A hearty NABBW welcome to this month’s featured member, Karen Wright. An author, speaker, business consultant and workshop/retreat facilitator, she is not afraid to use her personal life experiences in her work.
Educated as an artist and writer, Karen intuitively recognized the presence of greatness buried within chaos and uncertainty. Thankfully, she was able to find a way to look beyond prevailing evidence to uncover the subtle truths that shape beliefs, behaviors, and realities. As a result, she now helps others do the same.
Karen’s wisdom is drawn from persistently risking the mundane for the possibility of magnificence. Her enduring motto is drawn from Marcel Proust’s words, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
“The world we each experience is a product of what we believe we see and what we believe it means. True progress comes not from battling with circumstances, but recognizing that the origin of those circumstances lies within. This is the meaning of new eyes – the world we see and experience is self-made. To change the world, we must change our minds,” she says.
These days, individuals and corporations call upon Karen’s unique consulting skills to inspire magnitudes of change and achieve transformational advances in their capabilities. As a speaker, author and consultant, Karen shares her knowledge and experience to fulfill her own goal: to awaken minds to new realities.
Clients like the US Attorney General, the US Post Office, and the Departments of Transportation and Social and Health Services have enjoyed and found measurable value in Karen’s guidance and inspiration.
Whether leading strategic planning meetings, facilitating teams toward revolutionary innovation, or compelling personal transformation in conferences and workshops, Karen holds the space of possibility while clients evolve into deeper and richer realms of truth.
Karen’s latest book, The Sequoia Seed: Remembering the Truth of Who You Are, was released to a waiting list of hundreds of international buyers and is now in its second printing. She says she wrote it “For all those ladies out there who are ready to ditch the residual anxiety of younger years and live a deeper life of meaning.”
An inspirational guide, it shows the reader how to recognize and overcome personal, sometimes unconscious, self-limitations and see the limitless options just beyond their restrictive beliefs.
For the past eight years Karen has also authored and published Waking Up, an internationally-read online ezine focused on shifting sight and releasing potential. We’re delighted that we were able to catch up with her the other day, and have her answer our favorite twenty questions. Here’s what she told us:
Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m what you might call a contented discontent. I can’t help but look at our world and ask, “What if…”
- What if we truly lived according to our deepest values?
- What if we weren’t so afraid?
- What if we’re not seeing something that would make all the difference to our lives if we DID see it?
Consequently, I tend to seek.
But, not seeking in the world of stuff, but in the world of meaning. My life is a testament to Marcel Proust’s words, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
I’m convinced that worlds change when we’re open to seeing with new eyes.
Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.
Married and divorced twice. No children – by choice. Single now for 23 years. Hoping to find my later-in-life partner-for-life. I have two younger brothers whom I love very much and see too little. My father died in a car accident 35 years ago and my single mother is defying the aging process. Looking at her health and vibrancy, I feel very fortunate to share those youthful genes!
What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?
I lived in a very small town, so being a ‘child of the 60’s’ wasn’t wrapped in wildness and good times. It was just a typical childhood in a typical small town.
- I do remember skate boards and double-feature movies with intermissions for 50 cents!
- 5 cent apples.
- I vividly remember the day JFK was shot. I was ironing a potholder I’d just made in my 7th grade home economics class.
- I remember the lunar landing.
- I remember not being controlled by technology!
What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?
I’ve done a lot in life. Many careers; a few husbands; several residences. The typical “seeking new landscapes.” And now I seek more meaning and purpose. I’m in that vocation, speaking/writing/coaching, and see boomer women really asking deeper questions about how to invest the rest of their lives in something spiritually rewarding.
What inspires you?
Watching someone achieve something they’ve worked hard for, against all odds, and the look in their eyes when it becomes real. Brings me to tears. I’m inspired by the moment of ‘waking up’ – Oprah would call them Ah-ha moments – when in the split of a second we see something very familiar as if for the first time and realize a choice we’d not seen before. I’m inspired by a kindness from stranger to stranger. I’m inspired and astounded by the enormity of the human heart. I’m always humbled by the simple fact that little moments always trump big things.
What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?
- A lapful of purring kitty while sitting before a blazing fireplace.
- Singing with all the other off-key carolers to the top of our lungs on Christmas night.
- Finding out that someone I’ve never heard from or about feels a sense of kinship with me from reading my book.
- Connecting with friends all over the world through technology.
- Knowing that even at the age of 60 it’s not over and the best is yet to come.
Do you have any interesting hobbies?
I love black and white film photography. Call me old-fashioned! Been a long time since I dabbled in this joy.
I read voraciously – non fiction: psychology, quantum physics, chaos theory, systems thinking.
Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.
I love the movie Out of Africa. Can recall the dialog by heart. I love Meryl Streep’s character’s bravery. Her tenacity and humility. Her refusal to bow to convention or sell out her values. She has the steel and heart of a woman who owns her place on this earth. (BTW, in case I’ve inspired anyone to watch the movie, please know that the book of the same name is NOTHING like the movie.)
Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?
I like being in other places, just not typically the experience of getting there. “It’s the journey that counts” isn’t usually on a traveler’s mind. It’s about the destination.
Air travel has become dull and laborious. Car travel is better, if I ditch the ‘schedule’ and stop whenever and where ever the mood hits.
I’ve found some really surprising experiences in unscheduled stops. But, what is it about car travel that makes me road competitive? If I’ve passed up some slower travelers (those who ARE enjoying the journey) – especially if I’ve been stuck behind them on a single lane road for a while, even when I DO see a place I’d like to stop and experience, I’m reluctant to do it and ‘lose ground.’ What is that!!
Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate.
Hmm. Does that include eating lots of chocolate and drinking red wine?
What do you stress about?
Well, let’s see.
- Being single at 60 and no prospects.
- Having enough net worth to last me all of 3 years if I were to retire today.
- Not being employed in a profession that keeps me busy.
- Knowing that my resume is just one of hundreds in some recruiter’s mountainous pile.
- Watching my waist balloon no matter what I do.
Nah, nothing here to stress about! Ohmmmm.
Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?
Of course. I want my 20 year old body back! But, I’ll keep my 60 year old mind, thank you very much. Is there such a thing as a neck lift? I scared myself the other day when I laid a mirror on the floor and, on all fours, looked at my face! Whoa. Scary! Looks like I’ll be having sex on my back from now on!!
Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?
Well, I’ve been getting a bit irreverent in the last few answers, so let me turn that around a bit. Yes, I’ve reinvented myself and the most recent was far beyond anything I could have imagined.
After watching my consulting business drop from okay in the early part of this century to negligible by 2009, I knew I had to do something about it. I stood before my church congregation and announced that I was broke and needed a job. Any job. House cleaning, mowing lawns, washing cars. Anything. It was humiliating and a relief all at once.
Two jobs followed one another for the next two year+. First as a park aid picking up trash and cleaning bathrooms. Then as a waitress.
All my illusions of self-image and status in life were in the dumper. And after the anger and embarrassment, something strange happened. I actually felt peace. My ego had taken it on the chin and I realized that I wasn’t my job or income or status.
When all that had been stripped away, who I really was was still there. The loving, intelligent, capable woman I was.
It actually stunned me to know how harshly I’d always judged people who did what I considered menial work. Lazy, ignorant, worthless. Yet, there I was among them now.
And a lesson I’m sure life has been trying to teach me for a very long time found its mark – every human being is magnificent…period. No qualifications.
Having my egoic gut kicked has been a blessing and I hope to never forget the lesson of humility. I’ve found it to be a language that knows no barriers.
Do you plan to retire?
Short of winning the lottery? No. But, then what IS retirement? Doing nothing? Or, as many see it, NOT doing a job you’ve hated for years.
It may not have been an economically sound strategy for me, but I’ve only taken jobs I was really interested in and stayed with them as long as I loved them.
Work for me is far more than a paycheck. It’s the avenue through which I contribute to the world this entity called Karen Wright.
I do believe we all have a mission here and doing that is not a job, it’s life. Some use retirement as an escape from work drudgery.
No work I’ve ever done has been drudgery – even scrubbing toilets. Why would I want to retire from what brings me joy and fulfills my mission?
Are you doing anything to GO Green?
- I use up all products to the very last drop. Do you realize that when your foundation tube no longer squeezes out content that if you cut the tube in half there’s another 2 months of product still there?
- I water down my shampoo and conditioner by 25%. And it’s easier to use too.
- My town does not recycle, so I save it up for trips to the nearest big town – 90 miles away.
- I combine errands to conserve gas.
- I print on the backside of paper if it’s just for me.
- This year I sent out e-Christmas cards.
- I compost.
- I use tennis balls instead of softener sheets in the dryer.
Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?
- When I left public teaching to see what the real world was like.
- When a TV news manager fired me.
- When I followed my heart and quit my job of 10 years to move to a town I didn’t know and start my own business.
- And lastly, you’ve already read about it a few questions back. I wonder what’s next?
Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?
Yes, and I hope I always do. The career role I want in life doesn’t exist in the business world that I know. But, it needs to – IMHO. So, I’ve written up my own job description and am in the process of find the CEO it speaks to.
With our changing world and dysfunctional business practices, I know I’m not the only one out there who believes there’s a way to inspire greatness, not just demand compliance.
Employers want more engaged employees. Employees want more meaningful work. The world needs more innovation and humane companies. Everyone wants the same thing, yet we struggle with a structure and processes that defeat us at every turn.
It’s time for something dramatically different and I know I’m a player in that arena. Looking for my counterpart!
How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?
By provoking new thought – new ways of seeing things we think we already know. I help people tell the truth to themselves. Where there is pain (physically or emotionally) there is a truth to be acknowledged. And it must be before we an move on to what works better.
Stuck is a word I hear a lot lately. And stuck is an indicator that a truth is not being acknowledged. If we live life that is a mess and brings us great disappointment, we need to admit to having created it. See, we are expert creators. We cannot NOT create. It’s just that a lot of our creations are done unconsciously to align with our low self-opinions and doubts. We have the skill of creating down to an art form.
All we need to do is aim in a different direction. Instead of allowing our creative powers to generate what we fear the most, we need to turn that power on what we want the most. The power is already there, we just need to focus it upon a different result!
This applies to individuals as well as communities, businesses, countries. There’s no difference in the process, just more people involved.
We CAN have a very different life and world than we are experiencing now. We DO have that power. All we need is the will.
Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
I’ve often wondered if people, when asked that question, every have a clear answer? I have many people who’ve influenced my life – none the ‘biggest.’ My mother teaches me how to love. My friends show me what compassion really is. Those who oppose me remind me how magnificent diversity is. God advises me how small and great I am.
If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.
To never stop asking what if.