PortfolioCast

PortfolioCast from The Portfolio Collective: Ep.6 with Wellbeing & Business Consultant Cara de Lange

November 14, 2020 The Portfolio Collective Season 1 Episode 6
PortfolioCast
PortfolioCast from The Portfolio Collective: Ep.6 with Wellbeing & Business Consultant Cara de Lange
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Episode 6

We interview Cara de Lange, on:

  • creating your own schedule to avoid burnout
  • lockdown and the acceptance commitment method
  • getting perspective on loneliness 
  • dialling your career up and down
  • and how it takes a tribe.

With her career foundations in business administration for global organisations including Google, Cara has taken her Mental Health advocacy to the next level, continuing her portfolio career as a wellbeing and business consultant, founder, author, and change maker.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Welcome to the sixth episode of PortfolioCast. Today we're speaking with Cara de Lange. We've had career foundations in business administration for global organisations, including Google, Cara has taken her mental health advocacy to the next level, continuing her portfolio career, as well as a wellbeing and business consultant, founder, author, and Changemaker. Welcome, Cara.

Cara de Lange:

Thank you, Lexi. I'm really excited to be here today.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Brilliant. So you've taken the skills that you've learned along what many would see as a traditional career path within business administration, to pivot yourself as a mental health advocate, and expert in your portfolio career. If we may, let's start with what prompted you to move towards this new career path?

Cara de Lange:

Yes, well, I've always been interested, I guess in what gets people stressed, and what's the psychology behind it and why we sort of all are busy, busy, busy and rush, rush, rush and goal focus. It wasn't really until I went through a burnout to myself, quite a few years ago now, that it completely changed my life and my outlook on life. And I just got even more curious. And not only had I gone through this thing, I started to look around, and I saw other people as well. So this led me to research. And that actually then also led me to write my book, Softer Success, for which is helping people prevent burnout, find balance and redefine their success. And I think, really, what came is that I just so passionately cared about other people not going through the same thing that I had gone through and burnout, it can absolutely be prevented. And now I work with thousands of people and help them prevent it. But it's quite a sort of long build up, and we don't always see it coming. And that's really where I like to help people and say, Look, this is what can happen, these are the things to look out for. And you know, looking after our mental health is just as important as looking after our physical health. And yeah, suddenly, with that came other things. I found myself on this portfolio career path that sort of came by accident really. The burnout happened, I started writing the book that then led me to set up my business in wellbeing consultancy and then other things have come I started writing children's books and children's stories all about kindness and mental health. It's all sort of pivoting in different areas. I guess the fact that I went through a horrible, burnout was my main catalyst for completely changing things and wanting to help people live a more peaceful, balanced life.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah, I'm really interested in about how - you know, I've had my own mental health struggles and - to be able to change that to be able to pivot on the fact that you've experienced that yourself, and then you want to go into prevention for others, is really interesting. But obviously, you've got to dig even deeper within yourself, right? To be able to kind of peel back the onion layers to work out how it happened for you, or why it happened, then help other people.

Cara de Lange:

Absolutely. And that was the hard part, right? I had to peel off all these onion layers, I had to understand and really go into my perfectionistic self, and understand, you know, how I got there, and what I needed to do to change. And that was not easy, because you're face up to some facts that the way that you are may not have been the right way. And by then I'd had some kids as well. And I wanted to show them a good example, I guess I was trying to do everything too well, you know, that's what we try and strive and and then this burnout happened. And you're so right, it's about going into all of those layers, and then facing your fears. Right? I was really fearful of discovering what I could find there, but also about what I wanted to do to help people. Like I was super afraid of standing up and talking in front of people. And in the beginning, almost a bit embarrassed about sharing my experience.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah.

Cara de Lange:

And then in the end, I ended up writing, now it's in blogs. And it's almost the more that I shared what had happened. And I could see how it was also helping people, the easier it got, if that makes sense?

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah.

Cara de Lange:

This is facing your fears, your biggest fears, turning them into a success really.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah, I think certainly with regards portfolio careers, there's an element of it where you do have to face your fears. And you also have to own your story and that whole thing about understanding your story and understanding who you are and what you want to be and owning that and showing all of yourself and there is a level of vulnerability that comes with having a portfolio career because you're not carrying on down a perhaps more "normal" route that is often seen, or a, a kind of a perfect way of working?

Cara de Lange:

Absolutely. I mean, I do, I think it may become the norm that portfolio careers I think are probably heading towards the norm. And actually, I also think that it was very easy for me to maybe continue in a corporate world and life. But inside, I felt I was different. There was just this feeling coming out of wanting to help others and I needed to act on it. But it's taking a leap of faith, right, and the balance as well, the portfolio career, you know, you did different things and challenges that come with it. So far, I love it.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

We talk about perfectionism, and and that's often tied up with how we view our success. And what is success? And I wondered, how did you previously define success? And how do you define it? Or rather, how have you redefined

Cara de Lange:

Yeah, so I wrote about that in my book. And it it now? was that was really important factor for me to explore. Because success, for me before, was very much about meeting my goals. I wanted the perfect job, the next promotion, I wanted to earn the right money, have everything, good health, you know, very goals focused. And I realised that now that's not being successful for me. So being successful is being healthy and well, and living more of a values focused life. So I still have got goals. But I am enjoying the way to get there. I guess I'm curious, I'm using my creativity more, making still time to have fun and self care. And the fact that I've got a portfolio career and a fairly busy life doesn't mean that I can't go out and have joyful moments and not just work all the time. No, it's about enjoying the journey and living a values based life. I guess that's what does success is for me being healthy and well, because ultimately, right? If we're not healthy, and feeling well, physically and emotionally and mentally, how are we going to be able to enjoy our success? Because you can get to that point where you're like, well, I've managed to do to get to the goals and things I wanted to reach, but I'm actually not feeling really great. You know, you want to be able to be healthy and well, and live a values based life while working towards your goals.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah,

Cara de Lange:

Yeah, balance is key.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Balance always a question that comes up. And everybody sees it as a scale. Right? And you you've tipped between work and life. I've talked about with others about how you kind of integrate work and life together, rather than balance it. How have you found balancing your portfolio career, your family life, your mental health? How have you gone about that?

Cara de Lange:

Yeah, so obviously, I had to learn from absolute scratch because I wasn't looking after myself. Well, before I went and had a burnout. Or actually I thought I was, let's put it that way. That's why I come in and talk to lots of people saying, well, you may think that you're doing all the right things and ticking off the right boxes. But sometimes, there are other things we need to do in order to prevent burnout. And the way that I balance it is, I make sure that I'm running on my own schedule. So even though I'm in a portfolio career, even when I was post my burnout back, in the office, it's very easy to get caught up against other people or stakeholders, clients, I want you to do this and that and deadlines. But making sure that my own schedule is 100% clear. And there are three ways that I do that. So first of all, at the end of the day, and I have always a start and dedicated finish time. But at the end of the day, my finish is that I've as I close down my laptop, and I always check my schedule and make sure that for the next day, I've got moments of joy planned in and a moment to connect to myself in the middle of the day. And but at the end of the day, I closed down my laptop. And I asked myself four questions. So the first one is what did I do really well, today? What did not go that well? Then what have I learnt? This is this curiosity. And who inspired me? So there are four questions, takes about two minutes. Then just before I go to bed, and our subconscious mind starts working on this, so just before I go to bed, I set a - it's like a bit of gratitude combined with a positive affirmation - so I'm always saying something like, "I'm so grateful for the day that I've had any challenges that I've faced, I've handled, you know, effectively. And tomorrow I'm looking forward to a peaceful, joyful and balanced day" or "I will be peaceful, joyful and balanced". So this is already programmed in my brain. So the moment that I wake up, I reiterate that and again, I have a few minutes of things that I'm grateful for. So it's the end of the day, the start of the day in the morning, just those two minutes when you wake up, and then I always take time in the middle of the day to just recalibrate and connect to myself. So get out of the head, back into the body in whatever way. So that could be meditation, I could go out for a bike ride, I could simply if I'm busy, just feel my palms and feel my toes and wriggle my toes. It could be something short. But there's always a moment that I take time to reconnect to myself. And I guess those three things help me stay balanced and in control of my own schedule.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's some really good tips in there. Thank you. Let's look at kind of what's going on in the world right now, as we're recording this, UK has gone into lockdown. And this isn't something that's just affecting the UK. It's, it's worldwide as we know, and there are many changes going on. And I wonder what changes to your own career or projects have you seen or have had to make this year?

Cara de Lange:

Well, I think like everybody, the beginning, earlier on in this year was a bit of a shock. I think we were all trying to process it. And I used it actually as a time for a lot of self work and self reflection. And then as a moment to to reset, We use at Softer Success a lot of the Act

methods:

so the acceptance commitment method. And one thing that I've noticed with clients is that often when we're resistant to something so all our wish that you know, there wasn't the virus, I wish that we didn't have to go into lockdown. I'm feeling anxious, the more that we wish, we don't want it, the worse we can feel. So taking a step back and saying things like "I noticed I'm anxious about going into another lockdown" just gets you into that sort of observer role. But I think it's a wonderful opportunity actually to pivot, to reset. If you haven't got a portfolio career now's the chance to set one up. I mean, there's a lot of change happening. There are people that are losing their jobs, which is not great. But again, this is an opportunity to maybe start something that you would really love. I mean, only yesterday, I was talking to a lady who helps people with videos in YouTube, and she's going to completely pivot and go into hypnotherapy. So because she wants to help her son. So I think this is the moment to accept what's happening. Take a step back, look after ourselves and see it as an opportunity for change.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah. Have you found that these changes have opened up more opportunities for you? Or do you see yourself moving in any other directions in the future? Because I know you've had quite a big pivot from Business Administration into the mental health field.

Cara de Lange:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I've started a whole bunch of partnerships now. And I've recently done a little bit of work for the United Nations, which is really, really great. And what I've seen is that sort of business is it goes in bubbles. And I think that's part of being a portfolio career that you know, you have your business up, and then it's a bit medium and then up. And you know, it goes into kind of a flow like that. And I'm wanting to help people prevent burnout and live a more peaceful, balanced life and look after their well being and mental health. So yeah, things are coming now.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Lockdown, especially for those of us who don't work regularly within teams - and certainly that's something that I faced when I first started freelancing, for example, because I wasn't a regular member of a team - could be facing a lot of loneliness right now, what few things would you recommend to those people in this position?

Cara de Lange:

Yeah, you know, we have to look at how you are as a person, right? Some people are extroverted and need to be with other people in order to function and others are introvert, and the introverts have probably enjoyed more the lockdown and being able to work from home. And loneliness is really horrible. But what I like to use, and what we use at Softer Success is the halt method. So it's basically taking a moment to stop during your day, and asking yourself, "what do I really need right now?" And then halt stands for hungry, angry, lonely or tired? So could some feelings come up? Because actually, you've been working away and you've not, you know, had enough to eat or to drink. Lonely? Do you need to call somebody? Are you do you need to process something? If you're angry? Or are you tired? Do you simply need to rest more. And I just want to share with you a little story about loneliness that may help people as well. So the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York did some research on Prisoners of War from the Vietnam War. And they they've been Prisoners of War and they'd been kept in these tiny prison cells for years. And these guys actually came out quite resilient. And that Mount Sinai Hospital was curious to find out why. And they found out there were three reasons why. And the first one was is they'd made connections. You'll think, how could they've made connections? They couldn't talk. They couldn't see each other. They were in cells on their own. But guess what? They developed a tapping mechanism. So a little mechanism of communicating with each other somehow on the walls. And this helped them. So connections are really, really important then what they also did is they accepted where they were. So they, you know, they had to accept it. But they also had this realistic optimism. So that's not your kind of, everything's gonna be okay, optimism, but more like, this is the situation we're in. So acceptance, this is what we're doing about it, we've developed this tapping mechanism to make connections to stay in touch, and we're helping each other through, and we're gonna get through this. So I guess my message here on loneliness is, we still are able to communicate with each other. And we may not be able to see people to give them hugs, but if these guys can do it, and this the study on, on ways of building resilience, so we can totally do it by just picking up the phone more often, and staying in touch with our friends and family and our nearest and dearest and thank goodness, we do have Zoom, we have WhatsApp, we have all ways to stay in touch, and also know that this is not going to be forever.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that's the hopeful thing, isn't it? It's not going to be forever. And there is smaller ways that we can connect with one another. Absolutely. That's brilliant. Likewise, with loneliness in lockdown, there can also be a lack of boundaries for anybody working from home, that kind of split. And we kind of talked about balance, but that that split between home and work life often becomes blurred, especially if you're working in the same place that you're living in, smaller spaces, etc. might not have a dedicated working space. What would be your top tip for avoiding burnout, while striving to meet everybody's needs in a small space? Because we don't all have big working spaces at home?

Cara de Lange:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, the biggest thing I can say is please set boundaries around technology. Our smartphones are great, our technology is great. But our minds are being bombarded with information all the time. If it's not work, it's news. It's media, it's social media. And we need a break from that. Because what's happening is it's affecting our concentration. I see this time and time with clients. So I guess the biggest tip is make sure you do a real recharge and not a fake recharge. So when I'm talking about a big recharges the client that you know is like "Well, I was quite good." He said I finished work at six and you know, working from home. And then I said what did you do after that? Well, he said, well, then I I just was scrolling on my phone and I checked social media. So how long did you do that for? Oh up until about 8-8.30. And then I felt quite tired and hungry. And I went well there you go! A whole lot of things that came up for him not then more feelings of isolation, because he wasn't connecting in the right way. He was comparing himself with other people. So this is sometimes what happens on social media. And that's just his thing, it may be different for everybody. But really make sure that you're recharging and doing a real recharge and not a fake recharge. So put the phone away unless you're using it for meditation or something, but then put it away and go and do something else that really recharges you, regularly.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

If you've got any tricks that you go back to, again, again, to ensure that you're balancing your responsibilities and your mental health?

Cara de Lange:

As I said, I work on the three steps. So I have a very strong start and end of the day. So we're calming and soothing my nervous system. I have a very positive start to the day and I always make sure that I take time to recalibrate and recharge in the middle of the day. And I guess another thing that's come up for me in terms of looking after my health and that covers mental health and physical health, has come up even more during this time, where we you'd have to stay more at home, is that I need to be out in nature. So as much fresh air as possible. And that's right there and we can still do that. So at Softer Success we talk about mind, body and soul care. You know, I use positive reframing, positive affirmation and meditation, body things like exercise and other ways to release stress from the body and making sure we sleep well and there all kinds of things. And then finally soul care for me the soul care is just being out in nature, grounding and connecting with the trees. So that's I guess what works for me.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

My partner and I know when we haven't been away for a while or haven't been out and had a proper break and got up to the mountains or gone walking because you can you can feel it in your body that haven't had that reconnection time. Working with some of the largest global companies means that you've seen what the so-called normal, or the previous normal, maybe, career path can look like. What do you see as the benefits to how you work as a portfolio professional?

Cara de Lange:

Yes, I've worked in big international companies all over the world, actually. So I know that that was the way of working for me before. And it worked, until I pushed myself into a burnout. And then I decided I wanted to do things differently. And I think the great thing about a portfolio career is that you're not just focused on one thing, there are other things that you can do as well, at the same time, and sometimes they blend together. Whereas in a company, you're often a little bit more bound to your role, your title, there are, you know, possibilities to do extra projects and things like that. But you still have to sort of keep on that title. Whereas in a portfolio career, if you find that - and people may be finding this now, right, during the reset in the time of lockdown - that something they may have been working on more in their portfolio career, suddenly that one is less, and then one of the other parts is gone up. You know, it's possible, right?

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

And you can dial up and down as needed, right?

Cara de Lange:

You can dial up and down. Exactly. And I think that's one of the great advantages of being in a portfolio career. And I actually, I like the combination of working from home and being out and seeing clients or not right at the moment, but the combination, so both things, it works for me, but everyone's different.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah. And who have you looked to as role models throughout your career? And how did they influence you? Because, obviously, we take a lot from our community, we take a lot from our network. But I wonder whether there was people in the beginning that really influenced you or people that really influenced you right now?

Cara de Lange:

There was actually an I remember distinctly a lady, and I was in one of my first or second jobs. And there was this lady who already had a portfolio career. And this was, you know, 20 odd years ago. So she worked in the business where I was working, but she worked there part time, right, so she did two and a half days there. Then she had something that she did, she was on consulting. And then on the side, she had a beauty salon. And I remember thinking, wow! And she managed it all so beautifully. And there was such an air of enjoyment and balance about her. I think this stuck in my in my mind. Yeah. I think she was a great inspiration.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

It's really important to have those people who show you that other things are possible, right?

Cara de Lange:

Absolutely. And I think we all have them. If we if we go back into our careers and the work that we've done, there will have been people that will have inspired us. That's why again, I like to end the day always and still think of somebody that's inspired me in whatever way because we can keep finding them. She was my big inspiration all those years ago that I thought this is amazing to have a career like this.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah. This is a question we often end on. Was there anything that you did when you first started your portfolio career that you would avoid if you were to start over?

Cara de Lange:

A couple of things, because I just threw myself into it without much guidance. And when setting up my website, I went through a guy that had been recommended by a fellow author via fiverr.com. The issue I found, though, that working with fiverr that everything had to go through the platform, and then there were crushes on the site, or problems, I would email this guy. And basically, I'd have to wait days for him to get back to me because he was just really, really slow. And so I think that was probably a mistake, because it meant that for a while my website was just unstable. I really learned from that right? And I've learned from from lots of different things, because I've never set up a business before. And now I've got a couple but right from the beginning, I had to learn how am I reconciling expenses? Where am I going to find an accountant? How do I set myself up? What kind of content? How am I writing out the content to go on my site... social media... you know, everything that sort of came with that. And I'm, you know, I write content now myself because I started writing books, but at the time, it was like, whew. Now, now we need to find the right editor. So it's just a whole bunch of things that we need to think of. But I think that was probably the biggest mistake that I made in terms of not protecting my website. So I would probably recommend if you're starting on a portfolio career, make sure that you get the ownership to your website and do it in a way that you can have access to the people that are managing it.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's so many things that within a portfolio career isn't just about how you would do or how you can do it, you might not have the skills and there's nothing wrong with that, you often need a tribe to make something happen. And you do need the support and your network and your community are really important. But of course, that takes trial and tribulation to find the right people to work in a way that works for you.

Cara de Lange:

I've learned from that, I think that's the great thing is I now know how to do a lot of things myself. For me, it was just great in terms of learning. So I fell, but I also learned and you know, I guess that's all part of it. We need a team of people that can help us, but you may not necessarily want to straightaway hire those people. Those can all be through different platforms. But just make sure that you're and the website, make sure that you protect that.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah, absolutely. If somebody was looking to start up their portfolio tomorrow, or they're sat here, facing redundancy or facing another lockdown, where they're put on furlough, what would your advice be to them right now? Where can they start?

Unknown:

I would actually start with, maybe not the practicalities, but digging down deep and writing out what they see as their portfolio career because the brain needs to understand what it's going to be for you. And often that needs to be, you know, written out. It doesn't have to be an official proper business plan, but just something that's written out so that you're, you're understanding the way that you want to go, and then just start. So there's a wonderful lady called Gosia Gorna, who, who wrote a book called The Expansion Games about turning your biggest fears into your biggest successes. So the thing that you're most fearful about, that's the thing that you just need to start doing? And it may not be perfect, but just start and see how it goes.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah, absolutely. That's exactly how we start off the Catapult course is, what are your skills? And where do you want to go with it? And sometimes you do need to have that reflection, because we so often are just in our lanes, and you need a little time to expand out of that.

Cara de Lange:

Absolutely. I knew that in order to do the work that I do. And to help people I would also have to be talking to people and standing up in front of them. And that was a huge fear for me. So I was so worried about doing that. And but after the first time I did it, I actually thought this wasn't as bad as I thought, you know. And I really, now I love it. I'm missing it. So I'm actually I do use virtual sessions, which I love. But I just also really love being in front of people talking.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Yeah, there's definitely something about portfolio careers that allows you to find these new skills or find these new loves that you didn't even realise you liked doing until you try them out and have that time to experiment.

Cara de Lange:

Yeah. And what about you? Lexi's? I'm just curious, what was your big thing that you learned?

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

The biggest thing that I learnt with hindsight, I wish I'd had TPC around when I first started freelancing because I had an amazing network that I could lean upon. And were very supportive, which definitely helped me and they were my community to begin with, but I have certainly been very strong base to my community. However, that was a lot of reaching out that I had to do and a lot of standing up and saying, I don't know how to do this. Can somebody help? Which is, like you said, it's a big scary thing to do. But yeah, some hand holding would have been lovely. And I'm learning stuff as well. Now, you know, even working with TPC, I'm learning more and more. This has been a really interesting chat. And thank you so much for joining us

Cara de Lange:

Thank you

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

I'm going to wrap it up there, but I wish you all the best with all your future endeavours.

Cara de Lange:

Thank you so much, Lexi. I really enjoyed chatting to you today and hope to see you soon at The Portfolio Collective.

Lexi Radcliffe-Hart:

Brilliant. Thanks very much, Cara.

Cara de Lange:

Thank you.

Creating your own schedule to avoid burnout
Lockdown and the acceptance commitment method
Getting perspective on loneliness
Dial your career up and down
It takes a tribe