Episode 134 – Ashley Stahl, Getting Unstuck

As life returns to a post-pandemic “new normal,” we’re kicking off a series called Decide, Don’t Slide: Living Intentionally as Life Begins to Normalize. To start us off, Jessica spends time with Ashley Stahl. Ashley is a counterterrorism professional turned career coach, spokesperson, and author of the bestselling book, You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design Your Dream Career. Today, Ashley and Jessica dive into pursuing new careers and habits in this ever changing world.


Jessica: Hey, everyone! Welcome back to the Going Scared podcast.  This is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand Noonday Collection. Join me here every week for conversations on living lives of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.

Welcome back! I have missed you, and I am excited to be back because we are kicking off a new series that we’re calling “Decide, Don’t Slide: Living Intentionally as Life Begins to Normalize.”

Now, I know we are entering this new no man’s land where life isn’t like how it was, it’s not like how it’s going to be. We are edging out of our homes and into gathering again with friends. I even went and picked out outfits last weekend for some future events that I have. Imagine that! And it all brings up in me this question of, “What do I want to keep from how I’ve been living the last fifteen months, and what are those things that I need to let go of?” I think a lot of people have made a habit of hermitting, and I think it’s time to go ahead and connect, get together with people.

On the other hand, the calendar events are coming back on again, and I’m feeling a sense of, “Gosh, I’ve become a little bit of an introvert this past year, and part of that has been really healthy and really good for me.” The pandemic brought many of us to our knees and it held a mirror up for our lives and how we live them. And so now, as we start to see the semblance of normal life again, let’s ask ourselves, “What do we want to decide? How do we want to live? What do we want to commit to? How do we want to choose?” Because otherwise, we’re just going to drift along and drift right back into some of the things and the ways and habits of how we were living before.

To kick off our series, I thought it’d be awesome to bring on a guest who speaks to careers. I think many people had new questions emerge around their careers over the last few months. And I just want any of you all who are stuck, who thought, “Man, I really want to make a move, but I just can’t,” or “I want to make a move, but I don’t know where;” I really wanted this conversation to be for you.

So, we have Ashley Stahl on the show! Ashley Stahl was a counterterrorism professional turned career coach, now. Ashley is the author of the book, “You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, and Design Your Dream Career,” and she is the author of a column every month in Forbes.

If it’s taken the pandemic for you to come to terms too late for you to come to terms with the fact that you’re not happy or fulfilled in your career, then this conversation is for you.


Ashley Stahl: Getting Unstuck

Jessica: I have to start with, you started off in counterterrorism. Okay, I am fascinated by women, especially, in that career path. So, I want to hear all about it. Break it all down. Take us behind the scenes.

Ashley: I mean, it’s quite a career pivot to go from counterterrorism to career coach, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I grew up in a house where the news was always on. And from a really young age, I was super curious about what was happening in the world. And I remember my dad, on Sundays, we would have family dinners with my extended family, and he would just fight for better or for worse with my uncles who were on one side of the political aisle, he was on the other. And I just had an opinion. And I remember going to college and going to the Career Services Office, and not really knowing what I was going to major in and walking in and saying, "What do I pick?" And I didn’t realize at the time that only 27% of people are operating with their degree right now, most people don’t use their college degree once they get it.

Jessica: I’m surprised it’s that high.

Ashley: Yeah, exactly. I mean, 27%… So, one out of four people, their degree is relevant for what they’re doing. I think the fact that you have a degree, that you have committed to something, that you’ve put in work to something, is valuable, but ultimately, there’s so many different ways to get to where you really belong. And I remember when I walked into Career Services, and I was operating on that belief that my major and my degree mattered a lot. And it does if you’re going to be a doctor, for example.

Jessica: Right. Or an engineer, maybe like chemical engineering or something.

Ashley: Exactly. And she said all the things to me that, you know, were like, "Do what you love." And the three-worded tirades, "Do what you love, and the money is going to follow. Follow your passion." And I remember just leaving feeling like I was on a treadmill to nowhere, you know, like I just… And what I didn’t realize at that time, which I would realize later is that there’s a really big difference between being a consumer of something and a producer of that thing.

And what I mean by that is, I love politics. I love fashion. I love traveling. I love consuming those things. I love reading about them, being around them, practicing them in some way. But it doesn’t mean I’m a good producer of those things. I’d be an awful politician. I’m way too emotional and sensitive, like, definitely couldn’t participate in the literal game of politics. I’m not meant to be a fashion designer. And, you know, I just think with travel, there’s a lot of different ways to misunderstand the love for travel and harness that into your career. I’ve seen people who join cruise lines for their career, and then they realize like, "I’m not really traveling, I’m on a ship."

Jessica: That’s not travel.

Ashley: Yeah. Exactly. So, I think there’s a lot of misunderstandings. And my journey into counterterrorism was one that I just followed what I was naturally good at, which was learning languages. I loved cultures. And I didn’t really understand who I was. And so I just picked something in the dark for the sake of it and ended up giving all of myself to that career, because the only thing worse to me than not having a plan, or having the wrong plan, was having no plan at all. So, I just thought to myself, “Even if this isn’t for me, at least I have something to talk about when I go to happy hour with people, and they ask me what I’m doing.”
“I didn’t really understand who I was. I just picked something in the dark for the sake of it and ended up giving all of myself to that career, because the only thing worse to me than not having a plan, or having the wrong plan, was having no plan at all.” Ashley Stahl

Jessica: Or you know, on a podcast even right now.

Ashley: Exactly.

Jessica: Because it is very interesting.

Ashley: Yeah. It is. I mean, even for me, like, I have these weird flashbacks where I think back in that time, and I’m like, "I can’t believe that was my life." So, I mean, for sure.

Jessica: So, you graduate from college with what degree?

Ashley: I graduated with a bachelor’s degree. I was a triple major in French, government, and history. And then my master’s… I got two master’s degrees after that. The first one was a national security international relations focus. And then the second one was in spiritual psychology, which sometimes I kind of look back and I’m like, "Was that a causal thing? Did the national security master’s kind of traumatize me, and then I went to spiritual psychology to heal from it?" Like, I don’t know.


Forging a New Path

Jessica: Right. That’s amazing. Okay. And then, how do you go about finding a job in counterterrorism?

Ashley: Okay. So, that’s a whole thing. I graduated during the recession. So, I was like, really excited about my career, and then I fell off the cliff of the recession. And I was on my parents’ couch for way too long. And just like everyone, my bedroom became like a workout room after I came back from college. And I bought into that belief after applying, applying, applying that I would just have to take what I could get, you know, that I just had to get my foot in the door. And I didn’t realize then that those are just myths we tell ourselves to really play small. I mean, if you try to get your foot in the door, you better try to get the right job for you, or else you’re just pigeonholing yourself, and giving away years while you watch them hire for the role you actually wanted in the first place.

“I bought into that belief after applying, applying, applying that I would just have to take what I could get. That I just had to get my foot in the door. And I didn’t realize then that those are just myths we tell ourselves to really play small.” Ashley Stahl

And yet, why would they move you if they’re happy with the work you’re doing? Because it takes a lot of work to move someone over. So, I ended up taking a job at an ad agency, because I just was stuck and I was applying for so long, and I was making minimum wage. And about six months into my job, I started taking Arabic classes at UCLA and just telling myself like, "I still want to join the CIA. I still want to do something in the government." And there were these little moments that I write about in my book that were whispers that maybe that wasn’t my forever. And I think this is a big deal. Some people… It’s almost like socially the equivalent of what we’re doing right now is saying to people, "The first crush you ever have, marry them." That’s like what we’re doing with career. “The first job you take, grow it,” versus, you know, who we are is such a complex organism. We are growing. We are moving. We are changing. We are constantly in transition. And life is a vehicle for self-discovery. And I think that that’s a process. And so, for me, there were these whispers that were like, you know, "You’re too sensitive for national security." But I didn’t want to listen to them. And even when I did, I would think to myself, "Well, I still want to experience this."

And so anybody listening to this episode, I want to give them permission, like, if there’s a path you want to experience, trust that. Trust your desires because it’s not to say you need to be chaotic and scattered, but tune in to something that’s really a wish of your heart. And for me, something in my soul just wanted to know what it would be like. It was like a curious experience. And so six months into my admin job, I emailed my college, and I said, "Do you guys have a list of alumni who have graduated and moved to Washington, D.C.?" And the benefit of that, for me, was anybody in D.C., it’s a pretty two-dimensional town, like, you’re either working in politics or politics.

Jessica: Yeah.

Ashley: So, I got this list back. And I was so surprised. They sent me 2,000 names and emails and phone numbers. And over the course of three months, in my job, I would do my job, from 9:00 to 5:00. From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., I would stay in the parking lot of my job, and I would cold call all of these numbers. And I would put highlights and notes on who picked up, who didn’t, I would try again. And this was the beginning of me learning that life is a numbers game. And eventually, by doing this, you know, I fell on my face, I said the wrong thing. But out of those 2,000 people, about 100 of them ended up seriously helping me out, giving me confidence to quit my job, move to D.C. And from there, I ended up getting three job offers in national security and accepted one running a program for the Pentagon. But what I will… And I tripled my salary, which was a huge mind shift for me to realize, like, if you don’t like where you are on Monday, you can change that by Friday. That’s what I did. I got this list of names, and it was not just 2,000 names, it was 2,000 conversations, 2,000 possibilities.

And whenever you want to move your life forward, I think having a conversation with someone new can do that. And so that was kind of the beginning of my journey into counterterrorism. But on the periphery of pursuing my career in national security, I learned how to job hunt. I learned how to talk to people. I learned how to be courageous. I learned how to fall on my face. I learned what not to say. You know, there’s so many things not to say when you’re networking to get a job.
And by doing that, I discovered my love for job hunting. I love it. I love possibilities. And that’s what job hunting really is. And so I had a lot of friends ask me for help and say, "You should be a career coach." And I remember thinking like, "What does that even mean? Like, what is a career coach?" And I’m, you know, 23, 24. I don’t even have a career to base myself off of as a career coach. But I was so good at job hunting. I helped so many people in my network of friends get job offers, and that led to the beginning of my business.


Turning Passion into a Career

Jessica: So, you’re saying while you were making these 2,000 calls for yourself, you kind of had enough conversations, which I love that. We, at Noonday, have been doing some professional development training with a whole framework called Conversations for Action. And it’s this whole idea that conversations lead to action, like that is what… And if there’s a breakdown, it’s because there’s a missing conversation. And so I love that, that really this starts with conversations and how often are we not having the right conversations. And so you got on the phone, 2,000 people, and so what you’re saying is you ended up kind of making connections for your friends as well. That’s what happened?

Ashley: Yeah. And I ended up getting job offers for like a year to follow all of my networking after I took a job because I was just in a constant state of creating opportunities. So, not only was I helping my friends rework their resume, network, but I was also literally handing them job interviews that I couldn’t attend because I had accepted a job. And it was in that moment where – I mean, I had no idea at that time that I would go on to start a podcast, or write a book, or have a coaching practice, or have online courses. This was really the result of me following what felt right. And I think that’s the message I have for anybody listening, is that your body is intelligent. You know, like our gut has, like, you listen to my TED Talk, I talk about 200 million neurons. That’s a cat or dog’s brain size. And so I think there’s such an intelligence to when our stomach sinks, when we have butterflies, when we feel a nudge, when we feel expansion, those are all breadcrumbs bringing us home to ourselves, which is why my book and a lot of the concepts that I use in my work is rooted in this idea of making a U-turn. Where instead of driving down the road and going back the way you came, you drive down the road of your life, and you come back to yourself, which I think we really deviate from throughout our lives by getting caught in the noise of who we think we should be.

Jessica: Okay. So, you’re at this job in D.C., and how long were you there, and when did you kind of go, "Ehh?" Because, I mean, usually that is a very clear career path you go down. I mean, if you’re going to be in counterterrorism, you have to work your way through that up to the top.

Ashley: Yeah. Nothing loves rank and order quite like working in the Department of Defense, and with the military, that’s definitely a place where you work your way up step-by-step. And even then, I kind of sidestepped because I came in as a defense contractor, which is when, for those who don’t know, it’s when the government pays a private company to do a project for 5 years that requires a full-time staff, or even 10 years, or 3 years. I was on a really long-term contract. And the reason government does that is because, obviously, they need to pay pensions and all sorts of long-term commitments to their employees. And it’s an easier way to get into the government. And the only difference between me and anybody else in the Pentagon was I had a pink badge, and they had a white badge. So, we were working next to each other. It was really essentially that job. So, I did that work.

For two and a half years, I was in national security. But on my first day, I already knew something was off and that I didn’t make my way into the right place. And I even open up my book, talking about my first day because my book is ultimately an 11-step roadmap to help people discover their career path. And so I figured it would be right to open up to that moment that I had when I walked into the Pentagon, chapter one, and realized, "Oh, no, I just chose the wrong path." And it’s a blessing that that happened for me early in because I think a lot of people… You know, it’s like celebrities, like Britney Spears how she shaved her head, and all these celebrities kind of have these breakdowns. I think that’s because we set goals, we think they’re going to make us feel a certain way. We chase that feeling, and then the goal doesn’t feel that way. And we have a breakdown because we’ve put our whole life into this feeling that’s not there. And I think that’s what happened for me. But I’m lucky I got a shortcut. And I was able to reach this alleged goal that I thought was so deeply true for me early on, and I was able to say, "Oh, wait. This thing that I put all my time into isn’t for me, after all." So, from there, I started putting the pieces into place and starting my career coaching practice.

“We set goals. We think they’re going to make us feel a certain way. We chase that feeling, and then the goal doesn’t feel that way. And we have a breakdown because we’ve put our whole life into this feeling that’s not there. And I think that’s what happened for me.” Ashley Stahl

Jessica: I love how you say to treat your career as an experiment. I think that’s a really good shift. I just found a journal entry that I wrote. I was going on a vacation with my – I have tweens and teens now –  and I was going on vacation with them and I was needing to access some grace and compassion for this age. And so, I went back through all of my old journals, and I found this journal I do not even remember writing this down. But when I was 21 years old, I had just graduated, and I wrote, "There are big dreams and small dreams. My big dream is to be involved in motivating others, to help their ‘I nevers’ become their ‘I wills.’ I want to give speeches advocating for something important to me, work for an organization I believe in for a cause I believe. I want to be lowly and help the lowly, effect change, redeem broken places."

Well, let me tell you, in the 15 years following that I went to be a midwife in Bolivia. I led Tae Bo classes in Guatemala. I got a master’s in education. I got my real estate license. I taught 3rd grade English class. I sold wedding China and jewelry at a high-end boutique. I started flipping houses. Like, it wasn’t until 15 years after that, where I can look at that statement that I made and go, "Oh my gosh." Starting Noonday Collection, it’s a social impact business. I do give speeches all the time, I motivate others. That’s my job is now to motivate others and to redeem broken places, and to effect change. And so it was really, honestly, I was floored reading this statement because I don’t remember it. It wasn’t like, "I’m gonna manifest my dreams." I was just kind of processing. And I think it’s important that people see that kind of finding your way is an experiment. So, I wanted you to break that idea down for us a little bit because I think that kind of helps people exhale a little bit to think of career as an experiment.


Facing Your Truth

Ashley: Yeah. I love your stories and like the things that you’ve done. And I remember seeing that about you before we hopped on this episode, and just thought like, "Wow, this is so in the vein of how I’ve lived my life and it served me in so many ways." It’s not to say for anybody listening that they need to go all the way to Bolivia or the Pentagon to find themselves and get these answers. But I do think the willingness to get radically honest with yourself about where you are, not where you want to be, not what you wish it was but where you are, is the beginning to transformation and true change in your career and real fulfillment. I think, you know, even in my TED Talk or any work that I’ve done, I love asking the question of, ”What do you know that you wish you didn’t know?” And I love that question because I think in any given moment, a lot of people know something about their life or about what they want. And they wish it wasn’t true, because if they really faced that it causes them to unravel their life in some way.

But the courage to do that is so necessary because if you don’t allow yourself to face the truth of where you are, you stay, and you know what, I think throw I’d called, you know, most men, and obviously, I would add women, live lives of silent desperation. And I still believe that. I think a lot of people are stuck in a lot of grief because they’re not willing to face the truth, face the inconvenient, face the pain, and that’s the thing is that, who you are always wins. Like, that little whisper of who you are, is always going to shine through.

So, whether you want it to shine through this year, or in five years, if you’re doing something that doesn’t actually suit you, if you’re being someone that isn’t actually who you are, eventually, the pain of that is going to become bigger than your fear of the unknown. Eventually, that will force you into change. So, it’s really a matter of, do you want to rip the Band-Aid off and cry this year, or do you want to rip the Band-Aid off in five years and cry then? And I’m just about living your life now and facing the truth now.

“If you’re being someone that isn’t actually who you are, eventually, the pain of that is going to become bigger than your fear of the unknown.” Ashley Stahl

Jessica: I’m curious how have you seen the pandemic change people’s perspectives, in regards to their career, because I think it ripped some Band-Aids off?

Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. You know, whenever somebody is fired or laid off, I have a lot of compassion. I get that that’s really painful and can be very distressing from a security standpoint. There’s also something to be celebrated. Because usually, if you’re fired, it really is the world saying to you, "You’re working in a skill set that isn’t your core skill set." And in my book, I go through the 10 core skill sets I think exist in the workforce, which we could totally get into. But I think that those are really key to knowing who you are and where you have value in the workforce.

So, I would say as far as the pandemic goes, a lot of people have gone one of two paths. Number one, something changed in their work environment, you know, whether it was the simplicity of just going remote, or they were laid off, or their hours changed, or their company is restructuring and they’re constantly afraid of their job. That kind of anxiety can be so distressing. So, some people are forced to think about, is this actually what I want to be doing? This feels really unstable. Do I actually want this anyway? Does it make sense for me to stick around?

I think what it’s also done is burnt a lot of people out. I mean, we have research right now that 9 out of 10 people feel burnt out and almost 9 out of 10 as well, on average, are working an extra hour per day, Monday through Friday, which is…

Jessica: Really, just during the pandemic?

Ashley: Just during the pandemic. People in 2020 worked more than they’ve ever worked. They replaced their commute with work hours, and that equates to a small part-time job on the side that they just added.

Jessica: You know, it’s interesting, I feel there are different parts of me. There’s this part of me that has really not burnt out because I have been grounded. I traveled to eight countries in 2019. And so I went into 2020 going, "Oh my gosh, like, I was planning on only going to one country, I was going to work from home for two days." That was my big aha meeting with a life coach, he was like, "You have got to give yourself permission to work from home." I was like, "I’m going to work from home in 2020. And I’m going to travel less." Like, those are my goals going into 2020.

Ashley: You got that.

Jessica: So, in some ways, you know, I’m rested, but in other ways, of course, I’m totally drained. And I mean, we’re still working from home. And I’m such a collaborative person. But I have seen that other side where there’s no boundaries now. And there’s no, like, water cooler breaks, and there’s no, “I’m getting on an airplane today, and that means I’m gonna have uninterrupted time of no internet, I’m just gonna, like, do use my email or whatever.” And so I do find that it… I think it varies by sort of the season of life you’re in, where you’re at with how this has impacted you.

I’m curious, do you feel like people become more open to change because of it? Because I would think as a career coach, at the beginning, of course, there’s fear. Everyone thought they’re gonna lose their jobs. I mean, shoot, that’s all the conversations we were having was like, “Are we gonna have to lay off everyone?” We actually didn’t have to lay anyone off. But yeah, what have you seen as far as attitudes?


Deciding, Not Sliding

Ashley: Yeah. Well, I think when people are burnt out, there’s some science to that. And according to research, if you’ve been burned out long enough, you’re literally working from a different brain. And that’s why everything feels harder. It’s not just harder because you’re tired, it’s harder because your brain isn’t functioning the same way it was functioning when you weren’t burnt out.

And so, it’s super important to get yourself to a place where you are able to be honest about where you are with your well-being before you even make a change. And that might look like needing to have a conversation with your boss about what kind of work you have on deck and asking for their help to reprioritize.

I did a really good conversation with Carter Cast on my show, the You Turn podcast. I think he had talked about —he was the former CEO of walmart.com— and he talked about how he received it well when people would ask his help to kind of reprioritize their workload. I think there’s an art to that.

And if you’re not in the right job, that’s going to be viscerally clear. Because if you’re burnt out and you’re low on energy, and you’re working out of a different brain, and you don’t really feel connected to what you do, I think life is just overhauling you to make a change. And so, I think a lot of people are in that position.

“If you’re burnt out and you’re low on energy, and you’re working out of a different brain, and you don’t really feel connected to what you do, I think life is just overhauling you to make a change.” Ashley Stahl

There’s also some disconnect with different rises of technology in the wake of the pandemic. I mean, the first thing is promotions are no longer going to be based on likeability. We’re going to continue to see a rise in apps that anonymously team members will rate each other, and promotions are going to be data based. They’re going to be data-centric. Like, how was this person’s rating? Were they contributing in a way that’s worth the raise or the promotion? So, we’re going to kind of let go of those days where we could schmooze in the hallway. And whether we were working super hard or not, we would get that annual raise. And I think those days are coming to an end.

Jessica: You know, it’s interesting, I haven’t said this publicly yet, but I can now, but we just got voted best place to work in the textiles industry.

Ashley: Oh my gosh. Congratulations!

Jessica: And that’s by our team that, you know, it was a survey, it’s data-driven. And so we got the highest employee engagement scores that we’ve ever gotten during the pandemic. And I think that’s because we were radically transparent, and we are mission-oriented. And so, it’s just brought everyone together around the mission, and our team is so collaborative, and so for one another.

But I love what you’re saying about being able to have these conversations because I’m thinking, you know, the reason we’re… This is launching a new series today, my convo with you. So, it’s called "Decide, Don’t Slide." So, what we’re talking about is, you know, life is going to slowly start getting back to, "normal again." You know, it already is. People are getting vaccinated. You know, we’re looking over the next few months, and we’re thinking, we’re going to be… some people are going to be saying, "Time to come back to the workplace." Some people are going to be saying, "Okay, we’re going to actually make some of these changes permanent, and you’re going to work from home two days a week, but then I need you in three days a week."

But what I want is an intentionality. Before these changes start to happen, what do you want? Because if you don’t decide now, you’re just going to slide. You’re just going to slide back into the overwork, the crazy, the all of those things. And so, what do you feel like…? What are you thinking in your industry? How are things going to "move back?" You gave one example. You think that promotions are going to be more data based. What are some of those other changes? And then, what do we do now to decide instead of just sliding back into that life?

Ashley: Yeah, there’s a lot around the future of work. Obviously, cybersecurity has been a huge issue that companies are facing. And I think that cyberattacks, Microsoft had quoted, they had quintupled during the pandemic because there weren’t those secure internet connections that companies pay to have at their firm. And as a result, with employees working from a looser connection on WiFi at their home, we’re seeing a lot more like LinkedIn messages suggesting that they have a business deal with you and click here. We’re seeing some more confusing emails, text messages, fake lawsuits that threaten people and they need to pay a check to make it go away.

I mean, we’re just going to see more cybersecurity and threats. And it’s going to show up as necessary for employees to be educating themselves. And that’s something that I’m going to see a lot more of with different companies, you know, kind of putting that on their staff. I also think there’s more competition when it comes to applying for jobs online. And it’s all the more important that, you know, you are networking because in the UK, I think there was an average of like 300 applications for a desirable job opening, and it skyrocketed to 4,200 because they removed the location on the job.

Jessica: Right. That’s true.

Ashley: So, there is more competition there. I would argue that this is a really good future ahead for top performers. The ones that the company can’t afford to lay off, even though they can’t afford to support them, they can’t afford to live without them either. I just think that we’re entering a really good market for top talent because with times of great distress, comes great innovation, and I think people are going to keep seeing that.


Surviving the Riptide and Pushing Through

Jessica: Okay. So, I want to ask you about, because I’m just imagining… I want to put this gracefully. Just that procrastinator, that person who they’re stuck in a riptide, is what I call it. You know, we went to Oregon last summer, I had no idea you couldn’t really swim in the ocean. Because everywhere it’s like, "Warning: riptide." And it’s basically like, you get into the ocean and you just get stuck in this tide, and it just does silently sort of wipes, you know, swishes you in and you can’t get out.

And I think about that a lot with mindsets. These stuck mindsets. It’s like you’re stuck in it. And so I’m imagining the person that, you know, their life has been radically shifted because of the pandemic. And they thought, "This is the time. Finally, finally, I’m going to make that shift. I’m going to leave that career. I’m going to start that thing that I really wanted to start." But they’re in the riptide in their minds. What are those obstacles? And then you give us the next steps because that is what your book is all about.

Ashley: Yeah. I mean, I could talk about this forever. And I’m even just tempted to say one area that I didn’t mention in your previous question about the changes is work from home and parents and navigating kids. We saw unprecedented numbers, I believe it was 25% of mothers who quit their job and they’re not sure whether they’re coming back because of childcare. And I totally get this question about like, what do people do when they’re swept by a wave and they don’t feel motivated, and they don’t feel connected to themselves?

And even recently, I saw some data that Yelp had said that 163,000 businesses closed due to COVID. And almost 60% of those will be closed permanently. So, I understand that things have really changed. And I think when the tidal wave comes in, your reference kind of reminds me of clinical depression. I think, in life, we kind of get hit by little waves, and it’s kind of like the tide comes in, and it goes back out. That’s when you’re just feeling sadness or grief or loss. But when you’re in depression, it kind of I think feels for people like the wave just comes in, and it never goes back down.

And for anybody who’s feeling that the first order of business is to come home to yourself. And that’s really what making a "You Turn", and my book called "You Turn," Y-O-U, is all about. And my subtitle being "Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design Your Dream Career" is really intentional. Because if you’re stuck, you’re not actually stuck, it’s just your thinking that is.

And I think what frees up your energy as a first step is to maybe try an exercise, like grab a piece of paper, and write down a list of people, places, things that make you feel yourself. Like, in my case, the ocean always makes me feel more myself. I just feel so alive when I’m by the water. I guess it makes sense, it’s like we’re 70% water. So, it’s like the inner-outer reality and the oneness of the water. I feel really connected to the ocean.

I feel really connected to certain friends. I have a lot of good girlfriends. There’s a couple of them that for whatever reason, no matter how much fun I have with all my friends, these two, it’s like, wow, whenever I see them, I feel more of myself again. And that is so priceless. There’s places that I’ll travel. But since we’re in a pandemic, where travel isn’t as easy sometimes, but sometimes I would go to Paris, if I could afford to do that, or take some time off.

And I would always come back. Because here’s the thing, happiness leaks over, and so does misery. So, if you’re miserable from 9:00 to 5:00, obviously, it’s really hard to turn on a happy switch at 5:00. But I think so is the case with self-connection.

So, if you can get that list of people, places, things that you love, and start making space to go do those things, and even for me, like dance classes, I start to feel more myself. I start to get more inspired. My tolerance for anything less than me starts to go down and I start to make it more non-negotiable. Like, “Oh, I’m not gonna do that. I’m not willing to do that. I need to set a boundary with that. I need to have this conversation.” Because suddenly when I reconnect to myself and I go off of that list, it starts to feel really good to be me again.

And that’s the first step. Another step I would say is, you know, the argument of my book, and really of my work, whether it’s my podcast, or my book or anything, is, “don’t do what you love. Do what you are.” And my work with people is really helping them answer that question of, “Who am I? And what does that mean for my career path and options?”

“Don’t do what you love. Do what you are.” Ashley Stahl

And, you know, like I was saying, the difference between consumption and production, like loving movies, but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be a film producer. Realizing that your interests matter, but they’re secondary to where you’re gifted and where you’re skilled. And so, in Chapter 2 of my book, I go through those 10 core skill sets, which if it’s helpful, we could go through some of those.

Those are key. Because when you know what your zone of genius is, you’re able to look for jobs and titles and conversations that lead you to harness that core skill set. And when you know what your core skill set is, that’s what you carry with you throughout your career. And a lot of people who are low energy are just low on purpose, you know. And if you give them a sense of connection to what they’re doing, if they feel like they’re capable of what they’re doing, if they feel inspired by what they’re doing, things change for them. And so that’s really what my work is about. And happy to go through those if you’re down for it.

Jessica: Yeah. Let’s do it.


Discovering Your Core Skill Set

Ashley: All right. I love these, especially for the note-takers. So, the first one is innovation. This core skill set is for the creative, visionary, self-starter, problem solver. It can be the intrapreneur, you know, the creative, solution-driven person within a company, or can be the entrepreneur, the creator of the company. Usually, that comes down to, I don’t know, like your relationship to freedom and financial security. People who… I find that the entrepreneurs, they feel a visceral pain if they don’t have all-out freedom. I’m talking like, freedom to create. When they want to create, like, when they create, what they create, the ideas that they’re behind, that to me is an entrepreneur.

The intrapreneurs, they don’t need to be the full vision behind the idea, but they want the autonomy and the say in the idea to sketch it with someone, and to create it and bring it to life. And then financial security, obviously, the innovation skill set, you know, you’re usually the entrepreneur if you have a looser relationship to financial risk than the intrapreneur.

And then the second skill set is building. This skill set could be quite literal or it could be more of a metaphor. So, the building skill set could be, you know, like a construction worker, or it could be someone who’s building a website. It’s also an energy that these skill sets require.

The third one is words. This is my core skill set, and why I wrote a book and have a show on all of these things just like you. You know, this is where I make money. This is where I make impact. This is where I’m most inspired. This is where I’m most skilled. So, anyone who’s read my book, and messaged me on Instagram, they’ve said like, "Wow, you have such a poetry to how you talk." And I feel so seen when they say that because I really feel like my book is just a place for me to be me. And that’s what I want for everyone.

Jessica: I love that.

Ashley: So, yeah, words. And it’s really important, I think, with this skill set, and really with any of them to figure out, are you an introvert or are you an extrovert? Because if you’re an introvert, and let’s say you’re the words core skill set like me, then I’m going to be a writer, which I am, and I’m hiding behind my laptop, a lot of the day. If you’re an extrovert, the way you’re going to express your skillset of words is going to look a lot more external, like a business development, sales, real estate agent sort of person. There’s many different ways that words can look. You can be editor in chief of a website, where you’ve got a big team, and you’re managing a lot of people. It’s all that kind of stuff.

Skillset number four is motion. So, this is people who are on their feet. This can be, you know, tour guides, it could be fitness trainers. It really is a skill to be able to be out and about and on your feet all day.

And then the fifth skill set is service. And this is for the humanitarian, the helper. I feel like you have some of this for sure, Jessica, like service, service, service. And this is somebody who is just really nurturing and wants to help. I think that the shadow of this one is just to make sure, like, are you actually a helper, supporter, or nurturer? Or do you have some sort of trauma in your life where it’s not that you, you know, value service and have a skill with service, is that you force yourself to be good at service because maybe your family unit required you to be people-pleasing, or going with the grain in some way? So, I think the service skill set requires that sort of reflection.

And then number six is coordination. So, you know, the project managers, the operations people. Number seven is analysis. So, you know, this one can be confused with words, you know, words people will think, "Oh, this job has a lot of writing," but it’s like, "No, that’s a research analyst." It’s more about analysis, it’s not about words. You’re not writing poetry, you’re analyzing.

And I think it’s important to note that you could be the same job in different skill sets, like a psychologist that’s leading with the words core skill set, maybe she’s very healing because of how she puts her words together and helps people. Kind of like my book, and my intention there, versus a psychologist who’s great with analysis.

They’re more analyzing patterns, and maybe their delivery isn’t poetic or healing, but the information is really insightful, if that makes sense.

And then there’s a number eight, which is the number crunchers, just numbers. Number nine is technology. So, that could be artificial intelligence, creators, IT whizzes. And then number 10 could be beauty, which is the people who make art of the world around them. This could be jewelry designers, this could be hairstylists, this could be musicians. It’s just all about beauty.

So, these all could look different. They all lend themselves to many different types of jobs. But these 10 core skill sets, I think everybody leads with one. And even if you relate to two or three of them, it’s really about “Where am I truly gifted?”

Jessica: That is getting me thinking because I do relate. I mean, I relate to a lot of them. But I have created a life. I mean, I am an entrepreneur, and I have kind of created a space for me to get to experiment, and that does go back to this idea to make your career an experiment. So, what do you suggest to people that, you know, once they sort of identify sort of their core, what do you do with that? What’s next?


Redefining What it Means to Fail

Ashley: Yeah, I would say clarity comes from conversations like we talked about. So, once you kind of know your core skill set, start thinking to yourself, “Who do I know that’s residing in this core skill set? Who can I connect with? Who can I ask about? Who can I have a conversation with to understand how this core skill set is showing up in their life?” So, let’s say your core skill set is technology. And, you know, you realize, like, "Wow, I really want to talk to people in the artificial intelligence world," like, do some research, find some people, have some conversations, conversations will always move you forward from a clarity standpoint, know that there’s a lot of options.

And this is where their career gets to be an experiment. There’s no one path. There’s no one answer. There’s many paths and different versions of happiness and fulfillment. So, it’s really about you figuring out which path do you want to start with and holding it lightly. Because when you hold your career heavily, I think you put yourself in paralysis, and you don’t give yourself permission to actually figure out who you are. And I don’t know, this kind of reminds me of a sign I saw at Pixar’s offices a while back. The sign on the wall said, "Fail faster." And it’s just so true with your career. It’s like, try something on. Give yourself permission for it to not be for you. Move on. And that is life.

“There’s no one path. There’s no one answer. There’s many paths and different versions of happiness and fulfillment. Try something on. Give yourself permission for it to not be for you. Move on. And that is life.” Ashley Stahl

Jessica: I love that.

Ashley: I’m sure. You’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got to have so much stuff you’ve tried on. Jessica: I got lots of failure. I got a resume of failure. Oh, gosh. You know what? I want us to leave with that because I think that that is so powerful if people feel like they’re in that stuck place. Instead, it’s like, I feel like instead just say, "Hey, you know what? You’ve given yourself permission to try something. It’s not you. This isn’t where you’re going to be the most successful.” And so give yourself permission to start looking for the next thing. And that all starts with conversations. I mean, 2,000 people you got on the phone with?

Ashley: Yeah.

Jessica: That is not messing around. I want to tell that to my ambassadors. As a matter of fact, I’m going to get on a Facebook live with them. Because they can often be like, "I’ve asked everyone to host trunk shows and everyone’s saying no." And I’m like, "Mm."

Ashley: How many is everyone?

Jessica: How many is everyone? And whenever you start hearing yourself make declarations, like “everyone,” “always,” “never,” that is a sign that you’re telling yourself a story. So, I think that is so powerful. I love that. I love that so much. And you were so young, and it was during the recession, and it would have been easy to just stay in your home bedroom gym. Sounds like you have nice parents that maybe would have let you do that a little longer than you should have.

Ashley: Totally. Yeah, they didn’t even want me to go anywhere. And honestly, I’m so happy that I… You know, like you made a really good point as we’re closing is like, whenever I see somebody really successful, and whatever success means for them, like happy, fulfilled, financially successful, whatever, spiritually. I always just think to myself, like, "Wow, that person has a really nice conversation going on in their head about failure."

Like, they’re not making failure mean they need to stop. They’re not making it mean that they’re not capable or competent. They’re just course correcting. And that’s the thing. We have a choice, we can either stay in limbo and just be in that rocking chair, or we can step into our power, and that looks like showing up, making a commitment, seeing what feedback the universe gives you, and course-correcting along the way.

Jessica: Well, as you heard, Ashley’s path was certainly not linear, neither is mine. I talked a lot about that my book, “Imperfect Courage.”

And by the way, we are doing a giveaway on Instagram of Ashley’s book and my book and this really amazing leather tote from Noonday Collection. It’s the perfect work bag, and all you got to do is go comment. We just want to get word out about this new series that’s out, so head on over there. Check it out.

I love how Ashley set down and called two thousand people. Two thousand people! What tenacity. That truly, truly inspired me. And then she also talked about how we need to tune in to that wish that you hear in your heart. And tuning into my heart and to that wish is definitely something that was the impetus for starting Noonday Collection.  

And I would love to invite you along. If you’re interested in making a little bit of a U-turn or interested in just trying something new, consider joining us as a Noonday Collection ambassador. Many ambassadors have launched their businesses, and its actually been a catalyzing point for other things that they’ve then done in their lives. And we are just offering an awesome special right now. So, we would love for you to go head on over to noondaycollection.com or you can always find me on Instagram. I’ll answer any questions you have. So, we would love for you to join. Before we go, review and rate the podcast.

Our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz. And I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.