In an attempt to protect ourselves in our day-to-day lives, we often end up working from a place of fear, not realizing how much that fear limits us in our various endeavors. But working through the fear allows us to achieve new heights of freedom in the way we conduct ourselves in our lives. Kathe Crawford is an author, speaker, and master life coach. She joins Michelle McGlade is a frank discussion about how one gets over the fear they feel in their day-to-day lives. It’s time to stop letting fear be the thing that stops you.
Working Through The Fear With Kathe Crawford
Wow is all I have to say about what you are about to learn from Kathe Crawford. I decided that this interview will be filled with so much that I’m breaking it in two. We’re going to have a part one and a part two to provide the space for this conversation. There are a lot of wows and whammies in here. Kathe Crawford is an author, a speaker, and a master life coach. In 2016 after many years with a very full career as a highly regarded sales executive with some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Cartier and Chanel, Kathe stopped waiting for the right time and left the corporate world behind to live what she calls a truth-full life.
With the mission to inspire and empower others to share their stories, wisdom, and experiences, she wrote her acclaimed memoir, Unlocking Secrets: My Journey to an Open Heart. That is at the core of part one of this interview. Kathe is a certified master coach and CEO of her own consulting firm, working with individuals, leaders, entrepreneurs, startups and supporting each to realize their purpose, possibility, and impact. She is somebody I call a friend, a woman I can’t get enough of. You’re going to feel that energy in this interview. Without further ado, Ms. Kathe Crawford.
I’ve got a toss in my two cents before we learn from Kathe. You didn’t think I wasn’t going to point out some of these gold nuggets, you need to open your ears for. This is the interview for you if you are somebody who feels like you’re living two different lives. If you’re thinking that everybody thinks they know you, but they don’t really know because you’re holding a deep secret. You’re afraid of the fear, judgment, shame, guilt that you have around that. You’re afraid to tell and speak your truth. That is what is at the core. That’s some deep stuff and that’s why we are cutting this in two. We’re going to the heart of the matter. I think you’re going to find this a powerful discussion around your story and releasing your story and the power that can bring to you. It is also a safe haven, a place where we’re acknowledging that we all do this in a certain way and there are reasons behind that and that you will feel safe with us because we get you.
The other thing that is going on in this interview is we jumped right into the middle. Kathe and I were having an opening chat and I’m like, “I have to push record because this is getting juicy.” You’re going to join us in the middle at the beginning of a conversation around rediscovering yourself. Why Kathe believes that every corporation needs a transition team to bridge the generational gap. I don’t know that we spend as much time on this, but I feel like I want to ask and interview more women around this is, a lot of people are leaving corporate. I don’t think that they necessarily want to do that, men or women, but they can’t see how to bridge the shifts inside of them with the life that they’ve created in the corporate world. That is something that’s on my mind and a juicy piece of this. Regardless, you’re going to have the opportunity and the gift to get to know Kathe Crawford much more and I cannot wait. Let’s do this.
The interesting part about what you said about women in midlife leaving corporate, and I think there’s this space where you want to run for the hills from what you were doing. That’s why you don’t bring that skillset with you, but then you have to go and you will come all the way back around to it. That’s what I’ve been fighting for years. If I look at my first businesses, the brick and mortar clinics, the reasons that those were successful is because I attracted my tribe. My tribe was a professional working woman. I was trying to run so far away from that as fast as I could. I was still dumb enough to keep doing it and I tried to build a consulting business that didn’t leverage that. That was a push and look where I am now, I’m with professional women. It’s ease and flow.
I agree because that’s where I’m back now. It’s like I’m helping entrepreneurs, startups, women, and sales and grow their business. When I lead a brand, when I worked for Chanel and Cartier, these were major global brands. There was a process in place. There was the integrity of it. There’s a way to do it. We ran so far away from it because we were done with it. All of that is what I’m bringing for other startups and businesses to bring into their world. It comes back. Another thing that I’m tapping into this whole redefining of who we are as women, it used to reinvent yourself. I don’t think we need to reinvent ourselves. I love Rene’s term, it’s redefining ourselves, more so than reinvent. Why do we want to take away what we had? This is what we were doing, running away from who we are and creating this new persona, but we are not. We’re going back to who we are.
That is powerful. I’m going to pick away at that. I don’t want reinvention. How about rediscovering and redefine?
I refuse to use that word and I am still searching for that absolute perfect word, but it is definitely rediscovered. We need to go back in and we hear about this all the time. We start from the outside and go in. When you hit this point in your life and your career at that moment, whatever that trigger is, you go inside. When you lead from the inside out, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when what you’ve been chasing all along starts to happen.
It’s no wonder you love Jennifer’s interview.
That’s my language. There are a lot of women in that language, but how do I bring that language into corporate? If I’m going to talk about meditation, I am not going to say the word meditation as much as I might say mindfulness. There’s a language even when we bring in these pieces of ourselves and the way we want to be in the world.
Why do women need to leave corporate? This is another cool conversation I want to have with somebody. Why do we need to leave to redefine and rediscover ourselves? Is it because we don’t see what we want there anymore? If you could bring some of these things into organizations, then I think women would stay.
You have to bring yourself in. That’s it. When and at what point in your career do you start being you? It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but you’re more safe, secure and confident. As women, that also does come with age, experience, and wisdom.
There are some parts you can’t rush. You can’t make up an HR policy to fix this. We don’t need more diversity and inclusion strategies. Some of it is time.
That’s what is precious and that’s why as women and in every culture, the elders are revered. They’re honored. They live with their families. They’re not sent off.
Did we talk about Chip Conley? Do you follow him? He wrote the book, Wisdom at Work. He has coined this term, modern elders.
I haven’t heard the term.
You want to look him up because he is curating a conversation for men and women around that next season and what that looks like. That’s probably your audience for your coaching.
Another thing or other wording that I heard and I was doing some work around it. If we were divided into corporate or we’re incorporate and our job was to be the transition team. The transition team between the old guard and the new. This is what you’re hearing a lot, “This is the way I work. This is my work ethic. These young people are coming in and they have a totally different mindset. They’re messing and screwing things up.” What if your role was to be that bridge, to be the transition team? What about if we went to work that day instead of going in as the elder or as the new? Not everybody’s going to be called to this. Let’s say if I was still incorporate, which I think at my last position when I was at Chanel, I went into it like, “It was such a gift. It was fun. It didn’t matter.” The kids’ college tuition was paid. The bills were good. I was in a great place in my life. I didn’t have a lot of that pressure that we do when we’re taking care of our families and we have a lot of responsibility. I was on my own and I was able to call my shots. I went in with ease and grace that I didn’t embrace.
It’s more playfulness that sounds like.
I love that because people that were there loved the freshness that I brought in, but we’re not necessarily threatened. I wasn’t setting up a new way of being and living. The young people that were coming in were like, “You get it.” I heard about this and I thought to share it with you because to your point, why do we have to leave?
We don’t. We have to show up more like us because we’re having a human experience with one another. Your age doesn’t matter. Going into the workforce, I remember feeling like I had to put on this certain way, pretty soon I don’t even know who I was except for this certain way.
That was the time. That was how we climb the corporate ladder.
It wasn’t that we wanted to do that. It was the way that you were trained when you were a young pup going into your point and climb the ladder.
It didn’t hurt me. Obviously, I got to where I needed to be. As they always say, when you get to the top of the mountain, then what?
You will feel lost.
That’s why we wind up leaving and we go, “I did it.” We don’t do it and own it. We do it and we run from it and say, “It’s not working for me anymore.” What about if we own, “We got to that top of the mountain?” I can say I’ve worked for amazing companies and I’ve met amazing people and it’s been wonderful. I’m going on to something else. It’s not an either/or. It’s just and, “And now I do this.”
I like how you’re changing the language. We’re doing it.
I’d love to hear other women’s thoughts on this. This will be great.
You’re thinking of it as being a bridge.
The transition team that comes in. I’m doing that in many areas of my life because I’m finding that at the stage I am in my life. I don’t know if it’s like crossroads. I would have called it maybe in my 30s, 40s or even 20s, “Do I get married? Which way am I going?” I’m pretty sure of where I’m going, but it’s the stepping over. It is like, “I’m ready to go.” It’s not an either/or. My crossroad is an ‘and,’ and this is what I’m adding. It’s not a separate road. It’s part of the road. It’s one path. I’m very spiritual. Sri Swami Satchidananda says, “Paths are many. Truth is one.” However, we get there and however we go, it’s okay because, in the end, it’s our truth. It’s who we are. I don’t look at it as, “Do I take this job? Do I have my second child? Do I buy this home?” Everything was weighted. It’s like, “I know where I’m going.”
A big shift for me was releasing the story and who I was. I never looked at my life as a secret. I never looked at it with shame. I looked at it as like, “This is what had happened in my life.” When I started to talk about who I was, everybody thought they knew who I was. I thought I knew who I was. When I dug deep and there were parts of me that I couldn’t share big time, especially in corporate, in our careers. What about the judgment? Would I be up for that promotion? What would they think of me if they knew who I was? That’s such a theme that we hear over and over again, that imposter syndrome, the shame and the guilt that we carry. We put on these masks to be who we’re expected to be. By day, I’m Kathe Crawford, super executive, rocking it out, making sales happen, generating sales, creating the brand and doing exciting and powerful things. By night or by evening, I’m going home and dealing with realities that were at home. We go back to that bridge. How do we bridge the two without losing our credibility?
No wonder you’re the bridge. It hit me. That’s your brand. You’re the bridge. For so long, you were the bridge for yourself. You would switch back and forth.
I would put the money in the toll booth and say, “You’re headed this way. You’re going home. You’re going to work. Maybe here I’m going to do a parenting thing. Maybe here I’m going to be a daughter.” I was living two different lives. You could not convince me I was. I did not feel like I was living two different lives. It was my life. I couldn’t marry it. I couldn’t take that chance. My life was a house of cards. It was a row of dominoes. If one went down, I believed everything would crumble. I think that there are a lot of women living like that. There are very successful C-suite people that are maybe married to an alcoholic or they came from an abusive upbringing.
There are pieces of us that we can’t show the world, we were taught not to. We were like, “That stays in the house. That’s not for everybody to know.” I’m not saying we go out in the world and we share all these stories, but when it’s appropriate and when it also means pushing yourself aside, I started to discover that I started years ago teaching yoga. I took my yoga certification. I was going to be a yoga teacher. I started doing dharma because I did a lot of Bhakti yoga and a lot of spiritually based yoga.
I would do these talks before we do the dharma into the class. People would come up to me and they were like, “This is powerful what you talk about.” They’re like, “Where does it come from?” I always wished I could say to them, “I wish you knew. I wish I could tell you where this comes from.” I was still working corporate. I was living two lives. I go into corporate and by night, I’m going to teach a yoga class, I’m going to do a meditation. At that point, my kids were grown. I’m starting to do more of my own things in my evening and stuff like that. My work was to heal my broken heart, to become whole. I did all the self-development stuff. As I was doing that, people were pulled to me. They wanted to know more. What is this wisdom? Where did this come from?
They could feel the wisdom, but you were still not telling. Do you want to tell me now? I know everybody’s on the edge of their seat. What’s the big secret?
The big secret was early on, back in the ‘80s, my husband had been diagnosed with AIDS. Back then, I was 30 years old. I was young. I had just started a family. Life was pretty good. We went for a life insurance policy for our new home because I was finally going to have everything that I had worked for in my life. He was denied because of his test results. It’s amazing nowadays to watch TV commercials and subway banners that say, “It’s okay if you have HIV or AIDS. We can help you.” Back in the ‘80s, it was the black plague. People were dying in six weeks. He actually had HIV. He did not have AIDS, but they didn’t even have a diagnosis for HIV. You either had this or you didn’t. I always say back then that it wasn’t a secret that we decided, “We’re going to keep this a secret.” We were scared of ourselves. We didn’t know anything about it. No one knew about the virus. What do we do and I just had a baby, “Was the baby infected? Was I infected?” The baby was not and neither was I, which was a miracle, but I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t even say that.
At that time, I’m putting myself in your shoes and the lack of information that was out there would have me frozen in fear.
I was completely frozen. I was compassionate to my husband. I had watched my husband been handed a death sentence. How do I as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, manage? I have two children that I’m going to have to take care of. I have a husband. I don’t know the outcome. I know that when we went to the doctor, he said, “Get your life in order because you’re going to die.” That was basically our diagnosis. How do I be compassionate, loving and understanding to everyone and I never thought for once to give that to myself? I was scared that I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t tell a soul and that’s it.
Keeping a secret like that takes energy. How did that manifest for you? Did you throw yourself more into your work? I feel like to keep something down like that, you have to put a lot on top of it.
What I put on top of that was survival. I didn’t know if Larry, my husband, was going to die in six weeks or if he is going to die in six months. Larry wound up living for almost eight years, which was unheard of. I continued to build the house of cards. Everything was contingent when Larry was going to die, but I didn’t know when he was going to die. I didn’t want him to die. At the same time, my life was on hold. We told no one, including our families. My children did not know. I’m living in a household, even from a parent’s point of view where you’re keeping a secret, although they have no idea what the secret is. There’s always this weight that I was carrying. I carried it very nobly because I was protecting everyone and showing them how much I love them. I never even thought to do that for myself, for my own survival to put the oxygen mask on before you go down.
Kathe, two questions I have, you have the wisdom of being able to look back and reflect on this. How do you believe that affected you at work for those eight years? Did you perform better? Did you underperform? Did it not affect you? Were you able to compartmentalize it? What’s the learning that comes from that for the woman who’s reading and feeling as you did at the time?
On some level, it was the yin and the yang, where it held me back because I didn’t want people to know who I was or was I able to make a lot of the commitments to continue to grow my career? I was always in sales. I was always traveling. Travel was a big part. I held myself back, but at the same time, I worked like a demon because I needed to keep being promoted. I knew I was going to have two children to raise. I carried a lot of guilt that I gave them this life. I didn’t want to lose my home. I made sure I wanted to put them through college, that their life was going to be untouched by this. How naive was I to think about it? That’s why I called it the house of cards that I was going to manage everybody’s pain and everybody’s emotions through this. Corporately, when I would go into work, I was dedicated and committed because if that job and that security were ever taken away, what would happen to my house of cards?
You’re outcast when you have all of this. There was a lot of weight there. Inside corporately, I always felt that pull that I could have been so much more. I suffered so much from imposter syndrome and the shame and the guilt because, how could I say this to colleagues and to my managers and CEOs? In my mind, why would they ever be compassionate to me? They would think I would be, “You’re dumb enough. You’re stupid enough. How did you get yourself in that situation?” Those are old limiting beliefs that were in me all along. I already assumed that my story would be taken that way. It may have, but I’m not saying I would have necessarily been embraced, but the interesting question was that Larry died in 1996. Many years later, no one still knows. That’s the work I started doing. I didn’t realize that the whole experience was the key to unlocking my heart, the key to unlocking my self-worth, my imposter syndrome, the shame. What I had done for many years was I didn’t know how to love myself. I didn’t find the value. I was like this well-oiled machine that kept all moving parts going.
Would it be fair to say you were like that before his diagnosis?
No, I was not like that. I think that sometimes we’re getting a set of circumstances and to your point, we’re taught that this is the way we have to respond to it. This is how we have to be. When I’m sitting there watching Oprah, who has Ryan White on and he can’t get into school, I’m thinking, “If someone in my community finds out that their father has AIDS, maybe my kids won’t go to school.”
That freaked out people at that time.
This is why I’m an advocate now and I wanted my voice to be heard. I wanted to scream, “We need help.”
You could feel that inside wanting to scream.
That was the little girl who grew up, who had the voice, who watched the women’s movement, who wants change. I lived through the racial injustice in the ‘60s. I was at the tail end. The whole movement and the revolutions were influential in my life and I felt, “When I have my mission and I have my cause, that’s who I’m going to be. I’m a radical. I’m a hippie chic.” I love that.
That slowly got diminished. That beautiful fire got pushed down and blown out. That’s the role you held and maintained because that’s all you probably remembered at that stage, is holding it in instead of letting it out.
I hope you are on the edge of your seat to know more from Kathe because she’s going to be back and we’ll be digging deeper on one of the last things she talked about, which is having love and compassion for everybody else but not for herself. That is true for me and you. Kathe lays out some deep reflective stuff, so please come back. In the meantime, I’d love to know what you think about keeping secrets. That was the angle I wanted to share with you about her story. It’s powerful and many women do create dual sides of themselves. Don’t allow that bridge to be in place and to let people know who you are and bring all of you fully and that’s a shame. What I have been able to see and what I can see in talking is I can see that through-line. If you haven’t yet, go back and read some of the interviews, like with Shirley Bloomfield.
I’m also thinking of the interview with Kathy Grillo. What you can feel from them, even if this isn’t talked about for any great length of time, is that they have stepped into who they are. They bring all of who they are to what they’re doing. That is the bridge. There’s a way to do that. I see many individuals holding themselves back, but once they start going on that path to rediscovery, not making the bridge and making a shift and trying to run away from what they had been doing towards who they want to be. Hopefully, this is making sense. Sometimes, I’m processing this at the same time as I’m making the connections between what all the women are saying for you. There you have it. It’s out there. Stop keeping secrets. Be more of who you are. It’s time to have love and compassion for yourself. We’re going to talk a lot more about that. I can’t wait, I will talk to you soon.
About Kathe Crawford
Kathe Crawford is an author, speaker, and master life coach.
In 2016 after 24 years as a highly regarded sales executive with some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Cartier and Chanel, Kathe stopped waiting for the ‘right time’ and left the corporate world behind to live what she calls a Truth(FULL) Life.
With the mission to inspire and empower others to share their stories, wisdom, and experiences, she wrote her acclaimed memoir, Unlocking Secrets: My Journey to an Open Heart.
As a certified master coach and CEO of her own consulting firm, she works with individuals, leaders, entrepreneurs, and start-ups supporting each to realize their purpose, possibility, and impact.
Kathe has trained with some of the world’s top spiritual teachers including Ram Dass, and master coach and co-author of The Prosperous Coach Rich Litvin, and The Ford Institute.