Ep #58: Sharing Vulnerable Stories with Jo Encarnacion

by | Podcast


Stories are incredibly powerful tools for sharing lessons that have the potential to change the lives of others. Some of the most impactful stories involve a great deal of vulnerability and sharing them requires a great deal of bravery. Our guest this week, Jo Encarnacion, lives out this vulnerability and is a great example of how radical self-acceptance can both change your life and grow an engaged audience.


Jo Encarnacion is a women’s health and lifestyle coach and creator of the blog GOFITJO. Jo is a proponent of radical self-acceptance and openness about her struggles with anxiety and depression. A mother of 2 girls, she has built a community around her fitness journey and empowerment through telling difficult stories and connecting with others over these stories.


Jo and I talk about her personal journey from having a well-paying job and happy family – “having it all” – to acknowledging her struggles with depression and becoming a health and lifestyle coach. We discuss how she overcame the feelings of guilt about wanting to change her body and learning to love herself. Then, we talk about how she has been able to learn from and tell the stories of herself and others in an impactful way while still being respectful. Finally, we talk about her unintentionally becoming an influencer and how she approaches branding in her work.


What You’ll Learn from this Episode:


  • How to redefine what living well and thriving means to you.
  • Why you need to take ownership of your truth so you can empower your own transformation.
  • Ways to have tough conversations with important people in your life to create change.
  • How to tell vulnerable stories and lessons while being respectful to others involved.
  • Why personal connection is the key to success as an ally for others to share their difficult stories.


Listen to the Full Episode:





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How, like this all started in terms of like personal storytelling or the evolution of that was that when my Instagram started or when I started sharing my fitness journey in my personal transformation journey, I basically came out of like the closet was what it felt like and I told not only my friends but like my online audience, which at the time was like nothing. They're just my friends and my peers that here I am, I am miserable, I've been depressed for the last 18 months, nobody has known this and I am dedicating myself to really making healthier choices in my life so that I could move towards a direction that I feel like I'm living my best self.

welcome to The Thought Leadership School Podcast. If you're on a mission to make a difference in the world with your message, you are in the right place. I'm Michelle Barry Franco and I'm thrilled that you're here.

Hello,  my thought leadership friends. Wow. What a gift. I feel like I get to share with you today. We get to talk about one of the heartbeats of the kind of thought leadership that you and I are committed to sharing, which is sharing your personal stories through my conversation with a woman who has built a gorgeous, loving and powerful platform through sharing her own vulnerable personal stories. I'm sitting here in my office right now just having finished this call and just soaking in the wisdom from our conversation, especially around how to grow a big and beautifully engaged audience. So I know you're going to love what's in this conversation and I'll stop being so mysterious. Joanne Encarnacion, she goes by Joe or go fit. Joe is a women's health and lifestyle coach. She's an advocate for self love and she's the creator behind go fit Joe, which is a blog that document's her road to what she calls radical self acceptance.

She's a mom of two daughters and she shares all kinds of amazing personal stories and insights through her Instagram account at go fit Joe, which is again as I said, also the name of her blog, Joe's gentle approach to fitness and self care and her openness to talking about anxiety, depression, building deeper connection within her marriage, what it's like raising two young women and her insights and learnings along the way. And she talks a lot about restarting her fitness journey at 29 and what that's been like for her to become more and more fit to come into her own beautiful fitness in a way that's caring and loving. So her approach is refreshingly real and super approachable. Joe And I met at Tedx Bend, she and Christmas Tina, who I coached on his Tedx talk, which I can't wait to share with you anytime now. They're really good friends, so I get to spend pretty much the whole night chatting with them. In fact, I kept thinking to myself at the end of the night, oh my gosh, I didn't go talk to anyone else because I was so riveted and just captivated and engaged in conversation with Joe and her husband and Chris too. So she shared so many gems in this conversation. I know you're going to love it. So listen, Joe, I am just so delighted to have you on The Thought Leadership School Podcast. Thank you so much for being here. Welcome.

Thank you. I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having this conversation with me.

Yes, I can't wait. So first for anyone who doesn't have the pleasure of being in your world yet, just tell us about your work in the world. What's the message you take a stand for? Like the thing you want to shout from the rooftops and who do you serve with that message?

Yeah, I think the biggest thing, the biggest message that I shout from the roof tops is that life is messy and beautiful all at the same time. And that we all have the ability to land in a place of true radical self acceptance. And the way in which I do that is through coaching women and helping them really redefine what living well and thriving wealth means to them and helping them do it so it's on their own terms and this way they can really live a truly empowered life that is deeply innate to who they are as a person. And that sits really well if their values and their belief systems and just gives them an opportunity to just live feeling like their best.

Yeah, man, I love that so much and I love it because when I hear you say it, and I'm sure this must happen as you're out there sharing this message, like there's so much grounded truth in that. Like my whole being goes like, yes, yes, that's what we should be able to do. And you know, and yet in, in the regular practice of daily human living, it feels so complicated, right? Like our brains, I imagine that the women you work with, like the women I work with are really smart, right? So they're like, I deserve all that. I should have all of that. But why is it so hard to have it?

Yeah. You know, it's funny because I think one of the things, especially with women, the reason why it's so hard for us to nail down those truths is because there's so much of this what we should quote unquote should be doing and or who we should be as we navigate through life, through different roles that are assigned to us or rules that we think that we need to fall into or VN. And I guess what I mean by that is like, no, it's having a conversation with one of my dearest friends and I said, you know, we just, it was just like 60 70 years ago where we really started to try to shape what these roles were for men and women, Motherhood Wife, you know, stay at home mom, somebody who might be working in the work field. And it's only been in the last 60 years where we've really been able to like make sense and make meaning of that.

And now we're in a very interesting time where women are like, wait a second, I don't have to actually be those roles anymore because those roles don't what like the future is going to look like for me as a woman. But wait, what do I do with my current present state? Because I still want to like honor a certain role or certain aspects of that role. But I also want to be independent and I want to be strong and I want to be bold and I want to be beautiful and I want to have opportunities to live my life just like everybody else can. And so I think we're just kind of in a state of learning how to pick and pull these things apart and trying to understand what are these quote unquote should stories that we need to get rid of for ourselves.

Oh man, that is so true. I mean, I think about it in my own life. You know, I'm driven. I'm passionate about my work. I'm out there with it. And at the same time I was super devoted mama. I love time with my three daughters. I want more of it. I want, you know, I often like fantasize when I'm working a lot about like being in the kitchen, cooking stuff and then my break and I don't even really cook so I like to bake but, but you know that, but my, then my brain goes, but wait, you're a driven, passionate like working mom, you know? And so there is a little bit of that like who am I am? I don't know. I do think it's kind of a confusing time to process all of these different roles in what we should be thinking and old messaging. Am I carrying that with me or is this what I just still really want in the context of also this driven, you know, work life.

Yeah, exactly. I think it's a, it's interesting because I know for myself I've always been a very driven individual and a very driven woman from like, since I was young and I remember thinking like, wow, I don't have this dream of having like this family life. Is there something wrong with me for not having that dream? You know, like every, every, every girl around me was like, oh, I can't wait to get married. And I remember thinking like, that just doesn't seem like something I desire right now. And I just remember thinking like, man, am I supposed to just be like a woman running with the boys all the time? Is that okay? Is that okay to have friends and like not sit in with a bunch of girlfriends because our mentalities of how we view the world is a little bit different. So I get that, I get that feeling, I know it. And it's, I think it's like messy and beautiful to sit in that chaos too.

Yeah. And what's fascinating as you describe that? As for me growing up, I always knew I'd be a mom. I always saw the family picture. I didn't know I'd be this driven, I didn't. But either way, look, we both kind of ended up, you know, if you use a broad stroke in a similar place, right? You have a family, you're with your family a good amount, you do a lot of meaningful work in the world.

Yeah. And it's interesting I think cause like, you know, raising daughters, I never, I remember thinking to me when I was in, I'm like I don't want daughters,

I don't want girls, I want boys. They seem more simple and you know, raising daughters. I think about the way in which I navigate through the world and the way that women are now navigating the world and I'm so excited they have so many other examples of women doing things differently and they have an opportunity to see well I don't have to choose one way to be. Yeah I can actually maybe like literally take a paint brush and take different colors from different places and like paint this beautiful picture of who I want to become.

Yes. Love, love. So much. So, okay. I know you have your own personal story actually quite a number of stories around, you know, I mean so many different things but I know you have kind of your evolution story at the heart of the work. So can you take us back to before you were go fit Joe and tell us. That's how I think of you in my mind because I'm always checking out your Instagram and tell us the story of how your message and your work came to be, where it is today.

Yeah. You know, I think it all started kind of from day one. My personal story and the biggest, I think maybe breakthrough of this whole thing and where this kind of evolved was I was working in a startup fair, the bay area and on paper I had it all. I had a great nine to five and a great position at this company. I was making six figures. I am married to an incredible supportive husband. We have two kids. We live in the bay area. I have a roof over her head, which is sometimes impossible to do as a single family. And you know, on paper again, I had it all like why would I not be happy with the way in which my life has unfolded? And you know, I remember sitting with like this feeling for about a year and a half and it dawned on me that I was just unhappy and depressed and just not feeling like I was living my best version.

And the biggest part that was missing during that time was the fact that I wasn't taking care of myself and I wasn't listening to my needs and I wasn't really truly in tune with what the things that I was trying to tell myself. And you know, at that time, I think like the biggest thing for me was as a mom I felt very shameful for not loving my post body baby and not being accepted of the stretch marks and my body changes and the way that that feels like, you know, I think a lot of times women, we get this message of like, especially after children like, well you know what? Your body is expected to change. Of course you should like love these changes and you have these beautiful kids because of the results of these changes. And yes that's true. But it was also like, but can I just like actually accept the fact that I don't like this body and then I want like be more and change it and also evolve it.

And then there was also that guilt of like wanting more, right? Like it was like such a real tricky like, well wait, should I feel bad? Like I feel bad now that I, I want to change myself. And it wasn't necessarily just the physical part of like what my being was at the time. It was more or less of the mental part. It was driving me so crazy that I wasn't liking the person in the mirror and liking that version of myself because I knew she wasn't taking care of herself. And so how like this all started in terms of like personal story telling or the evolution of that was that when my Instagram started or when I started sharing my fitness, starting my personal transformation journey, I basically came out of like the closet was what it felt like. And I told not only my friends but like my online audience, which at the time was like nothing.

They're just my friends and my peers that here I am, I am miserable, I've been depressed for the last 18 months, nobody has known this and I am dedicating myself to really making healthier choices in my life so that I could move towards the direction that I feel like I'm living my best self. And it was a shock to a lot of people. I think it was a shock. I got a lot of text messages from friends when they read that Instagram posts. They were like, we had no idea that you are so unhappy. You are fine. And you know, like I definitely think that I have expressed my unhappiness in my states and I couldn't necessarily be as vulnerable or maybe I was, I was still afraid to like be truthful about it to friends because of how they would react. But you know, I, I would, I remember telling them in this conversation, like I did tell you, you guys told me to that like, I should be okay with my body. Or you know, what? Like, why are you so unhappy? Look at the things around you. Like it was very dismissive of the fact that I was depressed, but I didn't know how to say it.

Isn't that so fascinating to me that is testimony to how much a part of our culture and maybe specifically women's culture. I don't know as much about, you know, what, what men or people who don't identify as women experience but this, you know that like, oh, we're used to complaining about, you know, what we feel like and what we look like and we didn't think it was anything remarkable. Right. Until you made a public declaration to change it.

Yeah, and I mean it was a shock. I think like, you know, a lot of people were just like, Whoa, wait, she's, she's a director of community at this startup company and her and her husband have her business. They've got two beautiful kids. They're, they're happy. Yeah. Together. Why would she be unhappy? It's like, ah, I have the right to be unhappy. That's right. I have permission to feel this way, but like allow me to feel like, let me feel this way and don't dismiss it because it's a feeling that feels true for me.

Yeah. Yeah. And so then, okay, so you're in that feeling and a lot of people just stay there for a long time and, and ever, never, but something shifted for you and you hit some kind of what sounds to me like a bottom or a, you know, moment, a transition moment and you were like, I don't want to do this anymore. Did something happen that made you make that decision to create that post?

Yeah, actually. So my biggest Aha moment I guess was when me and my nine year old, well she's, she was nine at the time, she's now 15 but my nine year old daughter, her and I were getting ready for like a Sunday afternoon with just out in the family. And you know, we're both in the, we're both checking ourselves out and she looks at me and she's like, mom, you're so beautiful. And loosely and casually as if I was with a bunch of girlfriends and a dressing room. I was like, no, I'm not. I'm ugly and fat. And the look on her face was just like, oh by that, like I was genuinely giving you a compliment. You kind of set me out as a nine year old. I don't know what to do with this. I see you as beautiful. This is my truth of you. And you just told me that's not my truth. What was the look that she gave me and she walks away from the room and like took off like down the hallway cause she didn't know what to do with it. That's a look on my, on her face. I will never forget. But it was also the moment that I looked at myself and said if I have to be a strong example for these girls, like who going to be their strong example if not me.

Yeah. Hello. Oh my gosh, my whole body just has like chills. I mean, I, you know, as a mom at a three girls, I've been looking in the mirror with my daughters before, like I can so put myself in that scenario and wow, how powerful. Okay. So you have that moment with your daughter and you're present for it. Like something in you sees it and goes, whoa.

So you know, I, during that time, like I, you know, I had, I seen a bunch of girlfriends who had hired this like fitness coach and you know, I those draw friends, we're both busy working moms who had nine to five crazy busy schedules and I thought, you know, what if they can do with them, so can I like what's, what's my excuse here? If clearly there are examples of women who are, you know, getting in shape, juggling a busy lives, meal prepping, all these things. Like what other reasons do I have to not try this? And also I'm just going to dedicate myself to 12 weeks if it's not something that fits in my life. At least I tried something other than antidepressants and antianxiety meds because the reason why I decided to like go and towards a healthier lifestyle was because I did not want to go back to being on antidepressants or antianxiety meds. You know? I told myself, just give it a shot. Just, just try it. And it was the most grueling 12 weeks I could imagine.

It wasn't like Tada, Oh, I'm so glad I did this.

Oh my God. No. And I think that was even more of like the vulnerability part of like my fitness journey and my personal transformation journey that I kept sharing. I was like, I don't get it. You know, people get like leave the gym and they're smiling and happy. I'm like, that was fucking painful. Like that was really painful. I was uncomfortable, I'm sweaty, I'm tired, I still have to go to work, you know? And, but it was like also that feeling of like, but that is that I'm still gonna keep doing it because I committed myself to trying and I owe myself the opportunity to try. That's it. I owe myself that opportunity. So I kept going and it was the biggest challenge for me because that, that moment of my life, I was 29 years old and that was the first time that I was really exercising or trying to create like healthy habits as an adult. And the last time that I had worked out with any significant program or routine was when I was 15 and a sophomore in high school.

Oh. So it was like trading in so many ways, right, around patterns and

yeah, so many different like patterns to break and just, just different perspectives of looking at food or your relationship with food, relationship with sleep, relationship with water. I mean, I literally evolved everything that like I put into my body and put around me.

Yeah. So let's talk about these, this sharing that you did then and really you know, that you've done all these years since you share some really deeply personal story is about your marriage, about your own thoughts and feelings about your experience, about sex, about all kinds of such, such beautiful human things. But there are things that a lot of people struggle to talk about. So I'd love to know what inspires you to do that and really, how do you do that? Like meaning, how do you care for yourself while you share so deeply?

One of the things that my dad told me that he loved about me when I was like younger, I think maybe this is a conversation he and I had when I was like 13 or 14 he was like, you know, I love that you always speak what's on your heart. Even if it's gonna hurt other people or yourself, you're still going to say, you know, I, I, I think of it as anything, you know, it's so like now, right? Like you kind of go like, oh, that sounds so brutally painful.

I like your

no filter, which can be painful for the people around you, you know? But I think also sometimes having no filter gives us an opportunity in a permission for other people to step through the doors of their own pain too. Yeah. I think like in terms of knowing for myself and being aware of like how I need to live authentically, I know when I'm not speaking my truth, it manifests in my body in some weird way. Like my arm starts hurting, my neck starts hurting, like my throat is hurting. Like there's just, my body is telling me I'm not being authentic to myself. So that's like one, one reason because it literally is physically painful. Yeah. And then the other part of it is that like the truth is like I am one out of what 7.5 billion people on this planet. Like there is absolutely no way I am one person thinking the same damn thought and asked like my deepest darkest secrets and the way that I may be processed or think or feel things can help one other person. Then I've done my job in sharing that. I've made somebody feel like they belong even to themselves. And I think that's an important thing to do.

Oh my gosh. You say so many things that can be chill if you love it. So the, okay, so I, and I imagine you get to hear, you must get, you know, feedback from people. What kinds of things do you hear from people through these stories?

I get some of the most heartbreaking stories from humans and like from women in particular, but I think it is the most sacred and most vulnerable truths that they have. And I, I honor it, you know, and when I hear them from anything from like a heartbreak with a boyfriend or I'm a woman who's cheated on my husband several times or I don't think I'm happy in the roles that I've, I've like fallen through in life and I'm realizing that like this life that I've created is not making me happy or you know, all the way to the point of just like, I just want to tell my dad that he needs to stop being so over protective of me and I'm 47 years old from the spectrum of things, it's, it's one of those where like a, my heart kind of just like melts for everybody. Yeah. Like group Hug, you know, be like, I want to help people find a way to speak their truth and, and to be okay with it and to find peace with it.

And your example is just a way for them to see it and that sort of graceful way, right? It's not like here's how you need to do it. It's more like they get to see you do it and then kind of try on for themselves their way of sharing what's going on for them. One of the things that I hear from, from people is their, they get nervous on many levels around sharing vulnerable stories. There's the sort of like, they're scared of changing people's perceptions. I just did a post about this for myself, like this shiny exterior that people see or we think people see. So they're afraid of that. They're afraid of hurting other people in their lives because usually our stories include other people. And I wonder if that ever comes up for you and how you deal with those two things.

Oh my God. All the time. 100% I have tough conversations, I think. I feel like I've been, I have been living a life of tough conversations ever since last year. And you know, I think, I think it's because like, you know, one of the things that by my husband and I actually like to call each other partners because we realize that the roles husband and wife just don't suit us. They don't fit us and partnership for us that we both collaborate together towards a goal rather than like a single person taking ownership of one different things. So my partner and I, we talked about like what it is that we want to be committed to in terms of just the, the rest of the duration of our time together with each other and with our family. And we said that the biggest thing that we want to commit to is having hard conversations because the only way for us to go out and make change, create change or innovate ourselves as like the humans in this household or in our lives is to have a hard conversation with ourselves even though it's going to be painful and brutally honest.

And so how we typically have them here at home is we start off with simple things by like saying, honey, I love you. What I have to say next might be painful, but know that I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, but I do have something to say. And so, you know, when we frame a hard conversation like that and we see this with our kids all the time to what we're teaching them or showing them is I respect your feelings. I see you as another human being. What I say might hurt, but that's not my intention. And when you go about it with that like intention, it's a little bit, it's a little bit, but a whole lot more well received.

Yeah, that's really, that's very cool and very simple. I can just sort of imagine what happens. I'm trying to think if we had a pattern like that in our house. I, and, and I heard somebody starting with that phrase, I'd be like, oh, okay, be present. Get ready. Do you find yourself responding like that?

Oh, 100%. And I'm like, okay, well, and you know the things that I will say too is like, it's, you know, it's a lot of like creating self awareness as well. Right? Like are you prepared to have a card conversation? Yeah. Not prepared to have the hard conversation. Then also it's your responsibility to be honest about that. Yeah. And you know what? I want to hear this, but I need to do Xyz this first. Can we come back to this conversation in an hour? You're respecting yourself. You respect me. You can't take this right now. Let's take it when we both can.

Yeah. So you not only have these hard conversations inside your family, but you'll then oftentimes that, but I imagine not always. I'm curious how you decide, then you'll go share it with the world in a different form. Of course. So tell me, you know, how do you do that? Do you have a discussion first about, I'm going to share about this publicly. Are you okay with it? What's okay with you? And then how do you decide which ones that you'll share?

I think when it comes to like helping other women navigate through certain things. So for example, you know, marriage, our our, our, our marriage like we've definitely shared very some intimate, you know, truths about our marriage and intimate ways that we've navigated through our marriage online. And you know, I felt like that was very important to share because I'm not the only woman who's experiencing this for sure. I think when I, when I think about the ways in which I share my world and my, my intimate process is I think about my process itself. I don't try to drag in like my husband's process because I'm not, I don't know his process so I'm never going to assume that this is the way he thinks about certain things. We might co-collaborate on like a pose. I'll have him read certain things to make sure that that's okay.

He'll, he'll sometimes do some truths checking in there. When it comes to parenting, I'm a whole lot more and motherhood, I'm a little bit more sensitive about it because my daughter, my 15 year old has a life of her own too. And so does my name and some of those, you know, examples or lessons that we might have in our household. We'll never go online because I want to respect her personal world and her personality and her individuality. There's things that I share and I will actually ask her, is this something I can share? And if she says yes, then by all means I will share that and she says, no, then that's not a problem. I will find a different way to rewrite that lesson so that it's generalized and it's not coming from my experience.

Yeah, I love that. That's such a great, I would like to just sort of like emphasize that whole generalizing move because sometimes people will say to me, you know, like this is my story and it's the one that if people ask me, why am I doing the work I'm doing? Why? Why am I taking a stand for this message? This is the story I want to tell, but it's not quote unquote. Okay. Just meaning there are people in her in her life or their life that would not be okay with this being publicly shared. The really, the path to doing that is getting more and more general about those details around the story. And you can still tell it from your perspective.

I also think too, there's something powerful for all of us when we get to see the vulnerability or the potential pain of someone new that we idealize in our head is successful. Yes. And there's something very powerful about that because I think, you know, when we start looking at people that we admire and they're able to show us a version of humanity within themselves that we've never seen, because all we look at is their success stories. They become more human to us and then we can relate to that a whole lot better. And I think it's like humanity. Once we're able to relate, then ultimately we could feel like we belong.

Yeah. And belonging is really at the heart of so much. This is just keeps coming up in my world over and over again. So I would love to, we met at a Tedx event and I saw your posts. You're like, I'm ready. I'm going to do my tedx talk. Watch it. Or Ted Talk. So do you know what that Ted talk would be about?

I'm still diving into that actually. I'm still diving into others. There's ever since he met I, you know, still continued going to school and I finished my, I got my life coaching certification so that was wrapped up a few weeks ago. Really exciting and I've been no coaching a lot more women and thinking a lot more calls just to kind of get a better understanding of what that is. There's this theme around what it truly means to be a modern day like feminists and finding balance in the world through all the pieces of what makes her her and the sentiment of self acceptance I think. I think so. Oftentimes like women we compartmentalize different ways of feeling or different ways of thinking because we do have to wear so many different hats and we have to be mom here. We have to be boss lady here. We have to be wife, partner, lover here now we have to like sexy and healthy and beautiful and all these like other like things that we see and we compartmentalize each of those because if one were to tackle and said another, it's all big. It gets too chaotic. Right? Or at least that's our perception. And for me,

I think all those pieces need to live and need to breathe and need to thrive together in order for us to really truly feel like a liberated woman, whatever, whatever that might mean for us. But the moment we start compartmentalizing things, little pieces of ourselves die inside. Oh, interesting. Who I like, where you're going with this. Keep on,

seems like, you know, when we, when we asked ourselves what is it that sets our heart on fire, yes, we have to figure it out. And it's not the one thing. It might be a multitude of different things. And if you can light all those things at fire all at once and they might not be burning super hot, they might be like Coles, but ultimately they're gonna, they're gonna set your entirety like your entire soul on fire. So why the hell not? Why wouldn't you want to?

Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. Okay, so I want to make sure that I ask another question that I know that the, our audience is begging for me to ask, which is how did you get to where you are now? So we go back to, and what I mean by you have a, you've built a significant audience, you work with amazing brands through your work and really, you know, on message with what your heart really wants to say. I know this is a big question, but let's start with just how did you grow your audience from your friends and the people around you on that day that you wrote that first post that surprised everybody to where you are now?

The biggest part for me is that like, I really care about other people's stories. I really, really genuinely care about my community. It's funny, I'm like thinking about it right now and I'm like getting like Kinda like cheery, like choked up a little bit about them. I get some of the most intimate and deepest, darkest like secrets that people share with me from just emails to DM sometimes in their comments. You can fear it, you can feel it. And like when I read that I'm just like, I genuinely want to connect with you. And I think the biggest part of it is like I spend more of my time actually connecting with people online than I do producing content or making beautiful like lattes and you know, whatnot. Or like writing a how to stay healthy. I want people to feel connected, you know? And I want them to feel heard. And I think like the biggest thing for me is, you know, when I started kind of like romance or grammar, sharing my story and kind of growing my audience, a lot of it was because I was giving people a safe space to feel heard and to feel seen. And that's something that like is so priceless and something that takes a lot of hard work to do and give them an opportunity to experiment with their different thoughts and different ways of thinking and their, their messiness without feeling ashamed of feeling that way.

Yeah, it's so amazing to me. I just, how many different ways can I, we the world, you know, those of us here, this, I recently interviewed Marie Green, who runs all live knits. She creates knitting patterns, but she's built this really big community and very engaged community around knitting. But she basically said the exact same thing, you know, I asked her, how did you build the following that you have? How did you create the audience that you could serve so beautifully? And she's like, just like being with them, serving them, listening, caring deeply. Just, you know, in her own way what you just said. And I just love the, I don't know if I'd call it contrast. I mean knitting is like very, it's just a different kind of world than what you're talking about. Both amazing worlds, but it's the same core thing, right? Belonging. We want to connect. We want to be heard. We want to know that we're not crazy for wanting what we want. Right. How about this part about working with brands? You know, I see like when you look at your Instagram account, there are some of them that say, you know, through a paid connection with Adidas or whatever. How does, what does it mean to be an influencer? Is that what that's called? Tell us. Just take us into that world a little bit.

Yeah. The surf world is really interesting. When I started my Instagram account, I think back in 2014 or 15 like the goofy Joe count, I remember thinking myself like I do not want to be an influencer. I don't want to like, I don't want to just sell products to people. Like I think it's like, you know, I don't want to be that thing. Like I'm going to work with brands and products that I believe in and they like that I genuinely use in my house. For me it was like if they choose me to work with me, they better choose my message. They better choose who I am. And My, my following is not a currency to be used for their marketing, which I get is, you know, for some people, and that's 100% okay. But from me, I was like, you've got to support me because you're supporting the rawness that I'm about to put online.

That's right. Go out there and let's just be real. This is just how I am. And so, you know, working with brands has been a very interesting thing because I remember like again, like, you know, thinking about my journey, I, fitness was not my thing. Fitness is not healthy. Lifestyle is not something that I had a passion for since I was a kid. And so I remember starting my journey and I looked at my partner John and I said, we're gonna be really crazy if like Adidas or like Nike or swell bottles and sending me things just like, it's a PR just to send me gifts, like you could guess are fine. I think like six months, like after I said that they started sending me just like little care packages and I was like, oh that's wow, dang, I could manifest that but also be like, Huh, there's something here.

And I was like, I hate to sound so cliche about it, but I wasn't doing anything but being myself, you know, and I wasn't, I wasn't doing anything unique or special except for like putting the talents that I had behind no photography and putting that to usage on my platform or continuously writing from my heart or continuously connecting people, sharing my vulnerable, the stories that we all have within us that we don't want to say because we don't know what the rest of the world is going to make of us. What's the truth comes out of our mouth. When I first got muscle milk in 2016 they wanted to write an everyday athletes story on my story, my story of a woman who didn't like herself, who is going through anxiety and depression as two kids work full time job nine to five and was having like this blog and this online audience.

And still trying to balance all these things out. And like I remember when they, they told me that this is the story they want to tell. I was like, this is the story of pretty much every other woman out there who is trying to do the same damn thing. And like I, I, you know, at first of course it's like a why me? But like then you kind of take a step back and you go, well, why not me? If no one else is brave enough to do it and I might not be at brave enough into this moment, I might as well,

I might do it and not be brave, whatever.

I'm sorry not to pray, but just to do it anyway. It'll be fine. They're going to edit some things. I might be wrong. It's okay. Yeah.

Well you're willing. Yeah, I mean that is a distinction. It's a, it is and it's a really meaningful one. I mean, it's not just a willingness. So there are people who will tell their stories and I don't want anyone listening to be afraid to tell their stories from me saying this. So let me say it really thoughtfully. There's a way to tell your story that serves and when you're doing it that way, when you're telling that story yes. For your own wellness and and to, to really tap into that truth in yourself and you're holding in your heart at the same time other people who are experiencing it, that story comes out different and it has a different impact in the world and in those individual lives. That's why you,

I know my story serves somebody. Yeah. There's, there's absolutely no way that I can, you know, I, what am I, my first career was a hairstylist for 10 years and before working in tech I was in Harris, Alice and I heard stories it all the time like you hear stories all the time and you know the fact that I was able to hear all these stories all the time from different variations of human beings, I was like, wow, your story is similar to this client. That client story is the one and this one. Yup. There's no difference. Names are different. Ages might be different. Timelines are different or for the most part, your stories, we're all struggling.

Yeah, that's right. And we've got a few things to celebrate too, which it's fun. I mean it's, you're not only out there talking about struggle and I think that's what makes your messaging both inspiring and so heart filling and connecting. Well, I knew we would have a super rich and meaningful conversation. Joe, thank you so much for being here. Welcome. I really love that conversation and I especially love that I get to share it with you. You know, your stories are meant to change lives too. It's scary to tell them sometimes and that's okay. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. And I love sharing examples of thought leaders who are doing it in a way that's real and vulnerable and really thoughtful. And I think Joe hits all of those variables beautifully. Here's the thing, my friend, your stories matter. There are people walking around right now who are waiting to know that they're not alone, that there's light at the end of the tunnel, that you can help them see. You can be that beacon and that you're here tells me that you are meant to be that beacon after all you were made for this. You know how I know that, right? Because you know that I can't wait to hear your story, my friend. Go light up the world and I'll see you here next week.


thanks so much for being here with me on The Thought Leadership School Podcast. If you want specific and actionable guidance on how to become a recognized leader in your industry, you can download a free copy of my book. Beyond applause, make a meaningful difference through transformational speaking at speak, so it matters.com forward slash free books.




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