EP 53: Soul Purpose for the C-Suite
Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Get ready for a very timely and very purposeful conversation today. My guest is Kirk Souder, co-founder and leadership coach at Enso, Leadership for Impact. Kirk and I are, let’s call it kindred spirits and that he coaches high impact creative leaders to find their greatest possibilities in authentic leadership, purpose and impact. Kirk welcome to the show. I literally could not be more excited for this conversation.
Kirk: Thanks Kelly. It's really great to be here and from our talks previously, you're right, we're very kindred, kindred spirits and souls. It’s going to be a lot of fun I think.
Kelly: So I do absolutely want to talk about the Soul Purpose Conference that's coming up later this month but I really want to start with your journey. We have very similar journeys and in the book that I'm writing we’ll kind of delve into how many people have a similar journey but I want to talk about your journey from the perspective of how that led you to leave your role from president and chief creative officer to pursue what felt truly authentic to you?
Kirk: Absolutely. In a very quick nutshell, I started as a creative in the business, startup in New York and moved out to Los Angeles. I started a company called Ground Zero. It was a very creatively accolated agency that we need to expand into the industry, eventually became President and CCO of Riney Publicist in San Francisco. It was one of those moments where you seemingly arrive where you always wanted to arrive at and yet kind of like finding this beautifully wrapped gift package you always wanted to get and you open it up and there's really not a lot inside. I spent two years in that role and finally became aware of it. As I was going to work I was experiencing dread.
First time in my life, instead of feeling excitement about what was going to happen that day, I was feeling dread and the one thing that lit me up in my whole week whenever I was at work was I would get two or three phone calls coz I'm a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed at the age of eighteen with what was then a terminal prognosis of sarcoma and managed to get through that and the big gift from that, got many gifts from that but one of them is I am on call to many hospitals and so on when a new patient comes in. These calls with these patients were so powerful coz I got to be a part of uplifting their consciousness about what was happening and I said maybe the dread I'm feeling with the traditional spaces is because I’m meant to do something else.
And because of my cancer experience, because I was very intimately aware of the finiteness of this existence wherein I resigned from my role and went back to grad school in a very experiential program, a masters in spiritual psychology. And it became way more for me than just becoming a counselor or something. It was a life-changing experience, an awakening to who I really am and what was really possible in life. And so, as I was nearing the time to leave that, I found myself in that my soul really said it's about going out and being of service and purpose, and my brain was saying but we have to make a living. You got a couple kids, they’re going to college in the future. This kind of polarity which was stopping me and through the experiential part of this program that I was in, I became aware that, that was just an idea I had. That wasn’t real. That was a notion.
Kelly: Right. And I wanna read the quote that actually was in the email for when you actually announced Soul Purpose, you said you have to make a choice, what brings you alive or what keeps you alive, you can't have both. You have your work that keeps you in your family fed and you have your doing good at stuff is on the other side that lights you up. It's not possible to bring them together. So what I would love to ask is tell us how you really dismantled that line of thinking coz that polarity is very strong and there is a reality to both parts, right? So how did you dismantle that?
Kirk: Well, I became aware because of the training I was. The difference between what is my personal thinking and what is my true wisdom, my soul’s wisdom. And when I would go into my soul’s wisdom, it was like who said that, like that's not, there’s not some Rosetta stone in the universe that’s like chiseled into. It’s made up. The reality is flexible, flexible as our belief systems are. So there is this wonderful work by an ecstatic poet, The Soul of Rumi, our words become the house we live in. And what he's saying is our reality is our beliefs.
So when I saw that, when I gave awareness to that thought, that it was just a thought, and I really accepted a world where I could do something that really brings me alive, that had purpose to it. And, make a good living at it. And within two days I got a call from a company in Washington DC I had never heard of called GMMB. It was kind of an agency PR company, a little company but all they did was positive impact projects and progressive politics and by the way, he said were the lead agency for a bummer for America, we’d love him to come in and be our partner and creative director and it was like popped up the moment I accepted the possibility of that as a belief.
So to make a long story short, being able to work on that campaign made then president elect Obama inspired me to come back to California and my family went to come back in California and started Enso, a company that is half agency, half innovation consultancy. We call ourselves an impact agency. We create big initiatives for big brands to make the world better.
And what I do is lead our leadership for impact group which is to actually work one on one with the consciousness of leaders with coaching of leaders to have them be able to make the same mark I did so they can bring innovation and purpose and whatever comes forward for them into their business platforms that they’re working in. It's the most amazing work in the world to see a leader who is over a sizeable global platform have their own awakening and then want to see that in the products and services of their brand and create a meaningful profit while they're doing it. That's what sustains it. That's what sustains the good works.
They’re not opposites. They’re complimentary.
Kelly: You are speaking my language. I love the fact that you really emphasized and, because I think and, the and culture, it's like when we’re having a conversation with someone and we're affirming of them, we say yes and, and then we build on it, right? So that's sort of what you're doing when you talk about this. In terms of the coaching, can you share an example from the leadership coaching perspective of maybe a client that you work with where you actually saw the impact of your work, how the inner work with them impacted the outer world? I think that would be a great example to share .
Kirk: Sure. When we did our very first Soul Purpose, a woman came who I had met a couple times casually. Her name’s Kim Culmone. She is the Senior Vice President and Global Product Design at Mattel. When she came to Soul Purpose, she had started to think about purpose in her life and in her business. And was honestly on the fence at that time of whether she was to stay with the company or to go and start her own kind of nonprofit. She identified through Soul Purpose that her inner thing is to really empower the disenfranchised of the world somehow and girls around the world give them empowerment.
And so, through work at Soul Purpose, she came to be understanding that why would I go out into the world to start something new to do that when I am sitting on one of the biggest global platforms that exist, that is touching the lives of millions of girls every day. And what she had already starting to put into works but what she really then brought out into the world was a whole new different line of Barbies. She really revolutionized Barbie as a doll in that she had already been working on a diversity line of Barbies of different colors, different races, different ethnicities, new body shapes and body sizes. Later, when we started, after Soul Purpose she asked me to become her coach and we start to coach together and one by one we were able to let go of any limiting believe she had around her ability to bring these ideas forth in this company and that they would be accepted, not rejected.
She had limiting beliefs going on about like would it be objected, would it not work, if I fail, doing all purpose oriented projects and so on. So through our work together, she's able to let all that go and provide a space for greater flow of these purpose oriented products moving out into the world so that more and more girls could see themselves as part of the cultural story and know that as they were, they were okay. And even late in the last six months, Kim has released a disabled line of Barbies; Barbie in a wheelchair, Barbie with a prosthetic limb, which are also, all of these things had become major business drivers for the brand and creates this spiritual cycle of purpose and profit that’s so important.
Kelly: Yeah. I love it. I was getting goosebumps as you're talking about that because I think the real impact is it's not for the business. It is not really even for Kim. It's for the legacy and for the empowerment of these girls who have never seen anything other in their lifetime other than this perfect Barbie, that airbrushed Photoshop magazine covers and now they realize Barbie has always been beautiful. Now there are Barbie’s that look just like me and they're just as beautiful and that narrative is what really what we need to be sharing in the world so I love it.
Kirk: And that came from really, I want to empathize what that came from was yes Kim wanting to do something purposeful impact in the world. But there was one step before that which is Kim, think who she really is, as this being having this human experience and it's from that place that these ideas and energy flow so really great. Very up to date dispatch about this is two weekends ago I took Kim to a prison workshop that I do two or three times a year and the women's present are helping the inmates of this prison do the same thing kind of let go of their judgments.
Most of them have been sexually abused and physically abused, kind of what brought them into the life of crime. And I brought Kim there to be the miracle of when we do this work even with this in maximum security prison with lifer inmates how the same process can happen and it is such a joy to see Kim’s facilitation of these women. And these women like waking up and realizing that they do were not there conditioning their behaviors. But these incredible beings who could go out and not repeat their crimes. It was a beautiful part to this and seeing Kim be able to become part of that.
Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. So to that end, why do you think most people believe that that outer experience influences their inner reality? Like where do you think that that comes from and maybe even how can we start to change those narratives?
Kirk: Yeah, so it's simple enough how it happens, which is people, they engage in this human experience something happens and instead of just observing it for what it is, we have this construct in ourselves, in our brains called the ego and its job is to kind of categorize and protect and so on. So when something happens that is in our preference, the ego says that's bad and that creates fear and worry and we feel sad. Instead, that there's another way of doing it which is to say that is not something that's bad or good. That's just something that's happening. How do I use it for my upliftment? And as a result when we get the things that are inside, then all of a sudden, our outside changes because all the outside is a reflection of what our current beliefs and thoughts are. And so the more we shift what's inside, the more the outside will shift and that enables us to break the illusion that we're a victim of what's happening on the outside. Not, it’s a projection of ours.
Kelly: Right. Absolutely. And it's such an important conversation because these things, these programming, the past experiences, whatever these conditions are, we keep telling ourselves the same thing over and over again and we're basically just being tested to see how and when we're actually gonna break the cycle. Because breaking the cycle is what it's all about. Changing the whole narrative and that's where the real work is, that's where the redefining what success means to us. That's where we can kind of come into our own purpose and still be profitable.
Kirk: That's the big proof Kelly what you just said which is when we begin to notice patterns in our life, well why is that pattern happening? The pattern is happening because we keep creating a situation like again inner reality, creating out of experience. We keep creating that same situation until we respond to it differently. The Albert Einstein quote that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When we change our response to that pattern, then everything else changes like what you’re describing. That is kind of proof of what we're talking about.
Kelly: Absolutely. So as we start to wrap up this conversation which I wish we could have the show for three more hours, but as we start to wrap up, I would love for you to share some details about Soul Purpose coming out later this month and just share a little bit more about that, how people can learn about it, what they can expect, all sorts of things like that.
Kirk: Absolutely. So what sole purpose really is, is kind of like a 2 and a half day boot camp for high impact leaders to come together from around the world. Right now we have them coming from Berlin, Rome, London, Latin America, all over America to come and literally experience this far from where they are now to fully and absolutely seeing who they are and what's available to them in terms of purpose and meaning. And then how to actualize it in their current business platforms or beyond. So it's over the last ten years of my work with leaders on that, it is like let's bring it out to a lot of people at the same time and that's the format of Soul Purpose.
As a result, you have leaders who are going back to their teens and really redefining how they're going to bring new products and services be in that profit model. I use Kim again as an example. Kim went back and did an entire Soul Purpose, for the entire design division of Mattel to have everyone be able to think this way in terms of possibilities, not in strengths of the ego. So that's what happens in Soul Purpose. Leaders lead with not just the plan for kind of actualizing what brings them alive within their platform, but a core group of collaborators from the workshop as kind of an accountability and support group so that they're staying in touch with that energy that they were part of and it helps them maintain that going out into the world.
Kelly: And dates, times, location?
Kirk: Right. So we decided to have this one right smack in the belly of the business universe, which is in the financial World Trade Center district of New York City. We’re having at The New York Academy of Sciences, which is 49 floors above the World Trade Center area and the dates are September 20, 21st, and 22nd.
Kelly: Great. And so you can find out a little bit more about that at soulpurposenow.com and I will definitely put that in the show notes for everyone as well as a link to your website Kirk. Thank you so much for this conversation. It's near and dear to my heart but I'm really hoping that other people are getting as much out of it as you and I have and just can't thank you enough for your time today.
Kirk: Well, I can't thank you enough Kelly for actually courageously bringing this work out to this industry which for me is so right to use it to make big change in the world. You are the most abled to do it as communicators.
Kelly: Thank you.