Rachel Druckenmiller, Founder of UNMUTED

Rachel Druckenmiller, Founder of UNMUTED

Thank you so much for joining me as we continue on Season 6 of The Defiant Business Podcast. I am thrilled to introduce my next guest, Rachel Druckenmiller. I met her at one of the last events I attended in person, at LinkedIn Local Baltimore.

Before I read her bio, I just want to say that Rachel is an amazing speaker so you’re in for a real treat. While I was sitting in the audience, I was like, “Oh my goodness, this woman has all my numbers right now. My phone number, my social security number, and my bank account.” I felt so seen. I’m not sure I’ve ever had quite that experience listening to someone speak. 

So now that I’ve impressed you with that, let me roll into some of her credentials and acknowledgements. Rachel’s been recognized as the #1 health promotion professional in the US, and a 40 Under 40 game changer. Rachel is a national thought leader in the field of wellbeing and employee engagement.

As a speaker and facilitator, Rachel guides leaders and their teams, organizations, and associations to be more resilient, connected, confident, and courageous. We don’t often hear as a word to describe the business space.

Rachel posts tons of inspirational videos on LinkedIn, and they’re always amazing. So you should definitely follow her there and download her resilience toolkit at unmutedlife.com

Please help me welcome Rachel Druckenmiller. Rachel, thank you so much for being here with me today!

Rachel: That was a heck of an intro! I’m very grateful and humbled. Thank you so much.

rachel druckenmiller

Why Do You Sing on LinkedIn?

Ruthie: You are very welcome. So before we get into the business stuff, I wanted to ask you why you sing on Linkedin, of all places? You’ve talked a little about it before, but I can’t think of a better way to highlight your uniqueness and your outgoing spirit. 

Rachel: Because it brings me joy. I don’t really overthink it. I started doing it about a year and a half ago. I loved singing when I was little, and I wouldn’t do it for the longest time because of insecurity and fear and didn’t think I was good enough.

Then I went to professional speaker training and took the bold step of incorporating some singing into my speeches. And then I was like, “All right, I’ve broken through that ice. I can do this.” So I decided to bring it over to LinkedIn.

Ruthie: I love that so much. Singing was something I would not do for people for a really long time. I totally thought of you when I jumped out of my comfort zone and posted a singing video on LinkedIn. I guess it’s like you said; if it’s something that’s been a roadblock for you and then you do it, what else can you do? You’ll find out. 

Rachel: It’s funny you say that because I just posted a quote today that goes, “If it excites you and scares you at the same time, you should probably do it.”

Ruthie:  Yes. I tell people, “If whatever you’re about to do doesn’t scare you at least a little bit, you’re not doing enough.”

If you’re a consultant freelancer, you just sent off a proposal and you don’t feel nervous about it at all, you didn’t stretch enough. If you’re an employee, you’re asking about a raise and you’re not nervous about it, you probably didn’t ask for enough. We undervalue ourselves, right?

Rachel: Yes.

How Did You Become an Entrepreneur?

Ruthie: So tell us how you became an entrepreneur. Your story is so fascinating and I know we don’t have time for all of it, but let’s go ahead and  give everybody a good synopsis.

Rachel: It starts with a story from a long time ago. My parents are both entrepreneurs. My dad’s been a management consultant for 40 years, and my mom’s a financial planner with her own business for almost 25 years. So my model growing up was that it was normal to work for yourself and abnormal to be employed by somebody. I was the holdout in my family. It took me 13 years to realize that I could do this. 

Taking the Leap

After years of  doubting myself, I decided to leave the company that I’d been working full-time at for 13 years. I’d been there since my internship days, starting in 2003. And there was comfort and familiarity to that place, even if it wasn’t working for me anymore. The idea of leaving that comfort was really scary, until it wasn’t. 

That was until I started speaking more and realizing how much it was resonating with people. Or until I went through that professional speaker program and saw all these other people all over the world doing the thing that I wanted to do and being successful with it. Having those examples gave me confidence. 

So in September 2019, I took that leap of faith and I had about 4 months of runway. After that, I had no idea what my work was going to look like, but I trusted that what I was doing was impactful for people. I trusted the relationships and the network I had worked hard to build. It would support me through that transition.

What Do You Do at Unmuted Life?

Ruthie:  That’s amazing. So what do you do at Unmuted Life?

Rachel: I do a couple of different things. First of all, I do speaking. I’m often brought in to various types of meetings when people are struggling and need a boost. They need to shift their mindset. They need to focus on self-care. People are burned out and need a lift. 

So I’m often brought in to talk about those things:

  • how to reset the mindset
  • how to retrain the brain
  • how to connect more deeply with ourselves and with each other

So that we leave not just feeling raw inspired, but that it’s actionable inspiration. That people leave with things they can go do to feel more empowered and in control of their body and mind. 

I also often speak to women leaders or emerging leaders about how to unmute yourself and use your voice to ask for what you need, so that you can have more impact and influence at work.

Ruthie: Actionable inspiration; I think that’s a note that a lot of people should be taking right now. 

How Have Things Changed for You Since March?

Ruthie: Speaking of what you do, how have things changed for you since March? That fateful month that we’ve experienced. I’m sure you had things planned and ready to go in January and February. And then March comes along and pulls the rug from under all of us. 

Rachel:  I felt like I got hit by a truck or something in March!

Ruthie: Put a pin in that!

Rachel: I shifted completely from doing live workshops, leadership training, and keynotes to having all the live stuff disappear. And I pivoted very quickly to take my work 100% virtual.

Making the Virtual Pivot

I’ve done almost 80 virtual presentations, workshops, and facilitated sessions for leaders who are really trying to figure out how to navigate this time more effectively and how to lead better, more empathetically and compassionately. 

And what I found in the virtual space that’s so different is that people don’t just want to sit and watch Zoom TV together. They want to be part of it.

So I’ve really upskilled in the area of facilitation and I’ve been doing more work in a way that unmutes the voice of all the people that are in the Zoom room. Whether it’s around ideation, creative problem solving, sharing their stories, sharing moments of meaning or purpose, etc. 

Not that I’m the sage that knows everything and I’m talking at people, but I have those micro-moments of insight that I’m sharing. I’m also leveraging the collective wisdom of the people in the room. And people are really energized by being heard!

Ruthie: Everybody talks and they forget to unmute themselves on Zoom. The first time I told somebody, “Hey, you need to unmute yourself.” I thought of you. That has to take on a whole new meaning now.

They’re literally talking and nobody can hear them because they won’t unmute themselves. There’s a good nugget of wisdom in there somewhere. I’ll probably think about it more when I’m in the shower later. I feel like hearing that you’re doing Zoom differently should immediately perk people’s ears. 

Saving People From Glazed Over Eyes!

Rachel: I’ll quickly say one thing about that. There was a woman who worked for a 60,000-person company that signed in a session I did and she said, “Honestly Rachel, It was the first time my eyes didn’t glaze over.” That’s a compliment! I’ll take it!

Ruthie: I feel like at the beginning, we would use Zoom for everything. Now I’m like, “Oh, you want to do another webinar That’s great…” I haven’t been to a webinar in a while for that very reason. 

Who Is Your Ideal Client?

Ruthie: So I’ve seen you in a room with at least 80 people, and I know I wasn’t the only one enraptured with the way you were talking and what you were saying. I know that there’s a lot of application in what you say and your experiences for a lot of different types of people and companies, but who is your ideal client?

Rachel:  I really love working with organizations that intuitively understand that it’s important to care about their people. They’re not checking the box of, “Did we do the caring thing today?”.

Usually HR Leaders and Event Planners

I don’t work with box check organizations. I work with organizations and their leaders. That can be HR leaders, people that are the heads of operation, or senior executives that are trying to figure out how we can more effectively communicate and connect with each other.

How can we be there for, and support each other? How can we collectively figure out how to get through this without totally losing our minds? I’m finding that it’s human resources leaders, people leaders, people officers, etc. 

I’m also often working with event planners that are trying to bring in somebody who’s not going to be a check-the-box speaker, who’s going to deliver an experience instead of an ego.

If you’re on a huge stage, you have pyrotechnics behind you, and there’s like 1000 people in the room, you can get away with being sort of a shtick. But when you have the intimacy of your computer, people are gonna quickly see through that. 

So I like to work with people looking for someone who’s going to bring transformation, actionable insights and an experience of feeling deeply seen, known and understood. And they’re not alone. If people walk out feeling not alone, and feeling seen and understood, then they’re probably not getting that from many other places in their life. That really moves me. 

So I’d say event planners that are looking to bring in a different experience and leaders of companies that truly care and want to support, encourage and equip their people to navigate difficult, difficult times.

Ruthie: I was with a close friend and I remember her leaning over and being like, “I think she’s talking to you.” And I’m like, “No! Be quiet!” In terms of how people are still trying to bring in outside insights into their organizations, I think you’re definitely one of the best that I’ve ever seen.

To be fair, my eyes glazed over a lot in the Army, so I definitely know what not to do. That’s not completely their fault, but I know what it looks like. 

The Meaning Behind the Name Unmuted Life

Ruthie: What’s behind your choice for the name Unmuted Life? It sounds like there’s a story there.

Rachel: There’s lots of layers to it, but  the reader’s digest version is that I spent a lot of my life muting many aspects of who I was. I muted myself in terms of my appearance because I was wearing uniforms in Catholic school for 12 years. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was wearing Khaki pants and 50 shades of pastel shirts. 

So I didn’t ever do a whole lot to really be seen. I was constantly hiding myself. I loved to write stories and poems, and did not share them with many people. I journaled from a very young age. I still had an elementary school journal! I had all of this in me that wanted to come out.

I had feelings around the difficulty my parents were going through in their marriage that I never processed with anyone. I felt a sense of not belonging for so many of my school-age years, but I didn’t talk to anybody about it. I loved to sing. I didn’t share it. 

Breaking Intergenerational Mutedness

And these roots go back deep. On my dad’s side of the family, my grandmother was very muted. She was a very little lady. She was 5 ft, maybe 90 lbs soaking wet. And my grandfather was like 6ft 6 in.  He was a very intimidating, angry man.

She dealt with depression, and she was silenced and let herself be silenced and mistreated a lot. I look back and I feel like and I see that on both sides of my family; people just silencing themselves in their relationships, not speaking up and advocating for themselves, not expressing their feelings.

And I see what it’s led to. 

I believe that I am here to break some of these chains in my family, to be someone that uses my voice and invites other people to use their voice courageously so that they feel alive. Because for me, that’s what the unmuted life is. It’s a life that is where we are fully alive, fully expressed, and there’s an immense amount of freedom in that. 

It’s funny that I avoided speaking classes in high school and college, and I get paid full-time to speak now.

I avoided singing for 20-some years,and now I sing to thousands of people on LinkedIn. And I feel such freedom in all of that.

I feel so alive. I look at who I was and I feel like it was a shell of who I am now. I’m so grateful that I’ve come into this place, where I’m so deeply connected to the work I do, the people I serve, and the messages that I feel called to communicate. And I want other people to experience what that feels like.

Ruthie: There’s not really much to add there. I think that’s a fantastic way to finish our 1st episode! I very much encourage everybody to go to unmutedlife.com and download Rachel’s resilience toolkit. The other episodes we have planned for you are going to be very much like this. This is a fantastic introduction to Rachel and her caliber, and I can’t wait to continue the discussion. So Rachel, thank you so much. And the lovely audience, we will see you again in the next episode!

rachel druckenmiller

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