We had the good fortune of connecting with Nancy Karas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nancy, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
I repeat my Four Favorite Mantras ~ Will Rodgers once said, “Go Out On A Limb, That’s Where The Fruit Is”. His words became my first mantra. We have two choices in life. We can wait for other people to determine our worth, or, we can take back our own power and raise the bar for ourselves. Realizing how much power we really do have to determine our own worth and then positioning ourselves for that success is key. It’s the moment when we realize we are already wearing the ruby slippers, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The Good Witch turns to her and says, “You already have the power my Dear, you just had to learn it for yourself”. This is also true for us. Early in my career, I watched people in leadership roles, some were great, others; not so much! It was then that I determined, if they can do it, (whatever it is they were doing) then so can I!! From that day on, whenever I feared moving forward, or taking a risk, I reminded myself of the people I had seen who had succeed with much less. This became my second mantra. “If they can do it, so can I!”
I volunteered for a project to help an artist paint a mural on a city building in NYC. When I arrived to sign up, they told me they hadn’t found an artist to do the mural. I said, “I’ll do it! I’m an artist!” They asked me if I knew how to paint exteriors of building walls. I said of course! But then ran home to do research on proper paints so I would be the expert I said I was. But, I figured, if anyone else can do it, so can I! I became the sole artist of two murals on city buildings in NY!
Many times, the only thing holding us back, is our own fear. Fear is a liar and it warns us to stay put, hunker down and definitely don’t move forward. When our fear of change is stronger than our desire to change, we lose out on so much that life has to offer. Staying in place and not making any moves, will never allow us to grow. Learning to push through our fears is the most amazing freedom we can have. That knowledge and determination inspired me to spend my career kicking my fears to the curb and teaching my clients to do the same. My clients tell me that they are too old, too overqualified, too young, too inexperienced, too unsure, etc. for whatever it is they want. All of these beliefs prevent us from moving forward. Believing the societal myths we’ve been told, we become too afraid to take a step forward. What if we fail? What if we are rejected? Well, what if rejection is simply redirection? I decided that any time I was rejected, I would think of it in a new light. From now on, I was not being rejected, I was simply being redirected to something better for me. If I focused on this new mindset, I was able to pick myself up after a rejection and get right back out there realizing it was a sign that something better was waiting for me up ahead, so carry on! I do believe there are infinite opportunities in this world if we look for them. If we stay aware and inspired, we can always find a way to be meaningful and make a difference.
Our mind is an amazing but funny companion. Our brain plays tricks on us. When we look forward to the future, we convince ourselves that the outcome will be so much greater than it is, exaggerating the anticipated outcome so greatly, that we are left disappointed and let down once we get there. Or, conversely, our brain tells us that we are not worthy, that we are not capable of what is in front of us, and our brain warns us to not bother trying. It was then I realized, I had to outsmart my own brain! Mindset is everything. We can control how we choose to look at what is happening and how we approach what is ahead. And this mindset seemed to greatly affect my success. And my outlook regarding success and what the definition of that word really means to me. It is so much more than a title and a paycheck!
Risk has always played a huge role in my career. I always choose to listen to my own heart, I marched to my own drum. Throughout my career, I sought opportunities that allowed me to do the work I love to do. I took risks, going from opportunity to opportunity, company to company to provide change management expertise, but always choosing to remain loyal to myself. When moving from company to company wasn’t too cool to do, I did it anyway. When laid off from a job, I always took off on an adventure to travel somewhere new and exciting. My Father would advise me to get a new job immediately. He would let me know that I was making a big mistake and risking my career by taking a vacation. I listened to him, but chose my own path, Rather than following his advice on this, I filled my head, my sights and all my senses instead, with diverse cultures, fascinating people and unknown lands. I cleared my head of negativity and built confidence as I navigated the immense world before me. Then, and only then, would I return to embrace my next career opportunity.
When I finally left corporate America to launch my own business, my friends and family were fearful of the chances I was about to take and the choices I was choosing to make. I was fearful too, but knew from prior experience, that if I didn’t take a leap of faith, if I didn’t take these risks, these chances, I would not achieve new and great things.
In the movie, Field Of Dreams, an Iowan Corn Farmer and devoted baseball fan fears growing old and feels he hasn’t achieved anything in his life. He is struggling to keep his farm going financially and his relationship with his Father was broken. He hears a voice whispering to him one night while out walking through his corn fields. The voice says, “If you build it, he will come.” So he builds a baseball field, dreaming of the ball games and all the players who could come to play there. One day, the Spirit of his Father suddenly appears and offers to play catch with his son, the Farmer, on the baseball field. As they begin to play, they heal their own relationship while hundreds of cars begin to approach the field, as people come from far and wide, buying their tickets to experience all of the feelings of excitement and nostalgia that baseball brings.
The Corn Farmer’s instincts were spot on. He listened to his inner voice. People would pay to attend the baseball games and he would make enough money to keep his farm. And that is exactly what he manifested. My third mantra was the voice that whispered to him. I told myself, just like in the movies, “If I build it, they will come” When friends and family expressed their doubts, I would reply, “If I build it, they will come” And they sure did. When I launched my business and had only one or two clients, people would tell me that I should go back to work as an HR Leader. Go back to corporate roles where I had been successful. They would let me know that this new idea of mine was not a great idea. But in the end, I chose to ignore them all. If I didn’t choose to do this now, take this risk, follow my dreams, follow my heart, if I didn’t do it now, when would I ever do it? I know that in order to succeed, I must take risks! Everyone calls me a risk taker. Or Crazy! Lol.
But, wait! Are they really risks? Or am I just casting my net wide? Thinking outside the box? Going out on a limb? Maybe, risks are just things that we really want (with all of our heart and soul) But our friends, family, colleagues, therapists, counselors, doctors, social media contacts and whomever else is in our life and voicing their opinion, thinks that we are crazy to attempt our goal and to take this risk. Their negative words echo in our head and become a committee that voices all of those thoughts whenever we plan to move forward or take a risk. In order to take risks, we have to fire that committee in our head. We can’t allow the doubts and fears of others to hold us back. Those fears and the words of others become hurdles we throw on the path in front of ourselves, when we are jogging down an otherwise open path. We create our own internal hurdles and don’t bother to try because, well, someone told us we were too old, too young, overqualified, too inexperienced and so on. When we choose to ignore these self-imposed obstacles that hold us down, we can move forward to find our own version of happiness and success, It may feel like it is a big risk to do so, but my guess is it is a much greater risk to never try. So, “Take back your power and raise the bar!”This is my fourth mantra.
Almost everything we want to learn about, can be found online, so we can educate, instruct, expand and grow our own knowledge, often at our fingertips. This knowledge helps us to step into the driver’s seat, it empowers us to move forward and to become an equal on the playing field. So I encourage you too, to take risks, take chances, go out on a limb, give it a try, expand your horizons, when safe to do so, travel to new places, meet new people, do and experience new things. Everything you want is on the other side of fear.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I am a Transition Coach, Career Strategist and Change Management Expert. I have helped thousands of people and hundred of companies over the years. So many who are unhappy with their company, their work, their comp, their life. I saw so many injustices and I saw so many opportunities to help people, but I was not always permitted to do so for company reasons. Right or Wrong. I watched people suffer unnecessarily in the workplace. I spent as much time as I could helping them to find their own happiness and success but I always wanted to do more! After 9/11, I determined that I would do my best work going out on my own. I would support people unencumbered by my HR Role and the decisions of the business leaders I reported to. I would work with companies and individuals, on a coaching and consulting basis. Then, I could remain in the driver’s seat. So I left corporate America and became my own CEO. I started my business in 2009 and haven’t looked back since. I decided to do what I love for a living and I’ve never regretted a day of work since. Is it work? It really doesn’t feel like it! I enjoy it every day!
What sets me apart from others in my business is the unbelievable number of tragic and heavy duty life experiences that I have managed. It truly gives me the empathy and compassion needed to put myself in other’s shoes always. As a change management expert, I have worked in a vast number of industries. I have lived through many challenges that have taught me how to find a way through to the other side. Enough challenges to know, when we think we are at the end, we are usually just about to begin something new. All of these experiences have made me a much better coach. I can put myself in someone else’s shoes and really understand their feelings and what is going on beneath the surface. There are so many facets to our lives. It is never just work or just our personal lives that challenge us. It is usually a combination of both. I address all facets of life with my clients to help them to move forward; feeling whole, happy and inspired. I am an open book and share my own experiences, good and bad, to help my clients to grow. I encourage them to have hope, to envision and create a solid path forward for themselves. I help them to find their own version of happiness and success whatever that might be and I support them on their journey to get it!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my friend was visiting, I would take them to my favorite spots in the city. We would start the day in my backyard. I would throw a tablecloth with big yellow sunflowers on a deep blue sky across the coffee table outside and scatter my garden with earthly delights. I would serve lemonade, sugar cookies and little sandwiches. I would get in the car with my amazing daughter, Sedona and my visiting friend. We would go to pick up my cousin, Jenna Kannell, at her house. Jenna is a creative genius; an international award-winning writer, director, actor and film producer in Atlanta. Jenna would hop in the car with us and we’d continue on to pick up her brother, my cousin Vance, who might be working at the movie theater. Vance is also an actor and a star, you can check out the film that his sister Jenna made with him in it. It is called Bumblebees, by Jenna Kannell. They are my two favorite people in Atlanta!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate this shoutout to all the Women in my life who have supported me on my journey. I also give a shout out to myself for believing in my own self and gifts and using them to make a difference in this world. Like a Phoenix I rise from the ashes over and over again to reinvent myself in this ever-changing world. I take all of that knowledge and help people to rise up as well. I could not do it without the wisdom of the Women around me. I am so grateful for you all!
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