In this week’s episode, Billy talks with Jennifer Walton, the Chief Brand Officer for Sky Nile Consulting, lover of Beyonce, and grower of beautiful things like gardens, her kids, her happy marriage, you name it, Jennifer is turning it into something amazing. She is here today to talk about becoming your own Chief Brand Officer.
Billy and Jennifer discuss:
–Why Jennifer decided to decline the opportunity to do a TEDTalk on failure
–Whether people get intimidated by or gravitate towards her
–How she continues to crush it professionally while being mindful of burnout
–What it means to “be your own chief brand officer”
–How she and her husband find synergy as business partners and life partners
Want more from Jennifer Walton?
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Listen to her conversation with past guest and Why I Left host Brian Aquart
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Billy: Coming up on The Mindful Midlife Crisis
Jennifer: When I say Chief Brand Officer, what I'm saying is that I'm in control of the story. I'm the author. And so, for me, this serves me particularly well. I have a very successful business I've never marketed. I just market myself. I am the brand. And so when I think about this new world of hyper-individualism and people as products, you have to kind of understand how to position that and that service, that product is you.
You don't have to be like a full-out influencer or even a content creator because I don't do brand deals, although I am open. But you know.
Billy: You and me both, right?
Jennifer: That's not, in particular, my goal. Like I'm not curating content. I am just who I am. And so what I learned in corporate America was that people want to work with people they like. And so part of building that brand is really understanding like what your personal pyramid is.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life second half. I'm your host, Billy Lahr, and educator, personal trainer, meditation teacher and Overthinker who talks to experts who specialize in social and emotional learning, mindfulness, physical and emotional wellness, cultural awareness, finances, communication, relationships, dating and parenting all in an effort to help us better reflect, learn and grow.
So we can live a more purpose-filled life. Take a deep breath, embrace the present and journey with me through The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm your host, Billy Lahr. Thank you for tuning in wherever you are. The purpose of the show is to provide a platform that gives people the space and permission to share their expertise and life experiences in order to help others navigate the complexities and possibilities of life's second half.
And remember this free and useful information is helpful to people of all ages. Wisdom isn't about one's age. Wisdom comes from our ability to reflect, learn and grow from our own life experiences, while also learning from the experiences of others, regardless of what stage of life we are in. Because you just never know what life is going to throw at you.
So there just might be a conversation or two from past episodes that help you feel better prepared for the challenges you might face in your life or that you're facing right now. Whether those challenges be your emotional, mental and or physical health, your relationships with others, including your partner and children, your career, your finances, whatever curveballs life is throwing your way right now, just know that you are not alone in your experience and the conversations I'm having here are with people who have been there before or have done the research to help you navigate those situations with more awareness, openness, curiosity and compassion so you can live a more purpose filled life.
And trust me, I take all of these conversations. I'm having the heart as well, and I try to apply what I'm learning from these conversations, which is why I do solo episodes the first Wednesday of every month, because I think of this show as a running dialog between me and you, the listener, because my hope is that you can see and hear the growth I'm making in my own life.
So that inspires you to seek out the connections between our shared experiences so that you too can take intentional and inspired action. So if you're looking for some ways to help, you better navigate whatever you've got going on in your life from someone who's been through it before, check out some of our other episodes at www.mindfulmidlifecrisis.com.
Dot com or wherever you get your podcasts. All of the episodes this month are going to focus on what it means to be authentic to yourself and how you can bring your authentic self to life. Today's episode focuses on how to be your own Chief Brand officer. If you want to listen to more episodes like that, check out last week's episode with Marcus Ogden about what it means to get authentic.
Episode 29 with Jill Taylor about how to discover your inner Awesome. Episode 30 with Scott Kelly about how to outperform the Norm. Episode 42 with fan favorites and Billy and Brian Favors, Dr. Yolanda, Holly and Tiffany Bird. I just love these ladies. They talk about what it means to trash the life checklist, and they are hilarious. Give their podcast a follow to.
It's called Trash the Checklist. I can't express how much I love these ladies. I really care. There's so much fun. Also, check out episode 43 with Lori Seitz, who tells you to fuck being fined. I just want to I want to censor it there, just in case you have kids in the car. And finally, episode 64 with Jessica Fiesta.
George will show you how to make your LinkedIn profile stand out in your job search. So with all that, let's meet today's guest. Our guest today is Jennifer Walton. Jennifer is the chief brand officer for Sky Nail Consulting, lover of Beyoncé and grower of beautiful things like gardens, her kids and her happy marriage. You name it. Jennifer is turning it into something amazing.
She is here today to talk about becoming your own chief brand officer. And we mean that in the personal context, not in a professional one. So welcome to the show, Jennifer Walton.
Jennifer: Hey, thanks so much. I'm so excited to be here. Thank you.
Billy: I'm excited that you're here as well. And I've told you this before. I feel like I'm talking to my celebrity crush right here because ever since I heard you on Bryan, a car is why I left. Podcast. I'm like, Who is this woman? Oh, my goodness gracious. So I immediately followed you on LinkedIn. You can go to Jennifer Walton on LinkedIn and give her a follow.
There was just really impressed by your charisma and your bravado and your confidence in that episode. I just like, I need to contact this woman. I need to be connected with her. So I'm really, really excited to have you on the show. Thank you so much. And my goal in this show is not to gush too much while we're having our conversation.
Jennifer: I receive this. Thank you. I receive it.
Billy: Well, I knew you would. I knew you would. That's why I said it. Normally, I wanted to say something like that, but I knew you would receive it. So, Jennifer, we like to have our guests talk about the ten roles that they play in their life. So what are the ten roles that you play in your life?
Jennifer: Okay, so this is actually hard for me to think about, but I came up with ten. I'm a wife, I'm a mother, I'm a daughter, I'm a sister. I'm also a source Shout out to any women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I'm a board chair. I'm a board member. I'm a Beyonce lover, which actually deserved to be mentioned.
Again, I'm a random entrepreneur because I have a business. I have another business. And some days I think that maybe there would be more businesses, which is so contrary to how I grew up and thinking I would be professionally and I am a serial hobbyist, meaning I'm a Jen of all trades, master of none. Still better than a master of none or one, I guess.
Billy: So in summer session three, we had Mitch follow Gator on and he is also a serial hobbyist. What are some of your hobbies? So it looks like gardening is part of your hobby.
Jennifer: Lately, gardening is a hobby that I started just to be kind of fun and now it's something that I'm thinking about is climate change and all sorts of things. COVID happened and I mean, it went from just like this little bitty thing I did that was cute to now I'm playing herbs for people and I can partner up with people who are growing chickens, and it's something that I do more for sustainability efforts.
I am an avid reader and I haven't really had a lot of time to read any new novels. And I'm going to tell you right now that I don't read probably what people expect me to read. I like historical romances. I'm huge into Bridgerton. I love the old knocked me off my feet, you beast kind of stuff. And I would say I love dancing.
I've been a dancer since I was a child. My dream is to be a competitive ballroom dancer, but honestly, it's expensive. And then when you get into it, it's actually really hard. And I'm trained as a dancer, and I took ballroom private lessons and the instructor has a wonderful gentleman from Russia was like, This is not hip hop, stop moving your butt.
And I was like, Right. I told him, I said, Sir, I don't know how. So you have to reincorporate this into the rumba.
Billy: So I feel like that all ties into your love affair with Beyonce. And interestingly enough, you chose Beyonce in love her as one of the three roles you're most looking forward to in the second half of life. And so why oh, why are you looking forward to being a Beyoncé lover in the second half of life?
Jennifer: The way I see it is a lot of these other things, they come and go right. My tenure on boards that will come and go. I will leave a lasting legacy with whatever I do professionally. I hope that is my goal. That's how I'm building the work that I do today. Those things will just happen and at some point I won't be able to garden, right?
And I won't be able to do some of these things. But I will always be a mother and I will always be married to the love of my life, my best friend, my husband, Sean Walton, Junior Attorney, Scott Walton Junior. But I honestly like him. I could go, but Beyonce will always be there and honest with you the way I see
Billy: I love how you set it up. I love my life. But he could go. There's no way I'm ever getting rid of Beyonce.
Jennifer: I'm not going anywhere.
If she doesn't stop, I won't stop. So, I mean, she's never let me down. I can tell you that.
Billy: Oh, wow. So what is it about Beyonce? Because I imagine it's more than just the music. So what is it about Beyoncé that draws you to her?
Jennifer: You know, a lot of people would say that she's extremely private. You don't know a lot about her, but I would say that that's not quite true. She is an avid documentarian, so she's documents her life, and so she shares things with us on her terms. And that's actually a lesson that I've had to learn in my life as social media forces us to be content creators and share things and stage and curate things, I've had to really think about what do I want to share of myself with people?
But as an artist, she's one of the best anyone that has ever worked with her has said this woman works hard, she's good at her skills, at her craft, she built her skillset, and so she's always learning. That's another lesson that I just had to take on in my career. But she also makes mistakes and she does things that aren't healthy, and she's been vulnerable with us to tell us that when she did the culturally ground breaking Coachella performance that redefined Coachella, which was Homecoming, and I think that was 2018, she one gave insight into historically black college university culture.
So she showed people a side of black culture that many don't see. And in doing so, she also did documentary about Homecoming, where she went behind the scenes and she talked about how her original Coachella performance was delayed with the birth of her twin and how when she reshared all that, she didn't let anyone down. But she was a new moms, her second and third children.
Right. And like all of us have been through that you have that baby weight. And she talks about how she basically ate air while she was practicing for Coachella and she gave one of the best performances I've ever seen and to know what it took to get in shape and to be focused for that, it wasn't right. But she admitted it and she was like, I shouldn't have done that.
I'll never do that again. When you think about her target audience being from my four year old who's obsessed with Beyoncé, my seven year old as well, to women who are 105, that's just something that needed to be said. She was honest about what it took to get the job done, but she also admitted it wasn't healthy. I actually needed to hear that.
Billy: There is a presence about Beyoncé too, that is just widely respected throughout many genres, you know? So my favorite band is Pearl Jam and years ago she'd had a performance with Eddie Vedder and people raved about that. I remember seeing a clip where they're interviewing Chance the rapper and Beyonce comes up to him and says hello, and he was just done with the interview because it left such an impression on him.
And I think that's such a magical thing where you have a presence about you. Yeah. That just walking up to somebody and saying hello can change their life.
Jennifer: You have to take into consideration that that is something that I recently actually tweeted, which was message leave people feeling good about you when you walk away. And I think even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and their recent documentary that they did, they I think Meghan got a text. I'm not using the proper titles. My mother would hate me because we are actually British.
My family's from Bermuda, so. So she would hate me for not using proper titles. Duchess of Sussex. But she's a text from Beyonce in the midst of all of the media firestorm that she was in. And she was like, Oh, my God, Beyonce, they just text me. And Prince Harry is like, oh, my God, Beyonce. And it's like they are royalty.
And so they're like, but Beyonce is truly global royalty. And I think what you just defined is something that I also I may not be Beyonce scale, right? But I do want people when I engage with them, when I walk away to be like, oh, wow, that at least brought a smile to my face, a sparkle to my day.
Billy: Well, I mean, that's 100% why you're here on the show, because that was the impact that you had on me in that interview and why I left. And we'll make sure to link that into the show notes, too, so people can hear that interview as well. You're also looking forward to being a wife and a mother. So why are you looking forward to being a wife and a mother in the second half of life?
I mean, this is very self-explanatory, but what does that mean to you?
Jennifer: You know, it's funny. I'm 38 years old and I have a seven and a four year old. And even just today, I got a note from Amazon that was like your daughter tried to make a purchase in the store today. And we're letting you know, like sharpen those settings. I am raising the next generation of fierceness and I don't know this is a good thing or what.
So I honestly just want to see what happens. I grew up southern West Indian, so Caribbean food and very strict religious household, but my family was super fun. We had a lot of fun, very open family, but very disciplined. And so when I had my children, I had a different parenting philosophy than my own parents and my grandmothers who helped raise me and are very impactful in my life to this day.
My grandmother was like, Jennifer, you're not raising this child with enough discipline, so forth and so on. I'm like, Gran, what is it that I'm not doing? Or What are they doing? That's not right. She really didn't have a good answer for this. And so I said, Listen, listen, give me 15 years and in 15 years, if they're like just the worst of the worst, I will tell you that you were absolutely right and I was wrong.
But if they're not in 15 years, I won't even ask for the credit for what I did. I just want you to see how wonderful they turned out and what I did differently and how honestly you set the foundation. My grandmothers broke the generational curses in their families. They did things to ensure that my mother and my father would have a different life.
And that trickled down. And so I shared that even though I'm doing something slightly different, they set the foundation. They made it so that I could be here today raising my girls the way that I am. So it's not a bad thing. It's just an evolution. So I'm really excited to see what these two children do because they are unbelievable.
Billy: There's a lot to unpack. EJ In that answer right there, and we're going to do that in the next segment. But before we move on to that, you are also looking forward to being a wife and you are actually not only is your husband, your partner in life, but he's also your partner in work as well. So talk about how is that fun?
How is that complicating?
Jennifer: You know, I would say it's a lot of fun now because in the early stages, I can be honest in that I was not confident in my own skills. Like when you're going out on your own, they always say, like, have the confidence. I hope I can say this of an executive white man, right. They're going to walk in and they're going to do the job whether they're qualified or not, they have that confidence within them.
And for a lot of reasons, it's much more difficult for diverse people to think that way, for black women to act that way. But my husband has been an entrepreneur for the majority of his legal career, and he had to figure it out early. And when he did that, I was jumpstarting my corporate career. So I was able to be the strength and stability from a career standpoint that he needed to grow his legal business and his firm is now flourishing.
I would say that for me, though, making the jump from corporate to in very rigorous corporate fortune 100 corporate to public sector, which was a complete rewrite to now I'm going to do this on my own. I was shaken to my core in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of social unrest, and he had to carry me in those early, early days.
And he still does. But I also do not know how to turn over the reins. So it was a bit of a tug of war of my husband giving me career advice, which was a huge shift to, you know, if he would say something even slightly that just was like, Jennifer, you should do this. Like, what do you mean, should you not to me, like, it was just a suggestion.
And I'm like, What are you suggesting? Was my suggestion wrong? But there were nights where I'll never forget we were working on our first client like a big deliverable, like our final report out of all of the information we collected. And I was terrified. Like, what format should it be in? I'm looking through Canva. I'm Googling like, examples of reports.
Mind you, I've seen reports, I've seen consultant outputs numerous times. I just went to bed. I was terrified. I went to bed and when I woke up he had done it and he was like, Jennifer, I've never done this before either. And he's like, I've never been in your position where you seen consultants present to you, but I needed it to get done so that you could see that it was possible.
And that is actually now how we operate. And he's embraced that more meaning. Okay, Jennifer's going to freak out. Let me go ahead and give proof of concept. He gives the proof of concept. I now have a jumping off point. I take it to the end zone or to the end of the race, and that's now how we work.
We had to understand that about ourselves. He is chief procrastinator, get it done in the 11th hour and that works for him. I've packed my luggage for our trip three months ago. Right. So I'm a planner. He's a procrastinator Now that we know that both gifts us to success, we just let each other do what we do.
Billy: It sounds like you figured out the magic source not only for being a business partner, but being life partners as well. So we're going to do this. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk to Jennifer about what this means to be your own chief brand officer. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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My hope is that these conversations resonate with others and inspire people to live their best lives. Thanks again. And now back to the show. Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm here today talking to Jennifer Walton about authenticity, about being your own chief brand officer. It's kind of the theme that we have going this month. If you like what you're hearing, you can go check her out on Instagram @jgrunsthecity all one word, or you can connect with her on LinkedIn at Jennifer Walton, MBA.
So Jennifer, I had the pleasure of chatting with you a few months ago and you shared with me a funny story about having an opportunity to do a TED Talk or a TED Talk, which sounds right up your alley, but you declined to do it. And it's kind of a funny reason. I'd love for you to share with the listeners why you chose to decline this.
Jennifer: I have put out in the universe that I want to do more speaking engagements that I would love to do a TED Talk, a TED talk. And honestly, funny thing is that I never know how these things come about, right? So are you invited to apply? How does it work? A lot of folks sent me a TED talk and they were like, You need to do this.
I can't wait to see you on the stage. Like, I'd love to hear you speak. I was so excited. I go and I'm like, Let me pull this up. And I didn't also realize that many of these have topics, right? So I see it and it's like the topic is failure as feedback. And I'm like, okay, what am I going to say?
And I'm thinking like, what's the pitch like? And I'm like, I actually don't have any examples of failure. And let me tell you, this has come up quite a bit. Actually, my therapist, I was talking actually to a friend of mine about just this intense fear of failure. This was yesterday. And she goes, Well, so tell me like, why are you so afraid of this?
You're like, Have you ever like, what have you? I don't know. I'm afraid of it because I've never actually experienced it. And I'm like, you know, it's one thing to go like, oh, I went up for a promotion. I didn't get it because that's like, whatever. But pretty much a lot of the things that I put my mind to and I sink my teeth into like, I can do it.
I'll give you a quick example. I joined Orange Theory like a lot of folks, and they started popping up in their neighborhoods. I had no idea what it was, but I'm super, super duper easy to market to. I will eat the McRib if the commercial looks okay. And so I see all this cool stuff about orange theory on social media.
I go to one and they sold me just like that. Now, mind you, I had never run so much as like a lab in like 15 years. I don't believe in running for pleasure because, like, if nothing's chasing you, what's the rush? Right? I join Orange theory. I'm thinking I can't get on that treadmill. I'll do this, I'll do that.
But within a few weeks, I was preparing for my first dry triathlon at Orange Theory, which is you wrote 2000 meters. You do this intense floor like weight floor routine and then you run a5k. And I did it in like less than 45 minutes. Each of these benchmarks, if you ask me if I was athletic, I would tell you that the only shape I'm in is round.
And I'd say that my benchmark for the mile was like a sub 730 and for a 30 something year old woman. Like it was honestly not like that was pretty good. My husband's like, Jennifer, you start a business in nine months, you are way past six figures. He's like, you say, you want to garden for fun. Now you have a 50 foot garden in the backyard and you're growing a lot of things.
So a lot of the things that I see like, Oh, I'd like to try that when I invest my time and just my skill sets in to them. I'm actually successful at this. So uncomfortable to say that.
Billy: It sounds to me like you've been able to reframe what most people would call failures, like maybe not getting a promotion or something like that into just, well, this is just part of the step of my success rate here. So how do you then balance sharing those successes without it sounding like bragging.
Jennifer: Oh my God, Right. Because, yeah, people.
Billy: Aren't good about that. People aren't good about celebrating their successes. You very much are. But then how do you connect with people who aren't in that same zone as you?
Jennifer: I think it's the authenticity piece of first and foremost, I'm just someone who's genuinely just happy to be here right? I'm happy to be wherever I am. Any room that I walk into, I honor that room and I honor the people that are in that room, the people who allowed me to step in that room, the people who came before me.
And so I would say that none of my successes are solely done by myself. And so as a part of whatever I share, I always pay homage to the people who helped me get there, the shoulders I stand on and just what it actually takes. So I like to take people behind the scenes, right? If I didn't get a promotion, I'm pretty self-aware.
Oh, I wasn't even ready for that promotion. Or there were things that I didn't say in that interview or in that discussion with that senior leader that maybe would have put me in a position to receive it. Also, I strongly believe in what's for me is mine. And so if there are things that I wanted that I didn't get and it wasn't for me, and so I'm okay with that.
And I have learned to internalize that in a way in which anything that hasn't come my way, it just never was. When I do have successes, I'm very intentional about sharing them in a way that also celebrates and uplifts the community and the village around me. And I'm also authentic in sharing how I've been intentional about building a very strong village and a very strong community all throughout life, whether that's motherhood, whether that's been in marriage or even in my career.
Billy: Do you find that people are intimidated by this level of confidence? Do you find that people are intimidated by this level of self-awareness that you have?
Jennifer: This is wild because, yes, I have actually had someone say to me when I first met you, I was very intimidated by you and I'm like, me. I am just so goofy in general. And but at the same time, I find that I do have a bit of a corporate ness to me. I went to business school. I came up through the Fortune 100 corporate ranks, and because of that, you learn very much how to speak to different people and how to kind of fit yourself into a box.
So what I've come to realize that there are times I do turn on corporate Jennifer, and I'm aware of that and I try to back off, but it's not a corporate situation. But by that same token, I understand that there are a lot of people who find the things that I say and that I share very compelling. And so they do look up to me and they do see me as someone who has a level of expertise.
And I very much walked away from that, shied away from that. But I'm a learning to embrace that more. And I'm and I'm learning not to downplay myself, which is why early when you introduced me, I said I receive that because maybe a few months ago I was like, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You're saying too much.
You're setting me up, you're setting the expectations too high. And I guess lecture at the Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business. And whenever I step into the classroom, the professor introduces me, tells me she is one of the best speakers I have year over year over year. And I always start the conversation with, Let me bring your expectations way down.
This is going to be boring and trash. I'm sorry and it never is right. But I just always feel so uncomfortable with the expectation being set that high and won't let anyone down.
Billy: So then what was the shift to where you're actually like, You know what? I'm going to receive this because what it comes down to, what I am kind of awesome.
Jennifer: I'll be honest with you. I think there is a certain level of responsibility sometimes that comes with some of the things that I do and some of the exposure that I have and I had to realize that because there were a couple situations here locally where someone said, you know, there was an expectation that you would have said X, Y, and Z when that thing happened.
And I thought, why? Why me? And while I did have strong opinions on that situation, why was there an expectation that I would have spoken out on it? And they said, because you're someone that people look up to and you're someone that people would listen to, and that has only grown even since that conversation was had. I was recently quoted in Essence magazine, which was a dream of mine.
And one of the things that they introduced, the quote was one expert said, and I thought, who is this going to be? And it was me. And so I, I have learned that there's a responsibility that comes with the level of exposure that I have, the level of confidence that I project that puts me in certain routes. And while I've always been a lift, while I climb type of person and while I've always spoken other people's name whenever I can, I had to realize that if I didn't get my act together and actually embrace who I am and who those around me, seniors and I was going to miss some really important moments is now
I know when to use my voice or when to use my network.
Billy: You know, I read the book, The Person you mean to be. And one thing that I found very interesting was this idea of birds flying into headwind. And when they're migrating or whatever, that the lead bird only leads for so long and then falls back to the end of the line so that somebody else can lead, because that lead bird can only do it for so long because you can you can only handle so much.
It's kind of that idea of you need to learn to be a follower before you can be a leader. Right. And and it sounds like you've you've mastered that. So then on the flip side, how do you manage your expectations of others so that you don't get frustrated when they're not operating on the same level as they are so that you don't steamroll them?
Jennifer: Oh, my gosh. So a couple things there, because I honestly think over time I've gone a little bit too far in giving others grace where I wouldn't give myself that same grace. Right. So I know what I'm going through when I'm sure that I'm not a special snowflake who's the only person that has issues. But I know that everyone does.
And so when people fall short of the glory, as I call it, I've always extended grace. But like I mentioned before, I can be quite corporate and I can be really rigorous. And usually that my husband's the one that's like Jennifer, it's just the kid's birthday party. Like relax. But I think on the same time I just try to meet people where they are.
That's just a really big thing for me, which is recognizing that my approach to things, my intensity may not always be what other people need to be motivated. Right. And you mentioned that sometimes the leader has to follow. I just I strongly believe in servant leadership in the sense that I'm always when you do those personality assessment, I'm yellow or influence or collaborative or whatever the case may be.
And it's not that I'm indecisive, it's just that I value input from the group and I can make a decision and I can lead, but I want to do so collaboratively. And so I have had to adjust my approach numerous times. And now as a consultant, I'm working with different industries, different sectors, different types of leaders. I am learning how valuable that skillset is in just taking a backseat at times, and I've had to learn how to just sit still and listen as opposed to just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.
Let my husband tell it. That's the best thing I know how to do.
Billy: Well, when you're performing at such a high level too. I know that burnout happens, right, Because you're just go, go, go. And I'm going to be talking to Dr. Myriam Zilber great about burnout in an upcoming episode later on it. That's kind of the cost of high performance, right? And now that you recognize the symptoms of burnout, because that's a lot what you were talking about in that interview with Brian Carr in the Why I Left episode.
How do you continue to crush it professionally while also keeping one good eye on your all around wellbeing?
Jennifer: You know, what's interesting is that I would say prior to 2020, I don't think I ever really understood burnout. I think you heard it and just it was something that you it was a foreign concept to me. And I would say that it probably wasn't until last year that I honestly embraced the fact that I was absolutely burnt out.
I took a lot of the things that was going on around me and how it was making me feel as like a failing on my part. But no, I was actually burnt out period, but I didn't quite work myself out of that until the end of the year. Right? So I just kind of put I knew what it was.
I knew what I had done to get here, but I wasn't solving for it. And so towards the end of 2020, to my family and I, we decided to take a two week vacation. And that's when I start to feel it as to, Wow, Jennifer, you are holding so much stress, anxiety and just tension in your body and in your mind.
So we took two weeks that I would say could have made it worse. We did two weeks in Florida, which included a trip to Disney. We also road trip in a Tesla. And let me tell you all now, don't ever do that. Just don't do not. Oh.
Billy: Why not? Why now? Why? Why didn't that work out?
Jennifer: Oh, I mean, easy way to put it is the infrastructure isn't there to support that. But if you're already going on a on a road trip with two young children and then you're in a car that is basically a robot that has to be charged all the time. I mean, you're just asking for things to go wrong. And what could have been a extended every trip by like 3 hours just charging.
And then it takes you places that should you break down, you might not want to be. And I told my husband at one point, we're going to be licking Duracell batteries to jump start this thing if it does, in fact lose its charge. So like I said, it could have made the burnout worse. But what I what I will tell you is that all of that felt like character development as a family.
We took time to really be focused on one another. And I learned a lot about my kids in that trip and how they handle stress or how they handle these kinds of moments. But the best thing I did was I closed my laptop, I silence notifications for email for my business, and I let people know in advance I am out of pocket.
Do not call me. Don't even think about me. I will talk to you in the New Year. All those things that I was pushing off to 2023. Right. I think the key for me, addressing burnout is setting boundaries. I'm putting on my big girl pants and I'm being honest about what I really need to be successful. And so, you know, when I first started out coming out of business school, huge, lofty ambitions, goals, and I realized that those were slowly going to kill me.
So, Jennifer, what is it that actually makes me happy? What is it that I'm actually trying to do with this life? And I had to ask myself that question. And in doing that reflection, I thought, I just need enough to make sure that I can do the things that I want to do with my family freely. If I prioritize them, then no, I don't have to be some millionaire gazillionaire who's working 400 hours a week to make it happen.
Then I can set boundaries. I can choose the right clients. I can navigate my career more intentionally. Now.
Billy: When your career involves being a chief brand officer, So what we're going to do is this. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk to Jennifer about how you can be your own chief brand officer. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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You can also click on the show notes for links to the articles and resources we referenced throughout the show. If you want to check out my worldly adventures, follow me on Instagram @mindful_midlife_crisis. My hope is that my trials, tribulations, and successes will inspire you to take intentional action to live a more purpose-filled life.
And while you're at it, remember to show yourself some love every now and then, too. Thanks again. And now back to the show. Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm here talking to Jennifer Walton about how to be your own chief brand officer. We're running on this theme of authenticity. If you like what you're hearing, you can go and check out Jennifer on Instagram at JGR runs the city, or you can follow her on LinkedIn at Jennifer Walton, MBA.
We're going to come back to that social media stuff here in just a little bit. But before we do that to you, what does mean to be your own chief brand officer? We're not talking about going into the field of being a chief brand officer. We're not talking about the field of. We're talking about how to market yourself.
Billy: And you kind of alluded to that a little bit where you talked about owning your successes and owning the positive that people will share with you. So tell us more about how we can be our own chief brand officer.
Jennifer: Absolutely. Know what? I come up with this title. It was just something that I thought sounded cool that I launched my business like, Oh yeah, Chief Brand. Officer Right. Because I don't have a formal CEO, but I'm an owner. But the reality is, when I say Chief Brand officer, what I'm saying is that I'm in control of the story.
I'm the author. And so for me, this serves me particularly well. I have a very successful business I've never marketed. I just market myself. I am the brand. And so when I think about this new world of hyper-individualism and people as products, you have to kind of understand how to position that and that service, that product is you.
You don't have to be like a full-out influencer or even a content creator because I don't do brand deals, although I am open. But you know.
Billy: You and me both, right?
Jennifer: That's not, in particular, my like, I'm not curating content. I am just who I am. And so what I learned in corporate America was that people to work with, people they like. And so part of building that brand is really understanding like what your personal pyramid is. Whenever talk about branding as an individual, I always say like, what is your personal brand pyramid look like?
And at the base of the pyramid, it's usually the foundation the strongest, right? So that's like what you absolutely want people to know about you and they engage with you. And as you build up the pyramid, you put all those other elements in, let's call it decreasing priority. So at the bottom of my personal brand pyramid, I really had that.
I was this like powerhouse businesswoman that get stuff done, like I want to be known as like corporate America. Like right at the very top of my brand pyramid, I was like, I'm fab, fit, fun and fierce, right? Which is to say that that's important to me. That's why it's on the pyramid. But I'm not going to walk into every meeting unserious.
I'm not going to walk into every meeting with like, you know, some weights and all this in Lululemon. But it is important to me that I do show up authentically, fab, fit, fun and fierce. One thing I will say that my time in corporate America was was marked by my shoe collection. And so in every company I worked with, I would always have a huge shoe collection at my desk.
And of course, when I was more junior in my career was at a cubicle so everyone would see all my shoes and it was like a thing, right? And some people would be like, Hey, can I borrow those black pants today? I'm like, Yes, of course they have utility, but it became a thing. So like when I left one of my biggest corporate experiences after eight years, I had 17 pairs of shoes and I gave half of them to the janitorial staff I still picture.
I left one pair just as like a You'll have to always remember me buy these shoes. Right? And while that was nothing about my business acumen and it still nothing about my corporate persona, it was a part of me. When I walked the halls, people saw me coming and I liked having that air about me. So that's kind of how I would combine some of that into my personal brand here mean.
So I always encourage people write down your personal brand pyramid, however many levels you want, make sure that it's inclusive of all of you and then share it with someone as a gut check of authenticity to say like, Am I living into this personal brand pyramid? Because this is what I said. I want it to be seen as when you engage with me, you walk away from me.
It's that what you got? It's not I'm not living authentically. And that's actually had been a large part of my career around my hair. You know, there as a black woman having hair that is natural and even dreadlocks, I mean, mine are dyed bright red. And at one point they were blond, but that was in my corporate headshot and that was showing up authentically.
And I had put in a lot of work to prove that I could actually do the work. But I wanted people to see me as I actually exist in this world.
Billy: Okay? I have to process all that. So because I had a follow up question, but then I just had to process that last piece there. That's what white privilege looks like as it just what is washes over you. That's what that is. So yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what it just hits you right there. You're like, I never had to think about that before.
Jennifer: To another quick point there, though, because I had reached a point in my career where I would walk into a new team and I would be like, I'm Jennifer Walden's. This is all the great things about me. And I would say my hair is going to change. Often I suggest you get used to looking at my face. I can't tell you the number of times that my hair would change and people walk right past me.
Billy: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's very interesting. That's. I'm just going to sit with that. And when I go to breakfast later today, I'm going to reflect on that right there. Yeah. You know, you talked about how authentic Beyoncé is in sharing her story on social media and in a recent LinkedIn post, you talked about how one of your goals was to share more on social media and that you didn't really achieve that goal in the way that you wanted to, right?
So this might be your TEDx talk right there.
Jennifer: I failed.
Billy: In failure, but but talk about you kind of had an interesting take on that because you said, you know what, that's fine. Even though I didn't hit this a goal, that's fine too, because I did hit these other things. So talk about what that messaging around that post was.
Jennifer: You know, we just mentioned the idea of failure. And I realize this is the arbitrary goal I set for myself. Like it really was just something that I thought I had to do to do the things I was check the box. Right? So you don't want your own business. You got to build this brand, got post on LinkedIn, you got to be like these folks that do these threads.
And there's clearly a formula, right? A step aligned base draw. I get it. But that really does require curation that requires a high, high level of intention. And my time being intentional is spent elsewhere. I like to put that level of rigor and that level of planning into the actual work that I do for my clients or into being a present mother and a present wife.
And so adding on the additional job of LinkedIn content creator just fell by the wayside. And then I realized that the initial process that I was going to go through to curate content was really focused around the deliverables of my business. And when I would post that information and post that kind of content, I would get very low engagement.
I would just talk about like, look, I came home today and this happened, or I went to the bank and I got my first account set up. When I talked about the behind the scenes, like my True Just Day in the Life, people tapped in even that in essence had nothing to do with my actual business. It had to do with my experience in corporate and how I talk about that.
And so maybe there's some opportunity in the future for me to focus part of my business coaching on that. But ultimately that's just me talking, being authentic, and that essence quote really was based on me ranting on LinkedIn. And so it's like I had this arbitrary goal with this predefined expectations and activities to go along with it. And in the end, I didn't do any of that stuff and I still was successful.
That's I'm telling you, I could even fail. And I wanted to.
Billy: I think when you talk about particularly LinkedIn posts, right, there's sort of that people get annoyed when you share too much personal stuff on LinkedIn and they feel like it should be a professional. But I do feel and that's why I've wrestled with this idea of should I drop the ten rolls at the beginning of the show? Because people are like, Well, then it makes the episode too long, right?
You could cut off 1015 minutes if you took off the ten rolls. But the thing is, almost every guest says, I love this question. And when I ask listeners, Do you like what I do, the ten rolls, they're like, Yeah, we like that. We like getting to know the person beyond the expert, because otherwise it just sounds salesy or they want to know who the human being is behind the expert.
And so I've kept that in there and I've wrestled with it a little bit because I do want to humanize the guests. I want them to be relatable because my guess is that if you're listening to a guest in those ten roles and you're like, Well, I don't know if I'm going to listen to this episode because this topic really doesn't pertain to me.
Like maybe there are people out there who are like, What the hell is a chief brand officer out of that? Yeah, but they listen to those ten roles and they're like, Oh, okay. As our friend Matt Hazzard says, I like the cut of this person's jib it right here. Yes. You want to tune in that. You want to listen to that person more.
Your current endeavor right now is Sky now Consulting, and it's one you've taking on with your husband. And we've talked a little bit about, you know, how you to navigate that. How do your brands and your personalities mesh? How do they clash and how do those two things create synergy within your consulting firm?
Jennifer: I'll talk to a little bit about how our personalities kind of fit into one another. He's a procrastinator. The planner. Well, one thing that I do think is interesting is that our brands are very different. My husband is a prolific civil rights attorney. He teaches civil rights law. He's been an adjunct professor at a law school teaching that he's a plaintiff's attorney, so he helps people get justice.
Rice is the criminal defense attorney. He is seen as just this powerhouse, serious advocate and champion for justice. And I think people look at him and they're just like in all of how he can manage it on me, too, at that. But that is his brand is like very much an attorney doing work that honestly many of us would not want to come near.
Right. And the flip side, like I am corporate, but I'm also someone who is the sharer. You know, my house is also very private and so I'm the one that's much more loud, much more of a share. And then I think just by the nature of how we both grew up, I'm deeply southern. He's like, there's a lot of differences about us.
But when you bring that together, we were able to tell the same story. We are community minded, you're justice minded. We are interested in helping organizations build their brands and build their cultures through policy, through product development. And we were able to come at that with such wildly different experiences. And there are times where I come in and some people think that marketing and branding is the fluffy stuff, right?
And even though it's not, I will tell you, first and foremost, it is truly not. It's a valuable asset to acquiring and retaining customers into your organization. But my husband is the person that comes in talking policy and he comes in talking ways to mitigate issues and get ahead of them to protect your brand or protect your organization.
And so we take these wildly different kind of approaches and functions and we bring it all together to be this singular package. And, you know, I'll be honest, like whenever we go to present to clients together, he's like, You're the talker. You got this, and he's the one that answers the questions because my brain is going a mile a minute to get this information out for you.
He's reading the jury. He's looking at the clients going, okay, they engaged with that. They were confused by that. This is where he comes in and answers the question and he clarifies he's able to do so in a calm demeanor while I take a sip of my coffee. And I'm like, yes, yes, yes, you know, it's a true balance, honestly.
And people feel that in working with us, I have this super high energy. He has the calm presence that lets them know that you're gonna get a lot with us, but you won't be overwhelmed.
Billy: Speak to how that then translates to how people can create a network around them that then synergize is is. I mean, use that word again that synergize is success for the group right? Because I feel like it's really important for people to find their tribe. So.
Jennifer: Oh yeah.
Billy: And you talked about you go to therapy. I go to therapy better help. There's a link in the show notes. Go check it out for a free week. Sure. But I made sure I read through all of those therapists biography is because I wanted to find the person that I would connect with the most, right? Yes. And I think that's really important beyond just finding a life partner just to find people who challenge you in some way, but also support you in a way where you both flourish, that it's not parasitic in some way, but that you both flourish.
So can you talk about that? Because especially in corporate America, and not that we're stressing corporate America or anything like that, but in corporate America or just anywhere in life, I feel like synergy is really important and it's not really talked about it and it's underrated.
Jennifer: Oh my gosh. It begins with being values aligned, right? So he and I are pretty strong on our values and the things that we focus on and what we care a lot about. What is interesting is our village is super diverse in that we have brought folks along with us from the varying parts of our lives. For me, coming to Ohio, not being from here, I built my village from the ground up.
I started with my sorority. Listen, I'm a person that can walk into a room and talk to drawing paint, right? So I get that about myself. It's easy for me to put myself out there because vulnerability in that regard, it doesn't harm me in that way. But we have friends that represent various corners of our lives in our careers and so it's funny when you see us in community with our friends, there are people that might be at the table with us that only got there last year.
Our friends don't oftentimes know each other, and so in a large group it may look like, look at these people, like all coming together. But what we're doing is bringing them together. I know from my corporate experience, I know you from my time in the public sector, I met you at Orangetheory when we were sweaty and ugly. I met you at this spiritual retreat that I went to or I met you because.
I went to therapy for a support group for moms when I had my first baby. And you stuck with me. And I always tell people, like, you're stuck with me, and I'm so sorry, Billy, but you two are stuck with me.
Billy: And should be happier.
Jennifer: I have that way that we approach it. It's something that I call the five. It started in my corporate job where I had five people that acted as my personal board of directors. These are my safe people. Coach, mentor, truth teller, just somebody that will hold my hand, right? Sponsor That was at my company. I had five more than that were outside of my company that were also in my function, and I had five more that were outside of my function, outside of my company that I was intentional about connecting with, that if I ever got laid off between these 15 people, somebody has got to hire me, right?
So I call that the five, and then I make an intentional effort to contact them, touch base with them five times a year. Could be a LinkedIn, like a LinkedIn comment, a text. Hey, I saw this article about some maybe think about you very small things. Doesn't have to be coffee, although I like doing that or lunch. I just like to connect with my size.
Right. That has grown to over 100 people that when I left to start my business, I sat down to send an email, let people know that I'm quitting my job, I'm starting a business. I just want you all to know I typed out my five, five and five over 100 people and my husband has the same impact on the world as I.
And so even though he hasn't been as intentional about it that way, he's picked up all these folks. He's an NFL agent, he's a lawyer, he's doing all these things. He's picked up a lot of people and we bring them to the table. And so if you don't know this person now, you do. That's just how we built community.
And I get that even as adults, that's much more difficult to do. I'm never in a space where I can't make a friend.
It sounds so intentional, but it also sounds so genuine and it kind of relates to how the two of you have labeled your roles within Sky Nile, because you talked a little bit about this like you created the term Chief brand officer and his role is Chief Culture Officer Yeah, and it just sounds so intentional that you're building culture.
Billy: Yes. Within a brand. And you're also building brand within a culture.
Jennifer: Absolutely. And when we talk to clients about that, it is understanding that how your culture goes, so goes the organization. And companies learned that in the great resignation and all the things that were happening because there were burning buildings that people were running out of. But what I would tell companies was they're not just running out to the street.
Not everybody's running out to the streets like I did. Right. They're running to other organizations. Sometimes a difference maker is your culture and your culture can be defined by policy. We've taken what feels fluffy, what feels lofty, and we actually apply it to a framework that helps organizations be their best selves or best entities.
Billy: Well, I'm going to get you out of here on this. So the last line in your bio on your business website says Coming together with her husband and life partner to create Sky Nail consulting, Jennifer works to leave a legacy of action, change and creating a world where their daughters, Sabella Nile and Scarlet knees will never feel othered.
I just think that's beautiful. When I read it, I was like, Whoa! It just left an impression on me. And when I think about your brand and I think about what it is you truly stand for, I just love this idea of you and your husband branding what your children's could look like. And I think that's why it's so poignant that you chose Chief Brand Officer and chief culture officer, too.
If we just took another look at what it is we truly stand for, just what impact that could have not only on the world, but just ourselves too, when it comes to living authentically, which I think in all honesty is really hard. I think it's really hard to live your message. I think it's really hard to live authentically.
But the two of you are doing such an amazing job of it and you can see the motivation in you're doing it for your daughters. I just think it's really beautiful.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for that. My husband and I, we are also launching a coworking space in our city and I mentioned being a random entrepreneur like this is something that just right, but it's a love letter of sorts to our community of color in the city. We were very meticulous about what the vibe would be like, how it would feel like when you enter the space from the color of the walls, what's on the walls to just everything about it.
Originally our idea was a coffee lounge, but that's involved. So like a membership based safe space. But as we were working to, like renovate the space and turn it over into what it is now, which is almost ready, we want our children along for the ride. They would be there like while we were knocking down walls, all sorts of stuff.
We have great pictures of them standing in the space before it was what it is now and it just makes me so happy to know that they are living the life that we truly want to for them. I mentioned to you my my thing that I said to my grandmother, like you laid the foundation for the continuation of that.
And so with some of the things that we've created in our jobs, even I work from home. Even then, seeing this and seeing what's behind me, they leave me notes all the time, but they get to live this amazing, exposure driven life where they get to hang out with civic and community leaders. Their dad is an amazing civil rights attorney and they trust me.
They take that stuff to school. They march for civil rights at school all the time. I'm a business leader in their house. In our house like that, the feeling of love is just everywhere. And we love on each other. Hard and it's a priority for us. And so even when we're busy and we're stressed, we find a way to find joy and love.
And if I could say anything about what authenticity means to me, it is that that is my happy place. And when this wife is said and done, that's all I've ever needed and I'm so happy that I have it.
Billy: Well, I'm happy to have had you on the show here today, Jennifer. So thank you so much for spending time with us today. Ladies and gentlemen, I told you she's a powerhouse is Jennifer Walton. Thank you so much for being here today.
Jennifer: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Billy: Hey, if you enjoyed this week's episode, be sure to look in the show notes for all of Jennifer's contact information. Don't forget to subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. If you're an Apple listener, you can do that by clicking the sign in the upper right-hand corner. Also, please do me a favor and leave a five-star review with a few kind words.
Or if you're a Spotify listener. Click those five stars under the show heart after you click the follow button. If you'd like to share your thoughts on this week's episode, you can find all of my contact information in the show notes as well. Feel free to email me your takeaways from this conversation to MindfulMidlifeCrisis@gmail.com.
You can also follow me and DME on Instagram at @mindful_midlife_crisis. You can find me on LinkedIn at Billy Lahr. That's L A H R. Or you can send a message to the contact page at www.mindfulmidlifecrisis.com. While you're there, feel free to join our mindful midlife community for free resources that will help you live your life with more curiosity, openness, compassion, and awareness.
If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of mindfulness, I invite you to join our mindful meditation community, where I'll be leading virtual guided mindful meditations every Monday evening at 8 p.m... Central Standard Time and every Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. Korean Standard Time. For more information, click on the link in the show notes. Finally, I know Jennifer and I would greatly appreciate it if you would share this episode with the people in your life who may benefit from Jennifer's expertise and life experiences. Remember, the purpose of this show is to help you navigate the complexities of possibilities of life's second half. And I hope this conversation provides some insight that will help you reflect, learn and grow so you can live a more purpose-filled life. So for Jennifer, this is Billy.
Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved.
Take care, friends.