Move and learn. I start my day by moving and end my day by learning to maintain physical and mental health. After my morning braindump I hit the gym, bike or do yoga right away. This helps me flush out anxiety and get focused on my schedule. I eat a very intentional but quick meal, and carry on with the next task at hand. At the end of the day I listen to a podcast or read something that makes me smarter. This engages my brain before winding down with the Calm app. I’m a huge fan of the mental wellness story by Labron James and listen to it most nights.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewingWendy Yates.
Wendy Yates is an entrepreneur and philanthropist dedicated to leading by example as she inspires her team and like-minded leaders to create a culture rooted in value. After dropping out of college to prematurely launch into the world of business, she experienced failure on many levels. From those failures she learned how to use grit and purpose-driven motives to ultimately succeed.
Yates is the CEO and founder of Abigail-Elise Brands, a collection of companies on a mission to reinvent what others believe to be possible in the world of design, leadership, and global impact. She is host of The Design Driven Life Podcast, an upbeat interview style podcast with a goal of sharing stories of people doing good in the world with a mission to inspire others to shift their mindset to create the world they want to live in. Her companies currently include: Abigail-Elise Design Studio, an award-winning global design firm specializing in interior design and merchandising for commercial, hospitality, and residential projects; Well Fit Human Retreats, a wellness based impact humanitarian travel company; and AE Cares, a non-profit foundation dedicated to positively influencing the wellbeing of others connecting need with resource. Together Wendy and her team elevate the overall quality of people’s livelihood by being a force for good.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Oahu, Hawaii. My mom did secretarial and administrative work, while my dad was a varied-ranking member of the U.S. Air Force. Because of my dad’s military work, we bounced around a lot when I was a kid, from Hawaii to Turkey and back, then on to Arkansas and a small town in southeastern Colorado.
I was in a hurry to grow up — in part because my dad was an alcoholic and my parents’ fighting made my home scene less than ideal. It was difficult to create and maintain friendships, which made me feel both lonely to some degree, but it also helped me become more independent and self-reliant. I never really had a sense of home, nor a community so in a roundabout way I believe those aspects moved me toward my specific career path.
I was going through a divorce in my young adulthood, didn’t have a place to live, and had a two-year old when I decided to start Abigail-Elise Interiors. My timing wasn’t ideal as it was during a recession, but that motivated me even more. My shift into entrepreneurship was very natural and it enabled me to build more long term working relationships, which in turn have helped me grow from a small town Design Studio to a global brand of lifestyle companies.
The road to growth and entrepreneurship can be a lonely one, even if you are surrounded by love and support. As somewhat of an introvert, I found myself craving more authentic human connection and wanting more joy. It was from these personal desires that I began to look more closely at my authentic life purpose and how I could be a conduit for others experiencing similar feelings. In response, I created Well Fit Human Retreats, a wellness-fitness-travel-impact company that activates purpose in people, creates experiences that improve an individual’s mental, emotional and physical sense of well-being, and gives back on a global level.
All in all, I’ve always had a drive to constantly grow in ways that made the world incrementally better. It brings me the most joy to see joy in others. It took me failing several times to learn how to successfully utilize my natural creativity and leadership skills so that I can collaborate with high-reaching design teams, while also shaping spaces and experiences that change what others believe is possible for themselves.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Well Fit Human Retreats came about as a result of wanting to create life-changing experiences for others while also bridging the gap between luxury and resources. Working within the interior design business and traveling with my family helped me see first hand the separation between consumerism that surrounds luxury developments and international poverty that would benefit from more humanitarian efforts. Well Fit Human is my way of closing that gap.
I am on a mission to lead by example, cultivate a culture rooted in strong values, and create positive impact beyond the spaces we occupy. Well Fit Human stands for wellness, fitness, and humanitarian efforts, because I believe we can all improve in these 3 areas of our lives so that we improve our overall quality of life.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My mother has always been supportive, even when I didn’t fully realize it. I also believe that every person that gave me a job or said something kind to me helped encourage me to keep going or to come up with a new idea. For that I am thankful.
My husband Zach has also always been an amazing champion of mine and I couldn’t be more grateful for a life partner that is also my best friend.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I would like to share the mindset that even though a mistake can be a setback, it is also an opportunity for a comeback. Mistakes are necessary to keep moving forward, yet some of us let them hold us back. Breaking the habit of viewing mistakes as negative is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned and still remind myself of often.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
My advice would be…
- Decide what you want. Decide what price you are willing to pay. Get organized in your mindsets. Get to work. Get started. You don’t have to have everything figured out. You just have to have drive so that you can maximize your one chance at life on earth.
- Surround yourself with people who inspire and champion you by sharing their knowledge and valuable insights. This will help you build your purpose into your actions, always follow up, and follow through.
- Above everything else, always be learning and sharing.
This is how I was able to refocus on my life purpose so that I could integrate my efforts and intentions more powerfully with Abigail-Elise Brands and Well Fit Human Retreats. I have found that having a purpose, instead of an end goal, is what gives me the motivation and drive to do more.
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?
A book that I think is great is Money Grows on Trees: How to Reshape Your Thoughts, Beliefs and Ideals About Money and Become Truly Wealthy by Jerremy Alexander Newsome. It helps shift your mindset about money and shows you that financial freedom allows you to help others in many more ways.
My all time favorite podcast is How I Built This with Guy Raz. However, I have to give a shout out to Broke to Woke which tells the story of my personal mentor Britnie Turner and my coach Jerremy Newesome. They share raw, vulnerable, and inspiring accounts of where they came from and where they are going.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“I don’t think of work as work or play as play it’s all just living”
– Richard Branson
My brand architecture and company culture have both been inspired by Richard Branson’s philosophies. His teachings inspire that there is no lack of people, wealth, knowledge, clients, etc. This has recently become more relevant in my life because I want to be part of positive growth for my team and my goal is that they feel the same. To be a successful manager of any team, first create a team that you want to work with for a long time and then treat them like a family.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
The most exciting project we are working on currently is the Design Driven Life series. This project started as a lifestyle principles book to help inspire mindset and is now the namesake of our podcast. The intention behind developing the book is to show how creating your environment translates into creating the world you want to live in. My hope is that it will be referenced to help overcome, motivate, and inspire others. The Design Driven Life will be available for purchase February 2021.
Similarly the Design Driven Life podcast connects people with global citizens working to better the world through their life practices and intentional causes. It motivates others through design, leadership, and impact by building on their vision and activating purpose.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
It is extremely important to create good habits because habits, positive or negative, definitely contribute to the outcome of your life. As I have stated before, everyone has one chance on earth and we have to make it count. Negative habits keep you in a negative space while positive habits, such as talking and sharing your ideas, propel you forward. Everything you do today determines where you will be tomorrow. Think carefully about who you want to be and use that as an outline to make intentional decisions.
Personally, when I am not in the habit of working out, my health begins to suffer because missing one day easily turns into months. When I wasn’t working out on a regular basis, I started having knee issues walking down stairs. The strain on my joints with basic movements would have continued and worsened to a degree that negatively affected the longevity of my life if I didn’t make a change. I have gotten back into the habit of working out everyday, have zero issues with my knees, and nothing is holding me back from maximizing my life so I can enrichen others.
The importance of having positive habits needs to become a priority in everybody’s life if they want to achieve their goals.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
I like to shy away from the word success. To me it’s about progress, impact, and continued growth vs. some final destination whereby I’ve succeeded. I’m always moving forward so that I can create a new goal, meet it, and reach for another one. I use visualization to do this and I reverse engineer the process by starting at the end, aka what my life will mean once I’m gone.
Visualizing how I want my life to look has helped me get in the habit of reflection, applying affirmations, and most importantly, having gratitude. I practice gratitude many times a day, not just in the morning or in the evening, but I work really hard at applying it throughout the day. It helps me gain clarity and redirect my focus on believing in possibilities for myself and others. It sounds easy and simple, but if you are not already in the habit of taking gratitude breaks then I challenge you to start now so you can see how it affects your life.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
Mental health is connected to your physical, emotional, and financial well-being. Starting with goals that are easy and attainable in one of these areas helps set a tone for optimal habit swapping.
To begin developing good habits, go back to what you want your life to mean. Every decision you make means you say no to another one. If you define what you want your life to mean you can then list what actions you need to take to get there.
For example, I want to have had a close, loving, and authentically honest relationship with my daughter throughout my entire life, not just while she was younger and living at home. I know this starts with creating the habit of being present, having close conversations, and holding space for us to connect.
To make sure I accomplish this, I list ideas of things we can do together to share time and things we can discuss. I schedule it in like it’s a life or death appointment because to me this is one of the most important things I want to have had in my life.
By creating actionable items that you look at every day and schedule into your time, like a routine, you create a habit that produces the results you want.
I do this same practice for my business, health, education, philanthropy, and finances. Every aspect of my life will have happened in the end because I scheduled my habits accordingly.
Another good idea is to audit your time by tracking it. This will help inform you where you need to realign your intentions and/or get back on track so that you are becoming the best version of yourself to fulfill your life vision.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Envision how you want your life to look once you’re gone and work backwards to create attainable goals. Ex: write your eulogy and determine what matters to you in the long run
- Schedule your time so you create healthy habits in all areas of your life. Ex: Use a planner or time tracker to schedule in exercise, quality time with your family, work, etc. It truly helps.
- Audit or track your time so you know where you can shift gears to optimize your efforts and redirect your attention back to fulfilling your life’s purpose. Ex: Looking at the raw facts will help you make changes accordingly.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
Same as above. Consistency is King!
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Form your eulogy, create a life plan and make a vision board. I highly recommend checking out Tim Ferriss and The 4-hour Workweek.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
Focus is definitely challenging for a creative and vision centric person like myself.
What helps me…
1) Scheduling. I schedule everything, even my showers, and I look at it multiple times a day to keep me focused. If it’s not on my calendar I try not to do it.
2) Factor in TBS (To Be Scheduled) time within your calendar. I am constantly thinking of new ideas, stories, solutions, problems, designs, and because I like to research these things I need time in my schedule to do so. I call it “To Be Scheduled” because it allows me the opportunity to have a full on brain dump, whereby I fill a tab on my computer with what it is I’m thinking about. This helps me temporarily let go of the persistent ideas, refocus on another item at hand, and revisit the new ideas later.
I try to go through the TBS regularly so that I circle back to ideas that may or may not continue to build.
3) Move and learn. I start my day by moving and end my day by learning to maintain physical and mental health. After my morning braindump I hit the gym, bike or do yoga right away. This helps me flush out anxiety and get focused on my schedule. I eat a very intentional but quick meal, and carry on with the next task at hand. At the end of the day I listen to a podcast or read something that makes me smarter. This engages my brain before winding down with the Calm app. I’m a huge fan of the mental wellness story by Labron James and listen to it most nights.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Find others that want the same things you want. Do it together so that you are accountable to someone other than yourself. Discipline begins with being vulnerable and sharing your end life plan with someone else helps you establish that.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
State of Flow…. Hmmm I think it all goes back to knowing what you want your life to mean. I know I keep saying that, but when you are only going through the motions time slips away so quickly. When you focus on your end game and work backwards you get organized, you create systems, and when challenges arise that try to throw you off you have a sense of semi preparedness that will keep you on track. I always say, “Get prepared for the opportunities you want so when they come they won’t pass you by.” Being Prepared will always keep you in the state of flow, where that flow takes you can change but if you are ready it will be easy to effortlessly redirect.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am dedicated to leading for change by showing others how to find opportunities and help them overcome limiting beliefs. When we share knowledge and work as a global society, there is greater equality. For me, the movement to end poverty starts with equity, empathy and education on a global level. If we could see money as an expansion tool of the heart and not something to hoard we would have a greater ability to positively affect the world. If more people could adapt this type of mindset it would be a major game changer for our future generations.
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, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
This is a great question and it’s honestly a toss up. I can’t choose just one and I am always adding to the list. so here are a few at the top of my list; the Musk Family, and Bill and Melinda Gates.
The Musk Family; May, Elon, Kimbal, and Tosca Musk. May is a phenomenal woman who raised her kids as a single mother. She created some of the most caring and impactful human beings of our time. They are all doing such incredibly impactful work. Kimbal is focused on teaching schools how to plant sustainable healthy food, Tosca is a brilliant director who creates valuable content, while Elon is advancing the world of technology.
Bill and Melida Gates for how much they have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.