Ruthie: My next guest, Shelly Brown, says that mindfulness is not what we’ve all been led to believe. Rather than a focus on what’s often seen as weird and uncomfortable approaches, she knows it’s a practice of rockstars; a practice that can transcend calm; a practice that trains our brains to embrace and extend time in the present.
Shelly spent over two decades in the corporate world. She remains connected to her corporate roots as a speaker, webinar and workshop facilitator. She invites leaders – executive committee to frontline managers – around the United States to a practice that trains our brains to achieve remarkable calm, focus, and resilience. The end result? We can show up better for our lives, and better together. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Shelley!
Shelley: I’m so happy to be here.
What’s Your Superpower?
Ruthie: So I like to start off with a fun question just to give everybody a little insight about you and what’s coming next. What do you think is your superpower?
Shelley: My superpower is creativity.
Ruthie: That’s a wonderful one. I’m also not surprised that you said that. I saw your collage art on Instagram and I was just so surprised!
Shelley: Thanks! It’s really fun. I’m also a writer. All of this is the result of my mindfulness practice, honestly.
Ruthie: Well, I think that’s wonderful.
Tell Us About ROI Mindfulness
Ruthie: Speaking of mindfulness, I’d love for you to tell us a bit more about ROI Mindfulness, your company.
Shelley: So I started my company about a year and a half ago. ROI is obviously a play on words. It doesn’t mean “Return On Investment”, and it actually means “Real-time Observations and Insights”. Mindfulness is the practice of being present. Having real-time observations and insights is a skill that we can cultivate through the practice of mindfulness.
Also, I started the business really focused on corporate culture, so I named my company such that it would be attractive to that audience.
Ruthie: Well, you did a really good job because I thought ROI was “Return On Investment” too! I imagine it’s a great conversation starter at networking events.
Shelley: Well, for sure. Everybody in the corporate culture wants an ROI, but guess what’s behind cultivating an ROI? The people. Giving people the tools that they need in order to feel engaged,purposeful and like what they are doing is connected to a bigger purpose. That’s something that mindfulness can help a lot with.
How Did You Get on Your Wellness Entrepreneurship Journey?
Ruthie: You said you spent 25 years in the corporate world. How did you come into this space of wellness entrepreneurship?
Shelley: That’s a good question. For years, I was pretty much a type A, high-strung person. I was always creating so much velocity. The faster I moved, the more successful I would be. That manifested not only at work, but in running. My extracurricular activity was doing marathons and ultramarathons.
Long story short, my vertebrate collapsed and I got incredibly injured. After 25 marathons and 6 ultramarathons, my biggest stress reliever, my biggest accolades and accomplishments, and something that I was really good at was completely gone.
I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t work. I was in constant pain. I couldn’t sleep. And it gave me so much anxiety because I thought it was never going to end. I had a successful surgery, but my stress response wires were crossed and I started reacting to everything like it was an emergency. That’s when your amygdala gets hijacked and all the information you take in goes straight into that threat response.
I had an intervention through a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. What it helped me realize is that stress response is physiological, so a physiological intervention is what’s going to help a physiological problem. It’s like that program reset my wiring. It was such a transformative experience that I had to learn how I can bring this to other people. So I worked with some former Buddhist monks – who now are working in the corporate space – and I continue to consume tons and tons and tons of information. Plus, I have a really solid meditation practice.
Ruthie: I was thinking about what you said on things feeding into the stress response. It reminds me of when I was just sitting at my desk a few days ago. Things were going okay, everything was fine. You know, I felt like it was a good day, And suddenly, I just started feeling the stress. I started feeling like something bad was happening, even though I was just sitting at my desk, answering an email. It was really weird. I have to wonder if that’s just the stress from this quarantine bubbling over at an unexpected moment.
Shelley: It really could be. Our bodies don’t lie to us. Even if you think you’ve got it all together, you’re not immune to having those moments of an overarching feeling of unease throughout this.
How Do You Work With Your Clients?
Ruthie: Looking a bit more at the business side of things, how do you normally work with your clients? You’ve gone through the process, you’ve qualified them, you’ve signed your contract and we’re ready to get started. What does that look like for a company?
Shelley: Mindfulness is a lot more than just cultivating calm. That’s a good entry point, but mindfulness is really the practice of presence; being present in the workplace. When we cultivate presence, we can show up better for others.
So when I work with companies, I’m not sitting there, taking people through meditation. Iactually do more of an experiential type of workshop. We talk about different parts of work, whether it’s meetings, emails, time, etc. And then I introduce what mindfulness is. Afterwards, we come back and we cultivate different mindfulness practices around different areas of work. This is so people can actually have the intention to show up better. They actually create their own mindfulness practices.
Ruthie: That would certainly get them invested then in the process. That’s very tailored! I imagine you must go through a very serious discovery process with your clients.
Shelley: I do. The hardest part of having a whole organizational mindfulness program is that we still need to find what mindfulness is. So getting leadership buy-in when people still think that it’s all just about meditation and creating calm people is difficult.
But think about things like ROI. When you think about what goes into fulfilling your company’s mission. It’s the people, and they need certain things to be able to help you fulfill your mission. So it’s about cultivating presence, so that you know how you’re showing up. It’s about creating self-awareness, resilience, balance, mindful listening and mindful communication. It’s a lot more than just being calm.
Ruthie: Even though that is what a lot of people make it out to be. To your point, I think my kids are more scared when I’m acting calm than when I start yelling. I don’t think I should be yelling either, but when I fake being calm, it sounds dangerous.
Shelley: Yeah. And by the way, a calm person doesn’t make a good leader. A self-aware leader makes a good leader. There’s other things, like cultivating other people, being passionate, mindful listening, etc. There’s a lot of things that make a good leader, but calm is not one of the requirements that you see on a job listing.
Ruthie: That’s true. Nobody says, “John is such a good leader. He’s just so calm.”