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Our Lives are Only Limited By the Space We’ve Had to Explore with Christal Brown (Episode #145)

Many of us rush through our days, weeks, and lives, chasing goals and just trying to get everything done. But all that activity can blind us to the fact that our goals come from the notions of “influential others” in our lives, and not from what lights us up as individuals. Christal Brown is a master in helping others discover and structure a personal vision that is all their own, and one that will be a central source of joy, no matter the ups and downs in the journey.

Episode Highlights


About Our Guest:

Christal Brown is a mother, author, coach, facilitator, choreographer, educator and the first black woman to be tenured at the renowned Middlebury College in Vermont.

She is the founder of Life Steps and Stages, a consultancy where she blends her creativity, background in education, and experience in human nature to help individuals and institutions discover, structure, and implement their vision.

I first came across Christal’s work when she was the keynote speaker at a Businesses for Social Responsibility conference. And she bowled me over with her energy, common sense insights, creativity, and mastery of the topic of getting clarity about our vision for ourselves.

Christal’s public speaking and inspiring workshops are bringing fresh perspectives to sold-out audiences around the country and her stories and work have been featured on NPR’s The Moth, TEDxMiddlebury, and various podcasts and conference stages across the US and Zambia. 

For over 10 years, Christal has worked with creatives, entrepreneurs, educators and executives to help them get clarity and accelerate their results. With just a few of her insights in your hip pocket, you will meet each day with a perspective that feels like a new toolbox. 

She is adamant that we can all access a Life by Design once we make an effort to include personal growth in our path to professional growth.

In this episode, Christal brings us insights we can use starting now to shape our futures in ways that light us up.

In our search for a feeling of better balance, she explains why balance is not always 50/50—it can be 90/10. We also talk about how regrets can serve us in a positive way, how to live with more ease and grace through the complexities, and the benefits of being vulnerable first. 

She says, “I would love to fail—and fail while being me—than fail in trying to meet someone else’s idea of success.”

After hearing our conversation, you may be a lot more comfortable spending some energy in the “messy middle” of things, rather than wanting to make everything black or white. 

There’s a mastery of “aliveness” at work here in Christal Brown’s work that we just had to share.

Resources Mentioned:

What Makes a Job the Best Job Ever with Seth Godin (Episode #134)

Seth Godin is well known in much of the global business world as the ultimate Entrepreneur/Social Innovator and an icon of fresh perspectives that focus on what really matters. In this episode, Dr. Lynda and Seth discuss the insights in his new book, The Song of Significance, which has been described as a book for a new era in the world of work… and a new generation.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

Show Notes

00:00 Intro & Welcome

03:15 Anything is Possible

  • Christal has toured the world as a professional dancer.
  • Christal is the first black woman to be tenured at an American college.
  • Christal has always loved to teach and loves people.

07:28 Finding the Bigger Version of Yourself

  • We never really see ourselves clearly and we depend on others to tell us who we are.
  • We can choose our own perspectives and we can train our perception.
  • Practice is the crux of our spirituality.
  • Identity is a malleable construct.
  • We can teach ourselves to be new versions of ourselves and we can also teach others how to treat us.
  • “It is much better to fail at being your future self than it is to succeed at being who you are now” – Dr. Benjamin Hardy

15:55 Break

18:24 Confidence vs. Integrity 

  • Confidence is the agreement we keep with ourselves.
  • Integrity is the agreement we keep with others.
  • If we respond more to the needs and demands of others, we only find value in the things we can create for them.
  • Christal helps clients to integrate the same integrity they have with others into building confidence in themselves.
  • Christal encourages her clients to treat themselves like the way they would treat their biggest client.
  • Consistently making and keeping agreements with ourselves is what builds confidence.

20:56 Outcome vs. Process

  • Christal encourages clients to envision what they would love.
  • We sometimes get so focused on the outcome that we forget about the process.
  • We base our happiness on the outcome rather than the process.
  • Our growth/ transformation is a process, it’s not a product that we just arrive at.
  • On Episode 134 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast, Seth Godin spoke about never truly being present in the moment.

22:47 Belief and Belongings

  • Christal works with clients to get them to introduce themselves to strangers based on what they want themselves to be.
  • Balance is rarely 50/50 and we can learn from the balance that comes from 90/10 or 60/40.

26:27 Steps and Stories

  • Steps and Stories is an interactive devotional self development book.
  • Christal uses 30 stories about her own life to guide the reader.
  • Steps and Stories is based on Christal’s practice and helps people find their authenticity.

27:46 Grace

  • Christal grew up defining grace as an unmerited gift.
  • As a dancer, Christal saw grace as being able to do something difficult and make it look easy.
  • In Christal’s practice and in her own personal growth, grace was seen as “how do I allow myself to make mistakes.”
  • In 30 Days of Growth with Grace, Christal helps us explore our past for clues to our future so we can excavate our past with grace and move forward with wisdom.

31:07 The Risk of Imperfection

  • Christal thinks of risk as the process of getting the reward.
  • If we don’t try anything new, we’re not getting any new data.
  • Taking a risk earns us another level of confidence in ourselves.
  • It’s more powerful to take a risk and fail at being totally yourself rather than succeed and find yourself stuck in someone else’s definition of success.
  • Freedom comes from being our authentic selves.

34:13 Embracing the Messy Middle

  • The journey might be messy but it is also where the miracles happen.
  • The middle is the place where we can take stock of what we say we wanted and what we’re heading towards.
  • The middle gives us the space to make a better choice about what we would love the next stage to be.
  • The middle is where we can give ourselves the permission to pause.

40:55 Building Communities

  • Cooperative living situations are when we depend on others for desired outcomes.
  • Building communities calls for a knowing of oneself and knowing others.
  • We can be having transactional relationships and hoping for transformation.
  • People may be known as “the giver,” and want reciprocity, but don’t know how to ask for it.
  • We can use a beginners mindset in relationships to reassess how we can support each other.
  • When we lose curiosity with people who we think we know, the relationship is over.
  • Our curiosity keeps us interested not in who people are, but in who they’re becoming.
  • We can choose the characters we choose to play.

48:18 Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills

  • Relationships, compassion, and curiosity are soft skills that are hot topics in Fortune 500 companies.
  • We need the heart, mind, hands, and feet to come together to create things we’ve never seen before.
  • Finding the balance between emotional skills and physical skills is critical to our overall development.
  • We misconstrue information for understanding.
  • You have to actually do something to get a full understanding—simply talking about the thing isn’t enough to gain understanding.
  • In Episode 133 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast, Cat Tweedie spoke about looking for the intelligence when we are in a deep emotional state rather than avoiding the feeling.

55:15 What Do You Wish People Knew?

  • Everyone is a visionary.
  • There’s a right and a wrong but there’s also a “real.”
  • The “real” is based on the reality we’re creating for ourselves.
  • You get to be the author of yourself.

59:56 Closing

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