Honesty, Change, and Living Out Your Values with Nicole Antoinette

Nicole Antoinette is honest — with herself, with the world, and in her work.  She’s built a job for herself out of creating and curating real conversations about the real things in life — the kinds of things that a lot of people don’t talk about, things like money, sex, sobriety, therapy, etc.

Nicole was really fun to talk to.  She’s so comfortable and open.  She really embodies her values.

She’s thought a lot about what she does and why she does it, and why you should NOT try to follow in her footsteps.

She’s also a long distance hiker who lives much of the year in a van, which I love.


Listen in here:

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Nicole does
  • How she got into this
  • How she monetizes her passions
  • How she embraces change as a part of her journey
  • How do you stay true to yourself when others are in the face of opposition?
  • How does she find guests that follow her curiosity?
  • The importance of having a loving relationship with yourself
  • How to know what you want when you don’t know
  • Why it is good for you to admit you have a desire but not actually act on it
  • What a five percent change can do for you
  • What are some of the problem that she’s trying to solve in her work

Resources Mentioned:

Nicole’s website

Nicole’s Instagram

Nicole’s Podcast

Software Generated Transcription:

Dan

Nicole, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the Meaning Movement podcast.

Nicole

Thanks so much for having me. It is always such a treat to be invited on other people’s podcasts. It feels like this very special coming to your digital living room. You know, I’m sure you feel the same way when you have your own show. You’re so used to being in the host role and it feels like this absolute delight to be someone else’s guest. So I’m thrilled to be here.

Dan

Awesome. Well, I’m so happy to give you that opportunity to turn the microphone around on you as listeners will find out in moments that you are a podcast. So this is very familiar territory, I guess, for both of us. But before we get into all of that, I’d like to start just by asking the question, how do you begin to talk about the work that you do in the world?

Nicole

Sure. Well, my mom’s answer would be Nicole does something on the Internet. So I’m one of those people who made up their own jobs for sure.

I think the current iteration of my work said most simply is that I create things so resources or gatherings for folks who crave honest conversations that could be honest conversations with other people or honest conversations with themselves. The last part is that having honest conversations with yourself is something I’m particularly obsessed with the idea of how can I be in a loving relationship with myself and how can I be a good friend to myself and how can I become more self-aware, less self judgmental?

I’m really personally fascinated with these questions and I explore a lot of them in my work.

I feel like my work is rooted in storytelling, sharing a lot of my own personal story, sharing and the model is sort of what comes through me comes for me first. So things that I’m experiencing, that I’m learning, that I’m grappling with, talking about those things in relatively real time, and then sharing them and giving other folks a chance to interrogate those questions. That’s the work more tangibly speaking. That looks like recording, you know, deep dive podcast conversations, writing personal essays, hosting live end of month journaling and reflection workshops and retreats, mastermind groups, that kind of thing.

Like I said, basically, I have one of those totally made up jobs that sometimes hard to distill into a proper soundbite. But I have long since stopped caring about that. I don’t have an elevator pitch. I am not trying to craft one. I don’t really know what my brand is and I’m really fine with all of that. I feel like the people who come into my space, they like what they see and they stay or they don’t and they go somewhere else.

And that’s great.

Dan

I love it. So everything that you said there, because so much of it is like not the advice that most like you find on the Internet about doing, you know, life on the Internet, you know, like what’s your pitch?

[00:03:01.285] 

What’s your brand like? No, your thing. And it feels like you’re just charting your own course. It’s really fun.

Nicole

I think that’s probably a theme that will come up a bunch in this conversation. I’m not a great advice follower. I try not to be an advice giver. I’m much more interested in people talking about their own lived experience. What works for you might not work for me and vice versa, but it’s still worth talking about. And yeah, if you look up whatever the, you know, top 10, whatever rules or practices of having an online business or a brand, I don’t do any of those things.

So I don’t know. I feel like getting to this point with my work. Oftentimes I people who are starting out or want to start out on a similar path ask really well-intentioned questions for advice. And I always am very shrug emoji about it because it was so much of it for me was lack and organic growth over a very, very long period of time. And I have no idea how I would replicate that if I were starting from scratch today.

So I don’t know if that is disappointing for folks listening, but I do not have the magic answer for anyone.

Dan

I find that to be like the perfect answer for this show, for this audience, because I think we often look for that template and we look at other people’s stories and just to, you know, try to find the solution to our own challenges or stuck or anxiety about what to do next. And to hear you say you couldn’t even replicate what you’ve done for yourself, let alone for other people, I think is really hopefully liberating in some ways that that there isn’t a map out there that someone’s going to just, you know, hand us and say, here’s how to get where you need to go.

And so thank you.

Nicole

Yeah.

At various points along the way of trying to build this business or this career or whatever we want to call this, I definitely made this mistake of giving too much of my power away. You know, while this online business guru person says that I’m supposed to do these things, so then I have to do these things. And it was sort of blindly following what other people said best. Practices were, which I mean, don’t get me wrong, we absolutely can and should have teachers and mentors and, you know, learn and educate ourselves and all of that like that is, of course, valuable.

But I was giving too much of my power away instead of asking myself, what do I actually want to make what feels good for me to do? What are my values? Why am I choosing this as opposed to maybe a more traditional path? And every time I lost sight of why I wanted to do what I’m doing, I would lose the thread a little bit. And that never felt great.

Dan

Yeah. Right before we hit the record button we were talking about finding guests and how I’ve been on this quest to find, you know, to figure out how to find the right kinds of guests. And you were talking about how for you it’s always best when you’re following that thread that that you’re paying attention, as you said, to your your curiosity and not just looking at what you think other like what listeners want to hear, what someone who may or may not exist wants to hear.

And that just reminds me of what you’re saying here. But it’s not about what a guru says. Some business, you know, strategist or whoever says that you should do that has to be some sort of like maybe it’s an intersection of right strategy and your own process, your own way of going about it.

Nicole

And I’m sure, you know, if you want to talk about the more of that journey, part of how I got into doing this work, this will come up. But change and pivoting and almost continual reinvention is something that’s really baked into my business model. And if it wasn’t, I certainly wouldn’t have been doing this for as long as I have been doing it.

Dan

I love it. Well, let’s let’s go there because I am super curious. How did you get into this? Like where? I don’t know how far back you want to start, but you said it’s taken a long time. You know, it’s grown over years and years. I just love to hear some of that story.

Nicole

Sure. So I guess I’ll just start telling the story. And if there’s anything you want to zoom in on, you can stop me and we can go there. Yeah. So when I was younger, you know, when I was a kid, when I was in middle school, high school, I never had a dream job. I wasn’t someone who really fantasized about the work that I was going to do or who was really career oriented. It’s just not something that I thought about too much.

It’s not something that I really prioritized. I definitely followed the more traditional path of education. My parents were very, you know, school comes first. Doing well in school is what matters most.

And my brain, my, I guess, type of intelligence as well, matched to a traditional, like, standardized testing path, which would be part of their conversation, of the disadvantages of trying to box people in that way. But it was relatively easy for me. I did well in school and it was just, you know, you go to college, you go to the best school that you can get into, and then that’s just what you do.

And I never questioned that. And so, yeah, I went to a four year university, you know, the most prestigious school that I got into took out way too many student loans to go there because I thought that’s what success looked like.

And when I got to when I got to college, I realized that I didn’t really care about it that much or I didn’t really care about being on this continual escalator upward trajectory path and, you know, landing this really good job or anything like that.

What I really wanted was time, autonomy, the ability, like you said, to follow my curiosity, to make stuff that felt good to make. I was a food studies major in college. Don’t even ask me really what that means, because I’m not sure I have a very expensive piece of paper that says that I know what it means, but I don’t.

I graduated a year early because I was paying my way through school, working multiple jobs and just didn’t want to take on more debt than I had to. And when I graduated from college, I turned down a relatively lucrative full time office job. The year before, I had gotten involved in working in our children’s summer day camp. And I really loved the idea of, oh, can I work really hard for part of the year and then not work for some other parts of the year.

That was very attractive to me. And so I kind of hit that fork in the road of graduate college, take a more traditional path or do this other weird thing that everyone in my life thinks that I’m really insane for doing. And that kind of kicked off this weird winding career path from there. I was the director of that children’s summer camp for five years. I was the manager of a cookie shop. I was the personal assistant for a nonprofit founder.

I was the operations manager for a small Web design firm. There were a lot of different things that I did, and the common thread in my personal life was that I had a blog. So in 2007, I started a blog. I thought I really like writing. You know, I have a lot of feelings. I could talk about those feelings out loud and maybe meet other people who also have feelings. And I had no idea that any of that was.

We’re going to turn into anything, it’s just something that I’ve always loved is sharing from the process, not necessarily the final product, like being able to and willing to talk about things while you’re in the messy middle of them. I love that writing’s the way that I understand myself. It’s the way that I process my life, the world, all of it. And so it’s just something that I did all along the way. And it, you know, grew in popularity.

I met some great people, had a great community, started organizing some offline personal blog or meet ups, that kind of thing. But again, I never thought of it as anything that would potentially turn into a career and the turning point or I guess another potential fork in the road in 2011. So I had been a very public party girl. I was a really big drinker. And that was a huge part of, I guess, what people would have considered my brand.

I was this, you know, fun wild party girl. And in May of 2011, I quit drinking and I was terrified that I was going to lose all my friends, that people weren’t going to think I was fun anymore, that I was never going to get invited to anything. And some of that happened. Some of it didn’t.

That could be a whole other podcast. But I quit drinking and started running on the same day. I guess running was really the way out of the hole for me with drinking. And I had never been an athlete. I was very much an indoor kid. Like, I’m going to sit in the corner and read books and eat candy. And I don’t want to go outside. There’s dirt. Like, I don’t want to be sweaty. I don’t know how to get out of gym class.

That was me for sure. Yeah. And so it was I don’t even really know where the idea came from. It was just one of those right ideas at the right time. The only way that I’m going to be able to stop drinking is if I transfer all of my energy into essentially a replacement obsession, which for me really worked at the beginning. It’s what I needed to focus on something else. And so because I was blogging about my life, I started talking about this change really in a raw, vulnerable way as it was happening.

And I think that caught people’s interest of, oh, she was this one way and now she’s this other way. And she was living this way and now she’s living that way. And I became really interested in both the mechanics and the emotions of what does it take to change your life? And that question of how do we actually close the gap between what we say we want and what we actually do that and then that’s a question that still interests me that I don’t necessarily have a good answer to to this day.

It’s definitely informs a lot of my work. But as I started to talk more about these things, I realized that I was getting a lot of questions from people and a lot of them were the same questions that they wanted to do, similar changes. Did I have advice? Could I help them? And it started to happen enough that I thought, huh, maybe there’s something here.

Maybe there’s something about my approach, how messy it is, how I’m willing to talk about the parts of it that are hard, that are resonating with people. And so I very organically fell into what I now think of as sort of a lifestyle brand. I partnered with my running coach and we hosted beginner running training programs that had a big focus on the emotional side of doing a new thing and just different iterations of programs and offerings that helped people who also wanted to make similar changes in their life to the changes that I was making.

And that felt wild to me, like I never thought that this was going to be a thing that I made money off of. I wasn’t making very much money. I was still working, you know, another job on the side. And I didn’t really think that it was going to turn into anything. But slowly it did. It started growing. I started making a little bit more money and a little bit more money on it. And what happened for me was that having a lifestyle brand that was very much my livelihood was tied up in my own hobbies and interests.

That became a trap, because if I wound up going full time with that work, leaving my day job right. And doing that more full time, relying on some savings to make that transition. And I found a couple of years later that I was feeling really stuck because I had monetized my passions and I wasn’t that passionate about those things anymore.

So then what do you do? Right. Like, I had built this business around being a runner, right. And eating a certain way and being vegan and doing these things. And I was like, I don’t really care about these things as much anymore. I’m ready to move on. And what I never accounted for is that I’m someone who loves change. I’m very comfortable or as comfortable as a person can be with big life changes. I tend to live my life in chapters.

I do something for two to five years and then I really kind of evolve and I’m ready to do something else. And I felt really stuck. And so that was in 2015. I wound up taking a break from my business, which was possible because I was married at the time and, you know, being in two incomes, which then went down to one income marriage with a partner who made a lot more money than I did. Made it possible for me to take a break from my business and I took a couple of months to really think about what do I want in this next iteration of my work and, you know, how do I make it so that I’m not tied down to I have to have a certain hobby or live in a certain place or have a certain type of relationship or eat a certain way in order to make money that felt way too limiting to me.

And so I realized that the heart of everything that I really cared about making was honest conversations, talking to people about what’s working and not working in their lives, sharing the same about my own life, you know, being open about everything from work and sex to money or mental health, grief, friendship. Right. There was no limit to the topics that I wanted to talk about. And that’s when I decided to start. A non topic specific podcast is called Real Talk Radio.

And I so I decided to start that and experiment with a combination of a podcast and personal essays. That’s really what the business was at the beginning, and started to create some boundaries between who I am as a person and the work that I create and what I share. And that felt really important to me to be able to create something that I would want to host this podcast, whether I was running or not, whether I was, you know, I got into long distance, hiking’s, whether I was hiking or not or whether I was married or not, and how can I build a business where I’m allowed to change and the business itself still stays around.

So that’s a very long winded answer to how I got here. But and so that was in 2015 and something that I really believe a lot in with my life, but also particularly with my business, is experimentation and just trying stuff. I had no idea I was going to like hosting a podcast. I had never hosted a podcast before. So I said, let me just commit to making eight episodes and do the very best that I can and do I like it.

Do people listen? Does it feel good to give myself a full out of if I don’t like this, then I’m not going to keep doing it because I didn’t want to commit to something, you know, forever if I didn’t know that I was going to enjoy it. So it had a real experimentation vibe. And I was lucky, like I said, because of my partner’s income, that I didn’t have to have it earn full time money right away.

And that’s something that I like to acknowledge and talk about, because money has to come from somewhere, right? When we’re starting a business, it’s and there’s really only so many places. It’s coming from your savings. It’s coming from your credit card. It’s coming from your day job. It’s coming from your spouse or family. An investor, that’s right, there’s only a handful of places that money can come from, and I would never want someone to look at my situation and say, you know, what am I doing wrong that I’m not able to do X, Y and Z.

It’s like being supported by a partner wasn’t the only way that I could have made it happen. You know, I would have had a day job or something else, but that was the way that it was possible to start the business that I currently have, which is my full time income now. And I’m divorced and, you know, so my life has changed quite a bit. But being able to start it slowly was something I will always be grateful for.

Dan

I love it. Wow. So, so much good stuff in there. And I just want to circle back to you, like this idea of how you monetize your passions. You’re doing that, which is like the thing that so many people will tell people looking for career moves, like to look at your passions, choose to follow your passions, whatever. And like you did that, you went down that route and it was working for you, but it felt like you felt boxed in by it.

And I think it’s just really, really important to note what I kind of envisioned as you. You’re talking about that part of your story is like you ended up building this box around yourself. That was your business, and then you kind of broke down that box and then instead you built a box around your business and you lived outside of that box, that new box being real talkradio and a new approach to the way you go about producing content.

I just think it’s a really important story for people to hear because it’s so different than the common wisdom that the Internet feeds us.

Nicole

Yeah.

And again, what’s going to work for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else. I know friends who have more or less monetized their passions and it works really well for them. For me, I just tend to change what I’m passionate about. If it’s a topic specific thing. Right, like running, for example. And that’s like I said after, I don’t really run anymore. And I wound up getting into long distance hiking, which is my current personal love affair hobby.

And I was very intentional at the beginning to not make that part of my business. I’ve certainly talked about it right, because I’m someone who shares stories from their life. I talk about it a lot and I’ve interviewed other adventurous hikers and stuff on my podcast because it’s something that I’m interested in. But if I never went on another long hike again, it’s not going to change my ability to put food on the table. And that was just hugely, hugely important to me.

And I only learned how important that was for me personally by getting it wrong or not really getting it wrong. But you follow a path. It works until it doesn’t. Can you give yourself permission to change? And that lesson, anyone who is in my patron community, because I have a listener funded podcast that goes there, period, would definitely say a very quick yes to. Oh, yeah, Nichol’s business is built on change like I’ve made even since pivoting to doing this podcast.

I’ve made tons of changes to the funding model, to what’s offered to the structure of how it’s offered the shape, giving myself a sabbatical every year. It’s a constant iterative process and if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t enjoy it. And that’s maybe not true for everyone. Some people really do find the thing and they want to do that thing over and over again. And it doesn’t really need to change to feel fulfilling. But that self-awareness, peace of knowing that that’s not who and how I am has been really important for me.

Dan

Yeah, I love that. A lot of people are really uncomfortable with change. I think it’s really interesting how much you embrace change as a part of your past. Has change always been a comfortable place for you? Is that something that you’ve grown to enjoy? I think you use the word that you love change, or at least that’s what I wrote in my notes. But those are your words or not.

I would love to hear your some of your history of your relationship with change.

Yeah, I wouldn’t say that it’s comfortable because I think the inherent nature of doing something that you’ve never done before is almost always going to be scary. And there’s almost always going to be resistance to it. At least that’s been my experience. But it’s not really and I don’t think of it’s an either or right. Either I hate change or I love change because I think that makes us create this unnecessarily restrictive binary of this person or that person.

Whereas I think for me, I really try to embrace both ends of change can be so hard and so uncomfortable and so scary. And it’s worth it to not force myself to stay stuck so that I don’t have to go through the pain of changing.

And I think a lot of the bigger changes in my life, I mean, obviously, sobriety is the one that comes to mind.

First, I have to get to the point where the pain of staying the same or the pain of staying in the current situation is worse. It may even buy one or two percent then, you know, whatever my fears are about what the change could be. And I have found that I can’t force that if I’m not at that point, that I’m not ready yet. And that’s fine. Right. There’s plenty of changes that I think about for a really long time before making them, whether that’s, you know, sobriety or getting divorced or different changes in my business.

There’s always that, like pre-process where you’re thinking about it. You’re thinking about it for me, I don’t know. And the most honest thing I think I could tell you is that I have a very low tolerance for my own book.

So I don’t know if I’m allowed to swear. But you know that feeling when you just you’re so sick of hearing yourself say the same thing, like whether it’s to a friend or in every conversation or to yourself in your journal where it’s like, oh my God, like this again. Like I’m just to just do it already. Right. Like, I didn’t get to that point where my tolerance for being really uncomfortable or feeling stuck is really low.

And I think that that is honestly just inherently who I am as a person. I think that I’ve always been that way. I think I’ve made a lot of what would be considered, I think, non-traditional life choices, life and business choices. And I don’t know that cumulatively I would have been making all of these decisions almost my entire adult life if that weren’t the case. So I don’t know. It’s like a nature nurture thing, right? I think part of it is just I love I love something until I’m done with it.

And when I’m done, I can’t fake it anymore and then I’m out. So I need to build again. I need to build a life in business that honors the fact that I could be 100 percent into something. And then at such point is it doesn’t feel like the right fit anymore. I respect myself and the people that I’m in relationship and work with and for enough not to try to phone it in.

Dan

Oh, wow. I love that commitment to showing up and being real.

And I think about that in my own life and about his being that committed to your own sense of what is right for you and the relational costs and all the other costs that come along with it. And it makes me I don’t know, it makes me scared.

I guess I feel I feel fear like fear of what other people will think, fear of fear of, you know, what change could cost, fear of all of that. And I’m curious for you. I just want to hear you talk about that because you seem so comfortable just being in your skin and in the place where you are unapologetically. And I think it’s really inspiring first. So thank you for that. But then also, like, I want that.

I want more of that.

Nicole

Yeah.

Dan

There’s not really a question there. It’s just like I just want to hear more. I guess I want to hear more about your relationship with like how do you stay true to yourself when others in the face of opposition, in the face of changing and knowing that that’s going to cost? I have a cost, I think, particularly in relationships.

Nicole

Yeah.

I mean, it’s not just a good question. It’s the question, right. How do we do what we want to do and not get really caught in other people’s expectations or opinions or the consequences. And so, you know, what you’re asking is essentially, how do I do that? Well, sometimes I don’t write that this is one of the things that I love about the podcast medium is that we can have a. Conversation, and it doesn’t have to be like a two sentence sound bite.

Yes, sir, which is right up at the end, which I appreciate because it’s you know, and yet there’s more nuance and complexity to every single thing we’re talking about than we could possibly get into, you know, even in a six hour conversation. So I just want to say that it’s especially when you were asking the story of how I got into the work that I am doing. If we’re talking about going back to graduate and college or graduate college in 2006, it’s twenty, twenty one.

So I distilled a very long story into, what, seven minutes maybe. Right. So I think it’s always important to zoom out a little bit and remember that we don’t have any of the detailed, nuanced context on other people’s lives and experiences. So it’s relatively easy to confidently tell a story looking backwards because we can make sense of our lives in retrospect. Right. So I just want to, like, say that. And then I guess on this topic of fear, let’s see what comes up for me.

I think that there are risks and consequences and things to potentially be gained and lost in any decision that we make more. So if those decisions stray away from a more conventional path, whatever conventional looks like in your family or your culture and the risks that are I it’s funny.

I was just I recorded an episode of my podcast this morning with someone named James Olivia Chou Hilman, and we were talking about this exact thing and they were saying this idea that the risks and the consequences that we are facing, they don’t exist in a vacuum like they exist along our different axes of privilege or oppression, and that it’s safer for certain folks to take certain risks than others. That’s just like a factor of the culture and the society that we live in.

And so I think about some of the risks that I’ve taken that, you know, I maybe wouldn’t have taken if I had young kids to support.

Right. Or risks that I maybe wouldn’t have taken if I hadn’t been married at the time and had health insurance through my partner’s corporate job. Right. And those are just a couple of examples. But I think, again, like looking at the whole context of a choice or a change that we want to make, I think that it’s a really useful exercise to get honest and objective about what the risks are. What do we stand to gain and lose by making the change?

And then what do we stand to gain and lose by not making the change? And I’m a big list maker. I’m a big I don’t do the kind of long form journaling, but I do a style of journaling that I think of just ask and answer. So I’ll literally write whatever the question is at the top of the page and then set a timer for five minutes and write what feels like the truest answer to that question. So the question could be, hey, I’m thinking about leaving my job or going full time with this, or for me when it was getting divorced and knowing that this part time business was going to have to become full time income, what do I have to gain and lose by staying the course?

What do I have to gain and lose by instead trying to get a job working for someone else and just trying to get to the heart of what is actually true? Because I find that I can sensationalize both the risks and the rewards, that I can look at the extremes of the best case scenario or the worst case scenario. And the truest outcome is usually somewhere in between. For me. I have found and just trying to get some perspective on the sacrifices are X, Y, Z, is that worth it?

And it’s totally fine. And there is no shame if the answer is no. Right. If it is not worth the sacrifices because this type of self employment, you know, so low creative self employment for me, the time autonomy, the creative freedom, the things that I really went into it for are worth so much to me. But I don’t have access to great health insurance. I don’t have really reliable, stable income. I haven’t had the same kind of career advancement or benefits.

You know, there’s just a lot of things that I have sacrificed and those are worth it for me. And if they’re not, then. All right, cool. There’s no I don’t know. There doesn’t need to be like a moral hierarchy in, you know, working for yourself.

Dan

Yep. I love it. I love it. That’s really. Yeah. It’s a really good, helpful start to that. I think it’s a topic that I don’t know. I guess it’s a circle back around again to the conversation before we hit, we hit record of like where do you find guests that follow your curiosity, curiosity, and not just what you think other people want? And that’s probably just plays into my own pathology of being a people pleaser and how hard it is to to show up for me, how hard it is to show up authentically and honestly when I know that that’s not going to be received.

Well, it’s helpful for me to hear you. Yeah. You talk about I think that you talked about your relationship with yourself and having a loving relationship with yourself. And it feels like that’s kind of the subtext to a lot of this, is like a point of strength for you.

Am I hearing you right in?

Nicole

Yeah. Yeah.

I mean, I think all of this is so relatable, what you’re saying about, you know, the people pleasing and, you know, it feels good to be liked. It feels not good when people don’t like us.

Like that seems like a very basic human thing. So it’s not it’s not that I’ve been able t..

Dan

Not science rocket here Dan.

Nicole

No, but I mean, but we forget that that it’s or Rather, I think it’s really easy to put other people’s experiences on some kind of a pedestal where I think it would be easy for someone to listen to this conversation or to hear my story and like, oh, well, this is easy for Nicole because, like, she’s so secure in what she wants that it doesn’t matter to her what other people think. Like, that’s not true at all.

Like I lose so much sleep while, my God, is this know, am I not going to be like these people stopped, you know, pledging to the patron?

Does that mean that they hate me?

Like it’s a constant I feel like it’s a constant practice to try to divest from the currency of other people’s approval.

And I don’t know that there’s a finish line for that. I think some people maybe are inherently better at than others. I think also there’s some socialized privilege in there, too.

Like I definitely was raised with the good girl mindset or mentality or this is what it is to be a good girl. So there’s a lot of breaking free of that. But again, I don’t think it’s a before and after thing. You know, I used to care too much about what other people think and then X, Y, Z, and now I don’t I think it’s just a constant. Oh, I’ve fallen down this doomer spiral of caring too much about what other people think.

Let me realize that that’s what’s happening. Give myself the sweet little pat on the head and the hug. How can I come back to me? How can I come back to whatever my center is? And that’s, you know, like I said, the self awareness practices, you know, journaling, knowing my values, spending time with myself and then also being in relationship with other people who want me to grow and to value me in my messiness and who are there for me when I make mistakes and aren’t just here for some, like polished Instagram version.

And I have to remind myself over and over again that, oh, yeah, these are the five people who I have decided that their opinion actually matters to me and everyone who is not on that list. I have to just get OK with the fact that sometimes they’re either not going to like or not understand or not agree with what I’m doing. Like, can I handle that? Can I handle being disappointed? And the answer is, yeah, it doesn’t feel good, but it’s not going to kill me.

And so I think it’s like every two days I have to have the same conversation myself. So I don’t know, maybe maybe that’s maybe that’s the answer for me, is not expecting to get to a point where all of this is just magically better. It’s just a continual, just continual thing. And with that were OK.

Dan

I love that.

And I think it’s a really good reminder to me. It’s like, oh, yeah, Nicole doesn’t have it all figured out. And I’m probably making it in my own mind, telling myself that you do have it figured out that this is easy for you.

But like some of the point, I think, is that it’s not easy, because if it was easy, then maybe those relationships wouldn’t be as strong. Then you wouldn’t be as, you know, I guess, open and caring and loving in those relationships can’t just, you know, blow people off and, you know, whatever else. All that is to say, I think this is great.

So thank you. I am curious about a phrase that you use with some of your workshops and used earlier in the conversation about closing the gap between what you say you want and what you do. And that’s kind of a guiding question or a question that you keep coming back to in your own life and in your own work. I’m curious about that. Want to know more about what you mean by that.

But I think the place where I want to start with that is how do you know what you want or maybe how do you help people, you know, know what they want when they don’t know.

Nicole

Mhm. That’s the million dollar question. Right. I wish I had a fantastic well thought out answer for you. I would be like a gazillion er if that were the case. So yes, when I uncover that secret I will come back on your podcast and I will tell you the secret.

Now I can’t wait. I don’t know. I mean how do you know what you want. I think I was just going to say you just do. And sometimes you and sometimes you don’t or maybe a more honest thing than that, because that’s that sounds like a flippant answer and I don’t mean it that way. What I mean is I think that it’s a lot easier for me to tell myself that I don’t know what I want than it is to tell myself the truth of I know exactly what I want, but I’m afraid that I can’t have it.

And so I wonder when I get stuck in, I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know what I want.

Is that actually true or do I feel imposter syndrome? Do I feel unworthy of having it? Do I feel like financially the thing I want is not going to be possible or any of these other blocks or this thing that I want, you know, is going to disappoint my mother or that there’s just there’s a lot of stuff, I think, that gets put on top of our desires and so forth. And this is just for me personally, I almost always know what I want and not necessarily what I want forever, because as we’ve just talked about, things change, like the things that I want in my life this year I could not have predicted five years ago.

Right. And five years before that, it would have been entirely different. So. But being able to access the truth of what I crave or what I desire right now mostly just involves getting.

Quiet enough and honest enough with myself and not just once, it’s not just like we sit down once with the journal, I asked myself, what do you want to call?

And then the truth just comes out, especially during periods of my life, particularly my early 20s, where I was so out of integrity and so dishonest with myself and other people about so many things.

It’s a large part of the reason that I quit drinking, that I couldn’t really hear that truer voice. So I think part of it is building a more honest relationship with myself over time to the point where I trust that I’m allowed to admit my desires to myself without judgment. And without necessarily needing to act on them. So something that got in the way of me being honest with myself for a really long time, whether it was about something that I wanted or something that I really wanted to walk away from.

Right. Which is sort of what we were talking about before making those types of changes.

Something that got in the way for me was thinking that, well, as soon as I’m honest about this thing that I have to do something about it. Right. Like as soon as I’m honest about the fact that I really do need to quit drinking, I’m going to have to do it. And doing it feels so scary and overwhelming and impossible. So I’m just going to tell myself that I don’t need to do it right. And so what it took for me was opening up a little bit more space and then a little bit more space to be able to admit the truth and then just sit with it like I can.

In this, I can know, oh, it’s time this job doesn’t feel good to me anymore, or this hobby or this place that I’m living or this relationship or something, OK? And I don’t ever have to change it. No one’s going to like, read that in my journal and like, wave their magic wand and take that thing away from me.

Right. So can I just allow the truth to be true and wait until I’m more ready to do something about it?

And that has helped me. That’s sort of a roundabout answer, I think, to your question. But this idea of how we do it.

Dan

Great.

Nicole

Yeah. Yeah. How do we close the gap between what we say we want, what we actually do? There isn’t one answer, but it’s I think this is one of the first steps is like, what do we actually want? And going another step further, there’s an exercise that I’ll often do at my retreats and sometimes like virtual retreats, live events, workshops that I call the 50 Cards of desire.

And basically you get 50 index cards or 50 Post-it notes or 50 small pieces of paper and set a timer for anywhere from 12 to 15 minutes. And the prompt is, if anything in the world were possible, what do you want? And the idea is no self centering or no self censoring. Excuse me. And you just do one thing after another. Right. I want to write a book. I want to become more involved with mutual aid efforts. I want to meet my life partner.

I want you to just keep going, write anything that feels true in the minute, you know, you write one on a card, you go to the next guy, you write one on a card. And the idea is you try to not censor yourself, be as honest as possible, fill up as many cards as you can. And so that’s kind of the first phase of the exercise. And that’s always interesting. Sometimes people are surprised by what didn’t come up, what they didn’t write down, something they always thought that they wanted, but it didn’t come up right.

So they’re sort of looking at how did it feel to do this? And then I’m sort of ruining the second part of the exercise, because once you know the second part, it’s harder to do the first part. But then there’s a series of like narrowing it down. Right, that I will take people through. OK, look at all your cards, remove anything. That’s something that you think that you should want but that you don’t actually want.

Right. So then we go back through and it’s like, oh, I think I should want a really popular Instagram account, but I don’t really care. Cool. That comes out right. And there’s all different narrowing down. Take out something that someone else wants for you but you don’t really want for yourself. Take out something or take out the things that a passed version of you wants, but that current you doesn’t really care about. There’s a whole sequence of that.

And I find exercises like that to be really helpful to interrogate the why behind certain desires, because sometimes something that I tell myself that I want I don’t actually even want. And being the freedom that comes from letting go of a former dream that no longer fits feels incredible.

Dan

That’s so good. What you said about letting yourself admit the desires without judgment and knowing that you don’t have to act on them. I feel like that’s just really a variety of mindfulness and a lot of ways like you’re separating stimulus from or from response. Right. But you’re you’re teaching yourself in a mindful mindfulness in response to external stimuli, you know, pain or things that are frustrating or, you know, it causes you to be angry or whatever, like you’re taking a moment, taking that moment in between experiencing that stimuli and then your response to it, which then helps you put it in perspective.

But it’s like you’re doing that internally where you’re letting yourself. Have that desire, have that want, but not actually act on it, and that’s, I think, a really helpful reframing of how we think about desires because it takes some of the pressure off, which is super necessary if we’re going to get to those really core desires, those things that really do matter, because those things are sometimes really scary to admit. And so any amount that we can turn back, that dial of, you know, this has a lot of emotional stuff attached to it.

The more we can turn that back, I think the more honest we’ll be able to be. So thank you for that.

Nicole

And I also think that I know I mentioned being a big fan of experimentation before we know, when I started the podcast, it was I’m going to make eight episodes and that is all. But I’m committing to I’m really interested in not just closing the gap between what we say we want and what we actually do, but closing the gap between what I think I want in this big dream fantasy way and taking some kind of baby tiny step action in reality, because I think that one of the things that leads the most to disappointment for me is unrealistic expectations, the difference between the fantasy of the thing and the reality of the thing.

And the longer I fantasize about the thing, the more I’ve built it up, the more I’ve made it mean this, that or the other, then the more of a shock the reality is going to be and the more closed off I’m going to be to awesome aspects of the reality that maybe aren’t what I envisioned. So I always try to nudge myself with the dreams or desires or goals or whatever that feel really true for me.

[00:42:59.085] 

How can I just try, like, how can I take the tiniest little, like baby step? What would it look like to do a teeny tiny version of this? And let me just start there instead of, you know, thinking that I have to burn down my entire life and do a complete 180, I think that we very often underestimate the power of like a five percent change. And the thing that I have paid my therapist for the most over many years is working on breaking out of this black and white.

All or nothing. Thinking like that is such an ingrained default pattern for me is to go to the extremes. You know, it’s going to be I either have to, you know, quit this job immediately today or I have to stay at this job forever and nothing’s ever going to change. OK, that’s door one and door to like, what’s door three, right? Maybe I could identify what the thing is about this job that’s making me the most unhappy.

Could I change that by five percent while also looking for something else on the side?

Like I think that we culturally really glorify the big changes, these huge sexy things, you know? And then I just sold all my possessions and traveled the world. And if you listen, if that’s what you want to do when you’re in the position to do that, like those stories also deserve to be told. But something, you know, that I think about a lot is and this is honestly why I started my podcast, can we talk about things that aren’t just like the most extreme example, the most famous example, like more just like mundane, boring stories like, you know, how do you make time for the things that are important to you when you have this otherwise busy life?

Like it’s not sexy, right? Like I’m interested people who are writers who that’s not their fault. They also have a full time job or they have kids or they’re caring for, you know, an elderly family member or something. What is that they actually do? Right. They’re not like in this cabin in Tuscany with their typewriter. And all they do is write like, what does it look like? Are you getting up at 4:00 in the morning?

The same way that money has to come from somewhere? Time and energy also have to come from somewhere. And I’m just really interested in those details.

I love that. I love that. So good.

It’s just so much more human than just the outliers that we kind of glorify when I just find that, again, it’s not that those stories don’t deserve to be told, but if I start to think of someone else’s experience as a blueprint that I need to follow, if my life or circumstances don’t match, if I don’t see myself in their story, then I’m going to disregard the entire thing. And, you know, that’s what I meant before. I like undervaluing the five percent change that sometimes I tell myself the story of it.

I have to change completely. Otherwise I’m not going to be happy when actually why don’t I just do things like five percent differently or ten percent differently? That might be enough. Like changing the one thing you know, I recently made a change to the funding model of my business and yeah, it was a relatively significant change, but it didn’t require like burning down the whole thing and starting a whole new business. It was just a change to one aspect of the business.

And now the business is more in alignment with my values. Cool. Awesome. Like it didn’t have to. It’s like a question that I asked myself all the time is what if it didn’t have to be such a big deal, right? Oh, I love that.

Dan

I love it. Well, it’s a five percent, you know, a five percent change in your course. Right. If you change you instead of going just due north, you’re just five percent north west like over. Yeah. Ten thousand miles. You’re going to end up in a very different place.

Nicole

Exactly.

Dan

You know, if you haven’t changed at all, and I think that that’s yeah, it’s a small changes can add up over time and you add up over.

Nicole

Yeah. Small things add up.

Yeah, that’s incredibly well said. I have a reoccurring like lower back and hip injury that flares up quite a bit from time to time. That often gets in the way of hiking and outdoor stuff that I want to do and working with a physical therapist. One of the things that I know that I need to do is increase my core strength and that involves doing very boring, like sets of, you know, seven exercises like laying on the floor in my room, you know, and it takes to do that three or four times a week.

Right. They take maybe 15 minutes per session. And I can get into single. You know, if I don’t do this for an hour, it doesn’t count. First of all, who’s counting? Nobody’s counting. Nobody cares. And just because I’m not completely injury proof after one 15 minute session, it’s not about the one 15 minute session. If I actually do this unsexy thing three or four times a week for months, you know, hopefully post covid.

My personal dreams are to be able to go back to long distance hiking, maybe like August, September of this year or something, obviously, that I wasn’t able to do in twenty twenty. OK, what can I do now to lay the foundation to get myself ready for that thing when it comes. And those steps really usually aren’t that sexy and they are very small and therefore I undervalue them like I want, you know, give me the one routine that I’m going to have to do at once and I never have to do it again.

Oh, wait, that’s like I made lunch yesterday. I still have to have lunch today. Like, that is just being an adult, right? Like, you don’t just take one shower and you’re good forever.

And yet we think it’s like it makes so much sense to us about food or showering or doing the dishes or whatever. But we think the rules are different for these other things. And they’re not like it’s mostly just about can you handle the like, boredom and discomfort of doing the unsexy things? Can you find a way to fall in love with the grind a little bit. And sometimes the answer is no. And I just remind myself that you don’t have to be in the mood to do the thing in order to do the thing, just get on with it.

And sometimes the answer is yes, like find ways to make it more fun. And that’s something I’m always striving to do.

Dan

I love that. So good, so good. And so much in line with. Like the things that I’ve been learning myself and and I think in overcoming my black and white thinking of like, yeah, I don’t feel like going for a run today. I don’t want to run for an hour.

So maybe I could run for 15 minutes, you know, like, yeah, that might be actually still good for me.

It doesn’t have to be nine miles or whatever, you know, and just all the different ways. I think it’s easy to look at. I think it’s physical examples as a good kind of metaphor for our other projects, our writing, our or whatever creative endeavors or career endeavors that we have, that these small things add up over time. And just by showing up and doing them just a little bit, that’s going to take you somewhere. Yeah.

So, yeah. Thank you. Thank you for that.

I know we need to move towards wrapping up. I wanted to hear more just about you mentioned some of your financial changes in the finances of your business. I love how open you are with your pichon community.

You share your finances. I know you have a sliding scale approach to your community, which is just very unconventional in a lot of ways. And I think unconventional is one of the words I wrote on my notes as I like what do I want to talk to Nicole about? Like I wrote, like, unconventional everything.

But it’s not, it’s not unconventional. Like when I hear that conventional everything, I’d be like I would expect you to be like, you know, just really brash and but like it comes it’s coming out of a place of just I think really. Feeling really centered and like listening to your show, and as I was getting ready to get on this interview with you, like I didn’t I wasn’t nervous about talking to you. I didn’t feel like I just you feel so open and easy to talk to that like it so comes from a different place.

And I think I would expect it if I just said unconventional everything. But just to circle all the way back just to finances and some of these decisions, I’d love to hear just more about, you know, what was some of the motivation? Was some of the problem that you’re trying to solve in opening up your finances in the way that you do and taking a different approach with your business?

Nicole

Yeah, I love talking with this. I love talking about money. So I thank you for asking where do I want to start? So from a values perspective wealth inequality is a huge problem.

It’s a huge issue and something that I care a lot about money. Who has access to certain resources, who doesn’t? All of that is stuff that I think about pretty much all of the time.

And the last couple of years have really been me waking up to and interrogating more about class privilege and what that’s looked like for me and what that’s like, you know, for my family and, you know, throughout the years, I’m someone who has had a couple of really significant changes in socioeconomic class in multiple directions, right up and then significantly down and then up and then down again. And all of that has just made me crave honesty around money, because I think that one of the most.

Maybe not most radical, but a radical and disruptive thing that we can do when it comes to this topic is to just talk about it, right, like wealth inequality, all that we’re taught. Don’t talk about money. It’s rude, right? OK, well, who is that protecting to do that? You know, and who benefits by just being more open about it? And I’m always really grateful when other people whose lives or businesses or adventures I can put on a pedestal or look to with comparison can say, hey, here’s how I paid for this.

Here’s where the money came from. And not that they owe me that or something. We owe that to each other. But I just think that being able to position our lives, our businesses, our hobbies, everything in like a financial context is really important. And so something that I think about a lot with my business and with one of the main reasons, other than what I said before, the time, autonomy and creative flexibility, one of the main reasons that I work for myself is because I love the ability to use the business model itself as a mechanism for enacting my own values, particularly around financial accessibility.

So from this from the very start of my self employment journey, I’ve been really committed to asking myself, how can I make my work both financially sustainable for me and financially accessible for others? And I think that there is an unnecessary either or that set up usually around this. And that’s obviously rooted in capitalism. Right, teaching us that we should get the absolute most that we can out of everything that we do. Right. It’s really an extractive model.

And this idea that charging less than we’re worth, whatever that means, that, you know, that that’s a failure. And I don’t know. I just don’t believe that. I’ve never believed that. And I don’t think that your financial resources, your income should be the sole determinant of whether or not you have access to services, products healing are sliding scale models and different types of pricing and mutual aid have been around in many industries with lots of people, you know, for a very long time.

So for me, it was more just learning about what are the models that exist, what are people doing that works and doesn’t work. And, you know, having my own business has been a way to experiment with different pricing models that are in alignment with my values. So I mentioned that I recently made a change with my business and I switched my Patreon community to a sliding scale funding model. So essentially, you know, having a sliding scale, you have to determine what is the full price of the thing.

Right. And that’s sort of arbitrary, just like all pricing and money is arbitrary, but what is the full price of the thing? And then if you’re offering options that are less expensive than that, you know, who are those options for? How can you help give people context? They can situate themselves within their own class privilege or marginalization and then giving. I like to give opportunities that are higher priced than that, that are essentially like a pay it forward tier.

So for folks who have more means to be able to pay to help supplement folks on the lower end of the scale.

And so this is something that I just really formally enacted. I don’t maybe four months ago, but I’ve been talking about money very openly for basically the entire time I’ve had the business.

I like I said, I have a listener funded show, no ads and sponsors. We talk about money a lot. And that way I pay my podcast guests. I pay higher rates to our guests of color, our guests with marginalized identities. There’s just been a lot of things along the way that for me feel in alignment. And that’s not a judgment on the way that other people run their businesses or what they are not able to do. But like I said before, that I’m not able to fake it topic wise.

Right. If I’m not interested in running anymore, I don’t talk about running. I also can’t I can’t sleep at night if my business doesn’t match my values. And some of that is not always possible. We have to be able to, you know, sustain a pay for ourselves as well. Right. It is more nuanced, but I am. And does that mean that everything I’m doing is, you know, completely in alignment and the most ethical like.

Of course not. Like there’s always there’s always more to do. Like one hundred percent. I’m not trying to put myself up as an example. I’m just saying that for me, it’s important to say, what do I care about? What is the world that I want to live in and within my tiny sphere of, you know, the 400 or whatever people in my Patrón community can we talk about these things? Can we enact these values? And I think because I’ve been talking about money for such a long time, you know, like you mentioned, I’m completely transparent.

I do like a monthly business and money report with my patron community. That’s like here’s exactly how much money came in. Here’s where it came from. Here’s the expenses. Here’s what I’m thinking about. As far as like a business perspective, I just I think it’s cool to talk about that type of stuff and to pull back the curtain in that way and to be able, you know, as the business started doing better and I was able to give myself a little bit of a raise this year over this time last year.

It’s cool to be able to talk about that and celebrate that with people and to have financial goals out loud. And there’s just something about demystifying money and trying to take some of the shame out of it and trying to take some of the secrecy out of it that. I really value and so it’s been neat to see my community respond to that, and every time people are able to pay that kind of pay it forward tier or pricing, which I do just not just for around, but I do it for live events and other things as well.

It honestly makes me down like really emotional to think like there is someone out there who is paying more than a thing costs to help supplement a stranger that they don’t even know that they can afford to pay less or to cover full scholarships or people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to come. There’s just something in that that feels really nourishing to me.

It’s beautiful. Yeah, it really is. Yeah, we’ll see.

I’m always interested in how much more radical can I get with this. And there’s so many people that I’m learning from my business coach Barry Diller. They’re incredible and have been a huge mentor for me and in this work as well. So definitely learning from people who have been doing this work for a lot longer.

I love it. Well, I think it’s a very cool example for me personally, even to just think about it with my business.

And I totally agree. I think I thought about it a lot on a personal level and conversations that I have with family and friends that like I want to talk about finances, I want to talk about money. I want to remove the stigma. That is not a step that I’ve taken with, you know, with business, with podcast, with the blog and any of those things. And so I think it’s a person which is really, really challenging and a really positive way.

So thank you. Yeah, it’s very cool. And it’s cool to hear, you know, that the experiment is at least, at least for the time being that Spearman’s is working and that you’re going to continue to see where else it takes you. So I love it.

Yeah, continual experiment for sure. You know, and I look, I don’t know if I mentioned before, but I spend most of the year living in a tiny 20 square foot van that I am my partner and I built out that he helped me build.

And so a lot of, you know, this type of stuff to like my business is absolutely paying for my needs and being able to adventure and stuff like that right now. But it’s because I’m not paying for housing. Right. And these are the other things. I think it’s really important to talk about people like, wow, like how are you able to do this? And it’s like, well, sure, because right now I’m waiting out the winter, you know, living with my partner and his dad.

So I’m not paying rent, which is awesome. And then I’m going to live in a twenty square foot van, which has its absolute pluses and absolute minuses, you know. And so it’s like I would love you know, this is something I talk about with my community, like a personal financial goal for me, as I would love to get to the point where I can, you know, pay for my life, save for the future, and also be able to afford housing like six to eight months of the year and then, you know, go on long distance hikes or whatever those other months.

And I’m not there yet. And OK, well, that’s something to work towards. Right. And again, it’s knowing what you are and are not willing to sacrifice, which has been a really useful touch point for me. So.

Dan

I love it.

That’s so great. We just as we move towards today, wrapping up two questions I want to ask as we end. The first is just for people who are listening. I feel like we’ve already circled around this a lot. But just to ask it, just straight, straight forward, straight up people who feel stuck in some way, a lot of people listen to the podcast because they’re contemplating some change, whether it be a career change, job change, something in their life isn’t working, having to do with work and they’re trying to figure that out.

Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement to offer people that are in that kind of space?

Nicole

Hmm. The thing that comes to mind first and as with not just anything I say about all advice, like take what works and what doesn’t. Right. I would say try not to romanticize something that you’ve never tried. And with that, like, how soon can you experiment like we were talking about even in that tiny maybe five percent way with a version of what you think that you want? I think that in Feeling Stack, we can spend a lot of time in that fantasy place only to then do the thing and be like, oh, God, this isn’t for me, you know?

And so I don’t know something and something in there along the lines of like, how can we move into experimental, like playful curiosity and even some version of taking action instead of overly romanticizing something that we think we have to burn our lives down for in order to do.

Dan

Yeah, yeah. I love that. I love it. So just think about what does that one percent, two percent, five percent, you know, experiment, you can try just to get a taste and see how that guides, guides you and guides your your hopes and dreams I think.

Nicole

And like don’t put so much pressure on it, like just try to see what happens. Some stuff you’re going to mess up, some steps you’re going to love it. I don’t know.

It’s all I don’t know. It’s all what we are even doing. Right. Like nobody knows what they’re doing.

It’s all just try stuff. Yeah.

Dan

I love that. I love it. Well, final question.

Just if people are really resonating with you, is there anything in particular you’d like to invite people to?

Nicole

Oh, nicoleinternet.com, that’s my website so you can find links to, you know, any of the things we’ve talked about, the podcast I write weekly personal essays, that type of thing, or Instagram.

I was not really hanging out on social media much last year, but I am dipping my toe back in. So it’s next. Internet on Instagram, people can come say, hi, I genuinely love when people say hi, I’m not one of those people who doesn’t enjoy getting damn straight, like absolutely like reach out to me. It’s always really neat to know when someone something that you have said resonates with someone, especially if there’s someone that you didn’t previously know.

So please come say hi. I would love that.

Dan

Beautiful.

And I’ll make sure to link up to both those your site, your podcast, Instagram in the show notes as well. Thank you so much. This it’s just been so fun. I feel like I could probably talk to you the rest of the day. I know that we have to call it quits at some point. Thank you for just your openness, your honesty, your just your presence. Really appreciate the time that you shared with us here.

Nicole

Yeah. Thanks for having me. It was a delight.

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