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Izolda Trakhtenberg | Mindfulness, Circularity & Creativity: Reaching For Your Best Life

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A good combination of mindfulness, a clear mind, and circularity leads to the best life you could ever have. Corinna Bellizzi discusses how to achieve such a state with speaker and coach for entrepreneurs, Izolda Trakhtenberg. Together, they discuss the importance of practicing mindfulness and the power of meditation in running a successful business or cultivating your creative mind. Izolda also shares her own secrets to becoming present and fully aware of your thoughts and feelings, as well as the role of veganism in her mission to guide business leaders toward success.

 

About Izolda Trakhtenberg

Care More Be Better | Izolda Trakhtenberg | Best LifeIzolda Trakhtenberg believes innovation isn’t about the latest fad, it’s about creating and collaborating compassionately. This refreshing approach has made her a sought-after speaker, educator, and coach for entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to innovate to. For years, Izolda traveled the world as a NASA Master Trainer transforming people’s perspectives on our planet. Her book, Speak From Within: Engage, Inspire, and Motivate Any Audience inspires and helps those who are struggling with telling their stories. Nowadays, you’ll find her speaking at conferences, looking for the next great ocean beach, or singing for hundreds of people – all while interviewing peak performers on creative leadership, innovation, and compassionate living on her hit show, Creative Solutions Podcast.

 

Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/izoldat

Guest Website: https://izoldaspeaks.com

Guest Social:

https://www.instagram.com/izoldat

https://www.facebook.com/IzoldaST

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCilJA7YxYU5Dfy6ow62qGfA

 

Show Notes:

02:54 – Collaborating With NASA

07:43 – Mindfulness

16:24 – Business Leaders

27:02 – Veganism

32:23 – Creative Zone

43:39 – Closing Words

 

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Izolda Trakhtenberg | Mindfulness, Circularity & Creativity: Reaching For Your Best Life

As we head into the summer months, we’re beginning a deeper focus on key concepts of mindfulness and circularity. What is circularity? Think of it like this. Sustainability requires us to sustain what we’re presently doing while being mindful of resources and looking for better ways to do things. Regeneration asks us to build systems that can regenerate, especially as it relates to our ecosystems, food procurement, and things along those lines. Circularity asks us to think through creating cradle-to-cradle solutions as opposed to just cradle-to-grave solutions, breathing new life into things, and thinking about durability.

Each of these concepts has some overlap, but circularity, in my mind, houses regenerative principles, sustainability, and mindfulness. This is also true of mindfulness. Mindfulness interlocks with each of these things. When we are truly mindful, we think beyond ourselves and our immediate needs. We inspire our curiosity and creativity. For more on a new circular resource, I invite you to stick around for the end of the show as I have a bit of a surprise for all of you.

I’m joined by Izolda Trakhtenberg, a friend who is all things podcasting, performance, and communication. She believes innovation isn’t about the latest fad. It’s about creating and collaborating compassionately. This refreshing approach has made her a sought-after speaker, educator, and coach for entrepreneurs and business leaders around the globe, those who want to innovate. For years, Izolda traveled the world as a NASA master trainer, transforming people’s perspectives on our planet. Her book Speak From Within: Engage, Inspire, and Motivate Any Audience inspires and helps those struggling with telling their stories.

Care More Be Better | Izolda Trakhtenberg | Best Life
Speak From Within: Engage, Inspire, and Motivate Any Audience

Nowadays, you’ll find her speaking at conferences, looking for the next great ocean beach, or singing for hundreds of people, all while interviewing peak performers on creative leadership, innovation, and compassionate living on her hit show, The Creative Solutions Podcast. I shared my guest appearance on the Creative Solutions Podcast, in which we talked about building regenerative businesses and all things related to sustainable nutrition and Orlo. This won’t be your first time reading from her. Izolda T, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having me, Corinna. This is great.

I am happy you’re here. It’s been a last-minute pinch hitter because we’d planned to have this conversation, but I had a last-minute cancellation, and you slotted right in. Thank you for joining me today.

It’s my pleasure.

Collaborating With NASA

I would love for you to tell me about your incredible experience collaborating with NASA and traveling the world.

It’s one of my favorite questions. Back in the dawn of time, I was working at NASA as a tech support person. This is one of those times when being proactive and grabbing the corn by the husk is the best way to do things because I ran across a principal investigating scientist and said, “I adore you. I adore the work you’re doing in environmental education. If you ever have any work I could do, I would love to collaborate with you.” She said, “I got this grant to be the PI for this international environmental education program. How would you feel about working on it?”

Out of that came work for many years. I developed the training methodology on the soil protocols portion of this international environmental education program, which is one of NASA’s premier programs, called the Glow Program. It was a joint NASA, NOAA, and NSF program. They needed people to be trained on how to do the science because the science itself is all about students from K-12 doing science monitoring of their local environments so that they can see the changes that are going on in the water, air, soil, and plants in their local environment.

The cool thing about it is that, in addition to all that, you report all your data to a central server, and all of that scientific data are available for people to do real-world, real-time research to benefit the environment. I got to travel to Central Asia, Alaska, South Africa, and all sorts of places to teach this science to kids of all ages, as well as diplomats and other scientists. I got to help scientists learn how to communicate all that information in a way that the regular person who might not have science training can find enjoyable and inspiring. It was the best job.

It sounds like it was a lot of fun, and having the opportunity to travel the world also offers such incredible, unique perspectives that you otherwise might not have had the chance to encounter in a lifetime. I love that.

It’s interesting because when you’re in that moment of getting to go into a different country and a different culture, one of the things that technology allows us to do, for example, is to bring those cultures together and allow us all to learn about one another and each other’s local ecosystem. There’s so much there that is all about becoming friends with people you otherwise would’ve never met and learning about them and their local ecosystem and environment in ways you otherwise would’ve never had the opportunity to do.

That feeds into your creativity. This is something that helps individuals around the globe to get that out of their heads and expand into a different perspective. It’s that old adage of sitting inside someone else’s shoes to walk a mile in them. We get there when we travel. It’s hard to get to that space often unless we’re spending a good deal of time alone and exposing ourselves to new and challenging situations, which sometimes create friction and make it difficult.

Going back to the NASA thing, what was my protocol set? It’s soil. Most of the time, people went, “Ewe, dirt.” I went, “I have to come up with some creative ways to build people’s awareness and mindfulness about the fact that what they were calling dirt was the stuff that grows all the food that feeds everybody on the planet.” We have to transform those perspectives in a way that is eye-opening and enlightening. You have to do it from that creative place because the same old, same old won’t work.

We even have Sadhguru getting out there talking about the importance of soil and making comparisons between dirt and soil. This is a trending topic for people, helping people understand things like we’ve even got a mycelium network inside our soil to benefit people and the planet. Help us store more water in our soil. It doesn’t end up in runoff that takes everything to the ocean, like all of our topsoil to the ocean.

Mindfulness

We’ve talked about regenerative agriculture on the show a few times before. I’m sure this is nothing completely new to our audience. I also wanted to take a moment and get your perspective on mindfulness and how you see mindfulness interlaying with compassion and helping to inspire our creative juices so that we can be more effective leaders, thinkers, and builders.

Mindfulness is ultimately summed up with presence. If you are present right now, right here, and open to building your awareness of what’s going on around you, that is what mindfulness is. If you act from that place of awareness, what ends up happening to everybody who builds it is they end up becoming much more able to see outside themselves.

 

If you act from a place of awareness, you become much more able to see outside yourself.

 

When you were introducing this episode, you talked about seeing past yourself, and so much of it is that because that ability to go beyond I am me, and this is all that matters, starts when we’re young. When we’re born, all we do is scream and cry for attention. We need to be changed and fed. We’re helpless. As we develop an awareness of self and our minds, we end up getting into this space of going, “What is beyond me?” Once you start developing that what is beyond me portion, you start seeing other beings. Once you see them, to quote Maya Angelou, once you know better, do better.

When we’re in that space of going, “This is what is around me,” that naturally can encompass kindness because once you can, as you put it, walk in the shoes of somebody else for a mile, if you live their lived experience, even for a little bit, that expands your own ability to feel ultimate compassion. As a vegan, I’m always going to be looking from that perspective of how the smallest and most vulnerable ones of us survive. What help can we give them for them to thrive, not just survive?

 

If you live the lived experiences of other people, even for a little bit, it expands your ability to feel ultimate compassion.

 

Some of that mindfulness always ends up being with me to going to a place of activism. One of the best things that I can think of to do as an activist is to make art. Art, at its nature, transforms the perspectives of those who view it, whether they’re listening, seeing, or participating in it. Creativity, as an outcropping of mindfulness, is something that not only is creative for the sake of being, but it can be creative for the sake of transformation and change.

I had somebody on the show who was looking to change and transform the way people write scripts for TV shows and movies. We got into this discussion of the things that happen in split seconds. Sometimes, you have to have a cut. Sometimes, you don’t. These things happen quickly. That means ultimate awareness of everything that’s going on. When we build that into our creativity, it allows that creative flow to go much more smoothly and with much less friction.

You’ve given us a lot to unpack there. I feel like we are heading in a direction as a conscious consumer field of individuals who are seeking to build a better path forward, whether that means eating a little more mindfully in a more sustainable fashion, paying attention to what we put into and on our bodies, and then everything that relates to building an aspect into our lives where we can stay in that creative flow.

With somebody who’s working in entertainment, whether it be a screenwriter or a performer like yourself, getting onto the stage, how do you build in this mindfulness? Do you have a specific practice that you employ before you step up on stage that helps you to get into that mindset? I would love to hear that.

What’s interesting to me about having a mindfulness practice is, first of all, the best way to be mindful is to make it something like brushing your teeth. You get up, and you tend to brush your teeth in the morning. You don’t wait until the evening after you’ve spent all day without brushing your teeth. It becomes a habit. It becomes something that you do. A meditation practice is a daily ritual that improves my day, but it also improves the day of anyone I’m going to interact with.

The other part of it is that before going on stage, whether I’m going to be talking to a company about their innovation skills or I’m going to be performing music, I do a short meditation routine. I also do a moving meditation routine. In other words, I allow my body to be suffused with energy that is excited but also present.

When I go on stage, I want to be present for the people I’m going to be interacting with. I never look at myself as someone who’s speaking to. I think of it as speaking with. I want to be sure that I’m present and available. Having a meditation routine that I do right before I go on stage has become crucial to me to be in that place of not only communicating but also accepting receptivity.

The other part of it is that I always remind myself that what I’m doing is facing a room with a lot of gratitude that they are willing to give me their attention for long enough for me to offer my gifts, whatever they may be to them. It is always going to be this exchange. If I remain mindful, and I’ve prepared well enough to remain mindful, I can meet them there, and we can meet each other in this beautiful dance of communication.

If something goes wrong, being mindful is one of the best things you can do because you don’t throw your hands up. You go, “This is where I find myself. I need to handle this. Let me respond instead of reacting.” What I mean by that is if I’m mindful and aware, reacting and responding are two different things. I like to say that the difference between reacting to something and responding to something is how many breaths you take between what happens and what you do about it. Staying mindful in that space allows me the opportunity to serve the people I’m there to serve, but also meet whatever challenges come up in a receptive yet productive way.

This helps people with stage fright. This is one of those pieces that can be challenging for people. I had on the show. When I’m introducing you to Miyoko Schinner, I had the opportunity to see her speak a couple of times since meeting her. The first time was at Expo West. The next time was at a fundraising event for Rancho Compasión.

In the process of getting to know her, she shared with me that she has the same fright every time before she begins speaking. It’s not until she’s on stage and engaging with the audience that she relaxes. Having a simple practice, even when from the outside it looks like someone professional is well skilled. They can get up there and do this anytime. That must be easy for them. It’s not necessarily easy for them. These skills don’t happen overnight.

It’s important for each of us to acknowledge as we raise our hand in a meeting or a classroom. Stand up to speak in front of a group or do a poetry slam. It’s natural for people to feel nervous. The audience is typically rooting for you. On this show, I personally prefer to do an interview format, but every once in a while, I do solo casts.

When I do solo casts, the thing that I do in preparation is work to imagine a specific person or a group of people on the other side because it helps me to sound genuine. I’m having a conversation as opposed to something that’s more performative. It’s not to say performance is bad because when you have something well-practiced, as long as you’re able to be in that authentic self, your message comes through.

Business Leaders

I know that you do a lot of work with business leaders specifically. You work with them to also embrace innovative thinking and practices that are sustainable and conservationist. In this world, we’ve seen companies declare, “I’m a Unilever. We’re going to do things differently. By 2030, we’re going to have a more inclusive workplace and hire more disabled people. Most of our way to plastic by 2030.” They announced they were walking back half of these things.

I’m curious to hear you talk about how you work with business leaders to keep them focused on the end goal and remain committed to these ideas that have a groundswell. People want businesses to be more sustainable, conservative, and conservationist in their efforts to preserve our natural resources instead of working from this extractive principle.

Unilever owns a ton of brands. They’re one of the big companies in the world committing to something, getting great press from it, getting a lot of accolades, and even recruiting some people who are interested in working for a future forward-thinking company. You’re answering to shareholders, and I’m walking back. What would you have to say about that? How do you keep the businesses you integrate with focused on the truth of what they’re working to do?

There’s so much focus on the bottom line. That is a short-term thinking bottom line because profit is not the ultimate bottom line. The ultimate bottom line is the survival of all the species on the planet and having clean air, water, and soil to keep living on the planet. We don’t tend to think that way, but that’s one of the things that ends up happening.

When I work with corporate leaders, we spend a fair amount of time getting into that head space of, “This is bigger than what my Q1, Q2, and Q3 profit margins are going to be.” We can look at the fact that marginal revenues are at their maximum and marginal costs are at their minimum. Let’s look at that. What if you are living in Flint, Michigan, and you haven’t had clean water for many years? We need to look at it from that perspective. That perspective changes. You put it through empathy.

Not only do I do that, but one of the things that I’ve done coincides a lot of times with the things that I’m doing with bringing your kids to the workday. That’s one of the things that works beautifully because the kids are the ones who are going, “We need to make these changes.” Suddenly, the parents have to go, “Oh.” No longer is it just their shareholders. They’re answering to even more important people, and that’s their children. That’s the future leaders of everything.

These are the decision-makers of tomorrow. I like to get them young. I will often invite the people who I’m working with to bring their kids in for the day because we’re going to be doing incredibly fun, creative activities together that will help families communicate, but also will help that transgenerational communication to take place that kids are already seeing in their schools. Now they can talk with their parents about what it means. Often, younger people can teach older people incredible amounts when they’re given the resources and the stage to do so. That’s one of the things that I do.

The other thing I’ve started doing is making things a habit. Let’s make it easy for you. If there’s a company cafeteria, let’s put a compost bin right there. Let’s put a recycling bin right there. I remember the first time I saw a trash bin, recycling bin, and compost bin at a Subway restaurant in Seattle. It told you which one you should put into which. This was years ago. I went, “Thank you so much,” because most places don’t do that.

That notion made me think, “What if we did this as part of an organizational structure?” What if we started going, “Let’s come up with a way to do this.” What if, as part of what your company’s doing, we have a community garden on company grounds? If we have a community garden on company grounds, what if we used compost from the cafeteria to do that?

We can start building these longer-term projects. What I’ve done with some of the companies I’ve worked with is change why you’re doing it because this is good for the environment and is long-term thinking. A lot of times, people are afraid of long-term thinking, but short-term thinking like this will help your team members feel collaborative, and it’ll be a lot of fun. That’s one of those moments when we can do that.

Here’s another side benefit. Who are the gardeners among us? Often, gardeners tend to be introverted folks. When you have gardeners in a company culture who all of a sudden get a chance to shine because suddenly we’re talking about what if we did have a company garden at that little plot of land, the gardeners among us who are a little bit more introverted get a chance to talk about their passion. They inform and educate the rest of the company, which only adds to that collaborative company culture because innovation and ideas can come from any part of a company. When you’re starting to talk about creative thinking, you can get that creative idea from everybody who works there.

What do they say?

As long as you feel valued and valuable and the people around you feel like they want to hear what you have to say, you’re more likely to speak up.

Care More Be Better | Izolda Trakhtenberg | Best Life
Best Life: As long as you feel valued and valuable, and the people around want to hear what you have to say, you are more likely to speak up.

 

You’re bridging into a topic that is important because what we see more in the world of business is it’s not like you have a multi-tiered team anymore. You don’t necessarily have a manager who also has a personal assistant. You have people managing their business with tools like iCal. You’ve got a different calendar booking. You have a lot of cross-collaboration between teams. Lower-ranking employees feel intimidated or don’t want to talk to people at a higher level. Their ideas stay within themselves or their microcosmic direct team members and don’t necessarily make it upwards because someone in a middle level will say, “This is a bad idea,” when perhaps it’s the GM that needs to rise to the top.

If we can build in systems within larger companies or where you have people on-site, opportunities for them to get to know one another in a setting that is not. When you have your hands in the dirt, it tends to remove barriers. These people are genuinely collaborating to grow something, and seeing the benefits of that labor come out on the kitchen table is incredible.

I’ve also seen companies like Gaia Herbs. They have an on-location vegetarian farm that is building principles of regeneration. The yield from the crop goes to the employees. Employees can take home that head of lettuce. There are some companies in the space of health and nutrition that are already endemically doing that well. There’s an opportunity to build in the rooftop gardens, even if in container boxes or self-watering systems that can build a new connection to food, which I love. Thank you.

What’s magic to me is when a company that you wouldn’t think of traditionally as having that interest shows that interest when their kids become part of the process, and the adults who work there feel encouraged to do something different than what they do. When I do my workshops, I almost never have people from the same department working on a team together. I will have people from engineering, human resources, admin, and shipping. They will be a team because they will be able to build on each other’s ideas.

Someone from shipping doesn’t know what the engineers are doing, but someone from engineering doesn’t know what someone from shipping is doing. If they can learn from each other, they can start coming up with some of these innovations that will help everybody. The same goes for sustainability. Things that you and I don’t know about for a company, somebody who already works there might be able to go, “No, this would be so much more efficient. It would save us gas and electricity.” Those are all part and parcel of building a more conservationist mindset.

They could save a company money. The initial investment is hard to conceive because they think, “An eco-minded business initiative is going to cost me something. I’ll take something from my bottom line.” Sometimes, it is the reverse of that because you find solutions that can save employees time and make them more efficient. You might already be doing activities that are team-building oriented and cost time and money, as well as being off-location and working.

Whereas if you’re doing something like a community garden on location and assigning people to work cross-functionally and across teams, you can build more collaboration, foster innovation, and ultimately build in solutions that the key people inspired and engaged in who want to work for you. That’s part of the question. You want to retain great talent.

They say, “People don’t leave jobs because they don’t like the job. They leave jobs because the company culture isn’t satisfactory.” They leave jobs because they don’t feel valued and valuable in what they’re doing. If you had a choice between working somewhere where you feel valued and somewhere where you don’t feel valued, why would you stay somewhere where you don’t feel valued? To retain those employees and boost how well we all do in any team environment, we need to change our corporate company cultures.

Veganism

One of the topics that I’m going to be tackling more frequently is building a new way of thinking about economics. Our system has been focused on extractive principles and stock performance, especially as it relates to bigger companies like Unilever. We need to move in a direction that is mindful of resources that build in more principles of circularity, is mindful of resources, and hopefully build cross benefits that end up spiraling into a positive direction as opposed to one that is more negative, like what we’re seeing with our climate, pollution, microplastics in our environments, and all of these things that are connected in many cases to how we run business and how we consume products.

You’re already a vegan, which some could call eating for the planet, but there’s an eco-friendly way to eat for the planet as a vegan. There’s the I eat lots of packaged foods, and I have high cholesterol because of its way of being a vegan. How do you think your veganism influences how you interface in the business world? What do you think we can learn from that?

The way to look at being vegan is I’m vegan for the animals. That’s outright. Part of that is that outcroppings of that, or the tendrils of that, are that lifestyle is also good for the environment. By its nature, it’s good for the environment because we have a lot less land being used to raise cows, cattle, and animal agriculture. We would have a lot less methane in the atmosphere if we didn’t have as many cows being used. There’s a whole litany of things.

Being vegan is leaving as small a footprint as possible on anything, whether it’s the grass, the sky, the water, the animals, or the beings I share the planet with. Part of that, for me, as far as the corporate cultures of companies that I work with, is it’s always about education and awareness. Once you know better, you do better, provided you feel safe enough to do it.

There are all of these divisions in the vegan community. There’s the junk food vegan and the health-conscious vegan. What’s important is that I leave things better than I found them. One of my mottoes in my life is to leave it better than you found it. If I look at it objectively, like if I use this plastic fork, is that leaving things better than I found them? No. What did I do? My solution, because I’m always solution-oriented, is to buy a little folding knife, fork, and spoon. It’s always fun going through airports with those. I bought little ones that I carry in my backpack. I carry a bandana with me. That serves as my napkin.

I’m looking at how to solve these problems. When I was at NASA, I bought a bunch of plates at IKEA and donated them because I noticed even at NASA, they were using plasticware and paper plates. I went, “Yes, it will mean washing these plates after we have these big meetings, but let’s do that. Let’s be forward-thinking.”

I suggest that to companies that I work with. I was like, “Let’s put metal metalware, flatware, and China and reusable stuff.” Why? It will end up saving you money in the long run. Let’s look at it from that perspective. How can we do simple things that are going to even that can bring people together? Yes, somebody will be washing, drying, and putting it away. That’s something that you can do together. It gives you time to collaborate, brainstorm, and be present.

I have a friend who has made doing the dishes a mindful act. He revels in doing the dishes. He can’t wait because he talks like Thich Nhat Hanh in his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness. He talks about feeling the warm water going over his hands as a sacred act when he’s washing the dishes. I went, “I’m not that zen. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I think there’s a lot to be learned from that.”

What can we do to bring ourselves together in this way and make it as enjoyable as possible? People don’t want to do things that cause them pain or discomfort unless you’re my friend Leah, who loves discomfort when she’s working out. She’s a professional weightlifter. For her, discomfort is a good thing. For me, it’s not.

The point is that we can start making these things happen if we change our mindset and our perspective around them. Make them into something in our own minds. This is something I say to all of my clients, “Instead of making it something you have to do, make it something you get to do. That one change of word transforms the entire experience.”

 

We can start making things happen if we just change our mindset and perspective around them.

 

Creative Zone

You’ve mentioned meditation a couple of times, such as having a mindful moment like water flowing over the fingers and washing dishes. I have a difficult time doing standard sit-still meditation. One of the things I like to talk about is the concept of flow meditation, which often means that you’re in some repetitive motion.

In the exercise world, that could be anything as simple as repeating the lift of a weight for some time. It worked for me in distance running. I ran marathons. There was something about getting into my pace and the moment, having the repetitive foot strikes or the repetitive motion of washing a dish or rubbing down my horse after a ride. That would get me into this meditative state of deep relaxation. In these moments, some of my best ideas come up. This is also where people will say, “I came up with this great idea in the shower.” What are they doing at that moment? It’s this repetitive motion.

Some of what I think we need to acknowledge is that even if we don’t think we’re meditating, and we introduce some of these moments into our lives, we are able to attain a meditative state, even if we’re somebody who has that bit of a busy brain. I follow Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I will include links in the show notes to his TED Talk because it’s all about flow meditation and the book he wrote on flow meditation. It’s available as an audiobook. It’s an incredible resource for those who might have a more difficult time with traditional or transcendental meditation.

What else are your best practices for staying in that creative zone? I wondered if you had a how-to guide or how-to thinking as we move into this last section of our journey together for getting into that frame of mindfulness, staying in that moment of creativity, and being better poised to create something wonderful or lead with purpose. You have the floor.

First of all, flow meditation to me is beautiful. It’s a wonderful process. The point of all of it is, are you present in the moment while you’re doing it? If you’re in that state of lifting a weight, are you paying attention second by second to what you’re doing? The same thing happens when you’re being creative. People report that when they’re being creative, they lose time. All of a sudden, you lift your head from what you’ve been writing or drawing. You go, “How did it get dark? It was 11:00 in the morning a minute ago.” That’s because the part of our brain that is aware of time is a different part than the part that’s creating.

When you’re in that fully creative flow state, you don’t pay attention to time. Sometimes, you’re not even paying attention to language. One of the things to look for as far as creativity is you can get to a place where you’re so immersed in what you’re creating that time for a little while anyway ceases to exist. That’s a surefire way that you’re in that flow state.

Another thing that I do is ask myself, “What if?” I see what comes up. If I’m sitting and facing a blank page on my computer because I’m supposed to write for 45 minutes or 1,000 words, I go, “What if?” I’ll see what happens. I also tell people, “Don’t start at the beginning.” We tend to think that we need to go from the beginning to the middle to the end of whatever we’re doing. Whether you’re writing a song, developing a presentation writing a book. You don’t have to start at the beginning because the beginning is daunting.

Start with the second sentence. Start with the second chapter. Start with singing the chorus instead of the verse. Whatever it is, remove the barriers to entry. Sometimes, the beginning is such a thing that there is such a big wall in front of us that we don’t begin. That’s one thing. Another thing as far as my little tricks of the trade is when I’m facing a blank page, what if it isn’t working? I say, “If I were someone who knew what to say right now, what would I say?” I answer that question because we prejudge ourselves that we’re going to suck at something. It’s not true. No one in the world will have your perspective. No one will have your unique vision or view. No one will be able to create it, whatever it is like you can.

I do this workshop called Work in Harmony, where I walk into a company and will take 80 people who have never sung a note in their lives. Within two hours, they’re singing in three-part harmony. A lot of people feel a lot of resistance. Immediately, the resistance monster comes up. The thing is that I don’t say, “You have to do three-part harmony. Go.” We start small. We start tiny. We start with breathing. We start with opening your mouth. These are tiny little things that build sequentially on one another.

My favorite story about this is I have a coaching client who came to me. She’s in recovery. She was at the point in her recovery where she was ready to start thinking about leaving the house because, for a while, she was isolating herself. All she wanted was the next drink. She said, “I’d love to go on a hike.” I said, “Let’s do that.” She said, “There’s no way.”

I said, “One of the things that you need to think about is you don’t have to go on a hike now. Why don’t you take your shoes out of the closet and tomorrow you put them on? Don’t leave the house. Put the shoes on. The day after that, walk to the front door. The day after that, walk to the porch. The day after that, walk down the stairs and walk to the end of the block.” Here’s the thing. She did that. In 2024, she’s going to be hiking the Appalachian Trail for the second time. That’s the power incremental changes can have. You can start small and walk up mountains.

That’s why I think of incrementalism as something that has helped me to live more sustainably day by day. I think about the things that I even buy when I go to the store and the things that I allow into my house. It has been micro steps. You’re putting one foot in front of the other. Did I run a marathon overnight?

I wasn’t a runner. I was never a runner. It took a mindset that I was doing this for something other than myself. I was raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with the team in training because I had a friend who was diagnosed with leukemia and whose prognosis was not good. It was one of the ways that I felt empowered because I felt hopeless. I wanted him to see that I was trying to do something about it. Whether or not it would help his situation, it might help someone in the future. For that, he was incredibly grateful.

It goes into that whole thinking, “Did I, on my first day, run a mile without discomfort?” No, I did not. It would hurt. I had to stop. I had people with me. I had encouragement. Before I knew it, I was running 3 miles, and 5 miles without stopping. That was huge. Five without stopping to feel like my side was splitting or I was practically heaving from exertion to getting to a point where 8 miles was my dream run. I could be in a zone and find myself at this beautiful center with nature off on a trail somewhere.

It didn’t happen overnight. It was one step at a time. The beauty of those steps is that each step gives you more confidence in your ability. Don’t think you’re going to be on a TED stage tomorrow if you are thinking, “I want to play with public speaking a little bit.” You have to take steps to get there. You’ll arrive and be less intimidated. You’ll have the tools in your tool shed, perhaps even taking that moment to say, “What would somebody who knew what they were going to say in my shoes right now?”

Some of that is you have to remember to honor your nervousness. Your nervousness is coming from a place of fear. Fear is one of those things. It’s a survival mechanism. There’s a part of you that’s going, “If I get up on that stage, I’m going to die.” Let’s say we think about it that way and go, “Let’s be objective. Will I die?” Probably not. What is the worst that can happen?

I speak to you as someone who, believe it or not, used to have a public speaking phobia and overcame it by looking at what is the worst that could happen. They could throw tomatoes, which would be a bummer because I love tomatoes, and I wouldn’t want to see them wasted. The point here is a lot of times, we start making things much bigger than they’re going to be. You can start narrowing it down, even if it messes up.

I remember I was on stage once, and I was singing. I was about to perform on my own songs. I’m standing there with my guitar in hand in front of the microphone. I don’t remember how my song started. There were 500 people waiting for me to play, and I did not remember the words of my own song. I went, “You’d think since I wrote the song that I’d remember the lyrics to the song, but it turns out not.” I called out to the audience. I’m like, “Who has the lyrics to Homesick For A Memory on their phone?” Somebody happened to know the words to the song. Somebody shouted, “In my dreams.” I went, “Thank you. That’s right.” It’s a song about Ireland that I wrote from when I visited Ireland.

This is one of those situations where, even if you’re afraid, engage with the audience. They don’t want to see you fail. They want you to succeed because your failure is their awkwardness. Let’s remember that we’re all there together to share these gifts and ask. If you are in a place where you’re afraid, you can acknowledge it, but you can also go, “Can I ask you a question.” Get the dialogue going right away. That will make a transformation happen in the entire atmosphere of where you are. You’re there together collaboratively, and it becomes a beautiful experience for everybody.

Care More Be Better | Izolda Trakhtenberg | Best Life
Best Life: Even if you are afraid, engage with the audience. They don’t want to see you fail. They want you to succeed because your failure is their awkwardness.

 

Closing Words

Thank you so much for joining me, Izolda. I wanted to ask you, as we close this session if there is a question I haven’t asked that you’d like to ask an answer or you could ask an answer yourself. If not, you could leave me with closing thoughts.

We covered so much ground that I’m grateful you took the time to do such incredible research and ask me these great questions. The big thought that I want to say to everybody is to leave it better than you found it. If we start looking at things from that perspective, will this action leave things better than I found them? That answer can inform what you do, but it can also be internal. Will this thought leave me better than I found me? Negative thought patterns will wreck you. When you find yourself in that space of thinking negatively or critically about yourself, see if you can change the conversation that’s going on inside your own head.

 

Negative thought patterns will wreck you. When you find yourself thinking negatively or critically about yourself, see if you can change the conversation happening inside your own head.

 

That’s wonderful advice. Thank you so much for joining me.

It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

To find out more about Izolda Trakhtenberg, visit the links that we provide in the show notes. I promised something new at the beginning. On our soon-to-launch eCommerce platform CircleB.co, our aim is to always put the cause before commerce, provide how-to and DIY that says in do-it-yourself tools that can help you renew what you have, replace things that you buy, and reduce waste.

CircleB.co will offer products from plastic-free housewares and even those travel cutlery items like what Izolda talked about, as well as clothing, health-promoting supplements, and personal care items, all of which are circular and designed to minimize waste and that seek to eliminate or limit our use of plastics. You can explore our landing page, which is simply CircleB.co.

Feel free to contact us with recommended brands you think should be featured. Thank you now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can be that better self mindfully each day. All we have to do is start. Thank you.

 

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