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Conversations with the Inspiring Tracy Kennedy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tracy Kennedy.

Tracy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
When I was in 3rd grade, we were asked to put together a report on what we wanted to do when we grew up. I knew I wanted to ‘help people’ and my report was all about being a nurse. Well, turns out, I can’t stand the sight of blood and am terrified of needles, so that option went quickly out the window. Fast forward almost 15 years later, to my senior year in college, in Denver, Colorado where I was deciding what job I wanted and what career I would embark on out of school. I was going to be graduating with a degree in Business with a focus in Marketing. I knew I loved business and had a deep desire to be of service to others, so it seemed like the logical option was to find a job with a non-profit organization. However, after quite a few informational interviews and discussions about what that would really look like, I decided it might not be for me.

At the same time, I was doing an independent study on International Marketing and was interviewing the CEO of a small leadership and team development consulting company in Australia. As he shared with me what they did, I was fascinated – I could see a clear connection between my skills in business and my passion for helping others. At the end of our conversation, out of nowhere, he asked me if I’d like to move to Australia and work with him. “YES!” I shouted. I remember exactly where I was in my rental house. I hung up the phone and ran into the room of one of my five college roommates and told her I was moving to Australia after graduation. She looked at me like I was crazy, trying to figure out what on earth I was talking about. However, at that point, I knew that is what needed to do. And just a few months later, I found myself looking out the plane window at the beautiful harbor city of Sydney, Australia as I landed for my next adventure.

Turns out, I absolutely loved the company I worked for and the people I worked with. We used a profiling tool called the Instinctive Drives™ to help people understand themselves – what they needed to be at their best, and how to leverage their natural talents. We worked with teams and leaders to help them work and communicate more effectively, but more importantly, we worked with individuals to help them be happier, more successful and fulfilled. I loved the mix of supporting companies to be more effective and the significant impact we were having on the people involved. My 6-month ‘internship’ turned into almost 5 years as we grew the company and its products. The one thing my Dad asked me when I moved abroad, was not to marry some Australian guy, as then I may never come home. Well, I met my English husband instead and we moved back to LA together. He was happy and so was I.

I loved working for that company and learned so much and continued to work remotely for a while back in LA. And then at some point, I felt like I wanted something more… or maybe I just wanted something different. So, I did a little soul-searching, looking at the triad I now recommend to all my clients (needs, passions, talents). I knew I needed a challenge, to work for a mission-driven company and to have the opportunity to learn and grow. I was passionate about taking on a leadership role in a larger company and felt a calling to work with kids. Specifically, I knew I wanted to help kids build their confidence and self-esteem. And I knew I had skills in business, leadership, and communication that I wanted to leverage.

Now, I had no idea what job was going to meet all of those criteria… so, I jumped on the internet, typed “kids, business, marketing, leadership” into Monster.com and low and behold, MY job popped up on the screen. I applied, right away, got a callback and went for an interview at a place called SCORE! Educational Centers.

SCORE was a great, mission-driven business that was passionate about helping kids. It seemed to fit many of the things I wanted and needed in a job and I loved the people. However, there were a couple of problems. First, I would have to start at the bottom. I mean the very bottom. I would need to stat as an Assistant Director at one of their centers. This job was about 6 steps away from the job I really wanted – and felt I was already qualified for – to be their Personal Development Manager. But I was interested and passionate and wanted to be part of their mission. So, I started as an Assistant Director. Therein lay the other problem. My salary was four times less than what I had gotten paid in my previous role. But, I was willing to take the trade-off for the opportunity, the knowledge I would gain and the chance to serve kids. It wasn’t long before I made my way up to Center Director, Regional Manager and eventually Personal Development Manager. I loved that job, the people I worked with and stayed for several years.

Then, I got pregnant with my twin daughters. I thought I would continue in the role, but I traveled a lot and I knew I wanted to be at home with my girls – at least part-time. So, after several months off with my newborns, I knew I needed to start thinking about earning money again. My husband was a struggling filmmaker and I had always been the one with the steady job. I found myself at a crossroads again in my life and career deciding what I was going to do next. This time, I had different priorities. I knew I didn’t want to work the long hours I had put in at both my previous roles. I knew I wanted to be at home with my kids as much as possible. I discovered, in my last role, that while I loved kids, I didn’t really want to work in ‘Corporate America’ as I had less freedom and felt less of an ability to make a tangible difference in a large company. I liked working for a small company, especially one where I had freedom. And I was still passionate and drawn to the idea of helping people.

I had loved my job at the previous company in Australia and called to ask if there was an opening or role where I could work part-time. There was, and I was excited to join the team again as their Training Manager. Over the next 9 years, I played many roles in the companies’ growth and development. From working directly with clients coaching and consulting, to training and developing new consultants and coaches, to strategy and product development. I loved it all. And then at some point, I realized I wanted to be more intimately involved in building something that I had a stake in. I also wanted something that would grow and challenge me and build my resume and life skills. I remember reading an article once about how each year, you should be doing something that improves your resume – not a job improvement, but a skill, something you learn that makes you grow and develop even further.

So, after many discussions, the CEO agreed to allow myself and another colleague to spin off the technology from the consulting company, and I spent the next 18 months learning how to build a product and technology company. I was thankful to have a partner who knew that world and soon found myself learning all about building platforms, apps and ultimately, how to productize what previously was a very high touch, high-cost product. It was an incredible, challenging experience, and again I loved it. But, one of the partners and I didn’t see eye to eye on where the company should head strategically or financially, and I had to make a very tough decision to move on from something I loved.

Which then lead me to 9 months of soul searching. Back to the drawing board trying to figure out what to do next. I went through my triad again, asked myself what was important at this stage in my life, what I wanted to learn, how I wanted to grow. I knew I wanted to help people. I knew I had something inside of me that was compelling. I knew I wanted to use and leverage all my skills and talents of coaching, consulting, training, product development. I knew my passions. I knew my skills. But I didn’t know what I wanted to DO with all that. I wish there was someone who could have given me a roadmap. But I didn’t have one.

So, I did what many people do when they don’t know what to do next…. I enrolled in classes. I decided I would work on myself. I wasn’t sure what I was working on or why, but I knew I had always wanted to train in NLP and I knew it would be a great addition to my toolkit as a coach and consultant. So, I got my NLP practitioner, master practitioner, and life coach certifications. I took another course on Integrative Wellness Principles. I took time off to hang out with my kids, volunteer at their school and take care of myself. During my time ‘off’ I found myself busier than I had ever been. I was also ‘paying the bills’ by working with a few consulting clients. I enjoyed the work I was doing and was making good money consulting but felt it wasn’t really what I was called to do.

So, I decided it was time to venture out on my own and start my own coaching and consulting business. Whilst there were many things I could focus on in my practice (and still love to), I knew I needed to find a niche. I knew my underlying ‘why’ was to support others to be happier, more successful and fulfilled. But I wanted to identify the best way to do that. So, I started listening around me to identify a need – a gap – a pain point. And I ran into so many people who were trying to figure out what they were going to do next in their lives… with their job, in their career, with their relationship, with their life!

The stats backed this up:
70% of employees are not engaged at work (it’s 85% worldwide).
77% of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms of stress.
40% of workers experience persistent stress or excessive anxiety in their daily lives.
Only 38% of people are personally fulfilled by the work they do.
Only 31% of Americans are Very Happy.

It’s no wonder so many of us are looking for something else! These stats backed up my experience of working with others who were stressed out, burnt out and in a job, relationship or life that wasn’t what they really wanted.

I felt that I had many of my own experiences being at a crossroads in my life and my career. I definitely knew how it felt not knowing what to do or which direction I should go in – and be very unsure of how to figure it all out. I had worked with many clients over the course of my career, to help them figure out their next, and I knew I could help others do the same.

So, I incorporated everything I had learned throughout my years into a practice that uses a range of techniques, methodologies and wellness practices – designed to help people figure out their next step and fast-track them to where they want to be.

Has it been a smooth road?
It was never a smooth or easy road. There were so many setbacks, obstacles tears, and failures along the way.

The advice I have for others on their journey is this:

– You can be happier, more successful and more fulfilled. There is a better way. Life doesn’t have to be this stressful, overwhelming and frustrating. I’ve chosen this path because it deeply saddens me how many people are stressed out (77% of Americans), disengaged from their work (70+%), and generally unhappy or unfulfilled. I’ve had many times in my career when I’ve felt the same way. At times I stayed too long because I wasn’t sure what else I would do, or how I would do it, or because I didn’t think it was that bad. But being ‘good’ is not good enough.

– We are each here to become the fullest expression of ourselves and therefore, understanding what it means to be ‘true to you’ is critical to living a great life. Find out who you are: a little soul-searching and self-awareness will go a long way as you make decisions in your life. You can’t be true to yourself if you don’t know who you are. It’s not always easy in a world full of competing needs and expectations. It’s easy to get pulled off track. But the consequences are too high to not take care o you and be true to yourself.

– Taking a step back is the first step forward. When you’re trying to figure out where to go or what to do next, it’s important to take a step back and identify what you actually want (at this age, at this stage in your life, as it will change). After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you expect to get there?

-We have incredible, innate wisdom inside of us. It’s just a matter of tapping into that intrinsic knowledge. We too often look outside for answers, but so many of the answers can be found inside.

– I’m big on discovering your NEXT step. I think too often people feel like they have to work out what to do with their entire life. I see so many people paralyzed by thinking they must work everything out for the entire rest of their lives. Of course, they feel stressed and overwhelmed. I’ve been there. I still find myself there often. And I have to remind myself of something my grandfather always said, “A path leads to a path”. I think such is true with life. Focus on what’s next and something will unfold from there. Now, I’m not saying this won’t be attached to a bigger vision, but that doesn’t mean you have to have the whole plan right now. At every crossroads, I had to remind myself of this. I wasn’t committing to something for the rest of my life. I didn’t have to find my lifelong career or passion. I just had to identify what my next step was, and the one after that. And being open to what came next led me to so many great careers and opportunities.

– There will always be trade-offs. No one situation, relationship, job, etc. will fit all your desires or criteria. When I went to work for the education centers, I had to take a 4x cut in pay. But it was worth it because it met everything else I was looking for at the point in my life.

– You are awesome. You are. You might be feeling stuck, sad, low, frustrated or down on yourself right now. But you are awesome. You have everything inside you to be successful in whatever you take on. I’m not saying you won’t have fears and doubts – those are normal. But know in your heart, you can do it. You can make the change. You can step up – step out – step forward. You have everything within you. Regardless of what someone else has told you or whatever self-doubt you are experiencing. Know you are great. You got this.

– One of the best pieces of advice that my Dad ever gave me was this: Do your best every day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called my father worried about something that happened, concerned about an outcome or second-guessing myself. And my dad predictably responds with a question. “Did you do your best?” Yes. “That’s all you can do”, he says “You can’t control what happens from here”. This has helped me through so many challenges, setbacks, and obstacles. As long as I know I’ve done my best with what I had, there’s nothing else to do.

– One of my favorite quotes is this. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” –Mark Twain.

Here’s why… when I was 16, I decided to leave my small hometown of Beaverton, Oregon, where I’d lived since birth, to go overseas and study in New Zealand. I have no idea how I made this decision, or why I wanted to leave home, but the idea quickly got legs and before I knew it, there I was, boarding a plane and madly hugging goodbye my friends, family and my high-school sweetheart. I got on the plane, walked down the aisle to my window seat, sat down… and promptly burst into tears. Crying quickly escalated into hysterical sobbing, much to the alarm of the poor man in the next seat. He tried to calm me down and asked the flight attendant for a cup of water.

I tried to take a sip, but I was crying too hard to even choke it down. Right then, I made another big decision – I hurried off the plane, and ran screaming after my taken aback parents. They were having none of it. They reminded me I had made a decision to which I was now committed and sent me right back to my allocated seat to follow through on it.

After this dramatic start, the rest of the journey was uneventful. My next clear memory was walking into arrivals and looking around, though unsure as to what I was looking for. Then I saw the sign, ‘Welcome to New Zealand Tracy’. There they were, my Kiwi family. We got home and settled and I’d like to report that at this point I was wondering what all my pre-departure hysteria had been about, but no, I wasn’t done with the crying. Not even nearly. All I remember of those first few weeks were the endless tears and aching homesickness – oh, and the beating myself for not ‘thinking it through’. Surely if I had have thought this through, I’d be back home now instead of sobbing down the line on my once a week, very expensive phone-call home?

My host Dad gave me some very specific advice: ‘Stop blubbering’. Easier said than done. One evening, lying on my bed, sobbing and trying to make sense of it all, I reached out for a small book of quotes my mom had sent along with me – clearly for just such an occasion! Flicking through, this quote grabbed me. I ripped it from the book, jumped out of bed and pasted it on my mirror.

I wouldn’t say I was any less homesick after reading it, but I did get a wake-up call about the opportunity I was missing by focusing on what I’d left behind rather than what I now had in front of me. I knew I needed to embrace this big change that I had, after all, brought upon myself. I was going to start looking for the positives in it and most of all, stop the exhausting slog of fearing it.

This quote served me well then and many times over the years since. It’s been a reference point for many life-changing decisions – more travel, new directions in my career, relationships…

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Kennedy Coaching + Consulting story. Tell us more about the business.
As a results-driven, certified coach and consultant, I partner with individuals to help them achieve greater levels of happiness, fulfillment, and success – personally and professionally.

Throughout my life and career, time and time again I’ve come across people standing at a crossroads: working out how to step up in a current role, wanting to head off in a completely new career or life direction, returning to work after time away, or just looking for that elusive what’s next? I support clients to figure out their next step and fast-track them to where they want to be. My approach takes clients on a journey that gets to the heart of understanding themselves, uncovers exactly what they need to thrive and love what they do, and identifies and deals with any obstacles that might get in their way.

I think one of my advantages is that I have a wide range of experience including working in a variety of roles: executive coach, consultant, facilitator, trainer, product development and leader. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with thousands of individuals, teams, and organizations across a wide variety of industries. From running education centers for kids to defining and executing business strategy in small businesses to building content, products, and technology which have been implemented and used in Fortune 500 companies.

I’m also very proud of all the great ‘tools’ in my toolkit. My favorite ones include the Instinctive Drives System™, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Intrinsic Health and Integrative Wellness principles.

While my primary focus is individual coaching, I can also be found:
– advising businesses and leaders on leadership and team development
– building courses and curriculum for clients
– leading workshops and speaking at events
– writing articles on personal and professional development (Currently Lifehack.org’s Personal Development Expert)

I’m also super excited about a new online course I’m launching in September. It’s called “5 Steps To Discover Your Next” and will allow more people to get the benefits of the program I’ve developed, without paying the fees of a personal coach.

For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
I LOVE this question so much. There is so much ‘noise’ about the challenges for women and while these ARE true, there are significant challenges, I don’t want that to get in the way of women going after their dreams and making it happen. There’s an old saying “You find what you’re looking for”. If you’re looking for the challenges, the roadblocks, the injustices, guess what you will find? Yep, you guessed it. Challenges, roadblocks, and injustice.

But there are also so many opportunities. Look for them! I have three daughters and I feel they have the opportunity to take on anything and everything they set their minds to. They just need to have a clear vision of what they want, dedication, hard work, heart and be true to themselves along the way. I don’t think there is any single place women is particularly well positioned for – they are well positioned wherever they believe they can make a significant impact or difference.

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