Evolve: The Entrepreneur Mindset

Listening is not a skill, it's a lifestyle for Kyle Zamcheck

January 28, 2020 Kyle Zamcheck Season 1 Episode 4
Evolve: The Entrepreneur Mindset
Listening is not a skill, it's a lifestyle for Kyle Zamcheck
Chapters
Evolve: The Entrepreneur Mindset
Listening is not a skill, it's a lifestyle for Kyle Zamcheck
Jan 28, 2020 Season 1 Episode 4
Kyle Zamcheck

This episode is pivotal in this series as Kyle unfolds her genius knowledge of listening.  As the founder of Listenly.co, she practices listening every day.  Her insights are eye-opening and prescriptive.  I was honored to have this interview with Kyle and I am already planning my next episode with her in the future.   
I hope you will enjoy this enlightening time with Kyle Zamcheck! She is an expert on communication transformation. She’s a consultant, speaker, trainer, and coach! She has been on the executive leadership team in great tech companies like Jackrabbit mobile and now the company, Listenly, a digital platform that promotes emotional health through listening. She works with startups, Fortune 100 companies, and government institutions like the National Security Agency.  She helps transform leadership through one-on-one coaching with high-level executives and facilitating company-wide team training. She has a degree in theater and psychology with a focus on performing identify.





Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/entrepreneurmindset100)

Show Notes Transcript

This episode is pivotal in this series as Kyle unfolds her genius knowledge of listening.  As the founder of Listenly.co, she practices listening every day.  Her insights are eye-opening and prescriptive.  I was honored to have this interview with Kyle and I am already planning my next episode with her in the future.   
I hope you will enjoy this enlightening time with Kyle Zamcheck! She is an expert on communication transformation. She’s a consultant, speaker, trainer, and coach! She has been on the executive leadership team in great tech companies like Jackrabbit mobile and now the company, Listenly, a digital platform that promotes emotional health through listening. She works with startups, Fortune 100 companies, and government institutions like the National Security Agency.  She helps transform leadership through one-on-one coaching with high-level executives and facilitating company-wide team training. She has a degree in theater and psychology with a focus on performing identify.





Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/entrepreneurmindset100)

Todd OBrien :

Hello, this is Todd O'Brien, your host, and welcome to Evolve: the entrepreneur mindset.

Kyle Zamcheck :

My name is Kyle Zamcheck. My superpower is being so, so full of love for so many people in the world. I'm feeling really in it about being an entrepreneur.

Todd OBrien :

My guest today is an expert on communication transformation. She is a consultant, speaker, trainer, and coach. She has been on the executive leadership team in some great companies like Jackrabbit Mobile, and now the company Listenly, a digital platform to promote emotional health through listening. She works with startups, Fortune 100 companies, and government institutions like the National Security Agency on transformation leadership through one on one coaching with high level executives. She has a degree in Theatre and Psychology with a focus on Performing Identity. Please welcome to the show, Kyle Zamcheck. How you doing today?

Kyle Zamcheck :

Oh, I'm doing great.

Todd OBrien :

I am so excited to be here with you today. And this has been like the most magnificent and weird entrance into a podcast that could ever be. And, and I tell you, I'm loving it. I'm loving it already. I've got a huge smile on my face. I'm in East Austin, and I'm in this back house behind the place that you live with a bunch of other people who come through as entrepreneurs, right?

Kyle Zamcheck :

Yeah.

Todd OBrien :

And this house back here. It's just a really cool setting. And we did a fun little exercise to warm up the voice. I want to first of all just ask you about your degree, because your degree is in Performing Identity. What's behind that?

Kyle Zamcheck :

Well, I'm sure college is behind that. You create your own major, which it is the most amazing school, you don't have tests, you just have to really care about what you're doing and be pretty obsessive about it. So by the time you graduate, everyone who's stuck it out, is just obsessed with something that they're doing. So you create your own major. So Performing Identity was the creation and culmination of all of this work that I had been doing over the course of four years, which is a really great way to approach education because it mirrors how my professional life has been.

Todd OBrien :

Thanks for clearing that up. It's super interesting, just like you. I mean, you're a very interesting person. I met you a month and a half ago, and I was really drawn to the way you presented yourself and what you were doing. On our podcasts we don't typically talk about the companies too much because we want to talk about other things, but I want to just really quickly help everybody understand like, what's under the hood at Listenly? Like, how did you get to where you are today in this company? Because it's super interesting.

Kyle Zamcheck :

Actually, my business partner on Listenly was an Airbnb guest here at the house. At the time, I was running Jackrabbit Mobile Technology Company. I was getting really into blockchaining and started a little side blockchain consulting company, and he was also working on blockchain projects. So, a little while after he'd been a guest, me, the founder of Jackrabbit, him and another fellow, we all got together for a blockchain mastermind. We'd meet every other week, and we would talk about the projects that we're doing. And it became a bit like an opportunity to test out running these projects and getting each other's insights, thinking of course, that I was going to go into doing something deep in the world of blockchain, which Listenly is very, very far from. But that's where the collaboration first started, which blossomed out of this house. And then, Jeff and I, Jeff Senk is my co founder, ended up continuing to work together and Jonathan Rosenberg, the founder of Jackrabbit, was also a key player in bringing us into this world of emotions and what we're calling emotional tech.

Todd OBrien :

So cool how stories come together and how things are formed. And they're never what you think they're going to be. This has been my experience too. Like you go to do something, and then it just really changes a lot along the way. And I think the people in it are drivers of that, because we as people change quite a bit. You know, when I met you, you were talking a lot about curiosity. And it kept sparking my own curiosity, because I was doing a lot of these podcasts, and I was talking to a lot of different people, and I was getting curious about them. But then I realized that curiosity was sort of a theme throughout all of the podcasts in this first season that I'm working on. And I just wonder, like, how does curiosity play out in your life?

Kyle Zamcheck :

That's something I actually think a lot about, because I had started these various areas of my life, like I had this background in theater, even my education to bring it back there, where I had a discipline, and rather than just stay with what I knew, or was passionate about. Passion for me, was like, well, I can be passionate about so many things. What am I curious about? And that's a question that I ask myself all the time to help me figure out where do I want to go next? Because like I said, my superpower, I can really get like very excited about so many things. If there's dynamic energy there, it's like, Okay, I'm in, I'm curious, but I'm passionate. The curiosity piece, though, digs a little bit deeper. Or maybe I'm curious at a surface level, but how deep does that curiosity go? How much am I wanting this next thing? And I think that's a huge part of my mindset. Eventually, like when I was doing theater, you know, I might go back to doing theater and explore it. But I had done so many areas. I wasn't curious about it in the same way.

Todd OBrien :

Yeah. If we take it a few steps deeper on curiosity, what are you curious about right now?

Kyle Zamcheck :

Right now? I'm actually really curious about memory, and how do we create memories? The last four years have been some of the more wild years of my life, like the highest highs, lowest lows. How does my perception of the world and the mental patterns that I had walking into those events change the way that I perceive those events now? And how has that been a great source of strength for me? So memory is a really big thing for me right now.

Todd OBrien :

And how has curiosity like, improved or helped Listenly?

Kyle Zamcheck :

I think Listenly is a giant child that was birthed through curiosity.

Todd OBrien :

The reason I'm pulling this up is because this company feels so intertwined with you. I don't know what it is about it. And there's a story here, and I think it's worth like unpacking and uncovering, because there is more, there is more there.

Kyle Zamcheck :

There are so many answers to what you just said, and I'm like, Okay, I'm not going to try to synthesize a story to make it smaller. I'm just gonna offer areas of it. So like I said, I'm in a mastermind group, and that's where this started. And I ended up in a program, a leadership program out in the Bay Area with Jonathan Rosenberg, the founder of Jackrabbit, who's also my long term romantic partner, and it was with 38, I believe is the number, of other leaders. I thought I was going for leadership skills. But turns out you're, you're like sitting there crying and sobbing and talking about all of your emotional depth. I didn't know I had all of these things that were inside of me. And then it's only later you realize, like, Oh, you work at Google Brain? And oh, you run this company? But you know them on this whole other level. And the projects that I was starting to work on, they started to iterate the ones with Jeff and I started to do this smart journal that you could write in and then do sentiment analysis to better track like, how do we feel over time because we aren't the greatest predictors of how we're going to feel, and like recalling how DID we feel? And so something that happened for me that was hugely informative is when we went to go do that first workshop, Jonathan's mother and sister were killed in a car accident. And we flew back from California in a deep state of shock, and all of a sudden the priorities and what did we want in our lives and what were we focusing on, had shifted, but I had already shifted the emotional stuff I wanted to focus on, and so listening, and listening sessions, the specific practice that we're popularizing that I hope one day will be as a part of people's daily, weekly, monthly rituals as like meditation or going to the gym, that saved me during these incredible times that were so high and so low. And even just running a tech company with your long term romantic partner, Jonathan and I started doing this practice of listening sessions with each other and not having a language or a name for it until we started reading more literature and learning. There's a practice here that none of us know about, none of us are doing but was so wildly influential in my life. And so it was all of these emotional experiences that I felt like, it would be a disservice NOT to bring this to other people. And then I got curious about, well, how can I scale it? How can I bring that? How can I make this something that's more a part of everyone's lives and not just like, reserved for people who are able to go to San Francisco for these periods on weekends and do this level of work?

Todd OBrien :

Yeah, this is truly born out of something that's experience and real in your life every day, which is really inspiring. Like this is to me like the behind an entrepreneur, this is what really drives them, which leads me to ask you some other questions around intention. What sort of intentions do you set now every day to help you move forward in your life, in the company, in all the things that you're doing?

Kyle Zamcheck :

And where my head goes with that is like.... So intention? It's a great question. And it's funny because my business partner, he is the very logic brains one and he's really clear about very specific kinds of intention. And my answer would be like, my intention is a color. That's like a little bit where my head goes.

Todd OBrien :

What color is your intention?

Kyle Zamcheck :

It's like this warm yellow, and then some days it's like a light green.

Todd OBrien :

And what's behind the yellow and the light green?

Kyle Zamcheck :

I think it's the feeling that I want to bring to my day. And I think it's how am I approaching my day and what is the headspace that I'm going to approach today with? And part of that is because the kind of work that I'm doing, you know, with founders, it's all over the place. And sometimes it's super social and being out in the world, which is great. I'm super extroverted. Sometimes it's like sitting behind my computer and just knocking through things all day, which those are the hardest days for me. And it requires a different mindset. And so it's like rapid context switching between the kinds of work that I'm doing that it's almost like what is the headspace that I need to be brought to, and my mother is an art teacher, so maybe that's my color. Color is really like a mental setting for my brain. If I can bring it back to that, it can be really calming or really put the intention and then there's the like, typical intentions like for me right now, it's all about, can I get enough sleep? That's my biggest intention. And that's like to see is there a way that I can be present in in my body so I can fully be in this experience, which means I really need to sleep.

Todd OBrien :

Sleep is important and it's a valuable commodity, I think, to entrepreneurs who really live and breathe their work, so you're not alone in that. But I really like what you said about intention, because sometimes intention can be seen as a checklist of what you need to do, like, Oh, I have this is my intentions to do, and it's our goals and it's about that, it's showing up, right? Like you said, it's showing up in that color, it's showing up where you are, that may sound fluffy to people are listening, but it actually is very valid and true, to be present and to live on purpose every day. You can't do that if you never have any sleep, right? It's hard to live on purpose, but it's just following that intention when it comes too and that urge of where you want to go and living on purpose.

Kyle Zamcheck :

Totally. All of these things shape how we perceive the world and how we perceive our own worlds, like you're saying, and I do think it's easy sometimes to devalue things like as philosopher, as somehow fringy and not realizing, oh, my God, these are the skills that people are paying $400 an hour to get access to to actually shift the way that we're thinking.

Todd OBrien :

We're gonna take just a short break. We'll be right back. You spend a lot of time in London. I spend a lot of time in London. I was just there and I was interviewing several people, and one of the people that I interviewed was this guy named Laurence, who owns a company called Pavegen.

Kyle Zamcheck :

This guy is taking our human footsteps and turning them into energy. What do we think the city of New York could generate with all the walking that New Yorkers do?

Todd OBrien :

Could they light up Times Square?

Kyle Zamcheck :

I'd have to say yes. I mean, it's incredible. We need one of these in the Austin Airport. For as much as we're traveling, this needs to be in every airport in the world.

Todd OBrien :

So go check them out at pavegen.com

Unknown :

Connecting people to places.

Todd OBrien :

I like that.

Unknown :

It's their tagline.

Todd OBrien :

We should just create a commercial for them. Oh wait, we just did. Welcome back. We're with Kyle Zamcheck from Listenly. Let's talk about self awareness. I wonder for you, like how important is self awareness and how does it play out?

Kyle Zamcheck :

That's such a great question. That is I'd say the number one most important question that I would ask anyone that I was going to collaborate with, because self awareness to me is the difference between letting your ego get in the way of the company, and fully showing up to support what IS, not what you want to sugarcoat things to be. But somebody put it really well to me the other day, ruthlessly rooted in reality, and to be ruthlessly rooted in reality, you need to be willing to be self aware to the point at which it's humbling, and to allow yourself to be self aware about all of your greatest challenges in the faces of people you respect the most, which I hope would be your collaborators and the people that you're surrounding yourself with. You have to be willing to just like kill your ego again and again and again and again, until all of a sudden killing your ego feels great. You're like, Oh, good, like I just had feedback the other day from my business partner and trying to figure out what am I in like, focus mindset versus dual mindset where I'm multitasking and when is it a good time to be in which? And realizing I'm misfiring sometimes being like, splitting my focus when I really need to be focused on one conversation at hand. And I was like, This is great. Yeah, thanks for this, this was, I love getting feedback now that allows me to shift and to grow. And if I wasn't okay, without self awareness, then all of this feedback would create defensiveness. And I've seen versions of myself in the past, or we all see it in ourselves in different relationships that are like, prone to reading that defensiveness, instead of allowing ourselves to grow or allow ourselves to say okay, maybe you disagree with that feedback, but it tells you something about that other person. That self awareness piece, how it plays out, I think is how willing are you to sit with the challenges that are both the actual business challenges and then the interpersonal challenges that really are the things that make or break a company success.

Todd OBrien :

Wow. I feel like had a masterclass on self awareness. That was really amazing. I want you to expound a little bit on the ego side of things because I think we all carry some ego somewhere and to break that down. And I'm wondering like, how do you work with people who have really big, strong egos that are out in the room? And is this something that has to be like stripped away to the very bare core? Or is it something that people can sort of chip away at? How do we even start, if we don't know we're self-aware, but we think we're self aware, this happens a lot, too. So like, where do you start?

Kyle Zamcheck :

There's a few questions I want to tease out in what you just said. One is this idea of, you know, can you chip away at it? Or do you need to just strip all the way down? And I would say, well it depends on how much do you want to grow? And if you want to grow and you want to keep growing, and really fulfill all the different potential that you could, then strip that away. And if you want to chip away, and you want to slowly grow, and you're kind of okay, and you're content with that level and where you're at, then that's where you're at, and I'm not gonna, I don't want to sit here and shame somebody who's not interested in growth because that growth is also deeply painful. And I think there's a certain level of security and safety that you need to feel in order to do that work. That's part of why I feel like I'm able to do this work is that privilege of I feel safe, I fundamentally trust the world. And that's not a position of so many people because of circumstances that they've had in their childhood, or in relationships are able to say that. And it takes having a level of confidence to be willing to strip back your ego. So I think it starts there. Are you willing to be confident? Do you feel safe? And if you don't feel safe, well, then what do you need in order to create that safety so that you can start to strip that back and really look at, okay, how do I want to show up in the world, and the biggest way that I've seen it be impactful for people to allow their egos to kind of just be obliterated, as I like to put it, is to be surrounded by people you really respect, who you really trust, and who will call you on all of your shit. When you have that, and you're willing to listen, so you also need to be really good at listening, when you have that and you're willing to listen, your ability to allow yourself to just obliterate that ego, you have a much greater chance of it when you're doing that in relationship to others. So sitting alone, isolated, and saying, Okay, I'm going to like, let go of my ego, well, unless you're going to live totally alone and isolated, figuring out how to let go of your ego alone isn't going to solve a lot of your problems. That's why I would say allow yourself to build a community that you really trust to help you in that process. So you can all do that work together, because that's where it's gonna count when you're doing this kind of collaboration and work, is can you let go of your ego around others?

Todd OBrien :

Do you feel like egos are mainly based in fear? Like fear of losing something? How does fear play into egos in your mind?

Kyle Zamcheck :

I think that it's two parts. It's fear and that we don't know how to have grief. Because when you realize that you are holding your ego in a place and you want to change, if we make this change now and see that it's actually increased our quality of life or somehow perceived we perceive them better, that forces us to look at in the past, what relationships do we then need to grieve to say, Oh my God, I'm the reason that this problem happened. And we don't like to do that. We don't have a culture that knows how to hold grief. We don't have a culture that is teaching us how to relate to our own fear. And that's the hardest thing I think, for people to make change. If we're all really living in the present moment, well, then it would become easier. But we're so built up with all these experiences in the past that to make that change now is to almost admit, like what are all the past decisions that you've made? And yeah, for when I've seen and worked with people and executives and myself around this work, when you make these changes, they're awesome. Those internal personal changes. And there's grief that you have to go through for all the times you could have done something differently and didn't.

Todd OBrien :

That's really, really resonating with me, and I appreciate you bringing that to the table. And I'm wondering if people listening are wondering, okay, I kind of get that, I understand that, how do I start?

Kyle Zamcheck :

I'll tell you how I started. Sit down with somebody and allow yourself to actually let what's happening for you right now come up, because the things that our ego is attached to are alive for us. We spend a lot of our days not really sitting in it. And you can create that space for it. That's what a listening session is. It's an intentional time to say, what's happening for us right now, and give it space, so that we can then experience the exhale of having let all that go. And the biggest place is to start in that dialogue with someone by having them ask you or for you to ask them, "What's big for you right now? What's actually big for you right now?" And maybe you let somebody talk for 10 minutes and then you say, "Okay, and now what's ACTUALLY big for you right now?" That's good. And from there, having somebody just be curious about you. So if you have 20 minutes together, and I'm doing a listening session for you, and I ask you, "Todd, what's big for you right now?" And you start, you know, maybe searching your brain, what could I say? What is it? But then you start feeling into it and you say "What's happening in your gut? What's REALLY big for you?" And it may not even make logical sense to me as your listener, that's okay. But can I be curious about you and ask you questions? Because you're going to be way better at figuring out what work needs to be done than I could possibly be for any individual. But can you help facilitate somebody to get there? To start this work, I would say it starts, and that's also a part of building self awareness, is to see if you can have somebody give you the time to listen to you, so that you can start to listen to yourself, but through their asking questions and being curious about you, and what's happening for you, and continuously to ask questions, that can be sometimes the prodding, like that poking and prodding that internal ego, to help things start to relax and just find a place and be more vulnerable. And what I found is, the more vulnerable you're showing up in certain areas of your life, the more it becomes almost like, I can't not be vulnerable in these other, like, oh God, why am I having this really dull conversation when it could be vulnerable, which then is the grieving of all the conversations where you aren't fully showing up and being your most vulnerable self.

Todd OBrien :

You know, in our world as entrepreneurs, the word mentor is really big. This is not a mentor. This is something different, right? What you're asking. I want to really put a clear line between here, because a mentor is somebody who's helping shape you for your business and doing these sort of things, and they probably do listen to you, but it's a different kind of listening. They're listening for the business and listening for ways to help you that way. You're talking about maybe someone like a coach or someone who is trained in this, to be able to actually listen to you.

Kyle Zamcheck :

Yeah, that is what I'm talking about. And sometimes you can have a close friend who's that really empathetic friend, like we have a specific way of screening because there's a hidden superpower, in so many people, which is high empathy. And you may know, like when I say this, it's like, who's that friend in your life that you can actually go talk to? Well, if you can bring the structure to them and say, "Could we sit down and do a listening session? And here are the instructions. And you're going to be my listener. And can we do it for 20 minutes, and I'm just gonna have your attention on me." We don't realize the immense value that just having another person's attention on us, what that brings up in us. Like, it's uncomfortable, we're used to in dialogue, "hey, I'm going to talk and oh wait, I talk too much, let me ask you about your life", enable us to not go deeper in ourselves. And when we go deeper in ourselves, and we feel that feeling of I feel so exposed and oh my God, it's not always a good feeling. But there's so much value in that feeling, and to have somebody else's attention on you in a loving way. Like they're being curious and being open and empathetic towards you. There's a shift that happens where you're allowed to do that. And that is different than a mentor. And mentors are amazing. I have many mentors in my life, people who I sat next to on airplanes who became mentors, or you never know how you're going to find those amazing people. This is very different, because it's not anyone trying to have advice for you. And in fact, as a listener, I have a rule in a listening session, no unsolicited advice. Because we often in our culture, we really think that we're listening, and then you look back on it, and you're like, oh, that was just advice giving, there was no deep listening.

Todd OBrien :

I wish we could go on much longer, and I'm sure we'll have another session at some other point where we can talk through another episode. But I really do thank you for the time that you've spent with me today and looking forward to future engagements for sure. So thanks a lot.

Kyle Zamcheck :

Thank you so much, Todd. This was such a joy. I really appreciate it. Transcribed by https://otter.ai