When I walked away from my career as a speaker and writer on race and diversity to work full-time on Urban Martial Arts, a lot of people didn’t understand why.
I’d worked hard to establish myself as an important voice in that space and built an influential blog with a large readership.
How could I just leave that all behind?
Especially when it seemed like I was trading down to something much “smaller.”
Instead of trying to change the way a whole country thought about race, now I was… well, just helping out in a neighborhood karate school.
But it wasn’t just other people who questioned the move.
The truth was, I had doubts too.
Charlie Gilkey and Angela Wheeler recently invited me to write a guest post for their blog, Productive Flourishing.
So I decided to do a post on the twists and turns my career has taken, and how it’s made me realize that when we get hung up on prestige, we lose sight of what really matters.
Here’s the accompanying video interview I did with Pamela Slim on this topic.
In the video, we talk about:
- Why I decided to “waste” my Ivy League degree to work as a secretary
- Why I walked away from being regarded as an authority in my field (complete with CNN appearances, book agents, and highly-paid speaking engagements) to start a mom-and-pop local neighborhood business
- How even the most seemingly irrelevant jobs I’ve held have taught me things that served me later on in my career
I hope you enjoy it.
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Pamela: Hello, this is Pamela Slim and I’m really excited to have a conversation with somebody who is very special to me, Carmen Sognonvi, who I have known now for probably four years, I think, something like that, four or five years.
And what we wanted to talk about today in the form of a conversation, and maybe some of the questions and interviews that I could be giving to Carmen, is really to examine what is meaningful work and looking particularly at Carmen’s own journey by understanding some of the different transitions that she made and what were the thoughts behind those decisions and transitions; what can we really learn about the new world of work?
So, Carmen, I am so glad to be having this conversation with you!
Carmen: So am I, I’m thrilled!
Pamela: So, why don’t we start at the beginning, kind of maybe catch us up on the first chapter of your life, you know, where you come from, where did you end up in that first stage of your career?
So when I was in college, for a long time, I wanted to be a journalist, that’s kind of what I thought I really wanted to do.
And then senior year came around and like a lot of people in my school, I was kind of brainwashed into thinking that if I don’t become a banker or a consultant, then I’m basically a waste of space in this world.
So, unfortunately I kind of, you know, left the journalism track and got a job at an investment bank and that was my first job out of college.
Quickly realized it wasn’t really for me and kind of bounced around doing different things, so I was working in marketing for a while and then kind of stumbled into ad sales, and was really bouncing around not really sure of what I wanted.
And then basically around that time, I started developing a really strong interest in race and identity and then that kind of led to the next phase of my career.
Pamela: So what, just to understand where, like where you were first born and then where you grew up, you went to school in New York, is that right?
So I was born in Hong Kong and moved around a lot as a kid.
My mom’s from Hong Kong, my dad’s from Belgium.
And so we lived in Belgium for a while, lived in Mainland China for a while.
Most of my life I grew up in Hong Kong, and then I moved to New York City for college, and then I’ve basically been here ever since.
Pamela: Okay, so that was where you got on that track of consultant, banker, or nothing.
Or go home!
Pamela: And so what were those early inklings?
In particular, thinking about race and identity, what were the kinds of questions that were driving your interest and then what did you end up doing with them?
Carmen: Yeah, I mean, for me, it was definitely a very personal interest.
You know, growing up biracial, I’ve always had to think about race, it kind of wasn’t a choice, because people would always ask me, ìWhat are you?î
You know, ìWhat’s your background?î whatever.
And so I always kind of had to confront this.
And so, I, you know, was really interested in seeing how the experiences of other multiracial people, how they compared to mine.
In 2002, my sister and I actually startedóthis was kind of pre-blogging, so I would call it an online magazine and community for people of mixed Asian and white heritage, since that was kind of the experience we were most familiar with and we had a lot of friends from that background, we kind of created a site around that.
And it did really well in terms of, you know, my sister was 14 at the time, and this was actually her idea, so she’s kind of the genius.
And so it grew very quickly and so I started writing some articles about race, specifically as it related to that.
And then pretty quickly that felt a little bit limiting, to only talk about that very specific experience.
So then I was interested in, you know, multiracial identity in general and then also related to that, obviously, multiracial people often come from interracial couples and families, and how, you know, racial dynamics played out in that larger context.
And so I created a blog with a friend of mine called Mixed Media Watch, which examined media representations of multiracial people and mixed-race families and couples in the media.
And that was kind of my first foray into a real blog.
Pamela: And that, interestingly, does really piggyback on your background and interest in journalism, right?
Pamela: Looking at media and writing.
So did that feel like coming home in a way?
What did that feel like in order to be utilizing those skills that you were interested in and everybody told you that you shouldn’t be focusing on?
What did it feel like when you actually put it into practice?
Carmen: Yeah, it’s interesting.
I think I wasn’t really conscious of that parallel until later on when I went back to think about it.
And I realized that, you know what?
It’s kind of like, why did I want to be into journalism or why did I want to get into journalism?
I really enjoyed writing and I really was interested in kind of exploring the world and maybe finding a way to explain it to myself and to other people.
And so, yeah, thinking back, absolutely, it’s kind of like the things that in my mind, I was like, ìI need to be a journalist, because this is the path that I’m familiar with.î
But in reality, what I really was trying to get out of that, I was able to get out from doing the blogging.
So, you know, that’s kind of a theme that I’m really interested in because I think very often we get very stuck in these ideas of, well, if you want to be a writer, this is the career path.
If you want to teach, this is the career path.
And you don’t realize that, well, what’s really at the heart of it?
You know, what is it about that path that you’re really drawn to and is that the only way to get to, from point A to point B? And usually there’s a multitude of ways that we’re only trained to think of one very specific path.
Well, and what was the response of friends, family, colleagues when they heard that you were spending all of this timeófor free, right?
Pamela: Just doing this work and creating a blog.
What kind of response did you get from people?
Carmen: Well, I think at first people thought it was cool.
And then, you know, as I kind of got more and more deeply invested in this work, I really felt like this is something I need to pursue.
I’m not sure where this is going to take me, but I want to keep going with this and I want to see where this takes me.
Now, in order to do that, I couldn’t really pursue like a real life career at the same time, during my 9 to 5.
And so that’s the point at which I think some people lost me.
The big transition came, I was working at this publishing company that published a variety of things in the interior design space.
And at the time I was selling ads; I was terrible at this, terrible salesperson.
And quite frankly, I was this close to getting fired, and I knew it.
And I was like, ìOh, crap! I don’t know what I’m going to do.î
And then it just happened that our office manager left and her position opened up and I was like, ìHuh, I wonder if I could do that?î
Because I realized that she was probably making the same amount of money that I am, you know, and I’m busting my assó
Oh, I’m sorry, can we say ass?
It’s all right.
Carmen: And I’m busting my butt trying to do this thing that I’m really bad at, when, you know, being an office manager, that’s something I could do.
I’m an organized person, I kind of like to, you know, keep things neat and, you know, like to smooth things out and make things efficient.
It kind of went with my natural personality and skill set.
So I was like, ìLet me just try this.î
At first it was just to save my butt so that I could still get a paycheck.
But then once I was in that position, I was like, ìOh, this is kind of sweet, this whole admin/office thing, because the hours are good, I can make a good living, and I still have plenty of time to focus on the other stuff.î
And so that, in terms of my 9-to-5 career, that’s the path I went down.
So I went from office manager to being an executive assistant to the publisher of one of the major magazines at Hearst.
So I did that for a few years.
And then I realized that I could actually make more money doing this if I worked at a hedge fund.
So then I was an executive assistant at a hedge fund for a few years, basically doing the same function, but then that created a lot of time and also mental space for me to dedicate to this other work.
So I think at the point where I went on this office/admin route, that’s when I think my friends kind of lost me.
And they were kind of like, ìWhat is going on?î
Like, ìYou have a degree from Columbia, why are you a secretary?î
Like, ìWhat’s happening?î
And I didn’t really have a good answer. I just knew that it just felt right to me at the time.
Because that is so funny, how a lot of those factors can start to come into play, about what would be an appropriate work situation, when you think about the kinds of things that you’re balancing.
In this case it was the beginning of a much deeper piece of your body of work that you were working on, which was work around race and identity.
And like you were saying, you need that creative energy in order to do that work.
And you were doing a good job, fulfilling all your responsibilities during the day, but really making a conscious choice about how did you want to be putting the different pieces together?
Earning a living and at the same time, you know, having the energy and the time in order to work on what you’re working on on the side?
But for a lot of people, that does get caught up a lot in social identity and the career path and what it is that you’re supposed to do.
Pamela: So did it bother you?
I mean, were there days when you’re like, ìWhat am I doing?î and ìAm I wasting my time?î
I mean, what was going on in your head?
Or were you just excited about what you were doing and didn’t care?
Carmen: Yeah, you know, I think, most days I was just, I didn’t really have enough time to kind of sit down and think about it, honestly, because I was just kind of like go, go, go, go, go.
You know, because I was doing the job and then I was blogging, and then I was like squeezing in like media interviews, and then using all my vacation days to do speaking engagements.
So most days, I didn’t really have time to sit down and really stop and think about it.
But don’t get me wrong, there were definitely those days where I was like, ìThis job sucks.î
Because if anyone has worked as someone’s assistant, you’ll know that there are some days where you just have to do the most, like, boring tasks or that, you know, sometimes you have to deal with jerks.
Luckily for me, it wasn’t usually my boss that was the jerk, it was usually, you know, customers of his or clients of his and other people that I had to deal with.
So, there were definitely days where I was like, ìReally? Like is this what I should be doing?î
But then I was getting so much fulfillment outside of my 9 to 5 job that those feelings tended to pass pretty quickly.
Pamela: So from that point, you were doing the Media Watch blog and then you developedóand you cofounded another blog?
With somebody else?
Also around race and race relations?
So basically Mixed Media Watch I cofounded with my friend, Jen Chau, and that actually eventually morphed into, we re-launched it as a blog called Racialicious, which is still the name of the blog today.
And it still exists.
Still a very thriving community and blog over there.
And then basically it evolved beyond just like a multiracial lens into looking at race and pop culture in general, the intersection of the two.
And yeah, that’s one thing, you know, really took off.
And I basically started doing a lot more speaking engagements around a lot of different colleges, universities around the country.
Eventually that led to some work doing kind of more training things with corporations and non-profits.
And so it was becoming a little bit of a business.
And say a little bit, because it never quite got to where I was hoping it would be, but yeah, I was starting to actually make a bit of a living at doing this other thing, which was really cool because I never had a really, a grand plan or a grand vision for what exactly this was going to become.
So basically, eventually I started making a bit of money doing the work that I actually really enjoyed.
Well, and then interestingly, at that point, which is another bit of a fork in the road, right?
As you look at your career path, had you chosen, you could have really gone into that full on, right?
You were getting press exposure, you were on CNN, you were, you know, writing for different very popular blogs.
You had the early stage business signals that could say that if you chose to, you could really position yourself to be a consultant, speaker, etc. on this topic.
And then you chose to go a different direction.
So what happened and why did you do that?
Carmen: So a couple years before I made, I took the fork in the road, my husband and I actually opened a martial arts school together.
At the time, I thought of it more as his business, but I was always involved from day one, you know, helping with, especially on the marketing and promotions and kind of operations side, since I’m not the martial artist, he is.
So I kind of, you know, helped a lot in that regard.
So for a couple years I was not only working a day job, but I was also, you know, doing all of the race work.
And then on top of that, I was basically helping to run a small business.
And, you know, eventually I decided thatówell, I got pregnant.
Let’s not forget that, that was one of the first things.
So, I got pregnant, that changed a lot of things.
And so I decided after I had the baby I wasn’t going to return to the day job because there was no way I could juggle a day job, two businesses, and a baby, that just wasn’tóI mean, there’s going to be women that can do it, but I wasn’t one of them.
So I decided I was not going to go back to my day job.
So then my plan was, okay, now I’m going to do full time the race and diversity work and I’m still going to help out with the martial arts school, and be a mom.
And so the realization that I had came about because, as you probably remember, I was working on a book proposal, along with some of the things you mentioned, the media appearances, the corporate gigs, blah, blah, blah, there came a lot of interest from book agents.
So I was working on a proposal and this was going to beówhat did we used to call it?
Like the bigó
Pamela: The big book on race.
It was going to be the big book on race.
And I was working on it and it was just like an incredibly painful process. And at first I just thought, ìWell, this is just what it’s like to write a book.î
It’s not a fun process, I saw you go through it, and I was like, ìAll right, this is normal.î
And then after a while, I realized, you know what?
Occasionally I would get these like little, like this thought would kind of flutter through my mind, and then before it had time to fully form, I would just like brush it away.
And basically this thought was, ìAre you sure you want to be doing this any more?î
You know, ìAre you sure that you’re still into this any more?î
But I literally, for months, I wouldn’t even sit down to see what the thought actually was, it was just like, ìNo, let me focus on this. No, let me do this.î
Because this is who I am, my identity was completely wrapped up with the work that I did because I’d been doing this, by this time it had been nearly ten years of working on race and identity and everyone knew me as that, from my friends to my colleagues, to people all around, you know, they knew me as the race person.
And I thought of myself very much in those terms as well.
And then one day I basically let the thought just land and I kind of turned it over. And I was like, ìHmm, what if I were to do something else? Is this something I want to keep doing?î
And the minute that I actually allowed myself to acknowledge that thought is when I realized that, you know what?
I’m kind of lying to myself because I just don’t have the same kind of burning passion I did back in those early days, when I couldn’t wait to get home and like blog about some TV show I had just seen and why it was so problematic.
You know, I couldn’t wait to get out on the road and talk to students, I couldn’t wait to do an interview with a newspaper so I could explain what needed to change in this country.
You know, that real burning desire was gone.
And I also realized that I feltóthe reason it was so hard to work on this book is because I felt like I’d already said everything I had to say.
And if I kept going, I was kind of just starting to phone it in.
And I realized, you know what?
This is not really fair to my community and this is also not fair toóat the time there were other people involved with the blog who were very passionate about it and who had a lot of ideas.
And often I was kind of holding them back, you know, like, ìOh, hold on, guys, this doesn’t really fit with the direction I’m going in and my vision so let’s hold off on that.î
And I realized I wasn’t fair on them because they were ready to go and I was basically holding them back.
And if my heart wasn’t truly in it anymore, then was it fair for me to just hang onto this position?
And so I think sometimes, first of all, it’s very hard when you areówhen your identity is wrapped up with your work.
It’s very hard to come to terms for yourself, that you can be someone other than who you’re used to thinking of yourself as.
And then also, I think it takes some letting go of ego to realize that it doesn’t have to be you doing this work, you know?
That it doesn’t have to be Carmen.
It can be Latoya.
It can be Andrew.
It can be any of those people, they have important things to say and at some point you’re just getting in the way and it’s time to step aside.
And so that’s, you know, those are some of the reasons, there were a lot of complicated things going on at the same time, but I think that was really one of the big realizations I came to.
Pamela: And so what did you decide to do?
Carmen: So I basically decided to ìretireî from the race work.
So I actually sold the blog to Latoya Peterson, who is now the owner and the editor.
She had already been editing it for a long time.
So I sold it to her basically for zero dollars, but, you know, just to have a paper trail.
And then I decided to just basically shut down all the other stuff, the speaking and the consulting, and the media work that I was doing.
And I decided to work full time on the martial arts school, or the martial arts that my husband and I had started.
And I think for a lot of people it was a very strange transition, because every knew me as the race person and now I was becoming a full-time business owner.
And I think that people that know me well don’t see this as so strange, because they’ll know that I’ve always been passionate about marketing.
That’s always been, you know, when I have, when I do fun reading, I read marketing blogs and books.
Like that’s fun for me.
So people who know me well, you know, don’t think it’s strange.
But I think a lot of people looking in from the outside were like, ìWhat is going on? Like, this is so random and unrelated to anything you’re doing.î
So, yeah, it was definitely a big transition.
Pamela: Well, and what’s interesting though to me, it is in how, helping to tell the story in many ways, is you’re telling the story at different points of transition you had for your market.
But what’s also interesting is that when you look at any kind of work, in this case you were an advocate writing about race and diversity and working with people around that topic, but the martial arts school that you run is a very diverse environment and in many ways, you’re putting into practice, I would imagine, talking with many different parents, talking with kids from different backgrounds, understanding a lot of different perspectives.
And also probablyótell me if I’m wrong in thisóbut choosing to market in such a way that it’s actually reflecting the suggestions that you are making in general about, you know, how things need to be represented in the media and elsewhere.
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely.
I mean, there’s a lot of parallels and, you know, there’s some of the things that I would be talking or writing about in theory, we’re kind of living day to day in a very grass roots way with the martial arts school.
And you’re right, it’s an extremely diverse group because we are in this neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York that’s at the intersection of a lot of different ethnic communities.
And some of those communities are long established, some are very new immigrants.
And so we’ve got students from so many different countries that speak so many different languages, as well as just also a lot of students that have, you know, their families have been in this country for generations and generations.
So, there’s a lot of, you know, ethnic, you know, national origin, racial diversity, and yeah, absolutely, we are kind of living it in a way that, you know, like you said, we’re kind of putting theory into practice.
Pamela: Well, and it’s so interesting that way, too, though, as you see the shift and again, where the social pressure can come in sometimes.
There can be internalized.
There can be a partóI remember having conversations with you about thisóa parallel for me, as you know, is running the capoeira school for a really long time as a volunteer, but I very much had that identity.
Nobody could imagine that I wouldn’t be teaching and reading programs and doing things within capoeira.
And I had a very similar kind of realization, that at a certain point I knew that I was ready to go, but it also felt really good to be looked at in that position.
You know, the story I would tell myself is, you know, ìThe kids need me,î and I do, we did have a tight relationship, and it was really hard when I shifted and left.
But at the same time, a lot of that was just my own thought about what my identity was and being able to leave that when you’re able to recognize it, I think that’s a really great insight and a skill that then you can use as you’re going to be going through a whole number of different stages in your life and your career.
Because even when you shifted in to running the school full time, but then I was kind of laughing and winking to myself, not content with just doing one thing, you began to also, began to blog about local business marketing.
Pamela: And sharing with those that you’re learningó
Carmen: I couldn’t stay away.
Pamela: Is she incapable of having a ****
Carmen: Once a blogger, always a blogger.
Pamela: Like, it’s impossible.
But in many ways, when you start to see this growth and emergence, from what it looks like on the outside, it’s really just listening to yourself and listening to what is it that’s truly of interest, where can you make the most impact?
Taking care of things that are important to you, like your family, when you have different transitioning into the role of being a mom, wanting to have more flexibility, right?
Wanting to have focus in one project and then getting energized in order to be working on sharing that information, going back to all the skill and experience that you built up, you know, as a blogger.
It really appears that that’s kind of how you’re building it.
And I’m wondering, the more that you go through these different stages, do you feel freer in terms of making choices that you think are important to you regardless of what people think of your choices?
Carmen: Yeah, I think I do feel freer.
And I’m not sure how much of that has to do with experiences versus just age, of just getting older and caring less about what people think.
That could very well have to do with it as well.
But, yeah, I mean, I think that, you know, the thing that strikes me is a lot of people I see get stuck in this area.
And I’ve seen it even with our staff members.
So we had, for example, a great young woman who was working at our front desk at the martial arts school and she was really great at her job, but her passion was really, she wanted to be a teacher and she really wanted to work with kids.
And, you know, we would tell her, ìHey, we’re thinking of launching this after school program,î which is, you know, going to obviously be, you know, all about martial arts but at the same time we do a lot of work in character development, and that’s actually something that’s a requirement for students to do specific things related to that in order to be able to test for their belts.
You know, I’m sure you’re familiar with that, Pam.
And so, you know, we would let her know, like, you know, ìThis could be a real opportunity for you to do something here.î
Now, basically as it turned out, you know, in her mind, the only way to become a teacher and work with kids was to finish school, get her Master’s degree in education and then go work at a public school.
So that was in her mind what needed to be done.
When in reality, if she had stuck around a couple more months, she could be doing exactly what she wanted to be doing at our school in a job she was already in.
And, you know, unfortunately things didn’t work out with her for just some personal things that she was going through, you know, unrelated to the career goals that she had.
But it really makes me sad because I see it over and over again, where we’re very used to these scripts and these paths that are laid out for us.
And a lot of it, of course, has to do with pressure from our families, too, right?
Because, you know, we’re living in a very different world than our parents are used to.
And, you know, back then, it truly, you’re a success in life and career and financial success truly did have a lot to do with education.
You know, it was a much more kind of straight escalator if you got a college degree and maybe an advanced degree.
And that really would almost guarantee you a better life, especially financially.
Nowadays, it’s a very different story, but a lot of families still think that the old world, the old paradigm, still exists now.
And so that’s why I think a lot of people from my generation and also, especially younger people who are in their 20′s now, I see this happening all the time, where they kind of have these ideas of, ìI want to do A, B and C, therefore I have to go back to school and get into six figures of debt and then get a degree and then go into this field.î
And you don’t realize that if your passion is truly, for example, you know, in the case of this woman, to teach and work with kids, there are hundreds of career paths open to you where you can do that and possibly get much more enjoyment out of it because you’d have much more direct control over what you are able to do.
In a public school system, you’re teaching to the curriculum, you’re told what to do and there’s no deviation.
So, you know, that’s just one example of it, but I see it over and over again and I really hope that people will be able to see, you know, you need to kind of hone in on what, what’s the kernel that truly lies at the center of your passion?
And what are all the different ways to actually makeóget you to a point where you can do that kind of work?
Pamela: Yeah, when I was, after a trip to New York where I saw you, as a matter of fact, when I was talking about my new book, I was on the plane on the way back and I sat next to this gentleman who had come to the US from India, I think in like 1984.
And it was so funny because I didn’t mention at all what I was working on or my new book ideas or the fact that I was the Escape From Cubicle Nation lady, but he worked for a large company and he was really complaining to me about his kids.
And he was saying, you know, ìLike, young people today are so misguided,î and he said, ìMy son is in college and do you know what he does on the weekend? Him and his friends sit around and they’re playing around building websites and these businesses. It’s so terrible! Like they need to be focusing on one career and, you know, on engineering.î
He was so passionate about it.
And it was a little awkward for a while, but I really just tried to, for probably a couple hours, we were talking, because it was from New York to Phoenix.
But I really wanted to fully understand what his perspective was and it was so strong, sometimes in particular, for friends from India, or sometimes from Asia, can have a lot of cultural, really strong cultural roots as well in terms of education and type of education and type of profession.
But he was really convinced that it is the downfall of work place civilization that young people are not necessarily seeing how important it is to choose one path and to be, you know, picking a particular career.
And it was really interesting and I didn’t think it was a coincidence that I sat next to him, because that is such a strong perspective and what I appreciated about him is he was truly a loving parent, he cared so much about his kids and he actually had a huge passion about math.
And I was so excited when I finally got to that point in a conversation, because I was trying to figure out, where could we get to a place where he’s going to feel some power and not just feel like everything is doomed and everything is bad.
He started talking about how much he loves math and how the Starbucks where he goes, he teaches math to people who work there.
There’re some college students that he was starting to help with their math and of course, all of a sudden I got all excited and saw this whole vision of maybe how he could personally start to change that despair into empowerment by just working with people who did have that interest in the career path that he took.
I’m curious, what would you have said to him, if he was expressing that to you?
You know, about what his kids were doing.
How do you respond to sometimes those really entrenched views about the world of work?
Carmen: That’s a hard question because I’m torn between my loyalties of being an entrepreneur and being Asian, soójust kidding.
You know, I actually think that, I mean, obviously I wasn’t there for the whole conversation, but I actually do think that there is value in picking something and seeing it through.
Now, I think where you can get stuck is if you think that, you know, it’s this, ìOh, I have to go to school and then I’m going to get this job, and then this and this and this.î
But I do think that if you are feeling a passion about something, you should try to take it as far as you can, and you may not always know exactly what’s the destination.
But I do think it is important to have that follow through and not to just kind of zip around and dabble and dabble.
I mean, sometimes that works for people, but I do think that there needs to be still some kind of a theme or some kind of, you know, unifying pattern that kind of is where you’re moving towards a particular direction, if that makes sense.
Pamela: I always love to use martial art metaphors, which I know you’ll appreciate, but it makes so much sense to me from that perspective if you look at itóeven from a perspective of going through what it takes to accomplish a certain level belt.
And knowing that, I know for my son, when he first started, he did about a year of karate, he was really interested and we have a great school out here, and he really enjoyed it.
But towards the end, he really started to get to that place where he was like, ìOh, I don’t want to go, I’m not really interested.î
And partly what I helped, and really wanted him to do, was to just experience going all the way through to complete an entire year and also complete the course of what it took to do a belt.
Because I didn’t want to be the parent, you know, how ironic, who was like, ìYou have to do something you hate,î you know, ìbecause it’s what you should do.î
But at the same time, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to push and I wanted him, out of respect also to the teacher, who had put all that effort and energy, you know, into his training, to also feel like he completed one particular cycle and one belt.
And that’s often one of the things that I see with entrepreneurs or people in their career path, is they don’t give it enough time to really either create something, something that’s relevant, that they’re proud of.
In your case, you know, a blog, a really successful thriving school, processes and practices that you have in the way you run your business.
You know, there’s some concrete things that you really have developed over time that also allows you to walk through the awkward places where things may not feel quite right but at the same time, you know, you can be building things, you know, creating building blocks that are going to help you to get to where you want to go.
I think that the flip side of it is where you do have that discipline of saying, ìIf I am in my job as an executive assistant, you know, when I’m choosing to do this role, I’m really going to do the role and do it well.î
ìPut myself into it and make sure I really deliver.î
And the same thing for each thing that you’re doing.
So, that’s sometimes is a metaphor that can be helpful where people think about it in those terms and also realize that when you’re really developing an expertise.
Like you said, you called it your kernel, you know, I call it your root, whatever is that element of change and things that you want to see in the world, something that you’re really passionate about, in order to develop that, it’s often a really long time to develop that expertise and that experience.
And I think also understanding that the zigzags that you take along the way to get there.
Carmen: You’re going to pick up skills that you don’t realize how useful they’ll be until later on.
So, for example, my husband and I, both essentially worked dead end office jobs, if you want to call it that, in corporate America for about ten years.
And, you know, someone looking from the outside would be like, ìReally? That seems like that was such a waste of time.î
And you know, maybe in some ways, you know, it would’ve been nicer if we’d kind of found our calling quicker.
But at the same time, now looking back on it, one of the reasons that our school is successful is because of the experience we had working in the corporate world where we understand how to be professional.
We understand how to answer the phone, how to get back to people.
Like, little things like that, that you may take for granted.
Carmen: But that, you know, we hold ourselves to a higher standard and we don’t just think, ìWell, as long as we’re doing a little better than that other martial arts school down the street, then we’re okay.î
We’re really thinking about, ìAll right, how can we create experiences that are on par with those you get from Fortune 500 companies or hopefully better?î
Since they have their own customer service issues.
So yes, sometimes you just don’t realize like how those skills are going to come into play.
And for example, a lot of the skills I picked up from being in the online space for so long, I’m now applying to our school in terms of the marketing and the social media work that we put in and we’re seeing a lot of benefits from that as well.
So you just kind of never know that, you know, life is funny how things kind of intersect and kind of work together.
Pamela: Well, it’s been a really fun journey to watch and it’s only just beginning, I think.
So do you have any idea what’s next?
Or do you have any inklings of any new ideas that I haven’t heard about before?
Carmen: Specifically and related to my path, you mean?
Pamela: Yeah, yeah, just for your career path.
Because now running a school and then have your local business marketing blog.
Carmen: I’m not to sure.
I mean, I think that there are a lot of ideas always bouncing around in my head of things, of issues that I’m kind of really interested in and passionate about.
And I think one of the things that’s kind of driving me crazy right now is I feel, I constantly see how small business owners are very easily victimized by people who are praying on their insecurities.
And I feel like we see this a lot.
Unfortunately we see this a lot in the martial arts profession, where there’s a lot ofópeople don’t realize this, but from a business perspective, the martial arts profession is very, you’re really similar to internet marketing.
In terms of the more like yellow highlighter, spammy side of internet marketing.
So, you know, you get a lot of these get-rich-quick schemes and these outlandish promises and these, like, ìOh, you can’t go it alone, it’s too dangerous out there!î
And it really makes me sad because a lot of the school owners I know and other local business owners I know, they have reached success because they’ve got a lot to bring to the table.
So it kind of annoys me when I see them kind of being talked down to and treated like idiots.
And especially when they start internalizing that and thinking, ìOh, man, maybe I do need a coach,î and you know, obviously I love coaching, like I coached with you for a long time.
But I also think that you need to pick the right person and know that, do they really have your right interests by heart?
And, yeah, I don’t know where I’m going with that, that was maybe just a random rant, but it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot lately.
Pamela: Which is how they begin, how the ideas begin to percolate.
Pamela: Well, that’s really cool. I know whatever it is that you do, you’re going to really put yourself into it, so it’s really been a pleasure and a delight to watch.
And due to you, I also got back into mixed martial arts, so I’m thankful for that.
Pamela: Making an introduction here!
So you can find Carmen at CarmenSognonvi.com and Urban Martial Arts isó
Carmen: It’s UrbanDojo.com.
Pamela: Thanks, Carmen!
Carmen: Thank you!
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