When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?
I’m practicing it as I write this. I’m breathing. I’m sitting in solitude. I’ve created a gentle and calm environment because the week has been busy and people-filled.
I’m carving time to go slow, pause, and take deep breaths. I also practiced yoga earlier, as I do every day. It’s like brushing my teeth. It’s integral to how I roll!
Taking care of myself is a contribution to my sustainability and to that of everyone in relationship to me, that is to say, everyone everywhere. The more I take care of myself, the better off I am, the better I am able to contribute and be an instrument of the work, change, transformation I seek to embody and that I espouse in the world.
Self-care is also about tuning the “container” – mind – body – and clearing/cleaning them of doubt and obstacles and distractions. It liberates a lot of creative lifeforce. It is preparation. The spirit flows more easily through the container when the container is clear.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Nope! I always wanted to be an instrument of change and positive social impact in the world. I cared about people and the planet pretty much since I arrived on it so I just wanted to reduce people’s suffering and address the inequities, injustices and shadows I saw in the world.
Business and entrepreneurship was a vehicle for me to plug into the existing marketplace- which I view as a place where we can all share, contribute, and exchange our inner light, potential, gifts, talents, and creations. It’s a spiritual marketplace as much as it’s an economic or material one. That’s the lens I bring to it.
What are the most important skills you have as a business owner and leader?
Self-awareness,. self-responsibility, and self-trust are the most critical leadership skills that I am always attending to, in the practice of and developing as a leader. The more aware I am of myself and how I show up, the more effectively I can contribute what I have to offer and the better I understand the people around me.
The more responsible I am for myself, the less I burden those around me with wants and needs that I, myself, am capable of fulfilling from within. And power and responsibility go together. If I locate the responsibility for things outside of myself – i.e. blame others or the world for how I’m feeling or what I’m experiencing, my power goes right out with that blame!
The more responsible I am for my own experience, the more power I have to create what that is. This applies to business relationships in very concrete ways and allows me to navigate them much more effectively and efficiently; I spend less time worrying, doubting, feeling disempowered. And more time listening, considering my actions, behaviors, and opportunities.
Finally, trusting myself – the idea that who I am, exactly as I am is plenty enough, allows me to make bolder moves and take the risk of being authentic, which sometimes means being radical, going against conventional wisdom, and forging a different kind of path.
So far, so good. I don’t think I’d be fulfilled any other way. And people and clients respond. I think we actually really want to meet and connect with the real versions of each other.
So much of what I learned through my work and life experiences could best be summed up as this: the change we seek in the world cannot manifest unless we ourselves are the change. – Nita Baum
What’s the best part about being a freelancer?
The freedom and autonomy to listen to my natural rhythms, cycles, and needs whether they be for rest, solitude, or to roam freely through the wilderness of my creativity are some of the best things about being a freelancer.
Getting to read, study, and be self-directed in my own learning and professional growth journey is also amazing. I never felt I had enough time to simply immerse myself in deep study, thought and reflection when I was working. It seemed unproductive back then.
It’s super-generative for me and feels great now! Being free to create when I am in a state that demands that I do so is also a true gift, whether what I’m creating is a budget, a chapter in a book I’m writing, curriculum for our program or designing a workshop.
What’s the worst part about being a freelancer?
I find this honestly hard to answer. I wouldn’t choose not to be one. Having to pay for your own health insurance sucks. Having the time to be proactive about self-care is awesome though.
Why is it important to emphasize individuals’ sustainability and well-being in freelance and business at large?
I think this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sums it up best: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…this is the inter-related structure of reality.”
The sustainability and well-being of the individual is contingent on that of the collective and vice versa. They are mutually reinforcing. For us all to thrive and not just survive, each of us must thrive.
What are the origins of b*free?
In 2012, Alight, my first business, a freelance strategy, policy and org change consultancy was thriving but/and I was aware that I was ready to pivot. I had an internal sense of misalignment with the values of the organizations I was working with, and there was a nascent, if growing sense, that there was a next step in my personal growth and development journey (to me, that’s life, a learning journey).
I had changed and learned so much since first founding Alight, a freelance strategy, policy and org change consultancy intended to make large-scale positive social impact primarily through the education sector.
So much of what I learned through my work and life experiences could best be summed up as this: the change we seek in the world cannot manifest unless we ourselves are the change. In short, we – each of us- needs to embody the change we seek to see in the world.
Why? Well, because each of us alone and all of us together are the world. With that growing awareness, I served as the architect of an experimental process for myself that made me very uncomfortable.
With the luxury of savings, I decided to put my work on hold and embark on a journey I later called “Curating My Inspiration” (curating comes from “curare” which means “to take care”) which involved becoming very discerning, deliberate and mindful about what I consumed- from conversations to music to talks to food to the air I breathed to art I experienced to relationships.
By “curate” I mean, I preserved what resonated, paused/exited what didn’t, tried new things that resonated, and engaged deeply with those things.
The primary intention was “only consume that which resonates with my inner knowing very deeply.” The experiment was based on the idea that if I aligned what I consumed to only what felt most resonant, perhaps what I would create/produce would also be aligned to my deeper knowing. Vary the inputs to vary the outputs? During that process, I realized a lot about myself, my capacity as a leader, and also reflected on the whitespace in my life and realized the I had been working with would-be freelancers + solopreneurs of all stripes on a pro bono basis (a couple hundred people! without even realizing it). I could see the patterns and convergence in what they were seeking. That period of reflection also made me clearer on my own skills.
And ultimately, at the end of 9 months, the idea for b*free was born! b*free would integrate multiple threads of my background: personal development, wellness, and business skills to equip individuals with a holistic approach to working and living sustainably and freely.
Whether we are working with freelancers/solopreneurs or leaders/teams, we take that holistic approach and ecosystem view of the individual as mind-body-spirit at work, and attend to the whole individual through our programs and learning experiences.
When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?
When I first quit my last full-time job and was asked the question, “Who are you and what do you do?” I didn’t know how to answer that without stumbling over myself and getting in my own way.
At every turn, I encountered some inner narrative I held about what I should have been, wasn’t and therefore, why I was “wrong” for being who I was. I felt like I was supposed to have answers I didn’t have. It was so rough. And so beautiful.
It led to this question: When I can no longer define myself by the school, organization, or groups with which I am affiliated, who am I? That became a transformative journey of self-discovery. It taught me a lot about the way I wanted to do business and life as well.
What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?
As a 40-year old who looks young, as a woman of color who is “petite” as many people describe me, I sometimes find myself feeling the need to prove my strength, to tell people my age, to dispel the perception that I am weak because I am physically small and lesser because I’m colorful.
I experiment with how to navigate this. Do I need to address perceptions people may have of me? To what end? Historically, I opted not to. It didn’t seem valuable. It seemed a lot more about my ego and fairly self-indulgent. Also, usually, the moment I open my mouth to voice myself, the perception shifts in my favor. People listen. They trust me.
They know I’m serious and can sense I really care, listen, and having something to contribute. More recently, I’ve begun seeing the challenge differently now. It feels like in addressing it, I’m taking a stand. I stand for women. I stand for people of color. I stand for building a more inclusive, just, and equitable world.
I stand for all of us being seen,voiced, heard, expressed and being valued on the basis of our merits.
So, I have decided that if I feel there’s unconscious bias at play in my relationships, I’ll raise it. To be in the inquiry of it. To learn. To learn together with whomever I’m discussing it with. I’ve done it and I’ve found it has opened up very positive and healthy dialogue. I’m in the ongoing inquiry of navigating all this and it’s uncomfortable in ways I welcome, resist!, and know that I grow from.
What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?
I presume abundance in all of humanity. We come free, gifted, equal, in power and grounded. I became clear the more I paid attention and listened to what I heard and what was reflected back to me through all of my relationships including the one to myself. Listening has been key to becoming clear.
I stand for all of us being seen,voiced, heard, expressed and being valued on the basis of our merits. – Nita Baum
What’s something you’re working to unlearn?
I’m still unlearning that my worth is contingent on how much I give. I am inherently worthy of this incredible gift that is life. May my contributions do that justice and honor.
And may I keep learning that contributing to my own well-being is one of the best contributions I can make to the world. I am part of the world. As I heal me, I heal us.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?
There’s no other way out but through!
- What if you embrace self-doubt, but/and! treat it as a step on the pathway to self-discovery?
- What happens if you get curious about what your self-doubt has to tell you?
- What it wants to illuminate for you?
- How can you do this?
First notice the physical and emotional sensations that arise with the doubt. Locate them in your body. Where are the sensations?
Ask them a question, with a sense of curiosity about that answer, and then listen for the answer. “What are you here to tell me, sensation-that- feels-like-self-doubt? What information are you here to offer me?”
on’t stop til you get an answer that is an opening, instead of a dead end. Judgments lead to dead ends. “You’re bad.” “You can’t do this.” “You’re not worthy.”
These statements don’t really open a doorway. Not a wide enough one to walk through anyway. They are door closers. By contrast, “Your ops plan isn’t detailed enough and you forgot to add that travel expense to your line item budget.”
Or. “Oh psych! I am just a temporary sensation and I’m going away now. Nothing here to see. You’re good. Keep on going!”
The array of possible answers that arise when you get curious vs. judge, is vast. And that clarity diminishes the power of the doubt. It reveals what’s behind the veil of doubt.
It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work. What’s your five word acceptance speech?
May all beings be free.
Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?
Bryan Santiago is an incredibly gifted creative strategist who helps great people amplify their work in the world. He’s been instrumental at b*free.
Jahan Mantin and Boyuan Gao of Project Inkblot created Design for Diversity, which helps illuminate blind spots around cultural and racial biases in how we design content, products, and services. Such beautiful work that is building awareness and raising consciousness.
Prashant Goel is the founder of Imaginally, and is an incredibly compassionate, intelligent and skilled coach. Words don’t do him justice. Just work with him!
Eduardo Placer is the incredibly gifted and mult-talented founder of Fearless Communicators, a dynamic public speaking coaching agency that empowers leaders and change-makers to share their voice and story from a space of authentic POWER and uses the mind, body, and spirit to unlock people’s voices.
Nita’s an entrepreneur, facilitator, coach and the founder of b*free, a human experience and culture company. Individuals are the creative life-force of an organization, whether they are building and leading an org or working at one. Equipped with a holistic ecosystem view of the individual as mind-body-spirit at work, we design transformative learning experiences and provide advisory, coaching and facilitation services for individual and organizational transformation, sustainability and well-being. Learn more about Nita and connect: Twitter + Web + Services. Send Nita an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about 1 to 1 coaching, their online program- coming soon!