Episode Transcript

Breathe, Focus, and Be Fierce with Carolyn Colleen



[00:00:08] BS: Hello, and welcome to Love Your Enthusiasm, a podcast that helps you pursue your greatest passion. I’m Britt Skrabanek, and today’s guest is Carolyn Colleen, who is the founder of FIERCE Network, an online program that helps women create life strategies to get what they want out of life.

In this episode, Carolyn talks about her passion for resilience, and resourcefulness. She shares her story of how she transformed her life, from a time when she stood in the food line at the Salvation Army to earning her PhD, and eventually helping other women through her programs. One of the approaches I personally love learning from Carolyn is taking things five minutes at a time versus one day at a time. And we all know, that one day at a time can sometimes be a bit much, especially as we are overcoming adversity.

Quick note that this interview is a bit shorter than normal, due to technical challenges at the beginning of the call. But Carolyn and I overcame adversity and worked everything out and decided to still go for it. I wish we would have had more time together because it is such an amazing conversation. But I’m so happy with what we were able to pull together in a short amount of time. I know you all will get tons of actionable life tips from this insightful episode with Carolyn. Please enjoy.


[00:01:42] BS: Hi, Carolyn, welcome to the show.

[00:01:45] CC: Hey, thanks for having me.

[00:01:47] BS: I’m excited to have you. So, you’re in Wisconsin too, I believe?

[00:01:51] CC: Yes, that’s correct.

[00:01:53] BS: Well, I’m in Milwaukee, so we’re not too far away from each other.

[00:01:56] CC: Oh, I love it.

[00:01:58] BS: We’re in summertime weather right now, which is really bizarre. We’re recording this in November.

[00:02:03] CC: Right. Taking advantage of it.

[00:02:08] BS: Oh, man, well, we are going to talk about resilience and resourcefulness today, which are your passions. And I always love to start with kind of why, whenever I asked this pre questionnaire to my guests, why is it that you choose this to be your passion that you follow? So, why are resilience and resourcefulness so important to you?

[00:02:35] CC: Yes, that’s a great question because it’s a loaded answer or loaded question and answer because resourcefulness and resilience, it’s something, those are two things that quite bluntly, we all need, particularly in the past six months. We’ve had to face things that we’ve never seen or experienced before. And resilience is number one, in order to kind of pick ourselves back up and keep going and knowing that we actually do have the power and the courage to keep going and maybe see the light at the end of the tunnel or the silver lining.

And then with resourcefulness, exactly the same thing. Again, we’re experiencing things that we made, the ups and downs that we may not have experienced as much and being resourceful, realizing that we have as women, as leaders, that we have tools in which to be resourceful, and kind of become crafty in our craft to create new opportunities. So, resilience and resourcefulness together, I feel is timely in the world that we’re facing right now.

[00:03:50] BS: Incredibly timely. I couldn’t agree more. I do want to go back to something you mentioned about the light at the end of the tunnel. And I’d be curious to hear your perspective about this because I’ve been writing about this topic a bit on my blog, about how people are really seeing 2021 as the light at the end of the tunnel and how that’s kind of a dangerous mindset to have, where it’s like, “Okay, we want 2020 to be over. Let’s move on to 2021. 2021 is a light at the end of the tunnel.” What are your thoughts on that? Because I definitely have some opinions.

[00:04:29] CC: Well, 2021 is kind of like, you know, when you create a vision board and you kind of put something on there. Some people might want to put the numbers 2021 on their vision board as a happy place perhaps. But for me, I feel that right now is the time to take action to prepare for 2021. There’s a lot of wonderful things I feel that are up and coming and we just need to lay the foundation in the foreground in which to get there. So, if you want to throw 2021 on your vision board, go for it. But I think that the really the foundational work is right now, before we get there.

[00:05:11] BS: Do you mind sharing some of your tips for taking action to prepare for 2021? What that might look like for somebody?

[00:05:20] CC: Oh, completely. I, personally and with the women that I lead to the end game of 2020 is – all right, what’s the next 90 days look like? What are these next actually more like 60 days of the year look like? And what do we want that first week of January to look like, was we are kind of looking back at what 2020 was? Okay. There are a lot of things that happen in 2020. But what are the things that we can pull and appreciate about 2020? that’s going to lead us into a successful 2021.

All right, let’s map it out. First, let’s think about that appreciation. Well, we have had to be flexible. Now, she that’s the most flexible wins. Great. This is something that we can be proud of. I mean, everything shut down on Friday the 13th ironically, in March, and we had to pivot, we had to figure out alright, how do I use this delivery grocery app? Okay, how do I stay in contact with my friends and family that I would normally see every other day perhaps? All right, how do I still make income while not being able to physically see my clients? We have figured out Zoom, we’ve figured out technology, we figured out how to download an Instacart app and a Walmart Pick Me Up app. And we’ve negotiated with our local food co-op to figure out how we can pick up groceries.

So, we are resourceful. And what are those strengths that we can use as we move into 2021, and perhaps it’s a new business idea, perhaps it’s a book you’ve been meaning to write, perhaps it’s that side hustle idea that you’ve had for a while, you’ve been sitting on and you just haven’t taken action. And that is where my fierce method comes in, in which to help bring out and ignite your ferocity where you can take action on that thing that you’ve always wanted to do or maybe you thought you didn’t have the time, or the resources to do and actually appreciate that you are resourceful and you do have that opportunity for 2021.

[00:07:50] BS: I love it. And I am one of the people that took your advice without even knowing you until today, where I had another business, I was planning to start this year, it was a travel wellness publication. And it was all about staying healthy while traveling. And I was supposed to launch that at the beginning of the year and then it just got delayed. And there was a podcast, there was content publication. I had a bunch of pieces written by a writing team. I was ready to go and it was like one delay after the other. Okay, let’s wait. Let’s wait. Let’s see what’s going to happen here. Oh, my God. This is this business’s bust. Like it hadn’t even started yet. But in its place, was this podcast.

So, I started this instead. And so, like you said, it’s about being flexible and adaptable to the times and I don’t want to say that that business idea wasn’t good. But obviously, it had a lot of weaknesses, since it was completely tied to the travel industry, which has been majorly impacted this year. So, I think it worked out for the best because that was not something that I saw coming.

[00:09:01] CC: Right. Yes, exactly. Like I just said, she that’s the most flexible wins.

[00:09:08] BS: I love it. Okay, so you shared a really great Louisa May Alcott quote on Instagram that I want to share. And that I have a question to accompany that as well. So, “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” And I think that applies to what we were just talking about this Louisa May Alcott quote, which is crazy because this is from however many years ago, but how does that quote apply to daily life with running your business?

[00:09:42] CC: Yes, I love that quote. And it is time tested because we as a human race, the things that we’ve dealt with, just in the past six months, it’s not our first rodeo. We’ve done this before and it’ll happen again with different adversities and different things we have to deal with. What’s the perspective around it? So, there’s a story around that storm as you’re navigating and when you’re looking at your day, when you’re looking at your business, when you’re looking at what’s next, appreciating that either we are just coming out of a storm, or going into a storm, or maybe we’re in a storm right now. And just really appreciating being present as to where we are. And how I do that and what I teach, that’s helped thousands that I created out of survival is three things. BFF, breathe, focus, and fierce action.

Now, in a moment, you’re going to realize this is your new best friend, BFF. But I’ll tell you the trick. So, no matter where you’re at during your day, maybe it’s in the morning, late afternoon, two o’clock, when you’re just like, “I want to be done with my day”, or there’s something that pops up that really kind of can hold you back or perhaps frustrate you, or just cause irritation in some way, taking a moment to pause, get present, take a deep breath. And so, taking a deep breath, I’m sure at some point in your life when you’re maybe in your childhood, a well-meaning adult as you were upset or angry, sad, just take a deep breath. Have you heard that before?

[00:11:34] BS: Yeah, I’m also a yogi. So, I believe and the power of breath, it definitely works.

[00:11:41] CC: And so, what’s interesting is, it’s ancient history combined with modern science, of course, and as you know, there’s a study that came out in 2017, from Stanford that there’s 123 brain cells that are stocking our breath. And what happens is that we tend to hold our breath during the day, if we’re not already trained. And we, taking that deep breath, helps us expand our mind and we’re able then to focus on a new goal, brings down our blood pressure. But most importantly, we’re able to process information after taking three deep breaths. So, that’s B, for breathe.

Then the second one is focus. Focusing on just one thing. So, there’s just one thing you need to focus on just for five minutes in which to move you in a positive direction. So, let’s say that it’s maybe getting up from your desk, or you’ve been in Zoom meetings, and you need to intentionally stretch, you need to intentionally maybe move your body, do some squats. And so that would be one focused goal.

And then the fierce action, F, for fierce action. And I say fierce action, because what I want you to do is really tap into that sympathetic nervous system. So, whenever we face something that we perhaps, brings us anxiety, brings us maybe anger, overwhelm, brings us even procrastination is an emotion, taking that emotion that pops up and using it as fuel to push us in a positive direction that serves us just five minutes at a time. So, if you’re thinking about, I’m at my desk all day. I’m on Zoom and I know I need to move. I need to be able to get my body moving in between meetings, just taking a deep breath, getting up and maybe doing a few squats or stretches from your desk. And I just kind of lean on my desk and hold on to it, do some squats. And then my fierce action is resetting, resetting my mindset to get ready for the next call, and thinking about how I need to show up. So, how do I need to show up for this next call.

Another example is, like I said earlier, maybe you have a health goal and you want to drink more water. Well, we’re sitting, and sometimes we’re looking at like, there’s coffee and there’s water. My goal is to drink more water. But I really want that caffeine right now. So, taking a deep breath, getting present, focusing on the goal of that health goal of more water, and then choosing water, even though I don’t really feel like it. Same thing with getting up in the morning and if you’re looking to practice your yoga, but you might not feel like getting out of bed at five in the morning per se. Taking a deep breath, focusing on the goal and just simply sitting up for five minutes and then kind of grappling with that feeling. And I don’t know if you’ve had this, but I certainly have, where I’m like, you know what I just don’t want to, and grappling with that emotion, and using that emotion as fuel to push you in a direction that serves you five minutes at a time. And soon enough, that five minutes turns into 10, and next thing you know, you are right away into your yoga practice, or you’re out walking, or you’re doing what you need to do in order to serve you.

[00:15:27] BS: and you never regret it. That’s the thing. Whenever you do something good for yourself, even if it’s hard to do, especially if you’re doing something first thing in the morning, and that involves getting out of bed a little bit earlier, just so you can do it. You won’t regret doing something good for yourself ever.

[00:15:43] CC: Exactly. And so, I’ve had women and men, many people come to me and just say, “Wow, this is what I’ve used it for.” And that’s the thing is that, you’ve done this before and that’s the resilience piece and building resilience is that we tend to forget our wins and we tend to forget exactly how resourceful we really are. And that’s taking again, just taking a moment of presence to be grateful for what we have accomplished.

So, this method is very simple. It’s very simple and when it’s put in the right order, you can move mountains with it, but it’s not rocket science. It’s simply identifying and remembering that you’ve done this before. So, when you think about it, when you graduated high school, and you thought about, should I get an apartment? Should I go to college? Should I get a job? All those different options that you have, just getting present and identifying one goal, let’s say it’s, I want to get a job and take a break before I start school. All right, and then taking fierce action.

So, identifying that goal, “Well, what do I need to do?” And then taking fierce action. So, you can choose as many different options that you could choose. But choosing an option that serves you, getting even deeper into that is thinking about when you’ve had a career change. Many of your listeners may have experienced a career change whether it’s a choice of theirs, or not within the past six months. And what do you need to do? You need to take a deep breath. When that overwhelm, that anxiety, that worry of uncertainty pops up, and you can feel it in the pit of your gut. Take a deep breath. Get present. Get focused on what do you need to do right now in which to serve you. And there are options, that we can choose with our fight or flight mechanism, we can choose to something that serves us or something that doesn’t serve us and is more self-defeating.

So, what I need to do in the next five minutes in which to pop up indeed, in which to look at what I already know, and perhaps that’s another business I want to create. What do I need to do in the next five minutes in which to push me in a positive direction, even though I don’t want to, I’m scared, I’m uncertain, I have an overwhelm, I feel sad, what needs to happen in the next five minutes in which to keep you on a path that serves you?

[00:18:26] BS: Something new that I had learned this year was, I’ve always known about fight or flight. And then this year, I learned about freeze. So, fight, flight or freeze. And that’s something that I meditated on for a while. And that you don’t always have to be – you can be in the middle, basically, you can be stuck, and not know whether you want to fight for something or flee from it. And so, the freeze part is interesting. But I also think that’s an opportunity to do what you were saying with your method about using that time to breathe and focus and really decide what action you want to take from there while you’re frozen.

[00:19:14] CC: Exactly. Because like I said before, I created this method out of survival. I was in a place that was very dark and scary. And I needed to be able to move from that space in order to survive. And so, a very endearing person said to me, “It’s okay, Carolyn. You can get through this one day at a time. Just take it one day at a time.” And quite honestly, when you’re struggling with flashbacks, PTSD, situational depression, and you’re immobilized by fear and uncertainty, it’s hard to move on. It’s hard to move in any direction. You feel like you want to revert. You feel like you want to hide. And that is just something that is very paralyzing. And when you feel paralyzed, you can tend to choose something that does not serve you. And when we see it in society, all over the place. We see self-defeating actions.

Now, even when we’re struggling, when we feel like we can’t see that light, how do we move forward in order to be able to try and search for a light? And that is simply taking one step five minutes at a time in grappling that emotion that is holding you back, and using it as fuel to propel you forward.

[00:20:56] BS: Carolyn, you talked about a dark and scary place. And of course, it’s completely up to you whether you want to go into that story with this next conversation. But could you talk about a time that you transformed your life in the face of adversity?

[00:21:14] CC: Yeah, I mean, that dark place was standing in line with the Salvation Army. Now, I did decide to get up one day and go to the Salvation Army. As you can imagine, there were a few things that happen in my life that got me there. And that was a long string of sexual abuse by male and females, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and really not understanding as you can probably picture having no real understanding or definition of what love was. And I certainly did not know what self-love was.

And so there I am, standing at the Salvation Army waiting for food fearful for my life, as my spouse had promised me, he would end my life, if I were to ever leave our abusive relationship, holding my daughter, looking around the room, a bunch of fluorescent lights and different smells that really triggered different, not so good memories. And as I stood there, literally paralyzed by flashbacks, and by fear, knowing that a restraining order is just as good as the paper is written on. I needed something, anything, and I took that moment to just breathe, and try to get a hold of the emotions that were making my body not move.

And in that moment is where I began my method. I had to use that all of those emotions that were coming up and just bombarding my mind in which just simply move forward. And in that instance, I realized that I could smile. So, I didn’t scare my daughter, because she was little, and she had no idea what was going on. And kind of fake it until I made it for five minutes as I’m moving in line to accept food, because I didn’t know where my next meal would come from. From there, being able to identify housing, being able to start to look to the future, because what was going on is once I saw I could fight through five minutes, soon, it turned into 10, soon it turned into 15. And even though I still battled continuously, with flashbacks of just horrible events, I was able to use that fight or flight mechanism and I had a lot of anger as you can imagine, I used that to push me forward.

And as I got into 15 minutes, as I got into an hour, I got in and then to a whole day, I could look back and say you know what, I might not have that confidence or that self-esteem or self-worth, but I can push forward five minutes at a time. And look at me, I got through a whole day by just taking it in increments. And now I’ve been able to use that and it’s evolved over the years in which to vision a year, vision 10 years, vision what it looks like when I’m 90 and I’m looking back at my life and what I’m proud of and who’s around me.

So, when you start small, with just five minutes at a time, and being able to hone in those emotions that may be definitely holding you back and making them, you know, not stuffing them away, because emotions are something that we have, we’re human. But how do we use them in a way that serves us, rather than tearing us down, and that is the key, and that’s what’s gotten me from Salvation Army to PhD, and it’s helped thousands of people in order to get to where they want and deserve to be. I’ve helped women and just, for example, one woman, I just helped triple her income in six months, by using my methodology. And using that program and method in which to really lean into what you truly deserve, compared to giving into emotions that might tear you down.

[00:26:07] BS: Carolyn, thank you so much for sharing that story. I’m always a big believer and telling these very personal, raw stories with others. So, that way they can learn from these experiences and I think we all have different experiences in our lives that were very difficult to go through. And I appreciate you just sharing that with the listeners today. And the other thing I really love is that you are giving back to other women from everything that you’ve learned. And I also really loved instead of one day at a time, you really are stripping that down to starting smaller, starting with five minutes at a time and then incrementally going up to 15 minutes, maybe a half hour, maybe an hour, and I think that’s so awesome. Because that whole one day at a time, sometimes one day is like way too much. And you’re right that, five minutes is a much more calculated place to start.

[00:27:19] CC: Yes, and it also speaks to those who might be easily distracted. That’s really where it stemmed from. It stemmed from survival, which when I was struggling with triggers and flashbacks, you get easily distracted, and you kind of go into your own head, and then you kind of actually disassociate. But I’ve learned that you also can use this for when you need to reset. Let’s say you’re someone who tends to get distracted. Some might use the label, ADD, ADHD, there are different things like that. But truly, we all get distracted in some way. And how do we reset and get back to where we need to be, particularly as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs, it’s a struggle, because you’re doing the work that you love, but at the same time finding that balance, and also getting things done that need to get done, even when you might not feel like it or you have a billion different opportunities that you need to address. How do you focus?

So, again, getting present, remember, you know what, I need to record that video, I do not need to Google search for another course or something –

[00:28:43] BS: Yeah, and get into that vortex, which is extremely distracting.

[00:28:49] CC: And so yeah, getting back to it, and like you know what, no, I am going to record this video and I’m going to start with five minutes and I’m just going to push forward and get it done. Yeah, it really comes in helpful, particularly, when there’s so many opportunities and distractions to just hone you back in. I find myself using it that way too. I also have sales teams that have called, that I’ve trained, and they have a goal. And they have a goal of maybe they need to make 50 calls in a day and it’s like two o’clock in the afternoon and they’ve gotten like three because they had to do this and that and the other thing and it’s two o’clock and that goal is just like not looking good.

So, refocusing, taking a deep breath, getting present, maybe doing a few squats to get in the zone. Then remembering the goal focus, the goal is 50 calls, you’ve got three down, all right. Deep breath, grab that phone, five minutes at a time just start dialing in. That’s how many entrepreneurs have been able to use this in which to reset, get refocused take that emotion of I don’t want to, I’m going to something else, that, and use it as fuel in which to own the direction that you’re moving in. And as you do that, you’re able then to take that small increment, and build and use it as the foreground to reverse engineer your 10-year goal, your 5-year goal, your one-year goal, your 90-day goal, and just reverse engineer all the way down to five minutes into what you need to do in the next five minutes to achieve that 90-day, one year, five-year goal.

[00:30:33] BS: I would love to wrap up this conversation with one of the hashtags that I actually use quite a bit for this podcast, which is women supporting women and on Instagram, today, there are almost 10 million of these hashtags. And on the one hand, it’s this really beautiful movement. And I know that we are both a part of it with what we are doing, and our lines of work. And I also think, on the other hand, what does that really mean? What does women supporting women really mean? And can you share some ways that women can truly support each other?

[00:31:14] CC: Well, I would say first and foremost would be abundance. Abundance, in the concept that there’s enough for everyone and using that abundance mindset. So, women supporting women, I feel is the heart of abundance. How do we support each other? How do we elevate each other? How do we bring out the best in each other and our genius because we’re each uniquely ourselves? So, it doesn’t matter. And I say this to my clients, well, some will say, and these are some self-limiting beliefs. Well, there are 10 million health experts. There are 10 million yoga experts. There are 10 million marketing experts. Well, sure, there are, but none of them are you and your unique story, and how you can bring value to the world with what you bring to the table. So, appreciate other women that are doing the same thing as you, help them because the more that you put into the world, the more you get back.

[00:32:27] BS: Awesome. Thank you so much. Carolyn, can you let the listeners know how they can stay connected with you and find more info?

[00:32:37] CC: Yes. So, you can look me up at carolyncollen.com, which is my website, Carolyn Colleen on Instagram, and Fierce Revolution on Instagram.

[00:32:48] BS: Wonderful. And as always, I will leave all of this info in the show notes on the website. And Carolyn, I really enjoyed our conversation. I know it’s a little bit shorter than we had planned, so many beautiful takeaways. And also, I’m going to start doing some squats at my desk. I hadn’t even thought about that. I’m always doing all the breathing and taking a walk but I love the squats idea.

[00:33:12] CC: Oh yeah. I love it. It’s a quick mindset shift.

[00:33:15] BS: Yeah. That’s awesome. All right. Thank you so much for being here today.

[00:33:21] CC: Yes, thanks for having me.


[00:33:26] BS: Up next week, I’m bringing you another solo show that is very relevant to today’s episode with Carolyn. This special end of the year episode is all about what to take with you from 2020. We’ll take a look at how this year impacted your enthusiasm and what we can learn from our losses and gains as we move forward into 2021. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. As always, thanks for tuning in to Love Your Enthusiasm. I’ll see you later.


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