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Janine Bolon: Hi, welcome to the thriving solopreneur show. I am Janine Bolon and today I have with me, Dr. Rena Koesler who has been kind enough to join us and she is one of these amazing people who is a professor who has turned into an entrepreneur and this is where she and I really connect. We were both university professors. We both loved our students. We loved all the things that we did with that and what I like is how she phrases this, “I took the most favorite parts of being a professor and created a coaching and speaking practice”. And I was like, “What were you doing? Listening to me and the recesses of my mind?” I am like, “That is exactly what I did.” and we just tried to talk and it was wonderful. So she has taken her 40 plus years of outdoor adventure and climbing mountains and she talks about it. She speaks about it. She helps people with leadership, team development, personal development. She has clients where she is always working with them to get that next step in their life or their business. She values that whole essence of desire that people have. When people really identify what they want out of life. She helps them live that in the fullness and the aliveness of everything that they are. And there are not very many coaches that can actually do that well, and she does that by leading by example. If you doubt me, go to Facebook or LinkedIn and check out her pictures. Of this woman, running around the peaks at 14,000 feet like it is nobody’s business. Anyways she keeps saying, she keeps people from saying this, “I shoulda, I coulda, I woulda.” And she helps them navigate through their goals to the summits of their desires. So thank you so much, wonderful having you with us today Renee.
Dr. Rena Koesler: My pleasure Janine, thank you for the invitation.
Janine: So you have this cute little book. Everybody loves this cute little book that you have. Even though it is packed with wonderful principles. Tell us the title of that cute little book.
Rena: Well it is a cute little book and it is called “Itty bitty” and that is the name of the publishing company. But it is the “Itty bitty”, the amazing “Itty bitty” book. Achieving your potential. Fifteen empowering steps to reach each summit. And notice that I do not say “Your summit.”, it is each summit because we all have multiple summits and you can refer to it as a goal, a calling, a desire, an achievement of some sort. But because of my passion for climbing mountains, I use summit as a metaphor and a symbol of reaching whatever your potential is. And we do not know what our potential is until we step out, take some risk, go into the unknown and see where our potential will take us. But we have to be tested to get to wherever that potential is. So that is in the title of my book, get to [crosstalk] steps to reach each summit.
Janine: Right and one of the things that I really enjoyed about your book is the fact that you talk to people in a language they totally can understand. And we live here in Colorado, so it is very easy to understand when you are talking about climbing summits because there is always that fake summit, right? They are always like “Okay, you will be on the trail. You will be hiking up.” Now, I am not one of these people, I stay at 11,000 and below, sorry that is just the way I am. But I do hike to nine and ten thousand feet and what is fun is people say, “Okay, there is a fake summit coming up and so do not get too excited because there is still ways to go. And I have always loved those sort of hikers that kind of cue you in to, “Do not get too excited and lose your momentum.” So talk to us a little bit, if you do not mind about what was the momentum in your life that made you decide to go from being a professor to this coaching business and then integrate your love of hiking? I just love that story.
Rena: Yeah, it is a great question and you know, I think about it all the time and I feel very blessed to have this internal desire that does not want to stop. I live by the moment of seizing the moment. If there is an opportunity and I have a desire and I have got the motivation and I have something to give to other people. I do not want to sit in my house and watch TV hoping that somebody else out there is going to learn something because they will not. Unless I have the opportunity to share and that is really the bottom line. You know going from professor to entrepreneur was a big step because I am an educator for 30 years. So I use that language of research and syllabi and grading and that kind of lingo. But going from education to entrepreneur the language changes, the mindset changes, but the output does not. In other words, if you are in the classroom, you are giving to students. It is about the student. It is not about you the professor standing up in front of the classroom and say, “Look at me”. It is about giving information and providing growth to them and it is the same thing with business and coaching and speaking. Is it is about the audience, audience of one, the audience of 500, it is always about the other people. So that part was easy for me to transition to and having that common mindset and that common theme among an educator and among a coach and speaker.
Janine: So let us talk about that a little bit. Some of these tools that you bring with you to help say solopreneurs and entrepreneurs like yourself. You talk about these 15 summits that we walkthrough. What are, if you do not mind sharing with us, what are one or two or three of these summits that you see over and over again and people who are just starting a business or maybe have only been in business a year. What are some of the summits that you see them having to walk?
Rena: Are you referring to the steps in the book?
Janine: Or the ones that you have seen in your own clients. Because you have been doing this for several years now, and I have been watching you and your work and it is been amazing to see how people respond. So I know that you are seeing patterns and that is kind of what I am asking about is those patterns.
Rena: Okay. Well, I think you know, the patterns or the summits have been always stepping out and taking the risks because it is not going to come to you. I did not know the language. I did not know what it meant to create a business. I was new at this. I was bumbling around for a year and people do talk about when you retire from one place that you need some time to sort of settle in and sort of taking in the landscape before you sort of jump into things. And that is essentially what I did first. To try to sort of take a look at meet people and engage in network with people who are already in the business of coaching and speaking. So that was really helpful. But once one of the steps said that really launched me was climbing the biggest peak I have ever climbed which is in 2019. It was in Nepal 20,300 feet a very technical mountain, glaciers, just a stunning day. But it took about 15 hours round trip to summit this peak. And I was so inspired by the will and the determination that I had unearthed in myself that I thought, “You know, I can do anything.” and I use that and remember that from that peak and many many peaks that I have done over my lifetime. But within two weeks, I went to a workshop, met someone who was the author or the owner of Itty bitty and I said, “I wanted to write a book.” and she said, “Okay.” and with her help, I came home wrote the book. Was still on fire from the summit that I had created. And then I was off I was moving I hired a coach and I am a coach so I hired a coach as well and could pull together a website and I reached out. I thought here I go, this is what I want to do. But I was not sure what direction I wanted to go into. The biggest thing if I could prevent some insight and some suggestion is to go your own way. There are a zillion types of coaches out there and a zillion types of platforms that one could speak from or inspire other people, but it has to come from you. It cannot be somebody else is speaking, it cannot be somebody else’s passion, it cannot be somebody else’s. And I remember looking around at all these other coaches and people who were speaking about certain things and I thought, “Well I could speak about that. I could talk about that. I know something about that.” but for me, I am a mountain girl and that inspires me and so everything around nature and I use as a metaphor to how I work with people. Really, that is the bottom line.
Janine: And that is one of the things that I think is one of the most valuable lessons about your personal story. Is the fact that when you really narrowed in on, “Look, I am going to have to do this my way. And that means taking my camera up to you know, 18,000 feet and snapping pictures and saying this is what it looks like from up here and at the same time if you want a buddy that is going to help you get here, here I am.” and being that guide for a business owner who has to conquer their fear of the unknown. Because that is really what we all are challenged by is that uncertainty, we suffer from uncertainty. Because we are walking a path we have never walked before. It does not matter how many other coaches have walked the path. Like you say, “You have got to do it your way.” Just like every hiker has to navigate the trail on their own. So if you do not mind talking just a little bit about navigating the trail because you are having to make decisions moment by moment as you cling to a precipice. So share with us a little bit about that if you would not dear doctor.
Rena: Yeah in so much of nature being in the outdoors and climbing mountains there is so much uncertainty. You can only plan so much. Because of the weather, the storms, the dynamics of the people in your group or your team that you are climbing with. There is so much uncertainty and honestly, that has really helped me during Covid because I did not sort of fall apart and call the kid and I know people do but I really think it has to do with recognizing and feeling okay and unflappable about being in uncertain situations and being in unknown situations. So in navigating your direction, it is putting one foot in front of the other. Taking a step in the scenery changes, taking another step to scenery changes. People often times talk about, “Well, wait, wait for a day before you make a decision.” And I think there is something to that as well. Sometimes people immediately make a decision without taking some time to think about it and reflecting on and making some good judgments about where they want to go and what they want to do. So I think there is promise in the wait, not too long, but certainly not immediately. And I think that is really helpful, that has been really helpful for me in that process too. Especially when you are really excited about something, you want to get something going and you want to start already now. But you realize there is a lot of pull back if you make the decision too quickly, in knowing which direction you need to go into. So I think that is really helpful.
Janine: Definitely that waiting 24 hours on big expenditures, waiting 24 hours before you launch into a new program. That really helps you sit down and say, “Okay, is this really the right direction I want to go in?” Because as you have talked about in your hiking seminars, the things that may look like you are going backward are actually giving you a chance to recoup your energy. So like with hook backs and that sort of thing on our trail. Talk to us a little bit about where you may be going in the exact opposite direction from the peak but you are actually resting a bit and you are getting the needed resources. So tell us a little bit about how you saw that in your own path?
Rena: Yeah, I think, well first of all when I had retired from my former job as a professor, I took some time just to take it all in. To sort of look around and meet people and those kinds of things and that was really helpful. And in some ways, I felt like I was spinning my wheels, and maybe in some ways, I might even felt like, “Where am I going? I do not feel like I am going anywhere. Maybe I am going backward.” and it feels that way. But that time is so valuable and important for people to take that time to not rush into things and really take it in and navigate the trail and look at the map and get a sense of where you are going. And look at the big picture and then pull out your compass. Which is really your internal compass that will guide you because that never lies, it will always take you in the right direction. If you pay attention to your internal compass the map is the big picture, the internal compass is the direction that your soul tells you to go. And that is the thing that I think really helps people in paying attention to that. And then storms come in right? You know trees across the trail. Now, what are you going to do? How are you going to get across it? The tree is too big. You can walk around it. You have to just go backwards and go around it. You know a storm sets in and now you are two days late because the storm hung in there for two days. So all of those metaphors that I have found in the outdoors are such great metaphors for people who are trying to navigate their business or navigate their life every single day. Because there are storms, there are trees that fall along, there is a river that is raging and you cannot possibly go across in that section. So you have to walk up and down the stream to find a good place, a safe place, a logical place to cross the stream without you being injured or anybody else. So it works for me and certainly when I am coaching and doing programs with people it really is about painting a picture for them in those scenarios and it just helps to make sense of where they are going and what they are doing.
Janine: And you also coach about having a personal mission statement not only for your life but also in your business. Share a little bit about that.
Rena: Probably about 12 years ago, I took a “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” workshop and the second habit is titled, “Begin with the end in mind.” And during that habit they had the people, the facilitators had people in the group write for about 5 minutes, put pen to paper without lifting your pen off your paper and you are just writing writing writing writing. What is it that you want to do? What do you want your legacy to be? When you come to the point where you are dying or people are attending your funeral, what do you hope people will say about you? And what is the theme and the consistency? And so they build you up to sort of be thinking about what you want to do and who you are and how you want to project yourself to the rest of the world. And that was an aha moment for me. So after five minutes, I wrote a couple of paragraphs and I thought, “Ah! that is me, that is exactly.” But it was not a surprise to me because it is what I had been doing. But I had never put it on paper and articulated it to that degree. So from that point on, I kept narrowing it down, narrowing it down, narrowing my mission statement down to the point where now it is just about six words. And it is to seek inspiration in order to ignite inspiration in others because I believe inspiration has power, and when you are inspired or if I am inspired chances are it is going to motivate you to take the next step. But there is got to be somewhere in there, there is got to be an inspiration to something and so I believe that mission statements help people and their future decisions. “Is this the route that I want to go?” If someone calls you up on the phone and said, “Would you like to speak about… would you like to do this? Would you like to do that?” I always go back to my mission statement and say, “Ah, is this in line with where I want to go, who I am, and what I want to do?” Because that mission statement does not lie either. It tells you something about your direction and it is really the foundation of your business, who you are, how you operate and then really the decisions that you make in the future. So I really do try to get all my coaching clients to create a mission statement for their business. Sometimes they go hand-in-hand personal and business and sometimes they have two mission statements. What is it they want to… what is the message they want people out in the world to see who they are is their business and then how they operate on a personal level as well, so really important, I cannot imagine. The most famous people in the world have mission statements. I mean the Oprah’s [inaudible] and Jim Carrey’s of and I love Jim Carrey’s mission statement, it is like four words, “To free people from worry.” and I think is an amazing mission statement. So that makes sense for him because he is a comedian. So when people are listening to him or seeing some of his funny movies, who is worried about anything when you are laughing and you know I think that his movies are great. So I think that is really simple but a mission statement is not something you could just write overnight. It takes, can take years like mine did. I kept narrowing it down, narrowing it down, narrowing it down, till it became something that I can live with that really resonates with me.
Janine: And it is one of those things that I know sometimes my, it depends on what business that was in. Since I have run over 17 businesses in my lifetime and each business I had a mission statement. Although I did not call it that, it was like really what is it that this business is supposed to do and then I would shut down the business, or I would sell it when it had accomplished what I wanted to do. And one of the fascinating things for me was how over the course of those 25 years of all those businesses, which just how you are absolutely right. They would get smaller and smaller, the mission statements would get smaller and smaller over the course of time. And then sometimes the mission statement would just pop into my head. I would be washing the dishes or I would be out in the garden watering and all of a sudden boom it would hit and so there is that flash of inspiration sometimes on the mission statement and sometimes it took a lot of active work. So just depended on what I was doing or where I was headed. So well, I like to kind of wrap it up, but before we go, you are working on a second book. Tell us a little bit about this manuscript that is currently being written upon.
Rena: Yeah, I have wanted to write a book on leadership for a very long time and I have not been able to narrow it down because there are about four to five leadership books that are published daily. So I thought. “Well, what can I say that will mean anything different to anybody else?” Like do I have any additional insight that the rest of the world and the rest of the people who write about leadership and talk about leadership have? And the answer is yes, I do and I the title of my book today is “Unflappable leadership. Character lessons learned from climbing mountains.” Because I believe I have learned the most from climbing mountains. About myself about other people and the hardest person to lead is yourself. So with every peak, with every summit, with every journey to a summit, and not all climbs have ended at the summit. But I have learned just as much from the journey that I have as reaching the summit. So it is about the character because I believe character is really important in leadership and I created my own little terminology, “Influence without character is dead-end leadership.” So a leader could be influential either influential in a good way and influential not in a good way but the character is what makes it a solid leadership. Someone that you would be willing to follow and it would be easier to follow because you know that that leader is about you not about him or her. I pulled together ten different climbing stories over my lifetime, starting in 1977, the last story was in 2019, but I am pretty vulnerably in the book too. Because I talk about my mistakes. I talk about blunders that I have done and I think that is going to be insightful for people who read this. It is not about me, it is about me but it is about addressing some of the things that I deem are important in the path toward leadership development.
Janine: And one of the things that are delightfulness about you is when you talk to your clients, it is like, “Look do not make the mistakes I have made in this book. Look here, so here is a book, listing off the mistakes have made. Go make different ones and then teach me.” Right? And that is the thing that you and I definitely connected on was we both have that philosophy of, “Look I may be coaching you now, but do not think that in a couple of years you are not going to be coaching me on something different.” We are both very much servant leaders in that way. So Dr. Koesler, thank you so much for joining us today. Is there a place that people can go to look up more about you or learn more about you?
Rena: Sure a good place to start would be my website which is www.renakoesler.com. And that will give you some pretty good insight as to the programs that I offered and topics that I could speak about and so forth. So I am happy to people to visit and reach out.
Rena: [crosstalk] people out there.
Janine: Okay, wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today. It was a delight having you and this is Janine Bowlin with The Thriving Solopreneur show and I just want to remind you to keep your front feet firmly planted on the ground while you are reaching for those stars and just keep stretching and keep stretching and know there are people around you that are willing to help you get to where you want to go. Have a great week.