Episode 10 – The F word in Business

An interview exploring the word Feminine and Feminine Business with guest Sasha Kazantseva-Miller.

Okay, so today’s episode’s got absolutely nothing to do with that F word, the one that Gordon Ramsey uses a lot, and everything to do with the other F word. Feminine. And in particularly, feminine business, which was the title of an event that I was invited to co-host a couple of weeks ago with my guest today, Sasha Kazantseva-Miller, who is the Chief Mummy Officer at Island Mums. But that’s only part of what Sasha does. She is a serial entrepreneur and certainly one of the most dynamic thinkers that I know.

Over the years that I’ve known Sasha, we have had a co-mentoring arrangement where we’ve mentored each other, and it’s been really useful for me with Sasha being a millennial and a different generation to myself. She has a different way of looking at the world, and I think we really have helped each other along the way. She certainly is someone that has challenged me with some of my thinking. So it was a real honor to be asked to co-host the event with her, and we’re going to pick up and have a discussion about what went on at the event.

Michelle:               So welcome, Sasha. Thank you ever so much for sparing the time to come and talk to us today.

Sasha:                   Thank you, Michelle, for having me.

Michelle:             So, the F word in business … So Sasha and I ran this event a couple of weeks ago, and we’re going to pick up the thread from where we were talking about. We were just saying, can we remember what we were talking about two weeks ago?

But before we do that, let’s hear a little bit more about you, and yet again, not a local accent, but tell us a bit about yourself, Sasha.

Sasha:                   Well, I was born in the Soviet Union, actually, to an entrepreneur and inventor father. So this entrepreneurship DNA kind of runs, I would say, in my blood, in myself. My family moved to Europe when I was a teenager, and I went to study in the British university and worked in the UK as kind of the first part of my life.

And I was always very ambitious and very driven, kind of in that classical, career-orientated way. I always thought, “We’re all equal. I can do the same as my male counterparts.” I didn’t see any differences. My kind of ambition took me to Google. So I was one of the first employees in Google Russia. So I went back to Russia to work there for a few years, and later, I decided to do an MBA, and I did INSEAD, which is considered to be one of the best MBA schools in the world. And to me, that era represents the era of I was driving for success. I was driving for promotion. I was kind of working that linear way of achieving, moving my career forward.

This was all until my now husband moved to Guernsey, a lovely island here, and this was about seven years ago, and I moved with him. At the same time, I got pregnant, and we had twin girls all in one year, 2012. So it was the year when the Mayan civilization says the era of big changes, and we moved to Guernsey, and I left. I didn’t want to find a job, and I thought I couldn’t really find anything that would appeal to me, and I basically went on a journey of rediscovering who I really was, entering into that era of motherhood, which was very transformational for me. I started to run my own first businesses and embarking on what I would call a little bit of a spiritual journey as well. So this is where it takes us to today.

Michelle:             Yeah, yeah. So I’ve known you, what? Six years, now, is it?

Sasha:                   Mm-hmm.

Michelle:             Because I think the twins were born, weren’t they? When we first met.

Sasha:                   Yeah, because I think they were just, yeah, a couple of months old.

Michelle:             Yes. So the Sasha that sits before me now is quite different, if I’m allowed to says so, from the one I met six years ago because back then, you were still, I would say, still quite in your masculine energy of … and I mean, I recognize that because, I mean, I spent my corporate career in a very masculine role, working with men, and it seems like there’s been kind of a parallel process with both of us moving towards finding more of our feminine over the last six years.

Sasha:                   It’s probably a great way to summarize this journey and a classical, I feel, a classical corporate world is very much about that power and ambition and reaching and hierarchy and being promoted and force and strength. When I had my children, and that was really kind of the turning point, everything changes, and nothing’s as you’re expected, and as you knew. No one teaches you about motherhood. And that’s when you start to tune into different you. Everything changes in your life, and it, certainly, for me has been the journey of tuning into more feminine, shall we say, values, and it doesn’t mean the feminine values belong to women.

Men also have access to feminine values, but it’s been more about empathy, more about compassion, less about ego. It’s really not about you. It’s about the other in the community, about collaboration and making the world a better place.

Somehow, it became having much more of a purpose in life became much more important for me. So it was moving from being materialistically orientated, about money and success, in those traditional terms. It became much more about finding my authentic self, my path in the world, the purpose, and finding that essential work-life balance that I think we’re all striving for.

Michelle:             Yeah. And the job that you’ve been doing for the last few years is Chief Mummy Officer at Island Mums. I’ve been doing Women’s Development Forum, and then more recently, Female Potential. So we’ve both got jobs, which have got a lot to do with the feminine, with women, but even when you invited me to come in and co-host the Feminine Business event with you, I actually have to admit that I had a reaction to, “Oh, my God. What are other people going to say about feminine and business.” Did you have any of that reaction in you, when you put that together?

Sasha:                   I’ve done workshops for the last five years during Global Entrepreneurship Week, and they were always centered about doing something to do with women. There was a Mompreneur event, a Womanpreneur event, and vision boarding. They always had elements of something a little bit different, and certainly, very much, say, women-focused. And this time, the journey I have been on, especially with running my own businesses, IslandMums and Afaafa, has been actually tuning into a different way of leading, of running a business that things can be different, and perhaps, with our workshops together, it was a way to maybe provoke a debate, maybe look at business from a slightly different perspective, but I felt that using the F word, yes, was an appropriate way to try out and see what would happen, and it certainly obviously got quite a lot of interest, and we got some very warm feedback.

Michelle:             Yeah. I mean, it was a very wonderful event, and I’m really grateful. Thank you for allowing me to be part of it. I was just really feeling into that kind of initial reaction of … I suppose it’s a kind of a fear of being … I don’t know. Is it laughter? Pushed around, away, “that’s not serious”, and I tested it out on a couple of people, and it was kind of like, “Oh, is that … Boys aren’t allowed then.” Somebody else started making remarks about sanitary wear.

It’s almost as if you put the two words feminine and business together, and it’s, therefore, then not serious. It’s just a little cottage industry. It’s not going to make money. It’s fluffy.

Sasha:                   And that’s probably how we’re conditioned, right? And to me, calling myself Chief Mummy Officer was a bold statement, and it felt quite uncomfortable.

Michelle:             Very bold.

Sasha:                   And put it on my business card, and pretty much every single person that has ever seen it thought, “Oh, how fantastic,” because you are just doing something a little bit different. But do you know what? I still haven’t put that on my LinkedIn profile because I feel like, “Oh, my goodness. They cannot see it on my LinkedIn profile. They’re not going to take it seriously.”

So I’m still not fully walking that path . I’m still afraid. I still fear what the perception could be,

and we will be releasing an article about feminine business as well, and there are things that we’ll talk about, right, about cycles and feminine energy, and we feel like, “Will people take it seriously? Is this going to be taken seriously?” We take it, certainly, seriously, right, because we’re trying to embody that in our own life and in our own business, and we see the difference. We know how to start to tune in into those different energies, but we know that most of the world doesn’t work that way, right?

We work very much now with intellect and in our head, logical minds. We’re not in our body. We don’t use all of the energies we have available.

Michelle:             So I mean, really, there’s a conflict … I stopped doing the Women’s Development Forum because I felt that, though it was for women, it was still a masculine energy, basically saying to women, lean in, push harder, and having all these successful women coming and saying, “Well, if you just do it a little bit more like me, then you’ll get there.”

And it was almost making the women wrong in a masculine way, and what we’re really talking about here is around the internal conflict within ourselves between our masculine energies and our feminine energies and how within society over the last 5000 years plus, the masculine has been the one that’s been valued, and the feminine has been subjugated.

And we’re doing that in ourselves. We’re doing that to ourselves at the same time, but yeah. There is this kind of evolutionary process where being more feminine, being more in our feminine is what we see as needed. But it’s kind of like we’re on this leading edge and still finding it within ourselves …

We’re trying to be the pioneers here, but bloomin’ heck this is difficult.

Sasha:                   It’s very difficult because we are walking into the unknown. The world has not walked the path of balance of energies. We keep talking about energies, but it’s quite important. Each human being is created from a man and a woman, right? So we are 50/50 masculine and feminine energies, and as you mentioned, over the history of the last thousands of years, because of the role woman have played in society, which have been very much secondary. It’s only been … We’re celebrating this year 100 years since the women’s vote. It’s only been 100 years. We have been conditioned, both men and women, to live in a certain way. And you talked about a wonderful Native American eagle. Would you like to share that because that was … wonderful.

Michelle:             Yeah. Sure. I was talking about the eagle of humanity. It’s a North American prophecy that says that within this century that we’re now in, that up ’til now the masculine wing of the eagle has been having to work really hard. While, the feminine wing has been kind of tucked under, and so this masculine wing has got overdeveloped, and it’s had to work too hard, and consequently, the eagle is flying around in circles, but this is the century, this is the time where the other wing will gently unfold, and it’s through that unfolding that the both wings will start working in harmony, and the masculine wing can relax. And so from there, the eagle of humanity will soar. And it just felt such powerful metaphor.

That part of this, and I think part of the feminist movement up ’til now, has been making the masculine wrong, and for the feminine to come forward, we can’t do what the masculine has done to us, if you know what I mean. We cannot get there by making the masculine wrong.

Sasha:                   And when you tune into that nourishing feminine energy … Imagine the Mother Earth that represents very much that energy. You relax, right? You let the guard down. It’s not about competition. It’s a very different place you can work from. And as you said, it’s that balance, and this is what we are seeing in the corporate world. We see so many burnouts, right?

Because we’re not bringing our authentic selves into the work, right? Because we are not allowed. We don’t think it will be respected or taken seriously. We are bringing a one-sided us.

Michelle:             Yeah. And for myself, I’ve been spending time learning to drop in my energy and sit on my cushion. I’m not a natural cushion sitter. I’d be a natural action person, but I’ve been learning to take time out of my routine to do that. But the minute I’ve got too many things in my diary, what do I drop?

The minute I’ve got too many things on my plate, what energy do I call on? I call on the masculine in me and start driving forward again. I’m constantly in this battle with myself, and so how can I balance these two energies.

Sasha:                   And it often feels a battle. When we did the workshop, and we did an interesting exercise, which we can talk a bit during the podcast as well, about different adjectives representing what could traditionally be masculine and feminine energies, and we asked our participants to very quickly, looking at those adjectives, put them in certain brackets with masculine and feminine, and we asked them to do it from that intuitive place.

And many of them said how they saw a real physical fight, almost, between the mind and in the gut, right?

The gut was saying one thing. The mind was saying the other. And this is what we find ourselves in most of the time, right? Our mind is telling us certain things, right, in a logical, rational, intellectual way, and often, our gut and our body and our instincts are telling something different, but what we have not learned to really tune into is our body because this is a beautiful, massive intellect that we have, but it’s secondary to our head, basically.

Michelle:             Yeah. And we’ve learned, I think we’ve learned to make it wrong and to ignore, and we could go back into hundreds of years of witch trials etc. But there’s been a kind of “do not trust your gut instinct. The head rules. The masculine rules. The logic rules.” And so yeah, I think that’s kind of like a mirroring.

The conflict within us is a mirroring of the conflict out there in society and in the wider world.

And it was a really, really interesting exercise that we did, and to explain about the background. There is a book called The Athena Doctrine by John, Gerzema and Michael Antonio.

So they did a really fascinating piece of research where they had 64,000 participants. 32,000 of them did exactly the same exercises Sasha was just describing, sorting the words into masculine and feminine, and then the other 32,000, they asked them to sort the criteria, what is needed in terms of leadership in the 21st century? What equals success in the 21st century? And we didn’t quite have 64,000 in our workshop, but you organize them into tables so that some of the tables were doing one question, and some of the tables were doing the other. So how did the results from our workshop compare to the results from The Athena Doctrine?

Sasha:                   Well, briefly looking at the results, I think they were quite similar. Our microcosm of about 30 participants was very much kind of saying the same thing as the 60,000 people, and I am just looking at some of the results we have on the flip chart. So for example,

in the masculine table of adjectives, we have, for example, adjectives like aggressive, decisive, competitive, proud, career-orientated, intelligent, analytical, confident, arrogant, unapproachable, etc.

And in the feminine, we have flexible, reliable, visionary, loyal, gentle, good listener, patient, reasonable, good at multitasking, emotional, humble, empathetic, and so on.

There was also a neutral area, say, adjectives that people couldn’t quite pinpoint, and I think what’s important is, and some of our participants struggled, is that they thought certain adjectives and traits represent men and others represent women. I think that what we are trying to say is that we all have access to them. We can, now have a competitive nature, and we can, now have a more collaborative nature, and this is another exercise we did where we tried to feel that energy. How would you feel if you were feeling competitive against someone? And how would you feel if you were in a more collaborative state? And you could straight away feel the difference in your body of how that feels.

Michelle:             Yeah, and it was an interesting exercise because

if I feel into competition, I go kind of rigid. I stand straighter, and I get a bit stiff. I put barriers up, but I know where I am. I know what game I’m playing.

As soon as I go into the collaboration energy, sure I’m softer, and I become more feminine, but I also start feeling a little wobbly. I’m in the unknown. How does this work? I feel vulnerable. I feel exposed.

… And I see this quite a lot in the business community and even in the female business community. There’s quite a lot of “she’s doing the same as me,” and people getting competitive with each other.

I’m not sure that we’re yet trained, even though we are women, and we might embody more feminine energy, to find the feminine as the first default place in ourselves.

Sasha:                   Most of our systems are based on competition, right? Because in the hierarchical organization, there is only one spot at that top, right? In an education system based on exams and results and getting into the best ivy league, whatever, institutions, there’s a limited amount of spaces. Most of the news talk about … We hear about bad news about scarcity, about wars, and we’re conditioned to think if I don’t win, I will lose.

We’re not conditioned to think win and win. Well, we need to shift this mindset into if someone else loses, actually, I lose because someone else is another human being, and we’re all equal. Really, we’re all interconnected.

If our planet loses, right, we will ultimately lose because we are just a species on this planet. So it’s coming from that very different mentality of finding a win-win situations and appreciating how we’re all interconnected, and if we feel competitive to other person, that will work as a spiral effect to make that person more competitive, and it becomes kind of this unhealthy balance, and this is the spiral we are in as the world. So we need to change that spiral back into balance.

Michelle:             And it’s easier said than done. I think maybe the first step is just to start to be conscious and be able to notice these default reactions in us without making ourselves wrong because this is just conditioning. It’s just the human nature to notice that, oh, that’s my first reaction is to get defensive. Okay. Let’s sit with this for a minute and consciously bring the mind back online.

And there was a lovely expression I found the other day on collaboration which said “win-win or no deal”, and it’s kind of like, we either find both a way to win, or we’re not dealing here, and that’s an attitude that I want to try and bring to things.

Sasha:                   We are all learning or uncovering many ancient tools, which have been available for thousands of years. Mindfulness practices have become very popular. You look at yoga and the principles of yoga and so many other disciplines that have been available for the humanity, right? This is the wisdom of our ancestors that is there, that is available, and we are finally uncovering that, and perhaps interpreting some of it in a new, innovative way to work in our lives.

But those are all tools to help quiet our minds, connect with our body, and find that bigger balance and, perhaps, connection to higher energies and source, right, which will help us get rid of the ego, get rid of the conditioning, and be able to be more conscious and mindful of the reactions, to our standard reactions.

Michelle:             Yeah. I totally, totally get what you’re saying. I’ve been a coach for over 10 years, and I’ve been doing this spiritual journey for at least that long. What I know is that it takes a long time to work with ourselves. Our instincts say, “Yes, I’ll do some mindfulness,” but it’s a practice that doesn’t seem to become a default. We still have to catch ourselves. We still have to be with that reaction. We still have to process this. I think it will last for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’m going to get enlightened anytime soon. It’ll be a practice that’ll constantly still work to catch myself in the act.

Sasha:                   It will be a practice for all of us for our lifetime and for generations to come. It’s not going to be a pill we can take, and everything suddenly changes.

There are changes we need to make in the world to make the world a better place so our children can have a better world. There’s so many problems that the planet is facing from environmental problems, wars and politics and just the economic dogma of economic growth that is destroying a lot of our environment and actually making us stressed.

Look at the mental health issues, obesity and general health issues around the world. And it all, I think what you’re saying is it all starts from us.

Sometimes, we have the reaction that we have to go and change the system. It’s the politicians at fault, or the big corporations are at fault, but actually, they are filled by people. So we are the microcosm of the bigger macrocosm, and I think that’s what you probably also are talking with Kamadevi in one of your previous podcasts, is

the change starts in us on the daily basis with the daily decisions we make in our personal life, at work, in our relation with children, with friends. It starts with us.

Michelle:             Yeah, and definitely that’s the message from the spiritual school that I’ve been a member of is that to do our work is to do our own personal work, to digest our history and be responsible for ourselves on the planet. That’s our contribution to mankind rather than thinking I have to go and feed the children in Africa and things like that, and I think what we’re bringing back to because we didn’t quite finish the point we were making earlier about The Athena Doctrine was that the second part of the exercise was getting the independent group to pick out the traits that were associated with leadership and what we want from our leaders, and what we got was a positive correlation, both in The Athena Doctrine itself and from our workshop, with more of the feminine traits with what we want from leadership going forward.

And there’s this big call out there on the planet that if we are going to reverse climate change, if we are going to do things that will save the world, that we have to start finding that and bringing that more into business.

And I think it was you that said, originally, about the Dalai Lama’s quote that … What was it?

Sasha:                   I think he said a few years ago, I believe, that the western woman would lead the change in this world, and why the western woman?

“The World will be saved by the Western Woman”

Dalai Lama

I guess we have had those hundred years of, we’ll call it, emancipation, a pathway to more gender balance, more rights, certainly, across obviously all levels of society. So perhaps, you can say that step ahead in terms of having that foundational platform of rights, but what we are all awakening now having that, like in the Maslow hierarchy of needs. We feel like a lot of our bottom needs of stability and financial finances and food have been satisfied, but we are now seeking the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy.

And as the western woman, we have the purchasing power and the spending power to start investing more in potentially exploring that spirituality, exploring yoga, asking the questions.

Michelle:             So really, what you’re saying is that this is the positive side of privilege.

Sasha:                   I do think it’s the positive side of privilege, and I think looking at, for example, our journey, we have been in the corporate world. We have been successful. We know how it works, and perhaps our role is to bridge, how can business move into that more feminine direction or more human directions, humanizing business direction, which is something obviously you’ve talked about and feel passionate about.

Michelle:             Yeah. I do feel that there is this push back, especially … Maybe it’s post-#MeToo that I’ve found in my dealings with some of the corporate more of a push-back towards gender now than there was before. For the eight years I ran the Women’s Development Forum, it was kind of, “Yes, we want to tick this box on our women’s leadership. We want more women’s leadership stuff.”

Now, “Oh, gender’s just part of a much bigger diversity, and it’s just a little bit of it,” and it’s almost like the corporate world is just playing that down, playing the female thing down and that there’s a bit of a push-back towards the whole … hence why I said about the F word. It feels to me that we’ve got a bit of a backlash going on within the corporates.

Sasha:                   Words obviously have such a heavy weight with them, feminine, masculine, right? They are preloaded with so much conditioning straight away.

Michelle:             Absolutely because they’re loaded with the conditioning of men and women. We almost need different words that mean the same thing but don’t have that kind of “Well, one’s for a woman, and one’s for a man.” There might be other words, but I just don’t know them.

Sasha:                   Well, and if we move beyond words, and it could be quite abstract what we’re talking about, masculine and feminine, right? But what if we just connect it with how we feel on a daily basis, and we honor the natural cycles that happen in us, for example, the natural cycle of the woman.

The menstruation, the period is, especially for young girls, it’s seen as this dirty, uncomfortable time that you don’t want to share. It’s dirty, right? It comes with shame, and we carry that going forward. Well, actually, that’s one of the most magical physical processes we have because that’s what gives birth to children, right, and to the whole, the world basically, and that cycle is very much linked to the cycles of the Earth, right? It’s linked directly to the cycle of the moon, and then the cycle of the moon is linked into the cycle of the year.

The year goes through the natural cycles of the winter, spring, summer, and autumn, and if we did like our ancestors, live a little bit more in tune with the cycles, we acknowledge that, as women, we really change during that months. Our hormone levels change during the months.

When we are menstruating, we feel tired, and it’s really time for rest and renewal. While on the other side, 14 days later approximately, when we’re ovulating, we feel full of energy. We were designed to be active and social and go out there and find a mate because it’s the ovulation period.

So as women, if we work a little bit … If we just become more conscious about our cycles and honor them a little bit more in terms of having a bit more rest when we are feeling tired because we will have those few days when we feel like we want to be in bed and not do anything, and then we will be on top of the world.

Michelle:             Yeah. I totally get it, and society is still saying that women should be in the young phase the whole time, and go away, take drugs, get rid of the PMT, just take this, and it’ll go away and hide that you’re having your period. Hide that part of it. There’s no acknowledgement that we can’t be the same thing all the time.

But I was working with group of men last week, and it was really useful for me because I was able to see it from their perspective as well, in that, at least as women, it’s well-known that we have a cycle, and part of the month, if a woman’s off her game or doing things differently, they might get derided for it, but there’s a reason. But if guys get up in the morning or feel insecure or unsure of themselves, they can’t say, “Well, it’s my time of the month,” but there’s a great big round thing in the sky, and it can move the sea up and down 10 meters in the islands where we live.

It [the moon} has an effect on our bodies. So why would it only affect women? Oh, right, we’re the ones that bleed, but it’s going to affect men too, surely?

Sasha:                   Well, I guess I’m not a man, and it would be interesting. That would be a question to ask to our wonderful second half of humanity, right? Do they feel effects of, say, the lunar cycle? They would certainly feel the effects for the wheel of the year. We all have … In winter, we’re all tired, and if we were true to ourselves, we will be hibernating. While instead, it’s one of the most active seasons, right, pre-Christmas. It’s socializing. It’s looking for presents. Being out there, it’s often linked to end-of-the-year, financial year for companies, budget planning. So it’s often the most busy part of the year.

So we are working, actually, completely against our natural system where we should be closing down and relaxing. We’re doing the opposite. We’re super busy, over-busy.

So no wonder that when we come on January 1st, we’re all eager for new year resolutions and changing lives and quitting jobs, and it’s because we’ve overworked our system.

Michelle:             And I wonder what it’s like … This is a question for my friend, down under, with Australia having Christmas in their summer. But I mean, going back to the question of the moon, I mean, lunacy and all the statistics around more crime around the full moon. I think that was all traditionally put down to the fact that the moon does have an effect on the human consciousness.

Sasha:                   I’ve heard statistics that, for example, there’s many more admittances to A&E during the full moon because the energy’s quite high, and again, this is the statistics we hear, right? So we’re throwing out there, let us know. What do you feel? Do you feel anything around full moon.

And I was speaking recently, actually, was I started looking more into these cycles and women’s cycles, and I was just amazed at how little we, as women know about it. If you ask a woman, “Where are you in your menstrual cycle?” Actually, not many will even tell you how long the cycle is and where exactly they might be. They might know approximately that the cycle might be starting at some point and how little they actually know about hormonal changes that happen during that month with estrogen and progesterone.

So … And then if you ask men, they have no idea. In fact, a lot of them would have no idea that there is this direct connection to the moon. With the average essentially menstrual cycle of a woman being the average month, lunar cycle, and also remember, that children, right, child-bearing is about 40 weeks. It’s nine months. It’s exactly nine months. Must say something, right? It’s not just random statistics.

Michelle:             Yeah. I’ve been threatening ever since I started this series to do a whole one on menstrual cycles, and that will come. Although, the next one we’re gong to do is on menopause because I was so incensed after watching that BBC documentary last week. I thought, “We’ve just got to stop talking about menopause in this negative way.” It’s not an illness, and the same way as menstruation is not an illness to have a pill and take it away, but I don’t want to get over into the subject right now because we’re still talking about feminine business, but of course, it’s all related.

So back to the workshop that we held. One of the things we were talking about was that the masculine type of way of business is bottom line profit-orientated, and there was a wonderful quote if I could just find it now about what we were talking about in terms of what is the real purpose of business. So this is a quote I got from the Shakti Leadership book, which is an excellent book, and I will add that into the show notes.

“The answer is not to maximize profit but rather, to uplift humanity by meeting real needs, providing meaningful work, spreading prosperity, and enabling more of us to lead more fulfilling and fully human lives.”

Shakti Leadership Book

And that really was something that really grabbed me because I thought, yes, surely, if we are going to put the F word into business, that’s what we’re trying to do, make business something which is more meaningful.

Sasha:                   I really resonate with that, and I see there’s a massive proliferation of woman entrepreneurs, and a lot of it is driven because they feel like the traditional corporate system just does not fill their souls, doesn’t give them what they want, how they want to manifest themselves in this world.

So a lot of them are going off and starting their own businesses, and this is one of the big differences between women and men starting businesses because a lot of the masculine principles is still very much profit-orientated, right? It’s monetary. I’m here to make money, the byproduct of it, with moneys and services that I’m creating.

Women start thinking about what is the purpose and that life and work balance is often absolutely critical for them because they often want to create that balance once they have a family, once they have children or to share with other interests that they may have a life.

So women are naturally leading the change in how businesses are run and started and the reason why they are started. So feminine leadership in woman entrepreneurs, and I think we see it more and more. A lot of the participants in our workshop were entrepreneurs. A lot of participants in your recent networking event were women entrepreneurs. So they seem to be leading that change.

Michelle:             Yeah, and it’s leading change from a place of wanting to do something for themselves and for their families, but also wanting mostly … Well, I come across those women who want to do something which they really think will make a difference in their world. I can do this, and I can do it in a different way, and when I think back to my leadership career, yes, I might’ve been in an industry which was about bottom line profit, but I think what was motivating me at the time was around how the people that worked for me could lead better lives and how I could make it a more enjoyable, more holistic, more family-orientated, almost, way of being in the workplace because we spend so much time at work.

We really need to be able to enjoy it. We need to be able to find it fulfilling, and this, for me, is … I’ve been talking about humanizing leadership because

I think so much of our business today is inhumane, and the people I see in one-to-one that have been burnt out by the system.

I know that I only see people that’s the tip of the iceberg, but we’ve got to stop treating people as human resources to be used up. They’re finite, these human resources.

Sasha:                   I’ve been in the startup industry for the last, probably, seven, eight years, and a lot of startups is all about how do we automate this? How do we improve artificial intelligence so it automates this? How do we get rid of more people out of the processes? Here’s a startup idea: how to have a startup which humanizes, actually brings more meaningful work.

Many wise people have said historically we don’t want to be lazy. We don’t want not to work. The human being is conditioned to want to work, but it has to be meaningful work, right? We don’t want to be doing unmeaningful work, but we all want to do something that contributes and fulfills that life’s purpose that a lot of us have a calling for.

Michelle:             Yeah, I read somewhere that the two fundamental drivers for a human being are survival and love, and those two combine, that’s kind of work, really. It’s what we do to survive, but we need to love it.

Sasha:                   And it’s probably fair to say that a lot of the corporate world, a lot of our lives, actually, are based on survival. We feel like it’s based on survival, based on stress, right? We are in huge stress modes and fight or flight responses all the time because it’s the way our systems of government, of work, of education, of everything, are conditioning us to be in that competitive fight or flight response.

Michelle:             So I can feel as we talk about it the passion in both of us to wanting to do something different, wanting to create something different, to wanting to make a difference. So 2019’s coming up. Where do we go from here, Sasha?

Sasha:                   Oh, my goodness. The first step is to walk the path ourselves in our lives. We need to be able to look ourselves in the mirror, every day, and say, “I’m walking the talk. I’m not just preaching something. I’m tuning into my body. I’m tuning into my gut. I’m honoring my intuition, and I’m making the little changes I can in my daily life, in my family, in my household,” and gradually, that will expand into the community and your work.

It all starts with us. It starts with that first step of living in authentic life, I would say, and off the back of it, the work will evolve. Our relationships will evolve.

Michelle:             So really, it’s a bravery needed to step into a kind of more unknown, more amorphous way of being to honor the feminine in ourselves and to … that kind of still quiet place of waiting for the knowledge to arrive rather than trying to force it to come in a more masculine way.

Sasha:                   Brené Brown came to me straight away when you’re talking about bravery and vulnerability. It’s accepting that whatever you feel is okay, is right. It’s not bad. It’s not to be shamed, and every single piece of information we can fill is very important.

Michelle:             Absolutely. And you pointed at something really important to say, is that it’s not about making anything wrong here and that as soon as we start making the masculine wrong and the feminine right, then we become part of the problem. It’s about finding that place where we can accept it, or we can just be part of the human process because that’s effectively what we are. We’re part of the human process, but at the same time, trying to move it forward in a way that is more holistic and better for us and better for the planet and better for the people.

Sasha:                   I just remembered a story I read in one of the books, I think, of Satish Kumar. It was a student that went to a teacher. I think it was in Ancient India, and the student was asking, “What should I do?” Like Michelle, you’re asking, “What should we do?” And the teacher said, “Go and sit under the tree,” and the student was very surprised like, “What do you mean go sit under the tree? Who is going to teach me, and who is going to show me, and how am I going to learn?” And the teacher said, “Go sit under the tree,” and so the student went and sat under the tree, and that became its biggest teacher, by sitting in silence and sitting in nature and connecting to just that being, space of being, where we don’t have to be doing. We don’t have to be thinking. We don’t have to think someone else has the answers because we have the answers.

Sometimes, we just need to quiet, unwind, and perhaps, sit under the trees.

Michelle:             Yeah, and maybe that’s, as you say, where we have to start, and that is to stop the incessant pressure from coming at us in every direction to be doing at every minute of the day, and when we’re not doing, we’re on social media looking at what everyone else is doing. So let’s start with carving out some time to “just be” as our new year’s resolution for 2019.

Sasha:                   I can sign up to that.

Michelle:             Thank you ever so much, Sasha. That’s been really useful.

Sasha:                   Thank you, Michelle.

Michelle:             Thank you. Until next time, bye bye.

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