Elaine Turner: “It’s okay to be vulnerable, but there are guardrails”

It’s okay to be vulnerable, but there are guardrails. It’s essential to extend a heart-first approach to your team, but I also think there are healthy boundaries you must adhere to as a leader. Honestly, being a leader can be very lonely and isolating. I didn’t realize how much so until I was one. At […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

It’s okay to be vulnerable, but there are guardrails. It’s essential to extend a heart-first approach to your team, but I also think there are healthy boundaries you must adhere to as a leader. Honestly, being a leader can be very lonely and isolating. I didn’t realize how much so until I was one. At the end of the day, your organization needs a strong, transparent, accountable, and compassionate leader to look up to. The saying, “soft heart, strong back” sums it well, I think.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elaine Turner.

With unfiltered candor, sharp wisdom, humor, and warmth, Elaine Turner is challenging women to be honest with themselves and with the world — and to thus be part of sparking real cultural change. Best known to many as a successful fashion designer and founder of Elaine Turner®, Elaine has a new mission: to help every woman realize she is worthy — and that worthiness is inborn and internal, not determined by any external successes or failures. Through a variety of outlets including her book Breaking the Glass Slipper, compelling talks, and her new three-part online course Know Your Worth, she is pushing women across the country to connect with themselves, reject false narratives, and upend the status quo.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I’m originally from Texas and come from a family of entrepreneurs, so entrepreneurship has been ingrained in me since I was young. When I was a child, my mom supported my love of fashion. She validated fashion as being a primary form of self-expression. I guess you could say my mother was my muse, and she inspired me to pursue a career in fashion.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is the serenity prayer — “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I go back to this quote/prayer often and find it useful in almost every aspect of my life. I have a daughter with special needs, and it was a journey for me to reach a place of acceptance with her disability. When I finally realized I couldn’t change (or fix) her condition, I had to reach a place of acceptance. By accepting her condition, I can let go of what I thought should’ve been and embrace what is.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

I believe that the top three qualities I possess that have helped me accomplish so much are:

1. My capacity for compassion and understanding others. I’ve run teams of people, and I’ve always taken the time to sit back and understand their journey and road.

2. Tenacity — I know how hard I work, and I am extremely determined.

3. Life experience and wisdom! This helps put everything in perspective.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

After meeting my husband, Jim Turner, in the late 1990s, we co-founded Elaine Turner® in the year 2000. The company grew to become a full-service, direct-to-consumer, fashion retail brand including clothing, handbags, shoes, and jewelry. Inspired by my travels to the Caribbean as a child, the brand came to symbolize effortless, tropical laidback luxury. The goal was simple: use the language of design to create elegant yet affordable fashion that makes women feel beautiful inside and out. As the brand has evolved, I did too. Over the past decade, the need for change became paramount as the retail industry shifted from being primarily brick and mortar based to a digital experience. I was fortunate to have a business that thrived for many years and, in 2013, was even named one of the 40 Tastemakers to Watch by Forbes. However, in 2019, we made the heartbreaking decision to close our last remaining store. This life-changing moment set me on a new path of self-discovery and growth from a new perspective: we are worthy, and our worthiness does not depend on external factors. This entire journey has led me to what I consider my greatest passion — guiding women to believe they are worthy.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

I was always passionate about psychology, the human condition, and value what makes people tick as a leader. About 20 years ago, I became fascinated with personal development and took a deep dive into the industry. During a time when I had a lot of challenges in my life — my daughter’s special needs, my mom’s chronic illness, my challenging business issues, etc. I knew I needed outside fuel to do the inner work, and it sparked me and set me on my path. Moving into the personal growth industry was a natural segway for me. I realized how many women could benefit from hearing the challenges I went through.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

As mentioned above, we had to make the gut-wrenching decision to close the business and our last remaining store. I can vividly remember sending the final email out announcing our closure to over 50k people. There I was — helpless, ashamed, and grief-stricken. I quietly asked myself- Who am I now? What is this feeling?

And this brings me to the goosebump moment I had with my daughter that changed everything. It turned the grief over what felt like a death of self into an opportunity for rebirth. My 15-year-old daughter, Marlie, who has special needs, requires my undivided attention, love, and compassion on a daily basis. She has taught me so much about myself and what matters most in life. It serves as no surprise that she was the one who mirrored back to me exactly what I needed most.

About four months after we closed our last store, I was picking up Marlie from school. Marlie got in the car and said, “Mom why are you picking me up all the time now? Why aren’t you at work?” Well, there it was- the realization that she knew. As we headed out of the school driveway- I looked at her very calmly and said. “I closed Elaine Turner. I don’t work right now.”

Marlie is a girl of few words, and she is extremely literal. She looked back at me and said, “Oh okay, mom, I liked that place. I liked the pink. But, I like being with you more.” Never in my life have I needed to hear a set of words strung together like that. She didn’t need me to be THE Elaine Turner; she needed me to be Mom. She reminded me that I am ENOUGH. Just me. Nothing else.

After that day, I became committed to the idea that if I do anything right on this earth it has to be to model for my daughter what worthiness looks and feels like. She must know and experience and truly believe that her worth is unchanging and innate. She needs to know that being born with a disability does not negate her worth in any way- no matter what society tells us. Neither is my worth compromised by experiencing challenges and disappointments in my life and neither is yours regardless of your life circumstances.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

After I closed my last retail store, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. Despite the heartache I was navigating at this time in my life, something inside of me also knew that I had to share my story and wisdom with other women. This experience sparked an interest within me to explore the process of self-discovery and healing. Through my own self-discovery, I came to understand and accept the fact that my self-worth was innate, not defined by my external failures. This ultimately empowered me to help other women also discover this truth.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

I am lucky enough to do what I love and inspire women every day. I have launched a program created for women in leadership called Know Your Worth. The Know Your Worth program is a framework to guide female leaders in reclaiming and building their self-worth. It was born out of the desire to reach other women and connect through our shared wounds, desires, and ultimately our shared reality of attempting to do it and be it all — all while knowing it’s an unattainable feat that most of the time leaves us feeling “less than,” empty and unfulfilled. I am in the growth phase of building out the program and offer one-on-one coaching to meet with clients weekly to support them on their journey of self-discovery.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Without a doubt, I’m grateful for my husband, Jim. He was the one who pushed me towards a career in personal growth. He would tell me over and over again that I had something to offer women through sharing my story and wisdom. About a year ago, I can remember him walking in from work one day telling me that he had signed me up for a new digital platform on Kajabi so I could start to build my digital course for women. He even called some of my former employees and hired them to help me build it. He saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself, and this blessing has changed the course of my life.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

I had no idea where this journey would take me, but one fascinating thing that has happened to me in recent months is deciding to go back to school to get a Master’s degree in counseling. I knew I wanted to help women with my newly launched digital programs, and as I got deeper into the work, I realized there was still so much I wanted to learn. I felt a strong need to gain knowledge so I could continue to expand my offering to support and empower women.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

Of course — everyone does at some point! I struggled with this a lot as I went through a dramatic career change. I had this deep-rooted internal belief that I wasn’t enough. Since then, I’ve created a process that I go through for excavating these types of limiting beliefs. I believe our primary barriers to creating the things we desire in our lives are within us- not outside of us. And particularly for women. Our personal history, family of origin, and the cultural, collective story of not being good enough seem to wreak havoc on us. Questions like: Who am I to lead? Who am I to have money and wealth? Who am I to take up space and be successful? What’s the antidote? I believe it starts with developing a new relationship with ourselves and having the courage to go within and accept and name the untrue story inside you. Once you do, you can begin to bring objectivity around the myths that hold you back. You can access a deeper place of knowing that exists inside all of us. Trusting ourselves and tapping into our inner wisdom is where the truth of who we are resides. This sacred center is much deeper and wider than our feelings and beliefs.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

I took the traditional route and went to what I knew — I tapped into my closest inner ring of friends and family, including my husband and my closest girlfriends. I also had a few former employees who helped get me going on this new venture. I hosted a couple of beta sessions and tried out content on them as well. Ultimately, the beta group sparked me to launch the Know Your Worth program.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

When I was in my career transition, I had some corporate speaking gigs already lined up that helped me step out of my comfort zone and test my content on a new audience. It took a lot of courage, but I discovered that once I spoke openly about what I had experienced, it gave me the confidence to launch my new platform.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s okay to be vulnerable, but there are guardrails. It’s essential to extend a heart-first approach to your team, but I also think there are healthy boundaries you must adhere to as a leader. Honestly, being a leader can be very lonely and isolating. I didn’t realize how much so until I was one. At the end of the day, your organization needs a strong, transparent, accountable, and compassionate leader to look up to. The saying, “soft heart, strong back” sums it well, I think.
  2. Celebrate the small wins. Progress over perfection, people! Don’t always focus on the problem — it tears down the human spirit. Organizations are built around scarcity, and we’re programmed to believe that it’s never enough. It’s so critical to honor what you’re doing right.
  3. Diversity and inclusion should always be a priority. I always had a diverse team, but looking back, I wish I could have done more to start the conversation around diversity and inclusion. I can’t say that I went out of my way to spread awareness, and that’s something I’ll always regret.
  4. Make time to grow as a leader. I wish I could have spent more time on my personal development and growth as a leader through either a coach or a mentor. I always felt buried in the weeds with day-to-day operations and problem-solving. It’s essential to let go a bit. Allow others to step up and perform so you can be strategic and visionary and grow as a person and a leader.
  5. Vision casting is key. It’s so important to clearly define your vision and objectives on how to get there. It should be a practice and something that you can always go back to and reference who your organization is and what you believe in.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Teaching women they’re worthy! My whole movement is around female empowerment. As women, we will go through great lengths to please, accomplish, and meet other people’s expectations. But at what cost? For me, the cost was losing my sense of self. I discovered that I had abandoned who I was by trying to prove my worth to others. And that is why I decided to start the Know Your Worth program. This program is a framework to guide the process of reclaiming and building our self-worth. The program includes three main components: self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. Doing this type of work creates deeper self-understanding so you can feel a stronger sense of inner trust, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. All of this increases your compassion for others and improves your interpersonal relationships. As a result, we begin to believe in our inherent worthiness, which leads to the greatest gift of all: self-love.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

Brene Brown

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Instagram — @elaineturner

Facebook — @ElaineTurnerx

Visit my website at: www.ElaineTurner.com

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...


    Jason Barrett of Black Button Distilling: “You still have to live your life”

    by Pirie Jones Grossman

    Rohini Moradi of Magic Inclined: “Be brave and think outside the box”

    by Pirie Jones Grossman

    Grace Yoon of Qi Alchemy: “Setting goals”

    by Pirie Jones Grossman
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.