This week’s Face of Wellbeing Leadership asks some big questions: Are you doing what you’re meant to be doing? Are you creating a vision of success in a true wellbeing-driven manner—from inner inspiration?
Helping people find the answers to life’s big questions is what visionary author and leading career/success coach Tama Kieves, does. She’s published two best-selling books (Inspired & Unstoppable—Wildly Succeeding In Your Life’s Work and This Time I Dance!), is on the faculty of holistic centers such as the Omega Institute and Esalen, often featured in national media, and has spoken at TEDx.
My interview with her crackled with energy and insights about living an inspired life. Here, some highlights.
1. Don’t Work from Fear or Fall Into the Busy Trap
In a previous life Tama was a successful Harvard Law-trained lawyer, chasing an idea of success that was her parents, not hers. “I was on the partnership track with a major law firm. I had all the traditional success you’re supposed to have. And I was unbearably unhappy,” she says. She was billing long hours and chasing what she calls “linear success.”
“Linear success is all the old ways of thinking—you know that there’s a plan and there’s a step by step formula and you ignore what you truly desire. That’s a model we all grew up with in some ways— and you have to work hard, you have to suffer, you have to put in the hours. In the legal world it was almost like a badge of honor to kill yourself.”
Tama stepped away from that poetic attachment to suffering that’s almost drilled into us after a friend asked her: “If you’ve been this successful doing something you don’t even love, what could you do with what you love?” She stopped squelching everything that she was meant to be, and starting asking that question of herself and of others. That meant making a personal commitment to no longer work from fear.
“I didn’t know where my path would go,” she says. I just walked out of everything and knew that there had to be another way to succeed. That’s really what my whole story is about. It’s creating success in an inspired way rather than a linear, formulaic–and often, fear-based–way.”
2. Be Open: It Isn’t What You Plan, It’s What Moves You
Leaving the formula of linear success (and the drudgery of long hours) behind opens up a whole new world. “Real genius sometimes comes from: you have to be in love, you have to be alive, you have to be having fun, you have to be having random ideas. I want you to be moved.” says Tama. “You have to have something hit you over the head where you’re thinking in completely different ways. And I know think you do that just through long, hard, hard work.”
As a coach, Tama believes that everyone has his or her own inspired success strategy. “When I work with someone I’m looking to plug them into an inner answer they already know. I’m just trying to clear out anything that’s in the way of their inspired success strategy—their own resistance to it, their fears, assumptions, or even past pain,” she says.
What feeds inspired success is deeply personal, Tama says. “It’s about doing anything you love. For me it might be: Am I playing with my creativity? For someone else it’s more physical, like: Are you taking a bike ride? It’s so individualized. That’s why it’s so fascinating.”
As a speaker and author, Tama’s own dream is to reach more people and give them access to their own higher genius. She’s moved by people who have the guts to follow their inspired voices. “I believe that they have creative solutions and answers and directions and capacities that the world hasn’t even seen yet.” Tapping that inspiration can bring about world-changing innovation!
3. Use Inspiration as Wellbeing Fuel
Using personal inspiration as an accelerant to create the life and work you want is a terrific tactic for wellbeing leaders. It can also be used as a brake to stay balanced or recalibrate if you go off course, Tama says. You simply choose again to follow the inspired wellbeing track.
“Because so much of my work is about being inspired and about being creative, it keeps me in check. Otherwise my own nature—that part where I’m ambitious and driven—might get the better of me and drive me into the ground,” Tama says. “The beautiful thing is that ever since I made my huge career transition from being a lawyer into this work I can’t get away with driving myself into the ground. I cannot be brilliant and exhausted at the same time.”
In the inspired success paradigm, her passion for her work requires that she stay in some kind of integrity with it. “I have to stay in balance. For me it’s always about writing, it’s about yoga, it’s getting enough rest,” Tama says. When she’s in balance, she’s more present and more creative. “When I have alignment with the right people and the right work, I have integrity with what I’m teaching.”
4. Tap Into Your Rebel Brilliance
Rebel brilliance is about having the guts to listen your own instincts and intelligence, even if it’s not what’s popular, it’s not what the experts say, or it’s not what the industry has done yet, says Tama. “I think it’s a lot like the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said a great leader is a great follower. In this case it’s about following that inspired voice within. That’s what makes you a leader.”
From an organizational sense, rebel brilliance also means taking radical responsibility as a leader. “An organization is a collection of individuals,” Tama says. So the question becomes, What can you do as a leader in your realm of responsibility? How can you influence brilliance within others?
“Real leadership, inspired leadership, is about demonstration. It’s about who you are and how you show up as well as you can even when others aren’t. It’s about thinking, Even if you aren’t going to show up at 100 percent, I am. Even if you are feeling fearful or uninspired, I am going to show up from love.”
Photo courtesy Tama Kieves
A deep and early belief that the values of health and sustainability would remake the way we live, lead, and work in the 21st century led Renee to launch Wisdom Works with her husband David Moorefield in 1999. Ever since, she’s helped forward-thinking clients—including Apollo Group, Booz Allen Hamilton, Merck & Company, Centura Health, Western Union, and The Coca-Cola Company—embed wellbeing strategies to create inspired workplaces, develop caring relationships with citizens, and produce results that matter.