“Presence takes practice” With Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated & Alyssa Hoffman

To optimize my mind for peak performance before a high pressure situation, I don’t use my mind at all. I do my part to empty my mind so I can focus. It’s a strategy that I call “preparation and presence.” I prepare my mind to be empty and present, because from that place of presence, […]

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To optimize my mind for peak performance before a high pressure situation, I don’t use my mind at all. I do my part to empty my mind so I can focus. It’s a strategy that I call “preparation and presence.” I prepare my mind to be empty and present, because from that place of presence, I am able to come up with new, real solutions.

As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alyssa Hope Hoffman.

Alyssa Hope Hoffman left her Fortune 500 job, sold her possessions, and moved onto a rock and roll tour bus two years ago to manage six-time rock radio charting band, Wayland. Alyssa opened Fearlyss Entertainment, a full-service music management company with the intention to turn up the volume on acts that are in service to humanity through their music. Aligning with organizations like Operation Underground Railroad, Destiny Rescue, and Rock Against Trafficking, Alyssa’s philanthropic efforts to use music as medicine has proven to be just what the doctor ordered.

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 grew up the oldest of six children down by the Barnegat Bay in the Jersey Shore. I was so shy I would cry every time I had to speak in public and spent most of my time reading. My father commuted two hours away to and from work each day so it was my mother and I who raised all five children. I don’t know that I had much of a childhood as much as an initiation.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

I had no plans to become an entrepreneur. I subscribed to the storyline that I was supposed to go to college, get a degree, get married and have children, and as an Italian Catholic it better be in that order. I was a traveling, regional educator for a Fortune 500 company, had become the Educator of The Year for my state association, and thought I was on the fast track to climbing up the corporate ladder just like my parents intended.

Instead,I found myself at a rock and roll concert one night where I met the band, Wayland. That same night I asked them how they weren’t the biggest band in the world, and the next day decided I would be the one to change that. Within less than a year I had sold all my possessions, moved onto a tour bus, and opened Fearlyss Entertainment, deciding that I was going to make their dreams and mine come true- even if they were dreams I didn’t know I had.

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 been the encouragement behind and for everything I’ve ever done. My mother encouraged me to embrace every part of my corporate career, drove me back and forth, state to state to every convention, and then visited me on the road when I decided to trade everything in to manage a rock band and enter the music industry.

The first night that I met Wayland, my mom and sister had driven six hours with me to see them perform. Minutes before the show started, they both started projectile vomiting, no joke, and my mom DEMANDED that I go to the show anyway. She messaged the band to let them know I was coming alone and that message is what got me on the tour bus that night. My mom stayed with my sister and drove my car behind the bus the next day guiding me to follow my intuition. When I told her I was going on tour days later, she took my car, packed my apartment for me into her attic, and wished me the best of luck without judgment or projection. She encourages everything I do unconditionally.

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?

It wasn’t funny then BUT I had a master plan that I wouldn’t have to leave my company and I could continue climbing the corporate ladder while working for Wayland. I had secretly submitted three videos to the CEO directly, like video teasers to this “main event,” I would be revealing to him on one of the biggest nights we had as a company, our convention.

It had music, and graphics- it was as if I was Britney Spears teasing my fans with a brand new CD release. My CEO responded and said he would meet me and my direct supervisor was mortified at what I could possibly be doing and why it was such a surprise. I had a 60 page Powerpoint presentation on why that company needed to partner with my band Wayland, so I wouldn’t have to quit, I could do both. I had facts, statistics, I even put together a merch box with co-branded t-shirts and reasons why their CD “Rinse & Repeat” would be supportive because we were a hair salon brand.

After putting on the performance of a lifetime, the President of the company stared at me and said, “I don’t think this is going to work,” and in a loving, kind, let’s-not-discourage-her-way, the head of marketing tried to help me by saying “maybe we could do it as a test!”The answer was the most embarrassing “no” of my career after all the time and effort I put into hyping up this idea.I quit my job the next Monday and went on tour with no plans on how I was going to make it all work if I failed. I don’t view this as a mistake. I viewed it more as a testament to the innocence and bravery that would support my risk taking in the future.

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?

The advice I would give anyone would be to follow their heart, and not in the vague, traditional sense that we are used to receiving. To truly follow your heart and not your mind means to become as grounded as you can to the present moment and listen to what feedback your body is giving you.

I believe that our emotions are feedback from our heart and when something somatically feels good in your body, it’s a yes, and the opposite is also true. Oftentimes we think “following our heart,” means dating the person we know is bad for us, and that’s not our heart, that’s our trauma. It’s the greatest success of a lifetime to differentiate between the two.

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 changed my life was Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I struggled with crippling fear and anxiety for most of my life and attracted situations that did not serve me repeatedly throughout my life. I felt stuck in my body and in my brain, and both didn’t feel like they were mine. Dr. Dispenza explains how you can create who you want to be through very tactical, practical exercises that contributed to the person that I am today. I would recommend that book and any of his work to anyone.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

My favorite quote is by my grandmother, my Nonnie Marge, and it’s “Shake Your Ass & Save Your Soul.” As a kid, she would say it all the time, and we would laugh not realizing the value of the words or the power they carried. It wasn’t until she shared with me the lesson of a lifetime in the hospital when she was passing away from cancer. She was a woman of many catchphrases, and definitely danced to the beat of her own drum (and the beat of the Macarena at any party or wedding we went to.) She reminded me that in life only two things are important- to shake your ass: to have fun, to look for joy, and to make the simple beautiful, and to save your soul- to be kind, to love others, and to always treat others better than you would want to be treated. This mantra has become the vehicle that I’ve traveled through life in.

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 projects I’m working on right now is twofold: our No More campaign and the launch of Wayland TV. We are partnering with several organizations including Operation Underground Railroad, Forever Found, Unseen, and Destiny Rescue to release our song “No More” in an effort to bring awareness towards human trafficking. As a survivor myself of sexual abuse, this cause is so precious to my heart. Being able to use music as the catalyst for conversation is something I am very passionate about. Music starts conversations that’s words cannot, the melody carries the conversation and I’m excited to see where this will carry this global issue.

With this, we’re launching WTV, our version of MTV, bringing classics like TRL, The Real World, and Unplugged back to life, but the Wayland Way. We’re intending to offer music to as many hearts and ears as we can, especially during the current times we’re experiencing when physical concerts seem still so far away. I think music is the cure for any situation in varying doses, and we are here to administer the medicine.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

The burden of pressure is unavoidable when you’re a business leader, and rather than spending my life feeling victim to stress, I instead use the stress as a catalyst to inspire the results I’m looking for. Fire can burn you or warm you, and just like when you’re warming up your muscles during a workout, it can feel uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to hurt. I cope with stress by making it fun. I know I’m always going to figure out whatever the problem is, so I ask myself, “hey, how did I solve this again?” and from that space of “remembering,” I’m triggering my subconscious mind to get to work and start finding me an answer and I do my part to actively listen. Some of my most creative strategies have been born from this exercise.

And yes, speaking of exercise, it’s a major one. Moving my body and getting out of my mind is imperative for working through the sensation of stress. Sometimes that looks like yoga, other days dance, some days it’s pilates or weight training if it’s really driving me insane. It’s a practice of listening to my body and how it wants to move to use the energy in a healthy way.

Working in the music industry, music is a huge part of release and inspiration for me, and instead of creating a traditional playlist, I create a setlist. A set list is the list of songs that the band will play in a particular order that helps tell the story during the show. I always remind everyone that your life is the real concert, and if I’m dealing with a particularly stressful situation, I will make sure that I “plan the setlist” by making sure that after some heavy rock and roll that gets me through the conflict, that the next song on the list is something triumphant and heroic to guide my awareness towards a solution. Treating myself as the main character in my story has evolved everything for me.

Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

To optimize my mind for peak performance before a high pressure situation, I don’t use my mind at all. I do my part to empty my mind so I can focus. It’s a strategy that I call “preparation and presence.” I prepare my mind to be empty and present, because from that place of presence, I am able to come up with new, real solutions.

If I am planning on what I’m going to say or do exactly, or planning on what the other person will say or do more specifically, I am operating from the past, and therefore all my ideas will be old and outdated. The more I am able to operate from the moment and serve from that space, the more new, innovative offerings will arise out of that experience. I empty my mind through writing and I write for at least three full pages everyday.

Even if the pages say “I don’t know what to write” for half the page, I still keep writing. Julia Cameron teaches this practice in “The Artist’s Way,” and it allows you to get all of your stress out of your mind and onto the paper so the truth that’s buried underneath can surface. I write about my fears, my hopes, everything about the situation inclusive of my plan and how I will prepare.

I then set the intention. When I consciously speak out loud the outcome that I want and believe that I will receive that or something better, this builds trust within myself, and from that confident, stable foundation, I ask myself “how do I get this result in the easiest way?” I’m asking myself a question and from that place am able to shift from worry to wonder. This place of curiosity propels me into creative thinking instead of fight or flight.

I write down all the things I’m grateful for about that situation in the past tense as if it already happened. I write down “I am so thankful the outcome was better than I expected,” and from this place, my mind is able to relax and center. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between an imaginary event and a real one, as explained by Dr. Joe Dispenza, and when your brain releases serotonin even from a made up event, your body still benefits from those chemical responses.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.

Breathing, meditation, and visualization practices are an integral part of who I am. I think they are dismissed sometimes for being cliche answers, but the reason they’re cliche is because they work. I do my best to make meditation my life, meaning that I incorporate full presence and mindfulness into everything I do. When I’m at lunch, I don’t want to eat my problems, I want to eat my lunch, and when I activate all five senses into that experience, that mindfulness itself becomes an active meditation.

I have an altar in my home office and the first thing I do every morning before I check my phone or walk my dog is set the tone for my day. I begin by holding my hands in prayer position at the heart center, breathing in, and raising my hands above my head. As I exhale, I separate my hands and glide them down the perimeter of my body, as stretched as they go until they reach heart center again. I breathe here for ten breaths in this fluid, circular motions. I then ask my body specific questions about the day ahead and visualize different outcomes. As I visualize each potential outcome, what I perceive as “good” and what I perceive as “bad,” I take notice if my body expands or contracts. If my heart contracts and I feel an evident tightness in my chest, I know this is a no from me. If I feel expansion and the feeling of my heart opening up, I know this is the decision I will make. This communion with my body has made some of the most strategic business decisions in my career so far successfully every time.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

Everything in life can be a distraction, if we choose to make it one. There are millions of sounds around us at all times- from birds chirping to cars driving by to conversations with strangers- and what we hear is what we tune into. As an entrepreneur in the music business, I spend a lot of time in radio stations, and static on the air doesn’t feel or sound good. You have to tune into the specific radio frequency to have crystal clear sound that everyone benefits from. When I want to focus on something and clear away distractions, I remind myself to tune into what I’m working on, and I visualize myself tuning my radio dial from 100.1 to 100.3, and this easy exercise helps me regain my focus. I don’t want to be a light bulb, I want to be a laser beam, and the lighting is one of the most exciting parts of the rock show!

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

A person is quite literally created from their habits, and what you habitually do is who you will become whether that’s in your favor or not. I started in this business with very corporate habits and pivoted very unsuccessfully to habits of a band member. It was easy to pick them up when you’re working on tour, but I wasn’t a corporate educator anymore or a member of a band, I was a manager, and it took developing my own habits to create the person that I am today. My most successful habit has been to write absolutely everything down. I write down what I do, when I did it, who I talked to, what the conversation was. If I can’t write it down, I voice memo it down, and I review these notes at the end of every day and go back to them at the end of the week. Writing things down helped keep my mind clear, my stress level low, and my self awareness high.

I believe that as adults, it’s up to us to be our best parent, regardless of our relationship with our real mom and dad. Going to sleep on time, not eating ice cream for dinner, and making sure that when I’m cranky, I check in with my feelings is of premier importance, and something often overlooked. Parenting myself has been a game changer.

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

When you’re living your life on autopilot and from a lack of presence, bad habits can easily get the blame for why your life is the way that it is. The truth is that bad habits are actually the side effect, not the problem, and when you can solve the problem, the side effect goes away. When we are in our mind, worried about the future, upset about the past, we’re not living in the present moment, and in that present moment is where all decisions are made. When you’re not deciding to live in the present, that’s also a decision. As an entrepreneur, it’s my job to consciously create the life that supports my business. To “stop” bad habits,” you must choose in every present moment the action that will best support the life you’re trying to create.

Presence takes practice, and practice requires grace and forgiveness. “Stopping” bad habits isn’t a one time decision. It’s a decision in every present moment to be better than you were in the previous. This is what makes a leader.

As a business 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?

“Flow is the intersection of discipline and surrender” is written on a sticky note on the desk in my office. Achieving flow is about surrendering to your creativity, surrendering to the unknown, allowing thoughts to arise without judgment and embracing ideas with childlike curiosity, but it also means having the discipline to actually sit down to this practice.

It takes discipline to allow yourself to give in, allow yourself to trust the process. It takes discipline to perfect your craft and allow what’s coming through to flow through you. To achieve flow state is about showing up, to yourself and your goals, and surrendering everytime to whatever wants to come through you. The more you show up, the more you will begin to trust yourself, and that place of trust becomes an active surrender.

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.

The greatest revolution of all to me is love, and if I could inspire any movement at all it would be reigniting the spiritual and sexual revolution of rock and roll in the 1960’s. To me, sex, drugs, and rock and roll were invitations into innocence and higher levels of consciousness, and instead were distorted into the debauchery. “All You Need Is Love,” was a PR campaign for God, and I believe God is the most rock and roll thing there is: the true creator and destroyer. It’s my intention to create a movement with Wayland where music leads the way back into our hearts, reminding everyone that “love is patient, love is kind, love keeps no record of wrongs, love is not self serving,” and when we adapt this principles separate from any religion or political doctrine, I believe we will remember who we really are and love will lead the way.

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 🙂

I would love to have a meal with Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon grew up in a trailer park and took a regional wrestling promotion into the global phenomenon that is WWE in one lifetime, (the same path that I wish to take) and he’s not done yet. His story of rags to riches is unique because he didn’t build a career just for himself and his family, he built a lifestyle brand for millions of fans all over the world that will exist long after his great grandchildren are gone. My earliest memories of childhood are watching Triple H and Stephanie McMahon and wishing that I could have a relationship just like that where I could create with my partner, and now I do. I accredit Vince McMahon to all of my risk taking. At 75 years old he also has the most immaculate body and his choice of restaurant would probably serve me.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am online everywhere. The band is @waylandtheband on every social platform and you can find me at @alyssahopehoffman on every platform. I have a series called “Can I Please Speak To The Manager” on YouTube where I share advice via video. As a manager my goal is to make things manageable, and I share my techniques as openly as I can to support all situations, and you can catch me on Wayland TV sharing the behind the scenes into my office, my relationships, and my life.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

Thank you so much.

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