your psychological make up, and will bring you a sense of serenity and peace.

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

Make your work environment open and user-friendly. I think it’s important to listen to others that are under your supervision or that work with you. Never use a “my way or highway” approach.

Just because I was a head coach, I didn’t know all the answers. If I did, there would be no way I would be on this earth. Always keep an open mind to others’ suggestions. Treat each person as though they were the most important human being in the world. People like to know that they make a difference. I gladly had open communication with the students that I coached and the adults as well. If I felt that something didn’t feel right, I would let them know. It’s important to be careful of your ego.

Intimidation scares people that have unique ideas. Listening to others is a lost art, and we should try and rekindle it.

One of the most important things you can share with them is that they are winners, and belong to a win-win team. Attitude is so important. Accomplishment goes a long way.

In today’s world, we have so much change which can create anxiety. It is important to emphasize that through this uncertain time, tranquility will come if you hang in there. Challenge the change, and peace will eventually flow in.

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?

One of my favorite books that still makes a significant impact on me is the Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.

This is a book everyone should read and especially through this unpredictable anxious time we are living in.

His message is so powerful as he teaches us to transform our human consciousness. This is how I interpret his message. It’s essential to drop the ego, which is not the true self you are meant to be. The past is gone, don’t live there, the future is something that we can’t predict, as we are seeing now in our global world. The present moment is all we have. Live in today. Find the joys in the now like adopting a dog you never had the time to do before, or exercising with your loved ones or friends. Read different books, and be grateful that you are able to be a part of history.

I interpret this that the now is all we have. It quiets the mind into delving into thoughts of worry by anticipating what will happen next. The past is the past, and there is nothing we can do about what already was done. There is something about living in the present moment that you can find joyfulness and serenity in. This is what gives us our freedom, and allows us to feel good about ourselves.

I will share a story with you. I once tried to qualify for the Olympic Trials with an artificial hip at 60 years of age. (I had sickle cell anemia which is also referred to as Bo Jackson’s disease). I was training with Coach John Carlos (1968 Olympian Bronze Medalist who put up his hand in a salute for black power in the Olympics, as did Tommie Smith mentioned earlier) and I failed to accomplish my goal. I had the talent, but my mind was locked into the past from previous failures. It took me a long time to forgive myself, and accept in the present moment that I did the best that I could do. So, I recommend to stop going backwards. This moment it is all we have.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

A. Exercise Outdoors

Exercise outdoors because it helps you to boost your emotions from negative to positive. As an example, Katy was a workaholic. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the world shut down, as well as Katy’s job. She locked herself up in her apartment, and did all her shopping online. I finally persuaded Katy to go out with me to a nearby park where we could walk into the wee early hours of the morning.

As we continued this routine, her emotions changed from fearful/depressed to a happier and more peaceful mindset. A difference happened because of exercising.

B. Healthy Nourishment

As you integrate outdoor exercise into your daily routine, your body will crave a healthier diet. When you exercise, you don’t eat to relieve your emotions, you express them by moving.

My friend Luigi was pumped up to becoming a Rock Star tennis player. The coronavirus hit, and locked everything down, including Luigi. He became the masked hermit, not exercising or eating, or drinking healthy as he normally did. His buddy begged him to jog with him late in the evenings, so when his tennis club would open, he would be in shape. Luigi followed his advice, and was soon back in a healthy condition. When you exercise, your dopamine levels can reduce the inclination for high fatty foods, liquor, and drugs. He stopped watching the news, and found other ways to cross-train in exercise. Adversity and uncertainty can guide you to a calm place, if you exercise and nourish your system well.

C. Journaling

Journaling is a valuable tool to use when faced with uncertainty, with your emotions in disarray. When you write your feelings down you are expressing as well as discharging them. Someone I know named Lane was living in a nursing home and was immobile. She kept the television on to hear the news that hit our world. The uncertainty displeased and scared her because there was nothing she could do about it. She lost her appetite and didn’t want to communicate with others. One of the nurses gave her a diary, and a pen and tissues. The nurse told her to write down her concerns and her gratefulness. Lane got her appetite back, and was chatting up a storm. She also passed on the valuable information that was given to her to inspire others to journal.

D. Reading

This is a golden opportunity to shift your mind from feeling the negative vibrations of experiencing uncertainty, to more positive ones that certainty can bring in an unexpected way.

Mary Nell is a member of a book club which helps her to read various works. It is a process that she thoroughly loves. When the corona virus pandemic hit, the book club closed its doors. Her husband came up with the idea to try Zoom, and the book club resumed meeting. Mary Nell went back to reading, and her personality shifted from irritable to placid.

E. Sleeping

Sleeping is one of the components of healthy living that we cannot function without. The way you feel while you are awake can depend on the quality of sleep you get. Young Timmy was having trouble with his stay-at-home schooling because he missed friends and teachers. His mother was concerned about his welfare because he was not sleeping and she couldn’t reassure him. What she did do was take him out to adopt a furry little kitten. This brought Timmy joy and a new found responsibility. His mom set a regular time schedule for him to sleep with his new furry friend.

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

A. Do shopping/errands for others or just accompany them.

Reach out to people especially the senior and disabled population. Offer to help shop for them, or do an errand or two.

B. Listen to Others

This is a lost art and probably one of the most important things to do. You can phone, text, or email someone who needs to vent. Listen and don’t interrupt them until they give you the signal to do so. Everyone needs to have someone they can communicate with.

C. Exercise with Someone Else

This is one of the most important things to do with another person. I recommend participating in outdoor activities with someone, or just share time together in silence without saying a word. Just knowing that you are with a person, and actively doing an activity outdoors is so healthy for your mind and body.

D. Eating Out

Grab a bite with people, as it is a welcomed thing to do, because it will give you a chance to visit your favorite restaurant and rekindle memories. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, then just get a take-out.

E. Do Something Different with a Friend

This can include a place, or an activity you have wanted to do or to go to but never had the time to. Change can bring joy when you incorporate something different in your life.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

Find the right exercise you like and go outside and practice it daily. You also can do the following: Journal, play music, read or listen to podcasts, play cards or board games. Do things with your kids that you normally wouldn’t think of. Make sure you are on a regular sleep schedule. Limit your alcohol/caffeine or sugar intake. Enjoy the company of good friends.

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

“Your worst years are your best years, because you do the most growing”. When I went through a painful divorce, I tried my hand at suicide and fortunately for me I lived. As mentioned, when my divorce was finalized, I went back to school at Santa Monica College where the great Tommie Smith discovered my talent for running. I then transferred to Loyola Marymount University where I changed an NCAA Division I collegiate rule. I became the oldest woman to compete in a Division 1 sport. Finding the right exercise not only helped me get through the uncertainty, but I was driven to inspire others to follow suit.

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?

Your health is your wealth. Your emotional, mental, physical, and spirituality is encompassed in your finding the right exercise. It prepares you to challenge uncertainty and grow from it. Not knowing is the root of all growth, certainty is fleeting. The right exercise empowers you to deal with any unknowns and brings you to serenity.

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

Website: https://www.bonniefrankel.com/

Bonnie’s Theory-Finding the Right Exercise is available on:

Amazon (paperback) $14.99 (kindle) $6.99.
Barnes & Noble
Good Reads
Book Bub

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


Running and Fitness Expert Bonnie Frankel: 5 Ways To Develop Serenity During Anxious Times was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik of ‘Almost 30’: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental…

Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik of ‘Almost 30’: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness

Nature: Getting out in nature is such a grounding experience. It has been shown to ease anxiety, release stress, boost energy, and increase memory and attention span. It can be something as simple as taking a long walk around your neighborhood. Leave your phone at home and be really present with all the sounds, sights, and smells around you. It’s beautiful and so relaxing!

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik of Almost 30.

With 350+ episodes and more than 15 million downloads, the Almost 30 Podcast has been hailed as “The Best Wellness Podcast to Listen To Right Now” by Covetuer and nominated for “Best Wellness Podcast” and “Best Spirituality Podcast” by iHeart Radio. Hosts Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik are your virtual best friends, impactful female founders and seasoned event speakers as seen on the stages of Create & Cultivate, BlogHer and POPSUGAR Play/Ground to name a few. Almost 30 is the go-to place for heart-centered, hilarious conversations and real, raw, impactful interviews with brilliant guests. In each episode, Krista and Lindsey dive deep into everything from modern spirituality to health and wellness, aliens to entrepreneurship, and social justice to self development. Almost 30 also hosts life changing events and retreats, as well as provides courses, workbooks and programs to assist in your spiritual and emotional evolution.

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?

Krista: I grew up in a small town in Ohio, and I always had big dreams of making an impact! For most of my life my dreams would cause me anxiety because I didn’t know how to achieve or express them. I worked in digital marketing, consulting, and events for eight years in Chicago and New York before moving to Los Angeles to *try* to pursue blogging full time. I ended up serving, nannying, and just trying to make my way for a long time until I went back to the corporate world. Through that process, I struggled to find my purpose and the best way to share my message with the world. I fatefully met Lindsey when I decided that my calling was to be a SoulCycle instructor!

Lindsey: I grew up in a town just north of Philadelphia. Singing, dancing, collecting bugs, and being dramatic was my thing. Fast forward to my early twenties and I’m respecting bugs but still focused on becoming a professional performer, Broadway specifically. I moved to New York after college in Boston, where I auditioned by day and bartended by night. Eventually I became a SoulCycle Instructor, which was my unexpected ticket out to LA. In LA, I began to understand my higher expression of my creativity and voice. My creative journey has been so intertwined with my spiritual journey…anyone else? Krista and I soon met through SoulCycle….and we felt immediately connected.

Krista: When Lindsey and I met we were both going through the tough transition between our 20s and 30s, and we started having deep conversations about rejection, fear, relationships, and finding purpose. I had just been rejected from SoulCycle, confused about my career and feeling all the feels about getting older. We decided to record these really intimate and raw conversations on our closet floors so we could help others navigate their own transitions in life. After 7 months of recording, we finally got the courage to launch the Almost 30 Podcast! Now we’re so proud that Almost 30 has evolved into a top 50 podcast, global brand, and community of hundreds of thousands of women all over the world (who are super badass and special). We seek to help women in their evolution and to remember who they are.

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

Lindsey: The early days of Almost 30 can feel like a blur sometimes, but what I do remember that was so interesting (and thrilling) was the rate at which we were doing things that no one asked us to do. I spent most of my life waiting to get cast, waiting for the yes, or the green light on creative projects. With Almost 30, we were experimenting along the way, leaning into what felt right and following through. For example, no one ever told us to go on a world tour! We knew we had people listening all over the world, but we weren’t at all sure that it would warrant a 13-city tour LOL. The number of attendees never dictated whether a tour stop was successful. Rather we would feel into the connections made, the growth, the breakthroughs, the laughs…whether it was 500 people or 50 people, New York or Australia, it was well worth it to us to make our community feel seen, heard, and supported.

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?

Krista: There were so many! We did an episode recently on our 4-year anniversary where we listened to our first episode back again…and WOW! Firstly, we used copyrighted music (illegally), we didn’t even say anything (we kept going in circles), and we talked about crude things that make me cringe thinking about them…it was hilarious to reminisce. But what mattered is that we showed up anyway, right? There were also multiple times in the beginning that we forgot to hit record or lost all our audio — when you do that with guests it can be really embarrassing. We quickly learned to double and triple check all the technical aspects as well as to be more mindful of our words!

Importantly, we learned that we needed to get really clear with our intention for our brand from the start — that it wasn’t enough to just have an idea in our heads, we needed to define our intention out loud, write it down, and share it with our audience. Now, we’re grateful for all our “mistakes” and learnings because we can share them with other podcasters. We have an entire program, PodcastPro, devoted to teaching podcasters all the lessons we learned along the way!

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

Lindsey: We are huge believers in putting in the work on yourself first. This is so important, especially as leaders. We work with our own healers and coaches and make time for our personal spiritual practices like meditation, breathwork, prayer, and channeled writing. When we take this time for ourselves, we’re able to tap into our creativity and connect to our intuition as leaders. We also highly suggest blocking off time every day — no looking at emails, Slack, or Instagram — to brainstorm and create. That way, you’re coming from a place of authentic creation instead of being reactive. We like to do this in the mornings before the day gets too crazy with meetings.

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

Krista: Work culture is everything! “Growing up” in the corporate world really helped me to understand what I did and did not want to bring to our office. I learned so much (whether I wanted to or not, LOL)! To us, a fantastic work culture is one where every team member feels seen, connected, and appreciated. I remember so often feeling uninspired, unheard, and unproductive at jobs so I wanted to really work to help folks at Almost 30 not to feel that. So we love bringing our team together, whether in person or virtually, as much as we can to connect and inspire one another. We have weekly team meetings where we share wins, and we host special gatherings like team dinners, energy healing sessions, sound baths, and Tarot card readings. We make sure to set up regular check-ins with each team member to discuss their goals and make sure they feel supported. Lastly, something we implemented this year was giving the team a dedicated office shut down for two weeks in the year — one in the summer and one in the winter. We all use this time to relax, get away, be with family, and just to reset. Running our company as the company I wish we would have had when I was younger means doing things intentionally and differently. It’s always asking “why not?” to doing things we want to do!

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.

  1. Meditation: We have both been meditating for years and it has been completely transformative. Meditation has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression, increase memory and attention, boost immunity, improve sleep, and regulate hormone levels. It’s free and accessible to everyone, and you can start small with just a few minutes a day. Personally, it helps us eliminate nagging thoughts and be more present and chill in everything we do.
  2. Movement: Moving your body is a powerful way to care for your mind. Exercise has been shown to release anxiety and decrease depression. It doesn’t have to be an intense or long workout — move your body in a way that feels good to you, whether that’s a leisurely walk, a workout class, stretching, or a dance party! We love to put on our favorite high-vibe music in the morning and just move around (yoga, dancing, jumping on a mini trampoline).
  3. Breathwork: We find breathwork to be such a powerful modality for healing and caring for your mental health. You can get grounded, release stagnant energy, and bring new energy into your body. We both love attending virtual breathwork sessions. (We’re hosting a breathwork workshop soon through our New Paradigm Digital Workshop Series). You can also try simple breathing techniques at home like boxed breathing: take a deep breath in through the nose for four counts, hold at the top for four, exhale out the mouth for four, and hold the breath out for four. Repeat.
  4. Practicing gratitude: This is a simple, free, and accessible way to bring more presence, peace, and joy into your life. We love starting the day by journaling what we’re grateful for that day, both big and small.
  5. Nature: Getting out in nature is such a grounding experience. It has been shown to ease anxiety, release stress, boost energy, and increase memory and attention span. It can be something as simple as taking a long walk around your neighborhood. Leave your phone at home and be really present with all the sounds, sights, and smells around you. It’s beautiful and so relaxing!

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.

Lindsey: I would encourage everyone, no matter their age or life stage, to reconnect to their inner child. Reflect on the things that brought you joy when you were younger — whether that’s being outdoors, singing, drawing, painting, dancing, whatever it is — and incorporate more of that into your daily routine. It could be something as simple as skipping down the street or singing in your bedroom when no one is listening. It may feel a little odd or uncomfortable at first, but it will bring you so much joy. There is something so cool about seeing the world through the eyes of your younger self. The wonder and curiosity overpowers the doubt and judgement.

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?

Krista: In today’s world, so many of us, especially teens, are constantly attached to technology and social media. (I can totally relate as an adult — I can only imagine the pressure for teens!) Social media is a powerful tool, but too much of it invites anxiety and comparison, and it makes it more difficult to connect to your own intuition. I would encourage everyone to do regular digital detoxes where you totally unplug for a weekend (or at least a day). I’ll take weeks at a time, or once I even did a weeklong silent retreat with no speaking OR any media consumption at all including the phone. After any time I do this, I feel so much more connected to myself because I can finally remember what my ideas, thoughts, and feelings were over anyone else’s! We consume so much on a daily basis it can prevent us from that deep connection to our intuition which is what makes life interesting :).

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

Krista: Each year I feel like a new book changes my life! I have always loved The Alchemist when I was growing up. Then when I wanted to heal the relationship with my body and food, Women Food and God by Geneen Roth helped me heal in a big way. Now, the book that’s changing me is The Law of One. I had wanted to read it for a while after hearing so much about it on Gaia. I finally got around to it this year! Since then, I’ve read it multiple times and it resonated with me so deeply that I knew I’d never be the same. (I even did a full podcast episode on it on Almost 30!) It’s a beautiful metaphysical text that has helped me understand history, consciousness, quantum physics, healing, and so much more. I have to warn people though, it can be really weird to read because the vocabulary is so advanced (it’s spoken from a higher dimensional consciousness), but it’s worth it!

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. 🙂

Lindsey: I love this question! I would love to start a movement that inspired people to do the one thing they’ve always wanted to do or start. In making it known, they can crowd source support, resources, and accountability. The hope would be that people would get just as much joy and inspiration from making their dream a reality in helping others do the same! I also envision that this type of community movement would help to extinguish the scarcity mindset that people have around their dreams.

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

Lindsey: “The reason you have a hard time trusting your intuition is because you are still convinced that some outside authority knows better than you.” ~Maryam Hasnaa

One of my greatest life lessons is learning to trust myself. I’ve realized it’s a muscle and that if you aren’t taught to use it early on in life, it takes a lot of practice, focus, and effort to build it as an adult. But I’m doing it! One way I love to practice this is to tell people who I have a close relationship with that I’m working on trusting myself and I would appreciate that they hold me accountable! Pretty intense, I know. But it is a powerful in the moment mirror that could be super effective in rewiring that part of your brain. When I was given the opportunity to move to LA back in 2014, I was not “ready.” I didn’t necessarily have the full-on support of everyone around me (they were too consumed in how my move would affect them). But I KNEW that this move was happening for me and in divine timing. I trusted myself, I didn’t hesitate, and I said YES. Three weeks later, I was living in LA. That move changed my life for the better for so many reasons…..all because I trusted my own feelings.

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

For super fun memes, inspirational quotes, and helpful content follow: Almost 30: @almost30podcast

For future podcasters and podcasters, you can follow @yourpodcastpro

Krista can be found at @itskrista

Lindsey can be found at @lindseysimcik

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


Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik of ‘Almost 30’: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Women Of The C-Suite: Katie Scallan of the Houston Dynamo On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As

Women Of The C-Suite: Katie Scallan of the Houston Dynamo On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive

Work smarter not harder. When starting out, people tend to double their workload and double their hours in the office in an effort to either make themselves look good in front of others by burning the midnight oil, or just out of sheer ignorance. In the end you will either burn yourself out or do a sub-par job. Be smarter.

As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Scallan.

As Chief Marketing Officer at the Houston Dynamo and Dash, Katie Scallan spearheads the club’s innovative branding, marketing, advertising, communications and broadcast efforts, as well strategy for events at BBVA Stadium. Throughout her more than 20 years career in the sports, entertainment and automotive industries; Scallan has been responsible for breakthrough brand launches and multi-faceted fan engagement campaigns. Scallan joins the club after spending the previous 16 years in a variety of roles with The Friedkin Group, a privately held consortium of automotive, hospitality, entertainment, golf and adventure companies, including Toyota’s second largest distributor in the world, Gulf States Toyota.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series Katie. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My interest in marketing and sports has been in my blood as long as I can remember. While I was never particularly great at any one sport, I enjoyed playing tennis in high school, snow skiing in college and now playing golf as an adult. Upon graduation from Baylor University, where I earned a BBA in Marketing, I initially thought I wanted to be a professional sports agent. Once I realized that meant attending law school, which I had no interest in, I decided sports marketing was the avenue I wanted pursue instead. My first job out of college was in outside sales, because one of my professors told me, “no matter what you want to do in life, you need to be able to sell…whether it is yourself, a product or a service.” However, my interest in sports was still pumping through my veins and I knew I had to get into that industry eventually. Initially, I began my sports career with Major League Soccer’s Dallas Burn. This opportunity provided me an overall knowledge of what the sports business world entailed. After some time, I decided I needed to expand my advertising and branding knowledge to be more marketable and well-rounded. I worked for a variety of advertising agencies both on B2B and B2C accounts. I parlayed both of those skill sets when I joined Toyota in 2003 where I initially began as a brand manager and launched the SCION nameplate for Toyota in the Gulf States region (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi & Arkansas). Upon successfully launching SCION (the first new nameplate from Toyota since Lexus), a new opportunity within the organization presented itself. Toyota began to consider entering the sports marketing world, and I was ready, willing and able to jump into the role. It began with the negotiation of Toyota’s first naming rights, Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets. That started the successful trend of partnering with sports teams, universities and organizations across the region to leverage fan passion and affinity to promote the Toyota and SCION brands. Toyota Field, Toyota Stadium and Toyota Texas Bass Classic joined the naming rights category, while we secured various other sponsorships with University of Arkansas, Oklahoma State University, Texas Tech University, Baylor University, TCU, University of Texas, Mississippi State, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and NASCAR, just to name a few. I consistently accepted new opportunities within our organization as they were presented to me. This included a move from the Toyota business to the parent company’s wide variety of businesses that included entertainment and hospitality.

After launching over a dozen brands or rebrands within The Friedkin Group and Gulf States Toyota, the Houston Dynamo opportunity presented itself. With a new president having recently taken over the business operations and with a new minority owner, NBA star James Harden joining the ownership group, the Dynamo and Dash were ready for a new beginning. That’s when the rebranding efforts of the organization really took center stage, and it could not have been a better fit for me personally. Not only did I get to leverage my knowledge and experience in branding, but I also got to lean in further to my passion for sports. We recently launched our new brand which is the start of a new era for our club, on and off the field. This rebrand is about more than team colors or logos. It is about how we have evolved into a CLUB and how our club represents our city. We don’t want to be the soccer teams that play in Houston. We want to be Houston’s team. We are focused on putting Houston first in everything we do.

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

It would have to be COVID-19. I mean, it is an unprecedented event. We had a ton of positive momentum when the 2020 season kicked off. Our first (and only) home game before the COVID shutdowns was not only sold out, but it was also the most profitable game in the history of the club, as well as the highest ratings for Univision. We felt extremely bullish about 2020 and building towards our rebrand announcement. Unfortunately, the pandemic took center stage and forced the world to call an “audible” and recalibrate our collective thinking on life in general, but more specifically, how we do business. We had to ask ourselves if we could still pull this new brand launch off that we had planned. With the support of the league office and great partners like adidas and our agency 9th Wonder, we were still able to execute to our original timing of November 2020. Brand launches take an incredible amount of time to prepare for, and the rebrand of the Houston Dynamo and Dash was no exception. This project had been worked on for almost two years. If we had had to pull it, it would have had a number of negative impacts across the business.

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?

My first month on the job at my first job out of college, I had just moved to Dallas, a huge city for me. I did not know my way around town, and my boss at the time was taking part in client visits with me one day. I’ll never forget…I was so stressed out both having my boss doing sales calls with me, but also driving in an unknown city for the first time. In downtown Dallas, while my boss was in the car with me, I turned the wrong way down a one-way street. After dodging oncoming cars, I was able to make a quick turn and get out of danger. I was horrified. Embarrassed. How could I have screwed up so badly in front of my new boss. In the end, it was no big deal but, in the moment…it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I walked away from that experience with the knowledge of never taking yourself too seriously. Everyone is human and makes mistakes. The world will keep spinning.

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?

This is the easiest answer I have ever given to a question in my life. First and foremost, my dad. My dad is not only a retired officer from the US Army, but at 86-years old he still works full-time as a professor at his local community college. He taught me everything about being a hard worker and a kind person. He was both a mom and dad to me since I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was nine years old. He made sure to instill in me the absolute desire and priority to get a college education before anything else I wanted to do in my personal life. His favorite saying he would tell me all the time was, “all you have in life is what is between your two ears…study, learn…so you will always be able to take care of yourself and never have to rely on anyone else.” He led by example and showed me what hard work, determination and perseverance through any situation life throws at you looks like.

Additionally, I was blessed to have the greatest bosses anyone could wish for while I was at Gulf States Toyota and The Friedkin Group; Eric Williamson, JC Fassino and Dan Friedkin. The leadership they showed me, the opportunities they provided me and the friendship they still share with me to this day absolutely makes me a better employee and leader today. Working special events like I did quite often within my various marketing roles, requires work during all hours of the day and night and in all capacities. No job is too small to ensure the greater good and successful execution of an event or campaign. While working an outdoor event in 100-degree heat in Texas, my VP and President were out in the parking lots helping fans park their cars. That was an eye opener on what it means to lead…I thought, executives don’t normally participate in the “menial” tasks…but these guys did it all and with smiles on their faces. They walked the walk and talked the talk. They also provided sound advice along the way like, “be a duck…a duck is paddling furiously underwater, but all everyone sees is it gracefully gliding across the water.” Since I was told that analogy, I have always tried to model my behavior in that vein. Whether it is customers that come to events and games to be entertained, or employees that need to see their leader resolute, neither need to see my stress.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

A good night’s sleep is key! I can’t be successful if I’m running on fumes. Additionally, my faith also plays an important part in my life, so I lean on that as well. Work/life balance is more important than ever now due to COVID-19, and so many of us working from home and never “turning ourselves off”. After months of that behavior I started scheduling a little “me time” so I can get outside to go hit some golf balls or take a walk. We need to decompress to be better at work. As the one my team looks to, if I don’t lead by example, they won’t take the time off either. Therefore, I owe it to them even more so than myself. That was never more apparent than during our new brand launch this month. Every single member of my team has been burning the candle at both ends as they say, and all of us can only be productive for so long in that environment. Due to that fact, I am encouraging my entire team to take a long Thanksgiving break, as well as some quality time-off in December so they can completely check-out for a few days.

As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

Fundamentally, it is paramount in order to experience new and evolving perspectives. Diversity on the executive team enables an organization to be more adaptable to various environments and situations allowing innovation by having additional points of view in their arsenal. I truly believe most people genuinely are oblivious to their own biases. Having a diverse executive team helps to recognize opportunities to organically influence change and help evolve one’s ability to look outside of their own reality and take a glimpse into someone else’s.

At the Dynamo and Dash I am proud to be one of two female C-suite executives within our organization…that doesn’t happen too often in professional sports, an industry that traditionally is male dominated. Frankly, that is one of the reasons I accepted the job in the first place. A bit of a responsibility, or better yet opportunity, to be an authentic example to young women beginning their careers to see that it can be done and one doesn’t have to compromise their values in order to do so. I have been in traditionally male dominated industries for the majority of my career, both in automotive and sports. What I didn’t do is allow it to change my female perspective. I had a seat at the table and I was going to do my job to the best of my ability every day; and in the end, that is all we can ask of anyone.

As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.

In sports we have a unique opportunity that other industries do not have. We can unite a community, through a shared love of sports, and this summer you’ve seen all number of athletes and teams leverage that to mobilize people in a commitment to justice, equality, and inclusivity. At the Houston Dynamo and Dash we prioritize that principle through our actions; most recently through the 2020 election. We participated in two bipartisan efforts to encourage voter registration and turnout; Team Up Texas (a Texas-specific initiative) and Rally the Vote (a national initiative). Additionally, we worked with voting officials to secure BBVA Stadium as a voting center on election day. Being able to provide a location to vote in the East Downtown area of Houston, enabled an otherwise underserved community the flexibility of voting close to home.

Meeting the needs of underserved communities in the greater Houston-area is paramount to our Club. Our owners, in partnership one of our former players DaMarcus Beasley, have committed to opening 15 soccer mini-pitches (imagine an old tennis court, resurfaced and lined with soccer lines) and providing free lessons at city parks located in predominantly Black and minority communities. By doing so, we are providing a safe place for kids to play year-round, as well as a steppingstone towards changing the “pay to play” model that is traditional in many youth sports activities and making soccer more accessible for kids to be able to play for free. Research shows getting kids active in the outdoors and within a team environment, helps them become better citizens and develops them into better overall contributors to society. It takes all of us to create meaningful change and create a brighter future. By treating others with dignity and respect, we can work towards a collective goal to not only learn about social justice but engage in transformational initiatives, including the development of more female leaders. A colleague of mine recently phrased this as “selling hope not soap”. Soap being solely focused on selling a product or service and hope being the act of putting a focus on social change through your business endeavors. Since our Club does have multiple female executives, and is the only professional women’s sports team in Houston, we like to engage in promoting female empowerment issues as well. Both our Houston Dash players, as well as our female executives, regularly speak to young women throughout the Houston community about their careers and growing up in sports. As one of the professional sports teams in the 4th largest city in America, I believe it is our responsibility to cultivate and empower our local community.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

At Toyota a methodology called Kaizen exists. Kaizen or “continuous improvement” represents that all departments and all employees need to function together, from the CEO to the janitor, to ensure the most optimal performance of the organization and that everyone has a stake in the success or failure of it. I learned that style during my days at Toyota and I brought that same thinking with me to sports. While we are not manufacturing vehicles, we are still creating an experience where people are spending their hard-earned dollars to enjoy the spirit, comradery, and competition of sport. As CMO, my day-to-day roles and responsibilities run the gamut. I oversee multiple disciplines within marketing, communications, broadcasting, and community relations. With touch points within various areas of the business, I use Kaizen principles in an effort towards breaking down the silos that are traditional in sports. Principally, there is a separation of “church and state” within professional sports; the business operations (known as the front office) and the technical side i.e., product on the field…players, coaches, etc. There are also silos within business operations between sales, stadium operations, marketing, broadcasting, etc. As an executive I am trying to bridge those gaps and develop a new culture. We all work better when we work together. By underscoring the importance of communication between groups, we promote organizational synergies and efficiencies, and hopefully in the end…less stress and more productivity for everyone.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

That you can stop “hustling” once you become an executive. If you lose your drive to hustle, then you are not helping anyone; yourself, your employees or the business. If only I can become an executive, I’ll get to work less and delegate everything I hate. If only! The reality is the buck stops with you. While you delegate, you must be actively involved but not micro-managing your team. They must feel empowered and that their contributions matter. No task is too menial…and I mean it. Once at a large-scale event I oversaw, I realized the ecology team missed a cleaning. I literally did not have time to call the janitorial services team, so I did it myself all while thinking in my head…I can’t believe I went to college and I’m cleaning a mobile trailer toilet! But you cannot be bigger than anything that ensures the success of the collective whole.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Women tend to have to walk a fine line between being strong, but not too strong while showing compassion but not being perceived as weak. The judgement levied on women often is disproportionate to those of men when considering one’s personality, interpersonal skills, and even fashion choices. While some view that as a disadvantage I feel embracing that distinction has brought me opportunities I would not have otherwise been able to take advantage of. When I was in my first year at Toyota, I was launching SCION. I was also one of a handful of female managers at that time, not to mention new to the automotive industry as well. In my role as Brand Manager, I had to work with general managers and owners of car dealerships. These gentlemen forgot more about the car business then I would ever learn about it! So, I had to figure out how I was supposed to go in and tell them how to run their business with this new car brand. I approached each situation with confidence but also concentration that I needed them as much as they needed me for us both to be successful. I was transparent about my lack of automotive knowledge at the time, but also ensured them I was completely committed to their success and I knew my marketing and branding backwards and forwards, so they needed to believe I would not lead them astray. And a good pair of high heels so I could look everyone in the eye didn’t hurt either.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

How important inspiring others is to the success of the organization, especially in today’s climate. As we all know, 2020 has been a year like no other in recent history. Staff, especially junior staff, look to their executives not only for guidance but our demeanor and perspective. I have had to fill a lot of roles for my associates; not only that of their supervisor, but more importantly their friend, their counselor, their confidant, their cheerleader and their elder stateman. Between remote working and layoffs due to COVID-19, social justice issues, a contentious election, both the Dynamo and Dash playing in “bubbles”, having games with no fans then switching to games with a limited number of fans and finally the demands of our new brand launch; the stress has piled on this year.

In sports, the front office staff tends to skew younger and a lot of these individuals are living alone and far from home. I quickly realized they needed to feel connected and inspired on a different level than what I was formerly used to providing. I made a point to set up one-on-ones with every single person within my marketing & communications teams…from the most senior to the most junior. This enabled each of them to have time with me where they could vent their frustrations and concerns. It also gave me the opportunity to lighten their emotional load through laughter and simply listening to them, which allowed them to feel validated and that their input really matters.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?

A leader needs to inspire others to be the best version of themselves, bring out their skills & traits that are inside of them that they may not even know are there. When a new executive begins working at a company, they are usually given the green light to make whatever personnel decisions they need to for the betterment of the organization. I believe it takes a strong leader to not necessarily take the easy way and just bring on all their own new people, but to truly evaluate who you have and how you can make them better. By creating a stronger culture, engaging your employees, possibly realigning roles & responsibilities that make workloads more effective and efficient, one might be able to groom an otherwise below average performer to a valuable contributor. Additionally, transitioning to the executive level means previous methods of interaction are gone. Expectations deepen and the ability to think strategically vs tactically becomes a driving force in one’s day-to-day operations. While many people believe they are capable of this, not all are.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

Don’t look at yourself as a woman leader, you are simply a leader. It never occurred to me to view things through a different lens simply because I’m a woman. Never question if you are as good or equal to a man, be the best version of you that you can be. Additionally, don’t be apologetic for being a strong woman, but don’t let it be the full definition of who you are either. Too many female leaders overcompensate for being a woman and it ends up back-firing because they become too bossy and not a team player; be open to other’s ideas and points of view. You don’t always have to “win” the debate, decision or discussion. Understanding others’ point of view, whether you agree with it or not, (or can understand it or not), enables you to be better as you understand it is their reality and you can then figure out how to better address their needs.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I find giving of myself and my personal time to help develop future leaders is not only rewarding for me personally, but helpful to those I mentor so they can learn from my mistakes and successes. I sit on the boards for WISE (Women In Sports & Events), Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business Center for Sports Strategy & Sales (S3) and Austin Community College’s Marketing & Fashion Advisory Committee. In addition to the professional and academic development boards I sit on, I also volunteer my time and services with civic organizations and philanthropic causes related to cancer research and support services. Finding a cure for cancer is a cause near and dear to me after losing my mom to that horrible disease at such a young age. Therefore, anything I can do to be of service towards that goal…count me in!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Look for opportunities. I believe that sometimes we simply miss opportunities because we aren’t looking for them. Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s right in front of us. Look for opportunities.
  2. Enjoy the people you work with. We spend more time with our work colleagues than our own families; its better when you like those individuals.
  3. Work smarter not harder. When starting out, people tend to double their workload and double their hours in the office in an effort to either make themselves look good in front of others by burning the midnight oil, or just out of sheer ignorance. In the end you will either burn yourself out or do a sub-par job. Be smarter.
  4. Don’t step over the dollars to get to the pennies. Always keep sight of the big picture. Saving money today can cost you more in the long-run or conversely, nickel and diming a client today can hurt a more profitable relationship down the road.
  5. Work/life balance is not just a nice saying, it is fundamental for your mental health and productivity, as well as a successful personal life. Be cognizant of the efforts you put into both.

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.

For everyone to have a “servant’s heart.” Having a servant’s heart means putting other people first. They would ask, how can I serve you instead of how can you serve me. Being a servant leader does not mean you are weak. It means that you lead by putting others’ needs ahead of your own. It is a leader who cares about the people he/she leads.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. — Mark Twain

When you’re up against a wall you don’t always have all the knowledge or resources or power or money to accomplish what you need to, but you can’t give up. Flip the script…look at the problem differently…how can you address it in another way and still accomplish your ultimate goal? I’ve lived by this premise throughout my life. Upon my initial application to Baylor University, I was not accepted based on my GPA or SAT scores. But my goal was to attend that university, so I drove to Waco, TX to work with university administrators to develop a plan allowing me admission without meeting the “standard requirements”. We came to terms that I would have probationary status and have to meet specific academic requirements before I would be granted full admission. I exceeded the metrics and went on to a successful collegiate career there. At the Dynamo and Dash, like most businesses, we have a lot of financial constraints due to COVID affecting our business. Therefore, we had to think outside the box regarding our launch plans. We worked with our partners and developed key strategies that were different than other brand launches I had been a part of, but none the less successful.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

It would be amazing to meet Oprah or Warren Buffet. They both transcend the standard of being a great businessperson and have created empires! To have even a small piece of the knowledge they have that enabled them to accomplish that and apply it to my life, would be life changing. Also, Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A. His focus on customer service in fast food is second to none. The fact that he does it while staying true to his values and producing some of the best tasting and most popular fast food in America is astonishing.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Women Of The C-Suite: Katie Scallan of the Houston Dynamo On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Marya Khalil-Otto of VI Derm Beauty: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

Work life balance doesn’t exist and being a CEO and a mother is not easy. When you think about a scale and if one side is up the other side is down, that’s balance. But I don’t think you need to sacrifice one side of yourself to find happiness. I believe we can have it all and there is no one size fits all approach.

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

Marya Khalil is the eldest daughter of the founder of VI Peel, Dr. Abdala Khalil. Marya has been a part of VI Peel from inception. Maryawas the inspiration behind the product, the reason it was formulated, and the first patient to have used the VI Peel.

As a teenager, Marya struggled with cystic acne. It was only through her father, Dr. Khalil’s revolutionary VI Peel formula that she found a safe, painless cure to treat her condition. Now Marya’s mission is to help people of all skin types restore their confidence, so they can reach their true life potential.

Marya is the President & CEO of VI Peel for over 7 years. Under the leadership of CEO Marya Khalil, VI has grown to offer 5 medical grade VI Peel formulations customized for various skin conditions, and VI Derm Beauty, a full portfolio of clinical daily care products specifically formulated to reduce pigment and increase cell turnover. Marya recently won the award for Top CEO and the #1 Chemical Peel brand in 2019.Marya graduated from NYU in 2008 with a degree in Cinema Studies and Communications, with a focus on Broadcast Journalism. Her dream was to make a difference in the world and to help improve people’s lives. At age of 25, when she was appointed to CEO, she was able to make her dream come true.

Marya balances her life as a CEO and mother. When she thinks of her success she doesn’t think about just the business. She believes it’s a perfect mixture of business, family, parenthood, marriage and self-care. “Success is not an endpoint. It’s about confidence, embracing your weaknesses, and being able to balance it all.”

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

Well let’s start with the fact that I didn’t choose this career path. I studied journalism and film in college, but when my father unexpectedly passed away, I had to take over the company at age 25. Of course, I was lucky because I was taking over a skincare company, and happened to be a beauty junkie. Since developing acne at age 14, I have always been obsessed with ingredients, skincare products, and makeup (to cover up that acne). This path chose me, and I can’t imagine my life any other way.

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

When I took over, I was only 25 and definitely in over my head. I think if I had time to transition, maybe it would have been easier. Though it happened literally overnight, and I was then responsible for paying my mom’s mortgage, putting my two younger sisters through college, and making sure that I kept all of the people that worked for me employed. When I look back at that time, it was dark and challenging, but it also made me who I am today.

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

I’d be lying if I said there were not times when I wanted to give up. There were definitely days when I just wanted to stay in bed and have all of the stress and responsibility disappear, although I always managed to show up to work. Maybe I wasn’t always 100% present, but I was there.

Somewhere along the way, the journey that I didn’t necessarily want to be on transformed me into a business leader, wife, and mother to two amazing children.

My family and my father’s legacy are what drive me every day.

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

Right now, the world is in the middle of a global pandemic, and my company is coming off our best year ever. I honestly believe that those early years prepared me for this moment. Running a company during COVID-19 has really been about being able to pivot and get back to basics. I may be the CEO, but when it comes to the business, nothing is beneath me. Companies that couldn’t pivot are the ones that struggled.

When I look at my kids, I want them to know that it’s good to fail, but it’s not good if they don’t learn from the failure.

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?

One of the many lessons I’ve learned along the way is that “Reply All” can be very dangerous. Also maybe don’t respond to emails while you’re driving. And maybe, don’t work with your husband, but if you do, be careful what emails you send. I’m not going to go into too much more detail than that, except that I sent an email to our entire sales force, that I thought was just for him. Now, I double-check every email I send out at least three times and I never put the email address in until I’ve finished writing the body of the email.

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

That’s easy: our core product, the VI Peel, really works. I think consumers are so used to products not working that when they finally find something that works, they scream it from the mountain tops.

Our company has a really simple mission: we help people reach their true potential by working to restore their confidence.

I remember a time when a patient reached out to me once and told me that we were able to achieve in one VI Peel what her therapist couldn’t achieve in 10 years. She was such a beautiful woman, but she was so concerned with how she looked on the outside, that she didn’t have the confidence to let her inner beauty shine.

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

Honestly, you don’t know you’re going to burn out until you burn out. It reminds me of something my dad used to say, “You only run out of gas once.”

If I start to get to that point where I’m overwhelmed with stress, anxiety, I haven’t eaten in two days, and I feel like I constantly want to cry… I know it’s time for a break. My best advice to anyone is that you need a strong support system and you need to build time for yourself into your daily routine. Growing up, I was never a morning girl. Now if I’m not on the Peloton by 6am, my entire day will go downhill. There’s always going to be work, but you need to carve out time for yourself.

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?

At 25, my friends were all just trying to get their first job and find their place in the world, and here I was thrown into the role of CEO. The transition was incredibly lonely. I had no one to talk to who understood what I was going through.

I want to give a huge shoutout to my business group Vistage for giving me a safe space to connect, grow, and learn from other business leaders. I especially want to thank my group Chair, Fred Carpenter, who has mentored, nurtured, and guided me for the last five years.

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

I love this question because I honestly haven’t figured this out. I feel like something is missing and I don’t know what that is yet.

It reminds me of the Japanese concept Ikigai, which is the convergence of four primary elements — what you love (your passion), what the world needs (your mission), what you are good at (your vocation) and what you can get paid for (your profession). I have this hung up in my office and reflect on it each day.

I’ve figured out so much, but I’m still trying to figure out what the world needs. Maybe that won’t happen today or even tomorrow, but if there is one thing I’ve learned — it’s that everything happens in time, you just have to be patient and keep showing up.

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 got this. It may sound simple, but when I was 25 years old and became CEO, I did not believe in myself. I wish I could go back to those early days, and tell that young girl, that it’s going to be a hard road but YOU GOT THIS.
  2. You need other people to get the job done well. I sort of tricked my husband into working with me. In the early days there was literally a line outside my office of people that needed something. He looked at me and said, “You’ve been doing this all by yourself?!?” I was really good at hiding the fact that I needed help, and once I admitted that, everything changed.
  3. Work life balance doesn’t exist and being a CEO and a mother is not easy. When you think about a scale and if one side is up the other side is down, that’s balance. But I don’t think you need to sacrifice one side of yourself to find happiness. I believe we can have it all and there is no one size fits all approach.
  4. Saying No is OKAY. In my family, I am known as the “yes” girl. I accommodate. I sacrifice. And in the process, I forget about myself.
    I have had multiple offers to get investment from the outside to grow my company quickly. But I know my company is more than its valuation. I am a very thoughtful person, and I want nothing more than to grow this company at a pace that feels right to me. That ensures we can keep our culture and stay true to our mission. So sometimes saying no is crucial.
  5. You’re going to need a hobby because there will be stress. For me my outlet has become exercising, I fell in love with exercising when my father passed away. Exercising has become my second therapist. It gives me energy, it gives me clarity, and it gives me the time I so desperately need. It’s so important to have a hobby that helps improve your mental health.

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. 🙂

The ‘admitting you’re not actually okay’ movement. It happened to me just a few weeks ago. Quarantine has been hard on all of us, but it made me face myself as I had never done before. I was never really alone, but I felt like I was. I realized I had to find new ways to fulfill myself. I realized I had never actually faced the sadness that was living inside of me from my dad’s death. I finally admitted this to my family and they have given me the warmest love. I started going to therapy and I feel like I have a new lease on life. There’s nothing worse than bottling up feelings. When you’re ready, releasing the pain can be so powerful.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@Maryakhalil on Instagram is the best way to follow

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


Marya Khalil-Otto of VI Derm Beauty: 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.

Dr. Michael A Smith of Life Extension: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve One’s Wellb

Dr. Michael A. Smith of Life Extension: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing

Listen to music every day. It truly does calm the “savage beast” in all of us, resulting in rest, peace, and better sleep. Interestingly, any genre works. If you like it, listen to it. You could even sing along and maybe even dance. Music synchronizes and harmonizes brain chemistry. As an example, when Alzheimer’s patients play their favorite music from the past, they “wake up” and often sing along.

As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael A. Smith.

Dr. Michael A. Smith received his medical doctorate from the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Smith practiced Internal Medicine and Radiology in Dallas, Texas in the early 2000s and then transitioned to the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries as an educator and consultant. Dr. Smith currently is the Director of Education and Spokesperson for Life Extension® and is the author of The Supplement Pyramid: How to Build your Personalized Nutritional Regimen. Dr. Smith is also the host of Live FOREVERish, a podcast and Facebook live show for Life Extension®.

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 story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

As a practicing doctor in Dallas, patients kept asking me about nutrition and supplements. But my limited knowledge of such things was embarrassing and lead me to search out organizations where I could learn more about natural medicine.

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

After learning about a heart disease test rarely ordered by cardiologists (PLAC test offered by Life Extension), I committed myself to educating the public about the test through my podcast, videos, and webinars. A few months later, a Life Extension customer reached out to tell us that after testing for this marker of disease, he likely avoided an acute heart attack given his high risk.

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?

When I was first entering the world of publicity and promoting my book The Supplement Pyramid: How to Build your Personalized Nutritional Regimen at Expo West, I learned an important lesson about what to eat and drink before a live on-camera interview. I had just completed three hours of satellite media tour interviews and was thirsty and starving, so during a quick break I ran to grab some food and downed an entire Dike Coke. I ran back to complete my next on-camera interview and the first thing that came out of my mouth when I went to answer the first question was a burp. I was shocked and could hear my publicist laughing in the background. I learned an important lesson that day that no matter how hungry or thirsty you are if you are completing on-camera interviews just drink water and splurge on a big meal afterwards!

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

As a medical doctor and the Education Director at Life Extension, I bring a more holistic approach to health and wellness. My experience has provided me with extensive knowledge of the wellness industry and specifically the role vitamins and supplements play in people’s health and wellness journey. I’m fortunate to be able to share what consumers should look for when trying to decide if they should add supplementation to make up for vitamin deficiencies. I also recognize the importance of science and research and that anyone looking to add a supplement should consult with their doctor or Registered Dietitian, complete blood-panel testing and research to ensure the company they purchase vitamins and supplements from is backed by science.

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?

Many people have helped me along the way, and I am thankful for all them. There’s Gail Harries, an RN and mental health expert, who helped get my foot in the door at Life Extension. There’s Bob Thompson, the director of Life Extension’s retail store, who supported my vision for live lectures series conducted throughout S. Florida, and then there’s Sheldon Baker, Life Extension’s former director of public relations, who introduced me to many influential people in the industry and was instrumental in getting my book published.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

First, I think with busy lives and schedules many of us make time for others, but don’t make time for ourselves. It is important that self-care be a part of everyone’s daily routine and to create a habit of getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Second, we believe we have to be perfect. If you make a decision to eat a salad, go on a long walk or add more water to your diet, each of those choices are important and should be celebrated. You do not have to be perfect all the time in order to live a healthier life.

Lastly, we want instant gratification. If we start to eat healthier and exercise, we expect to see results quickly. When that does not happen, we often get discouraged and go back to our old habits. It is important to stay the course and continue living a healthy lifestyle even if you can’t see the immediate results.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

  • Learn a new language. It’s a powerful, preventative strategy against cognitive decline.
  • Listen to music every day. It truly does calm the “savage beast” in all of us, resulting in rest, peace, and better sleep. Interestingly, any genre works. If you like it, listen to it. You could even sing along and maybe even dance. Music synchronizes and harmonizes brain chemistry. As an example, when Alzheimer’s patients play their favorite music from the past, they “wake up” and often sing along.
  • Sleep in a cold room, but with warm feet. Colder room temperatures with socks on your feet helps with restorative sleep cycles.
  • If you are trying to lose weight and need to reduce snacking urges, brush your teeth. Not sure why this works, but it may stimulate saliva and appetite control hormones.
  • Prune, give, grow. Prune out things in your life you don’t need or use. Give it to someone in need. Practice lavish generosity. Keep a selfless perspective.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

Daily exercise helps to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Boosts energy levels to help you stay energized throughout the day and sleep better at night. In addition, 30 minutes of exercise daily can improve your overall heart health.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

I would recommend adding a daily walk to your routine, yoga and cycling.

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

Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. It opened my mind to food sensitivities and how they can cause what I call mystery symptoms. These are vague symptoms without an obvious direct cause.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

Intrinsic or endogenous therapeutics. I would love to drive a movement amongst researchers, government institutions, and clinicians to research and practice a form of therapy that optimizes our intrinsic defense mechanisms. We are starting to see this in cancer with immune focused treatments — but a real movement that spans the entire medical field is needed. There is great opportunity to find better treatments and even cures by studying endogenous antioxidant systems, pain regulatory systems, and even aging pathways and systems.

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

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. This is from the bible, James 1:19. I also like what CS Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I am a huge fan of the show Good Eats. I appreciate the way the host Alton Brown takes the time to explain each topic and educate the viewer about different topics. I love the way the show brings food science alive. I would love to be able to educate and reach people in a similar way.

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

You can follow @lifeextension to see additional information and watch Facebook Lives with yours truly! I also host the very popular podcast Live FOREVERISH and can be seen on TV shows such as Know the Cause.


Dr. Michael A Smith of Life Extension: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve One’s Wellb was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Richard Campbell of 10Adventures: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve Your Wellbeing

Plant your own garden to reconnect with the earth, and also grow your own food. It’s good for the environment, gets your hands dirty and gives you something to tend to. I spent my summers on my grandfather’s farm, and to this day the smell of a farm brings me tremendous relaxation and joy. There’s something about growing your own food that is joyous, as well as delicious. I used COVID as a way to get back to my roots at the farm, building my own planters and planting a range of fruit and vegetables this summer. We enjoyed a harvest of zucchini, squash, berries, tomatoes and fresh herbs this year, and we continue to enjoy delicious tomatoes and fresh herbs as winter approaches. Every time I use our own produce, I get a sense of satisfaction.

As a part of my series about 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Campbell.

Richard Campbell believes he has the greatest job on earth as the founder of 10Adventures — an adventure travel platform, allowing community members to plan their own trip or book a tour in over 50 countries. Outside of work, he’s a lifelong traveler and outdoor enthusiast. These days, you can often find him trying ever more adventurous recipes, reading and hiking with his wife and three young boys in the Rocky Mountains.

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 story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

I’ve always been passionate about fitness and wellness, particularly when it comes to the outdoors space. I’m an avid hiker and spend much of my weekends exploring some of the amazing mountains and urban hiking trails we have available here in Calgary. I’ve also spent the last 20+ years exploring the world through adventure, and have spent extended amounts of time in the Andes, Himalayas, Alps, Dolomites, Pyrenees, Rockies, Sierras and Coast Mountains. It seemed a natural fit to build a company that encourages people to get outdoors and explore the best hiking, mountain biking, cycling and skiing adventures right within their own backyard.

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

My first job out of university, I had the choice to join a big German bank or join a startup that didn’t even have a website yet. I ultimately decided to join the startup, as it seemed more interesting. Over my time there, I got to manage the development of every new product. At one point, I recall feeling bad that I kept getting, what I felt, were the best projects in the company. I was sharing this with my colleagues in the pub after work, and suggested I go to the CEO and mention that somebody else should get a shot. They all looked at me funny, and one said “Richard, you have the worst job here. Nobody wants to do what you do”.

Since then I’ve realized that I love the challenge of building something new, going from nothing to something. I had long assumed that everybody enjoys this part of creating a business, but in truth, most people don’t like this type of task, and prefer more structured jobs with less ambiguity and risk of failure. This is why I founded my own startup, to be able to create something that is important and meaningful, and serve an important need in the adventure travel community.

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?

I once found myself working in Argentina, where the national language is Spanish. And while I speak French, I was just starting to learn Spanish. Many Spanish words are very similar to French words, so I was able to speak decent Spanish quite quickly. One word I used often was “excite” (excited). I would say “excitado” quite a lot, and I noticed some of my colleagues would look at me weird when I would say “I’m really excitado about the new website” or “I’m really excitado about lunch today”. Finally one of the only English speakers said “Richard, do you know excitado means sexually aroused?”.

What did I learn? Don’t guess too often, and pay attention to how other people react.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

Most people interested in fitness and wellness are just regular people, just like me. We see fitness and wellness often modeled after perfect athletes, however for most of us, life isn’t that easy. After a lifetime of adventure travel, I know how much the outdoors benefits both physical and mental health, and I want to make it easy for others to enjoy the outdoors. So I founded 10Adventures to help regular people plan their own adventure holiday, or find a tour with a great local operator.

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?

The best part of being a part of a team are undoubtedly the teammates. I’ve been lucky to have been surrounded by incredible people throughout my career. I like to ask questions, so I’ve learned as much from my colleagues as I have from my formal education. Too often we think only experts have the answers, and while they often do have the answers, it’s really nice to ask the person sitting beside you, and learn from somebody and build a relationship at the same time.

Ok thank you for all that. Now lets move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

1. Daily stress. We have too much to do, and there are too many things we need to do. It’s overwhelming, and honestly for many of us, we can’t do everything we want. Ironically, we are often too stressed to even start to destress.

2. No structure. There are 100’s of things we need to do, and it’s hard to know what to do next, and at times we end up doing nothing because we don’t know what’s next. I’ve started doing daily plans, where I focus on a few things I really want to accomplish. This has been incredible for reducing stress, getting important work done and also adding more important non-work things into my life. The only impact is my email inbox is only touched 2–3 times a week. I now do a daily plan of what I want to accomplish, and have a HIIT workout, lunch with my family and mediation built into my schedule each day. I’m accomplishing more, feeling more energized and less stressed. I’m moving from daily schedules to monthly goals and a yearly plan, as this allows my wife and I to identify what is important to both of us and make sure we can accomplish what we want to.

3. Not being prepared. Leading on from point #1 and #2, it’s a lot easier to be healthy if you’re prepared. This is where having structure comes in handy. If you start to have longer term plans, you can identify what you need to do well in advance. This prevents you from creating excuses of “I don’t have that ingredient” or “I need new hiking boots”. Knowing what you want to do, prioritizing the most important items and preparing means it’s a heck of a lot easier to actually do it.

Can you please share your 5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

1. Explore the great outdoors by spending weekends hiking, cycling or skiing. It helps to stimulate the mind and the body. It’s easy to get into a routine where your weekends seem to go by and you accomplish nothing. Start planning incredible weekend day trips to explore the outdoors. Often the reason you aren’t already doing this is because your social group doesn’t want to do these activities. If this is the case, find a local outdoors clubs, almost all of them have programs to bring on new members. You’ll meet a lot of interesting people and make new friends while doing something you love. Spending time outdoors helps not only the physical body, with sustained fat-burning activity, but also has shown to benefit mental health, reduce stress and increase overall happiness.

2. Use regular walks to talk through problems or just have time on your own. Walking is its own form of meditation. In my case, I have solved innumerable problems while out on a hike. It truly is a eureka moment, when out of nowhere you realize how to solve a problem. Walking also allows the ability to have difficult conversations. If you have social anxiety, or need to have a difficult conversation, being outside takes the stress off of an indoor conversation, where you may be sitting across from each other, already in a confrontational environment. As a new meditator, I notice quite a few similarities between walking and meditating. When walking, I often find myself counting steps, completely zoned out from anything, just happy with the exercise, sweat and enjoying the beauty all around.

3. Plant your own garden to reconnect with the earth, and also grow your own food. It’s good for the environment, gets your hands dirty and gives you something to tend to. I spent my summers on my grandfather’s farm, and to this day the smell of a farm brings me tremendous relaxation and joy. There’s something about growing your own food that is joyous, as well as delicious. I used COVID as a way to get back to my roots at the farm, building my own planters and planting a range of fruit and vegetables this summer. We enjoyed a harvest of zucchini, squash, berries, tomatoes and fresh herbs this year, and we continue to enjoy delicious tomatoes and fresh herbs as winter approaches. Every time I use our own produce, I get a sense of satisfaction.

4. Make winter a great time to be outdoors, and enjoy the stunning tranquility. Let’s face it, winter can suck, especially if you don’t have the right gear. But with the right gear, winter is incredible. Living in Calgary, Canada, the locals embrace the winter season with skiing, skating and snowshoeing to fully enjoy the place where they live. As another added bonus, 95 per cent of people stay indoors during the winter season, so if you’re properly prepared to brave the cold, you can enjoy wonderful experiences in places that are normally packed — all to yourself.

5. Try a new hobby each season. A lifetime of adventure comes from constantly challenging oneself, so why not take up tennis in the summer or perhaps snowboarding in the winter? “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” as Yeats said. And it’s true, adding new hobbies creates new passions, and a more interesting life.

Get out of your comfort zone and push your boundaries, be open to new ideas, start saying yes instead of always saying no to new things. Even if its just about getting better at your favourite hobby.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

There are plenty of added benefits to daily exercise, but the number one reason I seek daily exercise is to de-stress. A good HIIT workout can take stress and anxiety from a 10/10 to a 1/10 in 20 minutes. It also helps with problem solving. A long walk is my number one way to solve problems. I often find the solution comes when I’m not even thinking of the problem. And finally, daily exercise helps build relationships. I have social anxiety, so I find it hard to have a one-on-one conversation. Being in nature, or out on a walk, I can have a six or seven hour conversations with no anxiety. This allows me to build relationships with friends in a way that works for me.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

I especially enjoy being outdoors, so:

1. A walk, any walk, anywhere. Just get outside and move.

2. A bike ride, anywhere. But ideally on a car-free road.

3. HIIT bike workouts on a trainer in the off-season.

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

The book, How Will You Measure Your Life, by Clay Christensen changed my life. It’s about understanding what’s important to you and ensuring that you are living a life that is meeting your goals. In my case, my family was most important, but I was working at a job that kept me out of the house from 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and I wasn’t seeing my boys grow up. This book forced me to identify what was important and then make changes to live a life that was right for me. I encourage you to think about reaching age 65 and reflect on the trajectory you are on now. Will you be happy with how you spent your time, and who you spent your time with? If not, then now is the time to make that change.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

If I could find a way to convince everyone to take a week long hiking trip — the world would be a better place. A week on a hiking holiday will change a person’s life. It encourage them to get away from their phones, social media and day-to-day pressures, and just enjoy being outside and on a different rhythm. I think they’d easily reconnect with nature and the outdoors, which is a real human condition. Almost everybody that completes a hiking or trekking tour once — often does them for the rest of their lives. They find they lose weight, gain new friends, explore the world and find so much joy.

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

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”- Mark Twain. This is relevant to what I’m trying to achieve everyday and with 10Adventures. Life is about exploration. Don’t be afraid to live the life that works for you, even if it’s not the conventional life we are told about on TV and social media.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

To be honest, the most interesting people are those who are living their dreams, and many of those people are just regular people. I recall talking with a 78-year-old former postie who spent a month cycling around the back roads of northern BC. I want to be that guy when I’m 78!

I am really inspired by business leaders like Yves Chouinard and Rose Marcario at Patagonia (and before). They have taken a great consumer company into difficult territory by advocating for the planet, and they have earned my loyalty as a customer. Patagonia also had Kris Tompkins, who was and is instrumental in conserving large parts of Chile and Argentina.

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

You can find out more about 10Adventures and myself at www.10adventures.com or you can connect with me on LinkedIn.

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


Richard Campbell of 10Adventures: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve Your Wellbeing was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Carly Banks of ‘The Habit Ayurveda’: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve Your…

Carly Banks of ‘The Habit Ayurveda’: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve Your Wellbeing

Finding quiet. Notice the moments of your day when you have opportunities for silence. Many of my students and clients feel too busy to adopt a meditation routine. A practice that feels much more accessible is allowing for silence during mundane activities. For example, putting away laundry is a task requiring little thought. Rather than engaging in all kinds of inner dialogue while doing your laundry, allow yourself to let go of thoughts as they enter your mind. Focus on the task and your breath.

As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ayurveda Health Counselor Carly Banks.

In 2017 Carly launched The Habit Ayurveda, a collection of courses and products aimed at simple everyday wellbeing for the overwhelmed, overworked & exhausted woman.

As a holistic health practitioner, her superpower lies in translating ancient philosophy into simple, actionable steps for the modern woman, that take just a few minutes a day. To date Carly has worked alongside over 1,000 women in creating healthy habits that last a lifetime.

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 story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

After our second child arrived, I was so depleted. Exhausted all the time, emotionally overwhelmed, 30lbs overweight, my body in pain. Generally feeling like a loser.

I was one of many women who had “tried everything”. Yoga class, gym membership, all the supplements, all the fad diets, all the get-fixed-quick schemes.

I’d go all in on something… for about three weeks before throwing in the towel because “I just couldn’t do the thing” one day, which led to not doing it that week, which led to not doing it at all.

Then I found Ayurveda. A system of everyday self-care that is SO MUCH EASIER to implement then the all or nothing approach that had kept me feeling like a failure. I found a few 2-minute daily habits that improved my sleep and increased my energy, which actually made me want to move my body every day. I dialed in easy, repeatable routines that didn’t involve me finding a babysitter or getting my butt to the gym.

Three months later I had lost 35lbs, had all the energy in the world and felt naturally happy every day. And it all felt so easy! It would’ve been a disservice not to create a course showing others how to do the same.

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

The most incredible thing I see again and again is women starting or growing their own businesses as a result of this work. The default belief is to run a successful business you need to take business courses. But Ayurveda teaches you how to manage yourself, giving you the energy, creativity and motivation to effectively manage a business.

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?

A huge mistake I made early on was creating content and only using it once. I’d put so much work into a video or blog or tip sheet, send it out to my subscribers (of which there were few), and then start fresh with a new piece of content. If you have value to provide — you need to put it in all the places your client will see it! And my goodness, if it’s valuable, repeat it!

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I’m not a diet coach or a personal trainer. I’m not a “keto specialist”. I’m not a cognitive behavioral therapist. I don’t focus on just your body, or just your food, or just your thoughts. As an Ayurvedic Health Counselor I teach you to look at your body as a whole. There is no get-healthy-quick scheme here. I teach you daily tools for health long term, that actually feel doable long term. No supplements, no equipment, no memberships.

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?

He’s never read my blog, and has likely never seen my website. In a lot of ways, he doesn’t understand what I do, but his trust in me meant he didn’t need to. My husband saw the changes I went through when I found Ayurveda. He trusts that my work matters. We went through many years of him paying the bills while I grew The Habit Ayurveda. This was the greatest gift he could have given me, my clients, and our future.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Biting off more than you can chew is a huge one. Starting a keto/raw/paleo/vegan diet when up to now you’ve been eating McDonalds and Doritos on the regular. It’s too much of a jump, and you’re bound to run out of motivation, feel stressed, and look for comfort in the drive-thru.

Trying to do too many things at once is also a recipe for disaster. Like you said, we all know we need to eat right, get better sleep, drink more water, exercise… but my goodness you can’t plan to wake up tomorrow suddenly doing all of those things. Choose one habit at a time.

It’s common to know what you want to do, but not make a plan around when & how. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery famously said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. So, you want to work out every day; will this happen immediately upon waking, while you’re still in your pajamas? Will you drink water first? Brush your teeth first? Will you do it at lunch time? What do you need to bring to work with you to make sure it happens? With a little planning we remove obstacles to our success.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

  1. Closing your kitchen early. Eating late puts excess stress on the body, and interferes with natural cleansing processes that occur while you sleep, leading to groggy mornings and negative moods. By moving their largest meal of the day to lunchtime (complete with whatever treats they enjoy), and lightening up their evening meal, my clients not only sleep better and experience more energy, but also drop excess pounds thanks to giving their body time to digest properly.
  2. Swapping late nights for early mornings. Instead of dragging yourself through the evening routine, then hitting the couch for 2–4 hours of scrolling or watching tv through squinted eyes, let yourself go to sleep, and wake 2 hours earlier. You might balk at the idea, but studies show this is the time of day when the brain is most able to focus and “think big picture”, with less tendency toward stress and worry. Imagine having time to yourself, every day, where you had the energy and mental clarity to go after your goals!
  3. Dry brushing. Before your morning shower, add in the habit of dry brushing your body. Called “garshana” in Ayurveda, this simple and invigorating practice increases circulation and lymphatic flow, boosting your energy and immunity. This is the perfect daily detox practice for people who are feeling tired in the body and stuck in the mind.
  4. Simplify your exercise plan. Ditch the idea that going to the gym or yoga class for an hour 3x a week (which you don’t do right now anyways because you don’t have time), for a 10-minute workout every morning. Taking just a few minutes in the morning to increase the heart rate brings fresh blood and oxygen to your brain, and leads to better decision-making all day long. You probably don’t even have to wake up earlier to get this done — most of my clients find more than enough time for it when they stop picking up their smart phones when they wake up.
  5. Finding quiet. Notice the moments of your day when you have opportunities for silence. Many of my students and clients feel too busy to adopt a meditation routine. A practice that feels much more accessible is allowing for silence during mundane activities. For example, putting away laundry is a task requiring little thought. Rather than engaging in all kinds of inner dialogue while doing your laundry, allow yourself to let go of thoughts as they enter your mind. Focus on the task and your breath.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

When you exercise, you bring fresh blood and oxygen to the brain, which helps you make better decisions. Regular exercise increases serotonin levels in the brain, leaving you feeling happier, naturally. And perhaps most importantly, developing a consistent habit of exercise has been shown to increase a person’s sense of self-worth. Any habit of putting yourself first is an empowering one.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

For clients that are just getting started in their consistent movement practice, we always start with 50 jumping jacks and 5 sun salutations. As soon as you can upon waking (you can toss your sports bra over your pajamas), bust out 50 jumping jacks to raise the heartrate and boost circulation going into the day ahead, and then 5 sun salutations, grounding the body and quieting the mind for a responsive vs. reactive nervous system.

From there we seek to add movement intermittently though the day. Where can you fit in 60 seconds of movement? Doing squats while you wash your hands? High-knees in the bank line? Get the body used to moving again. Then we work from there.

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

Ayurveda is a beautiful science to learn, but without understanding how we create habits it can feel hard to implement. A lot of my work stems from the writing of James Clear (Atomic Habits), Benjamin Hardy (Willpower Doesn’t Work) and Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit). Habit change science has given myself and my clients traction in turning Ayurvedic philosophy into self-care routines that last a lifetime.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

Absolutely my movement would be to turn off technology in the evening, putting our screens to bed at least two hours before bedtime. I cannot speak enough to the freedom my clients have experienced by doing this.

As a culture we say we’re too busy, yet the average North American spends over three hours a day looking at their smartphone. What could you accomplish with an extra three hours a day? Our addiction to social media and junk entertainment is stealing our creativity, and our quality time with the people we love. And the junk light from our screens is stealing our ability to get restful sleep. Cutting ourselves off in the evening opens the doors to connection and restoration.

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

A quote that always sticks with me came on the front of a journal I was given when I started my business: “Today sounds so much better than someday”. I spent so many of my adult years saying “someday I’ll do xyz”, always using the excuse of not having time or energy now.

I now understand that I only get this life once. And I have the tools to give myself the time and the energy to live that life to the fullest.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Tim Ferriss has been a long-time inspiration. Since reading “The 4-Hour Workweek”, I’ve studied so many cultural norms that are unsustainable at best, and potentially harming us at their worst. Tim is incredible at shining light on the people in our world who think outside of the box, create new norms, and in doing so, achieve far more with less effort.

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

At my website www.thehabit.net

On instagram at @thehabitayurveda

On pinterest: www.pinterest.ca/thehabitayurveda

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


Carly Banks of ‘The Habit Ayurveda’: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.