Hi, I’m Jen. And I’m Amanda. And you’re listening to the HigherU podcast.
[Amanda] So I woke up to a text this morning from Jen that said, hey, Amanda… can’t wait to record our podcast, but first I need to go feed my sheep and goats.
[Jen] I do not have goats. I do have sheep. I also have a horse, two cats that live under the house and control the situation and a dog and I will be getting some more sheep because they’re awesome.
[Amanda] Jen, have you always been a farmer?
[Jen] Yes, I’ve always been a farmer in my mind. There’s this song that has this lyric that said When God made me a Yankee, he was teasing. I kind of feel that way about when God me made me grow up in the suburbs.
He was teasing. And so I just have always had this very agricultural bent. I think maybe because of my grandmother, she let us sleep out in her barn with the bats we were riding. We were in the rivers. We were doing all this fun stuff. And I was just very turned on by nature. And so I think people that love nature want to want to be part of it. And then, of course, you realize how everything’s connected. And let’s be honest, I’m not really a farmer. I’ve got some garden beds and I’ve got a lot of animals. But I do subscribe to a magazine called Modern Farmer and I read it.
[Amanda] Ok, well, I don’t have distinctions between goats and sheep because I’m not a farmer.
[Jen] But, you know, do you know most people absolutely cannot tell the difference. And here’s the major clue: Goats have tails that go up. Sheeps have tails that go down.
[Amanda] Thank you. I know. Very insightful for the business podcast.
What motivated you to start ideal by specifically around the social mission of sustainability?
[Jen] Hmm. Honestly, we thought, gosh, they’re getting it wrong. They being any sort of environmental media. It was very like, OK, so the polar bears are dying, the ice caps are melting, but then what can we do about it? Nobody gave us any sort of. Tactical here is how to take a little bit of the power into your own hands and feel good that you’re part of the solution instead of just watching the problems happen. And Heather, my cofounding partner, and I were like, what if we brought. A little bit more kind of sex and sizzle and actionable ideas to the environmental movement, because we really saw it as very kind of bipolar, right? There were just these grieving pissers on one side and then everybody that made fun of the tree huggers on the other side. But we know that there’s this bell curve in the middle, people that actually did want to do the right thing, but not sell their house and live in a yard. So we just you know what? Let’s give this a shot.
Let’s see if we can attract more people to the movement by being less scary, quite frankly. And we kind of hit it right in terms of the timing, the voice, the advice, because people were kind of like, where do all these new terms mean? Like fair trade coffee and CFL those were a thing, right? Those light bulbs. And so we read people’s guides through the whole process of becoming what we call light green. And that was a big, big key in the positioning. Now we’ve reached the point where we really need to take big action, which is like why I’m so happy that Greta, the 16 year old, is the one finding her voice and is brave enough to go out and to to say it.
Everything that we know in our core needs to happen is like, no, we’re past the point of recycling. We’re past the point of doing small steps. We need the government involved. We need big business involved. We need world sanctions involved. And this is not a Chicken Little … The sky is falling. This is real. And so what we can do is be educated and support the people that are brave enough to go out there and to speak the truth.
[Amanda] I’m really glad that you brought up Greta, because that is precisely one of the motivations I had when I was choosing to start HigherU with you was to really help people, leaders find their voice, because many of us have these these dire movements and visions that we want to be a part of facilitating and leading. But unless you have a voice and can articulate that and have the bravery and the words and the clarity and the precision, none of us are going to be successful in being our highest selves and our best leaders. So it’s a perfect segue into one of the core focuses of what we do here at HigherU is helping you find that voice and helping you become the best version of Greta that you can become.
[Jen] Yes, very well said, and it’s very hard to do it the other way around, meaning that you kind of say, oh, well, what do I think would make me the most money or famous and then back into it? It really has to come from within. It has to come from down deep for many reasons. One is the authenticity and the passion shows through, and that will attract people not only in the way of the secret and the laws of attraction, but it just is something that has a magnetic quality. And so when you speak to people, whether it be business contractors, vendors or on television, that permeates and that is that acquire that will differentiate you. And so when we were in the height of the green scene, right when Cameron Diaz started showing up to the award ceremonies in her Prius and all of that, we had so many copycats. We had so many people trying to do what we were doing in green and they would rip directly on our stuff. Meaning like our tagline was A Sassy Shade of Green. Well, there was a very well-funded company that started a kind of look alike company that was Sassy. People are into green and we’re like, are you serious right now? Are you just like that? Blatantly obvious trying to rip all of our stuff off? And it was so cool because even though they had $20 million dollars in funding, which we definitely did not have, and we watched them fail because they could not replicate our authenticity and they couldn’t replicate our passion. And the fact that both Heather and I really came from a sintered place, a very long history of living this light green lifestyle and being able to talk about it from a, you know, a real place. And they couldn’t do it. They hired fancy magazine editors that just had to learn overnight, like they would say, like essentially you can’t pay for authenticity.
You actually have to discover your authenticity. What advice do you have for someone who is like, well, I know what it is that I’m passionate about, but I can’t necessarily find the words and I don’t quite know if I’m resonating at that authentic level. How does someone tap into that if they if it’s not readily clear?
[Amanda] So how does someone find what they’re going to focus on?
I think what I would imagine is that many folks listening to this podcast know what they’re focusing on, but they haven’t found their Greta voice, possibly because they haven’t figured out the most authentic way of expressing that. How is it that you uncover your authentic voice if you know that you have a really important message, but it’s not resonating at the level that you believe it should be?
Through experimental drugs, I’m just I think that also just truly like pretending that it doesn’t matter, because, again, if you’re leading with what you think the world wants to hear versus what it is you are wanting to talk about, then that’s going to be derailing. Right. And so obviously it’s trial and error.
And you go out there and you’re like, I’m going to make a bold statement and you might make enemies, but that’s OK. That’s kind of what you want. You know, and again, when I deliberate in our light green positioning, we made enemies. People hated us, like the hardcore greenies and the vegans. They hate us.
I thought you were fake. They’re like, you’re fluffy. You’re just about incremental change. You’re not about real change. You know, get off the grid.
Yeah. Like, here’s a perfect example. We did an email tip about something called Humane Veal.
It was like a “humane foie gras.” We knew that it was going to be contentious and it was going to spark some stuff.
And that day was so defining for us because we attracted more of our tribe. We attracted the people that were like, oh, yeah, like I don’t eat veal, but I have an uncle that does. And so now I get to recommend this to him because he’s never going to stop eating veal. But what’s cool is maybe he can now eat the kind that is a court ordered. These are solutions. And then we lost a whole bunch of people that unsubscribe from our list that were like your horrible bloody murderers, Blondie, blah. And then, of course, what happened from there is the whole debate went out onto the blogosphere and was picked up by all these bloggers that were writing about it and pointing back to us. And so we ended up getting about five thousand new subscribers at the end of the day from being real and holding our truth and not apologizing for offering solutions to people that weren’t going to be so. Black and white about what’s what’s right.
[00:10:00] [Amanda] One of my favorite things that you’ve said so far is don’t lead with what you think the world wants to hear. Lead with what you actually want to say. And I’m going to add to that point, which is to build character within yourself where you become less permeable to external criticism really hard, because that’s once you start finding your voice, you are going to start to have naysayers. You are going to start to have enemies, because that’s what it means to have a voice and to stand for something. But it is it can be very challenging to stand in the face of a lot of angry people, especially on social media.
[Jen] And also remember that they speak the loudest and that all the people that are thinking, huh, that’s a really good point. Or, oh, gosh, I really like Amanda for her authenticity and her bravery. They are not the ones motivated to write in. They’re not the ones motivated to speak out against. And so you have to remember that there is that echo chamber of your naysayers and people willing to knock you down. And so to your point, Amanda, you definitely need to develop some thick skin. Right. And that’s that’s hard to do because I think that we’re all pretty sensitive at our core.
[Amanda] I’m not I’m not sensitive at all, sometimes I think it’s like a strange cognitive dysfunction of mine, but yeah, well, maybe it’s a weakness that has become a strength, very possibly, or just means I’m ignorant to don’t know what it is or you’re a sociopath or you have and all that.
But I just think it’s important to articulate that because not everyone has that. And we do. Those of us who were just born this way need to model it so that others, because it’s such an important part of leadership, is being less permeable and more thick-skinned to other people’s opinions. Honestly, when someone criticizes me, the first thought that goes through my head is they’re just projecting their own insecurities about themselves onto me. It has nothing to do with me. Whether or not that’s true or not. That’s what I tell myself. That’s really awesome. I hope everybody can take a page out of your sociopathic book. So what advice do you have, Jen, on how you actually begin to put your message out into the world, this real, authentic vision of leadership? There is not enough precision around word choice, and we all start to sound slightly platitudinous.
Do you know what I mean by that?
[Jen] Yeah, I mean, and that’s that’s actually a kind of a core tenant of developing a brand is if you try to please all the people all the time. And if you’re not very discerning about what you put out there, then it all of a sudden just gets kind of amorphous.
And I guess you can say no one can hear it because it’s not it doesn’t cut through. It doesn’t stand out. It’s not interesting. Like I mean, even though I do happen to love, like, a really good vanilla bean ice cream, like, you just want to be careful of, like having this just kind of vanilla. Right. Like if you’re going to make a new ice cream flavor, like do one that actually stands out, you’re like, wow, that’s kind of wacky or that’s weird. That’s very rich and indulgent or like find that thing, you know, and then stick to it, you know, just try not to have schizophrenia because. Oh well, no. Now people are using a lot of street talk. And so I’m going to adapt and to street talk like and if it’s not authentic, like, people are just going to be like.
[Amanda] Yeah, you know, it reminds me of the advice I got from Becky Sager, who is the chief marketing officer of Charles Schwab. She was an investor in DailyWorth and one of the most amazing mentors to me. And what she said when you’re developing a brand, is that if you were to take anyone else’s logo and put it on top of your brand, it has to not work like your brand can’t be transferable. If you could take one of your competitors and put their logo over your brand statement or your positioning statement, then it’s actually not good enough. It has to be so distinct that it reflects you and can’t be replicated elsewhere.
[Jen] Yeah, absolutely. You need differentiation, right? Like what is it that you uniquely stand for and how do you uniquely approach it? Right. And so if you don’t have that, then it’s just kind of like, what’s the point? Why would I care? There’s just enough of everything out there in the world. You got to be different and to be different.
[Amanda] And that is where I think that a lot of folks fall short, is not paying close enough attention to the very specific words and details of how you are packaging what you’re putting out into the world, because you can have the best, most authentic vision and you can be ready to express yourself. But if you’re not expressing yourself in a way that is going to be completely distinct and unique, it’s going to get lost because it’s not. I wonder if there’s just a metaphysical explanation for this. Right.
[00:15:00] [Jen] Which goes back to being authentic in your voice. And so don’t worry about how it’s going to be perceived by the world. Speak your truth and then if you’re not a good wordsmith or higher one. Right. But don’t let them change the meaning. But it has to be translatable easily digestible. So when someone reads, say, your mission statement, you’re like, wow, I get that, that’s really cool. Or I get that I’m not interested, but whatever, it has to be getable. Right. And I try hard not to use trendy words, but this one keeps coming into my brain like it has to resonate.
[Amanda] That’s the metaphysical point that I was trying to make. Exactly. There has to be resonance and or it is not going to land where you want it to go. Exactly. A perfect way to bring it back around. Jen, thank you for that. And might I add, I remember now when Becky Sager came in to give this advice, it’s when you were leading the redesign of Daily Worth because you were so horrified by our brand positioning.
So what are you going to do for the rest of the day?
[Jen] I am so glad you asked. I have been in therapy and and my therapist says that it’s very important that I do art because you know what? I am actually half right brained and half left brain. And I have only been nurturing my business brain, which is why I’m in marketing, because it allows you to do this kind of like creative business and stuff. But now it’s important for me to do just the stuff that’s non quote unquote productive or the non what’s the word marketable. Like, I’m not going to sell my art. Right. Like, there’s like a whole there’s been one outcome. It’s literally for the writers and the process, not what happens at the end of it. Yeah, like art for art’s sake, not art for businesses sake. And so I’m trying to balance myself out at this midpoint in my life. And I definitely think that art will be key to that. So I’m going to do my art project, which is actually kind of industrious now that I think about it. It is creating a custom light fixture for my new art shack, which I believe outcome oriented, though, isn’t it, shit? Well, I mean, I could have just bought one. It’s true. No way. I don’t want to criticize your art. You go. So with that art fix, that light fixture, I fully support this. I’m going to shut up now. It’s OK. I mean, I do have another art project, which definitely is not. I mean, everything’s outcome, right, because you end up with art.
[Amanda] When you go to Burning Man at the end, all of the art gets set on fire. That’s why everything gets burned, because you’re supposed to just create it and then you’re supposed to have it disappear so that it’s just about the process.
What if you burned all your art at the end of it? How would that feel? Well, I would feel good if I thought the art was sucky and I’d be like, I’d be really pissed if I liked it, so, OK, we’re never going to burn again.
There you go. It is not for others, but it will find your authentic voice, I promise you that.
[Jen] Ok, so, Amanda, what are you most proud of? Not necessarily in your life, but in your business life.
[Amanda] What am I most proud of in business? This isn’t like this is your life. If you’re on Oprah, this is like, hey, we’re doing a business podcast. OK, got to ask it again. I have the answer.
[Jen] Amanda, what are you most proud of in your business life and experiences?
[Amanda] I’m most proud of the fact that over the last 20 years I have managed to work in technology, media, finance and politics and have senior positions in all four of those industries. And I am 42 years old. And then I have developed a type of skill set specifically across finance and technology mostly. But my passion is politics and saving the world and being a bleeding heart. And because my skills and my interests are so divergent, I’ve made multiple moves. The one most recently was from finance into politics, where I was the digital communications lead for the Marianne Williamson campaign for President. And as someone who’s always been interested in politics, being able to work on a presidential campaign and being able to be at the Democratic debates was one of the most riveting experiences. But I had no political experience prior. So I would say that my proudest accomplishment is the fact that I’ve built up a level of managerial expertise and business expertise and technical expertise that allows me to go where I want to go. And I never feel trapped.
[00:20:00] Hmm, interesting. All right, so that was super fun and if you guys thought it was too, then remember to write and review to help more awesome people like you find us.
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