Jun 27, 2022
Hear how to harness your inner CEO and prioritize your happiness
Are you the CEO of your life? What does that mean? In this podcast, I bring to you Becca Powers Vaughn. Her story, like those of so many women, is in part about discovering your own self-worth, in part realizing that you should not let others define who you are, and in part turning your purpose into something to benefit others. But this podcast is not just for women. Men, listen carefully. Becca’s message is as relevant for you as it is for women. Why? So you can help women thrive in your personal and your professional life. A wise woman with a lot to teach us.
Watch and listen to our conversation here
Much to learn from Becca's “aha” moment
She says it was not a very pretty moment, but one in which she had to stop the “blame and complain” game. If you are doing something like Becca was doing—blaming others for your limits or your difficulties—it is a good time to listen to this podcast and discover yourself.
Becca also has a great book you should dig into: Harness Your Inner CEO: Rise Into Passion, Prosperity, and Empowerment.
Three things that help empower women to become the best they can be:
How to get in touch with Becca
Want to know more about taking care of yourself and being CEO of your life?
Additional resources for you
Read the transcript of our podcast here
Andi Simon: Good morning. Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon, your host and your guide. And remember, my job is to get you off the brink. I don't want you stuck there, nobody's going to be stalled. What we need to do is help you. And I say these words very intentionally to help you see, feel and think in new ways so that you can change. And you know, your brain hates change. Sometimes it hates me for telling you you should change. But you also know that things aren't always exactly the way you want them to be but somehow the habits take over and your mind does exactly what it thinks you want it to do. Now we've got to change.
So I have today a wonderful woman, Becca Powers Vaughn, and you're going to love listening to Becca’s story. I have a hunch it may reflect many of our own stories. And then we're going to talk about things that matter to all of us, like how we change our balance and our work life? How do we really find success? What does that mean? Remember, we're meaning makers. Humans don't have any intrinsic value, so what is success? Are you there? Are you going? Is it a journey? Becca, thank you for joining me today.
Becca Powers Vaughn: Yes, thank you for having me.
Andi Simon: Tell the listener who is Becca, what's your journey, and then we'll talk about your book. Her book is Harness Your Inner CEO: Rise Into Passion, Prosperity, and Empowerment. We'll talk a little bit about that. But so many other things that she's learned as she's been on this journey. So, who is Becca?
Becca Powers Vaughn: So I will introduce myself in the form of a story because I think that it'll help the listeners get a really good idea of where we're going to go with this conversation as well. A little bit about me. So my story starts on the bathroom floor, as far as wanting to help other women. And I'm going to explain that more in just a second.
So I'm a 20-year career tech sales executive. I've worked for companies like Cisco, Dell and others. And in the course of my journey, I have sacrificed a lot. I am a mother of four. I have an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old and then an 18- and 20-year-old stepson and stepdaughter. My husband and I have raised a blended family for 12 years. In the pursuit of it all, I didn't have much work-life balance in some of those days. But I remember back in 2013, I was a regional sales manager for Dell. And as a leader, and you might relate to this Andi, hearing your podcast...I've listened to quite a few.
But I have a firm belief that people need to come before profits. And while I was a sales leader at Dell, I got recruited by a company that had a very similar philosophy. And I wanted to jump at that opportunity. So I left Dell and in the process of resigning, my VP of sales at the time heard me say all this and said, instead of rejecting me or accepting me, he's like, "Becca, you are the CEO of your life and I'm so proud of you." Right, yeah. So at that moment, I was very empowered. I went into this new career and what ended up happening in this new new career is that I wasn't an exact fit. My leadership style was very different. And what I found out is that in not being fully accepted, because my style was different, instead of coming to terms with that myself, and questioning whether this is a fit for me or not, I stayed committed to this belief. And in doing so, even though it was noble and I think a lot of listeners can maybe relate to this, even though it was a noble cause before profits, what I was really doing was sacrificing my well-being in pursuit of this big thing that I thought was super important.
And after three years of doing that, I ended up overextending myself, way too much to the point of extreme exhaustion. And at that point of extreme exhaustion, it was one night after a really bad day at work again, three years into this role, I put the kids to bed, doing all the things. I go to take my makeup off, and I fell to the floor with fatigue. And I always say, it was in my most powerless moment that I came in touch with my power.
Andi Simon: You sound like Arianna Huffington, who discovered that self care isn't the afterthought. It has to be tough though, and I am laughing out loud because I remember trying to get my tenure and developing pneumonia so bad that it took me six months to get my health back. Why do we do this to ourselves? What did you discover?
Becca Powers Vaughn: Well, I discovered that, and I have the goosebumps as you say that because this is exactly what I showed up to talk about. And I'm so glad there's a relationship going on. Because I think the reason that we do that is because we care, especially as women, we're very servant-based. We are used to taking care of multiple things. And so it's very natural for us to almost abandon ourselves in the pursuit of the things that we think are important to us. And I think that is a really important part of the message, because we beat ourselves up a lot as women. And it's like, Oh, how could I have done that? Or how can I not have seen that? And really, at the end of the day, how did I get on the bathroom floor? I got here because I cared? Yes, not because I didn't care.
Andi Simon: I'm curious about when you got off the bathroom floor, which you clearly did, did you have that epiphany that said, Enough, I'm going someplace else, or did you push on and do it better, or changed within your life-work balance, or what was your epiphany?
Becca Powers Vaughn: So my epiphany on the bathroom floor is going to tie into the beginning of the story when my VP told me I was the CEO of my life. I'm sitting there on the bathroom floor crying, in a state of powerlessness and brokenness. And then all of a sudden, I remember giving an exhale, like as if I was praying or calling out for help, I don't know, like, I can't power through another day. I just remember thinking this to my head, like, I don't know what to do. I'm feeling powerless. I don't know what to do.
And all of a sudden, I call it my instant miracle, that conversation came back to my forefront. And I remember, it was almost like a whisper: "Becca, you are the CEO of your life." And I started giggling actually. I'm like, on the bathroom floor. And this moment of being a complete mess. And my emotions were telling me. It's okay to laugh. I started laughing at myself. And I'm like, Well, if I'm the CEO of my life, I shouldn't be crying on the bathroom floor. I have a lot more power than I think I do. So I rose off the bathroom floor a different woman than the one that went down. And that's how I came up with the title of the book, Harness Your Inner CEO, because it was about harnessing that energy. I'm the CEO of my life. I've got to look at my finances, I've got to look at my spiritual self. I've got to look at my emotional self, mental self, my physical self, and I'm responsible for it all.
Andi Simon: So let me clarify, I didn't hear the title til you just said it. It's harnessing. I like that. Take charge because now you can begin to visualize, and we're visualizers, what it is that you have learned. But you want others to see that we're going to take charge of our total being, not a little, a whole thing. Please continue.
Becca Powers Vaughn: That gave me the goosebumps again. I love this conversation. So yes. So then I was going to tie back into both the things we talked about: success without sacrifice and work-life balance. What I realized about work-life balance is, it really wasn't obtainable in the way that it was being fed to me by the media, and social and work environments and things along those lines. And then there was a way that I could go about success. It was more of a question, but I knew it was possible. And like, is there a way to go about chasing my success? Because there's a lot of things I love about my career, actually. But can I chase success without sacrifice? And so those became two themes that I really explored and got it out within myself.
Andi Simon: And in the process, did you go on a journey? I'm asking because in my book, Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, several of the women went off on journeys at that catalytic moment when what they were doing wasn't good. But what they wanted to do wasn't clear. And those journeys, whether they took them through Africa or Europe or wherever with a backpack, or taking time to think and wonder. What did you find?
Becca Powers Vaughn: Yes, so I did go on a journey. So my journey was about two years long, but what I think is unique about my journey is, I stayed exactly in my life. I was a mom and my kids were in middle school at the time. I didn't have time to go on sabbaticals or anything like that. But I realized I could go on a sabbatical within myself. And that's exactly what I did. So I did start evaluating whether that job was a fit or not. And as I started asking myself questions and understanding, I think one practical tip I can give listeners is that our bodies are going to tell us what's a fit. When things feel good, we feel relaxed, we feel butterflies, we get excited. When things aren't a fit, and we're still questioning, maybe it is, maybe it isn't, we're using logic to make it okay, our bodies will tell us.
I've got a pain in my shoulder. I'm having headaches every night. And once I realized that those signs from my body were really symptoms of things not being a fit, I just kept exploring things that made me feel better. And I ended up in a new job a few months later. The one part I want to share before we pause and go back into conversation is that for me, I had to leave my own way. And what I mean by that is, I technically demoted myself. I went back to outside sales, to some sales professional. And in that, in that one move, I increased my income. I started having success without sacrifice. I found what work-life balance was for me. I was able to put down my phones and emails and dedications by 5:30. I ended up getting a sales territory for the Florida Keys because I'm in South Florida, and I had to drive down to the keys every three weeks. And now I had water on both sides of me with dolphins jumping in the water.
Andi Simon: Your visual is so powerful because I truly believe there's a path through life, a little serendipity, but a lot of self-awareness, to your point. We decide with the heart and the eyes, not the head. And so if the audience hears about what you do, and how you do it, and it doesn't feel good every morning, you wake up without a smile on your face, you're on the wrong path. And you can stay on that line and keep pushing it. And Becca could tell you she could have, but there's something in your physical, emotional, human, being. You know how they talk about the gut. There really is a gut that's connected to what you're doing. Did you go searching for that? Or a job? Or did it find you?
Becca Powers Vaughn: Thank you for asking that question because I get again the goosebumps. It is a very powerful thing when we finally stop powering through. Maybe it's surrender. That word was always kind of a complicated concept for me to fully grasp. But I do know that that's what happened in my moment on the bathroom floor the next day. And that's like, I have a saying: Admit when things are wrong or just admit when things aren't going right. The next morning, I called one of my work best friends. I was like, Jessie, I just need to tell you that this isn't working. And I ended up on the bathroom floor last night, but I'm empowered today. And the next thing I know, within four hours, she calls me with a job lead to the company I ended up leaving for. And so yes, it just fell into my lap within hours, within 24 hours.
Andi Simon: But are we different from the rest of the world? Or are we just paying attention to it differently? I'm convinced that serendipity is one of your best resources. And sometimes you don't really know why something has happened, but you do know that something is happening. And if you can pause for a moment, and you have your house, you have your family, you know you have your husband, you have all these things going right, what's wrong? You want to say something?
Becca Powers Vaughn: I'm nodding my head just because it was the pause. As women, I think we power through life as well. Women, I think one of our superpowers is our resilience and our ability to even set powerful intentions for ourselves, even though we can be going through hell. And just like the next day is, I got this, I'm going to show up as my best self. And it was in doing that too many times that I actually got stuck. And it was that power of the pause that allowed me to reevaluate everything.
Andi Simon: It is interesting because we don't know where we're going but we do know as women who are aspirational, and career-minded, whatever that means. We could never be simply a stay-at-home mom. I had two daughters. They were 14 months apart. And three weeks after each of them, I was back in the classroom. I mean, that wasn't the way one should do it. But we are very intentional in some ways but not reflective in others. And I got my tenure. And I've been the EVP of a bank and I've been successful in my business for 20 years. But along the way, there have been aha moments like you have.
For our listeners, think carefully about the aha moment the pandemic has offered you. I often preach: Never waste a crisis. This is not one that I would have ever anticipated or encouraged to find us, but don't waste it. Because if nothing else, on your bathroom floor, you have a moment now to really rethink the things that you're doing and how you're doing them. I'm seeing the Great Resignation, which is because people are back to work, and they're fine, but they just moved around in jobs. They also were catalysts for employers. You said, People before profits. What happened is the employees said, Us before you. Maybe there's a message here? So as you're moving along your own journey, where are you now? Where are you going?
Becca Powers Vaughn: So that's an interesting question, because definitely life has unfolded. For me, in the most beautiful, magical, and to your point, unexpected ways. So after my two year journey of reestablishing what was important to me, reprioritizing, my career took off. In my highest position, I was an Operational Sales Director with 110 people under me and a $500 million annual number. What I realized is that it wasn't defining success. For me, success meant, I did like making money, but I also liked making an impact. And so I started finding roles that I felt I was able to deliver that impact, and they varied and the title. I realized that title was more something that fulfilled my ego rather than fulfilled my satisfaction.
So I started chasing fulfillment and impact. As a result, I started making more money. As a result of feeling like I'm making an impact, and feeling more fulfilled, I started having what we want to call work-life balance. I had more passion in me. So even though I think I was working about the same hours, probably 40 to 50 hours a week, what I found is that my work changed. I started doing podcasts. I set times to make time to write a book. People are like, How do you write a book? You work full time, you've got kids, you got all this? Yeah, it mattered. And it happened. And it happened with ease. And it was quite delightful, actually.
So where am I now? I am going back to Cisco. I was with Cisco for two years. And they recently recruited me back and I'm happily going back. I loved working there. Going as a Strategic Sales Lead and Solution Evangelist, which puts me in that place of impact and fulfillment. I'm sitting down to write my second book. I am starting my own podcast soon. And I'm vacationing and enjoying my life and just kind of able to have more without doing so much. It's a weird place to be.
Andi Simon: But on the other side, nobody could tell you that. And while I do a lot of executive coaching, at the end of the day, we ask more questions, and we need help. Because if you can find the solution yourself, it's not a good solution. And if you're trying to do something someone else said we should do and imagining what those words mean, that means you have to be reflective, intentional, and willing to make a detour. Because we're on a journey or pathway, a ChangeMap.
Sometimes the detours come up and you don't really know why they're there. But it's okay to make a left turn to try, or a right turn to see what's over there and taste. As you're looking at your next book and the current book, what have you discovered that you can help the listener learn from, or are there some illustrations that you want them to remember? People remember stories. Is there a story other than you being on the bathroom floor, which is a great story. And the things you're thinking about next, some stories to share?
Becca Powers Vaughn: Well, one of the things is because I've been a corporate gal for 20 years, I really wanted to impact and explore burnout, but more so because that's really what happened. I ended up burnt out on the bathroom floor. So being an excavation artist and explorer, I wanted to understand what got me there. And I'm also a life coach. I had a Kundalini teacher so I've got some more hands. I do this and it's wanting to really kind of understand what's causing the Great Resignation. Why are people fed up? What's going on and all of that? So as I started serving people, this is a very interesting thing. I was like, Okay, what I understand about life coaching is that we overcompensate when we're trying to hide something. And so what is happening on an employee level that's causing this feeling of complete exhaustion? And what I came to understand is that I call it the unders in the overs, an employee first and they might not even be able to put their finger on it, but they're going to feel these unders.
This means that somewhere in the organization, they are feeling undervalued, underappreciated, underpaid, underrecognized. Think feelings like that. And when these feelings go unaddressed, it starts triggering our deepest wounds, which is, I don't matter, I'm not safe, I'm not worthy, I'm not valuable. And when those feelings are triggered, we go into overcompensation, which in a work environment looks like overextending, overcommitting, overworking, overstressing and overwhelming. Those types of things.
So that's really where I want to help people understand where this is coming from, because helping the individual understand it is really important. But I also want to help corporations understand it. I have been at Fortune 500s almost my entire career and I can say that they care. They just don't know how to do things. And so they're offering yoga classes and things that are very surface. But at the end of the day, if they knew their employees didn't feel valuable, they could do something to make them feel more valuable. So I know that was a longer answer, but I really geeked out on that day.
Andi Simon: But let's dig into that. Because if only they could actually make you feel like you mattered is what you said. And all of the tactical-practical surface stuff is there. It's always fascinating to me because the HR person works really hard to get that yoga class and nobody comes, or the Weight Watchers to arrive. And you know, "I thought that's what people wanted to do was lose weight." So their solution had nothing to do with the person's actual behavior. The disconnect in HR is fascinating.
But having said that, the company itself is the problem, not the human resource person. And the company doesn't understand that unless you spend time getting to know them, and show them that it matters that you're working here as an employee. That conversation is essential, not after the fact that you're ready to leave. You know, we work really hard on exit strategy and exit conversations. Why don't we do retention? Why don't we learn more about what your career is about? It's interesting.
I've been working with an accounting firm for five years now. And one of the suggestions I made after one of our leadership training sessions was, Have you had one-on-ones with these very important people? And the partner said, No. I said, Well do it. They want to be loved. That it isn't that they are making good money, they're not money motivated a bit. But at the end of the day, they work really, really hard during the tax season. And they don't need a party, they need someone to say thank you. They need someone to simply say, You really do matter to us, what matters to you, and how do I help you?
Sometimes they hear and sometimes they don't. Sometimes it resonates, and sometimes it doesn't. But unless you reach out, you have vulnerability there because people will find another place. They'll begin to think that all work is simply tactical and practical, and I never matter. And then I'll just hop around. What do you think?
Becca Powers Vaughn: I think you're really onto something as far as how you're understanding what's going on. I would say that even from a survey perspective, I've surveyed about 1000 people right now, and 88% feel undervalued, underappreciated. I set it so you had to have some combination, but at least to hit the 88% score. I had said it so that you have to at least get to know. And that means 88% of the workforce is experiencing at least two unders.
Andi Simon: My last thought is that people are living their emotions. And so if we stay on the tactical, practical, logical side, you're missing what matters to them. And humans want to hug. I mean, at the end of the day, they want to belong. They want to feel well. And the thing that you found was, I want to be harnessing my own interest. Do they want to be in charge? They want to feel they have some control, and that all of this has come out of the pandemic. Big time. I'm not sure of the message, I must confess, I work with too many CEOs of marketing companies and the guys don't quite get it. They're trying to figure it out. And I say that, because mostly guys are guys, but they don't quite understand that it isn't a position to hold. It's a life to live. And those are very different feelings.
We're almost approaching the end of our wonderful time together. And you've enjoyed yourself, I know I have as well. A couple of things you don't want the audience to forget, because they often remember the ending better than the beginning. But your story is great.
Becca Powers Vaughn: So coming right off of our conversation is, You matter. Number one, you matter. Number two, it's okay to prioritize yourself, especially as a woman. Consider yourself at least as much as you're considering other people, places and things. Those are two, do you want three?
Andi Simon: No, I'll add your third. And then yeah, I will expand your third. We had a program on self care. And it's not going right now but I'll bring it back. It's a 30-day challenge to take care of you. And it's an app, and I love the app. I just can't do it right this second. But I'm going to be bringing it back about when your podcast goes live. But I find that people feel guilty about taking care of themselves. And the other thing I learned is that the guys who sign on, sign off, but the women stay in and want to keep it going. So something is going on in this world of being a woman where it feels guilty to take care of yourself. You're the last on the to-do list. You don't work out because there's no time. And so we flip it around.
So the first thing you're going to do in the morning is, for you, what is that going to be? Take a walk, now sit quietly on the deck and have a cup of coffee. Take that time, it's okay. And the research is fascinating. You know, women CEOs of lots of companies say to me, Because I don't take care of myself, the stress levels rise. I said, Well, you know when you take care of yourself, the stress levels from the oxytocin and serotonin rise and cortisol drops. Your brain is telling you something. To your point, it hurts when you're not happy. Where can our listeners find your book?
Becca Powers Vaughn: You can find it on Amazon and just type in the Amazon search Harness Your Inner CEO and it will come right up. And it's under Becca Powers.
Andi Simon: We'll have that all in our podcast blog. I'm going to say goodbye to our great listeners and to Becca because we've had such a great conversation. My hunch is we'll be back and do this again when our next books come out. That's going to be a catalytic moment for her to get the next book done and my next book is going to come out. So we will all be on, talking about our books. My book is going to be about 100 Women who are trailblazers, transforming the world for women. And I do think this is a time for women to seize the moment and not waste a pandemic crisis because it's our time to lead.
Now, with that in mind, thank you all for coming. You know, you've launched us into the top 5% of podcasts globally. I'm honored! I will tell you it's a pleasure. As you discovered, I love doing podcasts and sharing them. And the only thing I will advertise on here is us. We are corporate anthropologists and we help companies and the people inside them change. And often you don't want to change so my job is to help you love change. Make it your friend. And you can, because as you listen to Becca, you don't want to be on the bathroom floor wondering what am I doing with my life? So how do you see, feel and think in new ways?
And as far as coaches, Becca is a life coach. I'm an executive coach, but we both try and help you see things through a fresh lens. My books,On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights and Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, are both on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and booksellers everywhere. AndRethink just won an award from Axiom as a 2022 Bronze Best Business Book in the women and business category, so thank you. It's really an honor and a privilege to have both of my books be award winners, which means I'm an award winner. I don't think I write to be an award winner, I write to help people see, feel and think in new ways. Reach me at info@Andisimon.com and come along for the ride. Let's have a good journey together. It's been such fun. Goodbye.