“A success mindset is built upon a great relationship with yourself first” — Stacy Raske
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy Raske.
Stacy is a decorated US Army Veteran of the Iraq War, bestselling author, keynote speaker, leadership mentor, and Soulful Success Coach empowering Alpha Women leaders and entrepreneurs who’ve plateaued to shift from overwhelmed and intimidating to influential and authentic by leading with soul. Using lessons learned from her own trauma recovery journey, Stacy is passionate about helping leaders create a massive impact and build a legacy through deep inner work and alignment, allowing them to reach their business and income goals quickly. When she’s not transforming lives and businesses with her coaching and speaking, Stacy can be found riding her motorcycle all over the US and traveling the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
My parents divorced when I was very young, so I grew up living primarily with my mother in the suburbs of Chicago. Time with my father was inconsistent, even when I occasionally lived with him and his family full time. My mother and I moved a lot, eventually embarking on our biggest adventure moving from Illinois to Alaska when I was 13. Midway through my junior year of high school, she decided to move AGAIN, but I refused to change high schools. She moved, and I stayed, so I spent my last year and a half of high school on my own, crashing with friends, but still graduated. After attending college for two years, I realized it was more out of expectation than pursuing my own goals, so I decided to take a break and moved to Utah. After a few years and some deep self-reflection, I knew it was time for a drastic change, so I joined the Army in early 2001.
The traumas and hardships of my childhood have fueled my journey and shaped who I am today. My story is what led me to joining the military and starting my own business. The powerful lessons I’ve learned along the way has been fundamental to my success in life and business, especially over the past five years.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
The deep work I do with my clients allows them to embrace their identity and fully own their power to embody authentic leadership and finally allow the success they truly desire. We focus on WHO they are being and bring that soul into their business, which allows them to elevate their impact, influence, and income with ease and authenticity, rather than hustle and struggle.
The best example of this powerful work is with a client who was struggling to hit the 20K dollars/month income mark in her business, having never exceeded a 15K dollars month and most often closer to 10K dollars. By shifting her deepest beliefs about herself, success, and money, she was able to break down the inner walls blocking the success she desired. One month after we started the program, she had her first 20K dollars month and immediately followed that with her first 30K dollars month. The key was giving herself permission to allow that level of success in an authentic and aligned way.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
In early 2001, I joined active duty in the Army as a chemical operations specialist assigned to the Army’s first and only Biological Warfare Detection Unit. The tragedy of 9/11 happened on the way to my first duty station, so I deployed to the Pentagon immediately after for Anthrax testing and clean up. This was followed by deployment to Kuwait as part of the initial invasion force into Iraq in 2003. In fact, we were the first chemical unit in Iraq. During that time, I earned my way up the ranks from lower enlisted to non-commissioned officer. Due to injuries sustained during my tour in Iraq, I was medically discharged in early 2004.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
The same lesson repeated itself throughout my military career, that the foundation of success is mindset. The first time this hit me was at the end of basic training when I was running 6 miles and singing cadence. Prior to joining the Army, I NEVER ran! I hated it and honestly never thought I’d get to the place where I could run long distances with ease. Yet, there I was doing it despite never having run more than two miles because I told myself I could. It was completely mental!
When I deployed to Kuwait in 2003 to be part of the initial invasion force of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the same lesson was paramount. No amount of strategy and planning would work if we were mentally and emotionally compromised to complete the mission. It takes a lot to wrap one’s mind around the idea of being on the front lines, disconnected from vital resources and relying only on your team for support. My success leading platoon support and convoy rescue missions started with how I handled myself mentally and emotionally as a leader.
We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
Like many, I originally bought into the Hollywood version of what a hero is or does but quickly learned the opposite was true when many of my fellow soldiers started referring to me as their hero. This wasn’t because of my actions during rescue missions to avoid an ambush or roadside bomb. Instead, it was using my passions, strengths, and talents in how I connected with and supported them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually during such a difficult time in their lives and careers.
As I traveled throughout Iraq, bringing supplies and equipment to our platoons, I would talk with soldiers and officers who needed support. For some, it was navigating the long-distance relationship with their spouse or homesickness, while others struggled with handling the traumas of war.
Long before I ever considered coaching and mentoring as a profession, I was naturally drawn to supporting and guiding others in a deep way. During that difficult time, I was simply being myself and didn’t consider myself a hero, but for those I supported it was profoundly powerful in helping them stay focused on their duties and overall mission. That experience taught me that ANYONE can be a hero by stepping up and helping others. We often believe a hero sacrifices themselves for others, but in reality, they are giving their gifts to uplift, inspire, and help others in need.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
That experience really shifted my perception of who and what a hero is because we often undervalue the strengths that come naturally to us.
A hero leads with a wise mind, balanced between emotional intelligence and logic. They have strength and courage, but also empathy and trust. They seem selfless in placing the needs of others first, but actually lead by example by taking care of themselves first in order to show up as their best for the purpose of leading and serving others.
One of the most defining characteristics that I discovered during my experience is that a hero isn’t trying to be a hero, they become one by using their strengths and doing what comes naturally to them. By authentically being of service to others, they rise above and become a leader.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?
Absolutely! The most important lesson I learned is that success is 100% mindset! No amount of business strategy is going to help if you doubt or sabotage yourself. If you’re not in the headspace to show up, implement, and follow through with your strategies and goals, your business will not grow or succeed.
True leadership and success start with YOU! Who you are being, what you do, how you feel and think.
And the next most important lesson is that you can’t succeed on your own. Having support is absolutely necessary! Whether it’s a team, community, mentors, or peers to help you. I see many entrepreneurs, especially the solopreneurs, feeling like they have to DO. IT. ALL. to be successful in their business, but they get caught in the trap of toxic hustle rather than asking for help or finding an easier path. This is another common sabotage I see in entrepreneurs, overcomplicating, or working harder based on the belief that success must be hard and earned through struggle.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Shortly after my PTSD diagnosis and a few years before my rock bottom moment, Amy Widmer came into my life. She has seen my evolution from the lowest point to brightest moments, supporting me every step of the way. Amy has been an integral part of my personal transformation and business success since 2013 as a mentor, teacher, friend, advisor, and confidant.
Initially, she taught me new ways to care for myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Later, she introduced me to some of my first mentors and coaches as I was starting my personal development journey. This also inspired me to share my gifts professionally and become a coach myself. After losing my corporate job and regaining my health, my first step in returning to work was as her administrative assistant. This gave me a front-row seat to entrepreneurship, something I’d always felt called to do but never felt brave enough to leap into myself.
Once in business for myself, she saw the value in what I was teaching and sharing, giving me one of my first opportunities to speak to a larger audience at an event that was not my own. She has been one of my greatest mentors and biggest supporters throughout my entrepreneurship and personal development journeys. It’s been amazing over the past few years to watch our relationship evolve to where I’m able to share my wisdom and insights to support her as well, both personally and in her business. We continue to stay close and support each other, as she is someone I consider a very close friend and love like family!
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out how to survive and thrive in crisis. How would you define a crisis?
A crisis is a massive disruption to your regular routine or a major deviation from your plan. This pivotal situation can vary in scale and intensity, sometimes only being limited to a few aspects of your business or impact your business as a whole.
Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?
Rather than planning for a crisis, I find it’s better to crisis-proof your business. That means, instead of having backup or contingency plans in case a crisis happens, create a business model that uses multiple systems and strategies. Every mission I was a part of in the military had multiple teams and strategies built into the plan from the start, so we didn’t rely solely on one person, one action, or one element.
It’s like the old adage: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The businesses that are thriving right now didn’t have to completely shift their entire business model or sales and marketing strategy, they had more than one in place.
Before a crisis strikes, evaluate all aspects of how your business functions to find where you’re currently using only one method or strategy for lead generation, marketing, sales, supply acquisition, etc. Start with one area at a time and implement additional strategies to alleviate reliance on a single method. For example, if all of your lead generation comes from one source, like Facebook, and the algorithms change overnight (as they often do), your strategy will no longer work. Another example is sales, if all your sales happen in person at events or a brick-and-mortar location, it makes sense to add online sales of your products or services as an additional revenue stream. The key when adding and implementing strategies is to keep it simple by focusing on one aspect of your business and adding one strategy at a time. Start with an aspect of your business that is vital and lacks strategic diversity, such as lead generation, marketing, or sales.
There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?
There is an opportunity in every situation to learn, grow, and succeed if you’re willing to see it. The first thing is to step back from the situation right in front of you and reconnect to your bigger vision. If you get sucked into what’s in front of you, it’s easy to react from a place of fear or scarcity and make poor choices or, worse yet, be crippled by fear and not take action at all. Staying connected to and focused on your big vision helps you to maintain your mindset for success and a larger perspective.
Focusing on your larger, long-term goals and vision helps you rise above the noise and chaos of what’s in front of you so you’re able to make better decisions about your next steps. Once you have clarity on what your plan is, then take action to implement that plan. Action leads to greater clarity and alignment, so the more you do, the more clarity and confidence you’ll have on what to do next.
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?
I can’t say this enough, it all starts with mindset. A success mindset is built upon a great relationship with yourself first. That is the foundation for traits needed to survive a crisis like resilience, adaptability, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and situational awareness which are key to influential and authentic leadership. A crisis is full of unknowns and often triggers fear and feeling unsafe or uncertain. The more mentally and emotionally prepared you are, the easier it will be to successfully navigate a crisis.
Your mindset sets you up for success, as it will drive effective planning and strategy to reduce the impact of a crisis long before it actually happens. And definitely do not take yourself too seriously! The calmer and more relaxed you are with yourself, your leadership, and your plan, the more successful you’ll be in following through and focusing on the big picture rather than getting stuck in the drama or details.
When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
The best example of leadership I always go back to was Sergeant Major Jefferson Varner, III, who I was partnered with as his driver during our deployment to Iraq. His leadership style is a powerful balance of strength and empathy, sharing his wisdom and insight with his soldiers, but also connecting with them on a deeper level to be a more effective leader. Plus, he has such a great sense of humor, often bringing levity to extreme situations to support and ease his soldiers.
I had the opportunity to see how he handled himself behind the scenes, constantly working on his personal and professional development. He held himself to the highest standards to be an example for others, and his soldiers knew their wellbeing was his top priority. Having a plan — and a strategy to implement that plan — was instrumental to success in his mind, but having patience and flexibility with how that plan unfolded was also important. SGM Varner was the best and most influential leader I had the opportunity of working with in the Army.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
At the end of 2014, I was deeply entrenched in cycles of PTSD depression and substance abuse until I had my rock bottom moment. My health was suffering, marriage falling apart. I’d lost my corporate job, and hated who I’d become. In a moment of clarity, I made a decision that would forever change my life. I chose to stop trying to control anything other than myself. That singular decision and the actions that followed shifted the trajectory of my life and what would later become my business. In less than a year, I was able to lose 100 pounds, get off my medications and transform my health, save my marriage, and start a business that is aligned with my soul. The interesting thing was, I went back to my military training to get started and used the most powerful lesson I learned…I CAN do ANYTHING I put my mind to! Success is 100% mental! Once I made the choice to tell myself what I was going to do and who I was going to be, truly committing to that plan, my success became inevitable.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Take care of yourself first. Since mindset is the most important factor for success, you must ensure that you’re supporting you first so you’re able to show up as your best and be focused, resilient, and stable. This reduces the likelihood of being emotionally triggered, reactive, and unfocused and making poor decisions.
- Look at YOUR big picture. When a crisis happens, it’s easy to react to what’s in front of you and lose perspective of your big vision and business beyond the crisis. Stay connected to your big vision to support your mindset and choices moving forward.
- Keep it simple. When there’s chaos around you, keep your life and business as simple as possible. Anything that feels hard or complicated will make the situation more difficult. The fastest way to simplify is to focus only on the things within your control.
- Ask for help. Success doesn’t happen alone. During a crisis, it’s vital to lean on your team, your friends and family, and your community for support. Ask for guidance and support from peers or mentors in making decisions. Ask for emotional support from family and friends. You’re not the first or only person to experience hardship, so use the wisdom of others instead of putting it all on your shoulders.
- Be kind to yourself. Whether it’s your first or 50th crisis, you’re not going to be at the same level while it’s happening as before. Give yourself permission to be a B- student or to accept that your best may vary greatly from day to day. It’s okay to make mistakes and not have all the answers. The more things feel hard, the more you need to step back and take care of you first.
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 to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As a recovering high-achiever and perfectionist, I was always searching for external validation and success to stay motivated toward my goals. However, the perfectionist trap was that nothing was good enough if it didn’t fit perfectly into my expectations (which rarely happened) so I stayed stuck in my sabotage cycles for extended periods of time. Even though others saw me as successful and having everything together. In the end, I still felt unfulfilled because no amount of achievement or success could fill what I’d been rejecting within my soul, the parts of the real me that I’d been hiding.
Outward success, like creating an impact on the world, building a legacy, being a person of influence, and elevating your business or income, starts from within…who you are BEING first and the rest follows. The success mindset I’ve mentioned throughout the interview starts with your relationship with you. Too many give their power away focusing on things outside their control, like what others think, feel, say, and do, or what-ifs and outcomes. They also don’t fully understand that success is dependent on relationships, but not in the way you may think.
Creating an impact starts with you leading by example and modeling the change you want to see in the world. This means shifting your focus inward on WHO you are being in your life and as a leader. That means focusing on the MOST important relationship for your success, the relationship with YOU. This relationship with yourself sets the stage for every other relationship in your life. But I’m referring to more than the relationship with your spouse, children, or clients. Your relationship with you determines your relationship with your business, money, time, and other vital resources. Success as a leader is based upon your self-respect, confidence, boundaries, self-management, and emotional intelligence, all of which come from understanding, appreciation, and a strong connection to you.
You must be willing to embrace your identity as a whole, integrating ALL of you, to fully own your power and influence. That means doing the deep inner work to release, heal, and learn from your past, along with falling in love with all the amazing stuff that makes you, YOU. This allows you to lead with authenticity and integrity rather than coming across as intimidating or inauthentic, or worse, feeling like a fraud.
The key takeaway is that the more outward success you desire, the deeper you must go inward for insight and understanding. Showing up as your best allows you to create your best and be the leader your business needs (especially during a crisis).
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them 🙂
It would be an honor to enjoy some private time with Brené Brown. Her research, books, and talks have been profoundly impactful and insightful as someone whose authentic success came from leaning into my pain and shame to be more vulnerable and soulful as a leader. Brené’s work came into my life after being in business for a few years. However, it was integral in taking my personal and professional development to the next level by digging deeper and being more vulnerable and honest with myself, opening the door to even greater success in my life and business.
Also, her focus on “wholehearted” leadership mirrors my focus on helping high-performing leaders and entrepreneurs lead with Soul by loving themselves fully by owning their power and identity to shift from intimidating to influential and authentic leaders
How can our readers follow you online?
Go to www.stacyraske.com to learn all the ways we can connect online and in person.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.