Calling On You With Jen Thornton

Jennifer’s called in to share her experience with fear and how it became a moment that would alter her life path completely. Jennifer shares her story about accepting a new role in her company to travel overseas and help open stores while her company expanded globally. Her saying yes to the opportunity caught her by surprise… normally she would be more cautious but there was a flash of spontaneity that rose up to challenge her fear of leaving the US and her family to work abroad. Jennifer talks about how facing her fear changed her DNA and lead her to a successful career as an entrepreneur. It is an amazing talk and Jennifer is full of insights about taking on risks and challenges and how the unexpected can lead you to a life of greatness.


00:09 S1: Welcome to the calling on you podcast. This podcast is my 365-day challenge and goal to speak to one new person each day and every day about fear and what we can learn from facing our fears. Why is fear and interesting. And important topic for us to discuss. I believe that when we face our fears, we open ourselves up to new opportunities to live a greater and more meaningful life, when we face our fears, we discover that we are capable of so much more than what we ever imagined. My dad gave me a letter where he said to me, life is not a dress rehearsal. I have taken this to mean that every moment counts, and it is up to each of us to choose what we want to do with the moments that are passing by with increasing speed, it’s up to all of us to make the most of what little time we have here on Earth, but we also don’t need to think that we need to do everything alone along the way, we will meet some amazing people, mentors and friends. I hope this podcast can help each and every one of us to live a little more on the edge of our comfort zone and challenge our fears and help others as they are facing their fears as well.

01:35 S1: Now, here is today’s story about fear. And what we can learn.

01:52 S2: Hi, I am Jennifer Thornton, and I am the owner and CEO of 304 coaching. And our organization, we help our businesses think about talent strategies because so often people go out there and they create these incredible business plans, and there’s all these details to them and all this stuff, and they just think of everything except the people and we fell or succeed because of the people. And so I wanted to help organizations start to really understand that piece of the puzzle and come in and offer to strategies, and we do that in a Mario ways, and we do executive individual and team coaching, we do organizational design work and leadership development courses that are specifically tailored to the business’s needs, because again, if our business is headed somewhere, when you know where it’s going and the entire team needs to get there together, but before I jump in and had my own business, I had an experience that… Or of those things that you say yes to, and then you’re like, Oh, Oh, what in the world have I just done? And so a few years ago, I guess it’s been seven, eight years back, I was actually sitting at a chair getting my hair done, and I had a head full of color, and my chief HR officer called and I looked at my cell phone and that enough will give me fear.


03:21 S2: Why is the head of HR calling me at 7 o’clock at night? What’s gone wrong? And so I answered, and I don’t even think he said hi, it wasn’t like him to even say hi that… He just said, Hey, you wanna move to Hong Kong? And I was like, Why? And he’s like, Well, we’re gonna buy our stores back there and we don’t know what to do with them, and someone needs to go over there to figure it out. And I was like, Well, for how long? And he’s like, Oh, I don’t know, three, five months, you just… Just go over there and I’m like, What do you want me to do? And he’s like, I have no idea. Doesn’t get over there and figure it out, and I said yes, and then I was like, Oh God, I just said Yes, from moving from Texas to Hong Kong, where I have never been… I’d been to China, Mainland on vacation, but I’ve never been to Hong Kong and lives in the foreign country. And so I definitely had a little bit of a heart failure there, and I then had to text my husband and say, Hey, do you mind if I move to Hong Kong for a…

04:29 S2: Now, five months. And he was super cool, a text back to me, say, Sure, I’ll see the dogs. And so that definitely helped, I guess, a little bit of that panic moment, that fear… But to the next month or so, I was preparing to leave. I would wake up in the middle of the night and just… Panic, What if I can’t figure out how to get from point A to point B? What if I get stranded and I don’t speak the language, and I had a lot of what go wrong, and I didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about what could go right, which always is a mistake, right? So yeah, so I’ll never forget the day that I finally took all my suitcases to put way too much and more of the flight, the 18 hour flight to Hong Kong. And I was very fortunate that I was going with a couple of other co-workers, I did not know them, I’d never even met them. But at least I know a few people. So landed in Hong Kong and got to work. And it was interesting, after I had said yes, I had so many people ’cause I wanted a pretty good size team, and there was only a couple of us that said Yes.

05:41 S2: And I’d asked probably 15, 20 people, are you willing to go over there? And everyone had said no, and as I was talking to people who had said No, they kept saying I was crazy, and they would give me ideas of things to be scared of… What if this happens and what if that happens? And you’re so far away from home. And they did a good job in selling thereto, but I went, I landed, we got going, and it was incredible, I learned more than I could ever expect it to learn in such a short period of time. I do think it changed my DNA, it totally changed who I was because I became so much more confident when you get dropped off in a foreign country and you figure it out, day-to-day stuff seems not as trivial, it seems really easy, and things that would have stressed me out previously after building that confidence that I could kind of land in a foreign country and figure it out, just the day-to-day stuff seems so different, and I just really… I look at life different. I approach things different, sadly, my stress level went down, ’cause again, I had this confidence that I can pretty much handle anything.

07:01 S2: And it opened so many doors. So after I felt like I had changed and I had this new experience, then it’s just like door after door after door has opened for me over the years… After I finished that project in Konkan and China, I moved to Mexico. So I went straight from Hong Kong to Mexico and spent six months working in Mexico City and helping us open our operations there, and then I think I had a three-week break and then I went to London, and since seven months in London, helping us open our new operations in London. And so just by accidentally truly was accidentally saying Yes, I got the opportunity to do some short-term working assignments in several countries, and then over the years, I then became the Head of International HR because I was willing to do it and had that international experience, so my career moved very quickly after that, and it really gave me the confidence so in my own business and my own organization and have my own team and do my own thing, and I’ll just never forget that moment of that fear of looking at my phone like, Oh, my gosh, what in the world is my chic hran and saying, using without even thinking.

08:27 S2: And it’s been great, I’ve learned a ton, and I am so glad that I did not let all those fear-monger who were telling me I was crazy to move to Hong Kong, I’m glad I didn’t let them and scare me, and I kept my fear together because again, it just has changed my life, is this such an amazing story, because that moment when you’re sitting there getting your hair done with a hair full of color, and you get that phone call, like that moment in time is one of those moments in life where your life can really take an extreme tutor split in the road, if you stay in Texas and you stay at your job, you see an entirely different person right now living in entirely different life, and it’s just really amazing that you embrace that moment and went on this wild adventure around the world. Do you remember the math that went through your mind while you were sitting there, was there any calculation, like I imagine in the movies, you see the equation above the person’s head as they’re deciding whether I should take something on or not, or should I do this…

09:40 S2: Was our formula that you started to way out in your mind, or was it just completely spontaneous? It was almost like an auto-body experience. I said, Yes. And then it was like, What did I just say? And the visual men said to me, Don’t say, yes if you don’t mean it. And I was like, I mean it. And I never thought, and I don’t know why because typically, that would not be how I would think about it, I would have felt very different, but for whatever reason… And you’re right, this exact moment, I can remember everything on the sound of… Everything about that moment. And it was like out of body. I just, I watched myself say, yes, and take it from there. So you took this leap of faith to change your life, and then one thing, if you’re comfortable talking about… I don’t know if you want a switch questions, I’m happy to do that also, but I know some people would be curious about the impact that has on family, so you’re changing your family life and your husband had a really funny response, it sounds like… Yeah, I’ll be the dog.

10:51 S2: But I’m wondering, these decisions, does it change… Is that a really difficult decision when it comes to family and having to then re-figure out, Well, how do we navigate our family structure around me wanting or needing this in my life, I need to go on this adventure to really level up my career and go… Push my own comfort zone and grow as a person, so how do you have those conversations? Difficult conversations, or was it not difficult at all to navigate the personal side of business… Yeah, that’s a good question. And for us, it wasn’t hard, but I can tell you other people that I know have had international jobs and done that type of feeding and travel, it has been a problem. I was very fortunate on him and I… We don’t have children, he founded his own business and he traveled a lot, and he just is incredibly supportive and he was like… Sure. And when I was in Mexico and London, a crash that was like a year and a half total, Mexico obviously is not that far from Dallas, so I would go for a week or two, come home for a week.

12:08 S2: Go for a week or so. Come home for a week. So that wasn’t too bad. Hong Kong, I would say. For about a month and a half at a time, and that was harder. But we just figured it out. And technology is great, it’s like you can still physically see people on face time, and I guess it was prepared me for 2020 when we didn’t do anything but Zoom calls, but little did I know all the worst it worked out for us and we were just incredibly supportive, and if we’ve had children and probably would have been a little different obviously, but he said the dogs, and that’s what matters. So I’ve always felt like when you get out of your bubble and you go travel the world and start seeing all these different cultures and foods and stuff like that, it’s just like you said, it’s like… You said your DNA changed. I love that it’s like you just… It’s in using something new into your system that you hadn’t seen before, heard before, the language is that small… The sites, can you talk a little bit more about just kind of that change and when you come back home, you talked about starting your own business and stock, I think that’s such an important point that when we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and that DNA does change and it allows us to grow into these amazing opportunities, like your new business, but can you talk about how you feel like it really helped shape you jumping in and starting your own business…

13:46 S2: Oh my gosh, it was so… You don’t know what you’re learning while you’re learning it, and then you look back and go, Oh, that’s what I can do that today. And I think going… And especially going on a work assignment on the other side of the globe with zero direction, just go figure it out. That was my direction. I had to get incredibly curious, I had to get very resourceful, I had to be able to look at things in 10 different directions because all of them felt different, and so you had to learn how to weigh out decisions a completely different way because none of those decisions felt familiar, and so you had to think about them from a different aspect and be so open, and everything that happened to me didn’t feel nerve, it was something different, and I got so comfortable being uncomfortable ’cause it felt normal. I think that’s part of why I was able to my own business because I was able to say, I don’t care how anyone else has done it, I’m just gonna figure out how I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna make decisions based on all these options, but what’s right, for this situation.

15:01 S2: And I think that being in a place where nothing felt more got me really comfortable with not being influenced by what normal looks like and being able to create something incredibly unique. I love that. Did you always know that you had this entrepreneurial spirit or bug inside of you, and it was just waiting to come out, or was there a moment when you went that quick and I was like, I’m gonna start my own business. Was that always an intention or did that just kind of happen window, it happened one day, and I 110% believe if I hadn’t taken that opportunity and I… And I just said, I’m gonna go… I’m askin the country. I don’t think I would have ever had the confidence to start my own business, I don’t think I would have the knowledge to do it because I wouldn’t have had all those experiences, but I remember always thinking, I nano, start their own business. What happens if you don’t have a paycheck? Like, how does that work? My brain could have never imagined before I had taken that opportunity, owning my own very successful business, that would have… If you had said in seven years you’re going to launch your own business and it’s gonna be wildly successful and you’re gonna be incredibly happy, I was said, You are big…

16:23 S2: A liar, like DI. I would have never imagined that I could have done it. I love that your business focuses on people, because people is really what makes companies businesses special, it makes them what they are, it’s like if you have the wrong people, it’s amazing how fast the culture can get poisoned and spoiled, and it’s really all about people at the end of the day, what was it that… That made you realize this was where you wanted to be working with people and focusing on the importance of getting the right people… Part of teams. And so throughout my career in the organization I was with, work with for gosh, I worked it 20 years. I was always usually part of new brands or new projects and a lot of newness, and sometimes they went well, and sometimes they crashed and burned, and I really think some of our best ideas crashed and burned. I’m like, Why is that? And when I started to think about that, I realized it was because sometimes we had an incredible team and we were managed very well, we succeeded, and other times we had incredible ideas, but the talent strategy was so off that we couldn’t get out of our own way and we couldn’t get it off the ground.

17:42 S2: And I always kind of knew that I had figured that out. And I had moved from operations into HR, and so I have a very unique, I guess, viewpoint of talent because I am an operator at heart, and so the talent gets the job done. I’m not a traditionally trained HR professional, and so when I then went and worked internationally, I always knew it was hard to get executives to line, to get the business to align cross-functional teams align. Well, that’s hard enough. When everyone speaks the same language, I was in the same city. In the same time zone. Okay, so you do that internationally and you add in different time zones and culture and language barriers, and all these international laws, and you add all that together, it was so incredibly hard to get executive alignment to get the business to move forward. And that’s when it became really fascinating to me to think about how do we position ourselves as executive, how do we look at the business? When you’re working with an international team, you have to build a lot of trust because I can’t call and ask someone what decision do you wanna make, because wherever time zone there, and it may be 2 o’clock in the morning, and so you have to trust and lead in a very different way, because you can’t just not on someone’s office store and say, Hey, what do you want me to do here, ’cause you never know where that person is in the time zone, and so I got really interested in just what made leadership successful? What made organization successful, and how do you create trust and psychological safety, and how do you create environments where people can truly be innovative and not live in fear, which kind of take us back to the whole fear, that’s one of my big areas of study is neuroscience, and as leaders, our language there, which closes down our prefrontal cortex, which means no innovation happens, and so yeah, so I just get really fascinated and decided to do it full-time…

19:44 S2: Well, that sounds really brilliant and fascinating, did you start to see amongst all different kinds of companies, a lot of similar overlap in how these things operate in are run by people in the way in which they speak and work together. Yeah, most people don’t start a company ’cause they’re really good at managing people, most people sort of company ’cause I have a great idea or a rigid or a process or technology, that’s why they create a company, and that’s why we struggle so much with talent because no one starts a company saying, I’m just gonna hire some great people to do great work, okay, well, what… Well, is that gonna do? And so what I always find is people get so focused on the business and so focused on what they’re creating that they just don’t seem to have the expertise around the talent, and businesses fail because there’s not the right people there, the right decisions are not being made, and it’s very, very common that people start these businesses and they’re wildly successful because I have such a great idea, but there’s this point where the business out are the skill of the leaders on the team because they grew their business so fast, they can no longer manage it…

1:07 S2: And when that happens, when the business goes out, gets so great that you’re now that you can’t like You’re riding a wild horse, what happens is leaders turn to crisis management, they turn to very much command because they are in fear or I cannot handle this company, it’s gotten too big, too fast, I don’t know what to do. Like, people aren’t doing their job. I can’t find the right people. So they realize if all these talent problems and that fear then creates an environment where they are… They’re not listening to people. They are not open to new ideas. So then they’re good people. Are like, well, if you’re not gonna hear me. If you’re not gonna listen to me, if I can’t make my own decisions, I’m out of here. And so you start to see these organizations through fear, lose their good people, and then they fall apart, and a lot of them is ’cause the business just took off and they weren’t ready to handle it because they didn’t start a business for Talent, they started to root business or their concept. That’s really fascinating. I’d love to ask you in closing for just a small piece of advice for anyone out there that might be dealing with or experiencing fear, if you could give them just kind of like a small thought to think about the next time they’re having to face that moment of fear.

22:25 S2: What would you want to tell them? I want to… I’d want them to know that’s actually a chemical reaction, not… We give it the name fear, but our brain has one job and that is, is alive, and so when scary things come at us, we have a chemical reaction and that is what we have named here, and so when you have that fear feeling… Remember, this is not necessarily bad or scary or horrible is a chemical reaction, and I get to choose the name I associate with it, and when I have a chemical reaction that feels like her library now says, Oops, something that’s about to happen. Because every time I have pushed through that chemical reaction, they’re seen some really good things on the other side, is there anything you’re working on online where you wanna point people to where they can find you? Yeah, I’d love you guys to check out 304 coaching dot com on our website, you can find out all kinds of things around fear and health, peer leadership is difficult on teams and how it can create the talent plus, as I call it. And we have a ton of resources, and there in fact, we have a great resource that is about how to remove fear and bring in innovation into your teams, it’s called a crazy idea meeting, but you can download the instructions on how to remove her from your conversations.

24:01 S2: To get great ideas going in your company, wonderful, if you send me the link, I’d love to add it to the show notes so people can easily click and find it. Absolutely. Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing today. I really appreciate everything you said and the adventure you’ve been on… Sounds absolutely incredible. So thank you so much. Thank you for having me, it was a lot of fun. Absolutely, have a beautiful restorat.

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