In a cross-collaboration between the Hacking Happy and Elevatory podcasts, Penny Locaso and Anna Jonak, discuss the challenges and awakening experiences of women in business. They explore the importance of reclaiming balance and time freedom and address the pressures and anxieties that come with entrepreneurship. Along with the unrealistic portrayals of success on social media and the need for authentic conversations about the true entrepreneurial journey.
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Penny: Hello beautiful humans, you've got Penny Locaso and you've also got Anna Jonak today joining you on a cross podcast collaboration between the Hacking Happy podcast and The Elevatory podcast. Have I said that correctly, Anna?
Anna: You have said that correctly.
Penny: And so this is a little bit different. I've done this once or twice before, but normally you do guest interviews but you and I decided to do a podcast because we have a common connection in working with business women, women running their own businesses and we thought it might be great to talk about what sort of the considerations might be for women wanting to start their own business and do that in a way that enables them the time freedom and the balance that they long for. And equally, for the women that are in business, have a conversation around how you actually create that balance that you went into your business for, but often find that you lose because we can be so much harder on ourselves when we work for ourselves than when we actually work for someone else. Have you found that at all?
Anna: Oh, 100%. I think that the vision that we go in with of why we're doing it, I think the why that we have for doing it in terms of time, freedom, all of those things, quite quickly, I feel like it gets squashed or trampled on slightly by all the pressure we put on ourselves and when things get moving, everything starts to get a bit crazy. And I think the vision can actually get lost along the way. And I think that we see a lot of people in that place where they get to burn out.
Penny: Let's go down that path. But before we do, and I just want to say, before we get into intros, it's funny that you say that because I have a sticky note on my desk that says, hold the vision. To remind me exactly of what you just said, like to consciously remind me that I have a vision, I'm doing this for a reason, and I need to remind myself of that so that I don't get distracted by all the noise. Okay, so let's start with my favourite question on my podcast, which is, let's talk about who we are as human beings. Anna, do you want to kick us off?
Anna: And this is the beauty of this question, right? You can answer in whatever way you want. I was just going to say, the journey that I'm on at the moment, well as I said to you before we jumped to the podcast, I've just started yoga teacher training which is actually reclaiming back my life. I think outside of nine years being in business and actually really starting to get my balance and figure out how I want life to look on all fronts. And I think that's a very poignant question, a very pointed question based on going on the journey of yoga and meditation and mindfulness in terms of who we are. So, I could probably go down a massive tangent and freak people out who might not be ready to hear those kinds of conversations. But...
Penny: Oh, I want to hear the freak-out conversation..
Anna: The freak-out conversation. Well, it's that question, isn't it? Who am I? When you start building into, I'm not what I do, I'm not my age, I'm not characterised by being a parent or a sibling or all of those other things. And then it starts to really unravel, well, who am I? What am I? What am I here to do?
Penny: And I think that, well, anyway, that could go down a rabbit hole. So, what are some of the words, though, if someone, like if the listeners really wanted to just connect in to the essence of Anna in the now, what are some of the words that come to mind that you would use to describe who you are?
Anna: The words I would use to describe who I am, I think, in this particular moment, is someone who is, which is why this podcast is so timely, is someone who is on a path of surrender and living in the now, actually. I think years and years of stress, anxiety, juggle, trying to control everything, trying to make things work, young kids, sleepless nights, all of those things, I think we can get very lost in it all. And all the negative emotions that come up can really take its toll. And funnily enough, I actually went recently to go and get some vitamin B12 injections. I was kind of getting really tired. And I noticed that I was speaking to the nurses and they were telling me that there's like an epidemic where they are constantly seeing women coming in, burnt out, coming in for these injections, tired, juggling too much, and it's incredible that it's everywhere. So yes, I am on after nine years of being a high achiever, working my butt off to get where I wanted to go and achieve all the things, it's come back to what was the vision because I totally went past the vision and got caught up in making things bigger, working harder, building a bigger business, building a team, financials, what do they look like? And in the last 12 months, I've come back to a place of, hang on a second, why am I doing this? What's really important? So, I'm on a place, I'm on a soul journey and one I'll surrender to see what unfolds as opposed to what happens when you push, push, push.
Penny: Oh, I love that. And just for my listeners who are not familiar with your work, because your listeners I'm assuming will be, how many years have you been in business? Nine years now and counting? We're very similar. So, I think this is, I'm in my ninth year now. So, I think this is interesting because we're also talking about women that have been in business for a long time. And we can then, as part of this conversation, as we get into it, share what the reality of being in business for nine years looks like. Yeah. But before we do, I love everything you said. So, for me, if I talk about who I am as a human being today, and this is why I love this question, because every day you answer it, you can come at it with a completely different answer.
Because based on how you're feeling in the moment, and so much of what you said resonated with me, I feel like as a human being, I am someone who, in the present moment, is fully invested in practicing compassion. Compassion for myself, and compassion for the people who would normally trigger me in some way. And that's come off the back of studying Compassionate Inquiry, which is trauma-informed therapy with the world-renowned Gabor Maté. And I can't tell you how that single word of compassion and just reminding myself of that word when I feel frustrated with myself or like I'm not doing enough or being enough or I'm frustrated with others has grounded me and shifted my mindset. So, I'm someone who is practicing compassion. I am also someone who is like you, a yogi, and I always say that is part of who I am as a human being. Yoga is my religion. I'm really connecting into non-attachment and letting go of this need for expectation or things to come out a certain way when I'm working on them or creating, and actually just, to your point, surrendering to the journey, to the joy and the magic that sits in the process of doing things that I love and things that ignite a fire in my soul and just completely letting go of the outcome because there's only this realisation that there is only so much in everything that we can control other than how we show up, and how we behave. So as a human being, that's where I'm at today.
Anna: I love it. And do you know what? Living that way, living from a place of surrender is so liberating. You're not there, holding on tight. I think there's a sense of like you're holding on tight, trying to figure out which way things are going to go and trying to manipulate them or work them and wanting them to turn, to become a certain way. Whereas in this way, it's, I mean, don't get me wrong, it's challenging to sit here and, you have something to go a certain way, you have to let go of that want and just trust whatever. But I have to say, from a person who has been highly anxious over the years because of being a business owner and all the juggle, it has dropped my anxiety levels phenomenally just to let go and just go, you know what, there's obviously a plan, a greater thing at work beyond myself, and actually I'm just going to go with it as opposed to being the person who's now driving everything all the time.
Penny: And it's interesting what you say about, I mean, I can't tell you how many high-performing women I speak to that suffer from anxiety. And studying psychology, I think one of the most profound and obvious things that, again, I just hadn't thought of until it was put in my face, is that anxiety is just worry about the future. It is all future-focused and it's all worry about what ifs, which are often what ifs that we can't control. And it just feels to me like the energy that we are giving to that worry, if redirected to the now and being present, is like such an opportunity, right?
Anna: Definitely, definitely. It's a really big awakening. I see it everywhere. I look around at the women who have been in businesses similar sort of time as me and I think it's important to have these conversations around anxiety and stress because obviously outwardly everybody sees a certain picture and they don't see what goes on behind the scenes. So, it's really refreshing when you have people openly talking about the good times, the bad times, how they're feeling in the moment and making it real. We need to have far more real authentic conversations, I think, in this space because sadly, possibly why I don't like social media so much, is just so polished and it's just inauthentic and projects unachievable things and then people are constantly wondering why they're not there and it's not good for anybody.
Penny: No, I agree. Oh, I agree. It's like as a business owner, I always say it's like a necessary it's how I get the majority of my clients, but I so try and limit like the actual time on it. Like I love writing content, posts that give people tips and tactics that can enable them to make a meaningful shift. Like, writing is something I really enjoy, but actually sitting there and looking and the comparison-itis that, many of us suffer and how that then drives things like mother guilt and this feeling of not being enough, be it in our business or anything else, it’s just extremely unhealthy. And as humans, we are wired to compare ourselves. It's what enables us to push and achieve and strive, and striving can be a great thing, but I think, like you say, when you're striving for things that are completely unrealistic in the dynamic of the stage of life that you're potentially in, for example, it's a spiral to, like you were saying, anxiety and overwhelm.
And as humans, we are wired to compare ourselves. It's what enables us to push and achieve and strive, and striving can be a great thing but when you're striving for things that are completely unrealistic in your stage of life, it's potentially a spiral to anxiety and overwhelm.
Anna: Can I just share this one thing that really pissed me off years ago? It was a social media post. This woman was basically glorifying, well, she was not glorifying, sorry, she was kind of tearing down other women in a way which made her look amazing. It was very much along the lines of, I don't know why these women have to get up 5 o'clock in the morning. Here I am watching Christmas movies and I'm making X amount of money and la la la la. And I was just like, wow, okay, that's really great that you've achieved that, but I guarantee you did not start there and you're not in the beginning of your journey to have gotten to that point. So why on earth would you tear down the women who, like I have had to get up at four or five in the morning, literally, with my kids, young kids, a husband that works away, in order to create time, I've had to make sacrifices. But to see women who are making sacrifices to create something greater for themselves, to eventually create that time and space, it actually really, really angered me because I just think it kind of gave this false view that everyone can sit in their pyjamas and watch TV and make, a million dollars. Yeah, maybe one day. there's a journey to getting there. Let's be honest about that journey and what it takes.
Penny: Yeah, it's so true. So, before we step into the journey, because I think this next piece really relates, so one of the things I'm really passionate about, especially if we're going to talk about time freedom and unlocking it and actually, creating this freaking elusive balance, which I think is bullshit and really just sets women up for just feeling shit. One of the things I'm passionate about that I think plays into actually what time freedom looks like, or balance as people call it, is the stage of life that you're in. And you just started to touch on it. Now, if you had to give the current stage of life that you are in, what name would you use to describe it? Like what name would you give it, say if it was a chapter of a book? And why?
Anna: Good question. That's a really good question. I would definitely call my stage of life right now the awakening.
Penny: Oh, gosh, you're speaking to my soul woman.
Anna: We moved up to the Sunny Coast from Sydney about three years ago, so I'm nearly 43 now, but in and around that time there was just a sense of needing to be somewhere else and it's going down and everything over the last three years has been an awakening, like what do I want? How do I want my life to look? Is there some greater purpose out there beyond myself? All of these things have just been a search, a self-enquiry, talking to my family, what do we all want, what does life look like? So definitely for me this stage has been an awakening. But I guess the journey that I've had up until this stage has probably enabled that, if you see what I mean. I don't know whether I could have been awakened in my early 30s when I had three young kids under the age of three starting a business like that. You're just in a different mindset and a different mind frame. So, I think my journey has got me to this point. But that's mine, what's yours?
Penny: Before I get into that, can you just tell our listeners how old your children are? Because I think that is really important in the context of life stage.
Anna: Yes. So, mine are 10, eight and seven.
Penny: And the reason I just highlight that, because if we go back to the social media thing, right, we're all comparing ourselves to each other.
And there's no consideration. It's like comparing apples and bananas for the stage of life that women are in, for the age when they're parents of their children, and how that then impacts what you have to give both mentally and physically, right? Especially if you consider someone who's trying to start a business and has got children under three.
Yeah, for example, and I just want to highlight that because I think when, when you're comparing yourself, you need to make sure that what you're comparing yourself to is actually realistic in terms of where you're at. My life stage at the moment, I would call it the zero f**** stage.
And here's the thing. It doesn't come, I mean, I'm unapologetic in saying that, but it doesn't come from a place of arrogance. And like you, I couldn't, I could not have gotten to this point. And I'm pushing. 50. I'm 48 in two weeks. I could not have gotten to this point as you say, without the, um, the rollercoaster ride that has been my business and my life.
And so, for me, I am at a life stage where I have a 13-year-old son, so he's independent, like he's, he's trying to be cool and hang out with all his mates and so as much as he's great when it's just the two of us, he’s really sort of finding his way in the world. And that's kind of only sort of happened in the last, I'd say six months after starting high school, so that has created a lot of freedom for me in terms of, not having a child that's so, I suppose, needy, if that makes sense.
Anna: No, that’s great. They're so much more like dependent when they're young and when you think about now, like mine will pop down, we've got a cul-de-sac and they'll just take themselves outside and go and ride around and all of a sudden, I'm like, the house is quiet, what's going on? I suddenly have space. There is space. There is, there is definitely a space and a different conversation you start having with your kids.
Penny: Yeah. And so, the other thing when I say I've, I've stopped caring, like it's, it comes back to this non attachment thing. I've stopped being attached to what other people think of me, the judgment of others. And like I said, I stopped caring about the outcome. And like you were saying about, I mean, in many ways, it is surrender. It has, it's like it's taken a truck off my shoulders. And it just, it's freed me up to, to be even more experimental, to take even bigger risks because I'm not sitting there saying, well, if this doesn't work out, which then holds you back, from trying, I'm just like, you know what, it really doesn't matter how this plays out because the fact that I'm actually pushing myself into the discomfort and the uncertainty is what's going to enable me to grow in a way that's going to be completely unexpected and from what I've learned, realised potential that I didn't even know I had.
Anna: I love that. I love that. Can I ask a question? I'm curious. How have people responded to your zero f*** stage? Cause you would imagine that that would be quite a big shift. I'm assuming like for you a shift to get to a point when you, you suddenly, there must be a different energy coming off from you. And I'm wondering whether you've got, you've like shedded friends or whether friends have noticed like, what's happening for you in, in and around that.
Penny: So that's a really good question. I have like over the last eight years, because of the nature of my work, because I stand on stages and things like that, and with social media, a lot of people, they feel like they know you because, I am completely an open book.
I will answer any question honestly. And I will speak always from the heart, even if it's risky, because I think that's where the magic happens. But like you say, that has meant that there have been beautiful new people come into my life. And there's also been people. that have moved out of my life.
And some friendships that have been like 20 years long, like long friendships, but I'll never forget someone said to me, there's that beautiful quote that, you have friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime. And again, I found that freeing because I think we can get very caught up when a friendship ends.
And, um, and really, there’s nothing wrong with self-reflection, but sometimes things need to die a natural death, and what served you last week may not be what you need now, and I think that there's no shame in friendships, running their natural course. So, it's interesting what you say, but the other thing I'll say is when I share that zero, this zero f*** stage, especially with other women, like it and prospective clients, it really resonates because I think so many women, um, are so attached to people pleasing perfectionism, which, because they're all about how do I make people happy? How do I get that external validation? And that's what I've let go of this freaking external validation because it is a path to burn out. It is a path to never being enough. And, it's not freeing. It's like the prison. It's like your very own prison that you're creating.
Anna: Yeah, I feel you. I feel you on that front. I think everybody will resonate with that feeling. And I think who, I mean, who doesn't want to just give, not give a s***. Do you know what I mean? Everyone wants to be in a place when they just feel so good in themselves that that's all they need, to see them through life goals.
I'm there. I'm on my journey there to the zero f***s stage. I'm on my journey. The awakening is taking me there. I think you're a few steps ahead of me. I feel like we're following a similar path. I love all the things that you've done and yeah, I'm very, I'm loving what you, what you've been doing.
Penny: Thank you. I think the other thing I want to say is a caveat to that. It's not that I don't care about it. I think if anything, like I said earlier, compassion now is like so much a part of my core, if anything, I would say, I’m more compassionate that I've ever been in my life to myself and to others. And allowing myself to give no f***s has actually created the space for me to be more empathetic. It's funny, isn't it.
Anna: It comes back to being more authentic, doesn't it? I think because. I mean, and I find this in my work in that I can't often say the things that people don't like that they don't want to hear on a sales call.
I'm the person saying, “Oh I don't think you've got a good business model. Oh, I don't think that's a good idea. Or actually, we really need to look at this. This is not going to go where you want it to go.” Even though it's the truth. I'm giving them the truth. My whole purpose is to come at it from and say, this is not going to work. It's not good enough. And I'm not saying that because I'm saying you're not good enough. I'm literally saying I don't want you to spend tens of thousands of dollars marketing something that isn't going to float. Like you really need to come back and rework it. Whereas there's other coaches that will just be like, yeah, it's a program. It's going to change your business. And it's like, well, no it's not because you’ve got a fundamental problem. So, I'm very focused on doing that in our business as being honest and authentic. And I think that that's where I get what I sense in your not giving a f**k is coming from a real place of just truth and honesty.
Penny: You've just alluded to something like I had a conversation yesterday. Like I do these breakthrough calls, which is for prospective clients to work out some basic steps to help them shift in terms of, the woman they want to be, the life they want to live, the mum they want to show up as.
And exactly what you just said. All of my coaching clients will say this for their life. Penny's got the right blend of empathy, but challenge. Because I cannot not speak my truth because I don't believe it's in the service of anyone. And yesterday, I've had this conversation a hundred times over, speaking with a woman who wants to make change completely burnt out and exhausted, which like you said is pretty much most women I know or meet now. And when we talked about the change that she wants to make versus where she is now and what's actually standing in her way, she's like, I don't know. I don't know what's standing in my way. And often women will say to me, oh, it's time, times in my way. And I'm like, no. Because who owns your time? Unless you're in prison, who owns your time? You do. So, if we look at that, yeah, 99 percent of the time, the only thing standing in your way is you. And I said that to her yesterday, I said, I'm going to be honest and it's going to be hard to hear, but you need to hear it because it's the only way you are going to make progress to where you want to be. The only thing holding you back is you. And it was like, every time you do, it's like a mic drops. And whilst people are afraid to speak their truth, my experience in speaking my truth, especially with clients and prospective clients, is that there is an unbelievable gratitude because people are sick to death of being told the bullshit just to be sold to.
Anna: Exactly. And I think that if they're really, truly ready, then it's, it's the thing that will have them step into you. Whereas if they're not ready to hear it, then they don't, I mean, you're going to almost, it's like a way of attracting or repelling your ideal client, kind of doing the right thing by being, you, and then they go, “oh wow, okay, this woman can actually really hold me accountable and deliver this to me.” Or you might find someone who goes, “oh, it's too much”. They're just, they're not in the right head space to, to make those changes anyway.
Penny: And it's interesting what you just said, right? Because if we go back to the social media thing and how that then creates this angst and also this desire to, oh, I have to buy that because that's what's gonna give me success. This whole trend that has been, going on for a while now where people are like, I’m, I'm the perfect person for you cause I'll help you make 30K months as a business owner. Or, I got to a million dollars, so I'll teach you how to get to a million dollars and here's the cookie cutter, and it's a one size fits all. And if you do my program, you're going to come out the other end and you'll be earning. And the thing is 99 percent of the time people don't finish the program and they're nowhere near the figure.
And I think it's because there is this bullshit that we're selling people that says there is a one size fits all. My experience in what I do is that there is no one size fits all because everyone's journey, be it in business or be it in realising the life that you want to live is unique. Because what success, what flourishing looks like for each and every one of us is completely different.
And so, unless you start with understanding that and then work back from there, it doesn't matter what someone gives you as a template, it'll never land.
Anna: I agree. I totally agree. I think I ran courses for five years. Sold millions of dollars’ worth of courses and I found, I found it so soul destroying at the end because there was so much amazing content in there, but half the time people just didn't follow through.
They didn't take the action. There was so much mindset work there. So, I got to the point when I was like, there were some people that obviously did finish it and did phenomenally well, because actually there was enough information in there if they followed it and they had the right attitude that they could great, great results.
But for me personally, it wasn't a values match working that way. So, I ended up stripping it all back from something which was essentially, really scalable to work with people. One on one in more of that unique capacity where you could really strip back whether it was a mindset issue, whether it was a business model issue and then build things from the ground up and the results we've been able to get people have just been phenomenal.
But for me personally, so much more satisfying because you're actually like, you would have this with your clients, you go on a transformational journey on all fronts with them and you support them and you become part of each other's lives for a period of time. And, it's something that's really special beyond something really scalable and mass produced.
Penny: So you've touched on something that I wanted to talk about, right? Because when I went into business, it was off the back of my son being three years old, having a very successful corporate career and basically completely burnt out and not even knowing it because I was so used to operating in overdrive and everything I was doing for the future. I wasn't in the present moment. And, I had this little person where I went out in the backyard one day, I said, come on, buddy, come inside, we’re going to hang out. And he said to me, mum, I can't, I'm too busy. And it was like a lightning bolt for the heart. And I was like, what the hell am I doing? And that was the moment where I was like, right. What does, what does success / flourishing look like for me on my terms? Because I'm unfulfilled and I've got a child, I want to be a role model for this child. And all he's learning is how to be busy. And what does busy tell a child? It tells a child that you're not important.
Because I've got all this other stuff that needs to be done. And so, when I connected in with that, for me, flourishing was... positively impacting the lives of others, being humanly connected, being present in a moment and sharing experiences. And so, I turned my whole life upside down in pursuit of happiness.
I left the 16-year career as an executive. I relocated my family from Perth back to Melbourne. I left an 18-year relationship and started my own company. I had no f***ing idea what I was doing. No idea.
Anna: And you were pulled, but there was obviously a pull for you. There was something so, so strong that you just had to do it.
Penny: Absolutely. But what was interesting, and I think, I want to touch on this with you because you're sort of, as I said, we're both around the same time of nine years in. When I started, I spent a lot of time in entrepreneurial communities because coming from a corporate background, like that was like a whole new world to me, right?
I had to unlearn so many things that I've been conditioned in the corporate world because they weren't going to enable me to be nimble in my own business. But the thing I got caught up in, in the startup world was this, okay, well, how do you create a business to scale, scale, scale, right? And so, I was constantly striving for how do I scale, scale, scale.
And that took me away from those four core things of human connection, positively impacting the lives of others being present. Because I was, again, getting caught up by someone else's definition of success, even though I'd stepped into wanting to create my own and it took me, I reckon, four years to go, I don't want a business that's like the next unicorn.
I'm not interested, I never went into this to be a multi-millionaire or billionaire, I went into this to positively impact the lives of others and to create a lifestyle that enabled me to show up as the woman and the mother that I wanted to be. And from that mindset, I then built a business. That enabled a lifestyle and an impact and that was a game changer for me. And I know recently you've been on a similar journey.
Anna: Well, yours took four years. I think mine's taken nine. No, I feel that it's in the beginning, a hundred percent. Like I remember when we first, our first business was Business School for Mums. It was, it was named business school for mums. And then it changed The Elevatory because we were getting non parents. But oh my gosh, when we very first started that, I remember knowing everybody's name. We'd have these little events. I've got the most beautiful, looking around my office, this beautiful card like that was created from all of like our first round of intakes coming through with all these personal handwritten notes.
It was just beautiful. And then we got bigger and we got bigger and then it all became about the scale and the growth and hitting seven figures and what marketing tactic next. And I remember kind of going through the motions of it, just feeling really uneasy because I couldn't, I didn't know everyone's name anymore.
People would come into our community and I didn't know who they were and I didn't know what their business was. And there was definitely an unsettling for me as we started to grow. And my business partner and I separated partway through, which was probably a blessing in disguise at the time. It was devastating because we'd kind of grown the business together, but it really enabled me to come back to what value wise was important to me.
And that's where I started restructuring things and focusing on much smaller. So I think about four or five years in, that kind of transition happened, but then it's still taken me, I'd say the last few years to really make, come back to the hours I wanted to work because I was over giving I then went from creating this amazing space working individually, but then I just constantly over gave, over delivered, wanted to give everyone the world and didn't have the boundaries in place.
So, I had to then work on that. So it's been a really interesting journey to get to a point where now I'm working four days a week in school hours. I literally get up and I meditate and I yoga and then I get my kids ready and then I come back and take my dog for a walk after I've taken the kids out like literally mornings are pretty, pretty much for me now.
It's incredible. It was not, it has not been like that. I've done 4am starts. I've worked my bollocks off for the last few years. And some of that has definitely enabled this, but some of that was through the mindset traps that you get in, in terms of what you feel you should be achieving, and boundary setting.
Penny: Oh, um, I love that. And to your point, my days are very similar. I do get up at five o'clock. So, the woman that posted about people at five o'clock in the morning, I get up at five o'clock, but I get up at five o'clock because I love that time of morning. For me, I feel like I'm cheating the world.
It's like this sacred magical time. And I did it this morning. I woke up, I meditate, I journal, I set an intention for the day. I write down every morning in my journal. Today is going to be an amazing day because there's a beautiful behavioural psychologist, who's world renowned BJ Fogg is his name, out of Stanford university. And he has done research with thousands of people and the evidence shows that if you write today is going to be an amazing day, or you say it in your mind before you allow your feet to hit the floor when you get out of bed in the morning, the likelihood of you having an amazing day is like off the charts. Like you will have more amazing days than you ever imagined. And it's true. I do it every day because it's a mindset, right? How you choose to start your day is what influences how your day will unfold. Which is why I don't start my day on a phone because you are sitting there reactionary and starting to action someone else's to do list, not your own.
How you choose to start your day is what influences how your day will unfold. Which is why I don't start my day on a phone because you are sitting there reactionary and starting to action someone else's to do list, not your own.
Anna: And I did it for years though. I started my day with my phone. Now everything's got apps on it. Everything's got boundaries. I wake up early still. I do the 5am, not 4. But again, it's not for business emails. It's not for any of those things, which it was before. I assume the journey that you've gone in those four years to get to that point, it's such an awakening, out of curiosity, what was it so that when your son said the business, that was your tipping point. That was a point where you just went, no, I'm going to change everything.
Penny: Yeah, when he said that made the busy comment, it was, it's funny. There was like a series of events. I would say it wasn't like a light bulb moment. It was like a dimmer that gradually got turned up and then the light was so strong. I couldn't ignore it anymore. So, when I look back on my life now, there was the, like, I was constantly sick every month I would be like, I have Crohn's disease, so I'm already immunocompromised and have been since I was 18. So, every time I could pick up a bug, I'm like, I'm, I've got it 10 times worse, and I sound like I'm dying.
It's ridiculous. And I hold onto it. So, I was sick every month because I was so exhausted and I wouldn't take a sick day. I would, I still remember, I would be propped up in bed, feeling like death, working away on my computer because that was just who I was, and I prided myself on it. I look back now and I'm like, that's insanity.
I, my son saying busy, I had everything you could possibly want, like such privilege because I worked my ass off to get to the point of what I was told was success, but I felt unfulfilled. I felt like there was something missing and I couldn't put my finger on it. So there was, there was a number of things that kind of led me to that point.
But yeah, it's been a journey. It's been a journey. And I think what I want to touch on Anna, I am a firm believer, like I've now worked in change, be it individual or large corporate change for 25 years. And I think that the biggest misnomer about change is that people don't realise that you have to let go of something in order to lean into something new..
And what I see in most people is that they're not willing to let go. They just want to add more on, and the thing is you can't fill a full pond, right? You can't just keep adding. It's why so many of us feel like we, we don't have a minute to ourselves. Every day is full. So I'm curious on the journey that you went on where you've come to this awakening that you don't want to be chasing this, scale and seven figures and all of that sort of stuff.
What did you have to let go of in order to come back to who you were and what you wanted?
It's ridiculous. And I hold onto it. So, I was sick every month because I was so exhausted and I wouldn't take a sick day. I would, I still remember, I would be propped up in bed, feeling like death, working away on my computer because that was just who I was, and I prided myself on it. I look back now and I'm like, that's insanity.
Anna: This is a great question. What did I have to let go of? I think, I think there was a big pull around, I was in a kind of a situation where my husband gave up work to me to go full time. Well, I was already full time. That's not even a thing. I was already doing full time, but as in he, we decided for him to give up work and take on more of the kid responsibility because of the growth potential that we had and how well we were doing.So there was a sense for me there of responsibility where we have a choice after a little while because I've made my bed right as in he was working fly and fly out and the whole purpose of us coming together, the whole kind of vision that we had originally was bringing him away from his role and being home for the family.
And so, my purpose very early on was all about bringing him home so we could be together all the time. And then my business got so big, so it made sense for him to come home, but the reality of him coming home was not what we thought it would be in that I found that I was working even longer hours because now I had all the responsibility financially and I knew I had to make it work.
And he actually went through a loss of identity in coming home and being a stay-at-home parent. And funnily enough, when he did go back to work, he actually said, I was so nervous and anxious going back to work. I felt like because he took two years out of work because we, that's what we decided was going to be longer. And he talked about the fact that I completely understand how women feel going back into workforce or because it gets not, you kind of like, like my world became very small was his words and it felt very scary going back out into the world having been at home cocoon for two years. So, there was a big change there where I got to a point when I was like, holy moly, yes, he's home and our relationship was brilliant because we were seeing each other all the time, but my health was suffering.
I was working ridiculously long hours. His mental health was suffering because he wasn't basically out and about, I guess in his genius zone. And I wasn't seeing my kids. He would come home and had like, we'd go out on the weekend and he would like have these in jokes with the kids in the car. Like, cause he dropped them off. And I just sit there going, I don't know what you're talking about. And I was like, Oh my God, what have I done? Like, yes. One part worked with him being home. So, I just got to a point when I was like, do you know what? I'm not happy. I can't do this. I can't not be around my children. The whole point was, to be home for being around the kids, not to basically literally stay in my office for 12 hours a day and then come out and then, scramble for a bit of their attention before they go to bed.
And he wasn't happy. So, we had to, I guess, almost let go of the original vision that we have. And it was actually very, it was very hard to say goodbye to him because he's now gone back to FIFO. So mentally I've had to let go of him and that hurts because I love him to pieces and now, he's home for six days and away for eight.
But I don't have to bring in as much money anymore, which means that I don't have that pressure. So, I've let go, like I'm happy with X number of clients. Like it's all about balance. What, what makes me happy in my everyday? What gives me that time for the kids? And now I pick my kids up and it's brilliant and it's good in that he gets a week with them when, so we switch when he comes back, he does a pickup and drop off.
So, we kind of have that balance between both having a bit of extra time with the kids and I can do a bit longer hours. Yeah, I had to let go of I guess our original purpose and intention for, for my business for, other elements that had obviously envisioned in terms of being the parent I wanted and, and making sure that we, we were healthy in ourselves as individuals within our marriage.
Penny: Oh, I love that. And like, that's, I mean, it's a beautiful example of the practice of non-attachment, right? You've had to relinquish the attachment to what you thought it would be in order to create the space. For what you actually want it to be for both of you. It's so interesting because I find, we're like, we keep saying we're all at different stages and I'm going to share something that I haven't told anyone.
I think if I have to look at where I'm at and letting go, if I go back to this, idea of scale and what I thought the business should be when I started, I always remember when I started out and I was thinking of a name for a business, which people get really excited about when they starting a business, we're all caught up in the branding, which is like the most unimportant thing in the context of what really needs to be done to set the foundations of a business.
I think when you, you realise that 9 years on and I was trying to think of a business name and I'll never forget someone saying to me, you don't make it your name because that will limit you. You want to, you want to be perceived as bigger than what you are. So I started the company name originally was Be Kindred because it was all about be part of the community, be part of the family. And then when I wrote my book, which was called Hacking Happiness, everyone knew me as the world's first happiness hacker. It was kind of, what people loved. And so, I was like, well, I'm going to change the company name and rebrand to Hacking Happy Co. And now here I am four years later, and I just met with someone the other day who is a branding expert that I'm going to do some work with because I feel now as I'm moving through my trauma studies and I'm going into my Honors in psychology next year, and I actually want to create some sort of private practice to bring in my psychology, and you have to support people in a more holistic way and completely break the mould of what a psychologist looks like, I've come full circle and I think I'm going to step into rebranding and actually, being who I am and making my business my name, which is like, so letting go of this, this need for a name that makes you perceptionlly look like you're bigger than what you are. I'm actually coming back and saying, I actually just want to be me. And I'm going to brand myself as me and how it worked for Brené Brown.
Anna: That's amazing. But that's it. I think it, I think that's a big thing for me. The journey is about, it's about shedding. It's about changing. It's about leaning into the more authentic versions of yourself. It's about listening to those periods of discomfort to saying it's okay to change. And it's interesting because there's a few people I've seen in our industry over the last 12 months go through these, a similar awakening where they've suddenly going, f**k this. I don't want to work this many hours and actually I don't want seven figures or I actually want the lifestyle and I think Kate Toon, listening to her book, like, it’s the same thing at the beginning. She talks about very much you want the lifestyle and then you get caught up in money like we all, you get caught up in what you can achieve financially and how exciting that is. And it becomes so ego driven to the point where you kind of have to kind of, well, you don't have to put yourself back, there's generally an awakening moment or a realisation where, that the ego can drive you to all sorts of horrible places where the balance goes out in other areas. But yeah, I think that it's really interesting to see so many people in our industry over the years just constantly changing. And, and I think it's brilliant because it just shows that we're leaning in closer, ever closer to creating something, I think that becomes a true representation of who we are and is more authentic to create the life that we want.
Penny: Yeah. Oh gosh, there's so many things I could sit here and talk for hours on. With you about this stuff, but it's interesting. I'm in the process at the moment of rebranding a program and it's for busy, exhausted working mums to actually design and redefine what balance looks like for them.
Because I think balance is bullshit. And like I said earlier, I think it sets women up for failure and I just in doing that process, there's just been such an awakening, like even speaking to women like Kate, in understanding the fact that the way the expectations as women, as mothers, as business owners that we put on ourselves and equally that society keeps putting to us through things like social media, is actually giving us the opposite of what we want to be. And I feel like, and it's why I do this program, I'm about to do a challenge on it, I feel like, we have an opportunity by swimming against the school of expectation, pioneering and making it okay for other women to actually redefine balance and break the mould of what we've been led to believe a good mum and a good business owner looks like.
I think balance is bullshit. I think it sets women up for failure... understanding the fact that the way the expectations as women, as mothers, as business owners that we put on ourselves and equally that society keeps putting to us through things like social media, is actually giving us the opposite of what we want to be.
Anna: It's a really interesting thing. I'm curious as to actually on that note, when you speak to people about redefining balance, what have you learned? What do you see as the core things to helping people find the elusive balance, which we don't really believe in. So what does it look like?
Penny: I have spent a lot of time thinking about this after interviewing nearly 200 women on what actually holds 'em back from flourishing. And so the one thing they say is, I just want balance. And I go, oh yeah, that's great. So tell me when was the last time you felt balanced? And most of them will say, uh, never.
Right? And it's because, so for me, what this has, I'm a big fan of definitions and equally the meaning we attach to words and then therefore how that informs how we live. Right? So, if you look at the word balance, it speaks to equilibrium. It speaks to every aspect of your life being like a set of scales with everything in even proportion.
And when I think of that, like, when I visualise that, I just go bulls**t. How is that even possible when we are juggling so many balls, right? And that's why I say, when you say that to women, they'll sit there and go, I feel like I'm juggling. So how is that like, the two are completely disconnected. So, what I have done and what I want to start to do through the Balance Challenge and equally the Balance Collective, which is a group coaching program for women, is actually, for me, what's worked is I actually don't wanna use the word balance anymore, I'll use it for marketing 'cause you've gotta meet your clients where they're at and that's what they want. That's what they want. Balance is out the window for me. It's about harmony, right? Because harmony to me, speaks to, based on like we started, based on the stage of life that I'm at, what are the things that I want to give my energy to at this point in now in time, knowing that this is a stage of life. And there will be another stage. This is not forever. Right? So, based on where I'm at now, what does harmony look like? And equally, not what does it look like in a year's time or two years’ time? What would an average harmonious day look like? What would be the micro ingredients? That I could sustain and inject into each day that would enable me to feel more harmony.
And for me, and again, there's so much science and evidence behind this and people will tell you when you unpack it with them, what are the things that recharge your batteries? What are the things that energise you and light a spark in your soul? It is. Positively connecting, positively impacting the lives of others. It's being present with my children. It's having a moment for myself. So, for me, that moment in the morning, even if it's only five minutes of meditation for some of us. That's enough. That's enough to recharge. For me, it's walking the dog in nature. So, every day I walk the dog for at least an hour and I cannot tell you how many parts of my cup that fills because I'm surrounded by trees. I'm, the dog brings me joy. I'm watching the dog enjoy herself and I'm moving my body, which keeps me physically and mentally well. So, for me, throwing balance out the window and saying harmony, and then rather than making it lofty and overwhelming, what are the micro moments I can inject into each day that will enable me to connect with that feeling of harmony more often?
Anna: Love it. Have you heard of the four burners theory?
Penny: I've heard of four burners, but I'm not sure what the theory is. Remind me.
Anna: Something that I found quite useful in the early throes of business when everyone talked about balance. And I completely agree with you. Balance is pretty much impossible. You can't have everything in equilibrium. It's just, it doesn't work. So, the four burners theory is I think you look at your life, your family, your partner and your work. And the view is that if you've got one gas cylinder firing up this. You basically can't have all the burners running on high at the same level. It’ll just run out. So, the view is that you're turning up different burners at different points in your life. So, it's like I made peace quite early on with when I was growing my business that I couldn't be the perfect mum and the perfect wife and the perfect lover and the perfect this and the perfect that. So, there was a period of time when potentially my friendships, for example, had less attention and maybe my husband had a bit less attention because I was doing what I need to do for the kids and for the business. And then there were seasons in the business where it was ticking on brilliantly and I didn't need to give it as much attention so I could give more back to other things. So it was more about turning things up and down and being okay with knowing there were seasons where different things could get attention and that really helped me. And I think we did a lot of work with that with some of our clients in the early days, because when we first started out, a lot of our clients were young mums. We had lots of young babies in there and it's hard and you have to find a way to make peace with not giving everyone everything because it’s impossible.
Penny: It's a path. It's not a matter of if it's a matter of when you'll burn out because you're putting, your central nervous system under a chronic state of stress when you are constantly doing, when you feel like every moment is full, you cannot sustain your body, your body won't allow you to, it will eventually, shut you down, whether that's through sickness or, I can't tell you how many people say to me, these unbelievably high performing successful people and they wake up and just can't get out of bed.
Anna: I mean, I see it. I see it too. I mean, I remember I had appendicitis a couple of years ago and I was literally tapping emails in before going into the room and then coming out. Do you know what I mean? Two days later, I'd come home from surgery and I was in bed doing all my meetings and I'm like, well, I look back and I'm like, why the f**k did I not just give myself a week off? Why did I not give myself permission to have a week off? Because I felt like I had to keep going. Couldn't let anyone down.
And it was just like, whoa, boundaries. That's what, these are some of the boundary moments for me. Like you said, you had a series of moments. Yeah. It's along the way where it's like you can start to feel that everything just starts to feel a little bit off kilter. It doesn't feel quite right. And it's that little sign until you get to a bigger point and it's like, okay, change is coming. I'm ready.
Penny: So let's wrap this up as women, mothers in business, what advice would you have for a woman running her own business? With the family aspect, trying to, trying to juggle it all and, um, feeling exhausted based on your journey. What sort of, what's your piece of advice?
Anna: I think based on my journey; I do think there are seasons. I definitely feel that we go through seasons and sometimes we have to have the lessons of those seasons to take us to the next stage. But I think it is really important to come back to what you want, why you're doing this for the bigger picture, and that might change over time. So, as I said, mine was from a husband to come home and then that change and then that came about being financially stable and then it became about actually back to the life balance.
So, it will change over time, but I think the biggest thing is, it's okay to change along the journey, don’t ever feel like you've started something and you have to stay stuck in it. Like, if you start to feel those inklings or those niggles or those things that are telling you that you're off path, like, listen to your heart, listen to your soul, because there's a message in there for you.
And there's a good chance that if you let that message be heard, that you'll actually find... life even more joyful than you could ever imagine. We know, we know at our core what's right and what's wrong. The society and everything and everyone all around us fills our head with stuff. But I think we all have an intrinsic feeling or a gut sense of when we're on path and when we're off path.
And I think for me, listening to those little nudges where things started to feel uncomfortable has definitely led me to a place where I could not be happier with where I'm at. It doesn't mean I've been brilliant along the journey by any means, but by being true to myself and listening to those little intuitive nudges, it's definitely enabled me the outcomes I have now.And what about for you?
Penny: I come back to why did you start this? And I think, at the essence of why I started this, yes, I wanted to be fulfilled. But the, the most important thing for me was to be the role model to my son, that I wanted to be and to show him that you could live a full and flourishing life.
Doing work that positively impacts the lives of others and brings you a lot of joy. And so, reminding myself of that, it's powerful because it comes back to where we started. If I'm talking to other business, female business owners that are mums, remind yourself, but equally give yourself the reminder through words like, what would compassion look like in this moment when you're feeling like you're not enough, when you're feeling like the wheels are falling off.
What would it look like to be compassionate to myself? And if you struggle with that, ask yourself, how would I speak to a good friend who was feeling like I'm feeling now? So that's probably been one of the most powerful things. And equally, like you said, the letting go, like it's okay to just let go.
A perfect example would be, the last two weeks ago, my son is very athletic. He plays soccer seven days a week. He's extremely good at it and it's his absolute passion. He's been doing it for years. And anyway, two weeks ago, he broke his ankle first time ever in training. So, he's got, a massive cast on his leg and I'm a single mum and the logistics of that, which you don't even consider, like, we've got a house with stairs. So, every time he goes up and down the stairs, I've got to take the crutches up and down so that he can be mobile. I have to drive him to school every day and pick him up, which before he was getting the bus.
So that's another shift. I have to really like, I have to help him shower, like all of these things and that has had a massive impact on my time, but I say to myself, surrender. Like, this is why I want to be the role model because I want to show him how to show up when someone needs you and allowing myself that compassion.
Like this is giving me the opportunity to be the mum that I want to be, to show up as who I want to be. And yeah, it comes at the cost of time. This is what's most important for me right now.
Anna: And what are you getting exactly? What is it that you get out of those moments with him that you would never have gotten otherwise? It's like coming back to what you gain. It's such a beautiful perspective of looking at that journey of surrendering, seeing what comes in that would not have come in otherwise, and that potentially, is meant to be.
Penny: Oh, I think for me, I'm going to call this podcast, the surrender, it's just, it's magical and it's come all the way through and a thank you for coming on my podcast and for allowing me to have a chat with your listeners.
Anna: Oh, well, no, I cannot wait to share this with our listeners just so they can hear the journey of two women who have been doing this for nine years and what it really looks like and the journey we've been on to get to this point and hopefully inspire them with what to take, maybe take a moment for themselves to really take a moment, how they're feeling in themselves and what they want, and maybe we can inspire them to take some positive steps to listen to those little inner callings to surrender for the next stage of their journey.
Penny:Thank you so much. Anna
Anna: You're welcome.
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Penny Locaso is the world’s first Happiness Hacker on a quest to teach 10 million humans, by 2025 how to flourish in life. Voted one of the most influential female entrepreneurs in Australia, Penny is her own ongoing experiment. A little while back she turned her life upside down in pursuit of happiness. She left a sixteen-year career as an executive, relocated her family from Perth back to Melbourne, left an 18-year relationship, and started her own purpose-driven company HackingHappy.co With over 20 years’ experience in enabling adaptability Penny's calling is to empower people to release their fear of uncertainty, find their flow, and flourish.
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