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Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant podcast, where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible and breaking stigmas along the way.
Have you found a community of people that you can call upon when you’re struggling? In episode 3 of Becoming Buoyant, Natalie Franke Hayes, founder of Rising Tide Society and Head of Community at Honeybook, discusses the need for community and support during tough times. Listen in as she shares what life after brain surgery looked like, from struggles to successes!
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Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant podcast where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible, and breaking stigma’s along the way. In each episode, you’ll learn from expert guests exactly what it takes to build a meaningful and sustainable business without sacrificing self care. We want you to shine your bright light on the world, friend, and are honored to be part of your creative life giving journey. Let’s dive in, shall we?
This is the Becoming Buoyant podcast with Emilie Steinmann, episode #3.
[00:57] Emilie: Hi, Nat, I’m so excited for you to be here on the Becoming Buoyant podcast and YouTube channel. So I really want to dive in right away and hear your story and everything you’ve gone through when it comes to health hurdles, and running a business, and having a full time job and leading a massive community. So let’s dive in. Okay. So tell us a little bit more about who you are beyond titles.
[01:21] Natalie: Oh, I like that term beyond titles because normally whenever you do any kind of interview, they just sit there and list all of your accolades. And I always say, I don’t know if you ever do, I always say this, I’m like, yeah, you make me sound so much cooler than I am in reality. Who I am behind titles. I mean, I guess it’s a title, but it’s probably the one I’m most proud of. I’m a mom to a miracle human. I mean, truthfully, anyone who’s listening to this or who’s gone through chronic illness knows that having children is not something that we take for granted in this community. Heck, what do we take for granted in this community? Nothing. So, you know, I am a creative, I’m a photographer by trade. I am a huge nerd. I love studying neuroscience and psychology. I think if I were to pick a different job or sometimes I say when I grow up, I would definitely be a psychiatrist. Funny enough, my sister is about to graduate from medical school as a psychiatrist and I often tell her that with all of our family stuff that she’s endured, she’s ready to go. She didn’t need medical school, like, she’s watched me my whole life. She knows all about how, you know, going through mental wellness with somebody. So I go through my own hurdles as I kind of just alluded to, I have struggled with a benign brain tumor throughout my 20s, had it surgically removed a year and a half ago, and then have just been navigating that life after surgery, which, you know, I guess I went into it thinking I’m going to get this taken care of and be done. What I didn’t realize is that was the start. That was the beginning of complications, learning a new normal, navigating just that journey afterwards was a huge challenge. So yes, I have a lot of titles and I wear a lot of hats, but at the end of the day, I am a human who’s just trying to figure this thing called life out.
[03:04] Emilie: Yeah, absolutely. We’re just human, right. And I think that’s so interesting because you think like, I really am passionate about chronic illness and invisible illness, but like having something like a benign brain tumor, thank goodness it was benign of course, but it’s like, okay, you remove it and you’re done. Right? Like, so that you think of it more as an event. Like it’s there and now it’s gone and it’s finished, right. But you had a lot of interesting complications that happened after that, including hydration issues, infertility issues and things like that. And I think that it’s so amazing that you have been so transparent of course, of your own choice, you know, but you’ve been really talking about a lot of the things that come along with that and what it’s done not only to your personal life, but career and the trajectory of your goals. Like you’ve had to set a lot of boundaries with a lot of that. So I think that that’s incredible. So how do you feel like this is one of the questions that I feel like is really like I put from my heart. How do you feel like some of this has helped you grow as a person? Like not in spite of, but how do you feel like it’s grown you as a person because of your health condition?
[04:25] Natalie: Oh, without a doubt. Without a doubt. I’m a better human being because of what I’ve gone through. You know, I think the easiest way to describe it is I went from being able bodied and unaware, to being thrust into a transformative process of coming to understand my own limitations, coming to prioritize what really matters in my life, and growing to empathize with other people who are enduring things that either I’m enduring, or far worse than I am enduring that I never even knew, I never was aware of. And I don’t know if anyone can relate to that, but you know, Emilie talks a lot about invisible illness and you advocate for it. I’ve seen that for years. This is something I didn’t even know was a thing, I wasn’t even aware of. And so, you know, I think that it really refined me as a human being. It made me a better person. It made me more loving, more forgiving, more giving of grace to others and understanding that I needed in return. And also, you know, it really taught me a lot about appreciating what my body can do rather than concentrating on what it cannot do.
[05:35] Emilie: That’s a really good point. Appreciating your body for what it can do and always seeing that there’s, of course there are limitations and that’s the case with anybody. We all have limitations, we all have our boundaries, but it gives you a whole new perspective. And that’s the thing that I’ve really learned so much this year is you get so much more perspective on what you can do and the gifts that you have in all of that great stuff. And one thing, when you were talking, I was thinking how you felt you were refined by this whole process and I think of this quote, that diamonds are formed under pressure. Isn’t that so true? For our situation, right? For whatever we go through, we have a lot of pressure, we have a lot of things going on, but it forms a better version of us. You know, we turned from coal into diamonds I think. So there’s always a way to look at it in a really nice light. So what is something you wish you knew when you started your business way back when because it’s been quite a few years. What is something you wish you knew now? So this is a little bit more on just general business advice or knowledge rather than chronic illness. But what is something you wish you would’ve known when you got started?
[06:53] Natalie: Truthfully, I think I wish I would have understood the importance of leaning into my superpower instead of trying to do it all. I think that that is something that every business owner learns or if they don’t, it can be a cause of failure and deterioration in a business. And what I mean by that is, you know I was so passionate about creating and yet I became so bogged down by all the other things I had to do to be an entrepreneur. All the business tasks, all the admin tasks and client customer support. Like you name it, you do it if you run a business.
[07:26] Emilie: The 90% of the work.
[07:28] Natalie: Yes, which actually it’s funny at HoneyBook we literally call it the 80/20 and the idea is that you step into wanting to run a business, spending 80% of your time on what you love and only 20% of your time on the things you don’t love. But the reality is quite the opposite. Like, I love that you say 90% cause sometimes I joke with them, I’m like it’s actually like 90, like it is. It feels like everything you do, you know, is sort of detracting from what you wish you were doing. And that distinction becomes so illuminated, I think, you know, as you grow and as you scale. So I wish I had known that and you know there are so many ways to flip that 80/20 and I just was unaware and it’s not, you know, it’s not hard. It really just takes identifying first and foremost, what are you uniquely equipped to do? What do you love to do, when you wake up in the morning, when you have free time, when you know somebody takes the kids or you’re feeling on fire that day, you know, what is it you actually want to spend your time doing? That’s the first step. And then the second step is everything else you didn’t just list in your head, how do you either automate it, outsource it, streamline it. And what’s cool now is, you know, I learned that in growing a business but as someone that now works at HoneyBook and helps to build a platform that gives other people that ability, it’s been game changing. It’s been absolutely game changing to see that transformation happen thousands and thousands of times over. So, but I wish I had known that. I wish I had known that day one, I think I would have had a much easier time, you know, really scaling and if I can give that advice to someone who’s either just starting out or is in a season of wanting to take things to a new level in their business, it would be identify the things that you should not be working on and find a way to get someone else to either help you with them, to outsource them or to use a platform like HoneyBook to streamline it so that you aren’t wasting that precious time and you can use that time to your benefit to maximize what makes you unique and what you love. What lights you fire.
[09:22] Emilie: Oh, for sure. Yeah. I took a really fun crash course, I think it was 12 or 14 weeks and it was like a local technical college and it was amazing. I knew nothing about business when I stepped into running a business and several years back, this was 2014 that I took this course, I, I knew nothing. I literally did not go to school for this or anything, but I knew I had a creative passion. So I had to bolster the other side. And one of the first things they said on day one, the first thing they said, here’s the list of 10 things you need to know. I was like, okay, like running a business as you know, now reduced down to 10 tips, right? But one of the first things they said was, you can’t do it all alone.
[10:06] Natalie: Yes. Preach.
[10:07] Emilie: And I thought, yeah, but how do you pay for that? Right. And that was the one thing that I think over the years I have learned that sometimes you have to pay for things and you have to jump just that teeny tiny step before you’re ready because you have to have that faith in, you know, yourself or whatever you believe in that that return will come when you get help. And I think that that’s the case with, you know, personal life too. You have to have that faith that somebody else is going to be willing to support you when you ask. But you have to ask.
[10:46] Natalie: You have to ask. That’s the thing. I think so many people feel alone. And I spent so many years in my business feeling alone. The reality was if I had just spoken up, I would have been surrounded in seconds by support. I actually, I wrote on my Instagram recently, I said, you know, I talk a lot about competition, there’s no secret there. I mean, that is a passion of mine is analyzing how we interpret competition and comparison and figuring out ways to flip that script. And you know, so often we look at other people as our competition. You know what? Guess what? They are not your competition. They are your colleagues. They are your support system. They are not trying to compete with you. You are your biggest competition. Your fears, your doubts, your whatever it is that’s holding you back from speaking up and saying, I need help. That’s really the competitor that you’re facing. That’s the enemy, not other people. I’m not saying like overcome everything and like no, anyone with a chronic illness knows like some days I can’t, I can’t, you know? But that doesn’t mean that someone else can’t help me. That doesn’t mean that someone else doesn’t want to help me or that I can’t get strategic and understanding, you know, my limitations and investing in copywriting, investing in a marketing freelancer to help me, investing in a platform like HoneyBook. All of those things can enable me to be a CEO and not be a solopreneur who is stuck in the messy middle.
[12:07] Emilie: Oh yeah, right. And stuck is the key word. You don’t have to feel stuck. I think that’s the beauty is once you realize you can get help and you can automate and you can do all of these really cool things, you don’t feel stuck anymore and now you feel empowered.
[12:23] Natalie: You are empowered, you can go do it, you can go do it.
[12:27] Emilie: And, like when you say you are your own biggest competition, that is spoken like a true number three Enneagram, for sure, you and me, we got that, but we are really our own biggest competitors and we want to strive to do more, and better, and always, and of course we chase big dreams when it comes to our health related issues. Sometimes we feel like we’re at odds with our own bodies, which I think is a really tough thing to deal with, but not impossible. When you try to balance your ambitions and your abilities, it’s like kind of a fun game to figure out how they meet together. Frustrating game, but what game isn’t frustrating when you’re really trying your best? You know.
[13:09] Natalie: I loved that. I think that’s an amazing, amazing example.
[13:13] Emilie: So at this point I wonder what is there, okay, so what is something you wish other people knew? People you know, like maybe the Natalie from years ago that was very unaware of what it’s like to have an invisible type health condition. What is something you wish that group of people would know about what it’s like to be creative and chronically ill or creative with a disability or with a health condition?
[13:42] Natalie: I think that it doesn’t go away when we stop talking about it. I think that was something I wasn’t aware of. When people would share either a diagnosis or a hardship, I would often kind of forget that they were going through that unless they were talking about it. And I think for me, I experienced that, you know, after my surgery, everyone was just so happy that I was okay, but I wasn’t okay. I was navigating a new normal. I was unable to function throughout the day without literally like I had hydration issues, Emilie mentioned, but literally I was in the HoneyBook office holding a massive canteen of water with one mouth, like my mouth on it, sipping it and trying to work with my hands. Exactly. So, you know, it’s a process of constant struggle behind the scenes, but oftentimes people aren’t aware on the outside. And I think that’s what makes it invisible. Also that most of the people that you know who do struggle with some sort of chronic illness or disability are just like you, but working twice as hard to appear like they’re operating at the same capacity as you. So I, you know, work with a lot of people and some of the people that are on my team, for instance, have chronic illness. What I am constantly amazed by is their ability to perform at the same level as everyone else, but knowing they are working two to three times as hard to hit those goals as other members of my team. And no one is aware of that unless you ask, unless you know, unless you understand what someone else is going through. And so, I know that’s a lot that I just dumped on you. But I think it comes back down to just being empathetic of others. I wish I had known the power of just being empathetic doesn’t mean that you’re going to fully understand what they’re going through. But it does mean that you can give grace, you know, really work to understand when you can ask questions, be open to changing your perspective because that’s another journey in and of itself is when you realize that looking to your left and looking to your right, not everyone is able bodied. It even, even those that you wouldn’t expect, it can be a process of peeling away your biases, of your perceptions, a process of refining yourself as someone that lives in a world that maybe wasn’t like you were raised to believe it is. And I think that’s really important. It’s an important journey for all of us to go through.
[16:07] Emilie: Yeah, definitely. I feel like with with a lot of the things we go through, and we do have, we do have this ability to compensate for what’s going on. Maybe on the inside we try to work extra hard to look really bubbly and really, really happy. And then what happens is maybe we go to a really amazing retreat and then we get home and then we’re basically dead to the world for a week because we’re so exhausted. It might take our colleagues who are very healthy and active, maybe a day to recover and unpack. But we’re unpacking mentally cause we’re learning a lot, we’re unpacking physically because we have suitcases, but then we are also unpacking in terms of the health related consequences of being on and being present. And this happens every single day when you’re working of course, so that leads to fatigue later in the day of course, but then if you’re taking special time to do an event or something out of your normal routine, it throws a lot of things off. So I also think too, another great piece of advice that made me think of this is asking, do you need anything? I mean, just being available and saying, do you need anything? Being accommodating without feeling like they have to be standard, really hefty accommodations. Sometimes it’s having water available at meetings, or you know, making sure that there’s restrooms accessible, making sure it’s easy to get in and out of the building. A lot of those things that you, you know, you might not think about if it’s really easy for you to get through life, you might not think of these things normally, but that’s one of those things we, and I’m low key referencing the leaders retreat.
[17:50] Natalie: I know, I was like this sounds like personal experience.
[17:54] Emilie: But, I felt like the accommodating nature of what HoneyBook and Rising Tide did for all of us who are local chapter leaders was outstanding. The fact that there was a request like area for if we wanted to request certain accommodations, that was available, we could put in, Hey, I’d love to be right next to the door, in case if I need to step out and get some fresh air, or I would love to be close to the door so I could maybe get some water, like weird things like that that, you know, it’s more than just say a dietary preference, which is a very real request and I think is so great that you guys also ask for those things. But there’s more than just the things that you would normally think of. So, leaving a blank open space for people to put their own feelings and thoughts in is really, really encouraging. So coming from an event planning perspective.
[18:50] Natalie: Well I can’t take credit for any of that, that is all my rock star, right-hand Kait Masters because, we’ll she is really like the heart and soul behind ensuring that everything is accessible and accommodating. She even went as far as to make sure that for leaders that couldn’t attend, there were resources being shared online. So they had access if they couldn’t get there for health reasons, family reasons, financial reasons, scheduling conflicts, you name it, we wanted to make sure they still had access to the information. And I think that that’s something we can take into account when we build our businesses. You know, looking at our own offerings and asking questions like, is this really accessible? Is this really, you know, am I making it available to everybody. So it’s something that, you know, when you need the accommodation, you’re grateful for, and perhaps all of us could take an opportunity to then reflect on our own businesses and on our own content offerings. Just to ask the simple question, am I making this accessible and am I accommodating my audience? Because every one of us has an audience member out there that might be struggling with something. And you know, like we mentioned just a few minutes ago, not everyone knows to raise their hand and to ask for help or to ask for access, and they shouldn’t have to. So if we can step up and we can make those accommodations so that they are available from day one without anyone needing to ask, that’s the best way to be inclusive as we continue to create content
[20:12] Emilie: Yeah, literally making space in your day to think about that, and maybe you review it once a year or once a quarter or whatever it may be and say, am I doing the best I can to provide an accessible client experience or customer experience or attendee experience for whatever, whatever service or product you’re offering. Is this accessible to everybody? And let’s be honest, accessible equals profitable too when it comes to, if you’re putting everything out there in a way that’s accessible to everybody and you’re not cutting out massive segments of your market, big deal, that’s a really big deal. So that’s a big deal, not only for the heart and the feel and for all of your clients who are going to love you even more, but it’s a big deal for your bottom line too. So, there’s a lot of reasons you could be excited about all of this, but that’s one that we can be really honest about too, is you’ll have more profitability when you’re accessible to all.
[21:11] Natalie: Absolutely. Without a doubt.
[21:13] Emilie: So with that in note, I decided to create this podcast on a video and audio format so that it could be accessible with captioning and full transcripts and all that fun stuff. Because I wanted that. So that’s another thing too is when, you know, I know that you’re on a lot of podcasts and you’re out there speaking, having those types of things is also really helpful. So if there’s other podcast hosts or YouTube hosts or even event planners, all of that kind of stuff, it really makes a difference, moves the needle forward.
[21:47] Natalie: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s more strategic. It’s more strategic to have really active show notes, to have captioning, to have video content included. It is so much more strategic. It’s going to build your audience in so many different ways. So I love all of what you’ve done. It’s fantastic.
[22:05] Emilie: Well, it’s honestly, it doesn’t feel like any sort of work at all because it’s just so much in my heart. And I know that this community of creative and chronically ill entrepreneurs, I know that we have such a big impact on the creative economy. And we have such a big voice but we’re often unheard. So that’s where I needed to make this happen. So I’m really excited about this whole podcast and YouTube channel and everything that’s coming with it. And I’m just really grateful that you came on as a guest and shared your story, cause many people know you as a photographer and a community, well let’s just call it mogul. Like you have built a community to a massive scale that has made such huge difference and obviously made waves, but they may not know all of the other aspects that have come along with it and what you’ve done with that whole community while also dealing with these health things. So I’m just really grateful that you came on as a guest. So that will wrap up our episode, and I’m so grateful that we can do this and we’ll stay tuned for additional episodes every week.
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