EPISODE 55 | NAOMI WHITTEL | HOW AUTOPHAGY CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE
Kathy Smith: Kathi, welcome to the show.
Kathi Sharpe: Thank you very much and thank you for that lovely introduction. I’m thrilled to be here. Of course, anything that you and I do together, I love even more, so it’s a real joy.
Kathy Smith: We have so much fun together. I know whenever we get together, whether it’s for a lunch or whatever, it’s like we always need another hour or two.
Kathi Sharpe: I was just going to say, it’s never enough time for people like you and I. I think you and I have this incredible joie de vivre where we just seem to love what life has to offer and are grasping it everywhere and anywhere we can. I think that’s why we’re kindred spirits in that way and always connected. I’m glad to be having this conversation.
Kathy Smith: What made you start writing these blogs about re-invention?
Kathi Sharpe: About 11 years ago, I was having dinner with a friend of mine one night, and we were just musing over the fact that everybody seems to say to me how lucky I am that I get to do what I want, when I want, where I want and I seem to always be having so much fun. I said, “People often say that to me, but it’s really not luck.” I said, “I have worked non-stop since I was 18 years old.”
I had a sense that I never wanted to work for somebody else. I think I was blessed to have been given parents that were entrepreneurial, that had what my father used to call, “itchy feet,” which meant he just loved the idea of moving around and trying new things. I very much followed in their footsteps in being both open-eyed, that there was never a box in the world. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know there was such a thing as thinking out of the box, because I never knew there was a box. I just grew up living in different places, making new friends, trying new things. To me, it was the norm.
So, starting my own business and building it and conquering the world was just what I set out to do without knowing that there were kind of norms and rules and regulations and corporations with politics and parameters. It kind of wasn’t my world, so maybe that was the lucky part. But the hard work, there’s no question that to have what I wanted in my life required hard work. It wasn’t just showing up by itself.
Kathy Smith: So, people were commenting about your life, and you started thinking to yourself, “Ok, perhaps this is an opportunity to show people how to make steps to create the life that they want.”
Kathi Sharpe: Exactly. I think that we can all put on a pair of rose colored glasses for a moment and put ourselves in someone else’s footprints or shoes and say, “Hey, if I really wanted that, what would I have to do to get there or to be that or to have that in my life?” Even if only for a moment, we can just put those glasses on and look at the world through those lenses for a moment and get a glimpse of what’s possible, we can start to, then, put a game plan together that will put us in action to actually manifest and create that reality. It could take six months, it could take 10 years. But if we allow ourselves – and we’re entitled enough – to give ourselves that gift of seeing what’s possible, we can achieve it and that’s what I love to share with people.
I don’t think I was given any special tools or gifts or education or skills, but I kind of looked towards what the end game might be for me at some point in my life. For me, it was about the freedom not to work for somebody else but to create my own playground and make that my work. I think people can do that in all parts of their life, whether it’s fitness, spiritual, nurturing hobbies, work related, relationships.
Just every part of your life, I think you have the right, first and foremost, to envision what’s possible and that you’re not stuck within the life that you’re in. But also, you then, need to figure out how to get from here to there. That’s usually the most challenging part that people have.
Kathy Smith: It’s interesting, because I find that you’re a great storyteller, and one of the things that I feel that you’ve done in helping and motivate people is tell other people’s stories of success so people realize that it’s not that unusual for people to do something, to step outside the box as you said and that it is possible.
So, you’re a storyteller. You’ve written a lot of stories of people’s transitions, about their re-inventions. Are there a couple or one in particular that stands out like a story of somebody who did something remarkable, maybe in the second half of their life that they weren’t expecting?
Kathi Sharpe: Yeah, I’m glad you asked me that question, because I do love to tell stories. I, as a person, just love other people’s stories. I’m intrigued by who they are and what they do and how they show up in this world. When it comes to telling re-invention stories, I really love the notion of extracting out of people what they may take for granted that is truly profound. I believe that when we see that somebody else can do something, we recognize part of ourselves in certain people and we say, “Well, gosh, if she could do it, I could do it. If he could do that, I could do that. He doesn’t have any special skills or talent or opportunity.”
So, one of my favorite stories which is quite ironic because it was the reality of a scenario that I was sharing with people when it came to understanding what’s possible in a re-invention scenario. I was heading to a business conference one day and I met a gentleman in the gate of the airport. We were about to board the plane. We were going to the licensing show, which is toys and apparel and branded products and the entertainment industry and different categories of business. The fellow and I were introduced. He worked at a toy company. We got on the plane. He happened to be seated near me and he goes to put this case up above and it’s a long, black case with a handle. I’m thinking to myself, “What kind of toy fits in there?” I looked at him, being curious and nosy as I am, and I said, “What’s in the case?”
He said, “It’s my violin.”
I said, “Well, that’s really interesting.” Then, the re-invention head goes on. And I said, “Why are you bringing a violin to the licensing show? Are you going to be playing in the booth? Is it part of what you’re doing with the toy company?”
He said, “No. I just decided that I want to learn how to play the violin. I’ve never played. I went online. I bought a violin. I started taking lessons on YouTube. And every day, I take my violin to the office. I go across the street to the park and I play every day. When I travel, I never leave home without it. I asked the gentleman in the hotel for a meeting room or a space that isn’t being used and I go and play. I nurture my soul.”
I thought, “My goodness. If that isn’t the epitome of everything I’ve been trying to say to people for years through our storytelling and blogs and just the inspiration that you may not need to leave your job if you’re bored, if you know how to nurture your soul.”
I think that is one of the keys to re-invention, that it doesn’t have to be disruptive and alienate family members and kill your finances. It could be something as small as that, which is not small to him. It just gives him that passion and that fulfillment that he gets to live every day, and I think it’s a beautiful example of someone’s story.
Kathy Smith: Fantastic example. By the way, I’ve been wanting to take piano lessons. I took them years ago. I’ve been wanting to take them again. I’ve always been using the excuse of, “Well, but I travel so much and I don’t have a piano and I can’t practice,” and all of the negative and the excuses come up. But I actually did something recently, which solved the problem. I decided, ok, I heard somebody playing the flute in a yoga class, and I went up to Herb and I said, “I want to learn how to play the flute.” So, he gifted me a flute and that is how I solved that problem just like the person you met on the plane. I can take the flute with me and it’s no longer the excuse that I can’t practice.
Let me switch gears here.
Kathi Sharpe: Wait. Before we switch gears, I just want you to know that there is a fabulous app that you can actually download on your phone, and you can practice playing the piano on this little phone app. It’s the coolest thing ever. So, if you still have that inkling, I’ll tell you about it later.
Kathy Smith: Ok, and we’ll pass it along to listeners. We’ll put it in the liner notes.
Ok. I wrote about this in one of my books and I want to set the tone for moving into this – really the nuts and bolts of re-invention. But one of the things–I’m going to paraphrase it now. The chapters started out like this: It seems like when we’re younger, we all have a lot of passion, and it seems like times are just a little easier there, and the passion, you just find it everywhere.
Then, those carefree days give way to the practical, the survival-oriented concerns. You get busy with your career, you get married and you focus on buying a house and making it a home. You’re perpetually short on time, drained of energy. As a result, and what I’ve talked about in the book, you usually become less active, putting on a few pounds and maybe a few more and a few more. Then, you start developing some stress-related symptoms like maybe stomach pain or back pain or insomnia. Before you know it, you need a cup of coffee to get going. You can’t fall asleep without a glass of wine. And you can’t climb to the top of that hill anymore to watch the sun set. And as life marches on, the kids arrive. You might hit a few problems in your marriage. You start worrying about your aging parents and maybe find yourself as a caretaker and, then, what happens is that free, playful spirit that used to have dreams and bright ideas start to fade.
I’m sure a lot of people are listening right now are relating to this scenario. What I want to ask you is how do you get back to building that rocket ship that was supposed to be your life?
Kathi Sharpe: I think that you’re right. We see it all around us. We live it ourselves, even you and I, who sort of feel like we know or we have a lot of answers to these things. It doesn’t mean we actually put them in practice every day. I think one of the most profound things we can do for ourselves – and this is not going to sound good, but I’m going to say it – is that we need to learn to be selfish.
I don’t think you, myself or most of our listeners out there have any trouble doing what they’re told when they’re boss, they’re spouse, they’re kids, they’re friends ask them to do something. We all tend to put ourselves last. My theory of [unclear 00:16:48] your oxygen masks on first is paramount.
Whether it’s the five minutes a day and it’s meditation, whether it’s taking a 10-minute walk during lunch before or after we have something to eat even if it’s at our desk, whether it’s walking to the grocery store in the evening, whether it’s putting on music and tuning out for 10 minutes, we have to learn in baby steps how to take a little bit of that selfishness back after we’ve spent a lifetime taking care of everybody else and everything else around us that seem to be priority, and to your point, that end up instead of catching up with us in a way that really is not exemplary.
I think being selfish is the most important thing that we can do for ourselves that will actually affect those around us in a positive way if we enable us to be a better person. To love ourselves, to give ourselves that, I think it kind of comes back to this word – entitlement. We are entitled, and I think many people go through life feeling that they’re not entitled. They’ve got to stick with that job because it’s financially necessary. They’ve got to stay in a relationship because there are kids. There’s a lot of got-tos but taking that moment and to be a little selfish – again, whether it’s five minutes or it’s a huge life change and you’re going to quit your job and go trek the Himalayas or whatever it might be, there are doses that will fuel us in ways we can’t imagine.
Again, I think a lot of people tend to feel that they’re not entitled. But if they give themselves five, 10, 15 minutes of that a day, pat themselves on the back, see the effect and the impact that it has had and know that it just feels a little bit better or something will give in their life that will give back to them. We just really need to allow that, and I think the older we get, the more we appreciate it. We’ve all heard the expression of what it’s going to say on our tombstone or not. I think we have to just learn to go a little easier on ourselves and enable that.
Kathy Smith: Yeah, to let go a little bit and let go of even the perfectionism thing, that you have to be the perfect whatever. Fill in the blank: housewife, mother, business person, even aging gracefully.
I notice that when you’re younger, you put certain pressures on yourself about your looks. It can even worsen and take more of a toll as you get older if you don’t learn that perfectionism is over-rated and just accept it. Just a bit of acceptance and having–what I notice is I get a little giggle when I do this exercise. But if you just think about yourself and accept yourself how you are right now at this moment, and just say, “Right now, I am perfect just the way I am.” Start from that point and, then, build on that.
All of a sudden, my shoulders just drop, my demeanor, my attitude is like, ok, everything is ok just the way it is. Then, I can start to set my sights on something but not like there’s something wrong all time, like there’s something wrong with me. I have to fix it. I think that the catch 22 with this business that we’re in – the business that I’m in – because I help people feel better, look better, stay healthier, get toner abs, tighter tushes and whatever. The problem is sometimes it can backfire if it becomes obsessive. It’s like, ok, this is fine. You’re ok just the way you are.
Kathi Sharpe: Right, right. I think it’s interesting. I think that what we don’t do as humanity, as individuals is we don’t necessarily stop and recognize the things in our lives that make us happy and the things that make us smile. I’m talking about the little things. I’m looking at these beautiful pink orchids in my office, and every time I look up and I see them, they just make me smile inside. It might be driving down the street and seeing a billboard that’s got a really beautiful picture, and in your mind, somewhere in you, if someone had a sensor on your body, they’d pick up on the fact that that’s kind of elevated your spirit a moment. You turn on the radio and you hear a song that you love and you just kind of start dancing lightly in the car with everybody in the cars next looking at you going, “She’s a little crazy.”
But I think we take for granted and we don’t acknowledge – and if we did, it would make a big difference – the things that make us smile in the course of a day, things that make your heart sing, the places you like to go. It’s the little smells and the sounds that just kind of make us go, “Oh, I like that.” I think we need to become more in tune with those things that elevate our spirit a little more, because that is the road to where we want to be. That is the place that we want to achieve if it’s in our five minutes of selfishness, if it’s part of trying to figure out what’s next and what those aha moments are going to be in our lives, to start to recognize, collect them whether it’s in a photo, whether it’s on a list, whether it’s a mental note of those moments, those things around us that just give us a little boost. And rather than, to your point, being critical and harsh critics of ourselves to actually change the way we look at everything around us and acknowledge the beauty and the good and the things that just give it to us no matter what kind of a rough time we’re going through, no matter what challenges we might be experiencing.
You don’t have to be on a vacation in Hawaii to be feeling that sensation. You can create that in your midst if you just open your eyes and pay attention to what’s making you feel that way.
Kathy Smith: So well said. Let me tell you about my five-minutes of selfishness this morning. I woke up and I go to the window. I have my morning ritual. I went and I looked outside, and I noticed that in the reflection of a neighbor’s window in one of my trees, which doesn’t have leaves on it yet, but in the branches of the trees, there were 20 birds sitting up there. I’m seeing this in a reflection in the window, and I sort of tiptoe over to where the tree is. I look out and I’m looking at these birds, and I literally had this biggest rush, because being in Park City and with the snow and the changing of the seasons, the birds are back. I cracked open a window and they’re just chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp.
I have to tell you, it was a magical moment. Those magical moments happen–I create those all through the day. As you said, it’s about being present, being in the moment, taking the time to appreciate that there is this magic all around us. And it becomes uplifting, which then, spurs you on to having a little more energy and a little bit more thoughtfulness about what the next part of your life is.
Speaking about the next part of your life, a lot of people have hit 50 and 60 years old. They hit the wall. They become empty-nesters. They’re feeling a little burned out. I guess the question is, if you find yourself in this place where you’re not feeling magical, you are feeling burned out, what is the very, very first step? I guess first of all, it’s noticing it. I think maybe I should even back up. Are there certain signs or are there certain signals that perhaps you are getting burned out and it’s time to re-invent?
Kathi Sharpe: I don’t think people realize what it is when it’s happening. You could be in that phase for a year and not realize that that is what that is. But the sooner you can recognize it and say, “You know what? I am feeling burned out. I thought I just wasn’t liking the job or the clients or the commute or the people in the office,” and everything. You kind of find fault in a lot of things, and when you start to do that a lot, you have to allow yourself–again, this is entitlement–allow yourself to say it.
Say it to yourself. Say it out loud. Write it on a piece of paper. Say it to a friend. “I am burned out. I’m not where I was 10 years ago doing this. It’s time for me to think about what else is possible.” I think the moment you do that, you open the door to what else is possible. It’s a scary thought, because that means letting go of something, that means change. With that comes fear and most people stay paralyzed where they are because of the fear of change.
I was fortunate that I grew up living around the world. For me, every time my father said, “Come on. We’re moving,” I was like, “Whew, what’s the next adventure?”
To me, change is a fun a thing. But I realize that for a lot of people, it really isn’t. So, how do you turn that potential for change into something positive? It may be a matter of saying, “Ok, look, I have to stay where I am because of finances, not upsetting the apple cart, a commitment I made to something,” whatever it might be. “But while I’m
doing that, I’m going to start exploring what else I could be doing in my life.” Now, it may be a scenario where it’s the violin example of stay where you are but nurture your soul. Or I’ve always wanted to own a chocolate shop. I have friend – another great story – she was one of these amazing, crazy, successful agents in Hollywood: 20,000 emails and phone calls a day, meetings around the clock, making all kinds of fabulous things happen. She had an opportunity to switch agencies. Instead of switching agencies, she had this little thing burning in the back of her mind that was about opening a hair salon – a beauty, blow-dry hair salon, which is very common in this city. And she did that.
Long story short, she spent a year and a half in that business researching, what to do in her pajamas at night on the computer at home while she was working, knowing that she was going to be leaving this company but starting to set up this future potential business for herself. She did it. Long story short, she ended up back in the agenting business, but she went full circle to discover that that wasn’t in fact what she thought she wanted to do. She tried it and went back to what she was doing.
But you can take those baby steps. You can put $5.00 in the coffee jar every week if you think that in 10 years from now you want to open a business of your own. You can do the little things that will get you there, but you have to start by acknowledging that you are burned out or you do want to have a second career. We see that all the time with men and women.
I think it’s really interesting for women who are looking at, as you said, empty-nesters, kids going back to school. “Now, what am I going to do with that extra time? I finally have time to cultivate something I dreamed of five/ten years ago that I didn’t have time to do.” And start doing the research. Create a relationship with people in the community that might be in that business. If you wanted to open a chocolate store, go ask them if you can volunteer to work on a Saturday and spend time around the business. Get to know what you think you might be interested in.
There’s a lot of extra pieces to enacting that game plan but start by allowing yourself to acknowledge that it may, in fact, be ok to explore another part of your life and another career change or another–it might be hobby, it might be spiritual, it might be health and fitness if you’ve never worked out. We all hear amazing stories about people who discovered their health and fitness capabilities at 50 plus. They have time and they can really invest in it. I think, again, you’ve got to allow yourself to acknowledge it.
Kathy Smith: Yeah, I think one of the things you mentioned that we both have in our favor is that I was raised in the military and we moved also. My dad was an air force pilot. With all this moving, I too was always in this mode of, “Ok, we’re about to move. What’s happening next? Which country?” So, that sense of adventure. But there is the famous quote, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions are your habits and your destiny.”
But one of the things is, is if you do have a limiting belief in your life, I think that’s probably one–I know we don’t have a whole lot of time. But one thing I would like to talk about is people do have limiting beliefs. They don’t believe they’re capable. I call it the itty bitty shitty committee which is your brain saying, which when the committee’s in full force, it’s like, “I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not capable enough. I’ve never done this before.”
If you think about us as like puzzle pieces that inner lock to form our identity, then this idea of beliefs, if you want to change a belief, you have to pull one of those pieces out and reframe it. Do you have any suggestions on how do you reframe a limiting belief like that?
Kathi Sharpe: I do actually. I think this is a really important issue for a lot of people. I think that when you have an idea as a person who may be in that place in their life, but you know you want to do something. If you write it down, “I want to open a chocolate store one day,” or “I want to play the guitar,” or “I want to leave this job and start working, doing x, y or z,” you write it down and, then, you start to figure out what all those little steps are – baby, baby steps, each one. “I’m going to research what that new job could be. I’m going to look into what a chocolate store would entail. I’m going to figure out how to learn how to play the piano,” but then, go break it down into every little step of the way of what you would need to do.
Every time you do just one of those little steps, instead of talking to the itty bitty shitty committee, you celebrate yourself, you pat yourself on the back for making that first step. You don’t try to take on the entire thing, which is daunting and overwhelming and, for most people, they’ll never get there if that’s what they try to do. I think that it’s really important that you break down the task, you break down what I call the road map, that you’re never going to get from one place to another if you don’t have the map. We all use our GPS, our Google maps, all of these tools to get to a destination, and we rely on the left turn, right turn, go four miles, make another left, make another right.
We have to create that for ourselves, and we have to take one piece at a time. Every time we have accomplished that one little piece, we pat ourselves on the back and we can sit and rest on our laurels whether it’s for a day, a week, a month but know that we accomplished that. And if we can accomplish that, we can accomplish the next step and the next step, and for those who are a little fearful of change, doing one thing at a time and stopping, the reward might be, “I get to eat a candy bar, I get a glass of wine, I get to tell my children and they’re going to be proud of me. I get to buy a new pair of shoes.”
Whatever that reward is, we create rewards for ourselves for just having the courage to take that one extra step that is one step closer to what we now physically can see on a piece of paper – what our goal is. And if we can do that, we get to really witness our evolution as a human being and in really accomplishing something we really might want.
And the plan might shift. You may get halfway and go, “You know what? I learned something in this journey so far and I thought it would be this. But actually, now I know I better do that.” You allow yourself the changes that will come with that, and that is the beauty of taking these baby steps and analyzing or rethinking it or acknowledging it each step of the way. It could be a five-year plan, it could be a ten-minute plan, but it’s a plan and there is no way to get from point A to point B if we don’t make a plan. We have no destination if we don’t know where we want to end up. That journey can be really special.
Kathy Smith: It’s so true. I like this idea of taking the small steps, because that builds the confidence to take bigger steps. And I think from where we started at the top of the show, which was it doesn’t have to be life altering. It can be, but it can be small, little steps. I encourage everybody to go to your website, which is TheReinventionExchange.com website.
I got this from your website. I just want to close out the show with the big take-away, which is on your website is that “the idea of re-invention, it starts with a dose of creativity, a little bit of courage, a sense of direction”. Whether it’s a career, it’s spiritual, it’s health, it’s hobbies, you can re-invent any piece of your life without completely disrupting the other pieces and disrupting people in your life.
I think that’s important, because people think they have to shake up their lives too much, and that shuts them down. They’re these quiet re-inventions and these major re-inventions, and no matter which one you choose, it could just be the time to find your path, your passion and, as you say on your website, which I love, “to spread your wings and to make it happen”.
Thank you so much, Kathi, for being on the show. You’re such an inspiration and I can’t wait to have another lunch with you and to catch up.
Kathi Sharpe: Me too. Thank you for the opportunity to share all of this.
Kathy Smith: Thanks, and bye-bye now.
Kathi Sharpe: Bye-bye.