Community over competition is indeed a well-worn hashtag. The cynical can dismiss it. Those beat up by year after year of injustice understandably call BS.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But in practice, leading with the lens of community over competition is subversive and culture-shifting.
Community over competition requires deep life-long work to unburden the load we carry of scarcity and comparison.
In a highly connected, dopamine infused world, where billions of dollars are spent to cultivate 'not enoughness', we buy, vote, and believe, leading with community over competition is an antidote to the noise.
Leading with community over competition is an antidote to the noise and keeps us anchored in our values and integrity. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But leading this way comes at a cost.
It comes at the cost of the quick and easy.
It is not efficient (at least it feels that way in the short term).
It is super uncomfortable and forces you to face the parts of you that are not Instagram friendly.
And... I know you are here for this. (I know I am!)
You are here for showing up online and in-person in a way that does not feel out of alignment.
You are craving depth and are willing to give up the quick wins that just appease the surface image and metrics that fizzle quickly.
You know this is a way to lead that brings you home to your truth and cultivates a boundaried generosity that is contagious and necessary right now.
I am really excited to share with you this nuanced conversation with one of the founders of the community over competition movement, Natalie Franke.
Natalie shared so much wisdom in this episode of the Unburdened Leader - this will be worth a repeat listen.
Natalie Franke is a writer (her new book is coming out soon and you do not want to miss it), speaker, entrepreneur, and community builder on a mission to empower small business owners to rise together doing what they love. Natalie leads the Rising Tide Society and has mobilized over 75,000 creatives in the spirit of community over competition around the world.
Scroll Down for The Full Episode Transcript:
Natalie Franke: I think being a good steward of community over competition truly just means going out and looking for ways to support, to encourage, to uplift, to just be the reason that other people still believe there are good people in the world. Go out and be that person, be that good person that this world needs.
[Inspirational Intro Music]
Rebecca Ching: Leading with a lens of community over competition is much more than a well-worn hashtag. A leader who chooses community over competition in action is able to navigate the nuance of the both/and, can hang with the complex, can appreciate paradox. All of this requires heavy emotional lifting along with a deep practice and capacity for curiosity over certainty. Most importantly, choosing community over competition boldly bridges the divide of the figurative other while cultivating a generous leadership that is still deeply wrapped in boundaries, values, and accountability.
Yet the burdens of comparison are exhausting and can plague the best of us by highjacking your capacity to see there is room for success for all. True story. Not what we hear on the internet, right? The weight of bitterness and jealousy move you away from community and towards isolation. The fear of missing out and being misunderstood shuts down generosity and robs you of your peace. Community over competition in action is a beast to live in a world plagued with scarcity. You see, this kind of leading calls on all of us to do the work to address insecurities, to address our fears of being misunderstood, to address the deep desire to be right and win at the expense of the relationship. Because if you don't do this work, if we all don't do this work, we will continue to implode from turning on each other, and no one will really win.
I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with leaders whose burdens have inspired their life's work. Our goal is to learn how they’ve addressed these burdens, how they rise from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.
Community Over Competition is indeed a well-worn hashtag. The cynical can dismiss it, those beat up after year, after year of injustice understandably can call BS to it. But in practice, leading with the lens of community over competition is subversive and culture shifting. Community over competition requires deep life-long work to unburden the load we carry of scarcity and comparison. In a highly-connected, dopamine-infused world where billions of dollars are spent to cultivate not enough, to get us to buy, to vote, to believe a certain way, leading with community over competition is an antidote to the noise. But leading this way comes at a cost.
It comes at the cost of the quick and easy. It is not efficient, at least it feels that way in the short term. It is super uncomfortable and forces you to face the parts of you that are not Instagram friendly. And I also know that you are here for this. I know I am. You are here for showing up online and in person in a way that does not feel out of alignment. You’re craving depth and are willing to give up the quick wins that just appease the surface-y image and metrics that truly fizzle quickly. You know this is a way to lead that brings you home to your truth and cultivates a boundary of generosity that is contagious and necessary right now, which is why I am really excited to share with you this nuanced conversation with founder of the Community Over Competition Movement, Natalie Franke.
Natalie is a writer (her new book is coming out soon, and you don't want to miss it), speaker, entrepreneur, and community builder on a mission to empower small business owners to rise together doing what they love. She leads the Rising Tide Society and has mobilized over 75,000 creatives in the spirit of community over competition around the world. And when she’s not helping people turn their passions into sustainable livelihoods, she’s chasing after her toddler and calling up everyone she reaches to be a force for good to themselves and their community.
This interview has had so many moments of gold in it. It was really hard to focus on one theme. Listen carefully and be ready to take notes. Pay attention to the two different approaches to sharing online Natalie used and why she chose the path she did for each situation she discussed. Listen for how Natalie unpacks the power of connection and community in the online space using boundaries and clarity of intent. And notice her unique lens on the metaphor of the arena in terms of community over competition.
Natalie calls us up on how we can move forward from the lessons learned in 2020. This conversation is a gift, and I am so honored to welcome Natalie Franke to The Unburdened Leader podcast.
Natalie Franke: Thank you so much for having me! I’m so excited to be here.
Rebecca Ching: I’m really looking forward to this conversation, and in typical Unburdened Leader fashion, we just jump right into the deep stuff. And so, I want you to take us back to the day that you discovered that you had a brain tumor, and I’d love for you to share all that you were navigating in business and life when you received that news.
Natalie Franke: I was in my very early twenties, and I had just gotten engaged to my high school sweetheart, and prior to receiving that news, I was building a budding wedding photography business in my hometown of Annapolis. I was getting ready to marry my best friend.
I was worrying about wedding details and creating Pinterest boards and juggling sort of a transition into full-time photography in that season. I had just graduated from college, and I had built the business over a number of years while I was in school and actually used the business to help pay for school. But it was that transitional season where I was leaving school and stepping into adult life and full-time entrepreneurship and all of the hard aspects of transitioning into a new season that we experience in different stages of our life.
And so, it was sort of this really interesting season but also a very anticipatory season of getting excited for a wedding in the spring, dreaming of what was to come in my career and in my life and wanting to start a family and just sort of a lot of big goals at that stage. This was actually right around this time, right about October of that year, and in kind of preparing to get married, one of the things that I had kind of dealt with over the years were just some fairly overlooked symptoms. I had migraines, weight loss, weight gain without changes to diet or exercise frequently throughout my adult life. I dealt with and I still do deal with chronic depression and anxiety, but also since we dive in deep here on Unburdened Leader, I had stopped getting my period in my teen years, and it never returned.
And so, I finally, in preparing to get married and wanting to start a family, took charge of my own health and my reproductive health and went and saw my OBGYN. Upon talking to her about everything that I had been experiencing, she didn't write me off, and she was one of the first doctors that didn't write me off. She really listened, and she said, “Yeah, you know, a lot of this, it isn't normal, and something could be wrong here, so let’s take a deeper look.”
And so, in that season, I think I kind of was joyful to feel validated in kind of what I had been experiencing on the personal side. But also still having only experienced being an able-bodied individual could never have fathomed what I was about to walk into. We did a multitude of tests, crossing off a lot of the more common and likely cases of my symptoms. Ultimately, it led to a brain MRI and wanting to unpack why certain hormone levels in my body were so unbelievably out of whack, and that brain MRI led us to finding a benign mass sort of in the center of my brain right around my pituitary gland and my pituitary stock and very, very close to where your optic nerves cross in a location called the Optic Chiasm and nearly touching my optic nerves. It was a macro-sized tumor, which in pituitary speak, there’s micro and macro, and it was already in sort of a larger size for that small section of the brain.
And so, immediately just kind of hit a break on everything going on in my world, and it was a really, really difficult time. For me, though, if I’m being completely honest, less difficult than surgery, which came I guess maybe five-ish years down the road from that diagnosis point, which I think we’ll unpack today, but partially because I was still learning to accept this reality. I was still struggling to let go of my previous internalized identity of who I was and what my life would look like. In receiving this diagnosis, I was also told that I was infertile and kind of having to navigate that as a soon-to-be newlywed was a really difficult thing as someone that had placed a lot of my identity and, dare I even say being raised Catholic, my worth in motherhood and in my ability to procreate and having to rewrite my own perceptions of self-worth and challenge the ideologies that had been passed down to me, it was a tough season.
It was a tough season of having to change a lot of that and to step into becoming a different version of me and to awakening deeper realizations about myself and who I wanted to be in the world and coming to understand that my worth and my value are inherent in who I am and not what I can contribute or produce or go onto do, that they are knit within me from the moment of my creation. They're not changed by anyone or anything. I had to really approach that head on in that season.
At the time, it felt like the world was stopped and changing. And yet, looking back, I realize it was just like the first steppingstone to sort of a very different reality that I’ve lived in in all the years that have followed.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, we’re living in a culture of hard stops right now, but I’m thinking back, you were, what, around 22?
Natalie Franke: Mm-hmm. Yes.
Rebecca Ching: And, you know, my nerd brain goes to, wow, your brain wasn't even done developing yet. Usually it’s about mid-twenties when that happens. You're ready to launch warp speed. You have a business, planning a new life, and you had this hard stop and really reckoning with your identity and your worth. That’s a big rumble, especially at that season. A lot of people are so often committed on the doing, and this health scare really brought you to reckoning with a lot of that stuff.
One thing that struck me as I was prepping for this interview is your decision to keep the diagnosis private, like inner-circle, in-the-vault (at least that’s the impression I’m getting) private, up until your surgery. Can you share a little bit about your decision to keep that so private for so long?
Natalie Franke: Yes, I did. You're 100% right. I did not share about it. Even when you say inner circle, I mean, it was inner circle. It was my closest family, my closest friends. I think there are sort of two real reasons for why I did that for so long, the first being that I, myself, really struggled to accept the diagnosis. I think I felt as though by not acknowledging it, it wasn't real or didn't have to be. It didn't have to be real. It didn't have to be recognized. Surgery, for me, was that reckoning. Surgery, for me, and needing surgery was that moment of having to fully adopt this reality and step forward into it boldly for the first time. It was roughly five years. For those five years that I kept it private, I think I was working through psychologically navigating my new reality, and I wasn't really ready to accept it.
And then the other side of that was the professional side, the small business side, the reality that being a wedding photographer who could go blind at any minute was maybe not a great branding communication move.
Rebecca Ching: No! [Laughs]
Natalie Franke: And so, I was very hesitant to be open about my diagnosis. I knew that if I even said the words pituitary gland someone would Google it and see that blindness or loss of peripheral vision was something that’s very common with my diagnosis. For me, in particular, starting to do my visual field examinations for the first time, I got glasses for the first time in that season by doing all those tests and learning more about my vision and how it was being impacted by my tumor. And so, I think I just was very afraid of losing this business that I had built, of being judged harshly by potential clients, and just that fear. I think it really was fear that kept me quiet. How often does fear keep us quiet in so many ways. And just, yeah, that hesitancy.
I’ll add one more thing as professional. You know, we touched on identity a little bit, but I really did not want to assume the identity of being the photographer with the brain tumor. I didn't want to become someone that kind of had this diagnosis be who I was or be the one thing people knew about me. I really deeply wanted to be known for the impact I was making and for the people I was serving and the business I was building and the life I was building, and I was very much afraid, I think, of losing that and afraid of kind of shifting gears into a different external perception.
Again, this is all trying to step back into a season prior to me sharing and stepping forward in vulnerability and the learnings that also came with that, good and bad. But it was a very, very real season, and I know a lot of people listening to this have things that they also have kept very close to the chest, that they have guarded fiercely. And so, it’s something I think a lot of us experience at different points in our lives. Not everything is public all the time.
Rebecca Ching: No. Well, no. And more people need to probably practice that. But that’s a different conversation. I’m struck that, yes, that common humanity piece of what lengths we go to to avoid being misunderstood and also to have an identity put on us that we don't want to own. Honestly, what little control we have that we can spin and brand and hashtag the heck out of things, but man, people sure love to compartmentalize and categorize. I don't think it’s malicious always, but it’s so limiting, and we don't want to be limited in how we’re understood. Sometimes you're right. I’m just struck by how that fear of being misunderstood or labeled does keep us small and quiet.
So, with that said and the wisdom that you have now, looking back, would you still choose to keep it private for so long? Why or why not?
Natalie Franke: Ooh, you know, I think there were real lessons that I learned by keeping it private for so long, lessons that I don't know if I’d want to give up, and I think living in both worlds was one of them. Living in the world where, for those years, it was private and then being able to step into a different season where I was very open about it, and I still am very open about it -- I’m open about things now that I never would have been open about had I not tried to hide certain parts of who I was for so long.
So I don't know if I would change it just for the sake that the lessons learned were so valuable and have transformed my life in ways that I don't think I would ever want to not understand and empathize with that other reality, you know? It’s actually been really powerful too, now that I have shared my story and I went through my surgery pretty publicly and explained all the complications very publicly, I have connected in that sense of community and relationship with so many people that aren't sharing publicly or to tell me things they wouldn’t tell even their closest friends because there is that sense of shared experience and that ability to deeply connect to the experiences maybe that someone else is walking through.
I don't know. It’s given me this ability, I think, to understand both sides for how we navigate difficult seasons, potentially traumatic seasons. Some people are very open about sharing right from the start, and others aren't, and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to live in both worlds and see both worlds. So I’m not sure that I would change it.
Rebecca Ching: You know, I really value that, and the reason why I’m hanging out here is we live in a culture that one feels entitled to know everything, especially if you put yourself out there.
So there’s the entitlement, and kind of expectation. And then there is sometimes this other part of I have to share it all and share it all right now before doing the inner work to kind of heal and get your own clarity before you take that story to the outside of the inner, inner circle. And so, it’s an interesting tension, and I know you do a lot of work in the online space.
I had a mentor, to me, talk about how she saw the difference between personal and private early on in my venturing into the online space, and it really blew my mind. So I’m curious for you, how do you discern personal and private in the age of hyper, hyper communication and expectation to know it all and know it all now? [Laughs]
Natalie Franke: I love that. I’ve never heard someone communicate it in such a way of just even the personal versus the private. They're very different things.
Rebecca Ching: Right?
Natalie Franke: Yeah. They are. They really are. The discernment comes down to a couple of things. I think, first and foremost, the question I always ask is, “Is this something that impacts others beyond myself?” That goes both ways. So one, that means does that impact my family, my husband, my son? And in the case now of being more open about infertility, it has been something where I check in with my husband. “Is it okay if I share this in this season?” Because although I may be the one physically enduring most of the treatment that we go through, he also endures a lot of the emotional hardship and the labor of having --
Rebecca Ching: Absolutely.
Natalie Franke: -- to be in this season with me and endure these failing rounds with me. And so, that’s the first question is sort of, for me, does this impact others and if so, checking in with them before making any decision. If I have a feeling in my heart like I want to be open about it to just check in, to check in and to talk through it.
In my case, my husband is very, very supportive of when I decide to be open and has just been actually a very much empowering force in that, in just encouraging me to move forward. So that’s the first question I kind of look at.
And then the second question is have I sat with this long enough to really understand how to communicate it in a way that will bring about more good in the world than harm. And what I mean by that is I think sometimes when we are going through a cathartic season or we are in the trauma, we are living in the pain, it can be very difficult to communicate in a way that doesn't actually bring about more harm, either to ourselves or to others. And everyone’s going to be different in how they look at this, but for me it just comes back to that. It’s, when I share this story, kind of checking in with myself around what is the intention, what am I hoping to gain, what am I hoping that my community gains because, for me as a community leader, I have to look at it both ways. And so, if it’s, for example, sharing about needing brain surgery in that season when I did go to share, it was about checking in and saying, “Okay, what is it that I really want to gain from this?” It was a variety of things, but it was creating a more transparent environment where I didn't feel the need to hide anymore, where I could step kind of into my reality and share that reality more openly with others.
Also, heading into surgery, I was desperately desiring connection and desperately desiring a sense of solidarity with others, like having folks that really knew what we were walking through that could come alongside us on that journey that did come alongside us and also opening up a space for that positive energy, those prayers. Giving people an opportunity to feel a part of the story, to feel and lean into being a part of our journey should they want to. Many people did, and so, for me, kind of running through that understanding of have I sat with this long enough to where I really understand what I’m saying and how I’m saying it, the impact that will have on me, the impact that might have on others.
I’ve kind of applied that sort of methodology to a lot of things that we’ve shared from brain surgery to infertility treatment to when we got pregnant, the same thing. How do I convey this message in a world where so much of my community is struggling with miscarriage or current loss, infertility, and longing for a happy ending of their own? How do I celebrate in a way that’s still empathetic to so many people that I love?
And, again, it’s not just the darkness. It’s also those joyful moments like thinking through how we share and, perhaps, in my case, it’s a little bit of overthinking, but it’s always served me really well to just try and work through it first internally and then think through how it might be received externally in a way, again, that’s striving to bring about more good than harm. in those cases and scenarios.
Rebecca Ching: I’m struck by what you maybe would call overthinking I call boundaries and discernment and ethics and values. What also struck me as you were answering that question, not once did you bring up how this was gonna land with your business, how this was gonna help your business. This wasn't a marketing issue. That’s just noteworthy in our age, and actually, I’m not opposed to people sharing their story and integrating that into their work and their life. I’m in no way criticizing that, but this really slowing-down process of really being honest with yourself, “What’s my motivation,” getting permission from those who would be impacted, communicating that by you sharing (so slowing that process down), and really staying curious about the impact you're desiring. You keep talking about that impact being beyond you or your business, too. It is part of you. “Is this gonna help me in my healing?”
I think that’s when I really became aware of you, you. I think I knew about kind of some of the things you were doing on a bigger level, but when you were going into surgery, and I was so captivated by your words and your vulnerability, it felt different to me, and I think that’s what drew me into you and your leadership of this is just I’m scared. I could tell you did the backend work. You're like, “We’ve been on this journey, so here’s where you come in if you want to join me.” It was an even permission there, like, “Here’s what’s going on,” and I just really valued that. It’s so refreshing, and to be an active participant in cheering somebody on who’s going through a big struggle does feel grounding and anchoring. It does facilitate community and connection, all the things that we’re wired for, right?
So I appreciate your process, and again, if that’s overthinking, then we need maybe a little bit more of that, and permission to go slower doesn't mean we’re gonna miss out on opportunities, as I look at the community that you’ve built with such integrity and intention by going through that process. So I think we have a lot to learn from you in that area, so thank you for sharing that.
So you’ve mentioned your infertility struggles, and I do want to touch on that because you took a different route of sharing, right? What struck me is you kind of were doing this more real time of expanding your family. You have one child, and now having some real disappointments (and sharing that recently) with fertility. Personally, I’m biased. I value these stories. I think this is an area where people have suffered silently, way too many people suffer, and so, I’m grateful that more people can say, “Okay, me too. Me too,” and then also people who’ve come out of it and experience joys. And so, I’m really grateful with the tender nuance of sharing your story.
But tell me a little bit about you sharing your disappointment with these recent rounds of fertility treatment as you begin the journey to have another child. What fueled your decision to share this loss so quickly after you experienced in this health concern?
Natalie Franke: Mm, truthfully, I am in a much different place today than I was going through this with my son, and I think that it’s really important to acknowledge that, first and foremost, because in starting fertility treatment for Hughy (which is my son), we really did not know whether we would be able to have a child of our own. A lot of women especially with my diagnosis -- men as well, but women especially with my diagnosis are not able to have their own children, and I knew that. We had known that for a number of years. So in going through it with Hughy, I did not open up about our infertility journey until we were on the other side of it. At that point I did. I shared that we did fertility treatment to conceive him, and I started opening up slowly by slowly by slowly.
This time around, I really wanted to commit to doing it a little bit differently. I think I’m learning with each stage of my life -- just turned 30! I’m learning that each time that I push myself beyond my comfort zone a little bit more and a little bit more, I see the fruits of that labor. I see the connections deepened. I see the impact made. I very rarely have to deal with the things that I worry about the most when it comes to that. You know, we all have reasons why we struggle with being vulnerable in different moments of our life, and oftentimes my fears are much larger than the reality of the difficulty on the other side.
Rebecca Ching: So true. So true.
Natalie Franke: And I’ve learned that, right? We really do. We envision the absolute worst-case scenario, and sometimes I’m sure that does unfold, but for the most part, it doesn't. And so, this time around, I really wanted to navigate it a little bit differently.
Truthfully, going into it as well, I thought it would be much easier this second time because it took a while with Hughy to figure out a combination of injections and hormones that could fake what my brain should have been doing for the last 20 years or 15 years, however long. And so, it took a while to get to a point of really understanding how to manipulate the medical needs that I have in order to get a shot at this, and I thought, well, we figured that out, so this time around is going to be so much easier.
But this time around, my hormone levels were different, and this time around indicating that years and years and years of your brain not functioning impacts your ovaries in a way that makes it difficult to get eggs that are good enough to weather the storm of fertilization and implantation and navigating those very, very volatile days after ovulation and just, for me, realizing, “Okay, this time around it’s different, and this time around we may not get the happy ending that we are looking for. And sharing those disappointments, we’re now into the autumn, and we started treatment again as soon as fertility clinics opened early spring. They were closed due to COVID, and then they reopened in my state, and months and months and months of those injections on and off, nothing working.
It’s been interesting sharing that and navigating a new sort of disappointment where in the past the retrospective privilege of sharing after something has happened gives you more control, whereas when you're sharing as you're enduring it, you're surrendering that and you're opening up that disappointment to people that also love you, and that’s been really hard for me, knowing that when I have sad news, people feel it too and that the people who love me feel the disappointment in the same moment that I’m feeling it. It’s been a little bit harder than I think I thought it would be.
But that being said as well, the empathy and the love and the comfort received in real time is also more supportive than I think I could have fathomed. Being able to find out a round failed and just open up and say, “Hey, this last round failed, and right now we’re taking a break for a couple of months. We don't know what our next steps are going to be. We’re still trying to decide if we want to continue or how we want to continue,” and being able to open up and just kind of be honest about where we’re at, it’s invited people to really and truly love us in a season when we need it.
So often, as a leader, I think you become accustomed to supporting others and always pouring out for others and always being the cheerleader, being the encourager, being the one who listens on the other side of a difficult conversation and forgetting that leaders also sometimes need to be nurtured as well and need that reciprocal feedback, support, encouragement, and love, especially in hard seasons. We tend to compartmentalize and almost put ourselves in a different category where we forget that we are human and that we sometimes will need help. I don't know if anyone else feels like that. But I certainly do. And so, going through these disappointments, these not-happy endings in real time, the messy middle of what is life, it’s also been just I think a lesson in enabling yourself to be loved in return. When pouring out to others so frequently, to be able to receive comfort when you need it.
But it certainly has not been easy, and it’s a story currently being written. We’re living in a chapter that we don't know the ending of quite yet, and so, my hope is that in writing it with others, it feels just a little bit less lonely.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, gosh. Yeah, absolutely having a little bit more of that common humanity, that connection. Another thing you said that really struck me was that when you share real time you have less control, as opposed to kind of the post-reflection of something, and outside of even this personal nature of what you're going through, I think that is leadership 101. If we’re trying to lead from a place and live from a place where we’re controlling everything, that’s not leadership. That’s scarcity. That’s fear. That’s rigidity, right? That’s not the impact that we’re here for. So really being able to sit with the vulnerability and really owning it. So something like this that you're sharing real time is such a lesson to any of us in how we show up in our lives and in how much control do we really have.
The other thing you said that I resonate with is that capacity and necessity to receive. I get worried about the leaders -- I get scared by leaders who say, “I don't need anything,” but when I see leaders that have set up systems of support and reciprocity, as you talked about, and acknowledge that we can't give what we don't have, it is just the physics of energy. Maybe we don't get that from everyone we’re leading. We have to be discerning on where we get our cups filled. But recognizing that that is the physics of leadership, and we need to be poured into so we can continue to show up. So thank you for naming that so beautifully.
For you right now, what’s the most difficult part of this journey?
Natalie Franke: We’ve touched a little bit on letting go of control. I think surrendering is part of that, but I also think that in many other aspects of my life, I feel like I have some way to contribute to the outcome, that the failure, even if it comes, right, has been influenced by something that I have done or could have done better or could learn from in the future and could iterate upon or innovate on or grow and become a better person. Dealing with infertility in particular has made it abundantly clear that the amount of control we have in most aspects of our lives, and this one being just more visible to me, are far more limited than we realize, and knowing that I did nothing to cause my diagnosis, I could not have prevented my diagnosis, no amount of perfect supplements and exercise and caring for myself and meditation on repeat can ensure that a round is going to be successful. And having to embrace failure as something that is beyond my control and also ensure that there is a boundary around failing and myself feeling like a failure.
Rebecca Ching: Yes!
Natalie Franke: Right?
Rebecca Ching: Yes, yes, yes.
Natalie Franke: It’s so important --
Rebecca Ching: Essential.
Natalie Franke: -- and so yet a challenge. Oftentimes, we kind of absorb those failures -- at least I have a tendency to absorb them as if they are me or a part of me or a part of my identity. And so, navigating infertility has just been that reminder that there must be a boundary and that we have to fight for that boundary to remember that those failures, those instances in which we don't have the outcome that we desire are not a reflection of us, our worth, our value, none of that, right? That it is separate. It is different.
Rebecca Ching: We have to fight for that boundary because once our worthiness gets tied into external factors, it is a slippery slope to feeling pretty crappy. I love that, having a boundary. I’m just thinking about this, how we create these boundaries around our worthiness, and it doesn't mean -- it’s not a wall, but this boundary of my worthiness isn't ever going to expire. It’s not ever something that depreciates. It’s true, and I love that I’m still gonna be invested in the outcome, whatever it is. I love how you said that. I’m like, you know what? I’m invested in this outcome. I’m not only gonna own the victories. I’m invested in going for it. I know where I want to go, but whatever the outcome, I’m invested, and I own that. That is badass. I love that mindset, and there’s a sense of just -- there’s a grounding sense when I even say that out loud, “I’m invested in this. I know where I want to go. I’m not sure if that’s where we’re gonna end up, but wherever we do, I’m invested in it, and we’ll take it from there.”
Okay, so you wear many hats. How are you caring for yourself right now as you toggle all these responsibilities? I mean, entrepreneur, photographer, leader, wife, founder of the Community Over Competition Movement. How are you caring for those responsibilities, your health, and all your loves right now?
Natalie Franke: So, truthfully, I carve out 30 minutes every day for me. That’s how I do it, and it sometimes looks more like 15 minutes instead of 30 minutes, and sometimes more like 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes, but I carve out 30 minutes for me every single day.
In different seasons, that 30 minutes is going to look different. So during fertility treatment, it looks more like journaling, doodling, and meditation. Now that I’m on break from treatment, it looks like hopping on the bike and cycling every morning. And that does mean that for me I’m up at 5:00 AM, and sometimes, like this morning, that 30 minutes was 15 because I hear my baby chirping, and I’m like, “You know what? He can chirp and chat in his crib for 15. Mama’s getting on the bike, and I’m going to sweat this out, and I just need this time.”
For me, I’ve not always been a super athletic person or physical person. I was the one that had the gym membership but never went. I’m notoriously that person because life is busy, right? But as an adult and in stepping into this season of motherhood, I have just had to force that boundary for myself, carve out that time and demand of myself that time and really prioritize it because that 30 minutes a day for me now is the difference between a really healthy version of me that can show up well and take care of the people in my life and the responsibilities on my plate and a version of me that can't. It is 30 minutes. That is the differentiator.
And so, you know, lately in this season it really does look like getting on my bike, working out for 30 minutes, carving out that time, and then going about my day. In that space that I cultivate, I try really hard to show up with the baggage and leave without the baggage. Show up with what I’m feeling, not try to pretend like it’s not there, not try to say, “Oh, this is my 30 minutes. I have to let everything else go to the wayside.” I know that works for some people. For me, it’s the opposite because oftentimes I can't sleep if I’m overthinking. I can't move forward if I’m overthinking. So I show up with the overthinking.
I show up with the concerns, with the anxieties, with the worries, with the hardships, with the failures, and I, in this season, sweat it out and leave it. I work and let it out and emotionally process and give myself that space and that capacity, and then when I have my 30 minutes and it’s done, for the most part, I’ve been able to kind of refresh and renew and move forward and try my best from that point on to make that day the best that it can be, even with those failures, those concerns, those hardships, that waiting for that call on the beta pregnancy test. Whatever it is that I’m anticipating that’s holding me back, I try to still move forward and just embrace the possibilities of the day. But without those 30 minutes, I’m just not the person that I need to be for the community and for the people in my life that need me.
Rebecca Ching: I’m so tracking with you, Natalie. I am the same way because my husband will even say, “You have not had your movement, have you?” I’m like, “Am I being cranky?”
Natalie Franke: That’s my husband too. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Because he’s like, “Well, I didn't want to start with that.” [Laughs] Are you using the Peloton App by chance?
Natalie Franke: Mm-hmm. Yes.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh. Game changer, right?
Natalie Franke: I know. Look, I’m a community person, and after my brain surgery --
Rebecca Ching: Me too!
Natalie Franke: -- yeah? I did my first cycling class probably about eight months after surgery. Maybe not even that long. It might have been closer to six months. But I did my first cycling class after my brain surgery as a way of just trying to work on the recovery process and get back into a movement practice, and I was doing a ton of yoga, but the cycling for me was the first cardiovascular exercise. I walk into a SoulCycle class, which I had never done and have never gone since. I went to one. But in that class, it was the first time I experienced what it’s like to have an instructor (I jokingly call it) shouting affirmations at you. But somebody just showing up for you and challenging you to be your unique best. Not worry about the other people in the room, not worry about what they're doing or how they're performing, but showing up as you are and encouraging you, and I was hooked.
So I love Peloton. I’ve just kind of become a little bit of a fanatic. There’s something about doing it with others and having somebody encouraging you that, for me, is really motivating and healing and, yeah, it’s great.
Rebecca Ching: It’s such an impressive platform and truly holistic. Did you do the ride that they did for World Mental Health Day?
Natalie Franke: No, I didn't, but I have it bookmarked to do it.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, you have to, Natalie! And let me know because I was in my family’s face. I was crying and laughing and shouting. It was the most powerful use of movement and words and music I’ve seen together in that kind of physicality. It’s been cool to see people that are taking the class at the same time as you and all of that. Yeah, it is neat to see someone who’s really caring about how can they create experience where we can leave it all on the bike, right?
Natalie Franke: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.
Rebecca Ching: Super. So we had a little squirrel moment on the Peloton, but if anyone knows me, I’m just really, really into this experience right now. It’s been a game changer for me.
So, speaking of community, so much of your work in community is in the online space. How do you navigate -- I know you touch on this a lot in just what you share, but how do you navigate comparison in this space that is so notorious for cultivating scarcity and unhealthy competition.
Natalie Franke: Yes, well, I love when you say scarcity because then you know I’m going to respond with either the Brené Brown version of enoughness or the --
Rebecca Ching: Yep. Bring it!
Natalie Franke: -- sort of infamous abundance.
Rebecca Ching: Ay yai yai.
Natalie Franke: I know. So instead of going that route, what if we tackle it from a different perspective? Competition and comparison both are not inherently bad things. The reality here --
Rebecca Ching: Amen.
Natalie Franke: Yeah, I’m glad you agree with me. Not everyone does. Sometimes when we have these conversations they get heated.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, come on. You’ve got to cheer for your team. You’ve got to be all in. You’ve got to take the wins and the losses. But, again, it’s when the boundaries around your worthiness get tied up into winning, which I may or may not struggle with. [Laughs]
Natalie Franke: We all do. We all do.
Rebecca Ching: Right? So yes, go ahead. I totally am tracking with you.
Natalie Franke: Yes, they're not inherently bad.
Rebecca Ching: No.
Natalie Franke: I say this a lot. I say, you know, as human beings, we are built to belong, but we are also created to compete. Our brains are wired, for the survival of the individual and the species, to navigate tricky social interactions and social groupings. Not to go totally neuro anthropological on you.
Rebecca Ching: Let’s do it.
Natalie Franke: I know, well, I have a whole chapter in my book on this. Truly, we ultimately have evolved such that we are created to want to succeed, to want to gain and grow and achieve and evolve. That’s wired within us, that competitive nature. There is a reason why when we do compete or we’re in the arena or we perform a task in the company of others who are observing us perform that task, that we actually perform better than if we were doing it alone, right?
Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.
Natalie Franke: There is reason for that. That is ultimately part of our wiring as human beings. However, our brain has not evolved a ton in the last 200 to 300 years. It hasn't changed much from our ancestors 200 to 300 years ago. However, our society in our world is unrecognizable.
Rebecca Ching: Yes.
Natalie Franke: To the ancestors who this brain evolved to enable them to thrive, they would not have any idea what this device, this phone that we carry in our pocket is or the amount of content we consume or how much we know about one another’s lives, and not just the people in our village or in our community, but the people in all seasons of life, all around the world, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them that we are confronted with every day.
And so, I think when we talk about comparison, when we talk about competition, what we’re really talking about -- and you talk about it in terms of the entanglement with our worth and our value. I think that’s huge. I think that is so critical. I also want us to acknowledge that we’re talking about it at a scope and a scale that we’ve perhaps never endured before. Never before in the history of humanity have we been so privy to so much information (information about others, about what they're doing, what they're achieving), and not through a transparent lens. The internet only tells half the story, right? No one’s out there bragging about their failures, bragging about their mistakes.
Rebecca Ching: It is half the story, yes.
Natalie Franke: You got it.
Rebecca Ching: You get a snippet of the story. Yeah, yeah.
Natalie Franke: You got it. It’s a curated, tiny, tiny, pinhole-view of others’ lives. And so, we create this amalgamation of that false reality curated and published for the world to see as if it’s real, and at a scale and a scope we’ve never consumed before. And so, we move from a territory where comparison can be healthy, and competition can be healthy to a space where it is not. I look at it kind of like sports. You mentioned sports. And competition is unhealthy when there’s an unfair playing field --
Rebecca Ching: Yes.
Natalie Franke: -- when the rules of engagement are not clear and ethical and defined and agreed upon by all parties. So in business, for example, I often talk about how healthy competition, for example, would be two people doing the same thing in the same city and respecting, ethically, their ability to do that, not trying to write false reviews to tear the other business down, not trying to deceive. We can go to that extreme, but having those agreed-upon rules, those ethics that we abide by when we compete, and my favorite in healthy competition is that it remains in the arena. Healthy competition doesn't leave the arena. It doesn't continue with us when the game is over.
A good example of this that I love to use, one of my favorite moments -- I’m not a huge tennis fan, but it’s one of my favorite moments in sports in general -- is the moment when Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff are playing at the US Open.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, yeah.
Natalie Franke: That entire arena was filled with fans cheering for Coco Gauff. She was the underdog. She still is. She’s young. She’s a pioneer in so many ways. Same with Naomi, by the way -- a pioneer in so many ways. But you could feel the energy cheering for Coco over and over, and Naomi won. There was this moment at the end of the match when the reporter comes down and is talking to Naomi about her win, and she kind of steps to the side and sees Coco kind of crying and going off to the locker room to mourn this loss that she’s had on this world stage. She walks over to her, and she says, “Join me. I want you to join me. I want you to come up. I want you to bask in this spotlight with me,” and Coco’s like, “No, no, no, no, no. I can’t.” She says yet again, “No, no, no. I want you to come with me. I want you up here. You deserve this too.”
There is no doubt anyone who watched that tennis match knows that those two competitors laid it all out on the court, that they didn’t meekly allow the other to win, that they didn't not show up as their best self. They competed like their life depended on it when they were on the court, and the minute that game was over, we witnessed the tenants of a true champion. We witnessed the winner say, “The competition is over, and I see a fellow athlete mourning a loss, another woman who has fought tooth and nail to get on this court, who has endured so much to even be here, and I want to honor her contribution. I want to honor --.” She honored her parents. There was a moment there of camaraderie between two people setting out to do something extraordinary in the arena. That is healthy competition.
So when I think about whether it’s as a mother, the competition in motherhood, the competition in small business ownership, the competition as a leader, these feelings of comparison.
One of the biggest places where I see in my world, not just the worth and the value, but I see this step from healthy to unhealthy is that we don't keep it in the arena, and oftentimes, that it shouldn't be a competition at all. We mistake what is meant to be competitive as something so much more wider in scope and vast in scale.
And so, in business, there is true competition. You're competing, and maybe the same customer or client could go to either you or to someone else. Those are the facts. Whether you're like me and you believe there’s more than enough to go around for so many of us. That’s what I believe. I really do. I’ve seen it in my business. Or even if you don’t, the reality here is that that competition needs to stop at the edge of the arena, at the edge of the business, at the edge of whatever it is that you do. It does not continue beyond that.
COVID’s been a great example actually in my community of small business owners with Rising Tide with HoneyBook where we’ve seen that lived out. We’ve seen that when a global pandemic threatened to destroy entire parts of our economy and small business owners’ livelihoods, like they should, the competition didn't matter anymore. It doesn't matter whether somebody does the same thing that you do or is a direct competitor in your local market. If that competitor is hurting, if their family isn't able to pay their bills, if somebody’s not able to put food on the table, we’re no longer competitors, we’re community. The arena is so clearly defined when our lives are on the line. The arena becomes much more easy for us to discern and to see when there’s a threat that is facing all of us, right?
And so, one of the things that I want to say in regards to your question is this year has been hell for a lot of people, and for a lot of small business owners, it has been one of, if not the hardest year, they’ve ever had. Their entire world’s knocked out overnight. Many of my wedding and event industry professional friends have seen an entire year of income and all of their employees and contractors have to navigate no income coming in for all of this year, and they never could have fathomed it. Some of them had their best years on the books. And yet, as we rise from the ashes of 2020, we have an opportunity of whether or not we want to revert to the comfort of the past or we want to take the lessons learned in this season and move forward in the process of becoming a better version of ourselves.
I truly believe in my heart that this competitive, very highly comparison-driven environment that we operate in as a world, as a society, could really benefit from the lessons we’ve learned in some of us in this season of letting it stay in the arena of acknowledging the humanity and putting people above the competition, seeing beyond the curation of the internet, acknowledging that there is a struggle that each of us are walking through that oftentimes never gets shared or known, and yet, we often treat one another as if our lives are the hard ones and everyone else has it perfect, and we try to measure up to some impossible definition of success, and I think 2020, even amidst so much heartache and pain and unimaginable suffering, has also brought a sense, for many of us, of that humanity and camaraderie and community back to the forefront of our lives, even if, for some of us, it’s just longing for it and missing for it once again because we’ve been without it.
Rebecca Ching: Follow-up questions here. So, okay, I’m in my mind rumbling with leaving it in the arena. I can hear my husband say, “Does everything have to be a competition or a conflict?” Because I’m always like there’s a driven part, and I’m like, “That’s hard to leave it in the arena,” and I’m thinking also from a trauma-informed-leadership perspective, sometimes physiologically and psychologically it might be hard, it might take some more inner work to really define where to leave -- to be able to have that capacity to do that, to help the nervous system not be so hypervigilant or to be in that mode of having to hustle or to prove or to protect, right?
So can you get a little more granular on this leaving it in the arena and what does that look like transitioning? Is this kind of what you were talking about where we had these amazing athletes playing a tennis championship, and when it’s over the winner then left the arena to go for the news, but she called in her competitor and then they celebrated and honored each other. Is that kind of what you're talking about? It’s like they're not the enemy anymore. They're not fighting against them anymore than they transition to community versus the competition in the arena. Is this what you're going for? And then elaborate.
Natalie Franke: Yes. No, I think you're definitely hitting the nail on the head on that. I think it really comes down to not villainizing the person on the other end, not seeing them as the enemy. I do think that that’s really critical and important. However, I also mean not enabling it to consume you beyond the scope where it exists.
Rebecca Ching: Ooh. Okay.
Natalie Franke: And so, this kind of goes back I think to some of my own experiences with anxiety, with the spiraling. For example, we can even use infertility as an example, the feelings of someone else succeeding meaning that it’s robbing me of my joy, robbing me of my opportunity to one day experience that success. If I were to leave my feelings of comparison and competition where they belong, which is not in my relationships, not in my deep connections with friends who are joyfully experiencing pregnancy, right, it does require conscious work. It requires, I think, a lot of inner work.
It also requires acknowledging that as a human it is natural to feel comparative, it is natural to have that sense of maybe jealousy or longing. Again, that’s human. That’s very, very much human.
Rebecca Ching: There’s big data there too.
Natalie Franke: Yeah, they say, “I’m pregnant!” And for me to go, “Ugh, I’ve fallen behind. Ugh, it feels like you're stealing my oxygen. I wish so much that I was pregnant with you,” right? That’s very, very human. But if I don't kind of enable that boundary for myself in understanding that those feelings that I’m having in the case of comparison, maybe it’s that I’m comparing where I wanted to be in this season, “I wish I was pregnant in this season,” to someone who is, if I don't kind of honor that feeling and then also acknowledge that it can’t consume, it shouldn't continue to rise up, it shouldn't be something that dominates every thought of my day, that consumes me every time I see a photograph of my friend, right, that I feel that jealously, that bitterness. That enabling -- and this is just my view -- enabling those feelings, those comparative feelings, the competition, those feelings to escape beyond the bounds of where they belong, to come to a place where they consume every thought and every interaction and every way that we walk through the world and every engagement. It can completely destroy us. It can completely change our perspective of others.
I think about even the business world a lot in this regard.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, yeah.
Natalie Franke: You know, we’ve kind of come to a place where we distrust before we trust rather than trusting and enabling proof to lead us to understand and discern who deserves that trust in that. Two ways to walk through the world. You walk through the world expecting everyone to deceive and harm you, you walk through the world maybe the opposite hoping abundantly that people will surprise you and bring about joy and goodness into the world and into your life.
There’s a really famous Brené Brown quote where she says, “If you walk through the world looking for reasons why you don't belong, you're going to find them.” The opposite is true.
For me, and getting a little bit more granular here into understanding the boundaries of the arena, I think it both means not villainizing the individual that you feel like you must compete or compare yourself with, but I also think it means keeping it in check. It means cognitively reframing if necessary the narratives that you enable to consume your mind, right? So if you look at someone else and you say, “Oh, well, that person has it all,” or, “That person achieved this thing that I wish I could have achieved. They beat me at this,” right? Think of it like a game. “They beat me at this.”
Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.
Natalie Franke: And that’s the narrative that you enable to consume you all the time, that expands and takes up that space in your mind, then you walk through the world feeling that way. You make choices because of that mindset. Whereas the opposite is true as well. If you cognitively reframe your perspective of that person and that interaction or feeling that you have towards them and you say, “Wow, that person achieved that thing or has that thing, and that gives me hope. That gives me hope that for me it could be possible too,” or, “I’m really happy for them. They worked really hard to get there, and they are deserving of that,” or trying to turn it. “Can I champion and cheer for them? Can I become an advocate for them? Can I encourage and empower them instead of competing and tearing down and taking away from?”
That simple mindset shift, for me personally, has been really powerful. It has enabled me to navigate really complex emotions around people in my life that I love dearly but are having different seasons of life than I am (I’m talking on the personal side but also on the professional side), in a way that it requires conscious work.
The subconscious is very much -- I find myself reptilian-braining it up, like it’s natural. It’s like, “Ugh, she got that, and I didn't. Ugh, he has that, and I don't. Ugh, they had this success, and I didn't get there yet. Am I falling behind? Am I not measuring up?” The conscious me enables those thoughts to exist and then replaces them. I like to call it the truth, but I try to replace it with truth. I try to replace it with, “No, if someone else gets pregnant, it doesn't mean that I can't,” you know? It doesn't mean that I can't be happy for them and sad still for the season I’m in. Those are two separate distinct realities. Same with business. Somebody else books the client that I wanted. It doesn't mean that I’m failing in business. It could actually mean that that client was always meant for them and that my client that was meant for me is right around the corner, and that had I taken that client, I couldn't accept the gifts that are coming my way.
So I don't know if that helps to clarify.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, it does. I appreciate you going deep. My brain is going a couple different areas, and I’m even thinking about how I conceptualize even those parts of me that envy or that want to keep the competition going. I mean, I think that’s when we go from healthy competition to almost this jonesing for the fight all the time.
Natalie Franke: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: And I’m thinking, too, even if I don't like the person -- let’s say there’s something else going on like politics, let’s just say. Maybe we’ll toss that out there as we’re doing this interview ten days out of probably the most important election in our country ever. But what’s helped me is I’m not gonna dehumanize the person. I’m going to fight to defeat, and even if I’m victorious, I’m not going to dehumanize ever for my own wellbeing, for my own values.
So as I move out of the arena of casting my vote and advocating for people to vote and show up in a way, then, in helping people understand what’s at stake, when that particular arena is moved onto other things, how do I maintain the humanity of all that were involved, no matter how egregious what happened in the arena.
I think sometimes I think of people who are fighting for their lives, fighting for recovery, fighting for change. We’re recording this during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Natalie Franke: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: And so, just thinking about a lot of that that gets lost and that sometimes it’s hard to leave that when we’re fighting for life and dignity. The other thing you said, too, is that the arena sometimes doesn't work because the rules don't work for everybody in the arena.
Natalie Franke: You got it.
Rebecca Ching: And we’re seeing that with Black Lives Matter.
Natalie Franke: You got it.
Rebecca Ching: And really bringing that up too. So we’re in a fight even in the arena to redefine the arena right now. So there’s just a lot of nuance in this metaphor that I’ll be thinking about for a while, and I really appreciate it. And I also see it’s a mental health piece to be able to leave the competition in the arena so that we can give our minds and our souls a break from that intensity. We’re not meant to always be fighting at the intensity of an elite athlete [Laughs] 24/7, but it’s hard sometimes. And that’s where we need to get more support because that’s not sustained leadership, right?
Natalie Franke: No.
Rebecca Ching: I mean, it’s hard to stay aligned to what matters. What can still trip you up and cause you to question your doubt and worthiness?
Natalie Franke: Actually I think in kind of the last closing remark that you hit on, it’s the fact that when I don't carve out space to rest and to recover, when I’m always trying to operate at professional athletic levels 24/7, whether that’s mentally or physically, I deplete, I think, the parts of me that I need to remain strong in order to do the work that I do.
And so, what trips me up the most is not carving out the time for self-care, not taking my feelings and emotions seriously in the moment and kind of trying to compartmentalize or dismiss or not acknowledge because I feel the need to “be the leader” in that moment, which is more of a nod to, again, these frameworks and systems of what leadership is sort of stereotypically supposed to be versus what it really should be --
Rebecca Ching: Right. Yeah.
Natalie Franke: -- which is vulnerable, which is honest, which is very different from a lot of these arenas that are being restructured and these systems that are being torn down and rebuilt, rightfully so. And so, for me, the tripping up I think comes when I don't take care of myself, when I don't nurture myself.
Rebecca Ching: And it’s so simple, right? It’s the basics, and we’re not superhuman.
Natalie Franke: No, we’re not.
Rebecca Ching: That capacity -- really maintaining our capacity. So, as we wrap up this conversation in such a moment of time, how can we truly be better stewards of the movement you started, the Community Over Competition Movement, particularly in the online space. So this is more than just a frickin’ hashtag. How can we be better stewards of it and really live it?
Natalie Franke: I think it comes down to actively engaging in ways that you can lift up and support others. This movement isn’t so much about saying, “Oh, I agree with it,” or, “I agree with the idea of it,” as it is living it out in your daily life. To me, that truly means looking for ways that you can, every single day, uplift, encourage, and support the people in your life who perhaps the world would want you to compete or compare with, or perhaps you struggled with that in the past, and really trying to do the outer work of going out and supporting and encouraging and attending to and nurturing, while also acknowledging that that is going to do a hell of a lot for your heart and a hell of a lot for the inner work you're also doing on yourself.
And so, I think being a good steward of Community Over Competition truly just means going out and looking for ways to support, to encourage, to uplift, to just be the reason that other people still believe there are good people in the world. Go out and be that person, be that good person that this world needs.
I don't think it has to be a grand sweeping gesture. I think it can truly be as simple as supporting a small business in your community or tipping somebody who is taking care of you and maybe that little bit extra is gonna support them in a hard season that you don't even know about or checking in on a friend that you haven't talked to in a while, especially those that are struggling with mental health. Even if they can't respond, sending the text anyway, checking in, using seven seconds out of your day to say, “Hey, no need to respond, but I want you to know that I’m thinking about you. I want you to know that I love you and I care about you, and I know you're going through something tough, so don't even -- if you can't respond, there’s no guilt. Don't worry about it. You just need to know that I’m thinking about you. You just need to know that I love, and I care about you.”
I think it also means working through and cheering for those folks that, like I said, we compare and compete with and really working on cultivating communities where we celebrate the wins of others and so much, so much, so much beyond that as well. But it goes back to truly, I believe, being someone that does make us believe that there are still good people in the world, and right now in this season, as you mentioned, pivotal, unprecedented, and often I think so challenging of our perception of goodness and kindness and hope for a better future. This year has challenged that and revealed so much ugliness that has always been there, but I think is really starting to come to light. Some of it that is being perpetuated by leaders who should be serving and instead are causing divisiveness. And so, I think it goes back to just really trying to be a good person, and sometimes that means being uncomfortable. Sometimes that means stepping beyond what you see other leaders doing. Just really truly trying to put more good into the world, because I think Community Over Competition is, at its core, all about raising the tide and all about supporting all people and really, really fighting for a better future.
Rebecca Ching: Absolutely, and you say being a good person. I think there’s an element of being generous, generous with ourselves and our own humanity and generous with others and I think we need to see a lot more of that, and that’s the radicalness of kindness, right?
Natalie Franke: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: Which is loving and generous, right? So thank you, Natalie. This has been such a wonderful conversation. I’m so honored and grateful to have a chance to sit -- even though it’s technology -- to talk here. I’m really, really grateful for this time. Where can people find you if they want to connect with you and learn more about you and your work?
Natalie Franke: Yes, so you can always head to my website www.nataliefranke.com. Instagram is truly the platform that I spend too much time on, and that’s just @nataliefranke. But I’d also encourage anyone listening who, especially if you're a small business owner or if you know a small business owner that could use community, could use a place to get plugged in and get connected, to check out Rising Tide Society. That’s the work that I do day in and day out, and I absolutely love it, and so, if you are interested in learning more about that too, I would encourage you to go to www.honeybook.com/risingtide. You can learn all about our community, get plugged in, and find a group near you.
Rebecca Ching: Well, Natalie, thank you so much for your time, and I’m so looking forward to seeing more of your goodness that you put out there on the interwebs. So thank you again!
Natalie Franke: Thank you!
Rebecca Ching: As we wrap up this doozy of a year, I cannot think of a better challenge for us all to choose community over competition. It can be exhausting, even daunting, to lead from this lens, but it is this backend inner work that is the best fruit for this leadership mindset. It is not possible to choose community over competition if the burdens of jealousy and insecurity continually overwhelm and maintaining the capacity to hold people accountable and set clear boundaries requires some heavy lifting. It is easier to bulldoze through and focus just on the end game, but without the lens of leading by community over competition, it can leave an aftermath that is destructive, dangerous, and deeply lonely.
I’m grateful for the gift of Natalie’s wisdom and her leading truly by example. Yes, Community Over Competition is more than a hashtag. It is generosity, it is joy, it is the meaningful work that indeed calls us up to make an impact on others that reminds people there is good in this world beyond metrics, beyond dollars, beyond rankings.
You have not gotten where you are today by playing it safe or small. You push yourself to be the best and settling feels jarring. As a leader who is all in, you’ve got some healthy competition in you. You also know it and turn on you and become an obsession or just blur the lines of your boundaries and your sense of worthiness. As a result, when you show up, you want to leave it all on the table, and sometimes this drive can override the sense of community with the consuming desire to win, to be right, to be number one.
Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex, polarized world can help you identify the blocks that can keep you from choosing community over competition. Leading today is not a fancy title or fluffy bragging rights. It is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is so unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up.
Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to keep the protector of cynicism at bay and foster a hope that is actionable and aligned. When the stakes are high and you don't want to lose focus, when you want to navigate inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions with confidence and clarity, then Unburdened Leader Coaching is for you and where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.
To start your Unburdened Leader Coaching process with me go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free connection call. I can’t wait to hear from you!
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Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. You can find this episode, show notes, and free Unburdened Leader resources along with ways to work with me www.rebeccaching.com.