This month’s Badass Business Woman is one of the most incredible women I’ve been fortunate to know. I met her in Bali in 2013 when I was volunteering at the Green School. In a turn of events to say the least, both of us left Bali with life’s dramatic decisions to take us on different paths. Surprisingly enough, we kept in contact throughout the years, keeping each other updated on our newly carved paths of adventure. I can happily say that I know she’s about to blow up as a big-time author and I’m very excited to be around to witness it. She’s smart, stunning and so positive. She’s one of the most important mentors I’ve been able to go to when I need a chat or have questions about life or business. Ladies, meet Kaia!!!
I’m extremely honored to be considered a “badass.” I think it’s about the best compliment anyone could give me, except maybe “magical unicorn,” but let’s be real. “Badass” is not a term I identify with easily, but I’ll do my best to ease into it. The truth is, I’m an introvert, and although I’ve worked in PR and marketing for the past 20 years tooting other people’s horns, I don’t feel very comfortable tooting my own. So here goes…
Please state your name and where you live
Hello, my name is Kaia Roman, and I’m an alco…Oh wait, wrong meeting! Ha ha, just kidding. I’m glad you asked where I live instead of where I’m from. I always have a hard time answering where I’m from because I was born in Atlanta, Georgia but then moved around a lot as a kid, attending nine different schools in four states. But where I live, that’s easy: Santa Cruz, California—heaven on Earth as far as I’m concerned. I’ve also lived in Byron Bay, Australia for much of my adult life, but for the past five years I’ve been having a real love affair with Santa Cruz.
Tell me the story of The Joy Plan and why you started it
Well, The Joy Plan is a book I wrote this past year because I couldn’t stop my hands from typing it. It started as a blog post and then just kept going and going until it was a book. I truly feel like I did not write The Joy Plan, it wrote me. In 2014, I experienced a major letdown in my professional life when an online health business I started failed to thrive, and ultimately I had to let it go. Although there are far worse fates than the failure of an Internet business, it felt like the last straw in a long string of failures in my life that all pointed to my inability to do anything right. My self-esteem hit an all-time low. As I sunk into depression, my friend Niko inspired me to try an experiment. She suggested that if I focused on making joy my top priority for one month, my entire life would turn around. With no job, no plan, and no other ideas, I decided to give it a try. For 30 days, I went after joy from all angles—from the scientific to the spiritual, and everything in between. I tried every tool and trick that was recommended in every self-help book I could get my hands on. And it was remarkable to see what worked and what didn’t. And yes, Niko was right. After 30 days, I had experienced enough changes in my life that I was able to continue my Joy Plan, and to write a book about the extraordinary events that took place in the six months that followed. Although The Joy Plan is my story, I include extensive resources for readers to create their own Joy Plans, which is what I hope the book will inspire.
What have you learned in the process that will stay with you forever?
The Joy Plan has become a way of life for me now, and the discoveries I made during my experiment are now my everyday practices. I start each day with 10-15 minutes of gratitude, in order to get into the right headspace for whatever the day will bring. It is impossible for our brains to be in a state of appreciation and fear simultaneously, so I do my best to appreciate like crazy as often as possible. I also know now that whatever actions I take will be more effective when I’m feeling positive and optimistic, so on days when I’m feeling low I am less inclined to just “push through” and get things done anyway—I take a break and tend to my own well-being first. Mostly, the takeaway that will stay with me forever is this: I know I will not be happy all of the time. I may not even be happy most of the time. Life is full of ups and downs for most people and I am no exception. However, I now have the tools to recognize the blessing in the low times, and to get back to my joy more quickly and with more grace. I am poised to handle whatever life brings me because I’ve found an inner light that propels me forward which can never be extinguished. It was really there all along, I just didn’t know how to access it until now.
Do you believe more women should become solo/entrepreneurs? What do you think women bring to the table?
Honestly, I don’t think being an entrepreneur is for everyone. I think it takes a special kind of drive and dedication and maybe just a little bit of crazy. But I think that for those of us who feel that drive, it’s rarely a question as to whether we should follow it or not. We can’t help ourselves. So the key for us is to go for it and stop second-guessing ourselves every step of the way. When ideas are burning in your head and your heart and bursting to come through, go with it! Doubt is so much more damaging than failure. You might fail, but the passion, purpose, and power you will experience along the way are more than worth it.
I hate to generalize about women and men because I think there are many factors that can be even more influential than gender, such as mindset, cultural beliefs, hormonal profiles, etc. However, in my experience with successful women in the business world, they seem to trust and follow their intuition. They foster relationships with people through genuine care and curiosity, and they nurture those relationships throughout their careers. I know plenty of men who do this too, but the women in business who I respect the most are smashing stereotypes about what it means to be feminine and vulnerable while also being successful and “badass.” They are both, and beautifully.
Can you dish out some advice for women who are thinking about starting something on their own?
I’m a big fan of research. When starting something new, I like to see what else is out there, look at role models I admire, listen to TED talks, read books, and Google up a storm. That said, I think it’s easy to get discouraged when you research what else is “out there” because it can seem like everything has already been done. So my advice would be to make sure you are well-informed, but also trust your own inner guidance above all else. And, even for introverts like me, relationships are essential to success in just about every form of business—so gather your supporters around you and treat them like gold.
What are your plans for The Joy Plan?
Please sign up for my newsletter and read my blog at TheJoyPlan.com and I will keep you posted on when The Joy Plan will be available in 2016. Early readers have given me such positive feedback that it’s almost too much to take. Everyone who’s read it tells me they have a list of people they can’t wait to give it to. So I’m excited that The Joy Plan has the potential to inspire and help people. I think that’s why it burned itself out of me, I believe it’s a story that wanted to be told, and that readers will resonate with. I look forward to being able to share it widely.
What makes you the happiest ( or in your case, most joyful) about what you’re doing?
Ever since I was five years old I have loved to write. As a child, I used to make my own books and then record myself reading them out loud so I could listen to my own audiobooks while looking at the pictures I drew. So writing a book, for me, is like fulfilling a childhood fantasy. And now I am also blogging and making a living as a freelance writer, which suits me so much better as an introvert than the very extrovert work I did in marketing prior to my Joy Plan. Writing makes me happy, and that happiness gives me joy.
What’s something that you’re proud of yourself for doing? Being? Learning? Realizing?
I’m really proud of myself for the work I do as a Mindfulness teacher to elementary school children (another major life change that happened after my Joy Plan). I am teaching these kids, age 5-12, the things I write about in The Joy Plan—things I wish it hadn’t taken me forty years to figure out. And I see the difference it’s making in their personalities, in the way they interact with each other, and even how it’s having an impact on the school. Children are such sponges and adapt so quickly, which gives great instant gratification as a teacher. I see my students taking deep breaths to calm down their amygdala (stress center in the brain) when they are upset, choosing optimistic instead of pessimistic thoughts, practicing gratitude and kindness, and actually wanting to meditate. It’s pretty cool. And getting hugs and being told I’m the “best teacher in the world” is pretty cool too. Almost as cool as being called a “badass.”
Kaia Roman is the author of The Joy Plan, to be published in 2016. She teaches Mindfulness to elementary school students in Santa Cruz, California. For everyday mindfulness tips, check out Kaia’s blog at TheJoyPlan.com. Sign up for her newsletter to receive sneak previews from The Joy Plan, which early readers have called “engaging” “powerful” and “highly relatable.” You can also connect with Kaia on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@kaiachristelle). She loves to hear from readers!