Productive Flourishing
Productive Flourishing
Tama Kieves: Thriving Through Uncertainty (Episode 181)

Tama Kieves: Thriving Through Uncertainty (Episode 181)

Tama Kieves is the best-selling author of four books, with her latest being Thriving Through Uncertainty: Moving Beyond Fear of the Unknown and Making Change Work for You. She joins Charlie on the show today to talk about the mindset and practice shifts that we need to embrace to not let fear of uncertainty keep us from moving forward to the life that awaits us. The conversation is full of creative paradoxes, such as how showing up sometimes means not doing your work, how undoing is the doing that most needs to be done, and how we have to find the courage to be inspired while inspiration gives us courage.

Key Takeaways:

[1:37] - So many creative people don’t realize that they get stuck and stopped by their fear of uncertainty. When we’re uncertain, we might choose from our weaknesses or listen to a voice other than our own, rather than drawing on our strengths and our genius.

[2:33] - Tama knew she wanted to write ever since she was young. Her family upbringing didn’t necessarily encourage this path, and she ended up going to law school at Harvard and was on a partnership track in a major law firm, but it felt meaningless. A friend encouraged her to think about how successful she could be doing something she loved, and that’s how she got started down the path of authorship.

[4:17] - Her latest book was inspired by people who are living their dreams, and she kept seeing that people didn’t know how to handle uncertainty. We often play smaller or choose less than we deserve. Tama noticed these things in herself as well, and realized that life is all about uncertainty - especially if we’re growing or shifting. Her goal of the book is to help people thrive right now rather than when that client signs on, or that next check comes in.

[7:15] - So many times people get disappointed, and think that that moment of disappointment is going to be the rest of their lives. To live an inspired life is to choose to begin again in this moment and be original rather than choose based on your past, but listen to what your instinct and intuition is saying right now.

[8:05] - Tama faced some of these uncertainties while she was writing this book. When these things came up, she stopped writing and stopped caring about writing and let the negative story dominate her thinking. When she started writing again anyway, all of sudden she remembered who she was and what she was here for and her strength was renewed.

[11:10] - What are some of the common stories that come up about uncertainty? It’s not always uncertainty that’s really bothering us, it’s the certainty of what we’re telling ourselves - we’re too old, we don’t have the education, we don’t have the technical skills, etc. We don’t realize these are stories, but rather relate to them as fact. There is a moment when we choose which story we are going to tell ourselves. Often times, the negative stories may seem practical or logical, but if they don’t make us feel powerful or excited, they are not in our best interest. There is already a deeper story inside all of us and it’s really about listening to it.

[14:40] - We seem to have a negative bias - when we’re looking at the same bit of data, we more often choose the negative story when there’s equal evidence. We are looking to prove our beliefs true, and we’re not consciously and deliberately choosing to tell ourselves different stories, then we are unconsciously always proving the limited story.

[16:30] - We can’t plan an inspired life. It is an instinctive path, not linear. We are creating future possibilities for ourselves, and sometimes we’re creating something we can’t see yet. Tama tells the story of writing her first book and how after she took the chance and self-published the book, someone found it and got it to a big publisher that bought the book exactly the way it was. If she had done it the conventional way, it wouldn’t have turned out the same way.

[21:10] - We won’t know what we love or don’t love, what has energy or doesn’t have energy, until we try and explore things. The joy of living an inspired life is that we discover and uncover it as we go. Dare to try something, and pay attention to how it makes you feel.

[22:55] - We owe it to ourselves to make braver choices. When we’re scared and uncertain, we start thinking weaker and make more limited choices. Hold big and brave goals for yourself, but don’t judge yourself if you’re scared, or if it’s awkward, or if it’s hard.

[25:15] - What is the connection between inspiration and courage? Firstly, you have to have courage to choose the inspiration, especially when everything is weighing on you not to. When you take an inspired action, it often ignites something else in you, and give you fierceness and courage you didn’t even know you had. It is a paradox of having courage first to take the action, and then being encouraged by having made the choice. Charlie talks about the Shambhala tradition of Wind Horse, and how it relates to this paradox.

[29:50] - In her course about living in love instead of fear, Tama talks about how it’s not what we think we can do, but rather what we’re willing to do. We can choose from our smaller selves, or we can choose from our grander, higher selves.

[32:00] - Sometimes courage doesn’t always come from love; sometimes it comes from desperation. When you’re not doing your calling, there will be pain. This can serve as a reminder that you’re here for more.

[34:30] - In this society, there is so much pressure about success and failure. Showing up is sometimes the only success there is. We are constantly redefining what success and failure is for ourselves. Tama’s definition of success is knowing that she is doing the right thing with her time on Earth.

[37:00] - Another paradox is that sometimes showing up doesn’t mean showing up for your work, but rather showing up for yourself. One thing that Tama talks about in her book is how we have to be “unfaithful, sporadic, and unusually true” to ourselves. It’s not so much about what we’re doing, but about the beliefs we have to undo. Part of this undoing is being kind to ourselves, relaxing, and resting. It is okay to break your vows to yourself, but always dare to come back again.

[40:45] - There is another paradox here. There are times and places to be disciplined about your practices, but when you’re on a growth edge, that’s the time to be sporadic and unfaithful because you’re trying to change something about yourself. These paradoxes give us permission to experiment and explore our own rhythm rather than impose it.

[41:45] - What Tama is trying to cultivate in her books and through her work, is a deeper listening for when the path feels right and when it doesn’t. Deeper listening to what you need in that moment creates a deeper faith and trust in yourself as well. Charlie shares his experience with trying to reach his goal of 1000 words on his book, and facing the choice moment of whether to continue or stop and get recharged.

[44:55] - For Tama, it’s more important that we’re cultivating a relationship with ourselves than that we’re meeting a certain goal. Many times we’re forcing a goal and overdoing it, and it’s no longer fun. Take tiny steps, and that will help you move.

[48:15] - Tama has a technique called “inspired self-dialogues.” This is a journaling technique where she journals her fears and then speaks back in a loving voice. That voice will always see it differently.

[50:30] - Another one of her other techniques and strategies in the book is the “win list.” In this technique, you write down 5 or 10 wins that you have each day. Wins can be both internal and external. Writing down the wins starts training your brain to look for those things.

[52:40] - Another technique to get in touch with creative ideas is “free writing.” This is when you keep your journaling going or keep typing on your laptop and don’t edit it - it’s like a stream of consciousness. You can’t listen to self-judgment and inspiration at the same time. Free writing bypasses that because you’re not allowing yourself time to judge.

[53:35] - One of the biggest sources of uncertainty Tama is currently facing is her goal to always pursue her business on an inspired path. It is a constant struggle of being in times where it’s working, and times of going back into her fear.

[58:15] - Tama’s “dare” for listeners is to do the most loving thing you could possibly do for yourself. Listen to what you think is a frivolous voice inside yourself, and know that it’s not frivolous, but it’s imperative.

Mentioned in This Episode:

Productive Flourishing

Tama Kieves

Books by Tama Kieves

Thriving Through Uncertainty, by Tama Kieves

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Productive Flourishing
Productive Flourishing
Productive Flourishing (formerly the Creative Giant Show) explores how to do the work that matters to become your best self in the world. Host Charlie Gilkey and occasional co-host Angela Wheeler take listeners on a deep dive into the lives of leaders, changemakers, creatives, and entrepreneurs who are thriving in life and business by doing work that matters. Listen in to see how they cultivate meaning, success, and happiness as well as their approach to productivity, business, health, and the challenges (yes, even the deep, dark ones) that show up in their lives.