Claire Schmidt and Jenna kick off discussing her calling to start AllVoices, the underlying reasons that 75% of harassment incidents go unreported and how we can all work to make our companies more equal and just.
We spend the majority of our time together walking through key lessons Claire has learned about why it’s critical to detach our identity from our work, how she maintains her mindfulness practice during busy times and the direct correlation between quiet time, self-improvement and the grit to tackle the challenges we are most afraid of.
Claire also shares how her parents raised her to measure success: “The real currency was always: What are you doing to make the world better?”
Key Learnings and Highlights
- On the power of listening: “One of the hardest hurdles to overcome is just getting people to listen to you. As humans, we have a very natural instinct to want to protect ourselves and avoid thinking about things that are hard to hear and think about…One way to help make a difference is to just start by opening up and listening. When you listen, you can start to understand all of the dynamics at play, what drives the challenge and what solutions and interventions are being developed to stop it. There is so much focus on what we’re going to say, how we’re going to make an imprint or try to argue our side. We can all just take a step back and talk to people about whatever issue we are thinking about it. It allows us to start from a more educated place.”
- On recognition: “Just telling someone ‘I think the work you are doing is incredible’ can be impactful.”
- On championing new solutions: “If you care about something and you listen, learn, and identify a problem that you come up with a potential solution for, get involved and do it. Don’t think that anything is out of reach or out of your locus of control. Anything is possible.”
- On self-care: “I was pretty much entirely consumed by work. As I tried to extend that obsession over a period of time I realized that it wasn’t healthy for me. I didn’t have an identity or many experiences outside of work…I was often working 16 – 18 hours day. Ultimately, I had a wake up call because I pushed myself to the point of getting pneumonia and had to use an inhaler. I was doing a lot of this to please everyone but it wasn’t sustainable for me. From that moment on, I decided that I was going to take time for myself every day. I’m going to carve out time to exercise or go on a walk. I’m going to remember that self-care is just as important as everything else because if I don’t take care of myself I can’t do a good job at work….That early experience of seeing what happened when I pushed myself past my limit has kept me in a healthier place ever since.”
- On not becoming our work: “Especially when you are at a small company or a startup, and there’s just a few employees, you start to feel like ‘Everything I do is driving this company forward thus I must be this company.’ It is so important to separate your identity from that of your company. When you’re building a company it’s your baby. You feel so much pride and ownership and responsibility and duty, which can get very entangled with this concept of self. A little bit of that is okay because it keeps you on the ball. You’re really immersed because you care so deeply. At the same time, if you tie your identity to your company you aren’t in the driver’s seat. You’re not in control. You’re hanging on to the back of the car. When you start a company there are naturally going to be ups and downs. I view my role as CEO as the one who is steady, positive, and forward looking. If I’m licking my wounds because something unfortunate happened to the company I am not going to be able to do that.”
- On detaching from the outcome: “In the early days of fundraising, investors are really betting on you so it can be a lot harder to experience a rejection because it feels like a referendum on you as a person in that stage. I realized really early on in the process that I wasn’t going to take it personally because I couldn’t…If someone doesn’t want to work with me or isn’t compelled by my idea, it’s not in my best interest or the company’s best interest to work with them either. If the interest isn’t on both sides it doesn’t make sense for either of us to create a partnership. Very early on in the process, I decided that I was going to do my best, put myself out there, tell them my passion and what we are doing. If they aren’t interested that’s totally fine because it frees me up to move onto the next conversation with the next person.”
- On maintaining mindfulness practices during stressful times: “Our minds mess with us…I try to give myself a little bit of choice but not a lot of choice. For example, I meditate every day but I let myself decide when I meditate. I don’t want to be so rigid about ‘The minute I wake up I have to start meditating,’ because then I start rebelling against myself because I don’t want to do it. I want to do something else. I let myself do what I need to do but I have some commitments to myself that I do not break…The thing with meditating is that you can meditate anywhere, anyhow, anytime…For exercise, which requires more planning, I schedule my classes in advance on ClassPass because you get a penalty if you don’t go. So it just becomes something else on my calendar and once it’s on my calendar I do it just like a work appointment. Those are some the hacks I use to outsmart my brain when it’s trying to outsmart me.”
- On self-improvement: “Where I really push myself is asking: How can I continue to grow and develop? For me, that starts with being honest with myself. When I stop and am truly honest with myself is when I see the areas of improvement that I can work on in my life. That’s how I grow as a person, which makes me better as someone who is working towards creating some kind of change in the world…The things that you resist and are scared of, those are the things you most need to pursue and work on.”
- On true success: “In our household, the real currency was: What are you doing to make the world better? It’s not about how much you’re achieving, how much money you have, or what other people think of you. It always comes back to whether you are doing good things in the world.”
- On trusting your inner voice: “Over the years, the times that I have trusted my gut and not tried to talk myself out of my original instinct have been the best situations of my life. Now, I’m at the point where I just instinctively trust my gut and that’s really trusting myself.”