Turning 40 and Embracing an Unconventional True Self

Kari Ginsburg used her response to formative experiences in her 20s and 30s to move closer to her true self. Those formative experiences include an emotionally unstable marriage and surviving a brain tumor, not, “I had to work hard for a bad boss,” but she did that, too. With every step she took closer to her true self, life got easier. Today, she runs her own executive coaching practice where she ministers to her audience of “glitter bombs.” She also has some pretty specific goals she wants to accomplish in her forties that include paying down debt, growing her business and not being an a-hole. 

Guest Bio

Kari nerds out about supporting people through personal or organizational transformation. She is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation and One of the first 500 recipients of the globally-recognized Certified Change Management Professional accreditation. As the HBIC (that’s Head Badass In Charge) of Uproar Coaching, LLC, Kari supports women and femme leaders who want to spread out, get loud, and be boss bitches. In her free time, Kari enjoys anything true crime, snuggling with her rescue dogs, and she is losing the battle against the weeds in her garden.

Finding Herself in Her 20s

Kari Ginsburg graduated college a year early, returned home and took a teaching job, though she had no formal teaching education and a theater degree. She thought a lot about what it meant to be a grownup while still living at home and having no friends. She knew she wanted to do theater professionally and she didn’t want to wait tables.

She was in a long-distance relationship with someone who was still in college and, truth be told, it wasn’t the healthiest relationship. She allowed herself to be made small and shifted into someone she wasn’t. She ended up marrying this person when they graduated college and that turned into an emotionally unstable and unhealthy relationship.

She moved into a job that she was very good at but didn’t love and was feeling unfulfilled in almost every aspect of her life. She felt both stifled and lonely. As an introvert, she doesn’t mind being alone, but points out there’s a difference between choosing solitude and being in despair.

As someone who was raised to be strong and independent, Kari didn’t feel comfortable “bothering” anyone with her emotional concerns. She was left to figure things out for herself and it took a long time for her to realize that she deserved better than she was getting in her relationship. Once she made that decision, though, her whole life changed and her career surged. She did do some wrestling with the concept of being a divorcee at the same time she was getting engagement announcements from many of her friends and peers.

A few years later Kari ‘traded up’ and married someone with whom she can be her “weird, strange, loud nerd” self and still be loved and supported. She finally gets to be and to do all of those things that she finds interesting that she’s curious about, and is fully supported.

“Best Case” Brain Tumor

When she was 30, Kari started having some bizarre physical symptoms. The right side of her face felt numb and a little tingly. She thought it was related to an emergency double root canal she had recently. She went to the dentist who said it wasn’t related, but maybe she should see her PCP about Shingles. The PCP said it wasn’t shingles and sent her to a neurologist, who found a brain tumor nestled behind her right ear.

She calls her diagnosis the best case of bad luck because the tumor was completely benign, albeit huge. When she had the tumor removed she lost hearing in her right ear and the right side of her face was paralyzed for eight weeks. She worked with an occupational therapist to regain mobility in her face, and only shows evidence of her ordeal when she’s tired.

In her eight weeks of recovery, Kari had a lot of time to focus on herself and think about how her life was going. She realized that, while she was really good at her job, she wasn’t being her true self there. She felt like there was a ‘business Kari’ and a ‘home Kari’ and they were not the same person. She says the armor she put on every day to go to work was counter to her honest and true self. There’s one thing for having a business presence – for example, not swearing at work as much as you do with your friends and family – but having an entirely different persona felt “off.” And Kari felt like people could tell and that she was keeping a distance from the people she interacted with at work.

When she returned to work, Kari said she was living a “honey badger life.” She started dressing more like what she felt in her heart. She cut her hair short. She started experimenting with a darker lip. She says that looking outside how she felt inside gave her permission to start behaving differently.

“Even though I had left a relationship that was emotionally stifling, I was still allowing myself in the professional setting to be made small. To be made quiet, to think that maybe my ideas weren’t as important as all of the other people around the conference table.”

Hard Work Doesn’t Have to Hurt

Kari says that while you can work hard, it shouldn’t always feel impossible and oppressive. The moment she started taking these steps for herself and toward her true self, things got easier. Her ambition soared and her career trajectory went higher and higher because she wasn’t allowing herself to be held back.

After several years, Kari left her job at a federal agency and moved into consulting for a Fortune 500 company. While she had always worked in support of human capital and human resources, she had taken a course in organizational change and fell in love with supporting people through changes.

In April 2020 a new manager arrived who was a bad leader and who was actively dismantling the processes and systems Kari and her team had worked to put in place. She found it difficult to get good work done but she stuck around to protect her team and give this new manager the benefit of the doubt as they settled into the job. She thought glimpses of mistreatment could have been moments of fear or transition.

As Covid really set in and the world shut down, Kari didn’t have the extracurricular activities she loved to look forward to anymore. And she realized – again, like she did 20 years before – that she deserved better. And while sticking around for her people was noble, she wasn’t being her best self for them. So she had a conversation with her partner and told him she wanted to leave her cushy, lucrative corporate job at the start of a global pandemic and start her own consultancy, Uproar Coaching. She was 38.

While she thought she wanted to start her own coaching consultancy, she assumed it was still five or 10 years down the line. So she left her corporate job and opened Uproar Coaching where she does executive coaching and consulting. She says she works harder now than she did at her corporate consulting job but she knows the hustle is for her. In fact, she’s thankful for Covid because it gave her the opportunity to make a change.

Now, Kari works to support individuals in achieving the goals that allow them to be the truest and most colorful selves. She’s constantly reflecting on the journey that got her to where she is and thinks about how she can live intentionally and purposefully for the next 40 years because she says she has a lot of mayhem left to bring.

Goals for Forties

Kari has several goals for her forties. First, she wants to pay down debt. She has student loan debt from undergraduate and graduate studies. She has a mortgage. And, as the owner of two rescue dogs and a senior dog she had to say goodbye to recently, she’s got some pet debt that she would like to pay down. She doesn’t want to be indebted, and she wants to do other things with those funds – like build a cabin in the mountains that she and her family can escape to.

She wants to be more philanthropic with her money and she wants to have grand adventures that require a “slightly larger bankroll” than she currently has.

Another goal for her forties is to intentionally grow her business while still maintaining the umami of the business. In the early days of her business, Kari threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck. She did things that she felt diluted the good work she could do. Now she wants to focus on growing the business and growing the impact she can make.

Kari’s third goal for her forties is to not be an asshole. She said sometimes, when you’re a bossy brunette, you can come across as a bit of a jerk. While that’s never her intention, she realizes that the things she says and does have consequences. As she moves deeper into her forties, she wants to be a good example for the people coming up behind her. She wants to approach situations and people with kindness and without judgment and be curious about what makes people tick without bringing bias or preconceived notions.

“Every day I work harder to unlearn and relearn and get better. And to just not be a dick; life’s too short.”

I’m Doing It Right For Me

Now that she’s in her 40s, Kari feels less pressure to do things “right.” She’s been through too many bumps, too many challenges and spent too much time trying to be someone she’s not. She’s finally arrived at a place where she’s confident in what she’s learned. “You can actually pause and breathe and carry on with all of the hard-won knowledge and experience that you have.”

So Kari continues to tell her inner imposter voice to shut up. She continues her work to overcome perfectionism. And she’s comfortable in the knowledge that there is no right way or wrong way. There is her way and that’s the perfect way.

“It doesn’t matter if, externally, or the books on the shelves, or the people on the internet, if they don’t think I’m doing it right. I’m doing it the right way for me.” She’s invested in doing things that challenge her as a person and that encourage her to grow and to leave a legacy.


The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications

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Stephanie: Hi, Kari, how are you doing?

Kari: Stephanie. I'm good. How are you?

Stephanie: Good. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.

Kari: I have been looking forward to this conversation all day,

Stephanie: Oh, I'm so excited. Me too, actually. You have the distinction of being one of my younger guests on the podcast. You are still 40 now.

Kari: I am. Yeah, I will be 41 next month. It's so funny to hear you say that, 40 is young because I work with a lot of younger people right now, and I'm coming to terms with the fact that I am not 27. Sometimes on a daily basis, I have that reminder.

Kari: I don't wanna be 27 again, though.

Stephanie: I might go back. 27 was a good one. I'd never go back to high school, but 27, man, that age I might go back to.

Kari: But would you go back with the knowledge and experiences that you have, like in your intellectual awareness or would you want a whole redo from 27?

Stephanie: I could go either way.

Kari: Fair enough.

Stephanie: I would be curious what my life would look like if I hadn't been such a party girl through my twenties, if I hadn't been spending my free time, every last of my free hours, drinking and socializing.

Kari: Oh, the stories though would be so different.

Stephanie: Yes. Oh God. Yes. And my background experience and everything that brings me to what I am today. I know all of this, the whole butterfly wings theory, but, I was a, late 20 something person living in Boston in the late nineties. And there are moments when I think, what if I had, you know, hustled a little bit more, could I have, gotten into the, I mean the tech industry was huge. There was this huge, growing bubble. Plenty of people, my age and of my cohort were, paper millionaires by the time they were 30, because they got into the right company at the right time.

Stephanie: And I just didn't do any of that. It's partly, I think the crowd I was running with, the social aspect of things sort of kept me in a, in a sort of familiar kind of path. So sometimes I wonder if I went back, would I have made different choices? And what would that look like?

Stephanie: Would I have gotten to markers sooner than I did? It's a truly twisty thought experiment.

Kari: That is really profound. Yeah.

Stephanie: I don't know. Trust me, everything worked out great.

Kari: I, I don't doubt it for a minute.

Stephanie: I didn't meet my husband Patrick until I was 40 years old. So, if I had changed my life, I, I probably would not have my redheaded rock star, and that would make me sad. So

Kari: that would make me sad too. Oh, I'm glad it worked out. It's like also you just weren't ready for each other before.

Stephanie: Oh, a hundred percent. If he had met me during those crazy years, he would have been so turned off.

Stephanie: I would not have been attractive to him, In any meaningful way, but that's alright. Everything's great. Everything turned out, but the whole thought of like 27 and like, do we wish we were 27 again?

Kari: Yeah.

Stephanie: I don't know, that that's an age I might go back to.

Kari: Fair enough. All right. Alright. I get it.

Stephanie: That being said, over the weekend. I don't know what we were doing. I think I had music on in the kitchen and was making pickles with my bounty of cucumbers

Stephanie: And, and I was dancing and he was like, you're such a good dancer. And all I could think of was the meme I saw recently, it was like, you know, you're gen X, if a song comes on and you do this and I, and I watched it and I was like, oh, oh yes. Oh no. And I was like, really? You think I'm a good dancer? I'm a meme.

Kari: I think that means you've made it though, right? Like you were of the zeitgeist enough to become a meme.

Stephanie: I love that spin and I accept it wholeheartedly

Kari: Please use it. Apply it.

Stephanie: But enough about my formative years, we're here to talk about yours. You have a really interesting story that sounds like there was a lot of things happening in your twenties and thirties that led to your 40 story. So let's sort of start at the beginning and tell me a little bit about your first adulthood.

Kari: Well, I graduated from college a year early. So when I graduated from college, I was 20. I had my 21st birthday with my mom at a French restaurant. I don't know how many people can actually say that they arrived to their twenties toasting. I mean, let's be honest. I drank at college 'cause I was a theater major. So when we talk about having a wild early adulthood, like I went to theater school, so...

Stephanie: You get it.

Kari: Yeah. yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I always tell People don't do anything. I wouldn't, and that's like a world of opportunity. Just be safe and take care of yourselves and each other. That's all I ask.

Kari: Um, but so I, I graduated from school and I moved home and I needed a job. Home for me is just outside the Washington DC, area. And I became a teacher when I had no formal teaching education, I was dating a person long distance, who was still in college, and I was trying to figure out what it meant to be a grownup while still living at home and having no friends. And that was really quite challenging because I knew that the things I wanted to be doing, I wanted to do theater professionally, but I didn't wanna wait tables. I liked teaching, but at that time, I wasn't a particularly good teacher because I was still learning myself. I had a lot of insecurity in my own skin about who I should be to myself and not to anybody else. And quite honestly, the person that I was dating at the time, was maybe it was not the healthiest relationship. And, I was not my best self in that relationship either because I allowed myself to, be made small and to be shifted into somebody that I truly wasn't. And unfortunately, I married that person when they graduated from college. And, that began, an emotionally unstable and really unhealthy relationship. And there was some control that was happening from afar. I had no friends, I was truly isolated. I was having really bad experiences with my own family. I was working a job that I was really, really good at, doing some, administrative support work for a federal agency as a contractor. They liked me so much that, they had a full-time federal job open and I applied for it and was selected sort of at an advanced level, which was really quite exciting. So I had a job that I was really good at, but it wasn't super fulfilling. I was living a life romantically that also was not fulfilling. I didn't have any friends, I wasn't growing. I was really stifled and I was very lonely. Uh, and that was really, really hard. I don't mind being alone. I'm an introvert, but there really is a difference between choosing solitude and being in despair because it's just you and you don't know who to reach out to. Because you were raised to be independent, you were raised to be strong, you were raised to not bother people with emotional concerns. If there was a relationship issue, you really worked hard to figure it out. And that was dark, it took a long time to really figure out for myself that I was better than the relationship that I was in, that I deserved better than the relationship that I was in. Making that decision in that aspect of my life, it had incredible results, professionally too, because I started behaving in a way that was a little bit more like me. I started showing up in a way that was a little bit more like me. I had sort of a mea culpa walk of shame, reaching back to friendships that I had abandoned, or reaching out to people who I thought were interesting to try to cultivate some type of relationships. Some of those folks to this day, I am still friends with, even though our lives have grown and shifted and sort of spread and branched out into different places. These are people who I am so grateful said yes, when I reached out, reached up, for support, because they really didn't have to. They really didn't have to. So I got divorced two and a half years after I got married in my twenties, and it was the right thing for me, but gosh, that's weird. When you get married really young, I was 21, 22 and I got married and I'm getting divorced when all of my friends engagement announcements are first going out. That was a really strange identity. I don't even know what the right word is like departure or like social departure to come to terms with. So, yeah, that would be the early start of my adulthood. It was super tumultuous.

Kari: will say a couple years after I got divorced, I remarried. I traded up. and, he's wonderful. And I get to be the weird, strange, loud nerd. I'm not like a tech nerd and I'm not into Dungeons and Dragons. Like there's different strata of nerd, but like I love literature and I love history and I love storytelling and I love going to the library and I like looking at bugs and like, I get to be, and to do all of those things that I find interesting, that I'm curious about, and I am supported in that. And I'm, I'm so, so, so lucky. After my divorce, my career trajectory kept going up, up, up. By my late twenties I found myself in a leadership role in federal service, which was pretty incredible. I was leading people who, in some instances, were double or triple my age.

Stephanie: First of all, I love the word nerd, to be honest. I think that you can be a nerd on any topic, anything you love so much that you wanna get into and just know all about, like that's a nerd. And to me, when I call people a nerd, it's actually a compliment. It means like you like are into it.

Kari: I like that about you. I love that you're a nerd on multiple topics. To me that makes you interesting.

Kari: Thank you. I think it makes me interesting too. It at least makes me not boring. That's one of the things that I'm most worried about in my life is becoming predictable or boring, and so being a nerd and nourishing the things that I just think it fascinating, I think helps me stay interesting, to use your word.

Stephanie: Okay. So career's going great. You get married again, and then you turn 30 and something comes at you out of the blue. Tell me about that.

Kari: So, right around the year break into 2012, I was starting to have these really weird symptoms: the right side of my face felt like it was numb, like a little tingly, like right before a limb falls asleep. That's how the right side of my face felt. I'd had a double root canal, like emergency right before Christmas, so I was like, maybe something related to that. So I went to my dentist no, it has nothing to do with your teeth. You might have shingles though. Go see your GP. I went to see my GP. No, it's not shingles. Something's going on. Maybe it's a touch of bells palsy, go see a neurologist. I went to see a neurologist, he took some images and it turns out that I had a brain tumor nestled behind my right ear. It's a tumor called an acoustic seroma. I was immediately referred to a neurosurgeon. In May, 2012 was when I had my diagnosis. In July of 2012, the tumor was removed. But by that point, while I could move the right side of my face, I couldn't feel it and I was starting to lose sensation in my tongue and up into my hairline. And that's, that's kind of dangerous because you don't wanna choke on your tongue.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Kari: So it was the best case of bad luck I could ever have because the type of tumor that I had was completely benign. It was enormous. And when it was removed, it took the hearing from my right ear and it, paralyzed the right side of my face for eight weeks. I worked with an occupational therapist and a physical therapist to regain mobility on the side of my face. So like I'm a little bit asymmetrical, which is fine, nobody is perfectly symmetrical, and I'm really good at faking it. But if I get tired, if I've had 40 drinks, like I look like a broken Kewpie doll. I am just completely out of sync. But the goal of the surgery was to stay here, 'cause that wasn't my time. I wasn't done yet. The surgery was very successful, but you know, I was two years into marriage and so we really hit the in sickness and for worse portion. There were moments leading up to the surgery when like I didn't have a will, neither of us did, we didn't have, um, do not resuscitate, like we didn't have any of that paperwork in order. So we adulted really hard in those couple of months to get the household ready, to get all of the paperwork in order to make sure that my partner was protected in case I became incapacitated, or even if there was a greater tragedy and I was no longer here. So we had to get smart about that, but also in the lead up to that surgery, and then in the eight weeks when I was home recovering from surgery when all I could do was really focus on myself, I realized that while I was still really, really good at what I did - focusing my effort on supporting individuals and organizations through opportunities of change just in the federal sector. While I really, really liked the work, I still wasn't 100% being myself at work. I was exhausted all the time. There was a business Kari. There was home Kari. They were not the same. I had like a business voice. I had a business persona. Like the armor that I put on every day to go to work was counter to my honest and true self. I don't know you well enough to know what that facial expression is.

Stephanie: I'll tell you what it is. um, So I'm listening to this and I'm thinking, I started my own business 15 years ago and I do my own thing and at home my husband will say to me, do not use your business voice on me.

Kari: Oh no.

Stephanie: So apparently that's when I'm being very bossy, it's basically like settle down and put your business voice away. So when you said you, there was a business Kari and a home Kari that was the facial expression that was, oh my, I have a little bit of one myself.

Kari: Yeah. And, and there's nothing wrong with that, right? In real life I swear like a sailor and I'm not gonna do that necessarily in a professional setting because that's not appropriate, right. That is business presence. But having like a voice that was a complete alternate persona was not appropriate. And the thing is people could tell. Whenever you are not actually being your true self, people can tell that there's something off. They might not be able to say what exactly it is, but people could tell that there was something, and there was always this distance that I was keeping. And so when I returned from that medical leave, I came back living a honey badger life. I started dressing more like what I felt in my heart. And so the example that I always use is I would still wear a suit to work, but instead of like a gray suit with a white blouse, I would wear a gray suit with metallic pink pin stripes and like a matching pink blouse. And so is that a huge change? No, but I was starting to look a little bit more like I felt. My jewelry was still tasteful, I wasn't gaudy, but it was a little bit more on the edge. I was started to wear a bold lip. I cut off all my hair. I mean, right now I'm blonde, at that point, it was still dark. I wasn't experimenting with like vivid colors yet. They were coming, But I started to look outside how I felt inside and in turn that gave me permission to start behaving in a way that was more assertive. Even though I had left a relationship that was emotionally stifling, I was still allowing myself in the professional setting to be made small. To be made quiet, to think that maybe my ideas weren't as important as all of the other people around the conference table, who quite honestly, I deserved to be there. I was selected and I was promoted in these positions because I was a good, effective leader. So I showed up looking a little bit more like me talking a little bit more assertively, pushing professionally, respectfully, and people got outta my way because I think they were scared. I think it was not what they were expecting. They didn't quite know how to respond. And so I took that as a little bit more runway to make changes and to continue to move.

Kari: That was a challenging period in my life but it was such a opportunity to really, really take a hard look at who I was, how I was behaving, how I was showing up for myself every day and make changes to make it easier. Because while you can work hard, it shouldn't always feel like you're hard at work. It shouldn't always feel impossible and oppressive. The moment I just started taking little steps for myself, everything got easier. My ambition soared, my upward trajectory got faster too, because I wasn't allowing myself to be held back. I was claiming the things that I had ideas for. I was willing to partner or collaborate in a different way. I was willing to take risks and people were reaching out to me for support and how they could do that for themselves too. There's nothing better than seeing somebody say, "This is a goal that I have for myself," and then watching them figure out how they can make it happen for themselves, how the motivation and the ownership can really come from within, because nobody else is coming to do it for you.

Stephanie: Well, and I'm really interested in the fact that this seed was born or this seed began to sprout while you were in a federal government environment.

Stephanie: Not only were you taking these steps and modeling, but people were reaching out to you to show them how. You don't think of a federal government environment as being the place for that kind of innovation and stretching to happen. I'm sure it happens, but just if I'm painting with a very broad brush,

Kari: There is a stereotype to federal service. There's a stereotype to what it means to be a federal employee. My opinion, I am not trying to be political about this, but during the Obama administration, there were a lot of younger people who opted into civil service, um, because they saw opportunities to make change. Two thirds of the federal workforce were eligible for retirement, and that creates a huge vacuum of knowledge, but a huge opportunity for upward mobility for young people to come in and really make changes. So I think even to this day, there are pockets of innovation. There's pockets of radical thought. There is still a lot of like bureaucracy and red tape and policy and regulation that you have to adhere to, but part of the fun I always found was how do I adhere to that regulation? How do I adhere to that policy? But do something really new with it. How do I interpret it in a way that I'm not getting in trouble, I'm not putting anybody else or the agency at risk, but what can we do then to revolutionize or to evolve or to move the agency forward in a different way? And just try.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. But at some point you left federal service.

Kari: I left federal service in 2018. I left for a couple of reasons. I wanted to, uh, protest and I wanted to advocate and I wanted to campaign, in a way that would not have been permissible based on the level and the visibility of the job that I had at the time. I took stock of the things that mattered to me and realized that the golden handcuffs that I had weren't enough, I needed to do something and show up for my community. That was one of the reasons. I also left federal service, because I felt like, there wasn't a whole lot more that I could do. My team, the organization, the agency that I was working for, they were ready for a different type of leader for their next steps. So I started consulting for a Fortune 500 company, and talk about a change of life. I mean, I was a high producer, high performer in federal service, but everything gets ignited a little bit faster when you're working in consulting. There's no longer those, I clock in, I clock out it's an eight hour a day, I get a lot done. Now it's I clock in and then I go to sleep at some point and then I get up and I do it

Kari: to just keep going and going and going and

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. And things move a little quicker, I would guess as well.

Kari: Oh yeah. Oh my gosh. Things move exponentially faster and there's a little bit more, at least, the component of the company that I was working for, there was a lot more willingness to accept risk and big ideas and sort of see what happens and to rebound and learn lessons and then try again, so things moved very, very, very quickly. That actually was really cool, 'cause it meant that even if there were repeatable tasks, no day was the same, there really was no predictability. I could show up in the morning and be working on a package to support implementing new executive leadership training. And then in the afternoon I would be on the phone with 50 other people from across the world, talking about implementing some new enhancement for a firm wide HR system. So it was me contributing to a conversation that would impact 26,000 people internationally. And that, that was a tremendous place of privilege. That was an incredible opportunity to have. Um, so yeah, it was, it was exhausting in its own way.

Stephanie: Let me ask you this for people who haven't consulted or been a consultant, I'm just going out on a limb here that you were a consultant for this fortune 500 company in the subject matter area that you worked in the federal government. Is that correct as an assumption?

Kari: Yes. And no, it is not an incorrect assumption, but there's like a little asterisk after it. So the skillset that I had honed during federal service, I'm very, very good with people and I always worked in support of human capital and human resources. But Mmm, in 2000 I'm like looking on the wall just to see if I can see what the plaque says, in 2007, I took a course in change management, which is supporting people through organizational change and I loved it. I loved everything about it. So I worked for many, many years sharpening my skills in change management and what it meant to communicate, to educate, to develop, to coach, and mentor and champion changes that are tiny, tiny, tiny, that impact two people, or enormous and impact 26,000 people. So when I left federal service where I was doing a lot of work, and change management was one part of it, my consulting was primarily in change management only. I was leading a team, so I had some HR stuff to do, and I had some people development stuff to do too, but that was a very, very narrow portion. All of my work, my whole portfolio was in change management and supporting people through change through organizational change, through physical building change through technology changes, you name it. We did it.

Stephanie: I think what I'm trying to illustrate here is that for other people who may be listening and maybe thinking, "Oh, I need to change, or I wanna do something different." If you have a background in something, if you are expert at something, I'm gonna just throw out again, these words don't apply to you, but no matter how sort of routine or mundane you might think it is, somebody else is interested in that knowledge, it is useful to someone else. And so I'm just trying to bridge that gap there, between what I'm just gonna call and again, I don't know the specifics of your job, but a ho hum federal job through to I'm a consultant to a fortune 500 company making decisions that impact 26,000 people. Because for a lot of people that feels like you're a unicorn, but what I'm trying to illustrate is that you're not, I mean, you are, but in that aspect, you can take something you know, and you're expert at, you did some sideline coursework to bolster some of that, and then you combined those and created an opportunity for yourself.

Kari: Yeah. And look, you know, I have a degree in theater. My first job, I taught English and I ran a debate and forensics team at a private school. I then worked an event planning, coordinating bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings between a $10 and a $20,000 budget. Then I was a federal employee. Then I worked as a consultant. Right. So it to just look at that on paper, there's no throughline.

Kari: It doesn't look like this is a logical step to, this is a logical step to, there is no, there's no like upward path, right. It's sort of peaks and valleys, but if you actually look into my resume and I suspect a lot of people could look at their resumes and see what the skills are from one job that are showing up again and again and again, across the employment opportunities that you have had that are maybe shaping your career or the things that have sparked interest or made you curious or that you nerd out about. Right. I'm so passionate about supporting people and organizations. These are things that you might see showing up again and again across your opportunities. These might be the things that you were learning about because it is not part of your job duties, but it's something that just really makes you excited. So 100% I looked at the skills that I had and I applied them to a new opportunity. Something that I will say that is happening though, because, in the day to day right now, and we're getting to this in my story. So like spoiler alert, it's coming, but I'm an executive coach and a consultant now I have my own company that I started in 2020 funny, right at the beginning of the pandemic. And we can talk about why I did that in just a moment. But, one of the things that I'm hearing from clients again and again, and again, as they are coming through COVID and trying to figure out now, what does life look like in this new, new unprecedented times that we are in, is if they are looking for a new job, if they're looking for a new volunteer opportunity, there is this interesting shift now from experience to skills. So maybe you haven't worked formally as a graphic designer, but you have done graphic design. You have trained in graphic design, you have pursued graphic design and X company is looking for a graphic designer, who's got the skills, maybe not the X expertise, but it's the skills that they want. So to your point, investing in those skills, working those skills, believing in those skills can provide new opportunities in this new era that we are finding ourselves in, because while expertise might be important, that's not all there is anymore.

Stephanie: Right.

Kari: It's not end-all.

Stephanie: So now let's flash forward to the beginning of the pandemic. You've been a consultant for a couple of years doing really cool things. Why did you decide to leave that and go out on your own?

Kari: I really liked the people I was working with as colleagues. I really, really loved my team. I had a bad leader. I had a bad manager and it made it very, very difficult. That manager arrived at the beginning of April, 2020, and they actively dismantled the reputation and the processes and systems that my team and I had put in place, they held us back, it became very, very difficult to get any work done and to do any good work. I stuck around for a while because I felt like I had to protect my people and that I could put my career to the side to protect them because I believed in the skills and the reputation that I had. And I thought maybe I could out- stay this individual.

Kari: When COVID arrived, and I know COVID started in March of 2020, so I'm not confusing the timeline here, but you don't necessarily get to see the real people until they settle into their roles. And so glimpses of mistreatment, um, could have just been moments of fear or transition or something, so I was trying to give everybody benefit of the doubt. I had really long days as a consultant. You'll talk to anybody who works at any of these big consultancies and they'll tell you, if you're not careful, you can work 12, 14, 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

Stephanie: Mm.

Kari: I had things that I liked to do outside of work. I do teaching artist work at a local high school. I mentor student directors. I was also still performing in theater professionally. My partner and I enjoy traveling. We have a fleet of nieces and nephews that we try to support and get out to their games and their activities. And when COVID arrived and the world shut down, all of those extracurriculars went away. Not only for me, but for everybody. But the things that I could look forward to at the end of the day, I could no longer look forward to. And so, much like almost 20 years ago, that life just couldn't be enough. I deserved better. My career deserved better. And quite honestly, sticking around, I thought was doing the right thing for the people who were working for me, but I wasn't being my best for them either. And so I talked to James, my partner, and I said, "I'm really unhappy." And he was like, "I know." And I said, "I think I would like to leave my very cushy, lucrative corporate job at the start of a global pandemic, uh, and open my own consultancy." Now I will say this was something that I had maybe intended to do, but like at like 45 or 50, like five, 10 years down that pipe.

Kari: Mm, no, I like blew that up real fast. And I said, "I think I would like to try it on my own." He's like, "Okay, great." So I did. I gave notice. I opened Uproar Coaching. I have continued my coaching education. I have acquired certifications. I am an executive coach and a consultant. I still do change management. I love my life.

Kari: I mean, I think I work harder now than I did when I was in corporate life, but the hustle is for me. And I'm so thankful for the support of my person. In that way, I'm actually really thankful that COVID arrived because I might not have had a reason actually activate myself in a new way. I will say that the four people who were working for me at the company have since left also and gone on to incredible things for themselves. And I, I don't wanna be selfish or egotistical and be like, well, they stayed for me, but like, I think we were all sticking around for each other. And so maybe seeing one person leave, gives everybody else permission to look for something else for themselves. So that's all good. It's a happy ending for everybody.

Kari: So in 2020, I was 38, almost 39. So, 40 was in striking distance. In supporting people now in achieving the goals for themselves that allow them to be their truest and most colorful selves, it constantly reminds me to step back and reflect on the journey that got me here. Not just in the last 20 years, since I graduated from college, but my entire life, how I got to this moment and then to really think about how I can live intentionally and purposefully at least for the next 40 years 'cause I have a lot of mayhem to bring, so... oh, I broke Stephanie

Stephanie: I'm just, I know I said this before I turned the recording on, but I have such a girl crush on you. I love you so much.

Kari: I love you too. This is so much fun.

Stephanie: I think you and I might be a peas in a pod because just the way you said that you just have so much more mayhem to bring. I love that. That resonates with me so strongly.

Kari: Oh, good. Well, we can be friends beyond this. That's fine.

Stephanie: Okay, good. Just talking to you, I'm actually thinking about myself and it's interesting, 'cause this is what these conversations do for me as well as I listen to them the first time, I think, "Ooh," like I get inspired by people and some of the things they're saying, but I'm listening to you and I'm I'm wondering, "Oh, am I living out loud enough?"

Kari: Mmm.

Stephanie: Just listening to you, I'm just loving it and thinking, "I have to go back and reflect and see, should I be creating a little bit more mayhem that I have been lately?"

Kari: Mm, should is such a dirty word though, right? Because it sounds like, yeah, it sounds like somebody is telling you something that that may or might not actually apply to you. But I think it's so interesting that we started this conversation with would we go back to being 27? Because thinking about my own life where I was a 27 until this point, yes. There are things that, given a do-over, I would do differently. There are other paths or other doors that I might take. Part of me wonders though, maybe the journey wouldn't have been as bumpy or of hurt to get to this point. But I do wonder if I would've gotten here anyway and maybe not in the same timeline and, and maybe, maybe not with the same sort of glitter, but is this where I should be?

Stephanie: Right. Right. And I, think about my path and I think, sure. Maybe if I could go back, I'd make different decisions, but a lot of the bumps and bruises along the way are what give you so much character and so much expertise and so much depth of understanding of all kinds of different things that bring you to this special soup of who you are and the things that you bring to the table. So yeah, it's an interesting thought experiment, ultimately only that.

Stephanie: I think so many people think that, "Oh, I should have done things differently." The dreaded should. Or "It would be so much easier if I had done things differently." You can wish it all away, but the fact of the matter is it wouldn't have added up to where you are now and , you know, I think maybe where you and I are now is someplace where we're very happy and satisfied and fulfilled. And there are other people who are in a place of not that, but they can use that. Once they get to the point of, "I can't take the feelings anymore. I don't wanna feel these anymore," once it gets them to a point of ready for action. That's actually the thing that launches you forward is those periods of being in a place you don't want to be.

Kari: Yeah, it's, uh, I think of it sometimes as like a trebuchet. Do you know what that is?

Stephanie: Oh, I do.

Kari: Where sort of have to scoop down and back before you can go ahead? I think sometimes like pivot points or the crossroads, it's sort of a trebuchet where I have to sort of like backtrack a little bit and like really scoop down and dig hard to then have the momentum to go forward again. And that's okay, because taking a step back or feeling like you are losing ground, you are still moving forward. You are not losing time. Look while I love my life, not everything is like rainbows and sunshine all the time. I don't want anybody to think that 'cause that would be a big lie.

Stephanie: Right.

Kari: But when you add up the tally marks, things are good. And I don't want anybody to feel like they don't deserve to feel like they have a good life, too. So if people need support to start activating, there are ways to do that. You can work your network, you can find professional support, you can find counselors or coaches. You can listen to podcasts like this, and know that there are ways that you can get started even just like one step, one breath, one new suit at a time.

Stephanie: Right. Right. So now that you're in your forties.

Kari: Yes, I am firmly in my forties. 41 is like a month from now.

Stephanie: Firmly, I love it. You told me that there are several things you want for yourself, and I'm gonna remind you of what they are, one by one.

Kari: Okay, please.

Stephanie: You said the first one, you wanna pay down some debt.

Kari: yes,

Stephanie: Tell me a little bit about that and just the feeling of it, I don't need your personal financial statement.

Kari: Oh, no, I'm not gonna give you numbers 'cause my degree's in theater, I don't do numbers, I married an engineer for a reason. No, I still have some lingering student debt. Like I have undergraduate debt. I did go to grad school, so I have that debt still. We have a mortgage on our house. We have two rescue dogs and

Kari: I they have needs and that's fine. We are happy to be able to have them in our lives. They are the best. But we had a senior dog, we had to say goodbye to a couple months ago and he had extensive medical bills. And so we are carrying some of that debt too.

Kari: So I expect in my forties, to dig out of that. Because I don't want to be indebted. I would like to channel those funds into other things. I mean, I don't wanna say, like, I wanna get rid of this debt to have other debt, but we would love to like buy a mountain and fell some trees and build a cabin and have an escape place that we could then retire to. I would love to be more philanthropic in terms of like giving money instead of just giving time. And to just live differently, to have some grand adventures that require a slightly larger bankroll than I have the ability to have right now. And that's okay, 'cause it's something to root for and it's something to work towards.

Stephanie: Right, right. The second thing you said you wanted to do was to intentionally grow your business.

Kari: Mmm. Mm-hmm So it's funny as a business owner, I don't have an MBA. I can read, I have shelves full of business books. I took a lot of classes online. I read a lot about the workshops. I watched a lot of TED Talks and the thing is as a gitter bomb leader, as somebody who's a little bit non-traditional and unexpected, a lot of the principles of business, I didn't really feel applied to me. Early in my business, I was saying yes to too many things, I was throwing too much spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck. And that was really diluting the good work that I could do, because I was just sort of trying to do things that I shouldn't be doing. And this is me saying it, this isn't somebody else saying it. Like I was, I was actively doing things in running programs that I didn't believe in, that I tried because somebody told me I could do, that I would be good at and being good at something doesn't mean that it's something worth pursuing.

Kari: So as I look at Uproar, and I look at the services and the products that I offer, and I look the type of people I serve, who are primarily women and femme non-traditional leaders. Those are my people. I have a wall of Post-It notes on the other side of this computer of strategic plans for myself for the next five years about how to grow, but still maintain like the umami of the business. The thing that makes it special, that allows me to continue to make an impact. And when I say grow, I don't mean necessarily like adding people to the payroll. Although maybe at one point we'll get there, but grow in reach, grow in visibility, grow in impact.

Stephanie: Nice. Nice. I love the way you called it "the umami of your business," that's so illustrative. I love that. All right. The third thing you said you wanted for yourself in your forties, you said you wanted to not be an asshole.

Kari: I have a very strict very strict no asshole rule.

Stephanie: Tell me about that.

Kari: Well, Sometimes if you're a bossy brunette, you can come across as being a bit of a jerk.

Kari: While that's never my intention, I realize, uh, that the things that I say and do have consequences. And so to just make sure that as I progress further into my forties, and as I realize how the people who are coming behind me are looking at the example or the model that I am setting, that it is my privilege to not be an asshole, to approach things with kindness, to keep people first, to honor individuals where they are, to be judgment free, to be curious about what makes people tick and to not bring any bias or preconceived notion. And that is a thing in the day-to-day that I think we are all learning to dismantle internal biases. Every day I work harder to unlearn and relearn and get better. And to just not be a dick. Life's too short. You can bleep that.

Stephanie: There's too many of them already in the world. So for those people who are actively trying not to perpetuate that energy, we salute you. You said though, in the end it feels like there's less pressure to do it right now that you're in your forties.

Kari: Yeah. It's such a relief to be here. I don't know if it's because I am a woman now approaching middle age because I don't think 40 is middle age. I don't actually know what middle age is, but somebody thinks that I am. That's what my bracket of age is, fine. I don't know if it's because I've gotten to this point and so like societally people don't care what I do anymore. I don't know if it's because I have demonstrated that you could try to tell me what to do and put me in a box and I'm not going to stand for that. I won't have it. I don't know if it's because it took too many bumps, too many challenges, too many trying to be somebody who I'm not, um, of finally arriving at a point of like, oh, all of those lessons that you learned, the hard way you, you don't have to re-learn them. You can actually pause and breathe and carry on with all of the hard won knowledge and experience that you have.

Kari: It's funny, I'm getting back to this. I know it sounds like I'm changing topics or I lost my train of thought. I promise I didn't, I'm gonna get back to it in a second. There's this really interesting thing that happens, that's like related to imposter complex, imposter phenomenon, where it's a sense of like, I've gotten to a point, uh, and I want to grow more and it's my discomfort that is holding me back. My imposter complex wants me to stay in my comfort zone because it is safe. And I am also a recovering perfectionist, and there's this sense of if I cannot guarantee myself that I am going to do it perfectly the first time that I'm just not gonna do it. And listening to my imposter inner voice and telling it to shut up and continuing to work, to overcome perfectionism, I have gotten to this point where it's like, it doesn't matter if I do it, there's no right or wrong. There's my way. That's the perfect way. That is the way that it should be. Uh, and so it doesn't matter if externally or the books on the shelves or the people on the internet or whatever, if they don't think I'm doing it right. I'm doing it the right way for me. That was a really long walk to get there. But I think that's what it is, right? I'm not worried about doing it right. I'm worried about, I'm not even worried about it. I am committed. I am invested in doing things that continue to challenge me as a person that encourage me to grow beyond who I am today, to have an impact and to leave a legacy that my nieces and nephews will be proud to say that like we are of the same family. It doesn't matter if I make a mistake so long as I, I bounce and I bounce back.

Stephanie: And, and you don't let it derail you,

Kari: Oh, gosh, no, no, no, I mean, I can wallow for a minute and have a Cherry Coke, but then I have to pull myself up and get moving again 'cause nobody else is gonna do that for me.

Stephanie: Right. I love it. You've got such a great attitude and I love that the, the throughline of your career, it sounded like really, since you recovered from your brain tumor surgery, was this idea of working with people and helping people and bringing the best out of people and leading people. And that is a consistent throughline, even though you've done a number of different things, and now you're doing it directly and impacting people on a one-to-one basis.

Kari: It's so cool to do that every day. It's just so cool to see somebody, their little box on the screen 'cause everything's virtual right now, to see somebody have this moment and you can see it on their face, the way that they breathe changes, the way that they glow. It's just, it's a glow up. You can see it when somebody has this like, "Oh, this is who I can be. This is who I am." It's really, really beautiful.

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, and tell me if somebody wants to explore that process with you, where would they find you?

Kari: Yeah. if you're interested in talking about this further, you're welcome to check out my website at www dot uproar coaching.com, or you can email me directly at Kari K A R I uproar coaching.com and I'm happy to continue the conversation. I love talking about this. So like let's chat

Stephanie: I can tell, we could keep going for hours and hours, but I promised you that I would, only take an hour of your time today.

Kari: Look, the longer we chat, the less likely I'm gonna burn dinner. So it's all good. Somebody else will take care of that for the evening.

Stephanie: I get that. I get that. Even still, I wanna thank you for joining me today. I loved this conversation and, I have a feeling that you and I are gonna stay in touch.

Kari: Gosh, I hope so. That would be amazing. Thank you for this opportunity. This was a ton of fun.

Stephanie: I agree..

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