Series 05: For the Love of New Beginnings | Episode 04
From “Turkey Burner” To Entrepreneur: Embracing Your Potential With Rachel Hollis
This week on episode 4 of our “For the Love of New Beginnings” series, Jen talks with the amazing Rachel Hollis, founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Chic Media. Rachel shares the auspicious beginnings of her company that was basically inspired by a moment where her Thanksgiving turkey caught fire. She goes on to detail how she reinvented herself from turkey burner to entrepreneur and the life-changing journey toward believing in herself. Rachel has written a brand new book that encourages women to believe that they can become what they want to be, and how an unexpected conversation with Jen on a bus in Ethiopia inspired the title. “Girl Wash Your Face,” which hits shelves in February 2018. For those of you who have felt guilty about “taking time for you, your dreams, your hopes and yourselves,” this episode is for you.
Narrator: Welcome to the “For the Love Podcast” with bestselling author Jen Hatmaker. Come on in, and join us for a chat with Jen and friends about all the things we love. Now, here’s Jen.
Jen: Hey everybody. It’s Jen Hatmaker. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast. We are super glad to have you. We are in a new series right now that is so great. It’s called “For The Love Of New Beginnings.” We are turning the car into 2018 and thought we’d just bring together all kinds of guests who can walk us through goals, and just the things that we want to tackle this year here at the onset when we go, “Alright, we’ve got this fresh new page. What do we want to do with it?”
My guest today is … this is absolutely her lane. I mean, positively, this is her space. I’m so happy–because she’s also my friend–to welcome to the podcast, Rachel Hollis. A lot of you already know Rachel. She’s a best-selling author. She’s on TV. She’s a speaker. She’s the founder and CEO of Chic Media, which is this amazing site for women with all this amazing digital content for women… you name it; it’s on there. Rachel was named one of Inc. Magazine’s “Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30”, if that tells you anything.
She’s just got this really infectious energy that you’re gonna love on this podcast. She started the Chic Site after she caught her Thanksgiving turkey on fire. We’re definitely gonna talk about that because it’s a hilarious story. Her thought after that moment was that she was done needing someone else to show her how to do things. She wanted to cook but not in a fancy way. She wanted to figure out what to wear, but it needed to be on the clearance rack. She thought, “Okay, there have got to be a lot of women out there like me who want to build and create this beautiful life, but we need to do it in a way that makes sense.” You’re gonna hear so many great ideas on that today.
She’s really motivational and inspirational but definitely approachable. She comes from really humble beginnings, and she’s had a lot of sorrow in her life. She very much tells it like it is, which is refreshing, and honest, and truthful. In her company, she’s worked with all kinds of top brands like Walmart, Disney, Jr., JCPenney, Sprint, and all these amazing companies who use Chic Media as sort of this engine.
She’s got a new book coming out February 6th (2018), called Girl, Wash Your Face. We’re gonna talk about why it’s titled that, and you’re gonna be tickled. “Stop believing the lies about who you are, so you become who you were mean to be.” It’s really powerful. I’ve read every word of it.
Obviously, in this series, we’re talking about new beginnings, so we’re going to talk today with Rachel about she reinvented herself from a turkey burner to an entrepreneur and then how she empowers other women to believe in themselves, too.
You are gonna love Rachel if you don’t already know her. She is such a joy and such a delight… such a good and a loyal friend, too. Without further ado, you guys, help me welcome Rachel Hollis.
Jen: I’m so happy to have you on this podcast.
Rachel: I’m so happy to be on this podcast.
Jen: Thank you for joining me. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being a fun and a good friend. I mean, you’ve been at this house now, well, more than once.
Rachel: Yes I have, which feels like we’re legit if we’ve hung out at your house more than one time.
Jen: That’s exactly right. We are legit. Frankly, we’ve traveled internationally together.
Rachel: We have. That’s right.
Jen: I think that’s the moment where we’re like, “This is real. This is happening.”
Rachel: Did we have to use a squatty potty in Africa together? Okay, we’re locked in for life.
Jen: It’s so glamorous–international travel.
Rachel: It really is.
Jen: Listen, I’ve already told my listeners a lot about you and how you got your start… specifically the day that you didn’t just burn your Thanksgiving turkey, but you literally set it on fire.
Rachel: Set it on fire.
Jen: I would love for you to walk us through that defining moment and how that propelled you forward.
Rachel: Well, for years, we had volunteered to host Christmas dinner. I did that on purpose. I called it a Christmas Fiesta, and I would make tacos because that was something I felt really comfortable with and turkeys petrified me. Finally, it was our year to host Thanksgiving. We didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I Googled “world’s best turkey” and found Martha Stewart, as you do.
Jen: As you do.
Rachel: I brined it with wine, and the Lord blessed it, and it was a whole thing. It was a thing.
The last step was that you–I still don’t even know how this is a possibility–you soak a cheesecloth in butter and white wine. I mean, it just sounded delicious. You lay it over the turkey; you cook it that way; and it makes this brown, beautiful bird. I was like, “Alrighty, awesome.” I had made it through the brining process with this gigantic turkey, so I thought, “We’re in the home stretch.” I put it in, not really thinking about, “Oh, it’s a cloth soaked with alcohol right up near the top of the oven.” Not very much time later I looked over the whole thing was on fire, and it was not salvageable. It was right at the beginning of my blogging career, and that experience was so–I don’t mean to sound dramatic–was so devastating for me.
Jen: No, I believe you.
Rachel: I think anyone who’s ever hosted a dinner for family or a birthday party for their kids… when you try something new and you make a mistake, you blame yourself, and you don’t want to try again.
For me, that was sort of a tipping point in blogging where I thought, “Dang it, there has to be …” and this was years and years ago before Pinterest was a thing. “There has to be someone doing recipes online that get you to a nice, beautiful, finished product but don’t require 17 days of prep work to get there.” That sort of launched what became a really popular blog for me which was about this idea of: “How do you kind of marry these very low-brow roots that I grew up with and wanting a high-brow presentation?” So for the next several years, that’s what I did.
Jen: Let’s talk about those low-brow roots, and we’ll work our way kind of up to that point in your story and then beyond. I love your story. You told me your entire story on a bus in Ethiopia.
Rachel: Yes, ma’am.
Jen: Which we spent, it felt like, 27 hours a day in.
Rachel: Yes, I believe that’s real.
Jen: I’m like, “You know what? While we’re sitting here, what’s your deal?” You pretty much left home and moved to L.A. when you were 17 year old.
Rachel: 17, yeah.
Jen: You were just a baby.
Rachel: A baby, absolutely.
Jen: You started running a really successful event planning business in four years time, in Hollywood. I want to talk about those years first. Tell us about home. Tell us about leaving home. Then, tell us about being in L.A. on your own as a literal teenager and how all that went.
Rachel: Yes, so I was the baby of four children. My parents’ marriage was, if it was great it, it wasn’t at any time in my memory great. They split up and got back together and split up and got back together. That was my memory of their marriage for the entirety of my childhood. I grew up in really hard circumstances. Lots of trauma, lots of bad stuff, we’ll just say that. For most of my childhood, quite honestly, I think like most people grew up similarly, I didn’t know that there was any other way to be a family. I didn’t know that other families didn’t scream at each other and punch holes in the walls and throw the TV through the window. I didn’t know that that kind of rage and fear wasn’t totally normal.
From a very early age, I didn’t recognize it as anything wrong, but I knew I wanted to get outside of it. As this last child for them and a very independent person from a really young age–I think I kind of had to be–I just learned to take care of myself. Sometimes, I think with cases like that, when you learn to take care of yourself, you get so good at it that it gives permission for the people who should be taking care of you to step back even further.
When I was 14, my older brother committed suicide. It was a defining period in my life. I recognized that good, or bad, or trauma, or hardship, or joy, or whatever was going to happen now after this, was up to me. I knew that even at 14 years old. So I was a freshman in high school at the time, and I found out. I went to the office, and I talked to a guidance counselor. I said, “What can I do to graduate high school as quickly as possible?” because all I wanted in the world was to just get out of the home that I had grown up in. I took summer school classes. I did everything that I could… every extra-curricular activity… everything to be able to graduate as a junior. At 17 years old, in retrospect, I realize how absolutely insane that was that both of my parents were like, “See ya. Good luck.”
Jen: I have a 17 year old. I just I can’t hardly think of it.
Rachel: Right. To Los Angeles. From a small town to Los Angeles by myself. It speaks to how broken everything was that that felt appropriate to them.
Rachel: I moved there, and I just worked so hard. My dad is an incredibly hard worker, and I had learned a work ethic from him. It’s one of the gifts that he has given me. I honestly thought when I moved to L.A. that I was gonna marry Matt Damon. That was…
Jen: I remember when you told me that.
Rachel: That was 100% the plan. I am 17. I am gonna move to L.A. I’m gonna marry Matt Damon. That’s where we’re headed here.
Jen: It makes sense.
Rachel: Totally, because I’m a child. What’s so magical about that is that dream led me somewhere. In my 17 year old brain, I thought: “I’m gonna marry Matt Damon, and first I’m gonna need to find him… in Los Angeles.”
Rachel: At the time, we were about two years from Good Will Hunting coming out and being a massive success, which was a Miramax production. I thought, “Well, I’m gonna go get a job at Miramax., so when he comes in for a meeting” obviously, Jen, “he’ll see me across the lobby and that will end up with leading me to working at this production company.” It’s worth saying, it was sort of the wild, wild west at that time. I mean, now that so much has come out about Harvey, you understand that it was always the wild, wild, west when you worked for a Weinstein.
It was one of those things where if anyone had done due diligence, they would have been like, “This girl is 17.”–I maybe had just turned 18 at the time–“She probably shouldn’t be working here.” My work ethic is a big deal, and regardless of probably how immature I was, I was willing to work hard for a little bit of money. That’s how I started my career.
Jen: That’s bananas.
Rachel: It is pretty crazy.
Jen: That’s where you started. You were at this production company just doing whatever, I’m sure.
Rachel: Literally anything. “Make 100 copies. Go get us coffee.”
Rachel: Just all of that.
Jen: How did this parlay into event planning?
Rachel: The time I was there really was the heyday for Miramax. It was when–I don’t know how familiar you are with their work–but it was when they made Chicago, it was when they made The Others. There was so many huge things for them during that three or four year period.
Because of that, we were constantly throwing parties. We were constantly nominated for awards. It was sort of an all hands on deck. As a starving person, I constantly wanted overtime. They would say, “Hey, we have the Oscar after party, or this movie premier. Who wants to work it?” I always volunteered.
I started doing events, and I really loved them. I had grown up doing theater. Theater and events always felt very similar to me: it’s a ton of preparation for one night only. There’s some kind of magic in preparing as much as you can and then crossing your fingers and your toes and you just see what happens. I really loved it pretty early on.
I went to a couple of other places after I left Miramax. I had a couple of years where I tried working in the ad industry, or I tried going to another production house.
Ultimately, the desire to do events kind of followed me around. I just was young, and dumb, and audacious enough to say, “I’m gonna start my own event planning firm.” It really is like, “God protects fools and children.” Because I was both.
I just sent out an email on the first day: “Hi, I started my own event planning company. If anyone needs an event planner… ” I was really lucky in that Los Angeles is such a destination for weddings, so I was able to do–pretty early on–I was able to start doing weddings right away which is a nightmare in and of itself.
Jen: I cannot even fathom this as work.
Rachel: It is the worst. It really launched my career. I truly treated every single client like they were the last client I would ever get. I worked my butt off. I did anything and everything. Slowly, people would pass my name around. I built that company one client at a time… one event at a time and turned it into what it became having no idea what I was doing, but just figuring it out along the way.
Jen: I love that. What the worst moment of the event planning years? What was the low point? What was the, “I’ve got to get out of this business” moment?
Rachel: My first book is about that couple of years. Everything in that book you were like, “That’s so funny. You made that up.” I’m like, “Every story in Party Girl is absolutely 100% true.” Everyone is based on an actor or an actress that you absolutely know, but I have changed names so that I don’t get sued. I’ve had everything happen. Most wedding planners will tell you, there’s something about a wedding where just catastrophe tends to happen.
The worst thing I can think of–I’m not laughing; I’m a terrible person. The groom was at the front of sort of the reception hall giving a toast. In the back of the room, his grandpa starts having a heart attack. As a wedding planner, my ultimate goal for every couple is to protect them from anything bad that could be happening. It was just set up in a way where everyone was looking one direction watching this groom give a toast. In the back of the room, I’ve found a doctor. They’re literally doing chest compressions. Grandpa is laid out on the floor.
Jen: I can’t with this…
Rachel: The ambulance comes in. Hand to the heavens, all of this happens while this toast is going on and nobody knew.
Rachel: Swear to you. Nobody knew the grandpa just got taken away in an ambulance. Because, I mean, this is how terrible I am. Literally, when we called the 911 operator, I said, “Can you just have them not play the siren as they come up the hill? Have them come up with the lights on, but no siren.” I feel terrible to say it now.
Rachel: I mean, I got a fantastic tip, I will tell you what. Grandpa was fine. He was just hitting that wine a little bit too hard.
Jen: That’s crazy. That feels like a not real moment, like you’re making it up. And it’s true as can be.
Rachel: So many things.
Jen: You know what? It turned into a book. Right? Yay!
Jen: Nothing wasted.
Rachel: Yes. Amen to that.
Jen: I want to touch on something you mentioned before we move on if you don’t mind? Because you, obviously, worked for Miramax, and you mentioned Weinstein. Right this very minute, there’s just this very important and powerful conversation right now around women. Women saying “no more.” Women standing up for themselves and exposing abuse in the workplace, and in the church, and in the home, wherever it’s happening. Exposing a real power differential. We’ve been watching this play out in the media. It felt like for a minute there, every day, there was a new actress, a new powerful woman, a new person in the media, saying, “This was what it was like for me all those years.” Of course, you and I… We’re women, too. It’s not like we’ve not worked around powerful men.
Jen: This isn’t some distant idea that we have no idea about. I’d love to just, if you don’t mind, I would just love to hear your take on what has been going on the last couple of months around this. Do you think this speaks to sort of a new day for women and empowered women in the workplace, empowered women in Hollywood, in the church, and in all the places where they have been historically kept under the thumb of men, specifically with abuse and exploitation?
Rachel: When Dave told me about it–about the first allegations against Harvey–my immediate response was, “Nobody, not male or female who has worked for him or with him is surprised by this news.”
Rachel: Not one person. The sucky part about that, and I will even… this is something I’ve been chewing on ever since it happened, was… nobody is surprised by this news, and everybody accepted it as part of life.
Rachel: The book comes out here in about a month. And as you know, the publicists who work on the book will pitch you to different stories, and recently, one of the publicists reached out and said, “Hey, this publication’s doing a story on the idea of #MeToo. They’re wondering if you have ever had an experience with sexual harassment in the workplace?” It’s like, “Which time?”
Jen: Right, totally.
Rachel: What I hate–and what I have to chew on and what I’m trying to work through right now–honestly, is that there are so many circumstances that I just have felt like, “This is part of doing business.”
Rachel: I hate it. This is so anti-feminist of me to say, and if all this stuff wouldn’t have come to the light, it wouldn’t have made me process this. I’ve run my own company for 13 years, and I just learned to expect it.
Rachel: I don’t even know what I would do…
The story that came to mind when they asked me this question was… maybe eight years ago, I was working as a blogger, and often times, you’re paid by companies to endorse products or use it within something that you have on your site. And I was working with a company, one of the biggest food companies in the U.S. I had been working with them for months. They were my biggest client. At the time, I was not in a place where I could easily walk away from $150,000 a year or whatever it was that we were getting from them. I had written a post on the site about having breast augmentation. I had it after I had my kids, and I had written this post on the site that wasn’t in any way salacious. It was honestly like, “Hey, for other moms who are interested in knowing what this is about, here is my experience of having this surgery.” I got a note from the CEO of this company, a massive company, who I, up until that point, had thought was this incredible partner for me, asking if he could see pictures of the after shots.
Jen: Wow, no way. Ugh.
Rachel: I was so flabbergasted by it, because at this point we had been working together for six or seven months. I knew it was inappropriate…
Jen: My gosh.
Rachel: … but he was the head of the company. Who do you complain to?
Jen: Exactly, that is exactly the point.
Rachel: That’s the point, right? In email–what an idiot–it’s in email. He just sort of said, “Just kidding, unless you really want to show me in which case, here’s the… whatever.” I honestly just thought, okay, I won’t be doing business with him anymore but didn’t plan to say anything. Dave was pissed. Dave was ready to go burn something down.
Jen: Of course.
Rachel: I sort of talked him out of it because, I hate to say this, but my other thought is, “I don’t want to get a reputation of someone who’s hard to work with.” Because I have a staff of five people who count on me to make money. Ultimately, I was sitting in a staff meeting, and I was telling the women on my team what had happened, and they were so upset. Like, “What are you gonna say to him? What are you gonna do?” I was like, “Guys, we’re gonna let this blow over.” One of them said, “Rachel, what if it was us?”
Jen: Great question.
Rachel: I was like, “I will murder someone who speaks to you guys this way.” They’re like, “Well, why won’t you stand up for yourself?” I ended up sending him an email back and telling him how inappropriate it was and that we were done doing business and to never contact me again.
Rachel: I mean, I have so many of those stories. I think the things that we’re hearing right now that are happening in the news, it makes me think, “Everything has a tipping point.”
Rachel: Everything. Unfortunately, often times, it has to get to a state of just garbage, abysmal, the world is burning down around us for something to happen to tip us into a new direction. The sad flip of that is, having worked in a male dominated industry for the past 13 years, I hate to think how often I have just thought, “This is part of doing business.”
Jen: Of course, that’s how the system continues.
Rachel: Sure, exactly.
Jen: To make sure that women get the message both directly and indirectly that “If you cry foul here, or if you make a big deal, or if you speak up, your career’s on the line.” And frankly, it is.
Rachel: It is. 100%.
Jen: That’s not even a threat, that’s just the truth. It’s this whole filthy system that needs to topple. I’ve just been really overwhelmed to watch these women stand up at their own risk… everything you just mentioned. “Am I gonna get a reputation for being whistleblower? Is anybody gonna want to work with me? Will I ever have another male colleague who can trust me?” At the risk of all that, to stand up and say, “This is what happened,” then just watch the justice roll through, right now, in a way that it never has in my lifetime.
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.
Jen: I think this is good news for us, and it’s definitely good news for our daughters as we begin to create a culture where we are unwilling to just go, “We’re not gonna shrug it off anymore. We’re not gonna talk our staff into not saying anything.” I think once everyone has to start paying the piper, I think we might see some systemic changes.
Jen: I’m really hopeful.
Jen: Thank you for talking about that for a minute.
Jen: Listen, we’re about to get to your book because I really, really want to talk about that. Will you catch everybody up between end of event planning and the book that we’re about to talk about, because you’ve mentioned it a couple of times, but I want you talk about your company and how you transitioned into that space and what it has been like to build that this last decade plus?
Rachel: So I had this event planning company, and I had started blogging, which was super popular to do. I mean, it still is, but eight, nine years ago, it was a really big deal.
Jen: Oh yeah, heyday.
Rachel: I had started blogging and slowly started to get some traction and some attention there. I was getting really burned out with the events. It’s a very stressful, hard job. You work nights and weekends. I was never seeing my husband or my kids and had started to think of how I would like to transition. I saw the opportunity there. The first time that someone said, “Hey, you’re baking anyway, could we put our eggs with our logo on it in your post, and we’ll give you $500?” I was like, “Holy crap! Yes, yes you can.” I realized that there was a business there. I slowly transitioned and started doing that full time about five or six years ago I would say.
Simultaneously, I am the biggest book nerd you have ever met in your entire life. I know you’re a book nerd too, but I just love books. They are my happy place. I read constantly. Since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed of being an author. I had the opportunity to work with the lit agent, and she actually gave me the idea for Party Girl. She said, “Hey, would you ever think about writing about this world of celebrity event planning?” I was like, “Oh my gosh, I know exactly what this is.” I wrote that book. It ended up launching my career as an author, and it became a series. Then, last fall I came out with my first cookbook, which is just casseroles, and cheese, and white gravy, and nothing healthy.
Jen: I love it.
Rachel: I love this story, but it’s so fantastic for anybody who loves Jen Hatmaker because we were on a bus in Ethiopia, and my story, which I told the last time we were at an event together was: I had loved you and admired you from afar for so many years. We had the opportunity to speak at Jamie (Ivey’s) house maybe the year before–I don’t remember how much time had passed. At that event, I couldn’t even look in your direction. It was like looking into the sun. I couldn’t handle it. It was too much for my eyes.
Jen: Now look, that’s ridiculous.
Rachel: I don’t even know how it came to pass that I somehow drew the lottery, but y’all invited me to go to Ethiopia with Help One Now. I was like, “I will literally go anywhere with you. What do you want me to do? Literally anything, I’m in.”
Highlights From Our Trip
The whole trip was about introducing Rachel and our friends to the Help One Now
Empowerment program that puts Ethiopian women through life-changing
year-long entrepreneur training programs that help them emerge
as small business owners with NO DEBT.
You can see the video where we tell you all about it here.
During our trip, I contracted an “affliction”. A simple little cut on my finger
turned into a raging staph infection and I almost died. Well, not really.
But, my maiming and the threat to my livelihood as a writer clearly had little effect
on Rachel (aka Ms. Give Me All The Immunizations You Have) as evidenced by this video.
The first day, you guys had come in, and again, I was like, when the cool girl invites you to a party, and you’re like, “Well, I’m not gonna overwhelm her. I’m not gonna go talk to her. When she’s ready, she’ll come to me. I’ll just sit over here and be by myself.” It was our second day, and we were in for a long drive, which everywhere in Ethiopia is a long drive. I think we had to be in the car six hours or something. I had sat down in the bus and there was a seat empty next to me, and you got on the bus, and you sat down next to me. In my brain, it was like a Pentecostal worship team. I was just praying and speaking in tongues. I thought, “Oh my gosh, she’s committed to spend hours next to me in the seat.” You’re so wonderful. You said, “Just tell me everything.” I was like, “Oh, Lord, here we go!”
Jen: Here we go!
Rachel: I was so excited. We were talking, and you said, “What’s your next book?” I was like, “Oh my, well, let me tell you.” At the time I was writing this insane sci-fi. I love fiction, so I’m always trying to experiment in different things, even though it’s totally off brand. I’m describing this sci-fi book to Jen, and she’s looking at me like I am an insane person. She’s like, “No, no, no. What’s your book? What’s the book of your heart?”
Rachel: “What is it that you want to say to women that you have never said? If you could put it into a book, if you could write anything, what would it be?” I think most authors know that answer but rarely people know to ask them.
Jen: Good point.
Rachel: I said, “Well, I would want to tell women what I can’t tell them when they send direct messages and emails, because I get—I’m sure like you do–hundreds if not thousands a month from women all over the world who are sending me questions, essentially hoping that I will somehow fix their life.
Jen: That’s right.
Rachel: They’re hoping that somehow I have the magic cure, the magic thing, the quick solution, the fast answer that’s gonna fix their life for them. Because they’re coming to me a lot of times heartbroken and scared. I can never tough love them. I can only say, “You’re strong. You’re a warrior. You can do this.” What I really want to say is–and I started just saying this stuff to Jen–“Just get up off the ground and take a hold of your life. Girl, you can do it, girl.” And I kept saying these things, and Jen says, “Girl, wash your face.”
Rachel: I was like, “Holy crap.”
Jen: There it is.
Rachel: So Girl, Wash Your Face comes out February 6th. It is, I hope, a blend of love, but tough love.
Jen: Of course, you know I’ve read every word. I love it, and it is love, and it is tough love. I really appreciate that about you. That’s one of my favorite things about the way that you run your business and about the way that you engage women and the way you dispense advice and wisdom. In my world, because a majority of my space is very Christian in nature, there’s sometimes a tone that comes with it, specifically with women. It’s very, “Aw, shucks.” Do you know what I mean?
Jen: Like, “Aw, shucks.” For lack of a better way to explain it, you walk away from it sometimes feeling like you should be less. “Just diminish and shrink down in some way, but also change the world.” It’s real tricky. It’s a real tricky needle to thread. “Be humble, and it’s all for Jesus, but also do everything.” One thing that I like about the way you lead–and really one of the reasons I have you on it right now because we’re in this series about new beginnings here on the podcast and fresh starts and sort of just turning corners and turning pages. And this is so much about what you do. You lead like this. You’re like my favorite kind of tough cheerleader.
Jen: So you don’t let women necessarily wallow in a lot of excuses and “buts”: “But you don’t know my life. But you don’t my story.” Talk about that a little bit… your approach to life and taking the bull by the horns.
Jen: To saying these are the days that I have to live on this planet earth.
Jen: And this is sort of your approach to building and creating a meaningful and a beautiful life. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Rachel: Yeah, so I talked a little bit about my childhood. There was so much trauma there and there was so much pain there. The life that I live today is so beautiful and so blessed. Oh my gosh, it’s not perfect, and we still–I mean, P.S. we’re on Christmas break, and I’m gonna murder all of my children who are not in school right now. So, you know, it’s not perfect, but it is such a beautiful redemption from where I came from. I think having walked through the things that I walked through. For a lot of my earlier adulthood, I just thought hustle, hustle, hustle, go as fast as you can, keep moving forward, don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. It wasn’t until I got married and the hustle, hustle, hustle, keep going as fast as you can, achieve everything, prove them wrong, all the stuff. I’m a three on the Enneagram as you know. I’m an achiever.
Rachel: That started to catch up with me. I started to get sick.
Rachel: I really had to look hard at all the stuff that happened, that I hadn’t thought about, that I didn’t process. It made me realize. It’s one of those things where I would talk it through with my therapist, or I would talk it through with Dave. And I would explain the things that happened to me as a child. The other adult who’s watching you …have you ever made your therapist cry?
Rachel: Like, “Oh, we’re screwed.”
Rachel: You’re like, “Oh man, oh, are we that bad? This is how bad the therapist is crying? Oh, brother!”
Jen: Totally. Yes.
Rachel: As I started to walk through blogging about recipes, every once in a while, I would share a story. I would talk about my brother who was a paranoid schizophrenic. I would talk about his loss. I would talk about emotional abuse as a child or the things I had done as an adult to try and cope with what had happened. Whenever I did that, the response from women was so overwhelming of, “Someone said it. Oh, my gosh, someone said it.” It’s that saying, “The most powerful words in the English language are, ‘me too.’”
Jen: Yeah, totally.
Rachel: So when you have the courage to talk about your story and your past and the scars that cover your body and your heart, it gives others permission to do the same. I wanted to tell people. I wanted to tough love. I wanted to shake their shoulders. I wanted to yell about the potential that you have, but I knew that it would fall on deaf ears if I didn’t first tell you what I had walked through to get where I am.
Jen: That’s right.
Rachel: It’s very easy to look at my Instagram or look at our life or think, “Oh, you got it so good. You have money, and you have access, and you have resources.” I’m like, “You have no idea where I have come from.”
Jen: That’s right.
Rachel: I knew if I could share those stories… My goal is always to share the tangible things that I did to get past them. Sometimes, my tangible things are just so dumb, but it’s like, “Hey, this is what worked for me, and maybe it’ll work for you.”
That really has been the foundation of my career over the last so many years. I am not an expert. I do not know what I am doing. I only know what worked for me. I am constantly trying. My greatest value in the world is growth. Every single day I am trying to grow into a better version of myself. I’m trying to be a better mom and a better wife. I’m trying to be stronger in my faith. I’m trying to be a better boss. I love to learn. I read a million nonfiction books and listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos and go to conferences. I am a sponge for information. I have a lot of ideas where, “Hey, I was really struggling with drinking too much at one point in my parenting career. I was really struggling with this thing.” I mean, you know what’s in the book. I talk about it all.
Jen: Yeah, you lay it all out.
Rachel: My hope was: these are the things that I’ve struggled with, and I think it will resonate with other women. If I admit to my stuff–and sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s sad, and sometimes it’s embarrassing, and hard–but that it will give you permission to own your story. Because I really don’t feel that it’s possible to truly grow and succeed and become who you were meant to be, if you don’t acknowledge what brought you here.
Jen: That’s right.
Rachel: That’s the idea.
Jen: Tell everybody listening, because I love the way that you laid it out and how you sort of organized the book because you really give handles for what women are actually going through in their real lives. Each chapter is “Something I once believed.” Can you talk about that a little bit and the way that you structured it?
Rachel: Yeah, a couple of years ago I learned this term: limiting belief. Which is sort of a personal-guru, growth word. It’s a little cheesy, but it was super powerful to me. The idea that there are things that you believe about yourself that limit you as a mom, as a wife, as a woman, as anything. They limit you. It’s a story that you’ve told yourself for so long that you believe it’s true, and it’s not. I really started to do a lot of research and focus on the idea of limiting beliefs and the lies… the lies that we are told, especially as women that we need to live into, that we need to be, that we need to look a certain way, or act a certain way.
As I started to lay out the ideas for this book, at first I was like, “Let’s talk about all the hard things.” Then, I realized the theme with all of the hard things was: these were periods in my life where I believed a lie about myself. Every single chapter in the book begins with a lie that I used to believe. The lies are things like: “I’m a bad mom.” Or “I need a drink.” Or “I’m bad at sex.” Or “I deserve to be treated this way.” The Bible says, “That which is in the darkness shall be brought into the light.” If you let something stay hidden and if you leave it in the dark… if you never say those words out loud, then no one can speak into how wrong that is.
Jen: That’s right.
Rachel: For so many of us, there’s shame associated with these lies, and we never say them out loud because we’re nervous that someone’s going to agree. When you say it to someone that you trust, and they’re like, “What are you even… ?”
Even my husband, reading through this book, he was like, “Babe, this was your perception of that time?” I think there’s something really powerful about looking at those areas in your life where someone has told you that you need to be a certain way or act a certain way, whether it was your family of origin, or society, or your friends. And you started to believe that someone else’s definition of a woman or a mom or a sister or a CEO, is supposed to be your definition of them. I never, ever want to imply that my way is the right way. I only hope that by talking about my own journey, that it will make you start to question yours.
Jen: It does. One thing I want everybody to know is that embedded in all of these really, incredibly common narratives that are aimed specifically at women that we believe that are steeped in lies… in addition to talking about just being truthful, you offer a lot practical advice. I mean, this isn’t all just up in your head. I mean, you really do suggest some really great “best practices” for wrangling some of this back into control. And really applying intention to a lot areas where we constantly expect them to just smooth out on their own, which is crazy and not the way it works. The world wants entropy. Having to seize this idea of: you’ve got the power in your own hands to change your own life.
Jen: To take responsibility and own your own happiness. Can you talk about this because I think women often blame our circumstances or we blame other people or we blame God for our deep sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. And to be fair, sometimes our circumstances are absolute crap.
Jen: As you know. As you’ve talked about at length.
Jen: What’s the flip side of that?
Rachel: I think this is a really interesting conversation, particularly for those of us who grew up in a church environment. I was raised to believe that God had a plan for my life, and that God, and your daddy, and then the husband you would marry… the best that you could do was to be the best woman for them. I think for a lot of women, they still struggle with this idea of: “Someone else is gonna fix this. Someone else is gonna make this better. If I’m just good enough, if I’m just pretty enough, if I just live into these narratives that someone else has set out for my life, it’s all gonna be okay.” And I have gotten flack from women in the Christian community who will say, “God is in control.” Yes, sister. God is in control. Our gift from God is the potential that He gave us. What we do with that potential is our gift back to Him.
Jen: That’s good. That’s a good way to put it.
Rachel: To be given these unique skills and abilities and resources at your disposal, and I know that everybody’s access is different. You have things in your life that are uniquely you. They are uniquely your gifts. To just sit on them and hope, “Oh, God’s gonna make a way.” Girl, no. It absolutely makes my head want to explode.
Rachel: I think part of the problem, and I’m gonna get on my soap box for one minute…
Jen: Get on it.
Rachel: Here we go. Part of the problem is that women in so many cultures are raised to be the best that they can be for someone else. Meaning, be the best mom for your children. Be the best wife for your partner. Be the best sister. Be the best daughter. So that your identity is fully wrapped up into who you are for other people. It’s no wonder that women–especially mommas who, when you’re five years into being a mom or ten years into being a mom or you’re an empty nester–and you’re like, “I have no idea who I am. I haven’t done a thing for myself.” I’m sure you’ve had women come up to you at events. I have women all the time come up to me at conferences. They’re like, “This is the first time I’ve left my kids in a decade.”
Jen: Yeah, exactly.
Rachel: I’m like, “What are you doing?” Because we are, at least where I come from, we are raised to believe that that was your purpose in this life. There’s something so beautiful about being a wife and a mother or not being a wife and a mother, but your identity, who you are, shouldn’t change regardless of who you’re connected to. Because what does that say to our sisters who never get married or who don’t want to have kids? Does that say: “You don’t have value”? It’s so twisted.
Jen: Right. 100%.
Rachel: Sorry, I went off on a crazy tangent.
Jen: No, no. I’m with you. I’m waving my white hanky.
Rachel: Yes. Good, good.
Rachel: I’m so passionate about the idea that other women realize that they are in control of what happens next.
Rachel: You might not be able to move forward a mile, but you can move forward an inch every single day. You can try something or do something or change something.
Jen: I mean “Here, here.” I couldn’t agree more. I am literally surrounded by women at all times who are so smart and so capable and courageous and stepping into new spaces and trying new hats on and chasing down a dream that they’ve let lie dormant for a decade. Just to watch the life on the other side of that that just comes forth. Where there would have been nothing, now there is life, now there is joy, now there is art, now there is something creative. There is a new relationship. There is depth. I mean, even when our circumstances are garbage, because that’s gonna affect virtually all of us at some point.
Jen: I mean, if you haven’t suffered, just live longer.
Jen: This is not meaning… if everything’s going well. Even then in the face of betrayal, or recovery, or in failure, those are sometimes our best teachers if we’re willing to grab onto them and say, “Even here, I will reach for goodness; I will reach for truth; I will reach for courage; I will not just be this passive person in my own life, but rather move forward with such intention.” One thing that you do really well is you’re a big advocate of women dreaming dreams.
Jen: I love it. You know I am too. You and I share this space big time. A lot of people struggle for a variety of reasons: “I’m too practical. I’m too busy serving everybody else. There’s not time. How dare I. Who? Me?” The excuses are literally endless. I would love for you to address the person listening who has a dream, maybe. Maybe it’s this little private dream tucked away somewhere in their heart or mind, and they’re afraid to dream it. Or it could be somebody who is literally afraid to even imagine a dream… that they’re just gonna stay the course. What might you say to that person who’s sitting on this quiet little dream, and they’re not sure if they are able, or capable, or worthy, of taking the first step?
Rachel: Oh, such a good one and something that I feel so passionate about because dreaming and goal setting is the reason that I have the life that I have today. If you can’t imagine something greater for yourself or for your family, I don’t know how you work to get there. We have this conference. You were at our first one last year in Austin. We recently spoke to someone who had come to the conference. We were interviewing her for the next one that’s coming up in April. She said, and it was honestly the greatest gift that anybody in my career has ever given me. She said, “I came to RISE because I had read your fiction books. And I thought if I came to your conference that maybe you would sign my books. I had no idea what it was about. I just wanted to hopefully take a picture with you.” She comes to RISE, and she says, “I am a mom. We have a family business. I had no idea that I should have a dream. I had no idea that I should aspire to a goal for myself. It had never occurred to me to want to work towards something.” She said, “I sat in that room, and I took eight pages of notes, and I was so excited. I thought the idea that I would have a dream or a goal was for people who owned their own business or who were working their way up a career.” She’s like, “As a mom, it never occurred to me that I could want to run a half marathon or go on a vacation with my girlfriends.”
Jen: Right. Dreams have all kinds of shapes and sizes.
Rachel: I think that is the crux. Your dream doesn’t have to look like mine. Dreaming big just looks like being audacious enough to dream for yourself. Whatever it looks like to you. I think, for so many women, they know. When I stand on stage and I challenge people, and I say, “Write down that dream that if you were totally honest and if you knew you couldn’t fail… all that stuff. Write it down.” Everyone writes it down. And I’m like, “How many of you are seeing that or hearing about that for the first time?” No one’s raising their hands. “How many of you have been holding onto this dream since you were little?” Most people will hold a hand up.
Jen: Yeah, right.
Rachel: It’s those dreams that we had when we were little that seem frivolous to us now. Like, “Who am I to want to write a book? Who am I to want to take a hip-hop dance class? Who am I to tackle the world?” Whatever it is, because I think it ties back to that idea that we are supposed to exist for other people. So for women to have dream or hope for themselves makes them feel guilty.
Jen: Yeah, it does.
Rachel: It makes them feel shame. People talk about “mommy guilt” all the time, and if you get to the bottom of it, it’s mostly like, “Well, I wanted to go get my nails done for an hour.” Or “I wanted to go on a run, and I feel guilty because I’m leaving.” I’m like, “I can’t. My ears can’t. They’re bleeding. I can’t even hear what you’re saying right now.”
Tomorrow is not a guarantee. If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, then you know that is true. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. If today was your last day, would you want to leave with all these things undone and all these words unsaid and all these hopes leading to nothing? I would rather live everyday striving to be the woman of my dreams.
Jen: Totally, and that first step is not the final step. I think that keeps a lot of us frozen: “Well, I don’t know how to get to the finish line.” Well, good news, you don’t have to know that.
Rachel: Just take one step.
Jen: You do not have to know that. You can just take the most tiny, incremental, baby step toward it, and sometimes the next step materializes in front of you.
Some of us are sort of in an incubation period where we’re learning, we’re sponging, we’re gathering, we’re dreaming, we’re filling pages of notebooks, we’re writing down all of our notes. It’s not materialized yet, but we’re “wool gathering,” and that’s beautiful too. Again, back to a point you made earlier, not every dream is: “I’m gonna start an international company.” Don’t imagine that “dream” means something that enormous or something that disruptive in your life. It could be something that literally slides into the beautiful life that you already have, and you make room for it, and you prioritize it. And it can be art. It could be creativity. It could be a job change. It could not be. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is… it’s something that makes your pulse quicken, and it’s what keeps you up at night, and when somebody says, “If you could just say it out loud without any sense of shame or guilt or whatever, what would it be?” It’s that thing. Why not now? It’s 2018. Literally, years are slipping through my fingers. It’s the craziest thing. My kids and I were just talking about this yesterday… about how we were trying to hang on with our minds to memories from the last four years, and we were like, “It’s like sand through our fingers.” It’s so fast. I am very well aware that this is my one life, and I’m halfway through it.
I love how you encourage women. I love how you cheer them on. I like how you put real tools in their hands… it’s not all just jargon. Because sometimes jargon is exciting, but it just leaves you going, “But what do I do?”
Rachel: “What do I do now?” Yeah.
Jen: You go way past that into steps and tools and best practices, and it’s all in your book, and it’s so good, Rachel, and it’s so useful, and it’s so exciting, and encouraging, and it’s honest. It doesn’t feel like one of those things where you read and you go, “Ah, I cannot relate to this person.” Or “She does not understand how hard this would be, or how much sacrifice it will take.” None of that is in there. It just feels like girl to girl. Tough cheerleader. The very best kind of tough cheerleader.
Rachel: Thank you.
Jen: Okay, listen, let’s wrap this up.
Jen: I’m going to ask you three quick questions that we’re asking every guest in the New Beginnings Series. We’ve talked a lot about taking sort of control and dreaming dreams and all of it. Can you just tell us, quickly, about a time in your life when you literally made a 180 degree turn? You completely blew something up that wasn’t working and you started over from scratch, even if you had already sort of invested quite a bit and went, “You know what, I need to turn course here.”
Rachel: My answer, because I saw this question on your list here, is right now.
Jen: I want to hear about that.
Rachel: I mean, we’re in the midst of–more will be revealed in time, a little hush– but we are in the midst of making some massive changes.
Jen: That’s great.
Rachel: The biggest ever, and we are so excited about 2018. Also, we would never ever have gotten here and decided to make these choices if we hadn’t gone through 2016 which was our year of foster care and failed adoption and so much change and so much hardship. And coming out the other side of it stronger… stronger in marriage and stronger as a family. It made us excited for change. The Hollis’s are in for some really big new beginnings here soon.
Jen: Stay tuned.
Rachel: Stay tuned.
Jen: Stay tuned. I love that. I love that so much. Let’s talk about, speaking of 2018 and the new year, what’s one of your goals for this year?
Rachel: Work hard, relax hard.
Jen: That’s my favorite mantra.
Rachel: It is. “Work hard, play hard” does not apply to me.
Jen: I hear what you’re saying.
Rachel: I really struggle. One of the chapters in the book is: “I struggle with being a workaholic.” It’s part of my achievement mentality. There’s a whole long reason why. I’m getting so much better at it. One of my goals is: “Hey, you can work hard as long as you rest hard and relax hard and vacation hard.” That’s a goal for this year.
Jen: I love that. Is that gonna look weekly and yearly for you?
Rachel: I hope so. I did something yesterday. I came to the office, and nobody’s here, and I went through every single appointment in my calendar for 2017, and I made a list of the things that were awesome, the things that were not so awesome, and the things that were time wasters or time suckers.
Jen: Oh, gosh.
Rachel: It took me about two hours, and it was so powerful. What I discovered from that–and also every time that I had a dinner with my friends or went to the spa or went on vacation or got to travel (not for work) or went to some experience to grow, like a conference, I put a little check mark–I’m really happy to report that my vacation time was fantastic in 2017.
Rachel: I need some more spa time. I need some more friend time, but I’m moving in the right direction.
Jen: I love that.
Last question: we always ask it from Barbara Brown Taylor, do you read her?
Rachel: I don’t. Who is that?
Jen: Put her on your list. She’s good for people like us because she’s really contemplative, and interior, and wise. For those of us whose hair is fire and we’re like running around all the time, she’s a really good leader for women like you and I.
Anyway, her question that she asks is, “What’s saving your life right now?”
Rachel: So I started this diet. There’s a woman named Kelly LeVeque, and she has a book called Body Love. I started doing that about four months ago, and it has totally changed my body, and my energy level, my sleep, everything.
Rachel: I love it because it’s really simple for me to figure out. Every single meal that you eat should have four things: fiber, fat, greens, and protein. That can exist in any combination. That’s really simple for my brain to follow. It has changed everything. I’m not a person who would ever… when I saw this I was like, “Ah, I have to say this.” Body Love by Kelly LeVeque. I totally love it. She’s @bewellbykelly on Instagram if you want to follow her. It’s a healthy way of eating that makes sense for me that I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
Jen: Love it.
Rachel: It’s changed everything. I highly recommend it.
Jen: I love that answer. I literally wrote that down as you said it.
Rachel: You should check her out.
Jen: You’re just the best. Can you tell everybody where to find you? Where to look for you? Where they can find the book? Where they can pre-order? All of it.
Rachel: I am @MsRachelHollis on everything. Instagram’s my favorite platform. The book is available at Amazon, obviously. Barnes and Nobles is the better place because it’s the exclusive edition, which has a bonus chapter, and I signed a thousand copies.
Jen: That’s Barnes and Noble online?
Rachel: Barnes and Noble online, yeah. The book comes out February 6th, and I hope everyone digs it.
Jen: Awesome. I’m so excited for you.
Rachel: Thank you, friend.
Jen: I’m proud of you too. I just love you. It’s been a fun year–really two years–of becoming good friends. It’s just so special, and I am so grateful for you in my life.
Rachel: Thank you.
Jen: And for Dave, who I adore, and for your beautiful family. I’m over here jumping on my couch cheering for your book.
Rachel: Thank you.
Jen: I think women are gonna love it. I think it’s gonna move the needle forward for so many people who feel stuck or sad or lost. I cannot wait for you to start collecting stories because it’s gonna be so amazing what comes back. Absolutely.
Okay, everybody. So Rachel Hollis on the podcast. Thank you my friend.
Rachel: Thank you.
Jen: Have a great day.
Rachel: You too. I’ll talk to you later.
Jen: So much love to Rachel Hollis for being on the show today. I really love that girl. She is just the real deal, you guys. She is just as genuine and truthful and honest as they come.
As always, everything we talked about and mentioned is gonna be on my website on the transcript page for the podcast at JenHatmaker.com. So all the links you need, all of Rachel’s handles, everywhere she’s at, you’ll be able to find her over there. Links to pre-order her book, everything, everything, everything. Plus, always, bonus pictures. I’ll dig some pictures of Rachel and I out from our Ethiopia trip that we mentioned twice. That was when we solidified our friendship, for sure. So I’ll make sure you have plenty of bonus stuff over there.
You guys, thanks for joining the show. Thanks for tuning in. We’re trying to make this series, “For the Love of New Beginnings,” really strong for you. We want to put a lot of great content in your hand with a lot of really good ideas and a lot of tools and resources, if that’s what you’re reaching for, in a lot of different areas.
Come back next week because the guests are so strong, so amazing, so wise, and experts in their fields. We love providing you with amazing guests, and content, and material. It’s such a joy.
Anyway, as always, thanks for being here, you guys. Thanks for listening. It’s just such a pleasure to serve you like this. This is my favorite thing that I do. Thanks for reviewing and rating the podcast, too. That always helps. Okay, until next week, have a great one, and we’ll see you next week on the show.
Narrator: Thanks for joining us today on the For the Love Podcast. Tune in next week, when we sit down again with Jen and friends to chat about all the things we love.
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