“Make sure you set Expectations.”, With Dr. William Seeds & Tiffany DaSilva

“I want to be remembered for making people feel less alone. I want to be someone’s go to person, their first call when things go wrong. I want to have made people laugh and enjoy our moments together. I want to start with Marketing. I want people to know that they aren’t alone, and not […]

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“I want to be remembered for making people feel less alone. I want to be someone’s go to person, their first call when things go wrong. I want to have made people laugh and enjoy our moments together. I want to start with Marketing. I want people to know that they aren’t alone, and not feel so pressured. By showing people how to be vulnerable, maybe I could make work a better, more open place to be.”

As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany DaSilva.

Tiffany DaSilva is an entrepreneur and creator. She started her career as a growth marketer and instructor working with hundreds of startups before she burnt out and decided to change it all. Since then she founded Flowjo, a card deck company focused on helping people enjoy life’s little moments and also speaks around the world about her struggle with imposter syndrome and mental health.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My marketing story started at a very young age. It was the summer before sixth grade, and I had decided that I needed to make money to pay for the internet. My parents didn’t have a lot of money at the time, and I was really scared that they would cut the internet to save money. So, I came up with the brilliant idea of creating my very own “lemonade stand” of sorts.

It was the mid 90s so there weren’t many options to make money online. After some searching I found an affiliate program that allowed me to sell shaving products online. Within a few days of creating my website, I started to see sales. The reason was that I had somehow figured out how search engines worked (or as it’s called now — Search Engine Optimization or SEO) This was one of the most fun and impactful summers of my life.

Fast forward 10 years later. I had just completed university and had a very difficult time finding a job in communications. After months of searching, I landed a receptionist job at a web development company. I knew I didn’t have any experience working for a dot com company, but I still wanted to be as close as I could get to the action. A few months into my job, I watched as the developers sat around a desk debating how to get a website to show up on the first page of Google. As I watched them, I worked up the courage to tell them the story of my shaving website from my childhood days. It took some time to try to explain how search engines work to developers, since I didn’t know any of the technical jargon but I ended up helping them out. One of the developers told me that this skill I had could actually be a full time job. He introduced me to an HR rep at a company with a job opening and I got a job as a junior SEO specialist. I was ecstatic.

Since that moment, I have never looked back. I’ve worked on over 600 websites and at least 200 different companies working on all aspects of digital marketing. I worked for startups like Achievers, and Shopify and quickly became well known in the field. I decided around this time to venture into something completely different. Inspired by a bucketlist I created when I was 18, I had promised myself that I would create a physical product from scratch in one year. The outcome was The Growth Hacking box, a box with 100 digital marketing tactics broken into categories from acquisition to retention. It was after the completion of this project, I decided to take the leap, launch my own company Flowjo and my own growth marketing consultancy.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Now I’m going to have to warn you. This story is interesting, but not exactly the happiest of stories… at first.

When I started my career, I can’t even begin to describe the happiness I felt. I was doing something that I loved to do. Every aspect of it was so exciting to me that I pushed myself to learn and grow as fast as I could. Over time, as I gained experience and started working at different startups I started to feel the pressure of lofty goals and long hours. To say I was burnt out is an understatement. I had passed the “burn out stage”, and started to feel numb most days. Instead of stopping and readjusting what I was doing or asking for help, I unfortunately started doing what most of us do, I blamed myself. I thought I was just being lazy, I started to lose confidence in my abilities and believed that I was fraud. Eventually, the stress overcame me and I started to get seizures — one of which almost killed me.

After taking a month to recover from a life threatening grand mal seizure, I realized that I needed to change everything I was doing. All my priorities had changed. Instead of wanting to be the best in my field, I just wanted to spend as much time as I could with my friends and family. I wanted to make happy memories and live life to the fullest.

Most of all, I wanted to help others who may have been feeling the same way I was realize this before they got sick too.

So I pivoted my Flowjo product. Instead of focusing my attention on The Growth Hacking Box, I created The Couples Bucket List, a card deck filled with fun and affordable activities you can do with your partner to help you get the most out of your relationship. A year later, when I started to understand more about self care and its link to mental health, I created The Self Care Bucket List. This card deck blends together self love and mindfulness activities together to help people like myself focus on our wellbeing.

It became really important that I helped people see the good in their lives especially when it seemed like we were all being suffocated by the chaos on the news and outside our doors.

During this pivot, I also committed to giving $5 of every box to charities that helped those who may not have the means to purchase a box.

My epilepsy diagnosis also helped me disrupt the marketing world, in a way, I began to share my story about imposter syndrome to conferences internationally. In the past three years, I’ve learned that in every country I go to, whether it be Sweden or Romania, US or Slovenia, everyone was feeling like they weren’t good enough, or starting to feel the effects of burnout. My goal was that they walked away from my talk knowing first and foremost that they weren’t alone.

So in short, I didn’t let my epilepsy diagnosis define me, but it definitely helped change me for the better. No regrets here.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

My advice is to be aware of your thoughts. It sounds like common sense, but when you’re in the middle of “burn out” or while facing a pandemic like we are now, it is very difficult to see the difference between what is real and what is the story we’ve created about our reality.

When my seizures started, I knew that I needed to make changes in my life. I did lots of research about mental health, and its effects on the body and I seemed to always end up on an article about the positive effects of meditation. Since I didn’t know much about it, and I wasn’t getting anywhere on my own, I hired a meditation coach named Sabine Buhlmann to help guide me.

Sabine was so helpful in so many ways. First, I was able to share my thoughts and feelings with someone outside of my social circle. It felt great to be able to speak with someone about anything and everyone in my life without any ramifications or judgement. Secondly, she helped me meditate and for the first time I was able to really see the negative self talk and “stories” I had been repeating and believing about myself for a long time.

It’s been almost 5 years and I still have her in my life, and I still meditate as often as I can. I have found that I have not only avoided burnout but have been able to do so much more than I ever thought possible because I stopped believing the negative self talk in my head.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

The best boss I ever had was Rob Catalano, now the co-founder of WorkTango. He was the only leader who seemed to really understand me and my coworkers. He always knew when to help, or when to leave you alone. Our bi-weekly one-on-ones were the most impactful for me. Every other week, we would sit across from eachother and he would spend 90% of the time just listening. I would tell him what was going on with work, what was going on personally that might affect mywork, and what my plans were for the next two weeks. He would never interrupt, except to ask for clarity. He also ended every one-on-one session reiterating our goals for the month or quarter and by reiterating how much he believed that I would be successful. He never told me how to do my work specifically, just his expectations of me.

I think I finally had to become an entrepreneur, in part, because I never found another boss like him. If there are any leaders out there who want to know how to engage their own team, put in the work. Get to know your direct reports personally and professionally, always communicate your goals consistently, provide positive recognition, and make your expectations clear.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The book that comes to mind right away is “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. That was the first book that I read that really spoke directly to my biggest insecurity — the need to be perfect. Being an only child, I didn’t witness failure often unless it was my own so I became really focused on never showing people that I could be bad at anything. When this book came out in 2010, it was my AHA moment. I’ve read every book she’s written since and have always been so inspired by her vulnerability. It is what has helped me get up on stage and share my own story.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

My five steps come directly from my imposter syndrome talk, but they apply to what we are dealing with today.

They are:

  1. Get Off Autopilot
  2. Find your Villain
  3. Set Expectations
  4. Create your ShineCrew
  5. Discover Your Legacy & Visualize it often.

Get Off Autopilot.

When I first met Sabine, my meditation coach, she had me do an exercise that changed my mindset completely. She asked me to grab a notebook and write down every negative thought I had about myself over the span of a week. Since I tend to be an overachiever, I had created an alarm on my phone so that I would be reminded three times a day to write down what I was thinking. Since I was neck deep in burnout at the time, this list was pretty dark.

A week later I returned to her and we looked at the list together. She asked me to read it aloud. As I did, I cried. I was horrified by the negative things I said about myself over and over again throughout the day. They were things I would never say to my worst enemy. It was an eye opener.

The week after she asked me to take that same list and create a positive message for each negative thought. I went through the list, which ranged from physical appearance, to my aptitude, to my social life and my relationships, and I rewrote the message as though I was talking to my best friend and they had told me this about themselves. Sabine then asked me to memorize this list, so that everytime I would say one of those negative thoughts, I would immediately say the positive one. I began to rewire my brain, one sentence at a time. When I finally started to get the hang of I remember feeling euphoric.

So, the only way to get off autopilot is to pay attention to your thoughts. This is the best first step. You have to know what you’re working with, in order to change your behavior.

Find your Villain.

The next exercise Sabine had me do was to find my villain. Villains are tricky — they can be hard to spot.

At times, they are the people in our lives who have truly hurt us physically or emotionally. Other times, our villains are a bit more vague.

If you’ve ever gone through your instagram and stopped at someone’s post only to recoil, or instantly feel feelings of jealousy, disgust or even a slight eye roll forming — you’ve probably encountered your villain. They may be lovely individuals and have never done anything wrong to you personally. They may have no idea they bother you so much. But somehow, over the years, they have caused you discomfort. Sometimes you can learn to love your villain, other times you cannot.

So what do we do when we encounter our villain?

Well, you have two options: You can set them free or you confront them.

To set them free all you need is to block and delete; completely cut them from your life.

Bad bosses or exes?

Block and Delete.

“Friends” who talk about you behind your back?

Block and Delete.

I tend to go through my social media networks at least 2x a year and Marie Kondo style by asking myself “Does this person spark joy?” If not, they need to be blocked and deleted.

For those you can’t just block and delete? It’s time to have a conversation with them. Whether it’s to clear the air, or get closure. It’s time to have an honest conversation about why you’re bothered by them. Sometimes I’ve had to have conversations where I have brought someone along for support to get through it. Other times, it has simply been a text to tell someone that I feel intimidated by them. While this activity may seem to be something that would ADD stress to your lives, it is actually something that has reduced my stress considerably.

Set Expectations.

My friend and fellow marketer Angie Schottmuller taught me this trick when onboarding a client. She would create a “client report card” that would lay out the expectations that both parties have agreed on before starting a contract. You would start with a metric — let’s say leads, and you would list out what an A, B, C, D or F would look like. That way, throughout the contract, you always knew where you stood.

I really liked this idea from the moment I heard it, and began to incorporate it to other situations in my life.

For example, What made an “A+” friend?

What made a “B-friend” and “C” and so on and so forth.

When relationships became difficult, or friends started turning into villains, I could go back to what I had outlined and see where this friendship stood. It allowed access to “Past Tiff’s” perspective on “Future Tiff” problems.

I’ve used this as a guide ever since.

So, while quarantined, if you’re worried about some of the relationships you have in your life, or your expectations at work, maybe it’s time to create your own expectations report card.

Create your Shinecrew.

In the midst of my burnout period, I was also asked to speak at my first conference. There I met Joanna Wiebe, a successful entrepreneur and keynote speaker of the event. I wanted to be like her with every fiber of my being, and when she joined me at the table I was sitting at during our speakers dinner, I was a mix of elated and terrified. She introduced herself and after some small talk, I worked up the nerve to ask her a question that would change my life immeasurably.

“Do you ever feel like a fraud?” I asked, voice shaking.

“Yes,” she admitted. “All the time.”

I was stunned. The woman I aspired to be felt the same way I did, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel so alone. At the conference, Joanna and I, along with other women, shared our experiences and our belief in the “shine theory,” a term coined by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow that simply states meant, “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine.”

When the conference ended, I didn’t want the conversation to stop so we created an online chat group called the Shine Crew. We helped guide each other through interviews, pricing negotiations, and major life decisions. For the last seven years, the women in the Shine Crew were there through everything I had experienced from my first seizure to helping me launch my first product and everything in between.

A quote by Friedman always stood out for me. She said “When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.”

So here’s my advice: find the people in your life you want to emulate, the ones who scare you, the ones who make you feel like a superstar just by knowing them. Take a deep breath, be brave, and ask them to join your Shine Crew. Help each other grow. Keep each other in check. Celebrate your wins. They will help you through this time, and everything after.

Discover my legacy & Visualize it often.

One of the biggest stressors, especially now during the Covid-19 epidemic is not knowing what tomorrow brings or how to plan our immediate life. In moments like these, I fast forward to the future.

A few years into my work with Sabine, she asked me what my goals were. I started to list them off and we noticed right away that they were very immediate. They were very structured around today, 6 months from now and one year from now.

“What is your legacy?” she asked me.

I didn’t really understand what that meant at first. She nodded patiently and added, “How do you intend to change the world around you? What do you want to be known for?”

That changed my perspective. My goals went from making X a year or taking a new course, or reading # of books to who I wanted to be as a person.

“I want to be remembered for making people feel less alone. I want to be someone’s go to person, their first call when things go wrong. I want to have made people laugh and enjoy our moments together. I want to start with Marketing. I want people to know that they aren’t alone, and not feel so pressured. By showing people how to be vulnerable, maybe I could make work a better, more open place to be.”

She nodded her head, wrote down some notes and then told me that I needed to spend a few minutes everyday visualizing what that meant.

She added, “You really have to FEEL it though…” She pointed to her heart, “In here.”

Now that part was hard, and it took me a few weeks to figure out how to do that without letting the negative self talk creep in and try to lead me astray.

Overtime I found a hack: I watch really inspiring youtube videos.

Hear me out!

I’ll start with the Good News movement, or Upworthy, or even a Nike ad and really let myself be moved by what I’m seeing — that chest tightening in a good way feeling, or that feeling right before you tear up. As soon as I feel that, I immediately think of my legacy.

Overtime, I taught my brain and body how to be inspired by ME, and I started to see my life change as a result. You reading this, proves that.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

First things first, download a meditation app immediately. I suggest something like Headspace that offers lessons on how to meditate that build up over time (Their first 10 lessons are free). It really helps to understand how meditation works. Once you start doing it regularly, you’ll realize it’s not about clearing your mind and thinking of nothing, it’s about becoming aware of where your mind goes when it starts to wander. Understanding this will teach you so much about yourself and what makes you feel anxious.

Next, I would start to monitor what feeds your anxiety. For me, it’s dark broody tv shows, the news and mindless social media scrolling. So I found ways around it. I only watch the news for 15 minutes a day. I started watching comedies or happy shows before I went to sleep, and i’ve put blocks on how much social media I allow myself a day.

I also created an instagram account solely for happy things: Art, Animal videos and good news. I have no friends attached to it. I call it my happy place, somewhere I go when I want to feel inspired rather than drained.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My whole business is based on the quote by the singer Donavon Frankenreiter,

“I’m looking for life, love and laughter.. Everything in between and what happens after.”

The premise behind the line (and the song) is that we have everything we need in life all around us. We just need to make an effort to focus on the simple things that make us content, the little moments between the big life events and an understanding that we’re all doing our best.

I wanted to create products that showed people how to turn off the noise, and focus their attention on the little moments too.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Honestly, I think it would be internet free weekends.

Maybe one weekend a month. Right now, even during the stress and the sadness of everything going on around us, we are seeing what happens when we slow down. We start to commit more time to each other, we start to make art, and cook banana bread, and make funny videos. Creativity comes out of boredom. Beautiful things come out of boredom.

I would love us to keep that, somehow, after all of this subsides.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

I can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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