Have you ever considered what kind of leader you are? Dr. Denise Berger helps corporations and grad students identify the why behind what we do and our core values. In this conversation, Dr. D shares practical tips and her story of leading with empathy & courage during 911.

Please take a listen and share your takeaways!

Please check out:

Aliki Designs | alikidesigns.com
CSR Consulting :  Gazelle Advisors | itcsr.com

Guest Bio:
Dr. Denise Berger

“By collaborating, lending expertise, and educating, I strive to develop ethical, Portrait Denise Bergerintelligent and responsible leaders who achieve their goals while cultivating a thriving society for all. Much of my work focuses on strategic development of sophisticated social responsibility designs, that are implementable and marketable. In so doing, I find that this includes fine-tuning organizational culture, building leadership skills, optimizing team efficacy, and honing organizational strategic planning. I have held significant roles in managing multinational operations and have qualified expertise in social responsibility, risk management, international business, and organizational leadership.

I hold a Doctor of Education from Pepperdine University in Organizational Leadership and completed my dissertation on Corporate Social Responsibility.  In my dissertation, Doing it the Right Way, I identified the leading American Fortune 500 global corporations and analyzed why and how they do “itCSR” – a sophisticated level of CSR.  I received my MBA in Marketing and International Business from Fordham University and a BA in History from Colgate University.

I presently teach Leadership & Service, as well as Program Evaluation, in the Social Entrepreneurship & Change Master’s Program at Pepperdine University, and I teach Leading Inclusive Organizations in Vanderbilt University’s Leadership and Learning in Organizations Doctoral Program. I am a consultant and founding partner of Gazelle Advisors, working alongside for-profit and non-profit leaders. We focus on strategic development including marketing, organizational culture effectiveness, building businesses with purpose, financial excellence, and equity, diversity & inclusion initiatives. Prior to this, I was a Managing Director at Aon Risk Services, a global insurance broker and consultant. In this role, I ran the East Coast operations of the Global Business Unit. I am a board member for Environmental Charter Schools, Open Temple and Lionsraw. I am a partner at Social Justice Partners LA wherein I have worked with several non-profit leaders, including SVP’s Fast Pitch participants. I have been a TedX coach and an Annenberg/CNN Hero Fast Pitch coach. Lastly, I am the founder and designer of Aliki Designs – Greek-inspired, handcrafted, everyday elegant jewelry, wherein I do everything from design, to manufacturing, to marketing and sales.”

Raw Show Transcript:

105 TSIP- Corporate Social Responsibility.m4a

Speaker1: On this episode of the Social Impact podcast, we are talking about corporate social responsibility, ethical leadership, and how to be a social entrepreneur.

Speaker2: I kind of am like, you have a greater responsibility if you are leading a team, you have a greater responsibility to look internally, to have that learner mindset, to really confront your fears, your insecurities, your challenges, and have other aspects to how you can sound that out. Right? Because when you show up for others who are also dealing with trauma, you need to be at the top of your game. You need to be well-rested. You need to be able to be vulnerable, able to help people articulate what is on their minds,and then also help people to direct.

Speaker1: Welcome to the Social Impact podcast where people like you and I are making sustainable change throughout the world. Learn why they do it and how you can be a change-maker in your community and across the globe. Each week we hear from people on their social issue and what compels them to make an impact. Hi everyone. My name is Bree Jensen and I am the host of the podcast. And today we’re speaking with Dr. Denise Berger, who was my professor in the Social Entrepreneurship and Change Master’s program at Pepperdine University. And I’m so glad that she’s sharing some of her insights. I joked that this was basically having another class with her, which I will get all the classes I can get from Dr. T. She’s a consultant, a professor, and an entrepreneur. She’s an expert in corporate social responsibility, which we’re going to be talking about a lot in this conversation. Her historical expertise is through merging 15 years of global business experience with contemporary organizational development models grounded in the notion that character is to an individual as culture is to an organization, managing complex projects with multiple internal and external stakeholders on a global scale. Dr. D has an incredible portfolio, but overall she’s an incredible person, and I’m elated that she took a few minutes to talk with me and share all of our insights. So let’s get to it. Dr. D, I feel so honored that you would spend a few minutes sharing your journey with us and your insights. We call you Dr. D, but you are Denise Berger, and I just kind of love saying Dr. D because it just starts off to put out the framework of how approachable you’ve been to all of us that have had you as a professor. I had you my very first class in our master’s of Social Entrepreneurship and Change Program. And now heading into the last term, which is a.

Speaker3: Relief and also.

Speaker1: Sad because it’s been such a great experience. And I have to tell you, before we dive in, I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Just the framework and the foundation that you laid for the program was so huge for all of us. My entire cohort, we talk about that class and we refer back to it. You you coached us through how to set up our values and our mission statements. And I know that we have all referred back to those throughout the program. So you taught leadership, at least that’s what we call it. Is there an.

Speaker3: Official.

Speaker1: Class title to that?

Speaker2: Yeah, it’s leadership and service. So you’ve got.

Speaker3: Just a big how.

Speaker1: To lead is how I and you know, it’s interesting because I did I took 15 years before my graduating from my undergrad and starting this program. And I it was on my kind of bucket list to do a master’s program. But finding the right fit was super important to me. And I just I knew from the start when I had your class that it was the right fit. And ironically, my I did a two year internship in leadership many, many years ago. And when I saw this class, I’m like, okay, this will be a good refresher, but it wasn’t a refresher. Dr. D It was brand new perspective. I felt like you expanded my thinking and I quote you all the time when you told me on a one on one to enter a room as a learner. And that really changed my leadership ability. And, and I’ve kept that in mind in every room that I walk into. Whether or not.

Speaker3: I do that all the time is to be determined. You can ask other people, I’m sure.

Speaker1: But I’m kind of I’m going on because I want you to know how much your mentorship and leadership in my life and the cohort has been really incredible. So thank you for joining us.

Speaker2: Bree. I am so appreciative of that feedback and to know that the work I do matters often as a professor, we don’t get really to know just if our work is resonating. And I don’t know about other professors, but I know for me, like I put my heart and soul into my lessons and and the the pacing and the structure and sort of the frameworks I use and and I’m always evolving too. So what the students are getting this year versus last year has evolved because of the changing time. So I’m always trying to be adaptable and and agile to what’s important in leadership today as well as providing some of the classics.

Speaker1: Yeah, and I definitely saw that you would send us articles that were real time podcasts that were real time and we had you. I mean, I can only imagine what it was like to teach leadership when we had you during a very interesting time in American history, during George Floyd, the situation there, and you were teaching cultural cue. I mean, what was that like to. Each during a time like that. Social entrepreneurs of all things, people trying to make an impact.

Speaker2: Yeah. I mean, I have to say, to be perfectly honest, stressful. I felt like I had a lot of weight of the world on my shoulders because I wanted to make sure that what I was presenting to students was respectful, holistic, challenging. Like one of as you know, one of my expectations for the students is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. So challenging, challenging, but also in a way that allows the student to hold space for themselves and what’s going on with them. I think that was the biggest adjustment that I had to make in my lessons is that I actually I had this in my lesson plan this year challenge by choice. So if something gets too uncomfortable for you, you have the option to not participate. Right? And I think that was so important to provide to all of the scholars, because we’ve all lived through something so dramatic, but everyone has had their own experience with it and I can’t possibly know what that is. So you have to be accountable for yourself, right? As a student, you and by the way, these are graduate students, your graduate students. So you have agency over your experience. So just providing that in the classroom was really important.

Speaker1: That’s really beautiful. Just to come at it from a perspective of of empathy for each individual and where they’re at and what they’re encountering and how to process and reflect. I think that’s such a huge lesson in leadership. I recently another guest, Barbara, she was sharing about the importance of reflection. And I think that that’s something that you’ve emphasized. Can you share maybe a little tip? And then we’re going to backtrack because I want to hear your journey, but can you share a little tip on how to reflect? Because I remember you would just kind of like sit into this moment of like pause and and that that’s like a discomfort in a good way of just let’s just pause and reflect.

Speaker2: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. There’s so much there’s so many ways to create that pause. I think sometimes we get caught up in the only way to create that pause is through meditation, and meditation is phenomenal. But it is not for everybody or it’s not for everybody at that moment in time. Right. There’s there’s we ebb and flow. And sometimes we don’t have the capability to really calm the mind entirely. And certainly during the pandemic, we saw that there’s so much going on all the time. But we do have the ability to just pause and go into present moment. And I like to say, like, even, you know. If you can’t figure out how to calm the brain, ask yourself like what is happening right? What is the day that we’re in? What is the time? What time is it? It’s a little after my time is 1124. Like, think about like this moment in time that you are in. And I do think that I mean, gratitude. You said, you know, you express gratitude before. I think gratitude is such a great way to shift mindset. And so we could be in the most awful circumstances, we could be in turmoil with someone in our lives tremendously. But there’s always something that you can find gratitude for always, like even down to like, wow, I have electricity. You know, you just got back from Paraguay, right?

Speaker3: Right.

Speaker2: A lot of people there don’t have electricity or they don’t have health care, you know, so there’s always something to be grateful for. So I think that that is really an important way to create that, to create that pause and to calm, calm the mind down we all are can be spinning out of control and within time, myself included.

Speaker1: Yes, spinning out of control? Yes, I’m laughing. That’s how many times does that happen in my life? You know, as you’re mentioning, just that pause and gratitude. Like you mentioned, I just got back from Paraguay and we had the honor. By the way, Paraguay was part of the program. I’ll just let everyone that’s listening. No, you get to do this two week intensive or even a term if you’re able. I happen to have four children that wouldn’t let me leave for that long. However, it was such an incredible opportunity. We were able to host focus groups in Paraguay with the Indigenous and non-indigenous communities that are experiencing severe poverty. And you know, what came up over and over is their desire for education.

Speaker2: Yes.

Speaker1: And I mean, I get emotional because here I am in this master’s program and thinking of all that it’s given me beyond just career opportunities. In fact, more than career opportunities, it has given me a pause in a good way. And that’s something I would have never expected. I had been begging God to teach me how to live in.

Speaker3: The moment.

Speaker1: And miraculously through this program, which makes no sense.

Speaker3: Because I should be spinning.

Speaker1: I have learned to live in the moment and be grateful. Do I do that the best all the time? No, but better than I ever.

Speaker3: Have, I’ll say that.

Speaker2: Yes, but we are we are imperfectly perfect, right? So we all have our moments. And and I think the other thing, too, is just acknowledging that often I see people who are really afraid to kind of confront their what triggers them or what their weaknesses are and or or some situation in their lives which gives them a lot of distress. Right. And the one expression that I can’t stand, which you might remember me saying this in class, is when you’re talking to someone, you’re revealing your heart, your soul, your vulnerability. And they say, oh, just get over it, let it go. What they’re really saying to you is, stop talking to me about it because I’m done listening to it. You can’t let something go. You shouldn’t let something go. You have to move through it. And by moving through it, I mean, like you’re acknowledging if you have anger, anger is information, right? So it’s it’s it’s not unhealthy to be angry or angry. It’s how you respond to that anger that could be unhealthy. But you need to acknowledge the anger and move through it in order to get to the other side.

Speaker1: I love that it’s it’s little little flags and recognizing how to channel it so good. So I could just keep going on and on, which we will. But first, I would love for you to share a little bit of your journey. I think I’ll preface it with saying this. I think that many entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs especially, feel like they go this direction and that direction and like maybe get some negative feedback from family, especially like pick something.

Speaker3: Like just pick something.

Speaker1: But your portfolio, if I could say it that way, is has made such an incredible impact on people. And you’ve done really a lot of great things and they’ve hit home for a lot of people. So I would love for you to share your journey with us, whatever you’d like to share.

Speaker2: Yeah. So at a at a macro level, sort of 30,000 feet. I started my career after college in corporate America, working in a global business for a Fortune 500 company, working on Fortune 500 company portfolios. I went back to school while I was working for my MBA, got that in marketing and international business. I’ve always had a passion for international. And then and that was in New York City around 2006, my family and I moved to California, where we are now, and I pivoted to work for run the Women’s International Network for that company under our Diversity and Inclusion banner at that time.

Speaker1: Was that I’m just sorry to interrupt. I’m curious what year that was. With the diversity. Yes.

Speaker2: Yeah, that was 2006 to 2010.

Speaker1: Okay. Great year pioneer.

Speaker2: Yes. In a way, I think the company, though, was just in the stages of checking the box as opposed to really doing it authentically, which we’ve seen in a lot of cases because diversity and inclusion has been around for a while. It just hasn’t had the impact, the desired impact, because it’s been kind of relegated to a side office often, oh, it’s untucked under HR, you know, and let them just do their little thing over here rather than making it holistically injecting it into the DNA of the organization. So from there, I threw a series of events at while I was running the Women’s International Network, I got inspired to get my doctorate. There was a perfect doctorate at Pepperdine for me that addressed global issues as well as women issues. And so I went back to school and got my doctorate in organizational leadership. And on my trip with the school to India, we talked a lot about corporate social responsibility and at the time I was going to do my dissertation on succession planning, but we sat with these people and one woman in particular I had a conversation with and she said, You know, CSR is like teenage sex. Everyone says they’re doing it, but only half are doing it and of the half, only half are doing it the right way. I’m like.

Speaker3: How could you forget that? Amazing.

Speaker2: And so literally the title of my dissertation is CSR Doing It the Right Way. So I had a fantastic dissertation. I love my dissertation. I graduated in 2013 and what I what my findings revealed were still are still relevant today. I interviewed I did an analysis of the top organizations, US Fortune 500 global corporations that are deemed to be doing CSR the right way. And I interviewed eight of the ten of them. And I did a qualitative study, so it was fantastic. I loved it. While I was doing it, I was introduced to different people who are in the space of social impact, and I started mentoring a lot of non-profits in not only their impact potential, but also like their strategy and operations. I think nonprofits sometimes don’t have that business lens that I could bring to the equation for them. And then after I graduated, I started teaching at Pepperdine, where I am today, as well as I did a stint at Vanderbilt in a doctoral program leading inclusive organizations. So that brings me to today in the middle. While I was in New York City, I was on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center. And luckily I survived. I saw the plane in the sky hit the tower, the other tower, and I was able to walk down to the sky lobby at the 78th floor and then take the elevator down.

Speaker2: I was about a block away when my building was hit and instantly I stepped into my boss’s shoes to run the group. I actually defined the group first. I mean, it was in the day where we only had like work emails and maybe someone had a cell phone. So tracking everyone down and pulling them together as a group, I put everyone into eventually group therapy. We did therapy together at lunch time, which was wildly therapeutic because we had been going to so many funerals. All of us and each of us were doing our own work too. But I also, because I was ahead of everyone else, I was kind of ahead of the times, and I had set up a shared drive for all of our accounts to be housed in. At the time, this was state of the art. Like today you’d be like, yawn, right? So and it was across all the offices that I managed. So because I had done that, it was so great I was able to farm out all the New York accounts to all of the other people in our group, in other offices, to just call the clients and be like, I’m your contact for the next month, you know? And we had all the important documents housed on that shared drive.

Speaker2: So wow, that was amazing. And, and that, that 911 experience shaped me because my boss passed away and he was in the meeting with me that day. And we all remember him sort of lamenting that he wasn’t spending enough time with his family because he was traveling a lot. But that was going to end in October. And he had two little boys and he said, No, I can’t wait to spend time with my kids. So a few of us were like, Wow, we’re never going to let work in life, get out of balance. Like, if nothing else, just to remember him. Remember that lesson, right? Wow. So I’ve always had that idea in my head. And actually what I’ve learned along the way is that it cuts both ways. Like you don’t want work to get out of balance where it consumes your life. But I’ve had moments where I’ve had downtime and there’s been too much life, and that’s not necessarily great either because, you know, you have a lot of time to then start ruminating and and kind of going down rabbit hole. So so I really mean when I say work life balance, I really mean both being in check.

Speaker1: That’s an incredible point. And I do want to acknowledge just the enormity of your story. And I. Can’t even comprehend what that must have been like to be in those towers and then having to go into action mode. And so the only thing I can think to do right now is something I learned from my previous role was hand over heart just acknowledging your sorry and and really there’s no words, right. And experience like that. I have no words.

Speaker3: So I’m just.

Speaker2: Acknowledging.

Speaker1: You know.

Speaker2: A lot. I learned a lot from that experience. And it’s shaped my my life. Like, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t really think about it in some way or another.

Speaker1: Yes. And that makes perfect sense, because I think that, you know, we talk a lot about our whys. And I know in your class we talked a lot about our why why be a social entrepreneur, why make a social impact or try to make a social impact? And a lot of people have stories of some kind, some experience that they’ve been through. Do you think it was I’m assuming because I know you a little bit, that it was always in you to want to make an impact on the world. But did you see kind of like a before and after reflection of now I’m going to run faster or, you know, do you ever reflect on kind of that moment?

Speaker2: Well, I think yes, you’re right that I’ve always wanted to make an impact. I think previous to 911, I thought the. The only way to make an impact was through a corporate role. But I was also kind of butting my head up against corporate structures that weren’t ready to embrace sort of social responsibility, in a sense. There are some companies that want to be socially responsible. There are others that don’t. And I realize that I was in a company that didn’t really want to be socially responsible. So that kind of woke me up to that idea that that companies can have a real impact in this world. I mean, they have the resources, the footprint, the knowhow, the technical skills to really use their forces for good. So I would say that that kind of woke up that thinking in me. But also the other thing that woke up in me is I didn’t really grow up in a very philanthropic family, so I didn’t have, unfortunately, that exposure too much. But I really embraced. Following 911, the old ancient Greek proverb that says, A society grows great when old people plant trees who shade, they know they shall never sit under. And I think that speaks volumes to social responsibility that we have. We are planting seeds. We may not realize the fruits of those seeds, but we have to plant the seeds.

Speaker1: Hmm. Wow, that’s beautiful. Just that fact of I mean, it’s kind of a legacy mentality of I want to leave this world better, or I want to create something that people can follow that I.

Speaker2: Want to create. And my I think my legacy is. I mean, I’m inspired when I see other people that I’ve touched in whatever small way go on to build a really meaningful legacy. Like that’s my legacy to see other people building their legacies.

Speaker1: I love that. Well, you’re a true leader. And so that’s that’s in you to to build others up. And I’m wondering, I’m thinking of social impact and there’s different levels. I think everyone’s got their sphere and their opportunities and there’s nothing too small. But there’s also a lot of people that are doing work that they’re having to lead in chaos, whether it’s in I mean, I don’t even want to like choose what situation that is because it can be so different for others. And that was what I was hearing when you were hearing that, when you were sharing your experience of having to kind of kick into that leadership role and just help people both mentally, emotionally find balance. And then also we have to recover our team and work forward. What’s your advice for people that are operating kind of in an exterior chaos? Maybe I could put it that way, but needing to like, stay centered and lead and help others.

Speaker2: Yeah. Great question. Do your work. Like, don’t be. Look, first of all, I believe everyone needs time on the couch. So get over the whatever construct you have about therapy. And therapy comes in really different forms, too, by the way. So, you know, the old image of someone sitting on the couch and the doctor hovering over them, asking them, What do you think? That’s just such an archaic, like one dimensional model of what therapy is. Therapy is also about exercise, good eating, healthy habits, you sleep. But whatever it is, it’s multifaceted, and you need to do your work as a leader. I kind of am like. You have a greater responsibility. If you are leading a team, you have a greater responsibility to to look internally, to have that learner mindset, to really confront your fears, your insecurities, your challenges, and have other aspects to how you can sound that out. Right? Because when you show up for others who are also dealing with trauma, you need to be at the top of your game. You need to be well rested. You need to be. Able to be vulnerable, able to help people articulate what is on their mind and then also help people to direct. Now, having said that, I’m talking about leaders who are actually in like a role where they are leading a team, like managing a group of people. Right. When we pull back, I want to say that we are all leaders. If I like to say, if you have the if you have a pulse, you can be an ethical, intelligent, inclusive leader. You have every one of us has the ability to do that. But the number one thing about leadership is to do your work and continuously be in a learner mindset.

Speaker3: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Speaker1: And it is work, but it’s so worth it. I think through that’s been one of the benefits of this program is I’ve been so intentional about not only taking the classes, but doing the work to get healthy, because I’m determined to get on the other side healthier and ready to run fast. And it’s a lot of work, you know, but it’s so worth it.

Speaker2: Intentionality is huge. And by the way, also that intentionality creates the awareness that you might have moments in time where you’re like, I’m overloaded, I’m overwhelmed. And that is a moment for you to pause, right? That’s information for you to pause. And it’s okay as a leader to say, I need like just a timeout to regroup, to refresh. That’s what vacations are for, for quite frankly. And you don’t have to go anywhere to have like a vacation. But I used to tell my staff all the time, I’m like, if you’re given vacation days, it is on you to take those days. No one’s going to tell you to take them. Have you taken your vacation days today? But you are full if you leave even one vacation day on the table and not take it because it is part of your compensation package, number one. And number two, it creates that pause for you that you desperately need to rejuvenate. So you come back even fresher to the equation.

Speaker1: Mm hmm. I think that’s fantastic. And I have been asked recently, like, how do you do it all? And sometimes, like, not well.

Speaker3: Like, just honestly try to figure it out.

Speaker1: But I think not multitasking, having boundaries, finding what works for you, these are all things that have helped me. Like I literally will shut down my email at a certain time each day. And sometimes that’s not the same every day, right? Like things will change. And just knowing mentally that the more rested I am, the better employee or a better leader or whatever student I will be.

Speaker3: So I think that’s fantastic.

Speaker2: These are challenging times and leaders have a lot to help others figure out. So if we’re not. At the top of our game become. We can be more reactive, we can be less patient. Right. And all those things are variables that are needed right now.

Speaker1: Yes. So kind of thinking towards some of the people that may be listening that.

Speaker3: Are.

Speaker1: Either pivoting their career, wanting to do social impact as a career because we all have ways to volunteer and do things like that or people that are going into their undergrad. I mean, there are so many different levels. But for those that are kind of getting their start, how do you find your social issue, your focus and your why?

Speaker2: Oh, my gosh. Follow your passion. I mean, first of all, you know, from our class that we intentionally script out our vision, mission values and our purpose, our why statements. Right. And so you really do have to get very granular with what motivates you, like what fires you up. That is your point of passion, right? And from that passion, you have belief statements as a result. So one of my passions is travel. I would love to lead trips like the one you were just on for people to go on these amazing experiences, not just tourist experiences. I’m talking about like real experiences in with people who are living life every day and what does that look like and how might we be able to help them find solutions to whatever problems they have under their terms? Not our terms, but their terms. But so I’ve always had a passion for international. And then that drives like, well, why do I have passion for that? International drives my belief statements like I believe when we have when we’re in service to others, we elevate our our ethos, we elevate our consciousness. Right? We are giving back to humanity. We are creating those seeds that we may not ever see the results of, but they’re there. Right? So all those belief statements and then that’s when you get into like what is going to fire you up to build, but you have to start with your Y first. You have to start with that, that passion point first. No question.

Speaker1: Yeah.

Speaker2: That was your passion. So there’s a place for everybody and there’s there’s like enough work to go around. It turns out.

Speaker3: It turns out there just.

Speaker1: Always seems to be something, you know, I think that’s so beautiful. I was thinking of that in Paraguay. You know, when you do these service trips or whatnot, you want to solve this problem and that problem as if you could actually solve it yourself.

Speaker3: But.

Speaker1: You know, you want to help. You want to help with this and that and that. And then I was hearing other people’s stories and how they wanted to solve this, and that was their passion. And it kind of made me think how beautiful it is that speaking of seeds, that each of us, I think, have a little seed of passion for a social issue. And the fact that there are so many diverse issues that people are passionate about is that they can run fast and do their thing, and I can run fast and do my thing, and we can all holistically make a difference in different social issues. So I think that’s really cool.

Speaker2: Yeah. And when you’re doing social impact work, it’s not easy. You have a lot of barriers and obstacles to confront. So that passion is what’s going to keep you motivated. That passion is what’s going to help you to not give up.

Speaker1: Great point. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think you also demonstrated in our class that you also have to have fun.

Speaker3: To keep.

Speaker1: You going. And what a what a great and unexpected unit that you brought to our class. And it was you can share with me the title of it, but basically it’s play, you know, having fun with it. And we had some games and guest speakers and you you.

Speaker3: Made all of us do improv, which I loved, of course. I mean, it was just so fun.

Speaker1: So can you share like, how do you have fun when you’re.

Speaker3: Working on these heavy social issues?

Speaker2: Yeah. Well, I think laughter, first of all, is creates a biological effect. Right. It it is a stressor. It goes into your diaphragm like there’s all these there’s all this research that it changes your brain chemistry when you laugh. We also in the class, remember, we talked about oxytocin and and how that gets released in the brain when we are connecting with people. Right. Remember that, Paul Zak, Ted talk on morality, right. And creating trust bonds. Right. So, so when we connect with people, we are creating bonds and and we are also releasing feel good ness in our bodies. And I think, you know, because these issues are so weighty, we need those moments of levity and. I one of my five values is fun. And when I was growing up in corporate America way back decades ago, that was not a construct that was necessarily embraced. This was before the dot bombs and all of that. Right. This is back in the day when there when we had dot matrix printers and really fax paper and only the people over maybe 40 or 50 will know what I’m talking about. But but, you know, you left your personal persona at home and you brought a work persona to work. And that work persona could like, ha ha around the water cooler. But it really was about work. Like, fun was not a value that you wanted to talk about at work, but I always sort of injected fun into my work.

Speaker2: Like, we had a great team. We’d go out together. It’s great, but I think fun has so much value because it sparks creativity. Like without fun you don’t have that brain chemistry happening with neurons are firing up. So you actually that’s been proven that you need fun to it’s called broaden and build it’s a theory and broaden and build is where you get those sparks of new information and new ways of thinking about things. So I absolutely prioritize in my class creating space to have fun and learn because there is learning to be had in fun. Like we did the improv and you know, initially I know there’s always a few people in the class who are like, Oh my God, I don’t want to do it. So I’m comfortable. And by the end we’re all just shaking it down. And you all, I mean, I love how you all. Created this environment for your cohort where you are all having fun on Zoom. I mean, that’s hard to do, right? But we did it. We did it. Was it ideal? Would I prefer to be in person with you all doing improv? Absolutely. But the fact that you still remember it and you remember it fondly and you’re smiling about it like it means that you can do it in any kind of context. Yeah. Fun is okay. Like I give everyone permission to have fun there. I said it.

Speaker3: I love it. I love it.

Speaker1: I’m always that one in the room, especially in more.

Speaker3: Serious meetings in Zoom. It can be a little.

Speaker1: More awkward than I’m like cracking jokes and they’re looking at me like.

Speaker3: Are we in a business meeting? You know?

Speaker2: Yeah, I’ll give you an example. I was in Nepal and we were in a village that has not seen a lot of people. You have to go. I mean, the road to get there is harrowing. We all thought we were going to die. And in fact, it was very funny. We were in the front of the truck that this local guy was driving and he pulls out a cigarette and he’s smoking. And the person who’s leading us turns to me and she says, That’s a good sign. It means he’s very calm and comfortable with the road that we’re on because we were freaking out, he said. Or he’s very stressed and he’s trying to calm himself down.

Speaker3: I know. I was like, Oh.

Speaker2: So we get there and even the Sherpas were talking about how bad the road was. So we’re in this village and on the last day we’re like, we’re going to put on a performance for the kids at the school. And we did. And so we did like magic tricks for them. We dance to YMCA for them. I mean, and but we were solving real their, their, their real world problems, you know, the day before. But the next day we were having fun and the kids are laughing and we had relay races with the kids and, you know, and that’s the bond. That’s the connection.

Speaker1: Is it? Is. It is, absolutely. And you know, we shared that I just got back from Paraguay and the two cohort members. I traveled with Jenny and Ashley, and then we had a host, Carolina. And when we weren’t working, we were laughing so hard. And I think it was that fuel to get us through. And what were we even laughing at? I don’t know. We were.

Speaker3: Just being silly and it.

Speaker1: Was an incredible experience and so bonding in every way. So that’s so much fun.

Speaker2: It’s okay to be silly as a leader. It’s okay. It makes you human, it makes you more approachable. It builds trust, you know, and and it also strengthens you.

Speaker1: Yes. Yes. And it makes perfect sense when you said that it opens the mind for creativity. I mean, laughter and creativity go hand in hand. That makes perfect sense to me. So before we go quickly into the Rapid Fire, will you share a little bit about the jewelry business that you’re doing and how we can find it? And I will link to all the things in the show notes as well so people can look it up.

Speaker2: Yes. So I am half Greek and I found this design a few years ago in Greece that you could only find in Greece because it uses a special clasp for the bracelets and my friends all liked it here. I was trying to figure out how to bring it back, but that was proving difficult. I’m like, you know, I could make these. And I spent one summer breaking down two bracelets and rebuilding them and finding the materials that they use because I didn’t know what materials they used. And and then I found a caster and I’m like, I really need to build a business because I’m in a social entrepreneurship program teaching and I need to be a social entrepreneur. Like, I need to figure this out and do practice what I preach. So I built a business. I started with like ten designs and from the get go I thought, I’m going to build this as if I was a B Corp and you know, and really build I can’t be entirely impact driven quite yet, but I’m going to lean that direction and do whatever I can. What I know from my dissertation to build this business in a with a social responsibility mind frame. So for example, being 100% transparent, all my designs have a gift, giving it forward together. And so I give a percentage of what you pay. So in a lot of my designs, it’s 12% on one line, it’s 21% of the price you pay goes to these nonprofits that I’ve chosen.

Speaker2: I’ve chosen them with very you know, with intention. Yes. So that because I can’t stand how companies say, well, we’re giving 20% of our proceeds, you as the consumer do not know what those proceeds are. They could be negative for all you know, and they can be giving nothing. Right. And so I want my consumers to know that X dollars or if they want to calculate it, most of them actually don’t. But anyway, if you wanted to calculate it, you could see how much is going to wear, right? So transparency is a big one for me. Minimizing packaging was another big one for me. So now. I’ve got over 100 designs. I’m online and I sell like in pop up shops. And my designs are called a like a l i k i a leaky designs, and I named them after my aunt in Greece because she represents to me a sort of this quiet, wise soul. And I wanted my jewelry to inspiration, to inspire wisdom. So every design I have has a Greek name, which is an essence and then a little positive intention that comes on a card with the jewelry. And now I’m also making some necklaces. So this is one of the necklaces that I make.

Speaker3: I was going to ask you.

Speaker1: That’s so beautiful.

Speaker2: Yeah. So it’s it’s it’s in the design of a female infinity, which is meant to represent the universe and oneness and woman, woman, woman, power.

Speaker1: I love it. That’s beautiful. In all the ways so beautiful.

Speaker2: And by the way, you can wear my designs all the time. Exercising, sleeping, showering. And they don’t. They’re lightweight, they’re made out of cords. So they’re very easy and comfortable. And some people say, like, I’ve been wearing mine for months and I constantly think about the intention behind that. It reminds me of the intention as I’m wearing them.

Speaker1: That’s beautiful. How exciting. Okay, I can’t wait to shop. Well, thank you for sharing that. And we’ll link to the website and how to find the beautiful jewelry and all the things. So as we go into these rapid fire questions, even though they’re big questions.

Speaker3: So that’s kind of the test to see if you.

Speaker1: Can dwindle it down. So I’m asking each person these following questions. The first one is, what is your purpose or motivation for change?

Speaker2: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Well, I think that there is evidence in our society of a lot of lower level consciousness thinking, you know, greed and ego and and self serving behavior that I just feel a need to offset that with higher level consciousness and collective thinking and how do we move society forward. I think about my grandkids or my great grandkids. What is the world that they’re going to be inheriting? And it scares me that a lot of people in today’s society aren’t thinking that way. They’re just thinking about the here and now. They’re very compartmentalized. But I think thinking about the legacy and generations to come, I want to know that I did my part to leave the world a little better than how I found it. So I think that’s a huge motivation for entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs.

Speaker1: That’s very beautiful. And then the next question and we did talk about this a little bit, but maybe we can circle back to it is what is your wellbeing tips? What are your wellbeing tips? I ask this question because and again, you hit on this, you know how burnout is very real for social entrepreneurs and people working in the nonprofit space. And even some people lose their families. And it can be it can take a toll. And I don’t want it to take a toll. I want people to continue to make the impact that they feel compelled to make. So do you maybe have your top two or three?

Speaker2: Yes, for me. And again, everyone’s wellness plan is going to be unique to them and everyone. Doctor, this other doctor, Denise, who I know who is in the class I had her as a guest lecture, likes to say we all have unique neuro style, so we all process and perceive in different ways. But for me, what works is taking a long walk. That’s when I’m most present, or if I’m swimming for some reason I get really present moment, but I also think like carving out time for those things. Because if we don’t carve out time to balance that balance between work and life along the way, it is going to catch up to us. And then it’s a lot more work to pull back and to create that balance. And if we live in that balance, you know, almost every day. And so for for me, it’s about like exercising and being like really intentional about doing something exercise oriented almost every day. The other thing that I like to lean on is the idea of positive psychology around negative thoughts to positive thoughts. And you might recall that you had to do an exercise where you counted up your negative thoughts every day and every time. Students are like, I don’t have any negative thoughts. What is this going to do for me? Or is it bad that I’m.

Speaker2: Rounding up my negative thoughts is that draw attention to my negative thoughts. And in fact, what it teaches you to do is to be really aware because oftentimes negative thoughts just come in and we don’t even realize that we’re going down that rabbit hole. So to be aware of that and to kind of stop it in its tracks or acknowledge knowledge, why am I having a negative thought and and and face it, rather than dismiss it or not even be aware of it? Because the goal in positive psychology is to get to not to eliminate all negative thoughts. That’s impossible. We’re humans and we have stressors and we have things that go wrong in our lives. You’re going to have negative thoughts around those. But to get to a place where you’re at a 3 to 1 ratio and now they’re even talking about a 5 to 1 ratio where for, you know, you only have one negative thought for every 3 to 5 positive thoughts. And that to me is something that I think about, like when I start spiraling into negative thinking, I know I have to get back to, okay, what are three positive thoughts I can have right now for the one negative thought?

Speaker1: So that’s great advice for sure. And then the last one is how can I, meaning all of us that are listening, make an impact in our communities or world in general?

Speaker2: Well, I mean, like we said before, you first start with understanding what your passion is and don’t ignore what fires you up inside because you don’t think it’s right or you think you should be doing something else and then start small. We all can have an impact in whatever we do, but I like the idea of starting. You’ve covered this in Lean Startup start small scale fast, so where can you have the most influence in a situation, right? Is it in your office? Is it in your family? Is it in your neighborhood? Is it in your school? Is it in your local council? Whatever it is, you know, you can have some influence there. So you want to start there and then build your portfolio to scale from there. And I would argue that you also want to understand what is the impact that you’re looking to do and work backwards from there. So understand what end game you really would want to have. That’s sort of your vision. That’s why the vision is so important. Like where are where would you ideally want your passion point to land you and then build your strategy by working backwards?

Speaker1: Great. That is so great. Dr. Dy, thank you so much. So many brilliant nuggets throughout all of this. I can’t wait to listen to it over and over again.

Speaker3: Listen to my own podcast over and over again. I’m going to because.

Speaker1: I think that there are so many takeaways throughout this conversation. And I do want to thank you again for sharing your personal story and your journey. What an incredible road that you’ve traveled. And I know that there’s going to be thousands of people that carry on the legacy that you’ve taught them. So I’m very grateful for your implantation into my life and and our cohort and all the others. So thank you again for sharing and being on this podcast.

Speaker2: Well, I’m very appreciative for you and I’m I’m honored to be asked to be here. And it was a great conversation. So thank you very much.

Speaker1: Thank you. Oh. I’d like to thank Dr. D once again for joining the Social Impact podcast, as you can tell. She has a lot going on, so I’m really grateful that she shared her wisdom with all of us. If you’d like to share your story with me, I would love to hear it. Please feel free to reach out via the website The Social Impact Echo or you can reach out to me on Instagram via at BRI Underscore. Jensen Underscore. I’d love to hear about the projects you’re working on, the business that you’re doing, and if you need a coach or a consultant, we can offer that as well. Next week on the Social Impact podcast, I had so much fun catching up with my friend Yolanda Robinson. We did Rachel’s Challenge Together, which is the leading school assembly program in the nation, based on the first victim of the Columbine High School shooting. So we’re going to be sharing impact stories from the road, what it was like being with middle school and high schoolers and promoting kindness and compassion. So make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode and we’ll see you next week.


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