Episode 204

Your Brightest Life with Caroline Kelso Zook

November 27, 2018

Get ready for a mindset shift! Today, Caroline Kelso Zook joins us on Being Boss to talk about all things from listening to your body to avoid burnout, to finding that work/life balance or blend (especially when you work with your life partner), to cultivating confidence to explore your creativity, and of course we’re talking about her new book and how to live your brightest light.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"Confidence takes experience and experience takes action."
- Caroline Kelso Zook

Discussed in this Episode

  • Being out of commission (with something like Shingles) as an entrepreneur and the importance of taking care of ourselves
  • Caroline's creative entrepreneurial journey
  • Navigating the boundaries between work and life when that line is so blurry
  • Working with your life partner
  • Caroline's independent work as an artist
  • Creating without the pressure of making money
  • What does it mean to live your brightest life?


More from Caroline Kelso Zook

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Braid Creative

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Almanac Supply Co.


Kathleen Shannon 0:02
Hello and welcome to being boss,

Emily Thompson 0:05
a podcast for creative entrepreneurs. I'm Emily Thompson.

Kathleen Shannon 0:08
And I'm Kathleen Shannon.

Caroline Kelso Zook 0:11
I'm Caroline Kelso Zook and I'm being boss.

Emily Thompson 0:18
In this episode of being boss at a we're talking about living your brightest life with Caroline that Kelsey Kozak. As always, you can find all the tools, books and links we reference on the show notes at WWW dot v boss dot club.

Kathleen Shannon 0:34
Hey bosses, you know that freshbooks has been supporting us for a long time, but I want to give you some more specific features about how fresh books cloud accounting can help your business right now. So first off, let's talk about invoicing. You can create and send polished professional invoices effortlessly in mere seconds. Project deposits. There's a super handy deposit feature so you can invoice for a payment upfront when you're kicking off a project from the very beginning automated expenses, you can link your freshbooks account to your credit and debit cards. So next time you expense that business lunch or tank of gas, it'll show up automatically in your freshbooks account and this is personally one of my favorite features proposals up your chances of closing the deal by using the proposals feature to add images and stylized text to your estimate. It also just makes you look super legit. And then finally, customer support if you have any questions whatsoever freshbooks Award Winning Customer Service is over the top helpful, super friendly and they have zero attitude I've personally called them many times and they are so friendly. Plus a real life person usually answers in three rings or less. to claim your unrestricted 30 day free trial of fresh books cloud accounting Just go to freshbooks comm slash being boss and enter being boss in the How did you hear about us section.

Emily Thompson 1:59
Carolyn Kelso Zook is an artist, author and designer passionate about helping soulful creatives live and work as their most vibrant selves. alongside her husband, Jason Caroline currently runs at wandering aim fully an online community that teaches independent creatives how to earn more so they can live a richer, more satisfying lives.

Kathleen Shannon 2:22
All right, we are so excited to have you here, Caroline. I mean, just finally, freaking Finally, here's like a podcast, you are someone I love following on social media and your book just came out, which is so amazing, I guess probably not just came out by the time this airs. But it's incredible. And we'll go all into that. But I want to start out by talking about how the fact that you just had the shingles, you're trying to like, hide all the stress that comes with being an entrepreneur, but you know, I can't hide from your sheet, I

Caroline Kelso Zook 2:59
would love to start the shingles. If you could just raise shingles girl on the title of this episode, that'd be great. No, but we we were talking about that, because that is sort of at the forefront of what's been going on in my life. lately. I about two and a half weeks ago just discovered that I had this lovely sounding disease called shingles. And for those of you guys listening who don't know, because I didn't know I was like, is this something weird rash that old people get? I love it. That's exactly what I asked the doctor. No, it turns out it's like basically a reincarnation of the chickenpox virus that you have when you're little and it stores in your nerve cells. And then they say brought about by like stress or a weakened immune system, it can just kind of flare up. And it basically just wreaks havoc on your nervous system and it creates this like weird rash. But the weird thing is the rash itself hasn't been the bad part. It's been this like crippling neck pain basically from like the base of my skull down my shoulder. And I was just telling you guys before we started the call, I had this like notion that, you know, you get a cold as an entrepreneur, you get something like a cold, you're like, Okay, crap, it's gonna kind of reduce my productivity for a couple of days. But I'll bounce back and it'll be fine. This has literally taken me out of the game for I mean, we're going on like two weeks now. And I'm just now finally sort of starting to feel better and being able to do work and things like that. So it really did knock me on my butt. And it it forced me to take a step back and be like, Okay, what were my work habits and what was I doing in order to kind of bring this about, because I do this thing where I can convince myself mentally that I'm in a good place and that I'm currently you know, making space for balance in my life and for my work. However, I think I shared with you guys what I learned is that you can do that and you can, like I I tend to suffer from anxiety and things like that. So I have done all this work mentally to be able to cope with that and manage that. But you can't outrun the wisdom of you. body. So even if you trick your mind, your body is going to be like, Hey, man, what you're doing is not sustainable. And I think that's exactly what happened. So to give your listeners a little context, I this past year recently kind of combined businesses with my husband, Jason, we created a new brand from scratch, called wandering shamefully, we combined two businesses together, we combined 400 plus blog articles, we built an entire piece of software that had its own challenges and hurdles. And so I thought I was managing that process well, but I think just the sheer volume of work involved in something like that, really kind of gave my body a wake up call and was like, you got to figure out better way to do this.

Emily Thompson 5:42
Man, I appreciate you sharing that with us. Because all too often people get on here immediately. And they're like, here are all the amazing things that I've done. And I'm fine and ruling the world. Yeah, this is such a real world example of how doing all of this stuff is not only just hard, just like platitude hard, whatever it may be, but it can be physically taxing. And you cannot, you cannot build the types of businesses that we're here to build. But any kind of business, I think without taking some serious looks at your own self care, and making sure that you are being self aware and really responsible the entire way. And not to say that you're not self aware and that you're responsible by any means. But like, this is just such a great illustration of how important it is to make yourself a priority, even when you don't, or even when you think you already are completely you have done all the work needed to do I think there's just I think we all need to take so much better care of ourselves. And I'm yeah, saying that it's like, pot calling kettle black? Yeah.

Caroline Kelso Zook 7:00
I think it's a really good reminder to have like, That process is always evolving. So exactly what you said at the beginning, which is like, I for sure was kind of one of those people that was like, look at me handling my shit. So well, like, Okay, I'm a couple years into this whole entrepreneur thing, I've got the balance thing down, like, and that's the truth of it is like, we were taking breaks, we were taking vacations in the middle of this build, we were taking long walks in the middle of the day, like all these things that I would advise other people to do. But again, like if that pace is not sustainable, and if you're not, because what was happening was Yes, I was doing all those things. But I think for me, it was waking up in the morning, nearly every day with some type of deadline, some type of something looming over my head, even though it was self imposed, working and working evenings, working every weekend. And like, you know, I felt like that pace was something I could handle. But I think my body had different ideas. And so even somebody like me, who is tremendously self aware, who does make time for self care, like, I have to check back in and be like, is this a pace that is sustainable? And so, and I also count myself really lucky to some degree because I am a very, very sensitive person. And so something like this, it sucks, because like, yeah, it's going to show up in my life, and it's going to give me fucking shingles. However, you know, I that's a very clear flag to me that I need to make changes, whereas somebody else listening to this might be a frickin ox and might be able to do this pace for years and something that's a more long term health issue, you know, creeps up on the on the tail end, you know, so it's like, if you're not a very sensitive person, and if you're, you're kind of operating mindset is tending to push through. I think it's even more important in some ways for that type of person to check in and be like, is this a pace? that's actually good for me?

Kathleen Shannon 8:46
Yeah, I think it's really important to know that as a creative entrepreneur who is used to just powering through, and that grit and determination and persistence that comes with the kind of pace that we all keep. And like you said, we can be doing all the right things, we can be going for walks, we can be practicing the mindsets that we've been practicing for years. And so I actually see getting physically ill as a little gift from our bodies saying, actually, no matter how much you try to think your way out of this, or self care your way out of this, you got to stop. And so I know that Emily and I have both had times in our careers where we are almost like chronically coming down with colds or different kinds of bugs or losing our voice. And I think that's the time especially to reassess what's going on and that stress is stress is stress. And if you do have a deadline, and if you are working really hard on all of the things, then you have to compensate somewhere else. So maybe you're eating a lot better. Maybe your workouts aren't as you know, balls to the walls like hard, you know, maybe you're just going for long walks or doing some gentle yoga instead. So I think it's so important. Okay, moving on from the shingle.

Emily Thompson 10:00
All right, I want to back up a whole lot. Because first and foremost, your Jason's ex wife. So we've had Jason on the show three or four times, I know

Caroline Kelso Zook 10:13
and I get jealous every time

Kathleen Shannon 10:15
I know your husband is our boyfriend. Please take take some off my hands. good friends with Jason, which is fun,

Emily Thompson 10:27
right? So um, so tell us, I laid that out there. Because a lot of people, we actually even recently did a survey. And so when requested that we do more projects with Paul and Jason. So Jason has become a bit of an institution here at being Boss, I think so I'm just gonna lay that out there. But I want to hear a little bit more about what you've been up to for the past couple of years. Because one of the things that I really want to lay out here too, and maybe referencing shingles one more time, though, I feel like it may not be the last time is that this is not your first rodeo, right? You've been around this sphere for a bit. So tell us a bit about your journey.

Caroline Kelso Zook 11:03
Yeah, definitely. So I a little bit about how I stumbled into entrepreneurship. I was definitely the first furthest thing from what I would consider to be like a natural born entrepreneur, I was very overachieving in school, like I was a huge nerd and very comfortable with like rules and like, love school, because it's like, tell me what I need to do to succeed. And I will do that. And that was great. And so going into college, I was like, I'm going to be a doctor because that's what people who like school like to do. And I just had this idea of like a career path that was very clear to me. And that would reach what I thought was this traditional model of success, and very quickly discovered that I did not enjoy that work whatsoever. And, and so I had this kind of internal Battle of like, Okay, well, I want to be get this external validation from something, a career that seems illustrious. But I, I also want to do something that I really like. And so my brilliant mind in college was like, I know, I'll do advertising because it's creative, but like, I can do this whole like madmen thing, and I can move to New York, and I'll be this career, woman and picture of success. I really thought I was like, brilliant for figuring this out. I was like, I found the path for me. And I did this big fancy internship in New York City before my senior year in college, and I fucking hated it. I hated every second of it. I hated New York. Like, I'd love to visit there, but I hated living there. And even like, years later, it's hard for me to even say that out loud, because I still have this vision of who I wanted myself to be. And it was like, was it Felicity? God? No, but I did like a subway platform. It was some version of that

Kathleen Shannon 12:45
it was like Felicity, but it wasn't a doctor quitting her doctor vision to become an artist. Yeah,

Caroline Kelso Zook 12:50
it was like a badass. Like, I kept like, Great wardrobe, strolling the streets of New York Felicity, that version. And I had this like idea of what I wanted to be. But I was confronted with all of these emotions of like, this is actually not true to who you are. You, you think you want to be this big city girl, but you are not this big city girl. And I remember going back to my senior year, and I was the president of our advertising society club, because of course, I was the President, I had to be the president, right? And everyone's like, oh, did you love it? Like, are they going to hire you? Are you going to move to New York, all this stuff? And I was just like, no, like, I'm not going to do that. And telling people that and seeing the look in their eyes of like, Oh, she can't hack it. Like it was too much for her. And of course, like, whether that's true or not, that's the perception I had, right. And so I sort of that was the really big turning point for me in terms of going, Okay, I can't do this, fake it till you make it thing where I just like, pursue this path that I think I'm supposed to want. I need to actually turn inward and go, what is the right thing for me to do. And so that led me through a series of kind of decisions, which I won't bore you with, but one of them, which was very crucial was meeting Jason and seeing that he had this business this this crazy t shirt wearing business, which I'm sure he's talked to you guys about on episodes. And I saw for the first time that it was possible to create your own career that had never been presented to me as an option. And I thought, holy crap, you can do this. This is like an actual viable thing. And so my, I made these like little transitions into kind of stumped me like putting my toe in that world, which first it was like, Okay, I quit my advertising job, and I moved back to Jacksonville, I moved in with him. And so I was still I was doing social media for an agency but like working for his business on the weekends. And then from that point, he was going to hire somebody to run operations for his kind of marketing startup. And I fullscale like pitched him on hiring me instead, I like had like a full was like, here's why you should do this. Like, you could pay me so much less than somebody else because I don't pay rent here and like, I will work 10 times anyway. So because he was like really nervous about You know, he, rightfully so thought, what if this ruins our relationship and I was like, then you can fire me, it'll be fine. And turns out, it works really well. And that was my first step into wearing a whole bunch of different hats and really enjoying that process. But in 2013, the business wasn't doing very well, we were in a ton of debt. And he was like, basically, I have to lay you off. Yeah, my boyfriend laid me off. So that's fine. And I thought I will die if I have to go back to advertising and get a job. So I'm just going to try to do my own thing. And in the meantime, I had taught myself design, because from wearing all the different hats and things like that, and so I just thought, I'll start a little design studio, because I can just try that. And it was really, really fucking hard. The first six months, I didn't make any money. But slowly, but surely it started to build and I started to gain my confidence. And so that business was called made vibrant. And that's what I've pretty much been doing for the past four years before combining businesses with my husband.

Kathleen Shannon 16:01
I have so many questions lay about me, first off the boundaries that I mean, going from moving in with your boyfriend, I'm gathering that you weren't paying rent, because you said you weren't paying rent, no, like hiring you to do some work on the weekends. I mean, just from the conversation about shingles and overworking and this pace to then it not going well and then laying you off, and then having to do your own thing. How have you navigated the boundaries between work and life whenever that that line is so blurry at times,

Caroline Kelso Zook 16:37
honestly, from the very, very beginning of working with Jason, I have never like we in our house, call it the work life blend, because so much of what I fell in love with in Jason was his work. It was his creative mind. It was this entrepreneurial thing. And it turns out, you know, I laugh and I say that I'm the furthest thing from an entrepreneur. But I just think on paper, that's true. But deep in my heart, I love talking about ideas. I love talking about execution. And people always ask us that, like, Oh, do you have rules where like, when you go out to dinner, you don't talk about work? I'm like, No, all we can do is talk about work, because we love it. Like, that's what we want to talk about, you know. And so I think for some people that everyone's different, right? Like, everyone has to feel out that balance for themselves. For us. It's not necessarily the talking about it, or the being on our mind. It's like, are we stepping away from the computer? Like, are we getting out of the house? Are we engaging in experiences that are different from just typing on a keyboard, but we're always talking about work, and we're always thinking about it. And that's the beauty of I think doing something that you do love is that it's always constantly feeling you. So to be frank with you, I don't have that real balance, but I do have a blend. And I do love how when you love what you do kind of life does blend in to work in that way.

Kathleen Shannon 17:56
But then you get the shingles?

Caroline Kelso Zook 18:01
That's a good point. Um, you know, and I think that is maybe, for me, that was more like I said about, I think I should have spent that time away from the keyboard. I think it was really those nights and those that constant pace. So like, I didn't get myself long enough breaks. I was doing this thing where I was like, like a walk during the day, or I'll go down to my studio and do some art for an hour thinking that that was somehow refueling me. But like, it's just so Jason always has this thing where he's like, okay, let's talk about recharging. If you he's like to me, you're not fully recharging your battery, unless you get to the point where you're itching to go back to work again, like you're so recharged that you're so tired of being bored. And I never let myself get to that place. Which to me that's what weekends are like if I truly do take the weekend off. And I just like I'm a slob and I watch Netflix and we go to the farmers market and whatever. By the time Monday rolls around, I'm fired up. I'm like, I can't wait to get back to this. But I never gave myself that full time to totally recharge and I think that's

Emily Thompson 19:10
I connect with all of this so much twofold one working with your husband, because David and I have started working together very closely and he's been a partner and in the shop agraphia for the past three or four years but with being boss took sort of the driver's seat of what it was that I was doing. It was a little like he's still works with me. This is different. Yeah. And then when all Mac's started the he's really like driving that ship boat. Sure. He's can drive a ship the wheel, he's got the will. And we talk about works so much more now. So much more than ever before. And sometimes I find myself on one hand getting a little annoyed just because like I don't want to talk about work anymore, though. We're perfectly fine with drawing the line and being like, I understand you want to talk about this, but I'm kinda really done. Like we have no problem doing that. But I also Love it. And I and I almost like feel guilty about loving it so much sometimes. And the thing that I think comes up for me the most is how much more we have to talk about now. Like, there's never any, like weird days where like, I have nothing to say to you all day, like that just never ever happens, because there are so many things for us to talk about. And it makes me think quite often about how much more I don't know, like how much more value you can get out of relationship like that, because I'm not saying that if you're not working with your husband, you're not getting extra value.

Kathleen Shannon 20:31
Well, it's probably like having kids, you know, with your partner or anything else, whereas this shared experience where you're in the trenches, and it definitely, I mean, it's got to add a whole other layer to navigate it. Yes,

Emily Thompson 20:44
it does. And I completely love it, I completely love it, like the idea of building these things together, like you're set for life. I mean, if you can do this, you're gonna you're gonna be together for a really, really long

Caroline Kelso Zook 20:56
time. Well, I was gonna say another thing is like, the sheer volume of opportunities to communicate and like learn about communication, because Jason and I have our communication, so dialed in now. And it's because we have to over communicate, we've had to, for the past, you know, nearly 10 years, because when you're working together, as you guys know, you guys are like business married, you just you have to put it all out there. And you have to work through stuff. And you have to make sure that things, messages don't get mixed and things like that. And so, and when you hit a bump in the road, you have to talk through it, and you can't just be like, okay, peace, you know what I mean? So I think that's another benefit is, like you said, it's not comparing, but it's just saying like, this experience of working together gives us a whole other opportunity to learn our communication skills, which I think has definitely helped us in both our relationship and both in the work scenario.

Emily Thompson 21:48
Absolutely. I love that you guys are doing it. And I love that you're here sharing about it, because I feel it too. with you. Right.

Kathleen Shannon 21:58
All right. So you do a lot of things you do wondering, Ainslie, can you tell us a little bit about what wandering aimlessly is?

Caroline Kelso Zook 22:04
Yeah. So wandering aimlessly is basically, to put it very simply, it's a monthly business membership, and community membership. So you get access to anything that Jason or I have ever created, which is a number of courses, like 15 plus courses, for software products, so you get access to those ongoing as well. And then you get access to this awesome, amazing community of 400 plus people. And it's a really, really special, special type of community that actually was born out of a project that Jason did a few years ago called by my future. And the idea was that you would, for one fee, you would get access to anything he had ever created. And then anything he would ever create in the future. So somebody would just pay and then they they still all those customers get whatever we create going forward. So that by my future project turned into by our future, so a year and a half ago, we combined both of our anything we created, I had created a number of courses. And it was this beautiful that was sort of like our test drive of wondering shamefully, because by our future was basically people saying we buy into you guys, as a couple. We know that you bring balance to the table. So Jason's very action oriented, he's very honest, very direct. If you guys have listened to some of his episodes, and yeah, like I said, just very execution action oriented, I'm a little bit more intuitive, soulful, emotional. And we bring that balance together. And so people, we were finding that a lot of people would come to my stuff, and then discover him and really like his sort of like, no nonsense thing. And then people would find him and discover my stuff, and would really like my sort of deeper mindset exploration stuff. And so we just thought, we're gonna put these two together, people seem to love by our future. And so Jason came to me last year and said, Listen, in terms of our household, and this kind of gets into the business discussion of it, and the business strategy part of it, he's like, this brings in pretty much like 80% of our income, made vibrant, which my courses by themselves, my art, things like that, we're bringing in a much smaller portion. And he was like, I just think, instead of operating in these two different silos and trying to balance these two different directions, it might make more sense for us to combine forces into a more permanent solution where we can both as he puts it, we're better together, we can both really put all of our focus into this one thing that could grow and become this sustainable income for a household. And I at first was like, No, no, I'm not doing that. And it was because I was so in love with my independence. My brand I love made vibrant as a brand. It represents so much of who I am, it's my art, it's my soul. I pour everything into it. But so that's like my creativity, little heart part of me, but my head was like, okay, but that's not a sustainable solution for our income. And so finally, over many, many conversations, He convinced me to really combine forces. And so the past five months, we built basically a whole new brand, a whole new website, we took all of the articles that I had written on made vibrant, all the articles he had written on his website, put them into wondering gainfully and so now it's this kind of online hub for what we like to say, to encourage people to live, work and create with more intention. So yes, it's a business membership. And that's the forefront of it. But it's really lifestyle. It's about figuring out what your values are. And you know, taking action in alignment with those things, and not just trying to search for bigger, better growing, all those things. It's really about identifying your ideal lifestyle and trying to reverse engineer your business to get you there.

Kathleen Shannon 25:40
You talk about combining forces, but you're you're still working on other projects. And what I love about you is that you were so transparent about the process, and from your mindset to literally how you're doing it. And so I we see you on Instagram showing process shots of your paintings, and then you just had a book come out. So can you tell me a little bit about how your fine art plays into all of this and your book process. But let's start with the fine art because you have two beautiful paintings behind you right now. And I didn't know that you just started painting like too long ago.

Caroline Kelso Zook 26:17
Yeah, like, Oh, I think going on about like two and a half years, maybe three years, maybe now. That was an interesting process. So I had always done hand lettering. And that was really my main medium. Like, I love words, I love letters. And that was actually a big core piece of my made vibrant business is I had this hand lettering course that really was my first foray into online courses and did really well for me. But Jason, I were on this vacation in 2015. And I had, I know that sounds really like woowoo. But let's just go there, I had this dream where I was painting these huge canvases. And I could like feel the texture of the paint. And I could feel the texture of the canvas. And I woke up obsessed with this idea of just learning how to paint and so I said, Jason, the second we get home, I'm going to Michael's I'm just going to buy a bunch of stuff. And that's exactly what I did. I didn't even unpack my suitcase. I like went straight to my goals, bought a bunch of stuff. And at first I really was obsessed with trying to like paint realistic things and like, and then I was like, What am I doing? Like, I just I don't know what what the whole purpose of it is, I think I just needed an outlet for my emotional expression. And I am always have been drawn to just shapes and textures and color colors, obviously. And so I started doing this abstract paintings. And in 2016, I did a project where I did a different abstract painting every day with a different hand lettered message. So I kind of combined my two loves. And Funny enough, that project is actually how my book agent found me our book agent.

Kathleen Shannon 27:47
It's right, we share an agent. That's

Caroline Kelso Zook 27:48
right, which I had no idea when she reached out to me. And we were further far along in the process. And she's like, oh, by the way, here are some other titles I'm working on. I'm like, what that is so cool. And so that's how she found me. And so she that's how the ball got kind of rolling for the book. And I've been painting ever since. But there's an interesting thing that's happening now because as I shared with you guys, I was very resistant to kind of rolling made vibrant into wandering aimlessly, right. But now that I've done that, it has taken the pressure off of made vibrant and my art and my creativity that now and even the book because I had always thought the book would be under my business made vibrant. And so now it's like there's this new level of freedom and like on what's the word just sort of like unfiltered newness that I can create. Because it's not with the intention of making money from that part of my creativity anymore.

Kathleen Shannon 28:42
I want to dig into this because this is so tricky for me where I don't think money is bad. I don't think I have any conscious money hang ups. But then there is that liberation that comes with passion projects and creating things for fun, and not having to make a living off of it. Right. And I think that even Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this beautifully in Big Magic, where don't make your art, your sole source of income, see what you can do there. Whereas I have been kind of all about making a living doing what you love and making a living off of your art. Because it's come pretty easily for me but I mean, even with being boss that started as a passion project, and it took off. And so now I'm grappling with this idea of Do I have money hang ups like it is just a mindset shift more than anything. So what have you learned about that when it comes to like money and creativity?

Caroline Kelso Zook 29:37
I am so with you because I remember reading that specific part and Big Magic and actually being like mad about it. And I was like, I disagree. I was like I was still so much in that place of like, Why shouldn't I try to figure out because I view everything like a puzzle. And so I really view it like, oh, if it's made vibrant, and I and I have my creativity, I just haven't found the right configuration. of how to package that in a way that can make a ton of money yet and that's okay. Like, I'll figure that puzzle out, you know, and so I was still in that place when I read that. And I remember being like, I disagree, like I, if there's a way that you can combine those two things and make money from something that you're passionate about, that should be the goal. And I still believe that that is totally true. However, I think in practical terms, that's going to how you figure out that puzzle is going to look different for every single person. So I, in your case, like, I don't think you'd have many hang ups, I just think that you still want to figure out that puzzle in that way, you know, and like I said, it was as big of a surprise for me, because it was sort of not forced upon me. But it was sort of like this business decision where I was like, Okay, I'm doing this because just from an efficiency standpoint, it makes sense for me to pour my time and effort resources into this thing that can make our our family, especially a sustainable income. So that's why we went to like the monthly thing. So it's like, Okay, this makes sense, Jason, I get it. And so, but I was never doing it, because I was like, Oh, my, my business isn't making me enough money, it was just oh, this is a better opportunity for my time resources. So had I not done that I still would have been equally committed to figuring out how to make money. With my creativity. It's just that in this experience, it was a happy accident that now I I've experienced a taste of what that feels like. And I think what I ultimately because I've been digging into this too, because I'm, I'm just like you I'm like, Whoa, this I did not see this coming. Like I really thought it was always about marrying the two. But what I've realized is that the X Factor is like, what I think has been removed from the creativity is not the money. It's like the audience. It's like, I don't have to consult when you when you try to make money with something, it's a value exchange, right? So you have to consider what that end person is getting? What value are they getting in exchange for that money? And so there is this compromise, that inevitably is going to happen. And yes, in a perfect world, you would create exactly what you want to create, and people would buy it. But that's not usually the case. It's like, I've got to maybe like figure out how to market it and how to communicate it. And it's always a negotiation. And so what I've realized is like, when you take away the money, there is no negotiation, it is create and just share. And that's that's it, you know,

Kathleen Shannon 32:15
but have you seen anything show up? Like, have you had more opportunities? I mean, this is probably the part of me that wants to turn it into like a cinematic situation. But have you seen other opportunities surface because I mean, even on a Wu level, like because you've taken that pressure off Somehow, I

Caroline Kelso Zook 32:32
will, interestingly, this is just a vanity thing. But every time I actually, so when I create on my Instagram and stuff like that I had seen like such stalled growth there. So I just stopped chasing, because I was just like, this is stupid. It's just a vanity metric. That's fine. And every time I take a step back, and I just am like, Oh, I actually need to focus on wandering and flee because that's the moneymaker. Now, I see a surge in followers, which is hysterical to me. And I'm like, so I think Instagram does this just to dangle the carrot, you know. So that's kind of interesting. And then also with the book stuff, I've actually found that I have so much more room for ideas and creativity with the book, and and also products that are going to come on the back end of that and potential new books, like so many more ideas, because, and I think the whole book process in general has been far more enjoyable for me, because it's not, I'm not doing it for money. Definitely not doing it for money. Not you know, it's just like this process that was started. And now it's this outlet, this beautiful, like legacy piece of my work that I get to put out there. And so that's been interesting also to see how that experience has been reframed. Because, as you guys know, when I started the book process, it's so long when I started it, I was operating under this very different mindset of like, this is a revenue stream for my business, which don't don't ever think of a book as a revenue stream.

Kathleen Shannon 33:54
Book barely pays for itself. So I actually want to dig into your book, it is called your brightest life journal. And I have to admit, so I got a pre copy or I got a before it was out for sale. It is now for sale wherever books are sold. And it's incredible. It's called your brightest life journal. You can tell that you designed it, it's full of your artwork. It's super interactive, which, you know, we love and I was having a really downtime probably about a month or two ago. I was just feeling low. I was feeling this creative block that I haven't felt in a long time. Probably, you know, it probably should have resulted in mine You have a creative block and I get lucky. I know right? I'm surprised I didn't get shingles. And so I remember one morning feeling pretty bombed and I just opened up the book and I said you know what, it's not enough to just see it because I get it like I feel like we are in similar spaces both with our anxiety and our you know, willingness and will to overcome that anxiety by digging deep into who we are and what our values Use AR and cultivating confidence and all the things. I was like, whatever, it's not enough to know it, I'm going to do it. I'm going to sit here and I'm going to fill out pen to paper Caroline's book. And I did it. And it really is just something that will allow you to go within. But for me this book, like I never went to a dark place only because it's called your brightest life. And so I know that going within can often lead to a lot of kind of depressing introspection. So anyway, that's a little bit of a tangent about how I love your book. And I actually did it. And I would love for you to talk a little bit about that, like, what does it mean to live your brightest life,

Caroline Kelso Zook 35:40
I love, first of all, thank you for sharing that. And thank you for actually doing it. Because that was the one thing when I created this, I was like, I always put myself in the shoes of like the end person. And I'm like, I have this habit of buying beautiful books, or buying journals or things like that, and never cracking them open. And I was like, if there's one goal I want with this book, it's that somebody flips through it and feels compelled to actually sit down and do the exercises. So that is wonderful to hear. To live. Yeah, to live your brightest life to me really means figuring out who you are and what you want, at your deepest core level. And I say core level, because I think the world has a tendency to kind of dim this pure potential within us with things like, you know, things that we think we should do, or our parents expectations, or what will get us liked or what what could risk rejection and all these different things. And so we cover up that sort of pure, call it soul, call it spirit, whatever core self is what I call it. So I think this book is really about returning to who that core self is. And then the second part is really key. It's acting on those truths and everything that you do. So it's like figuring out who I am at my core. But then I have to have the courage to show up and make decisions that are going to be in alignment with what I really want. And that second part is the first the first part is hard enough, because I know not every person has a self awareness mindset. That was another thing that was really important to me in this book was like, I love I sort of go into my like teacher mode, I love breaking down concepts and figuring out a way to teach them and I thought, I'm a very software person by nature. But I know not everyone is wired that way. So if I was going to teach self awareness to someone, what would that look like? And so that's what a lot of the first part of the book is, like just different fun exercises and questions that can really kind of inspire exploration and a person that they wouldn't think of themselves. And then so once you kind of figure out who you are, then the second part of the book is really about how do you have the confidence to show up, you know, and actually make decisions, sometimes that are going to be unpopular? Or do things that are out of your comfort zone, but that are going to actually bring you closer to who you really are. There's a whole section on there about resilience. So what happens when you kind of get knocked down? And what are some ways that you can bounce back from that. And then the final section, which was really important to me is about evolution, because it's it's always a cycle. So you're always going to have to check back in and go, okay, who am I now? Okay, who am I now? What do I want? And so it's just I think this constant, your brightest life is this constant cycle of checking, who am I? What do I want, and then let me go out and take action in alignment with that.

Kathleen Shannon 38:19
It's even like your new york example, where you have this big dream, right? And then you go and experience it. And it's so funny, because whenever I was making that joke about Felicity, I literally wanted to be fully, you know, I have Y, by the way, all seasons of my gosh, I was so obsessed with the intro. And I remember the first time I went to New York, and I was standing on the subway platform, and I was like, I'm just gonna recreate that scene from the intro. And anyway, I just probably a couple years ago, let go of that New York dream from high school. And so how many old dreams are we hanging on to? And how many really old stories are we hanging on to? Yeah, and I think that, that can be one of the things that really blocks us from having the confidence is, Well, a couple of things like his old stories, but I've also been thinking a lot about identity lately, and how identity plays into the decisions that we make. So I want to talk a little bit about confidence, and even that behavior and action and decision making that follows that. So how do you cultivate confidence? And how do you recommend people do more of that?

Caroline Kelso Zook 39:30
I'm obsessed with confidence. Right now I enter like a very weird technical way. I'm like, confidence is this very ethereal, weird thing that people talk about? But I'm like, what, let's break it down. Like what is it actually? And so I've done a lot of thinking about this. Um, and there's a lot of that thinking that's in the book as well in the confidence section, but I think while the first thing I think there's like a couple different pieces to confidence, but the first one, it's a little bit confidence is a little bit like a chicken in the egg scenario. Where you go okay. If I take action, and I put myself out there and I have experiences, I will become more confident because I really truly believe that action and experiences cultivate trust within ourselves, like, Oh, I can handle this. And that builds confidence. However, it requires confidence to put yourself out there oftentimes. And so it's a little bit of this chicken in the egg scenario. And so as I think about confidence, I have to go well, you have to create an origin point. And I think that origin point is planting a seed of belief within ourselves. And so for me, that means even if you don't believe it, saying, I have the capability of doing x y&z so even if you can't say to yourself, I can do X, Y, and Z, saying to yourself, I have the capability to learn how to do X, Y, and Z, and really starting to rewrite those self doubt and self criticism stories in our head, because again, it's a chicken in the egg thing, and it has to it has to end somewhere it has to start somewhere rather. So I always think of it like planting a seed of belief within yourself. So it can't, your confidence can't grow. It can't, you can't put take steps to actually cultivate that until it first is a seed of belief. So I think it starts there. And also a sense of ownership and understanding that you have control over your life and, and you do have the power to actually plant that seed of belief. So first is actually taking ownership of your life. Second is planting that seed of belief. And then I think third is just practice and action. And so there's this piece of art in the book that I think says something to the degree of confidence takes experience and experience takes action. And so you have to put yourself out there and put yourself in scenarios where you're testing the boundaries of what you think you can handle so that you can expand that comfort zone and have that confidence. And I think confidence is really just about being able to trust ourselves. Like I said, So knowing for me exam, an example is like speaking, I love speaking but I get such crippling anxiety before I do it. Like I just I go through all these scenarios in my head of like, what if I fumble my words? What if I completely go playing? What if people are like, this is dumb? You know, I go through all those things. But I know that every time I show up on a stage, I'm going to that that anxiety is going to be diminished because it comes from a place of experience. And so I still don't say yes to every opportunity. But if I if it's the right opportunity. And I sense that fear within myself, and I want to say no, I then say yes, because I know that I want to push the envelope of that experience a little bit more.

Emily Thompson 42:28
I feel like you just gave the most wonderful alternative to how I go about confidence. And in the way that I feel like I have a hard time relating to a lot of a lot of creatives, I think because I think this is a pretty creative mindset where for me, it's not about planting a seed of belief. It's about just risking something of like, What do I have to lose? It doesn't matter if I believe I can't or not, yeah, I'm just gonna do it and see what happens. So I love that you just gave this really beautiful alternative to that, and in a way that I think will probably connect with more people who listen to this than mine does. No,

Caroline Kelso Zook 43:11
but I think yours is such a beautiful, like addendum to it. Because I think that's also really crucial is you're not able to take those actions or you're not able to do those experiences. If you don't trust that. If you fall, it'll be okay. You know what I mean? Like true, that

it'll be okay, like, what is going to happen if you don't like we're going to survive. And so I think and I think it's also about you cultivating like what works for your personality and the way that you're wired. If you're like, I'm just gonna go balls to the wall, and like, whatever, at least I tried. I think that is beautiful in you understanding like, what works for you, you know?

Kathleen Shannon 43:50
Yeah, do I'm definitely more this is this is such a clarifying conversation. Like, I need that seed of belief. And I need to nurture it and grow it. And then Emily, who's my business partner and business bestie is like, let's just jump in headfirst, which I, I like having that accountability. And I think that's why it's so good to find people and experiences that contrast your own because there's so much to learn. And sometimes you need that sometimes you need your tribe and your inner circle to really lift you up whenever you need that whenever you're lacking confidence. They'll have it for you and to literally take you through the action whenever you're too scared to do it yourself.

Caroline Kelso Zook 44:35
I think it's really interesting too, because I'm realizing now Emily, as you said that, that Jason's totally in your camp to where he's like, fuck confidence, like I just I'm going to take action and like, I'm just going to take the risk and like whatever happens, you know what I mean? Like, it's almost like in his mindset, he's like, well, what, what is fear doesn't matter because I want to do this thing. So let me just do this thing. Whereas like, I need that little push, you know, in order to like Build it up in my head, I need a much more like structured way of actually going about cultivating that. But I think like you said, having that contrast and having people around you that maybe can give you that push or can understand where you're coming from. And that way can help cultivate that for sure.

Emily Thompson 45:16
Right, I'll give you belief, Kathleen, you can take mine away. Take my seeds, right, just tell me to jump for it.

Kathleen Shannon 45:27
Alright, so Carolyn, you mentioned earlier that you have, you can be prone to anxiety. And so I'm wondering if depression ever comes with that a little bit. And I know that a lot of our listeners are very type A and sometimes can be pulled into a funk, especially when it feels like the world around them is collapsing, or even just like a personal failed launch, you know, like these things that are on the other side of confidence and taking action is that sometimes there are still failures, and sometimes there are still funks that we get into. So what are some of your tactics for getting out of funks? Especially after maybe a failure?

Caroline Kelso Zook 46:06
Yeah, for sure. For me, one of the biggest ones, because I do while so I do struggle with anxiety a lot. I'm learning a lot now about depression, actually, because a close friend of mine is really going through the thick of that. And we had the longest most beautiful conversation the other day where it was I've never really experienced that level of depression. And so I just we opened up the floor for for us to be able to describe I was like, Can you describe to me what that feels like? And she was like, well, I've never really experienced anxiety. Can you explain to me what that feels like. And so we both had this, like very interesting conversation of like, opening that up a little bit, which was very illuminating for me, especially because I feel so much better equipped to be able to, to support her now because I know where she's coming from and what those feelings are like that said, I do definitely struggle with getting in these phones, especially after something that didn't go well. Or like, you know, there have been times in the past where like, I've launched a course or I remember distinctly actually staying up all night rebranding and finishing this whole guide and then launching it and literally one person bought that day and I was like, I stayed up. I'm kidding. I'm not kidding. You all nighter? Surprise, I didn't get shingles that time. I'm the worst, the worst. And I was like really one person. Okay. But you know, how do you bounce back from that. So for me, one thing is, I like to say permission with boundaries. So I'm a very sensitive person, trying to push past my emotions or pretend they don't exist does not work for me. So I need space in order to feel my feelings. However, that gets dangerous, where one day turns into two days, turns into Netflix binges turns into I don't know how to get my life back on track. So I have learned that it's permission plus boundaries. So I give myself the mental space of like, I'm going to take a day and I'm going to feel all the feelings. And I'm, I'm talking full permission, if I want to cry, if I want to melt down if I want to whatever, I'm not going to judge myself for it, I'm going to give myself that space. But giving myself a boundary on that and saying, okay, it's a day or Okay, it's an hour or Okay, sometimes it's a micro event where I'm like, bummed out, and I can't bounce back. And I'm like, it's 15 minutes. And doing that boundary and giving myself that permission allows me to not have the judgment, but also to still feel in control. And so it allows me to feel like there's intention behind it. There's logic behind it, and I'm not going to let myself spiral. So that's one thing that I do. The second thing is like simple stuff, which is, I think, finding out what makes you feel rejuvenated. For me, a lot of times it's novelty, it's changing things up. So something as simple as like rearranging my desk, moving the position of my desk, choosing a new place in the house to work from, like, these very simple new sensory experiences oftentimes are enough to kind of jolt my emotional calibration to a place where I'm like, no, it's a new day, it's fresh, it's it's a new start, you know, so finding whatever that rejuvenation is for you, if it's, you know, or finding those little joys that can be those kind of artificial boosters of like, Oh, it's my favorite coffee, I'm going to go down the street and get my favorite coffee drink or whatever those things are.

Kathleen Shannon 49:13
I want to talk a little bit about making space to feel your feelings because as you were talking about that with with boundaries and taking a day, a lot of us don't even have a day and coming back to the shingles in that pace. And just all whenever you have a deadline every single day, you don't have that space. So I want to talk a little bit about how you're creating space to either feel your feelings after a launch or a failure, or also creating space now to have time to get bored or to have dreams and to start cultivating imagination again, how do you do that? Like what are you doing?

Caroline Kelso Zook 49:50
So in a very, very practical sense, because I think going back to your first point, if you don't have that day, it's time to reassess. The pace, like if you're saying to yourself, but I don't have a day, then I feel like if you get really honest with yourself, your business is running you a little bit and you're not running your business. So and I'm guilty of it too, as you can tell. So it's a constant recalibration. And for Jason and myself, we have this scheduling exercise that we call working to live where we literally on our calendars, put the time blocks first of the life stuff that we want to prioritize. So we don't even touch business stuff. It's like these blocks to go to the gym, these blocks to be in my studio and do nothing these blocks to sit on the couch and be a slob, like whatever those things are. If you want space in your schedule, it won't happen unless you make that space. So it starts with being intentional about those time blocks. I think actually, I am going to even give credit to you guys for this because I remember listening to an episode a long, long time ago about fitness. I think

Kathleen Shannon 50:53
maybe it was the one we have. Yep, I schedule it every day. You said I

Caroline Kelso Zook 50:56
scheduled my workouts. And I was like, it's so it's so funny. You guys know this where I heard that I was like, oh, genius.

Unknown Speaker 51:04
And you're like, Okay, it's legit, obviously, like,

Kathleen Shannon 51:06
obviously, you should schedule as part of your day. It's my favorite tool is time blocking. But then maybe my further question then is how if I time blocked out like my life, if I was working to live, there would never be any work, or I start to time block out enough stuff. And then things start creeping out. So I just have that one priority mine is working out. That's the thing that nothing else touches. For Emily, it used to be no working on Thursdays or like leaving Thursdays open. And I, Emily, I mean, you might be able to speak to this, but work has kind of quicksand into that space. So how do you keep things from quick standing into that space? Especially whenever you're building something new? Or, you know, yeah, I

Caroline Kelso Zook 51:55
think it's just constant checking back in. So it's like, the secret is just, if you create the framework, then you also have to create the accountability to the framework, or like, what's the point? You know, so it's like, Jason and I do when it's so funny, every time she goes off the rails with us, like where we're bickering more, or we're like having disagreements, we're like, oh, we we're not doing our morning meetings, are we? So we have like a morning meeting that we kind of touch base on what are we working on? What are the priorities, whatever. And then we have like a big Monday meeting in terms of setting the priorities for the week. And we also have a Friday budget meeting. So that's all finances. So those are kind of our whatever touch points. But every time to answer your point about the quicksand is like sometimes the morning meeting that is so such a priority gets pushed, right, because it's like, oh, I need to wake up and finish this thing first, or somebody needs this, or I've got a podcast, interview, whatever those things are. But it requires accountability to come back to that and go, Okay, that's fine. Let's reset. And so for us, at least one of all those meetings I mentioned, one of them is going to get done. And therefore that's going to be our opportunity to recalibrate and say what's the priority. And then it's just about also being kind of forgiving of yourself and saying, Listen, I'm never going to do this perfectly, things are going to quicksand frameworks are gonna fall apart. But like, let's just get back on the horse. When that happens. You know what I mean?

Emily Thompson 53:21
I also think this plays nicely into permission with boundaries. So what you were talking about a minute ago, because for me, every time I've ever let quicksand in, there's always an end point. Like, I always know that there is a day in the future, when all the boundaries are going to go right back up where they belong. But allowing myself to let the quicksand flow wherever it needs to, while it needs to flow allows me to make the adjustments that I need to in order to get things done. But I know that all those boundaries are and are going to go back up in the near future. So for me, for example, my Thursday, no meetings has not been a thing all summer long, like oh, and that's something that I've held in place very hard core for probably a good two years or so for it to all just go away one day and not come back the next week or the next week or the next weekend has been months. But whenever I got a couple weeks into it, I looked at my calendar, I saw all the things that was coming up all of the travel and all of the special meetings and all of those things. And I set a date, I know exactly when all of my Thursdays will then become very sacred again to me. And it's after all of my responsibilities that have been creeping in are done. And that gives me that allows me to since control where there is no control. Even if you can't control anything. That's not the conversation we're having right now. But it does put me back into a place where I can push the quicksand out when I am done with it being useful.

Caroline Kelso Zook 54:58
I think that's a perfect Example of permission with boundaries. And like you said, it's all about control. And it's about saying like, and it's removing the judgment or the criticism, because oftentimes, it's not just the quicksand, it's the judgment about the quicksand that then is like, the spiral, you know. So creating that hard deadline for yourself is taking that control back and not letting the criticism get you.

Kathleen Shannon 55:19
Well, and this is one of the things I admire about you, Emily, is that you're also not afraid of the judgment that might come from saying, Hey, no more meetings on Thursdays. And I think I am terrified of the judgment that comes with saying no. And so one thing that's really helpful is the person

Emily Thompson 55:33
who doesn't come into work until like 11 o'clock every day, I think, I think you're really good at it, I think you're selling yourself,

Kathleen Shannon 55:41
Well, okay. But for example, let's create a line of products. I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna work really hard on kicking this out, whenever really what I should have said, and this is what one of my favorite tools as a creative entrepreneur is having little scripts, like little cues that you can say, and Emily, this is one that I got from you, which is so helpful, which is I don't have the bandwidth for that. And I think that that's a script that I need to be pulling out more and not being afraid of the judgment that comes with that. And just really being honest about what your bandwidth is, is huge. And you don't really know that until you've crossed the line and spread yourself thin and come down in the shingles or whatever it might be. And so I think that that's just a really great tool for me as I don't have the bandwidth right now,

Caroline Kelso Zook 56:30
I think also for me, because I've fallen into the same thing often too, which is kind of allowing myself to think forward a little bit to and going, Okay, if I don't have the bandwidth for this, there is going to come a place where I drop a ball on some level, and then that's going to bring judgment as well. Plus, I'm going to feel guilty about it. Plus, I'm going to be exhausted. So would I rather have just the judgment upfront of the boundary? Or would I rather have judgment, guilt, and you know, all these other things that I'm dropping, dropping a ball and like letting people down and disappointment? So I always, yeah, I when I opportunities come my way. And I have to say yes or no, I think long and hard about like getting honest with myself. And remembering the last time I found myself in this position where I was, did not have the bandwidth. And I was had too many plates in the air and how sucky that felt. And so it's like, kind of need to cut it off at the source. You know, rather than getting myself into a situation where I'm going to feel all those things versus just the one maybe this person doesn't understand. And I also find that being really honest, helps as well. Because it turns out that a lot of the people that reach out to me for collaboration tend to kind of know where I'm at. And so it just in terms of being honest, or like respecting boundaries, so I'll say things like, hey, honestly, this is just how I'm feeling. For example, I'm doing this event later in October, and I'm doing like a live painting during a speaking session. And I said yes to doing that. As it creeps closer, I'm finding that I have a little bit of anxiety because I'm like, I don't know what's expected of me. I don't know what the setup is going to be. I don't know what all these things unknown unknowns, I shot an email to the event host. And I was like, Hey, I'm experiencing a little bit of anxiety because I don't know kind of what the setup is going to be here kind of my questions. I tend to find that if I know what the what's expected of me I do a lot better. Can you just let me know. And she was like, of course, like, bah, bah. And now I feel so good about it. Cuz I'm like, Oh, great. I can do that. You know.

Kathleen Shannon 58:24
All right, Caroline. It's time to wrap this up. So where can our listeners find you and your book?

Caroline Kelso Zook 58:31
Definitely, honestly, the this is probably the wrong answer. But the best thing to do is just Google your brightest life journal because you will see all the shopping links. But if you want to learn more about the book and see some pretty visuals and things like that, you can go to brightest life journal calm and if you want to check out what Jason and I are up to now you can also head to wandering aim fully calm

Kathleen Shannon 58:53
and what makes you feel most boss

Caroline Kelso Zook 58:56
guide what makes me feel this boss waking up and putting on real clothing. After having shingles for two weeks. I put on clothing and makeup today and I was like damn, I own this earth. No, I think going back to our conversation before I think one thing that definitely makes me feel boss is owning who I am owning the boundaries that I need in order to be kind of the brightest version of myself and going out into the world and taking actions everyday that are in alignment with who that core self is. So that's that's it makes me feel boss.

Emily Thompson 59:34
Thank you so much for coming to hang out with us and I'm honored that we're for your first clothing and makeup day. Only for you guys. I wouldn't have done this for everyone. Love it. Thank you.

Kathleen Shannon 59:48
Hey bosses, I want to tell you about the CEO day kit. The CEO day kit is 12 months of focus planning for your business in just one day. So Emily and I have packaged up the Exact tools that we've been consistently using for years that have helped us grow from baby bosses to the CEOs of our own businesses. gain clarity find focus, get momentum, prioritize your time, make better decisions and become more self reliant with the CEO day kids. Go to courses that being boss club to learn more and see if it's a fit for you and your business.

Emily Thompson 1:00:25
Thank you for listening to being boss. If you're looking for more help and being boss of your work in life accom check out our website where you can find Episode shownotes browser archives and access free resources like worksheets, trainings, quizzes and more. It's all at WWW dot being boss dot club. Do the work be boss