Building Emotional Sustainability in Business with Nicole Lewis Keeber


In this episode, Nicole Lewis Keeber delves into the intricacies of our nervous system, explaining its primary function – to keep us alive. She explores the concept of the nervous system constantly interpreting our environment, deciding what is safe and what’s not. Touching upon how it anticipatively breaks down a room full of people, Nicole elaborates on its unseen yet profound role in our daily existence.

Nicole Lewis Keeber

Nicole is the business therapist. She’s also the author of How to Love your Business and creator of the Do No Harm program for trauma conscious entrepreneurs. She’s passionate about the impact of small T trauma on businesses and combines therapeutic processes with business coaching to really help entrepreneurs build emotionally sustainable, financially stable, businesses. She’s trained and certified with Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead methodology and has been featured on media outlets like Fast Company and NPR.


We talk about:

  • [0:00] Intro

  • [4:05] Shifting from social work to her work in the business community

  • [6:30] Why she wrote her book

  • [8:10] How your business can reflect your relationships with others

  • [13:55] Helping leaders understand emotional patterns behind trauma

  • [16:05] Adapting to trauma

  • [17:20] Nervous system 101 and why leaders need to understand it

  • [20:55] The impact of dysregulated leaders

  • [23:55] Advice for those who may feel like their inner child plays no role in what they do in their business

  • [26:30] Navigating a group of people through something they don’t fully buy into

  • [30:30] Recognizing you are not only your work

  • [34:45] Putting money at the center of our worth

  • [36:15] Finding safety from within

  • [42:10] Rapid fire questions

I invite you to tune in to this insightful episode and gain further wisdom from Nicole’s expertise. You can find the full transcript on my website, along with more information about Nicole and her work.

Thank you for being a part of my podcast community, and remember to stay tuned for more inspiring episodes to come!

Show More Show Less

Nicole: I want them to know, and I say this all the time, like, you don’t have to do anything to be valuable or worthy. You don’t have to perform anything in order to be important. You are valuable, you are important, you are here for a reason. These are things that you get to choose to do because that you’re interested in them.

But you don’t have to earn. The love or the respect and we’ve been conditioned and socialized to see it that way. So if you fall into that place, it’s okay, it’s okay. We can start to unravel that.

Carolyn: Today, we are going to be talking with Nicole Lewis Kieber. This conversation is going to bring perspective from a therapist perspective, and also from a coaching perspective, because Nicole has this really cool background where she’s a licensed clinical social worker. And she’s got a master’s in social worker, and she also brings in her experience as a business coach.

So you’ll hear Nicole and I talk about a little bit about her background. And also what she sees from a therapeutic perspective in high achievers, be that in the workplace. Or a corporate setting or in an entrepreneurial space where entrepreneurs, solopreneurs set up their own business. Some really interesting stuff here.

I think I’m going to learn more about myself and uncover a few gems that I didn’t know. Now, before we get into that conversation, let me just tell you a little bit more about Nicole. Nicole is the business therapist. She’s also the author of how to love your business and creator of the do no harm program for trauma conscious.

Entrepreneurs. She’s really passionate about the impact of small t trauma on businesses and combines therapeutic processes with business coaching to really help entrepreneurs build emotionally sustainable, financially stable. businesses. Nicole’s got this rich background, which I’ve already mentioned.

She’s also trained and certified with Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead methodology and has also been featured on media outlets like Fast Company and NPR. I hope you enjoy the show with Nicole. Here we go.

Well, hello, Evolve community. Glad to see you here again. We’ve got another amazing episode in store for you and today’s guest. I’m really, really excited to introduce you all to Nicole Lewis Kieber. Nicole, welcome to the show.

Nicole: Thank you for having me.

Carolyn: Yeah. Now, Nicole, what part of the world are you in and tell us a little bit about maybe how we came to be connected.

Nicole: I’ll try and remember. I’m kidding. No. Where am I from and what is happening today? This is our life now, right?

Carolyn: Yeah. What? Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah, so I live in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania now.

But if you spend more than a couple of minutes with me, you know that I am not from Pennsylvania. I came to Lancaster through Philly and to Philly from North Carolina.

So, I grew up where Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, like any of those shows

Carolyn: Oh, I

didn’t know that. 

Nicole: Yeah, Joey’s house was like five minutes from my house on the creek. So, 

Carolyn: Wow. 

Nicole: of grew up.

Carolyn: Good to know Dawson’s Creek. All right.

Nicole: Dawson’s Creek. Of course, that is so long ago now. It 

Carolyn: I know doesn’t it Yeah.

Nicole: does. And you and I are both certified Dare to Lead facilitators.

Carolyn: I

don’t think we were And…

we weren’t trained at the same time though. Were we?

Nicole: No, 

I was in a June cohort. So yeah, so we have had the, you know, pleasure of getting to know each other late in that process. 

Carolyn: Yes. Yes. And we were connected by, I believe it was Katie

Kurtz. Yeah. She’s like, do you know Nicole? 

so Nicole, I wanted to have you on the show because you’ve got yeah. I think well, it’s a background that I won’t say I’m envious of, but there’s a little bit of, I’ll say a little bit of envy because you have this wonderful background in social work and you have, you know, I, I believe since 2015 shifted professions and you’ve taken that experience into the business community. So, can you tell us a little bit about what happened not what happened, but why that shift and what you’re doing now?

Nicole: Yeah, so I have a master’s degree in social work. My life is clinical social worker. And for 18 years of my career, I was in clinical practice in some way, either as a therapist, a clinical supervisor you name it, I have done it. And so, I ended up leaving the world of, you know, being a therapist or a clinician at about 18 years in, because I was struggling with my own burnout and my own challenges just around the, industry 

of mental health and so I really still wanted to work with, you know, human beings because it’s my jam.

I can’t imagine doing anything else. And the profession of coaching kind of came on my radar and I still had kind of like a, you know, raised eyebrow about what the coaching industry is and what it means to be a coach just because, you know, as therapists, you know, we have to, you know, we have to get our self worth somewhere by looking out at somebody else.

So coaches were kind of like, but you know, I, I saw the value of it and by working with a life coach myself and I decided I wanted to get certified and jump into coaching. this interesting arena. And I did. And it was not always an easy journey. I got a lot of pushback from my therapist friends about what I was doing.

And I got a lot of questioning from the coaches that I was around about being a therapist and you know, taking therapeutic processes into the coaching environment. And it has led me on this journey of learning how to understand that the experiences that we have as children that were traumatic to our nervous system and that trauma is very different for everyone impact all that we do, including our businesses.

And so I’ve been doing research and study about the impact of childhood trauma on entrepreneurship and business ownership for about the last eight years now.

Carolyn: And I believe you wrote a book, which I have read.

Nicole: Yeah. 

Carolyn: It’s in the corner on your, desk there too. So how to love your business, stop recreating trauma and have a business you love and that loves you back.

Nicole: Yeah.

Carolyn: So is that sort of like, what inspired you to write that all of that you were seeing and experiencing?

I’m going to guess a little of your own personal

story in there as 

Nicole: Yeah, for sure. The book wanted to be written whether I wanted it to or not, so let’s just put it out there. I’m just dumbfounded that I’m an author because it’s really, you know, the written word is not where I thrive, I think. 


but really, you know, what kind of brought me to this intersection was, you know, and I talk about in the book where I had an experience in my own entrepreneurial journey, my own, you know, being a business owner where I recognized that I was very unhappy and feeling like no matter what I did in my business, it wasn’t enough, despite the evidence that I was doing just fine.

You know, I had clients, all the things. And so, you know, I began to recognize this pattern that I was recreating within my business that I was then using my business as a tool for creating a pattern of self abuse.

and I was completely floored by this once I recognized the pattern and started to explore more about it for myself and it became more and more evident with my clients that they were also recreating trauma patterns and using their business in many different ways that their business wasn’t set up or intended to be used.

And so the part of my journey is that I was using my, my business, it really honestly had. I had put it in a position where the relationship was that it was my mother.

And I was relating to my business as that dynamic of child and mom, because we had a very complicated relationship. So the theory for me that came out of this is that when you start a business, Really anything, but when you start a business, it is a relationship.

You are entering into a relationship with something outside of yourself that you are relating to. 

You are not your business. And so, it is very easy, particularly in a crisis situation, with starting a business. is a high dive into personal development, whether you want it to be or not, it is. It’s very easy for us to replicate those patterns where we have felt disempowered or that there’s a differential there within our business.

And so what I have learned to do and I did for myself and I, it’s part of what I do with my clients, the book is just one piece of what I do, is help them recognize what the relationship with their business is now, if they’re feeling, Like it’s not working for them and go through a journey on to how they can then recreate the relationship with their business so that they feel like That not only do they love their business, but they feel like their business loves them back.

It’s a reciprocal relationship

Carolyn: I, you know, I’ve got so much I want to say on that. First of all, when we incorporate our businesses, so I know not all solopreneurs incorporate, but you know, when you incorporate your business, that’s essentially creating officially this other entity. So at first when I was reading your book and like, Oh yeah, having a relationship with it.

I was like that, that kind of makes sense because of all the contractual things. What I hadn’t connected though, and and clearly see that now is the emotional connection. And there’s a quote from your book. It’s important to identify why you really started your business. Knowing what your hidden agenda is helps you stay clear about what your emotional needs are within it. Well, that one like hit me right between the eyes because before I started my business, I had about, you know, like a 20 plus career started off a nonprofit and then into the corporate world. And when I thought about why I started my business. I wanted to be seen and valued for things that I felt I wasn’t seen and valued for before, but I didn’t have that conscious connection to it.

So I really, I really gleaned a lot just from those early even chapters of your book, recognizing that and Amanda, you talk about Amanda in your book. Cause I was like, is that me? Like, is Amanda a pseudonym for, for me? Can you tell us a little bit about Amanda slash Carolyn in your book?

Nicole: Well, you know, here’s the funny thing about being an author the book is about four years old now.

Carolyn: Oh, so you’re like, who’s that? 

Nicole: And the names 

Carolyn: right now?

Nicole: have been changed, so I’m like, who’s Amanda? You know, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, 

so perhaps you can tell me a little more about Amanda and I can, like, 

Carolyn: you know what? We’ll just I mean, I, I, I hear what you’re saying. It’s probably quite symbolic of, of many business

owners. And I know people listening to the show might not necessarily own their own business, but I think that the fact is. We bring emotion into how we show up and do our work.


as entrepreneurs, I know I went into business thinking, Oh, okay, well like here I get to like play all by all my own rules, but there were so many unconscious rules I didn’t know I was playing about. So,

Nicole: Exactly. 

Carolyn: so Amanda had had some experiences in her childhood that she didn’t know. She didn’t know she hadn’t known we’re traumatic.

And you know, it says you helped her see, overcome the trauma or that trauma by creating patterns of behavior or helped her see that she was doing that, that these patterns of behavior looked very productive and functional

check. and so like, what would some of those behaviors be Nicole?

Nicole: Yeah, so that is what happens, you know, it’s kind of almost like the playbook, right? Then we have these experiences that are so impactful that we never knew were actually trauma because your nervous system doesn’t really care what you call it. Like 

it it exists the way it does. And so that’s the first thing is that you don’t really know that what you experienced with trauma.

So you’ve been spending a lot of time minimizing it, overlooking it, having people kind of diminish it. And what happens is we create those patterns to adapt based upon that experience. And a lot of times those adaptations become hyper independence or wanting to succeed in a field of someone, you know, who matters to you or that maybe, you know, you had this experience where you felt overlooked and unseen.

And so you want to be seen and you want to be validated and so I need to be, you know, the top at everything I do because that’s the only way that I can see myself as being valuable. And so if your business has an emotional need. That you’re trying to put a business solution on top of, you’re going to stay in this, you know, kind of swirly place where you’re constantly trying to achieve but never feeling like you’re getting the benefit, right?

You’re going to still feel unseen and unheard. You’re still going to feel like it’s not enough. You’re still going to feel like, You know, my dad doesn’t value me yet because I’m not the top 1 percent 

of this, you know, this industry or, or whatever that may be. So that pattern I see every day with clients is very ingrained because they don’t realize that their business has.

And emotional need that they’re trying to work out with 

  1. They think it’s just for financial freedom 

or you know, it’s, and a lot of times it is that, but there’s also the underpinnings underneath that as to why that is important to you.

Carolyn: So I’m going to ask you to put your therapeutic hat on for a second. If I was coming to you as a client and I didn’t have my own business, but I was instead, you know, a director or maybe a VP or like some, some sort of senior role in an organization, what would we be talking about in terms of these emotional patterns? What would

you be helping me understand? Thank you.

Nicole: right. So I always do a lot of educations first to look to educate about what trauma is and what it isn’t. Because it’s really hard to get you to see the pattern and the adaptation if you don’t recognize that the experience you had was traumatizing to you.

Doesn’t matter if it would have been to someone else than if it was to you 

and you, you know, had this behavior change to try and not feel that way anymore.

That’s important to start off with. So we would have some conversations about that and start to rec to kind of unwind how that looks for you. Because many people who go into leadership positions do, for the same reasons that they start businesses, because they need, they have this emotional need to feel safe, to feel like they’re the one in control, to feel like they’re the one who’s making the rules, or navigating, you know, kind of on their own, or this hyper independent place.

And so what we would do is we’d then look at the patterns to kind of say, okay, well, this experience that you had. What did it create for you? And it can be fantastic things that it created for you and it can also be things that are really challenging. So, I would want to know, why did you want to be an executive?

What led you there?

What do you get from it? What do you still wish you could get from it? Your last promotion that you had, how did you feel about that? Were you really excited and did it feel very satisfying or did you just check that box and say, 

next step? Right? So that’s, you know, that’s probably what we would work on is kind of identification of the experience that created the pattern

and then how it’s playing out in your life now effectively and with some, you know, challenging experiences.

Carolyn: I think that’s an important thing for, for everyone to understand is trauma doesn’t mean that we become incapable or that we need to like roll up in a ball in the corner.

There’s some adaptive things that have helped us be successful.

However, What happens when it’s not successful anymore is burnout because we’re always trying to reach somewhere where we’re not going to get.

Is, is that, is Emma, is that fair to say?

Nicole: Absolutely. I say, I call that striving but never arriving, you 

know, because if if it was just about, you know, becoming the top 1%, when you got there, you would feel satisfied. And you would feel like you made it.

But when you are striving for something that is unseen and you are not even maybe aware of yet, you never get the feeling that you’re looking for.

So what happens, you keep doing it, you keep working, you keep trying to prove yourself and you end up in burnout because your nervous system is working overtime to try and compensate for the behaviors.

Carolyn: right. And so this is not a mental activity. I can’t think my way out of these things.

And so hopefully people who are tuning in have heard some of these other episodes where we’ve talked about trauma in terms of the nervous system, but. In case people haven’t, and it’s always a good reminder. Can you take us through a little nervous system 101 and, you know, just really simply what happens with trauma and, what’s this thing about our nervous system?

Why is it helpful as a business person to understand it?

Nicole: Yeah, so I’ll keep it really basic. So the basics of our nervous system is that its main job is to keep us alive, period. You know, end of story, to process and to create. behaviors, reactions, or actions based upon the environment. So we’re constantly taking in information. Our nervous system is constantly downloading information about what appears to be safe, what is not safe.

Is that person okay? Like your nervous system has broken down a room with people in it before you have even got your foot fully in the door. So there is a lot happening outside of our awareness. But what I always like to tell people, just bare bones, your nervous system’s job is solely to keep you safe and alive, and starting a business doesn’t feel 

Carolyn: No, yeah, because there’s and threats and threats are going to come in different in different ways and forms.

And if I’m an executive in in work in a work environment or in a corporate environment, these threats are I guess, changes to the business or

changes to the forecast or person. I don’t know. That sounds like very 1970s, but

like a situation with someone on your team,

these are all like threats in that they weren’t planned. That’s

Nicole: Right, right, exactly. And so, you know, in the absence of… information around that. What our nervous system does is it, you know, kind of breaks it down to us and it says, you know, that’s not safe. So don’t do that. Don’t go for that promotion. You’re not smart enough 

for that, right? It can take on a voice, and you people talk about that in a critic, that your nervous system creates this, you know, critical voice to kind of keep you away from things that it deems as being unsafe.

And, you know, so I think recognizing that your inner critic’s voice is definitely connected to how your nervous system operates. And particularly if you’ve had an experience as a kid where you felt unsafe or unseen. That inner critic’s voice, I believe, is to protect that inner child of yours.

And so our nervous system kind of, you know, comes on board when we’ve had these experiences where we didn’t feel safe.

And it’s just like, okay, that was not safe. Don’t do that again or adapt so that you can then be powerful over the situation. Meaning that if you felt like you had no control, nervous system says that was not safe, make sure that you do everything you can to be the one in control at all times.


And that can be really fantastic for an executive.

It can be an amazing skill set for an entrepreneur. It really can, but it’s not sustainable. Mm

Carolyn: And the difference that I’m personally learning is consciousness, like awareness around it because Everything that you were talking about, you know, stepping foot into the room, all of that’s going under, like in our brainstem. Right. And

that more like older part of our brain, the more rudimentary

part that we can try as hard, as hard as we want this, this executive functioning, more logical,

rational, it has no, no ability to influence that.


that to me is one of the biggest, it Opportunities for leaders. I believe right now is to understand the nervous system straight up,

Nicole: Yep, exactly. Yeah. Your prefrontal cortex has been… Is offline when this comes online. So 

you can’t reason, logic, explain it, you know, it’s as leaders we really need to understand this because our nervous system is impacting the people around us because we co regulate our nervous systems as human beings.

That’s what we do. So if you’re dysregulated and unconscious in what you’re doing as a leader you are therefore dysregulating the people around you just from a nervous system standpoint. So if that person seems like they’re jittery around you when you walk in the room, there’s probably a reason for that.

So I think that you’re right that understanding some basics around the nervous system and how much of it is unconscious and automatic as it should be means that we have to educate ourselves and understand that we are having impact on the people around us immediately and without, you know, always our awareness.

Carolyn: Regardless of our intention, right?

I’ll hear this. Oh, but I have an open door. I said, I

used to say the same thing. Like anyone can come talk to me. And I was still giving off. I had a very sympathetically like my, my sympathetic nervous system, which is, you know, as, as you know,

the sort of the fiery side of your nervous system that kind of make you take action was in hyper drive and, we get rewarded really nicely for that type of behavior.

Cause we can do more, we can make more money,

and it comes at a cost.

Nicole: Yeah, it absolutely does.

just about every person I’ve worked with, as an entrepreneur in particular, we can, we can trace back to the moment where everything changed for them, and that the adaptation to not feel unsafe, whatever that may have been for them, happened, and the germ of the idea of being in power in some way, whether it was a leader, the boss, to own the business, to be the entrepreneur where that began.

for them. And the funny thing about that is, is that when that is the, the birth of this career choice for you or this new career evolution for you, oftentimes when that nervous system is dysregulated and, you know, it comes on you know, the, the trigger comes on board, it’s not a 49 year old making a decision about it.

It is the nine year old in a very concrete, 

You know, black and white way of thinking that has come on board to handle the situation, so I spent a lot of time helping my clients get, you know, their inner kiddos out of the boardroom in their head and into the place that they belong because I don’t want to make a decision about my business from a nine year old standpoint.

It’s going to be very, it’s going to be very concrete, black and white with not a lot, not a lot of nuance. What?

Carolyn: So what do you say, Nicole, to clients or people who are like, Oh, don’t insult me. I’m not a nine year old. I know what I’m doing.

Nicole: Well, you know, the first question I would be, I would ask them is I’d say, you know, well, let me know what it is that you would like from our session and why you’re here. This is kind of, you know, place it back, you know, in their corner. But the majority of what I would do is, you know, it’s kind of being funny.

It’s, it’s true, but I would just say, well, okay, so why are you here? Tell me why you’re here.

But, but the, you know, the underlying truth of it is that they have been trained and conditioned. To not see it that way and you’re kind of socialized that that’s weakness or you know I’ve had people ask me they’re like so you mean that I can talk to my kiddos.

I can talk to my business So basically what you’re saying is that I have multiple personalities and 

like no, that’s not it at all So I’m just patient because we kind of have to wade through some of the stigma Around what it means to need help To feel out of control in your business, to want a solution that you emotionally, you know, can’t always get to for whatever reason.

And so there’s, there’s a lot of self compassion and patience to get there, so they don’t have to buy into my theory right away.

But eventually we get there as I educate them more, but I’m okay with them not believing it right away. Mm

Carolyn: Well, and to your point too, they’re, they’ve shown up for a reason.

Nicole: hmm.

Carolyn: So

something’s not working.

Nicole: Exactly. And in the book, you know, one of the processes that I did for myself and I do with my clients, and it’s in the book, is I have them write a love letter to their business and have their business write a love letter back to them, which I think is so much fun. It’s one of my favorite things I do.

But, you know, I’ve done lunch and learns, I’ve gone into companies, and I worked with a group of IT guys, and they’re like, I don’t really know if I buy into the love letter, and I’m like, that’s fair enough, you know, like, we can get there another way. And so we looked at, you know, like, their best friend, or, you know, someone that they’ve known since they were kids that they would just…

They would put their life on the line for, you know, it’s about connection and commitment. So it doesn’t have to be a love letter. So there’s ways around this. I have a client also who doesn’t believe in the inner kiddo stuff. And so we literally talk about it as there was a, there was, A moment in time that in her nervous system that changed it.

So we call it like a blip

Carolyn: Oh, okay.

Nicole: Where it changed like the bioconviction, you know, the moment of disruption happened and so the pattern changed, you know So there’s there’s so many ways to get it to get us there

Carolyn: So that IT group that you worked with how could people who are in a larger group like that write a letter help them navigate through what feels like very frustrating, very hard dynamics on our teams. Right? There’s so much emotion that people are bringing into every part of life.

’cause there’s so much stuff going on in the world. What, like, what did that, what did that IT team do that maybe other people listening could take back into their workplace?

Nicole: So these people were not they did not own their own businesses they were kind of almost Contractors within a business, so they still had a little bit of self, like, self Agency.

and also that they were still kind of like their own entity within the bigger. Which I think that’s, it’s like that for most people, you know, your, your career choice.

So for them, they were writing a letter to their work, you know, to their career, to their job, to their work. And what it was able to do for them, and I think it could be this way for anyone, if you write a letter to your position, like your job or your career, because we all have a career desire or career choice that we’re kind of wanting to achieve, that when you write that love letter, you’re starting to understand What it is that you are looking for emotionally and needing from your job.

Do you want security and stability from your job? You know, and in the love letter, you’re saying to your job, Thank you, you know, so much for providing me these things and that there are still things that I need or that maybe I’m not getting here. And so it helps you understand and kind of identify the desire that you have.

And also to help you connect individually with the job that you have within the career that you desire and it takes the company out of the equation because this was your choice to evolve into this career because of reasons. There were reasons that you wanted to do this. There were needs that you were trying to meet.

There were things maybe you thought you couldn’t do that put you into this. job. I mean, I had a learning disability growing up. You know, math is not my thing. I cannot do it. So, I never once thought that I would do anything that included math. And so, for me, my curiosity in human beings and my, you know, rejection of math, anything that could include that, including all the ideas I had about what business was, which blows my mind that I work with business owners.

That was not an option for me. So I thought, well, people that’s who I can help. So even though I’m very satisfied with my career, my career was a default because of something I didn’t think I could do.

So in developing that relationship and that connection with your job or your career, you start to figure out what the, I call it your, your big why, like your deeper why.

Why you’re here, to help you identify what it is that you really need and want, so you can determine if you have it now, and what changes you may need to make. Could be a, could be a career change. It could be a complete profession change. It’s not uncommon for people to work with me and they actually closed their business because the business is not what they actually needed or wanted.


was something else that they needed. So I think regardless of where you’re at, that love letter helps you begin to figure out how you are connecting with your work.

Carolyn: It’s sort of, it takes everything that’s going on here and it allows you to look at it more objectively, sort of like as a third, a third party, a third chair almost.

Nicole: Exactly. You are not your work. You are not your business. You are not your career. It may feel like it, but they are, they are things that you are doing that you are connecting to a relating to. And there’s a lot of reasons and experiences that went into why this choice was made or why you evolved here.

So it is something outside of you.

Carolyn: I

 think we need to repeat that. You are not your work. What do we want? What do you want people to know? And what do you want your clients to know? They’re not work. They are.

Nicole: They are whole, they are human, they don’t have to do a thing in order to be valuable. I work with a lot of high achievers that think their business, you know, doing well in business will make them valuable and that people will see them as having value. And I want them to know, and I say this all the time, like, you don’t have to do anything to be valuable or worthy.

You don’t have to perform anything in order to be important. You are valuable, you are important, you are here for a reason. These are things that you get to choose to do because that you’re interested in them. But you don’t have to earn the love or the respect.

And we’ve been conditioned and socialized to see it that way.

So if you fall into that place, it’s okay. It’s okay. We can start to unravel that. Mm hmm.

Carolyn: And that’s thank you for saying that. Cause I think we all benefit from hearing and getting that reminder and our systems are built upon performance and evaluation, which I’ll speak for myself. And I’m going to guess I’m speaking on behalf of many is if I want to be at the top part of the performance, because that’s how I’m going to show my value. I’m going to tell you, yes, Nicole, I know I’m valued,

but I still need to be on the top.

And that’s a very, very hard dynamic to

unhook from.

Nicole: it is. It is. And my question always is, well, what does the top mean to you?

Carolyn: Yeah, yeah. Is it, is it, yeah, is it the top evaluation metric? Is it, is it having a balance at home? I’m sure you hear like, what are some of the responses you get when you ask that?

Nicole: Yeah, so, a lot of the times the top is, well, if you’re not at the top, then you don’t matter. So it has to be the top, because I’m like, you know, there’s a lot of really great places before, whatever the top is. You know, like, you know, could you not feel more comfortable here and still have a balanced life?

You know, like, what, what is it? And it usually comes down to… That there’s someone else in their life that will see them as valid, either a parent or a sibling or, you know, it’s always an external representation of their value or worth. So it’s, it’s a really hard place for them to figure out how to feel that way about themselves without an external metric, which is why I think it’s, it’s difficult when a lot of people leave corporate.

And I see this a lot with my, my business owner clients who have started businesses later in life because they’ve left corporate for very good reasons and they start a business, they flounder because they don’t have the same external mechanisms to show them that they’re doing well, that they’re, you know, valuable, that they’re getting a raise and they, they kind of collapse on themselves because they have to put the structure in place to determine what it means to be on the top for themselves or valuable for themselves.

Okay. Because they don’t have that same mechanism within the corporate structure.

Carolyn: That is so true. I’ve never heard it put like that.

Nicole: And they’re so floored. You know, they’re just like, what? I, you know, I was a top earner in a sales team when I left corporate, and I was like, I’m going to do this myself so I don’t have someone standing over me, screaming at me, you know. I can do this on my own. But it turns out, unless they have someone screaming at them, and standing over them, they’re not sure how to assess their worth at that point.

Carolyn: Yeah, it’s, oh, it’s so true. I mean, my business, it’s going to be eight years old. It’s like seven and a half years old. And that you’ve just put words around it. It’s, it’s up to me and I’ve kind of hit the point now where success looks a little different. Success looks like more free time. And. Free time’s not the right word. Less time hustling. Yeah, that just brought up one other thought for me. 

So when we see people talking about finding a passive income, making money all in your sleep. Is that, are people kind of messing with us because they’re trying to like help us define success, but sort of still alluding to the fact that money is the core of our value.

Nicole: Yes, because those people need you to buy their thing so that they can therefore make money. So they need to create the narrative of what that looks like. I think that there is no such thing as passive income. I don’t, I mean, maybe in some investment portfolios, but, I have been around for a while and what I have found with those is that

the focus of it being that the money, it’s always money is still the focus, Right. 

 There’s no mechanism for a broader view of what success is. Hey, get some, you know, get some passive income so you have more time. But it’s always reaching another, and you see it always a lot, but it’s, this has 

been like a hot button for me a lot with, often, I see this, where it is it’s just another hoop to jump through, and we’re going to give you the solution to that.

So, we’re going to tap into your scarcity mindset that you won’t have enough, so that we can keep you in the loop. And in that hustle the money hustle as opposed to broadening out what success looks like for you.

Carolyn: this is tiring stuff. I mean, it’s tiring wherever your job is,

right? This, cause we do live in this environment of scarcity, which is

always telling us if we go back to our nervous system, not safe, not safe, not

enough. You need to get more. It’s

just this constant swirl of not safe.

Nicole: It is, and 

so what I like to talk about is what I call an emotional sustainability plan, because your business is, your business is not just about the money piece of it. There are other facets of your business that are important, including what I call psychic income. So if we have people telling us, you know, you can make passive income, you need to be, you know, six figures, now it’s seven figures.

It was six figures for a while, now it’s, you know, seven. Having something that you enjoy and that is creative to you and that you’re interested in, that psychic income that you get is just as important, in my mind, as part of your sustainability plan, as the dollars in the bank account. So, you know, when I’m talking to, you know, a client and they’ll tell me, Well, I haven’t reached this revenue goal yet, and I feel like I should be there.

We’ll break it back down and I’ll say, okay, let’s talk about what feels emotionally sustainable for you and your business. Okay. So the psychic income is there, right? The time. The satisfaction in your work and what you’ve created is there. So there’s all these pieces. You understand how you tend to get triggered and you have unwound that and done some nervous system work so that you know that your business is not, that you’re not being triggered in your business constantly and that you understand why you have this business.

Like all of these components are part of the emotional sustainability plan so that you’re not. Kind of tricked into only looking at revenue as the only way to establish an idea of what your success is. So 

Gotta unpack it 

Carolyn: I love. I love that. This emotional sustainability plan, you know what I hear is it is it’s a way to regulate your nervous system so that you’re not living in these unconscious patterns,

Nicole: Exactly. You know who your kiddos are. You know how they tend to show 

  1. You’ve already established who your business is that you want it to be, as opposed to perhaps how you have defaulted into that relationship. All of these pieces are part of that plan. You know, we get a marketing plan, a business plan, but no one really ever asks us, how do we create emotional sustainability within this business that we’re creating and running, or this entrepreneurial journey, or even in our careers.

Like, what does emotional sustainability mean for you and your career? As well. So, yeah. Mm 

Carolyn: And I just want to make one last connection here is. Trauma. I know the definition of trauma is widely

Nicole: Mm

Carolyn: contested. It’s not the right word, but there’s a lot of different sort of iterations of it. One of them that I have read is this, this notion of emotions that had to get buried because your, your body was trying to protect you.

Nicole: hmm. 

That’s a 

Carolyn: So is that, is that a fair, is that,

okay to say that one?

Nicole: hmm.

Carolyn: And when I hear emotional sustainability plan, what that is saying is We need to help your body recognize what’s safe and what isn’t safe

because you had to adapt to whatever situation.

Again, we’re not here to judge or analyze or compare, but

whatever situation was, ’cause you had to bury some stuff and it gets state, it’s, it’s stuck in your body.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Yeah. And it worked.

Carolyn: Exactly.

Exactly. It protected you. Woo.


Nicole: hmm. 

Carolyn: Nicole, as we wrap up here, what, what advice, like what are a few steps or suggestions that you would have for people listening beyond getting in touch with you if they wanted

to find you, Which we’ll include that in the show notes and ask you to share that in a second.

But what, what, what advice do you have for people?

Nicole: My advice is wherever you’re at, if you feel like you’re getting the Sunday scaries even though you started a business to not have them, you know, or your career doesn’t feel satisfying to you at this moment, do not personalize it. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It’s not something that you are doing wrong.

It just means that you need more information about where you’re at. And that you can gather that. It’s probably connected to an experience that you had in a formative years when you were younger. Where something changed for you. So you can always go backwards. In order to see how to move forward and I know that’s controversial and coaching like they say we just want to deal with the now but I think there’s something very valuable and going back and kind of collecting those experiences and integrating them bringing them in but we can’t do that if we’re not willing to take a look at them and if we Allow shame to get in the way of us Recognizing that these experiences and what has happened is not our fault.

It’s not your fault if you’re feeling unsatisfied and And that the business isn’t happening the way that you thought it would. There’s more information to be had, so go mine it.

Carolyn: I love, I love how you put that is there’s, there’s more, there’s missing information.

Nicole: Mm hmm. 

Carolyn: Yeah, Making it very sort of objective and bite size. Like I could do that. I could find more information.

Nicole: Mm hmm.

Carolyn: Nicole, where could people find your book? Where can they find you?

Nicole: The best place to look, I think, is my website, which is nicole. lewis keeber. com

My book is there. All the information about how to work with me is there. But if you like a little bit more fun conversations and kind of… You know, out there and interesting. My TikTok channel is the Biz Therapist.

So you can follow me there 

Carolyn: Cool. We’ll make sure we have those all in the show notes for people as well. And Nicole, thank you so much for sharing this amazing insight. You’ve, you

know, really brought some tremendous value here into this conversation. I always like to end off the podcast by asking three questions from my Evolve book.

are you game for

that? All right. 

First question has to do with self awareness. Is there a time or an experience that you would like to share with us that really elevated your self awareness? Maybe one of those holy bleak moments or something that just

showed you that your intent wasn’t matching your impact.

Nicole: Yeah, it was that morning at 5 o’clock when I realized, I was reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I realized that, As I was reading through the book, there was a story that prompted me to understand that if my business felt like a bully, it was because I set it up to be that way. And that I needed to take a bigger look, like I had this aha moment of, I love my business, but it doesn’t love me.

In fact, I feel like it hates me.

So, If I felt this way before, where was that? So that was a life changing moment for me personally and for the trajectory of my work.

Carolyn: Wow. Cool. Very cool.

 Second question. What is a practice or ritual that you use to help you improve? Be calm or regulated,

Nicole: Yeah, so I have a process that I use whenever my inner critic is very, very loud. I will take a moment to pause if I can remember to, we’re not perfect. But I will pause now and say, okay, I hear you. What do you need? Because to me, the inner critic is a protector to a younger version of myself that needs attention.

Something, something is needed.

And so for me, that is the best way I use it all the time personally and in my work is to say, okay. I hear you. What do you need? And usually I get the answer from someone. It’s like, I need a break or I need you to promise me we don’t have to do that again. Or,

that was really fun.

Can you make sure we do more of that? Why aren’t we doing more of that? So, yeah.

Carolyn: Oh, that’s, that’s, that’s great. I don’t have to try that too. All right, Nicole. 

My last question is around connecting to something bigger than ourselves through music, through the avenue of music. So is there a song or genre of music that just makes you feel so connected to the world, to other people, to other things more than you?

Nicole: Yeah, so many, but I am definitely an 80s baby. My formative years were through the entirety of the 80s. 

So, I would say that the song that will… In fact, it’s the song that I have them play when I go on to give a keynote is I’m Alive by ELO.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Nicole: that song just makes me want to hug the world and to feel like I made it.

Carolyn: Oh, wow.

Yellow. Was that like late seventies though? Or it’s like, was


Nicole: early 80s. So, I’m Alive was from the Xanadu soundtrack. 

Carolyn: okay. Early 80, Yeah. 80, 81. Yeah.

Okay. All right. I’m, I’m right there with you. You know, big bangs, big hair. Yeah. You can see we’ve, we’ve moved on. Look at both of our hair.

Nicole: Very sleek.

Carolyn: Well, Nicole, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. Yeah, I just really I found your book helpful. I found our conversation helpful and I’m going to go play a little ELO after this.

Nicole: Thank you for having me. It was great.

Carolyn: All right. Thanks so much to everybody for listening to this episode. And as always, we’d really appreciate if you like and subscribe and please leave a review and let us know what you thought.

Well, there were certainly some aha moments for me in that conversation with Nicole. I mean, just the fact that our businesses are a reflection of our emotions and emotions that maybe we haven’t processed. You know, it makes me, it makes me think of the early years in my career when I was, you know, this is back in the nineties, late nineties, where it wasn’t.

It’s not acceptable to be emotional or to bring your emotions. In fact, it was very much taught, leave your emotions at the door, like get your love at home. There’s no space for emotion here. And for all of us, that’s basically saying, leave part of yourself outside of these four walls. And that is going to result in actions and behaviors that aren’t serving the whole human.

So what I really got out of this conversation from Nicole is How do we find that wholeness again? How do we allow ourselves to understand these emotions that are? Really at the core of our behavior, her book how to love your business. We’ve given you the link for that. And there are lots of opportunities and other great work that will continue to bring to you through this podcast.

And I know there’s also likely resources in your communities. Perhaps you’re already working with them and please continue to do that work because our workplaces, if we are going to become more compassionate, if we are going to become more effective and collaborate, we need to find this integration in ourselves and emotions are a big part of that work.

Thanks again for tuning into the podcast. I’ll invite you to go check out my website, carolynswora. com. You can learn more about my work. You can also learn about where to buy my book, Evolve the Path to Trauma Informed Leadership. Thanks again for tuning in. We’ll see you next time. 

EVOLVE Podcast Episodes

Lindsay Harle-Kadatz
Karin Hurt

Welcome to the Evolve community

Skip to content