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We are all rising above the ashes

Teresa Kwon
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As the pandemic and our quarantines continue, our lives are forever changed. Teresa Kwon talks about this as well as the toxic job environment that caused her to reevaluate what is most important in life.

TAMAR: Hi, everybody. Today we are in April, and it has been a crazy, crazy couple of weeks. We’re going to talk about all those lovely things. But today I am with Teresa Kwon. She hails from Texas and she is living the life there. Talk about that. Thank you so much for joining us as well.


TERESA KWON: Thank you so much. Yeah, here hailing from Austin, Texas, and oh, boy, I was just thinking, doing a third Throwback Thursday post in Instagram and I realized 3 weeks ago. That was when things were starting to really crank up. I was actually in Colorado Springs. And we are having almost like a staycation experience. They’re coming back to Austin. I feel like that was at least six months ago. These last two weeks have been absolutely insane.


TAMAR: Well, it’s funny, you say three weeks. I’m just jealous, because literally it has been four weeks for me already, four plus. Yeah, started early.



TAMAR: But yeah, talk about where you’re going from and to right now?


TERESA KWON: Sure. Absolutely. Oh, wait, I’ll introduce myself, for those people who don’t know, my name is Teresa Kwon. And I am the founder and CEO of Daringly Great Leadership, it is a consulting company that I have started, part of my story of rising from the ashes. And we provide leadership coaching, as well as business strategy for female founders and business owners who really want to put family and freedom first, and have basically help design and help scale a business that really supports the life that you want. So, I’m excited to be able to share what my journey has been like, it has definitely been a journey of twists and turns, and many Phoenix moments.


TAMAR: So yeah, so talk to me about that. What brought you to where you are today? And where did you come from?


TERESA KWON: Sure, Oh, my gosh. So I have probably one of the most nontraditional multiple, nine life situations. It’s a big running joke with the woman that I mentor, and even to my family that I have had 1000 lives. And my career started quite early, a lot of it has to do with the entrepreneurial roots that I come from. I come from three generations on both sides of my family of entrepreneurs and leaders. And so growing up in a family business like that was actually my first job, I did the books of our business. And you learn a lot when you do the books, and especially if it’s a family operation. And from there that’s probably a little over 25 years of working in every sector, so nonprofit government and the private sector. And, gosh, I don’t even know where to start there. But those were all the twists and turns that have led me to burn it all down yet again, and now make this the business that I’ll be moving forward with, and continuing to do social good.


TAMAR: That’s amazing. So yeah, tell us about how your transition has basically occurred in this. I don’t know what’s the right word. I don’t want to say these tumultuous time, but to some degree it is.


TERESA KWON: It really is.

TAMAR: Yeah, yeah. Explain. Explain. I mean, have you had to make any pivots within what you were doing today? I assume not so much. I assume you’re probably thriving in a remote capacity. Talk about what kind of adjustments you’d have seen, though.


TERESA KWON: Yeah. So, it’d be interesting to compare across those who are in the business consulting, vertical as I am. But for me, I will say that it’s interesting. I was speaking to an associate yesterday and he said, oh, it’s like you had a prophetic edge. And what I mean by that is that actually came into 2020. Hearing very strongly, that it is really started in q4 last year to really simplify my operations. And what I mean by that I have this hashtag that I’ve developed over the past few months, and I’d already been on this trajectory of slower, closer, deeper. And I know that so opposite of most business owners and founders, everything’s really about bigger, better, further faster, etc. I mean in Hello, I was definitely subscribing to those previous hashtags, but something in my gut had told me no actually, like slim down, slow down, simplified. And so where I met, it’s interesting, I feel like I’ve been so laser focused on the 5% in my business. And as a type of person that’s really hard to let the 95% kind of go. But I feel fortunate that I’ve gotten really razor sharp about what I’m focusing on in my business and how I’m serving clients right now. And that’s actually pulled through real study. Now, does that mean income wise, I’ve not been affected? The answer is no. I had contracts in the pipeline with clients who were wanting to work one on one, who were right in the middle of their decision. And then all this happened. And of course, the smart move is to pull back and evaluate and see whether this is the best move, moving forward. And so, absolutely, I have been affected in terms of contracts. I was telling a business friend of mine, that I feel like I have been, and I feel like this is the same for all us all because she said, Oh my gosh, that’s the best analogy. I feel that I can’t get my sea legs right now, in the midst of all of this, because it’s not like this steady current. It’s like, one moment these huge waves of storm and you’re trying to like grab onto the side, and then it’s sort of like calms out a little bit, or you get the hang of it, and then it like shifts to another pattern. And there’s always these unknowns that keep happening. And so I mean, even recently, some colleagues and I, we started pivoting, actually towards consulting, specifically business owners through all of the relief packages and options out there because it’s just so confusing. And with my background in contracts and working i with a lot of business law, I’m not an attorney, but I have worked with a lot of business law negotiating and m&a and etc. Like, it’s been easy and working in government. It’s for whatever reason, easier for me to interpret and strategize around what would be the best option for each individual business. Because each individual business and or even individual, the options, like it’s just such a Tetris moment right now. So with that, I’ll say that I’ve been doing most of a lot of that work, pro bono for a little bit. And now I’m starting to take on clients consulting clients for that.


TAMAR: Awesome, awesome. Well, it looks like you’re ahead of the game because I mean, in the context of what you’re doing, I can’t imagine, besides the fact that everybody’s trying to cut their budgets, potentially, due to this threat to their economic stability, actually have a very, very portable business very flexible. So that gives yourself a lot of opportunity. Yes, I used to  just remember back in the day, after having children, I said to myself, I have to work remotely, especially because where I was in my life wasn’t lending itself to making me see my children, because I’m that kind of workaholic. And I know that if I were to go out, I would want to come home, but I wouldn’t want to come home because I would want to also make sure everything is done. And I want to be very efficient. And I’m very logistical and very operations minded. So all that stuff. Ultimately, I’m going to end up Inbox Zero, type of person like you. And I knew that that would be too difficult. So I ended up saying to myself, I need to find work from home jobs, remote jobs, remote jobs, remote jobs, and nothing, no business except for very few which are very open about it. But those are the ones once you’re like already in their talent pool. That’s where you’re going from there. So to some degree, especially if you want to have that kind of flexibility. And I think women in particular, especially, I think there was a piece that was in the Atlantic, White House employee, like you can’t have it all. And I used to see that and I used to say I identify with that. You can’t have that all if you’re going to be in an office, you might be able to have a little more of it if you’re working from home. And now this particular world right now is kind of forcing people to realign their expectations in terms of hey, we can be productive over the phone. We can be productive remotely, we can be productive over Skype, we have face to face on zoom. And it’s amazing for me personally, I want to read this about you. But I do want to talk about something that’s been really interesting for me being that this is four weeks and being that like I thrive in remote environments. Like I actually have my wife, I use WhatsApp, we use WhatsApp groups for my community. And I have a new tagline for myself like a boss because I’m taking the initiative to every single day. And every single day different establishments, making sure people are fed, making sure people are being given produce or them having relationships with vendors, while also having relationships with Apple, and messaging them on WhatsApp just like that here, you owe this money, and you owe this money. And your pickup is here. And your pickup is there. And everybody has different pickups. There’s like we have 75 people for one of them. And there’s divide and that’s about eight different locations, and everybody has different assignments. That’s one thing and that there’s another thing, it’s absolutely insane. But I’m realizing, wait a minute, and people are asking, what do you do for a living? I’m like, what, if everything fails, I have a job with you, right? So, you just have to kind of pivot your mindset and your attitude to also make sure that you’re able to accommodate the crazy uncertainty of our time.


TERESA KWON: Hmm, I mean, I completely am there with you. And the most recent workplace industry that I was working in Austin, Texas, surprised not surprised, is I was working in tech startup. And, I know, and you know, and anyone that works in tech startup knows, it’s a whole another level of hair on fire. And, and I hear you I was there. And I say my story has everything to do with having to really stop and realize the toll it was taking on my marriage, on my family, on my health. And because it’s Mach Two with your hair on fire using a Top Gun reference. And it was I live, breathe, eat, work at 90 hours a week. I mean, I would fall asleep on my laptop on my kitchen table, at the end of the day at three in the morning, and then wake up to the CEO calling me at seven. That was my life for so many years. And if you don’t do that you’re lesser than right.


TAMAR: And that is very hustle, hustle.


TERESA KWON: Yes, it is and a little bit toxic. I’ll tell you that.


TAMAR: So talking about, you’re positioning it in a way that you’re not getting any sleep. Of course, besides the emotional element of it, there’s the top physical toxicity of feeling like you have to be on call and beholden to people. And that’s why I also made my own pivot.


TERESA KWON: Yes, exactly. And it’s so funny and yet not funny. That right now with what’s happening, the biggest disruption that is happening, and a really great buzz word inside of the startup realm is be a disrupter. We like disrupting industries and systems and what’s broken and I’m like, well, guess what? God, Universe, Mother Nature, whatever you call it, it has been the biggest disrupter of all right here. Right now, this has disrupted. And this is what I keep saying, it’s like the mania and the rapid loss of control, even though we think we’re in control, the rapid rub up and the loss of control that the whole globe was like operating at, and losing touch with the things that were the most important. And for me, I will say the most important has everything to do with a family, has everything to do with truly my values and my health. And here, we are inconvenienced, quote unquote, do have to just really focus on those very things. So I think it’s interesting. And when I worked in startup, we had the option of having work from home and working remotely. I remember hiking Machu Picchu and still having to dial in remote for work, even though they said unlimited PTO. And I don’t know what the pace has been like for startups, I mean to you, because my colleagues, I know that everybody’s going through shock and grieving, like all the patterns, the seven stages of grief, like it’s happening. So, I don’t know if startups are accommodating for that or not, but I know that the lifestyle I was living before when working in startups, did not have any room for you to even stop and go to the bathroom sometimes.


TAMAR: To your comment about startup culture and whether or not they have the flexibility, I think there’s a lot of adjustment everywhere. A lot of people are in turmoil right now. I had a guy who is coming who came to my house in the beginning of this whole thing. And I think it was the beginning of a job. And I texted him later on about something. And he had said to me, I lost the job. I don’t know what cultures were there, I read an article about how this pandemic is actually causing for some startup to really falling at the cracks. So  got it.

15:40 – 16:13 (indecipherable)


TERESA KWON:  Let’s take this seriously. We’re smart human beings. Let’s not use the lizard brain part to make decisions right now. And yet, what has been interesting to observe, like you were saying, there’s some people taking it seriously, some people who are not. I was actually reading articles last night. The Atlantic is actually one of my favorite sources right now. And I was reading articles last night, and it was saying like, unfortunately, there is a very high correlation of political divide and demographics, in terms of the way people are responding. Some of the local governments have done the lockdown procedures and others haven’t. But regardless, there’s a guideline to social justice, right? But yeah, to me, it’s scary to see how, I don’t know maybe some people were thinking it’s a YOLO car pay, if I get the virus whatever moment versus thinking a little bit more a  broader, longer term, and even if you might be healthy, thinking about how you might be contributing to the effect of someone else, even losing their life, right? But in terms of the unemployment, and I know this firsthand because my husband actually is in the service sector, he’s a chef. And so recently lost his role, his job, and I know so many people who are in the hospitality and service industry. And I would say a great vast majority of people in the unemployment block is there. It’s so interesting how interdependent our life is like from the people that make our yummy sushi to the people who clean houses, to the people who cut our hair, to the people who etc, etc. and 30% to me is like super low.


TAMAR: Yes, it’s scary 30% of like millions of people and then you imagine when everything reopens, and the floodgates open, and these employers are going to be flooded with applications, beyond their expectations, beyond their wildest dreams, and they’re not even going to find potentially the best candidate because how can they even wade through all that volume?


TERESA KWON: Exactly. Right. And that’s so great that you’re bringing that up because part of what I do is I help business owners and companies really create that talent pipeline. And learned quite a lot working in government, nonprofits, fortune 100 and startups, like how to select great talent. And it’s going to be an absolute nightmare later. So I’m glad that you’re seeing that. And I don’t know that anyone is prepared for that either.


TAMAR: There’s nothing we are not prepared for here.


TERESA KWON: No, no. And at some point, I don’t think people are ready now. But I know  that’s part of the conversation that I’ll be speaking into because, golly, I mean, I was reading articles that was  comparing this finally, I’ve been saying it’s like the only biggest disrupter that’s decimated our economy. Like this was the Great Depression and World War 1 and 2 and I start seeing articles that finally made those parallels. And I was like, yes people keep talking about a new normal, and I’m like, there is no normal anymore.

TAMAR: Right.

TERESA KWON:  We’re changed, we’re going to change society. It’s not going to go back to what it used to be like.

TAMAR: Hopefully, the restaurants open for our husbands’ sake. And just in general, I hope the restaurants come back.


TERESA KWON:  Thank you, and eventually I believe they will because if anything, people are sick of cooking.


TAMAR: Yeah, I will tell you; I don’t have the time or the energy to cook. And it’s very stressful for me personally. So I have been relying on takeout. And it’s very bad for me because I’ve been so diligent. My self-care routine is part of like running and going to the gym to things that I can’t do running a little bit. But because I had the virus, I actually have been unable to do it to the same degree, I can’t leave my property. So I’m doing it on my property. And I’m doing it slower, and I’m doing it intervals. So all those things mean that I’m not even diligent about that. And then I’m used to do one meal a day intermittent fasting, and I can’t really do that because my mind is not in the right place. So I think a lot of people are finding that they’re struggling, it creates a lot of tumult and turmoil in your own inner mind.


TERESA KWON:  Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I love this quote, and I’ve always said this, but I feel like it’s so appropriate now, is that crisis reveals what was always within. And I think one of the things that we as a society are having to grip with, that’s been so difficult is, I’m going to get nerdy for a second, but Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. That all of us have been in a lot of you can say, not all of us, but a lot of people are pretty much obsessed with the question of why am I put on this earth? What else can I achieve? And how can I make more money or get that promotion, etc. That’s like, the very top of the pyramid of like, self-advocacy. And this just knocked us on our total behind. I have no idea if you can swear on this podcast.

TAMAR: But keep it like that.


TERESA KWON:  Yeah, and there’s five levels of Maslow, and we’re down to the first two, which is, number one is food and shelter, that’s very bottom, and second, has to do with safety. Right. And when you’re knocked down to those very basics, when you’re operating at the very top, it reveals where you might not have had the foundation, right? I mean, this the level above that has to do with belonging, and when you’re going so fast and furious, going after the bigger bucks, and the bigger titles and etc. you don’t necessarily realize that you might have had a shaky base to your pyramid. And I think that’s something that’s being revealed that people have been operating by, maybe have had like an incredibly trim body, like a great portfolio. Like, everything looks great on the outside, but on the inside, which have to do with mindset and beliefs, etc. Or even relationships, like on the inside, it was not as solid. So we’re coming to grips with that.


TAMAR: We’ll talk on one thing, and then I want to talk about your rising above the ashes story because I know you had a couple to talk about, but in terms of the belonging, I will say that and I’ve written two articles about this. Number one, the article about how I tested positive for Coronavirus. And it was more about what you’re talking about earlier about our responsibility to stay indoors because even if we’re not carrying it, we could potentially be saving lives, but the other one was about the quarantine in general. And I wrote it before anyone really had a quarantine. So it had more of an impact, because everybody was like, oh, you’re in quarantine. Oh my God, sorry. And now everybody’s in quarantine. So no one’s reading it. But it was a very profound article and it was about the fact that because I am in quarantine, we deferred it to our communications on a WhatsApp group. And I mean, this is a community wide WhatsApp group of people. Coronavirus spread actually started in my synagogue. And I always had struggled socially in my synagogue, I was depressed when I moved in. Things were very difficult and I had a very, very difficult time breaking the ice with people and I still do have difficulty with that. And when we finally found myself in this WhatsApp group, I felt like we don’t see each other’s ages, we don’t see what we’re wearing. We only have names and that’s it. It made me feel finally I belong somewhere. And this whole story took me a really long time. And I said, this too shall pass, but in the end, I’m not sure I really want it to, that’s how it kind of ended. So the belonging was there, and I’m not sure if I have this stuff underneath. But that was a really interesting part. I think for anybody who’s really struggling, you got to find your community and hopefully you’ll have people to kind of lean on a lot. WhatsApp groups have kind of came out as not so much WhatsApp groups, but also Facebook groups have been erected specifically for working within the quarantine and I think I highly recommend that anybody looking who or who’s struggling, either create your own if you don’t have one yet or otherwise, you can try to join an existing one. I’ve been invited to three, so somewhere like as far as Australia and as far as local as my own community. Actually, there’s a lot more than three if I can sit at the local communities. Actually at least five or six, when you start to think about global because this has a global impact now, there’s  opportunities to really do this everywhere.


TERESA KWON: I love that you’re underscoring community right now, one of my top values and again, in the moment I can just hear like, okay, what next, right, and there are two things that have come up for me in the last week. I feel like it’s been six months, but it’s only been like a two or three weeks for us. At least for me.


TAMAR: Yeah, today is March 27th.

TERESA KWON: Yeah. What? April? There’s no April.


TAMAR: Introduction today says, hey, welcome to the podcast. Today is March 25.


TERESA KWON: Right. After vlog day, 2021. So, just to underscore belonging, I know that. So one of the things I’ve heard is to gather in circles of hope that I love that you said that, yes, we absolutely need community more than ever. And I was reading, again, I’m like a crazy reader. I love that right now like this, one of the positive things that’s come out from it is that COVID-19 has, in essence, level the playing field where we’re coming together, not by social status, economic status, like our alumnus, or our industry or maybe even our synagogue or the church. We’re not coming together based on those kinds of social circles. This is truly, like really dissolved. So many of the barriers that have in essence, like we’ve caught, we might have had community we may not have been able to fit in or not. But it really did divide us. Right?  and divided us more, but now we have this thing that is now an interest is global. And that puts us all into one category. And the one category truly is that we are the human race, and coming together behind missions, like the amazing work that you’re doing right now. Like that supersedes a lot of what had determined social circles and groups. And in nonprofit sector, they have this thing called social capital, which is essentially like saying the relationship is currency. Yeah, we need this more than ever, and if any of your listeners who are feeling like well, I don’t even know where to find one. Or how do I get into a group or I’m not really good in groups. I’m an introvert. I mean, hell, I’m an introvert right here, is. I just tapped a few friends from even my college days, someone pointed out that we haven’t been together in almost 25 years. And we got together all on zoom, because nobody has plans on a Friday night. And get together was just so very nurturing. And it’s something we need right now. So I’m glad that you’re finding community in all of this. And for those people who are still may be thinking, I’m fine, I have my job, blah, blah, blah. I’m like, I want to challenge that.


TAMAR: Yeah, I mean, who knows what it’s going to look like if this becomes a long term thing, and also severe.




TAMAR: To some degree I know we want to talk about your story, and we’re kind of like PvE. We pivoted within the podcast about how it’s funny like I want to hear obviously your rising above the ashes story, but at the same time, to some degree, we’re all in ashes right now. And this is kind of how we’re rising. So it is kind of almost a little more appropriate, especially in the context of where we are right now.


TERESA KWON: Hmm, a 100%, a 100%.

TAMAR: And so let’s talk about that because I realized.


TERESA KWON:  Yeah, we could talk about this forever, right? Yeah, I have so many start overs burned down for me, or where I left them out to myself. And I can talk about my most recent and I started making reference to how, I just one day had to start looking at my life from the outside, either you can say, in some ways, the truly inside out or from your outside in third person standpoint. But I was working at a product but also as a chief of staff, in a startup, and also consulting founders because I used to like prep for fundraising round and or work on the other side of the table, help VCs like that. startups. So, it’s interesting, I would say it was maybe short sighted, even  I thought it was farsighted, like longer term. But I had been in it because I got married later in my life, because I was in major career mode and going for it. And I had aged parents basically as soon as I got married, so that put me in this weird breadwinner seat. And so for me, working as much as I did, and trying to get the titles became just less about me, because I’m never really title grabber. I’ve never been that person. But I realized that was tied to salary for me, and having to be the breadwinner of aged parents with hospital bills and all that, I really thought like, get the promotions, get more, do all that make more money because this is to support my family. And, on top of that, doing consulting, and it was honestly, I don’t think I even realized how unhealthy my boundaries were because my work was my life. And I had a very young marriage. And it was actually his parents. So I don’t know that he could have said anything, because he felt bad that we were in this position, because it wasn’t like, planned. And we basically would have like, 40 minutes to an hour on the couch watching something on TV together, when he would get off his work shift, because he was a chef, so he get home at 11pm. And, for me, I’ve just been working nonstop, like, maybe went to the bathroom, maybe might have put something in my mouth to eat, maybe had some water kind of thing. And we basically had a roommate status, basically barely saw each other married. And we were fighting a lot and I was getting sick. And I was not taking care of myself. And I felt constantly stressed. And I already had a history of adrenal fatigue. And I knew all the symptoms, and I was like, well, here it comes again. And I was gaining, like 50 pounds. And it was just I saw all the signs. But it all led to was one day, I’m just like, just keep going, just keep going until one day found myself on the floor in the middle of snot and tears, and my husband and I are fighting yet again. And my husband asked me for divorce. And in that moment, I was like there was a movie director who had played out that moment, it’s like, my whole life collapsed in front of me and I saw these patterns that we’re repeating from my parents. It was almost enlightenment moment where I realized like, oh my gosh, I have been operating from a formula for success taught to me by my parents. My parents started like they had a rise from the ashes and I’m so grateful, started with 50 bucks in their pocket, my dad 50 bucks in his pocket, and then doing everything under the sun, and into the middle class, gave us an incredible life, and all of it was through workaholism. You work hard, you need to know what the value of $1 is, like, turn off the lights if you’re not in that room. Like I followed that same formula for success and realized that I started sacrificing the same way that my parents did which was just work to the bone, to provide for your loved ones. It really did not become anything about trying to get the promotion for me, it was more like, what else can I do to support my family better. But what happened was that it completely deteriorated my marriage, that completely deteriorated my health. And then on top of all of that, I was absolutely miserable because I was not living according to my own values. And there were so many decisions being made and the startups that I worked with, that I just couldn’t, it just would make me sick. And yet, sometimes, when you’re either Chief of Staff, or you head a whole department of product, like, I have to then be the mouthpiece and implement things that are decisions that are made from the sea level that I didn’t even agree with to the core of my being. And then on top of that, what was happening with my own house and my family. And I knew I had to change, but I just kind of was like, well, straight back into everything. I had a second moment. My husband and I were like, okay, we need to just break up this pattern that we’re in. So we took this giant trip, went to see my friends in the UK. And I remember sitting having coffee in a garden outside. Oh, no tea, of course, it is the UK. And a longtime friend of mine, and she just stops and she just had tears in her eyes. And she’s like, Teresa, I have never seen you this dead before. You know and hear my thinking, like, I just went to Iceland and climbed it like iceberg and iceberg or the glacier and I feel great.  And I feel like that moment just popped. It’s just like really, like anything, I mustered back up to get right back into work. I just like popped everything. And of course, I’m bawling and thinking like I can’t, everything that I was, the meltdown I had inside, like just took over. And I started my exit plan. And the interesting thing was, and for me, like I do believe in God, and divine, like handed things, I started my exit plan to re kickstart my consulting business, and exit that company. So I had that six month plan. And what was so interesting and ironic, and I’m over it now was that during those six months, and we don’t have to go fully into it, but there was this whole case built to basically exit me, I’m like a triple protected class. I’m over 40, I’m minority, and I’m a woman in senior leadership, and they had to build an ironclad case to like, exit me from the company and built this terrible case around it. And it just further confirms how I was not working within my own integrity and my own values. And I was exited from the company, the very company that I helped build from scratch, and was decimating my own personal life. And ironically, they called me into the room, and I just knew what was about to happen, and part of me was so angry because I felt really wronged, a lot of things were fabricated. Let’s just put it that way to build a case. But I just said thanks. Thanks because this is to me His mercy. And I’m not meant to be here. But it is a blow to the ego. And it was a blow to our income stream. It was terrible because they actually tore down my reputation in the process.


TERESA KWON: So, all the things that you don’t want to hear from a leadership or from an industry. I’m pretty well known in the startup industry here in Austin. And what I had to do was realize that my worth and my identity was not my job. My worth in my identity was not how much money I brought home. My worth and my identity was not my job title even, or my associations through what reputable company I worked for, or what name drops I can make, or who I went to happier with, or what projects and how much money I was able to make through my latest launch. But all the metrics that many of us kind of go after to say, hey, I’ve done it, I’m an incredible asset to the world, all of those things, just I had to peel all those layers off that the society had taught me and come down to who am I and that who I am, is inherently worthy. Who I am and what I believe and what I stand for is paramount above what I guess, metrics for success. Say you are worthy to be seen or worthy to be included or etc. So that was a process that I have gone through actually multiple times, like having to re identify with who I am and my values, and what’s most important to me. And I would say the most recent time, the older the wiser. I chose to also burn down my consulting business that was working a lot with the startup founders that were in the fundraising round, and designed a business. And that was only going to support the lifestyle, the values that I truly stood for, at the end of the day, stripped away from all the things that I’ve been trained to believe is how you make yourself valuable in the world.


So, here am I, that’s how I pivoted my business, my consulting business. And now I only work with people who are truly going to put people first, who truly want to build a lifestyle that values family. I mean, because I’ve definitely learned my lesson. I mean, we’ve not divorced, we saved our marriage, we’re stronger than ever. And yeah, I just realized the experience and the background and the expertise that I have, and bring to the table, especially across three sectors, and also the globe. Like I worked globally, that I have my own secret sauce now on what are best practices and how to do things in the Lean Startup fashion that is truly values aligned. Truly mission driven, not based on the buts birds that we hear from startup where they’re like, oh, we’re values or culture first. And I’m like, no, man.

TAMAR: Yeah.

TERESA KWON: I have been in leadership where that’s just a bunch of Kool Aid.


TAMAR: Totally mimic, I had the same similar situation as well, like overworked and it took a toll and I ended up having the foresight, I don’t know if I had the foresight, because it was still incredibly stressful. And I was depressed. I have a husband who completely would have left me if I was in that position, and he was amazing. But I did have the foresight to know because if I did it any other way, it would have been so much worse. But it was still pretty bad for nine years and gosh, and I had to prioritize differently. But even when I prioritize being in my house didn’t change the mentality, the workers mindset. It was just very difficult and it’s extremely difficult when you’re in a position where you feel like beholden to everybody, to your stakeholders and all the people around you and yet you’re put yourself behind. So yeah.


TAMAR: And I’m glad you’re in a place where you’re better and happier. And I mean, I can tell by your attitude that I think all of us as a human race, as we talked about, you talked about earlier, we’re all in ashes right now. And we’re kind of climbing out of threat. And, it’s really about where your head is today. And hopefully, we’re able to be there tomorrow. Because if you have the right attitude today, hopefully, it could only be better tomorrow, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And that’s terrifying for me.


TAMAR: But at the same time, keep your head above the ashes and not inside of them.


TERESA KWON: Exactly, yes. And this is what we find  right now, this is a reset. This is a global reset time, and you can choose to divide it, you can choose to fight it and try to maintain your quote, normal, but society has changed, the world has changed. And if you’re operating based on the old OS, you’re not going to thrive in this new one.

TAMAR: Right. So, let’s talk about how you’re trying to thrive. I mean, you told us in the beginning, and fortunately, we did have like a recording issue. So you talked about how your transition is basically your living room to the bedroom, which I guess is the best you can do under the circumstances of being in isolation. But in reality, what are you doing now to stay sane? And what do you usually do to stay sane? What’s your self-care like?


TERESA KWON: Oh, I’m so glad you’re asking. I mean, instead of like comparing other things, I feel like lately, this is the conversation. It’s like what’s working for you, and so I would say the first one is just grace over grind. I think if you are a high achiever, ultra-high achiever, like you and I probably are ultra- high achievers, we have probably with the edge of perfection as we’re used to, like being able to do 1000 things at one time. We figured out how to basically really navigate the old OS. But right now, the conditions are changing all the time. And even when my earlier background was in project management and etc. and you really always have to readjust your plan based on the circumstances, conditions, situation, stakeholders, etc. all of that is in flux. So, right now, I think  grace over grind and when I say that, you’re probably going to be in the single digits of productivity compared to what you used to be able to do. And that’s okay. And that you have to give yourself permission for that. I know that one of the things that you said earlier and I said I’ve been saying too is that like my brain is broken right now. I know I have a mind but like my brain cannot even recall sort of vocabulary words. Like we’re so out of and I’ll talk about entrainment and a little bit so and now we have people in the house and childcare and this and that just like completely disrupting everything and then just like the grief in general of the loss, grief on so many levels loss of whether or not you have income loss or not, but it is a grief of like the loss of loved ones, loss of those in our communities. And also I will say a loss of what was normal and I don’t know that people are talking about that. So, I think that right now if you’re not getting your sea legs right now then you’re not meant to stand in Superman pull pose stiff right now thinking you can just handle it. You’ve got to stay flexible and have some grace permission to not be all that you were. The second thing for me is really a spiritual practice. I think right now in this whole world of constant chaos, change, turmoil, uncertainty, you need and if you’ve watched that TV’s ABC TV series, there was a constant. And I think we all need some kind of constant and whether people are religious or not or your listeners, but for me, a spiritual practice and connecting to God or higher source has been so bedrock for me. And it’s given me space to just in essence really have a place to be very full monty without having all my feelings and my thoughts and trying to see things from a higher perspective that is less in the weeds right now. And I think right now the reason why it’s so chaotic is every news update, every email, every text, every whatever, that’s giving us new information, we’re in the weeds of it. And if everything is moment by moment, we’re going to lose ourselves to that, like, our psyche just cannot handle it. The third is move your body, and I’m going to call it exercise. It’s just like, just move your body.


TAMAR: Yeah. There’s a guy who is actually in China, I think he did a marathon in his living room, because he couldn’t  go anywhere else. He has got watch movements to show proof of it.


TERESA KWON: Wow. Yeah, you got to move your body. And if you know much about anxiety and the way the body sympathetic system kicks in when you are in fear, which also is anxiety signal to your body the same way fear does, like an alliance about to jump on you. You have all of this extra reason why you feel kind of like, is because your body is turned on the sympathetic nervous system, it’ll be good for you guys to watch, like and learn a little bit more about how the brain and the body work. But now you have this influx of adrenaline, that’s meant for you to now quickly run away from the lion. But there is no lion in front of you right now. So if you’re buzzing with anxiety, and you’re worrying or your head starting to squirrel, and I get those moments, as soon as I can, like recognize it, I start moving my body. And it’s so interesting, I bought this before, but I have a rebounder. So there’s little mini trampolines and we have a rule in our house. Now every time you pass the rebounder, you do at least 100 jumps. And like I’ll go rebound, I’ll go outside for a fresh air and a walk and we’ll walk our dog. And the third is that with the move your body is like I’ll get creative. So like there’s a lot of free resources out there. And you can choose your pick, Pilates yoga, bodyweight exercises, like get an app, whatever, do something even if it’s for five minutes and get it out of your system run up and down your stairs, move your body. And then I would say the last thing is I try to eat as whole as possible. People always say like eat your vegetables. But scientifically, I will tell you that dark greens actually are the antioxidants that you need for relieving stress. So not only is it just like eat your vegetables, eat green leafy, dark green, leafy vegetables, if you can get it and or anything green, because the nutrients that are in it actually helps to lower your stress so much to my husband’s demise. Or like to his chagrin, we are eating lots of leafy green vegetables. He hates it, but like we’re doing it. And I’ll say Protip too, if you can get it, if you can handle the texture because some people don’t like it, is seaweed. So seaweed has so many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that is restorative to the body. But it also cleanses your blood. So whether or not you are ill, whatever that is like right now, we all need some detoxing because our body’s just like full of all the chips and the junk that we’re eating and the stress and so whether that’s dry form, you can make a soup, you can make instant versions of seaweed, whatever that is. I mean talk about dark green. I’m going to tell you that that stuff’s going to really help reset you.


TAMAR: Awesome. Yeah, I like that mindset, a move in monty.


TERESA KWON: I love it.

TAMAR: Yeah. Cool. Cool. Amazing. Well, if you have maybe I don’t know a 30 second advice for anybody here, I would love to hear it.


TERESA KWON: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Connect. I would say connect. And when you’re connecting get real. I feel like there’s some people connecting right now who are still doing this schmoozing networking thing. And I’m like, guess what other people and not just me are going to see right through it. Yeah right now what’s real, what’s truly real and what’s truly the most important is what’s going to help you write this and be strong through the whole time. So yeah, authenticity all the way and what’s real and connect, connect, connect.


TAMAR: Cool, awesome. Yeah, I really like that. I also think that it’s funny, in terms of connection, try to crave the things that you might not necessarily like, I hate being on the phone. But I will say that because of where we are now I actually appreciate getting a phone call. It’s very weird. It’s really like you said, the world is changing. And I completely see that


TERESA KWON: Hmm. We do need or maybe to meet each other. So we’re being taught, we’re being reminded. . .

TAMAR: To come back to our roots in a very unusual way.



TAMAR: Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Teresa. I really, really appreciate you taking the time.

TERESA KWON: Thank you so much for having me. And I do hope anything I shared is going to be of help and yeah, you guys buckle up. This is not something that’s going away before Easter or the end of the month. This is where the society has changed as we know it.


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