I have within me a deep well of strength and resilience that I can draw from at any time. I believe this exists in each of us. This feels foundational to me. When life has rocked me to my core, every time I have found the strength to not just continue on but to grow and thrive. I often don’t know where that strength comes from, I only know it comes from a place within. Each of us has this. It’s unlimited, innate and we always have access to it. We only need to remember and trust that it’s there.
With the success of the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this difficult period in our history. But before we jump back into the routine of the normal life that we lived in 2019, it would be a shame not to pause to reflect on what we have learned during this time. The social isolation caused by the pandemic really was an opportunity for a collective pause, and a global self-assessment about who we really are, and what we really want in life.
As a part of this series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interview Kim Percival.
Kim is a speaker and trusted advisor for seasoned professionals who have reached high levels of achievement, but feel out of alignment and crave a new way to reach the next level of success. She facilitates clarity, break-throughs, and deep trust with her clients in a collaborative coaching partnership. Through deep conversations, clients shift the way they think about themselves and their potential allowing them to create a life that combines both success and significance. Kim has been featured in Forbes and has been requested to educate her unique methodology at Women Entrepreneurs Inc.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Kim! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
There are so many people, experiences, and places that make up and shape the person I currently identify as. I believe myself to be an ever-evolving culmination of a varied life experience, and that whether personal or business is fluid. Each experience and relationship to it impacts all aspects of my life.
I’ve lived in numerous places in the States. I am small-town Nebraska born and raised; lived the California dream where I attended high school in the Bay Area, college in San Diego and started my career; worked on my Boston accent during a Massachusetts job stint, grew a career, and started a family while embracing a Jersey attitude, found Dallas and will love Texas forever, and currently am living a southern life in Charleston.
I may have been planted in the midwest with plenty of other experiences in our diverse country, but I also have branches reaching for another world and culture that is part of my DNA. My family is multicultural and although I look white, my mother is a Eurasian from Singapore. I am still discovering what this means to me.
My career has been as varied as the places I have lived. I have a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering from UC San Diego with a minor in theatre. I started my career in Medical Devices as an engineer in startups that failed, landed a job with a division of Johnson & Johnson focused on medical devices specifically for female health, made the very rare move from Engineering to medical device Sales in another division of J&J. Somewhere in there, I completed an MBA from NYU Stern and moved to another position in J&J, Market Development.
I left corporate life after the birth of my second child and a move for my husband’s career to Dallas where I pursued a photography business, yet life felt so very heavy and dark during this time from postpartum anxiety. Once I sought help and light started to seep back into my existence, I glimpsed what life could feel like and it was grand. I chased that feeling through all sorts of health, personal, and business development avenues which led to the creation of the coaching business I’ve run for the last eight+ years.
Having children gave me the mirror I didn’t want to look in. It brought me some of the darkest times I have ever experienced which without it I wouldn’t have the current relationship I do with myself. We learn about ourselves in relationships with others. My girls continue to unknowingly teach me through my relationship with them.
Looking back I can see that I was born a person in constant learning through a diverse life experience and who regularly applies lessons learned to create a whole new experience of life. It’s really no wonder that in my intimate coaching partnerships, I teach incredible people to notice the experience they are having in the world and to intentionally create their relationships in it. I believe that I live my work.
Are you currently working from home? If so, what has been the biggest adjustment from your previous workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
I have worked from home for years now, ever since I transitioned into a Medical Device Sales role from an R&D Engineering role. I remember someone during that transition time telling me I would never go back into an office again. Man, were they right. I loved the freedom to get work done on my time and in my own chosen environment. It felt so much more efficient working from home.
There was a big adjustment with lockdown though. With zero emotional prep time, my husband, our daughters, and my mom (who had been living for us for the past few years) were there all the time too. The home during the day was no longer just my domain. All of a sudden the house felt so full 24/7. I had to work to redefine and get comfortable with my role in it. Yet at the same time, it felt so full of life and love. We have created new family routines through openness and conversation that continue as needed today.
What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?
I really miss seeing people’s smiles.
The pandemic was really a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic?
I would love to see a concentrated focus on what health looks like outside of the Medical or Big Ag systems, how we can live as if we are part of nature to the benefit of humanity and all life on the planet compared to living as if we are separate from or above it.
Our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) exploded during the lockdown with a long waitlist to get started. I loved seeing such high demand for local, well-grown food while also creating food equity. My family doubled down on our garden and it gave me such joy seeing more and more gardens pop up all over the community. This is where true health starts!
What if anything, do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response? We’d love to hear some stories or examples.
Forced family time, for sure. Being in lockdown with my husband, daughters and mother was a highlight of the year. It was sweet validation that my family is strong and cohesive. That all the intention I bring to my being a mother is worth all the moments when the emotional labor can feel so heavy.
I have been known to say we take our girl’s education choices year by year, that we would reevaluate what worked or not on a regular basis. And I believed that we did until I saw that we really didn’t. COVID brought the blessing of forcing us to evaluate what an intentional education looks like for each of our girls. This led us to move our 7th grader to a Montessori Erdkinder (Farm) School designed specifically for the adolescent and to homeschool our 5th grader.
We have a renewed financial focus in our family. My husband took a pay cut, he works in the medical system where so many people were furloughed, and my business took a hit financially when some of my clients made changes in their financial priorities. This was just the shock we needed to create more intention and discussion around what we buy and why we buy it. I want everything we bring into the home to serve a purpose and have meaning within our family culture.
I’ve seen everything I mentioned above that I experienced personally, play out in a broader sense too. The responses haven’t necessarily been the same, yet the lessons are still there.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
I went super inward and found myself alone (in our backyard ceramics/creative studio) a lot. It was glorious.
The simple things brought me great joy, like experiencing my girls in their independence, handling their own school schedules, and school work. (Montessori schooling for the win!) Morning walks around the neighborhood pond in my housedress, carrying the coffee that Mark made me. Nightly family board games. Client conversations, experiencing their inner work, and the trust we have for each other in our partnerships. The ability and time to do deep brand strategy engagements to work on my coaching business and (upcoming) ceramics business. Hands in the dirt, yard work, gardening, ceramics.
If I was awake to it, I was most at peace when I slowed down enough to focus on what was right in front of me and was grateful for what simply was. Really this is always true.
Aside from what we said above, what has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
There are two things that pop into focus with this question …
One: Imagining all the people that died alone in hospitals is a travesty to me; for those that passed, for the families unable to be with them, and the clinicians caring for them. All the publicized deaths dominating the media have had me face the discomfort of my eventual death and that of my loved ones. There is one universal truth in this life and it is that we all die.
I’ve done a lot of exploring on what this means to me and how I would like to die or have my loved ones pass on. I have come to a place of wondering: Are we missing living in an effort to avoid dying? Would it be freeing if we all embraced death as potentially the most beautiful part of life? Are we messing it up with how it’s currently done in our culture? I know I want to be with the people I love and that love me when it’s my turn to pass, and I want to be with them when it is theirs. I most definitely do not want to die alone in a sterile hospital room. This is one I’m still exploring and it’s not fully formed yet. I still thought it worth sharing.
Two: We are living in the strangest of times. It is so important that the rights and treatment of the underrepresented are front and center and that we make every effort to create equality of opportunity. Yet the fear from the virus has created a dichotomy that seems to be driving medical inequity and discrimination. It’s very odd and disorienting for me to see this happening.
To get to the heart of my answer to this question, one of the sources of greatest pain is in seeing how divided and discriminatory we are as a people in so many areas. When I dig into the very bottom of why this is occurring it always seems to come back to fear.
How did I cope? Well, I don’t like the word cope because I don’t feel like I’m coping with it. I’d prefer to say that I am dancing with fear; my fear, the fear I sense from others, our collective fear. Sometimes I’m leading; sometimes it’s leading me. I don’t desire a life of coping, no matter the external circumstances. I desire a life of freedom and dancing.
Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- I am a deeply sensitive person and I am also really tough. These attributes are highly complementary. I have spent much of my life with a view of myself as a badass, until this pandemic. I remember a distinct moment through tears where I saw my sensitivity. The feeling of collective and personal fear was so palatable that it felt like I would break, but I didn’t. It takes strength and grit and toughness to feel, really feel, and then to grow and learn from it.
- I have within me a deep well of strength and resilience that I can draw from at any time. I believe this exists in each of us. This feels foundational to me. When life has rocked me to my core, every time I have found the strength to not just continue on but to grow and thrive. I often don’t know where that strength comes from, I only know it comes from a place within. Each of us has this. It’s unlimited, innate and we always have access to it. We only need to remember and trust that it’s there.
- AND is the most powerful word to have in your vocabulary. It’s not “this OR that,” but rather “this AND that.” There is no one right way to do life or to think about life. There isn’t right or wrong or left or right, or my side or the other side. Morals, values, and ethics are individual and on a sliding scale. They are allowed to change as we grow and progress. If we are declaring aside as if it is the right one or the only one to be on, we are missing context. A bit of curiosity can go a long way to eliminate some of the divisiveness we are widely experiencing today. I encourage everyone to simply notice when they use the word ‘or’ and replace it with —and as much as possible. The effects of such a simple word change might just be pleasantly surprised.
- There is no need to be in a hurry. I alluded to this before in an earlier question, slowing down enough to be present to what is. Being hurried is a trap. There is a risk of moving too fast; important discoveries might be missed. We can’t learn and grow in a meaningful way as individuals or as a human collective in a rush. Each discovery builds upon the next.
Taking up ceramics (and spending some much time at the wheel during lockdown) has been the ultimate lesson on this for me. There is a process to follow and regular practice to create a beautiful piece. You have to throw some really wonky vessels to see how your fingers work with the spinning of the wheel and the consistency of the clay. This is slow and perfection is forever just out of reach, each step a potential for failure, and an opportunity for new learning to carry forward. There is such beauty in that knowing.
- Everything is bigger than we think. The lessons and learnings from this experience will provide material for individual and collective growth when we least expect it. Many years ago I asked a coach of mine how I could know if something aligned for me. He told me to pick one of my daughters and tell her she was ugly. I told him no and I didn’t see what he was getting at. It felt too obvious. It wasn’t until months later while on a run that it hit me, the inner knowing of what alignment meant for me and felt like to me. His lesson from months prior took root and continues to evolve to this day.
We are each of us creating a relationship with lockdowns and pandemics and viruses that have already brought obvious lessons and learnings, but it’s so much bigger than that. It’s an indicator of how we want to lead our lives and interact with one another moving forward. I know there is so much more to gain from this experience; the lessons and growth will continue to deepen and expand for months and years to come.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?
“A question is meant to be entered, not answered.”
I wish I knew who to attribute this quote to. The first time I heard it on a retreat, it stuck. This is relevant to me often and especially during the pandemic because the sheer number of questions without clear answers seemed amplified. Some of the questions I entered during this time were ones like … who am I when I disagree with something or someone? And when someone disagrees with me? What does it mean to be “safe?” How do I want my life to feel as I progress through this and on the other side of the pandemic? And so many more. All of the answers I landed on have been fluid and moving and open to change.
An answer may be needed to take steps forward in a particular direction so as to not drown in the questions, but that answer is only useful the moment I make it. After that, I run the risk of becoming a disciple to it, rather than seeing it for its temporary utility. I find that, most importantly, being in the question propels growth.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest 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, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Right now and funnily to me, I would like to enjoy a long coffee date with Bill Gates. He occurs to me as a man of science with a definite view of how life should proceed during these times and beyond. His name has come up so many times next to the words “conspiracy theory.” I’m not sure I align with his views, but I would love to better understand what drives him as a human and what is beneath the formation of how he views the world and chooses to move about it.
And if Bill isn’t available, Gwyneth Paltrow will do. Because of Goop. And more seriously, because of her immense talent, diverse success in life, and carrying on even when under immense scrutiny.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.
It is an absolute thrill to be able to share pieces of my experience with the desire that someone reading this can find something useful in it for themselves. Thank you for including me.