61: Finding Joy, Freedom, Strength, and Clarity in the Small Everyday Moments with Goli Kalkhoran

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“All that I offer is all the medicine I so desperately needed for myself.”

– Goli Kalkhoran
Episode #61


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Ever had that sensation of running, running, running, and not even really knowing where you’re running to? My guest on this episode of What the Fundraising is asking us to pause and consider: Might there be something we’re unconsciously running away from? Goli Kalkhoran, Coach and Host of Lessons From A Quitter, is all about stripping away the layers of identity and self-limiting beliefs that drive so much of our lives. It’s so common that we run from shame, guilt, disappointment, and ultimately from ourselves, but there is actually an entirely different way to show up.

We are unpacking the roots of maladaptive behaviors (those things we do to ourselves that are not in fact good for our “selves”). Much of it comes from feeling (or having been given the message) that we can’t trust ourselves and that we need external validation. Herself a recovering Type-A lawyer, Goli believes women are often acculturated to be people-pleasing perfectionists when, of course, no one gets out of life without making mistakes. Lots of them. So why not surrender and even celebrate the fact that we are all in a position to assess, accept, pivot, and try again?

Goli uses her platform to help clients shift out of all-or-nothing mindsets that guarantee second-guessing and recrimination. Instead, she urges us to adopt an approach that is more nuanced, like life itself. And I particularly love the way she emboldens us to embrace our season of life: “At every stage, you’re allowed to decide what’s right for you. Nobody else can tell you what it is. It’s allowed to change – and you’re allowed to change. You’re going to!”  

Enjoy this life-affirming look at career, and why it’s so important to push back against the cues women especially receive about money, greed, and that most elemental of human conditions: wanting more. If you have a toxic relationship with money or self-judgment (as so many of us in the nonprofit world do!) then this is an episode you definitely won’t want to miss!

You can find the Lessons From A Quitter podcast here or learn about Goli’s Pave Your Path coaching program here.

Check out my Power Partners Formula and register for a masterclass here. You might also be interested in taking my Fundraising Superpower Quiz


sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable 

Goli Kalkhoran


  • A little background on the Venn diagram.
  • This episode of What the Fundraising was sponsored by Neon One, the comprehensive platform for coordinating donor and member management, fundraising, volunteers, and grants as well as all kinds of information about the when, where, why, and how of giving. Head over to this link to learn more!

Brought To
you By:




A little background on the Venn diagram.

This episode of What the Fundraising was sponsored by Neon One, the comprehensive platform for coordinating donor and member management, fundraising, volunteers, and grants as well as all kinds of information about the when, where, why, and how of giving. Head over to this link to learn more!

This week’s guest @Goli roots for Second Harvest Food Bank 

Get to know @Second Harvest Food Bank

Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County is a purpose-driven organization doing whatever it takes to ensure that no one in our community goes hungry. In providing dignified, equitable, and consistent access to nutritious food, we are creating a foundation for community health and sparking societal transformation.


Get to know Goli:

Goli Kalkhoran is the founder of USIE Booth and Creator and Host of the Lessons From A Quitter Podcast. She attended Law School at California Berkley and became a successful attorney, earning a high six-figure salary.


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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.


episode transcript

Mallory Erickson: Welcome Everyone! I am so excited to be here today with Goli Kalkhoran. Thank you for joining me.

Goli Kalkhoran: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Mallory Erickson: So let’s just kick it right off with you telling everyone a little bit about you and what brings you to this moment in time.

Goli Kalkhoran: Yeah, thanks so much. I had a previous career as an attorney. I was one of the one of many people who had put my head down, decided I was going to be a lawyer at a very young age, like 11 and never wavered and did well in school. Went to a great law school, started practicing as a lawyer and like many people in a lot of careers, found myself very unhappy and extremely miserable. And I worked as a lawyer in a couple of different fields. I ended up being a public defender for a number of years and I was very passionate about the work but it was not sustainable for me. And I eventually quit in 2014 when I had my first son. Not really knowing what I was going to do and feeling very lost and shamed and like a failure and all the things that tend to come with that big of an identity shift, because I’d never done anything else. And I had no idea what else I would do.

And then fast forward, that led me on this journey of really figuring out who I was and what I wanted to do. And eventually I started a photo booth business, that sort of just shifted who I was. And I ultimately started a podcast in 2018 called Lessons From a Quitter. And that’s really the platform that I run now. And it was because I wanted to have this conversation. I saw so many people so unhappy in their careers but it was just this idea of especially if you’re a quote, unquote, successful in society’s eyes. Like if you’re doing something that other people respect or has prestige, you’re making good money.You’ve made it and you’re like this can be it. 

And I found myself there and that sort of led me into mindset coaching and kind of career coaching. And now I’m a master certified coach and I help people really on their own, their own inner work. And I don’t do career coaching in the sense of let’s work on your resume. It’s more figuring out the people pleasing and the perfectionism and all the things that keep us stuck because what’s everyone going to say, and what will it look like if I start over, and I don’t want to be a failure and all of that stuff.  I run programs and I have a podcast and social media and so that’s what brings me to today. What I do today and I love it.

Mallory Erickson: I love it. So do you find when you start to dig into some of those themes with folks, that people pleasing, the perfectionism, those are scary, big topics, there’s a lot to unravel there. Do you have folks start to dip their toe in and then be like eek, not ready yet?

Goli Kalkhoran: Definitely. And I think that’s why I actually get people who really listened to me for a really long time before they ever joined my program. And so I think, and that’s why I love doing a podcast because I think for myself included, it took me a while to really even come to terms with myself. Like even admit to myself that I was going to quit or that I was going to leave. And these are very scary ideas because you’re changing your identity. And if I’m not the overachiever, if I’m not the one that makes everybody happy, then who am I? That’s all I’ve ever been my whole life. And so I do find a lot of people are not ready to work with me in the beginning because it’s very overwhelming to take in these concepts and change how you’re gonna relate to the world.

And so usually when they come to me that they’ve been listening for about six months to a year and they’re like, okay, I’ve dipped my toe in everything you say, people always tell me I feel like you’re in my head. I feel like you’re saying every experience I’ve had. And then they become more comfortable to do the deeper work and it’s okay, I clearly have this issue. I want to address it. I don’t want to keep living like this and then they’re ready to get going. 

Mallory Erickson:Are there a few kind of core lies that you feel like we tell ourselves that are the hardest to break from? 

Goli Kalkhoran: Yes. I think that it’s really interesting when you say this, all of us have the same exact fears and it’s like a handful. It’s not, there’s not millions, it all comes down to the same thing. And I will tell you every single thing, every single maladaptive behavior we have, underlying it as some kind of self worth issue. So the reason we do anything, the reason we want to be perfect is because we don’t want anyone to criticize us. That means that we want other people to be happy. We just want to feel like we’re worthy. We want people to tell us we’re good enough. The reason we achieve all of this stuff. 

That’s the core of what you have to work at is giving yourself that validation that we so desperately seek from everybody around us. And so the two biggest things that I think are the bedrock of what I work on. And I see as the root of every issue, one is this lie that has told us that we can’t trust ourselves. So it’s like a lack of self-trust. And so we’re constantly seeking other people’s opinions or wanting someone else to tell us the path. Because we for some reason believe like what I feel within me, whether you want to call it intuition or your gut or whatever it is just the choice I make, I can’t rely on that. 

One is self-trust and one is shame. Really the bedrock of every maladaptive behavior is this underlying thing of shame. And there’s this fear of maybe I’m not good enough. All of the voices that we hear they’re constantly telling us how terrible we are. And I’m such a hot mess and I never get it. And why am I, it’s all this shame that doesn’t need to be there. It’s a really unnecessary kind of suffering that has been implanted in us from when we were children through every experience that we’ve had. And I think when you can clean up shame and you can really work on trusting yourself, everything else is super easy. It’s easy then to put boundaries, it’s easy to not be perfect. You know what? I don’t have to put on an air that I am somehow inhuman and I don’t make mistakes. If I can just show up as my fully flawed self because I don’t find shame in that. I’m just like, yeah, of course I made a mistake. Of course I’m gonna look over things.I have a human brain. 

It’s so much easier to not have to need to be perfect and not have anxiety all the time, to not have the need for everybody to like us. Because then it’s okay, you’re like it, that’s cool. I like this. You don’t have to like me. And so those are really what I work on. I think it shows itself in different forms. We all adopt a different way but it’s really just getting to the core of that. How do I increase that kind of self-trust and self-worth so that I don’t have to run from shame that doesn’t really need to be there. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay. Wow, so you’re hitting on this confidence piece. I think like I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence recently and how the perception I think of confidence is that it comes with a certain level of external validation. And I even heard this from my parents recently. My business has grown in the last few years then they were like, yeah, it’s made you so confident. And I was like, no, my confidence grew my business. And my confidence came from not being afraid of publicly messing up, of saying the wrong thing, of standing by myself through those things. And so it’s this really weird piece that you’re talking about, where it’s been really weird for me is as I’ve embraced more imperfection, my confidence has grown.

Goli Kalkhoran: Yeah. A hundred percent. 

Mallory Erickson: Which is just the opposite of what we’re taught.

Goli Kalkhoran: And that’s such a key thing that you hit on because I think what we mistake is there’s a difference between the confidence that we talk about in our society, which really is the mastery of some kind of skill. And that only comes from repetition of that skill. So by definition, you cannot be confident in something new that you’re doing, it’s something that you’ve never done before. And so this is where a lot of perfectionism comes from. I have to only do the things I’m good at because that’s the only thing I can be confident in and I know how to do this. Now I can feel okay, versus self-confidence, which is confidence in yourself, which is I have no idea how to do this thing. And I have no idea how it’s going to turn out but I know that I can rely on myself to figure it out. It’s not that I am going to get it right every time. I’m just going to knock it out of the park. 

It’s that again going back to the self-trust I think that’s the foundation of confidence is that when, as you were saying as you built your own confidence to mess up, to show up, and embarrass yourself or whatever. And feel whatever emotion you have to feel, it’s like a muscle. You gain that confidence, yeah bring it on. Whatever the next thing is, I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I can’t know when I’m going to post something and maybe people are going to criticize or maybe I mess up and I have a typo and I get embarrassed or whatever the worry is that people have. But I’m like, hey, I’ll have my own back. I know I’ll figure it out. I’ll fix it. 

And that’s what I think a lot of people don’t typically think of as a definition of confidence. And I agree with you that the more you build that confidence, the less you need the other kind. It’s yeah, maybe I don’t have this skill mastered. That’s okay, like I can still show up. I can still do it. I can still have a lot of pride. I can still have faith in myself to figure out the next step and the next and keep going. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, I love that. And I feel like in today’s world, in a number of different professions, legal, maybe not being one of them, there is less of that knowing it all or knowing enough confidence, right? It’s about being adaptive. It’s about being resourceful. It’s about learning as the world evolves. And so you’re not going to, especially in the nonprofit sector I’m thinking about a number of the people who listen to this. And I see this with fundraisers a lot. My biggest thing when I started fundraising was, oh my gosh, I’m so uncomfortable. There’s no way that good fundraisers feel this uncomfortable. I must be a bad fundraiser because I don’t like talking about money and nobody was talking about it. The fact that actually just talking about money is this really scary, vulnerable thing and all fundraisers feel it.

And so what I needed was self-confidence. But what I was looking for was some level of expert confidence that doesn’t really exist in a position that’s so relational and dynamic.

Goli Kalkhoran: Absolutely. And I think again, even this whole expert competence, it’s this myth, right? Because nobody knows, even when let’s say in law or medicine, like I worked with a lot of doctors and the pressure they put on themselves to be perfect and never make it, is humanly impossible. And that’s not what your role is as a doctor, as a lawyer. And we’ve done a really big disservice to give this lie that somehow you get to someplace and know everything because that’s just not humanly possible.

And so I think that’s often the cause of a lot of imposter syndrome is we’ve been fed this lie and we all walk around with this persona or this armor of, I have it all figured out. And then inside, we all are filled with doubts and fears. And we all are thinking I don’t know all of this stuff, obviously I might make a mistake. And so you start thinking it’s just me, everyone else has it together. And so that’s why you see so many people suffer from imposter syndrome because instead of everybody talking about no, I’m terrified half the time, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just figuring it out. And I have tons of doubts. And I think I wish I had these tools when I was a lawyer because a lot of what burdened me out was this air that people put on as if they know everything. And I know that to be categorically false. 

Even when I quit there were a lot of the partners, the people that were much higher up, would start confiding in me, oh my God, I wish I could leave. I feel the same way. I don’t know what I’m doing. I would have people that were partners, working like 15 years in the field say, I have no idea what I’m doing. And I’m like, that’s also not true. It just goes to show that exactly what you’re talking about is the only way is where there is doubt and there’s mistakes and there’s no perfection and we’re all yeah, you learn more as you work in a field. But that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden there’s never room for learning or all that stuff. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And because of the perfectionism piece being a black or white thing, it’s okay if you aren’t perfect, then you must not know at all what you’re doing, versus being like I know a fair amount about what I’m doing and I’m learning a lot.

Goli Kalkhoran: A hundred percent. Absolutely. Yeah it’s an all or nothing thinking where it’s either I’m perfect like this person and I have it together. Which is why so many of us have this. We go after these goals and we think when I get there, all of a sudden I’ll be a different human that has every answer and has all this confidence. And when we get there, we’re like, oh, I have the same brain and then feel exactly the way I did. I just now have this degree. I’m doing this work. I got this job title and I still feel just as insecure. And it really rocks a lot of us. You’re absolutely right. I think that it’s never, part of the problem is that we don’t acknowledge how much we do know. We focus on the little bit that maybe we don’t. So we start telling ourselves, clearly if I don’t know it a hundred percent it means I’m a fraud and that everyone’s going to find out that I don’t know anything. That’s also not true. So it becomes this double-edged sword that we don’t acknowledge what we do know and we don’t realize that it never has to be all or nothing and it never is.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, I’m curious for you because I feel as my self-confidence has grown, you said this piece a few minutes ago about how then these other things become easy. Once you trust yourself and you have some level of control around the shame, right. But I would say for me, it doesn’t mean that when I throw down a new boundary I don’t feel uncomfortable. I still experience discomfort. I just don’t spiral out and change my behavior.

So I’m curious what is your tolerance for that level of discomfort or what do you work with your clients around? How did they know when they’re trusting themselves more but they’re still feeling this discomfort. So I think this is another place we can get a little bit black and white where oh, I got uncomfortable. So I guess I don’t know how to do this thing yet. So I’m just curious what your thoughts are about. 

Goli Kalkhoran: Yeah, no, absolutely. Definitely, part of what I work on with my clients is really just learning how to process negative emotion because it’s not going anywhere. And the more you push out of that comfort zone by definition, you will be uncomfortable. And I think that what we work on is nothing has gone wrong when you feel fear and even disappointment when things don’t work out and all of the negative emotions that come from trying new things, failing. Like none of us like to fail, it’s not I go on and I’m shooting to fail, it’s just that it’s going to happen if I want to also be successful in what I’m doing. And so we work on that and we try to differentiate. 

So in psychology, there’s the term clean pain versus dirty pain. And so clean pain is what happens in our lives. All feelings are fleeting. All of them are valid. A concept that I really teach a lot on and it’s really helped me is that life isn’t always 50/50. It doesn’t matter how much you accomplish, how much money you make. There’s just going to be negative emotions. And when we can stop being afraid of them, it’s a lot easier to process and manage.

And so we work on figuring out what is the clean pain, for instance if I do a presentation and it doesn’t go the way I want it to and I mess up, let’s say. There might be the disappointment that it didn’t go well. There might be the embarrassment that my colleagues watch me mess up or whatever. We don’t want toxic positivity where it’s like, everything is fine. I’m good, everythings okay. Instead of, this didn’t go the way I wanted. How do I process that clean pain versus dirty pain, which is really the unnecessary suffering that we add on. 

So it’s the stories we attach which is I’ll never be good at this. I’m a terrible lawyer. Everybody else knows more than me. It’s these stories that create a lot of suffering, where I think there may be a difference between guilt and shame. And I think guilt might be I did something wrong, versus shame being like I am wrong there’s something wrong with me. And so I think guilt is absolutely a healthy emotion to have to help you live along with your own morals and values. I don’t know how valuable shame is in a lot of instances. And I think the question becomes, where is that guilt valid and part of the clean pain. And where is it that we’ve been socialized to feel guilty every time somebody is upset, right?

Just because somebody else is upset, doesn’t mean I did something wrong. It just means that maybe they don’t like that there’s a boundary or whatnot. This is an art more than a science. It’s really figuring out for myself, where do I want to feel guilty. Because yes, I messed up and I can again. Take in the fact that I’m a human and I’ll make mistakes and I’ll make amends. And where do I not want to feel guilty? Because just because I’ve said no to somebody doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong, right? They might still feel a human emotion and get upset that I told them. No and I don’t have to sit and wallow in the fact that I’m a terrible person. Because if I’m a people pleaser, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m just going to feel bad saying no to somebody. 

It’s really just figuring out, where is this a healthy emotion that I want to actually process and let myself feel and be okay with? And where am I really just layering on a lot of unnecessary suffering might create stories for myself. 

Mallory Erickson:Yeah. I love that. I had someone on the podcast, Dethra, who’s a coach. She had this really amazing quote where she said, we’re told that our life is made up of all the circumstances or situations but it’s not, it’s made up of what we’ve made those circumstances mean.

Goli Kalkhoran: A hundred percent.

Mallory Erickson: And so yeah, I couldn’t agree with that more. So I’m curious, one of the things I feel my clients really struggle with is they start to see these patterns of sort of people pleasing, perfectionism. They start to maybe even be able to deal with this sort of clean pain, dirty pain piece.

And then they’re looking to redefine what success looks like for them. And they’re okay, so if I’m not going to buy into just, because a lot of what can get roped into that is growth scale, all these different things. And I’m just curious, how do you help folks or think about how people can redefine success for them in a way that feels, I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t feel soothing. Maybe it is always uncomfortable, but it’s contradictory to the type of success we get external validation from.

Goli Kalkhoran: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. And again, when I go back, when I talk a lot about self-trust is part of this idea that we will ever get to some destination where all of a sudden, we have this belief that we are at some point like static beings, this is what it’s going to be my definition of success. And once I know that, then that’s it and I have to get there. All of it is fluid. All of it is ever-changing, you’re an ever-changing person. And so what you might decide is success for you right now, in a month, in a day, in a year, you may decide I actually want a lot of growth now. I actually want that. 

And so I say that to say, because I don’t think there’s a bad or a good way of having success. And I think it’s really important when I talk about really trusting yourself and checking in, what is it that I want? So when I work with the people I work with, it’s really giving yourself the time to figure out why do I want this thing. Is it because I’ll think I’ll be good enough if I make this much money or my parents will finally be proud of me, or whatever great reasons to go after things. And so when we work on defining success for ourselves, it’s a wide spectrum. Some people really do want to have a big company and make tons of money and have a lot of people under them. And for other people, I want to work four hours a day and I want to be able to read my book and I don’t want to have any employees. Or I want to work for somebody else or whatever it is. It’s all valid. It’s just a matter of what it is that you want. 

And I think for a lot of people, what I try to work on is, that’s okay if it changes. We often think there’s some right answer that I have to find and I have to know that and I have to define it and that’s who I am. And when I let go of the reins a little bit and I know for myself for instance, in my own business of course I’m going to keep changing. And every season for me is going to change. I have two young children, what I want now versus what I want in five years will be very different and that’s okay.

And I keep getting to know myself. I envision, it’s you take a step, you evaluate, you pivot. That’s all of life. And so as I do this, I might even get caught in, no, I really believe that what success means to me is X, Y, and Z, is making this much money and working this much. And when I get there, I might be oh, why did I say yes to these things? That just gives me more information about myself instead of making a circumstance mean something, attaching a story. Instead of me saying see, I don’t even know what I want. I can’t trust myself. I thought I wanted this and I don’t. And it means that I have no idea, I’m just giving into, let’s say society. I just take that as oh, what was I missing? What red flags were there? I was still, yeah, I’m still seeking that validation. I don’t beat myself up for that. Of course I still am. That’s what I’ve been programmed my whole life to do. Of course, I’m going to keep falling into that. Of course, that feels good to me. 

So it’s like with each thing, I either just remind myself exactly what you’re saying, it’s oh, why am I saying yes to this again? This is not the business I want. And just allowing myself to change my mind because then sometimes I’m like, maybe I do want to make a lot of money. Maybe I do want to grow this and have a huge business. That sounds like fun. Maybe I’ll learn a ton about myself in managing employees. Like none of it is right or wrong. It’s just the more you learn to quiet down and listen to what it is that I want, and why do I want those things. Get really clear on the reasons behind the decision, not the decision. And if you like those reasons, it’s not because I just want other people to like me, then I’m going to try it. And then I may change my mind again. And there’s no set point where you just become, you’ve arrived and now you know everything about yourself and you’re never going to change your mind again. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. I totally agree with everything that you said. And recognizing the venn diagram, that’s our lives particularly as female leaders just managing all the different pieces of life. And so I think sometimes we think about success in one of our circles or in this siloed compartment and then it rubs against this other part of our lives. And we’re like how do I think about success or what I want at the meeting point of these things, not just in this area of my life. And it sounds like that’s something that you allow for a lot of dynamic evolution of that. Have you noticed anything to be particularly helpful in folks thinking through the intersections of their life in that way?

Goli Kalkhoran: Yeah. Like I said, I think the biggest thing that helps people and when we talk about this stuff is really slowing ourselves down to understand that there are seasons of life and it’s all going to change. So your values and wants and needs are going to change. And that’s okay. I think a lot of times people think they just need to, like I said, pick something and that be the thing. And so I think what has helped people is when you slow it down, it helps relieve a lot of the stress and the anxiety. Whereas I don’t need to know what I’m gonna want in 10 years. I need to know in this season of my life, with my two young children, what’s my choice for me right now. And I think really having the time to just explore that, like just explore. In a perfect world, if I had everything I needed, what would I choose? Right maybe I don’t have all those. Maybe I have financial needs and I have other things but at least I have my north star. For me right now, this is what I want.

And I know for me, this was really difficult when I quit the law. I had such extreme views on what I thought I was going to be. And I thought I wouldn’t skip a beat when I had kids and I would go back to work and I wanted to work full time and I wanted to climb this corporate ladder. And of course as soon as I had a child, everything changed and I didn’t know how I would feel. But also, when I quit I knew from that beginning that being a stay-at-home mom was not an option because I would lose my mind. I’m just not built with that much patience. I just know it’s like the worst thing for me and my children. 

And I felt very lost because I felt like it didn’t fit me, their camp. And it seems like it was only those two camps. Like you’re either a career person and you’re climbing that ladder. Or you want to be a stay at home mom and you want to really pour into your children when they’re young. And all of those things are great but I was like that neither one is me. Like how do I have something in the middle? Because I really do want to have my own business or work and do things that I find intellectually stimulating and push me. And I also don’t want to work all the time. And I had kids for a reason and I want to see them and I want to be able to be a part of their lives.

And I remember feeling very lost in that sense. And now when I look back, I realize yeah, I just know myself. And I know that what I needed to feel good about my life and feel fulfilled and feel like what was that kind of percentage for me. And again, I say that as my kids get older, that changes. And so I think again, going back to just like self-trust it was really me just learning at every stage you’re allowed to decide what’s right for you. Nobody else can tell you what it is. It is allowed to change. You are allowed to change and you’re going to write it. 

It’s funny when we think about our present moment. It’s hard to see how we’re going to change. But when you look back, you’re not the same person you were when you were in your twenties, right? Like you’re not the same person you were in your thirties or forties. Like you change, you evolve. And so of course the things that you want change, the things that you think are important change, nothing has gone wrong. We take it as if I was living a lie. I was just doing what everybody else said. I was so lost. It’s no, like that was important to me. Maybe you’re making money in my twenties was the most important thing to me. Okay. And then my priorities changed. And now something else is more important.

And so I think, really slowing down and understanding what season I am in now. It’s going to change in the future. What’s important to me right now, just for me in both areas. I always try to get people to do really ideal vision, best case scenario. Not because I think it’s something that you need to get. You don’t need to get anywhere to be happy or to really be able to have a fulfilled life. But I think so often we suppress what we actually want because we don’t think it’s possible. So it’s always oh no, I don’t need to make a lot of money or I don’t need, I don’t want this, or I don’t need to stay at home with my kids. Because maybe we don’t think right now in my current situation that’s possible. And so we think we’re protecting ourselves. It’s self preservation, right, I don’t want to pine for something I can’t have because that hurts. But then I find so many people tell themselves they don’t know what they want. Like I have no idea what I want to do. I don’t know. And it’s because you haven’t let those desires come on because you’re constantly shutting yourself down. Don’t be ridiculous. We can’t run a business. We can’t make money. We can’t only work four hours a day. That’s not possible.

And I always say just let yourself go there because at least, oh, maybe I can’t have that. But what’s important to me right now is I want more time at home. I want more time with my kids. I want to make more money. I want whatever it is. I have to know that in order for me to be able to do anything or create any life that gets me closer to that. And so I really think allowing yourself just time to dream and be ruthlessly honest with what is it that I want can help you really navigate towards a life that’s more fitting. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay. There’s so many things you said there that I think are so important. This piece that you’re saying around the grace, the permission to change, to try something. And this spaciousness that you’re talking about like in order for reflection to come through or answers from yourself, you have to have space to ask yourself those questions and to listen, to not jump straight from that question into a board meeting where 12 people are telling you their opinion about it, but to really sit with yourself. And for me also to sit with myself after I’ve done the thing. I think one of the biggest things that I’ve learned over the years is I don’t know how something’s going to feel until I do it. 

I just traveled to speak, came home for three days, traveled again to a big conference. It was the first time I had, my daughter’s almost three, the first time I had done that with her, where I was like I have no idea how this is going to go. I have no idea if it’s going to be better to just be on the road that whole time, or to come back for three days, that’s going to throw her off. I have no idea. So I’m going to try it because how else am I going to figure it out? And then I scheduled on my calendar two days after I came home, sit and journal about that travel schedule. I feel like that has been so helpful for me to actually make sure I’m taking time to say, I’m trying this thing out and practicing, no idea if it’s going to work, and then to really sink into how did it feel to do that?

Goli Kalkhoran: I love that so much. You’re absolutely right. I think we don’t take the time to process things and actually check in with what worked, what didn’t work, what you’d do differently. What lit you up? What drained your energy? That’s how you learn more about yourself. But I will make one caveat is that I think a lot of times we fall into this all or nothing thinking. And I think people think unless I have luxurious amounts, like I have a whole week to sit down and journal that I can’t do it. And none of us have that time typically. And so of course I have kids and I am working and who has the time to do this. 

And I will actually say I don’t think it takes all that much time. If you have it, great. If you can go on a weekend retreat and in the desert and have this fantastic time. But even if you don’t have that time, it’s really, can I sit for 20 minutes before I go to bed and journal? Can I instead of scrolling Instagram, can I schedule that time for myself? Can I pick one hour a week to take as my time reflecting on that week or this thing that I’m going to do. I think that when we don’t realize really the compound effect that things have in our lives and it is not, it rarely ever is these very huge decisions are huge things that you need to do. It’s a million little baby steps. And I agree with you that just being able to schedule in time to check in with yourself, even if it’s a 20 minute walk once a week to just be like, what is working? What is not for me? One journaling thing like that consistently over time makes such a huge difference.

And so I just say that because I think a lot of times, people when I talk about doing the same things, I agree with you like a hundred percent, people will come to me and I don’t have any time. And I’m like, then you need it more than anybody else. If you find yourself scrambling around and in completely frazzled every single day, if you can’t find 20 minutes for yourself and something has to change. You need to change something in your life because it’s not true that you can’t find that time. It’s that you need to give up the fear of asking somebody else for help or numbing ourselves with all this other stuff because we feel so bad. We’re so tired. We’re doing all this stuff. All of that stuff again is normal. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but really being honest can I carve out 15 minutes in my lunch break instead of working on my computer and spending it journaling, like we can all find that.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, I think that’s a really important point. And one of my practices is driving home from daycare thinking about my three top priorities for the day. I realized I would zone out on the drive or I would call a friend or whatever. And I was like, you know what, that’s going to be my day start. What are my three priorities for the day? And sometimes I’ll voice dictate it to myself and that’s it. And so it’s I’m doing that anyways. And I totally agree. And I’m a big fan of Dr. B.J. Fogg’s habit and behavior design work. And he talks a lot about anchoring behaviors. And so one of my other big practices,  positive self-talk practices as well. I wash my face every day. I’m already washing my face and looking at myself in the mirror, like I’m already there. So let’s just do the thing then. 

Goli Kalkhoran: I love that. That’s the perfect way of doing it. You’re absolutely right. Yeah. And that’s the thing is, as we’re doing other things, I do the same thing again. This is the thing is I think we think things take so much time and they don’t, they actually, if you’re doing it what takes time is us like worrying about doing it and thinking about it? For me I’ll take 10 minutes in the morning to just plan out what my day is going to be, the three things that I’m going to work on. And that gives me so much more direction and helps me stop wasting time, constantly thinking, what’s the next thing I’m going to do or jumping from task to task. And so it’s not that it’s the amount of time. It’s just the intentionality behind it. It’s when I’m doing this thing, can I be a little bit more intentional.

Like you were just talking about even in my drive instead of listening to something on the radio, turning it off and just sitting with my own thoughts, thinking through what the day is going to be or whatever it is. Yeah, I think the more intentional we become, the more we can find those pockets of time where we can make it.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And if I’m totally honest though, I think the times in my life I’ve avoided that more has been when I’ve been more nervous to listen to myself. Maybe something’s going to come through that I don’t want to come through because that’s going to be really hard. I demoted myself when I was leading an organization and it took chronic pain to finally really wake me up. And it was not the right fit between me and the board chair for a number of different reasons. And the response that everyone had was why don’t you just go lead another organization? Just go be an executive director somewhere else. And I was like I don’t want to be an executive director and it was this moment.

But for a long time, I had been avoiding sitting with myself with some of those questions, because gosh I was scared of all the identity shifting that was going to come with making those changes. And I think once I learn to have my own back more and also adopted I think a lot more of what you’re talking about, this sort of fluidity and grace, space and constant learning. Those things certainly became easier but sometimes it’s hard to get quiet because we don’t want to hear what we have to say.

Goli Kalkhoran: Yep. A hundred percent. Absolutely. You are spot on and it’s a lot of fear. And also that’s why in the beginning when I talked about shame, like we have the worst inner critic voices. And when you haven’t learned how to manage that voice and turn it down and really learn to have your own back and build your own self confidence and self love and self worth and self trust, all of those things. It’s terrifying to be alone with your thoughts because they’re all terrible. It’s like you’re spending all day just beating yourself up. Like you’re only focusing on the things you didn’t do or the things you did wrong, or the time you yelled at your kid or whatever. And so it’s who wants to spend time there? That’s why so many of us are, we’re trying to hustle out those negative voices. If I just keep myself busy then maybe I’ll feel good enough by the end of the day, maybe I’ll tell myself I did a good enough job as a mom or as an executive director or whatever, because I’m constantly just keeping busy. Because it’s so terrifying to sit with that voice. And part of that it’s not until you can make that voice conscious. 

It’s not until you can sit with it where you really start realizing how terrible it is and you start really having to reckon why am I talking to myself like this? I would never allow this with anybody else. I would never talk to anybody else like this. And I just think that you’re absolutely right that we are scared of silence. That’s why so many of us, myself included by the way, I’m not in any way saying that I’m not. We’re so distracted, we never want to be still. So it’s like either on our phone or just scrolling, we have to feel every moment because I think that there is a lot of fear about what happens in that silence.

Mallory Erickson: I had my first coach when I was 21 or 22. It was before coaching was really the thing it is today. But I had a little professional development money from this nonprofit and my boss was like I think you’re going to really love this woman, she’s a leadership coach. And I was running a lot at the time and also doing yoga and I would leave before Shavasana. I would literally get up and walk out of the yoga class and the woman, my coach said, your goal for this week is to stay for one minute of Shavasana. And I was like, I don’t have time for this, whatever. And she was, no, one minute you have to stay and then ultimately worked me up to not leaving the class early. 

But that narrative around what we don’t have time for. For me the moment I hear myself say, I don’t have time for something. That is a huge indicator for me that there’s something to look at there. And it really started with that moment.

Goli Kalkhoran: Oh, that’s such a good thing to notice and we’re all like that. We’re all so, it’s almost like currency and it’s like a badge of honor. Everybody’s oh, I’m so busy. You’re just running and we keep ourselves on these hamster wheels and I think that we’re all terrified to quote, unquote, waste time. And then we ended up wasting so much time because we just don’t create any space for ourselves to rest and relax and be with ourselves. And so you’re absolutely right to say when you hear that voice saying, there’s not enough time. I don’t have time. Or this is a waste of time. It’s a huge indication to look at is that really true? And what am I scared of? Just sitting with this. 

And what I work with a lot of people on is this. I try to teach my people that if you can’t learn to slow down and enjoy where you’re at, there will never be a time that you will get there. You think it’s once I get to someplace then all of a sudden I’m going to have the money and the thing to slow down, but you’ve trained your brain to constantly tell you as soon as you’re not doing anything, like you should be doing more, you’re being lazy. There’s so much to do, you have 800 projects you should get too. We should get a jump start. You know what, when you have that there is no other place that you just all of a sudden slow down and learn to relax. 

And so when you start realizing this is your life today, not the future, today is the one life right now. And if you can’t take some time to sit in Shavasana and just breathe and relax and maybe enjoy the end of that yoga class. Or take the 15 minutes to enjoy your cup of coffee before you just scarf it down and onto the next thing. There just doesn’t come a time when that happens. So if that is important to you, there’s no other place where you need to be. There’s no more money that you need. There’s no title that you need. Your kids don’t need to be a certain age. How do I practice for one minute? 

I do a challenge in my group and it’s a joy challenge, find 15 minutes to find something that brings you joy every single day. Because once you learn to cultivate that it becomes a part of your practice. You look for it, it’s hey, can I go on this walk and just listen to the birds and watch the trees and not need to listen to a podcast and multitask. How do I sit and drink my coffee because I love the taste of coffee? How do I actually stay present for it? Instead of not even realizing how I scarfed it down while I’m writing the email. We don’t, it’s not these big things. Like your life is made up of all of these small moments where you can slow down and tune into them, the more joy you have in your life. What else is the purpose of all of this? All of the working and trying to make money and get the degree and the title and all this. It’s at some place we think we’ll just slow down. Why not just slow down now? Why not do it exactly where you want. 

Mallory Erickson:Yeah. Okay. I think that’s some of the most important advice that exists in the world. I posted this thing on Instagram once. I was going to do a series on success and nonprofits and what different models of success look like. Because not every nonprofit should scale, for example, some sure but not everyone. And so how do you start to find different models of what success looks like out there? And I remember when I posted about it, someone wrote me being, oh, I really need this. And I wrote her back and I was like, you could be one of the episodes. And I think that is this thing, right? We believe that the other person has it figured out, the other organization has it figured out, but if you don’t learn the skills to cultivate space, joy, time, now. You’re not going to when your organization is 5 million, 10 million, a hundred million, because that is a skill, not a result of getting to some moment. 

Goli Kalkhoran: Absolutely. And it’s like the bigger it gets it’s just the more stress there is. The more things there are. It’s not like all of a sudden it becomes easier. It’s like now I have more employees and more things to handle. And so yeah, if you don’t learn how to cultivate it where you’re at, there’s never a time that it magically just changes and you learn how to slow down.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Okay. I want to ask you one question about money because some of the things you’ve posted about money have really perked my ears up. Particularly this intersection that we sit at in understanding our relationship to money where we’re taught a certain amount of hustle, scarcity, mindset, capitalism, but also don’t be greedy. Don’t want too much, feel ashamed. 

Thinking that this audience is mostly nonprofit professionals who are one, trying to figure out how to advocate for their own pay sometimes at reasonable levels. Because they’re wildly underpaid in this sector. But also are advocating for money to move towards addressing systematic inequalities. What are some money strategies or prompts that you feel like folks should be asking themselves or their organizations? 

Goli Kalkhoran: Yeah, I think you just have to really uncover what your thoughts are about money. You need to sit down and really just ask yourself questions of, what do I think about people that have money? What do I think about what I should do with money? Because it’s very illuminating. If your belief is that people that have money are evil and greedy and the reason that there’s all these problems in the world and clearly you’re not going to want to seek it. Clearly it’s going to feel shameful to ask for more. 

We have all been conditioned with money because money is as neutral as it gets. It’s a piece of paper, it’s not even a piece of paper at this point. It’s just like a digital number on your screen. And this exercise that is really fascinating, you guys can do right now is just close your eyes right now and think of the number that you have in your bank account. Okay, if you’re driving don’t close your eyes. Think of the number in your head and then think of the feelings that come up, name what those feelings are, okay. It might be happy, exciting, or joyful. It might be shame, embarrassment, fear, whatever. But I want you to realize that nothing has actually happened, right? You thought of a number and you conjured up all of these feelings from a number. 

The number doesn’t mean anything, except there’s so much loaded thoughts around that number around am I good with money? Should I have more by this age? Other people are so much better with it than me. I should have known how to invest it, whatever it is. That’s all of the anxiety that comes around money. And for a lot of us like you were just mentioning, one of the things I talk about is that it’s not as though you were just born and you have, a lot of us think our thoughts are true, right. As if you shouldn’t want more than you need. Let’s say you should only want a certain amount. And if you want more than you’re greedy. That’s not some kind of universal truth. It’s just a thought that has been given to us. 

And it is a thought that is very prevalent in basically every religion. And so when you are raised around religion, which all of us pretty much are in every society. You have been taught that the love of money is the root of all evil and all of these things that we’ve been given. And so of course, then you feel shame for wanting the resource that you absolutely need in every aspect of our society. Like where you live, where your kids go to school, the health care you can afford, all of that is run by money. And yet we’re like but I can’t want too much. I need it, so I need to want it, and I need to work for it but I don’t want to be a bad person. 

And I will also say that when you really look at the history of money, what’s fascinating is that at times that religions evolved. And in the beginning, when we used let’s say gold or other materials as money, it was a very zero sum game. It was like, if I take this gold I’m taking it away from somebody else. There’s only a pie and what we take. So there was a direct correlation of if I make more than you make less, since the invention of credit, that just is no longer true. They literally print money. And it’s not as though, if I make more I’m taking away from something. And I think we just have to understand these concepts. 

We have to understand what was really big for me. And I will say for your people, I was a public defender, right. And so I went to law school and I really went never wanting to make money like that. It wasn’t my goal and I had really prided myself on being a quote, unquote, good person. And it’s part of this martyr syndrome which I’m assuming a lot of people in the nonprofit world have. Where it’s if you’re a good person and you don’t actually care about money and you’re gonna go on and do these noble things which doesn’t concern itself with money. And we just do such a disservice by having that. 

Because one, all that did for me was burn me out because I was working so hard and not being able to meet my own needs or even the things that I wanted. I wasn’t making as much money as I needed to pay off my loans. And so all that did was take me out of the game. I was like I have to quit this. I can’t continue doing this work. And I didn’t know this stuff then, of course I should have been paid much more than I was being paid in order to do this vital service. And just because society didn’t think it was worth it, it doesn’t mean that I needed to feel guilty for wanting that.

And I think a lot of people who have then equated not wanting money with being a good person. Again it’s just a thought, there’s no basis for that. And you have to really look at how much is that thought hindering me in my life? How much does it hinder what I go after? How much is it hindering what I tend to seek? And I started really thinking about it. I get to decide if I have the skills to make money, if I have the knowledge. Yes, I have privilege, I have tons of things that other people don’t have. Why am I taking myself out of that game? 

I think especially as women, people of color, other marginalized groups, the more we make money in this world that operates on money, the better it is for all of us. And so you’ll have to start adopting those thoughts, right? And I’m not saying that it has to be the most important thing in your life and you have to forego everything to make as much money. You get to decide what you want with money. I just think that you have to uncover what are my thoughts. If I have deep shame around wanting money, that is going to affect everything I do in my career. And so I have to clean that up before, am I going to ask for that raise? I’m going to advocate for myself? 

And I’ll just say one more thing because I think a lot of people. I’ll just tell you a little anecdote. My husband also owns a company and he has about 50 employees. And he noticed that at his annual reviews, all of the men, regardless of their performance, asked for raises. And would ask for more than what he would typically be given like 15%, like a very large raise of 20%. It’s just outrageously more. None of the women and he has about 50% men and women, would ask for a raise, not one. He would give it to them based on performance but not one would advocate for themselves. 

And this is part of their beliefs about money. Women have been socialized to believe just be grateful you have a seat at the table. Don’t rock the boat. Make sure everybody likes you. Don’t talk about money. That’s not acceptable. They’re going to think you’re greedy. They’re going to not like you now. 

I’m not saying there isn’t misogyny and the patriarchy at play and women do get labeled more difficult than men get, there are different consequences. So I’m not trying to deny that all of those things exist. And while we should work on equal pay and ending that kind of pay gap. I think women in general, we have to realize how much I am also playing into this because I socialize these thoughts. And so I don’t advocate for myself. I don’t look for a job that’s paying more. I don’t because I want to be a quote, unquote, a good person. I want people to like me. And so I just think it’s so important to clear up these thoughts. It’s because you under earn, right? Like you don’t seek out places where you’re maybe more valued. You don’t go hard for your own qualifications and be like this is what I deserve. You tend to underplay your hand and that’s because there’s so much shame around asking for money. And so it’s a matter of just getting what you deserve. If a male is going to get that same amount at that company, knowing you deserve that requires you to clean up that guilt that you have for asking for it.

Mallory Erickson:  Yes. Okay. Double clicking on all of that. So do you want to tell everyone one, where they can find you and the best way to connect with you. And I also invite guests to share a nonprofit that they love, that’s near and dear to their heart for folks to check out if one comes to mind for you.

Goli Kalkhoran: Oh yeah. So many. Thank you so much for that. Yeah, you can find me on social media at Lessons From a Quitter, Instagram is probably the place I hang out the most. So come by, send me a DM, but you can really find me anywhere at Lessons From a Quitter. My website is lessonsfromaquitter.com and the podcast, since you’re listening to podcasts, is under the same name. You can find it everywhere. I would love to hear from you guys. And let me know that you listened to this episode, say hi. I love connecting with people. 

And I have a couple organizations that are really near and dear to my heart. One is Harvest Food Bank. That’s in Orange county. It’s the largest food bank in, I don’t know if it’s Southern California or just Orange county, but they do some incredible work helping basically, funding most of the food kitchens and pantries and a lot of the other food banks in and around Southern California. So if anybody is interested in what they do, they’re doing some really incredible things of being able to leverage each dollar to be able to help the growing need of families that are food scarce. So I would say that’s one that I would definitely check out.

Mallory Erickson: Amazing. Thank you so much for this conversation and for joining me today, it was wonderful having you. 

Goli Kalkhoran: Thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun.

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