Ash Ambirge Interview on Being Brave with J Nichole Smith!
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Hey, Magic Maker!

This is a very special episode (Ash Ambirge Interview) of the Magic Maker Podcast for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that this is the first ever interview we’ve ever had on this podcast. Our interview today is one of my absolute business crushes and absolute idol in my life of someone who I have tremendous respect for…. and that is Miss Ash Ambirge of the Middle Finger Project.

I call her a badass bitch because she is out there helping women disrupt, helping them be disobedient and create change and absolute magic in their lives by doing the brave thing.

Ash is total sass pants sweary which is the way I like my girls.

She is also incredibly insightful and has a lot of really great stuff to share. Today we are going to be talking about: being brave

Especially when it comes to:

  • Finding and living your why
  • Using your voice
  • Having an opinion
  • Being able to do those things, that trigger imposter syndrome and fear

In a way that we can feel confident and competent about and have integrity in. So this is an exciting conversation for so many reasons. Ash is just amazing and I’m so honored to have her here and this topic is super important.

I know it will be super relevant to all of us, because we’ve all felt some of the stuff that we’re talking about today.

But also…

We have just recently announced that Ash is going to be our day one keynote speaker at Magic Maker LIVE, our conference for enchanted rebel entrepreneurs in London in October. For more info: Magic Maker LIVE.

 

Ash Ambirge Interview

Nic:

This is an exciting conversation for so many reasons.

  1. Ash is just amazing and I’m so honored to have her here.
  2. It’s the first ever interview here.
  3. The topic is super important and I know we’ll be super relevant to all of us because we’ve all felt some of the stuff that we’re talking about today.
  4. We have just recently announced that Ash is going to be our day one keynote speaker at Magic Maker LIVE, our conference for enchanted rebel entrepreneurs in London in October. For more info on that, go to Magic Maker LIVE.

Thank you so much for being here, Ash!

Last week we were talking about the madness and method in the entrepreneurial spectrum and I have a suspicion about which side of that spectrum you’re on, what do you think in terms of where you fall?

Ash:

I mean, I have a company called The Middle Finger Project, so I think that I got the “Go Team Madness”. Like just by default, you’ve got to put me there.

Nic:

Yeah, I would say so. I would say you are firmly on team madness. So today as we kind of talk about this idea of being brave. I think the first place to start is, you’re not born knowing that you’re mad necessarily and you’re not born knowing how to express that madness, right?

Because all of those early years are about repressing anything that isn’t completely normal.

So just a little bit of advice about how you actually dig that stuff out in the first place when you’ve been so conditioned to just fit in with everybody else and to the first steps of accepting that madness, especially when it comes to your voice or your language and how you present yourself.

Ash:

Yeah. You know, I love this question because I think we have different terms for the same concept. So something that I always say is when you are younger or when maybe you’ve taken your first job in corporate America or your second or your fifth and you’re like fuuuuuuuuck me, right? You start to hear that little voice of anarchy, I call it the anarchy inside of you, which sounds really creepy, kind of sexual, but just like the creative urge inside of you is what it really comes down to and we do.

We suppress that, because when you start to feel like that sense of anarchy coming up like “Oh, you know what? Fuck that. I don’t, I don’t really want to go to work today. I think that these ideas are wrong.”

Whatever it is, you still suppress it because you don’t think of it as genius yet and you think of it as weird. You’re like something’s wrong with me. I’m defective.

Why can’t I just be okay with all the things that everybody else is okay with?

That was kind of the narrative that was going in my mind years and years ago when I was in my early twenties years and years ago, years and years ago, in my early twenties I remember almost being mad at myself that I couldn’t just love the things that everyone else seemed to love. If they didn’t love them, they simply accepted them.

They did not have an issue with going to work every day and doing something that was as unimportant as mailing out these standard issue binders to these clients that are never gonna read them ever again. Like ever in their life.

They were fine with doing that whole role. Right. And I was looking at this going, there’s just, there’s gotta be something more. Why am I so difficult? Like why can’t I just be cool? So I think that as uncomfortable as it is, I think it’s an important part of the process. You have to start realizing that there’s this little sense of anarchy or madness bubbling inside of you is step one.

Step two is the hard part. It’s deciding to do something different. And that could be something as simple as changing your routine every day. Or it could be something as grand as quitting your job and starting your own business, whatever it may be.

Step 1: Realise there is this bit of anarchy inside you

Step 2: Decide to do something different

You have to make that decision, do something different. And that’s where people get really, really stuck. A lot of what happens as I’m sure we’ve all experienced, is the pushback from the people that we love, the people that we don’t even know, but having an opinion about it some how. Other people that we respect and looked up to in our lives or do currently and have ideas that are maybe different than ours and they’re like, you know what? You should probably be more careful. Take your time, wait until you have savings.

Nic:

They really get so worried for you, don’t they? They’re so driven by fear of your wellbeing, but it’s risky. Which is like a reflection of their own shit, isn’t it really?

Ash:

It is. I always thought that too. I always think that people do, not to badger on other people, but people do kind of mask their true intentions with this cover of: I’m really just looking out for you. You know, like you should be more careful and really plan this out better or whatever.

But I think that when you choose to do something different, whatever that different thing is, what you are essentially saying to someone else standing in front of you who still doing that thing is, I think you’re wrong. It’s an indirect statement that you’re making, but they internalize that if you are doing something different, you’re implying that what they’re doing is still wrong.

I think they have to push back because it’s the only way to maintain their own sense of identity and their own sense of sanity.

Otherwise it’d be so much cognitive dissonance going on. So I think that when it comes to that step two, doing something different, it’s important to ask the people who have done what you want to do. And I know it’s hard because you want to ask your best friend Sarah and your uncle Tom and your mom and your boyfriend because who else? Clearly he has to hear it all.

Nic:

Even though he’s so doesn’t get it.

Ash:

He soooooo doesn’t get it.

And find the people who have done what you want to do because they really are truly the only people qualified to give you advice. In that respect, it would be akin to having a heart issue and asking your boyfriend if he thinks that you should have this operation or not. He’s not qualified.

And I say that with love. He might have good intentions, but he’s not really qualified to offer you sound advice on your big next crazy move. Yeah?

Nic:

Yes. 100% so I feel like that’s kind of what we’re here to talk about today is I think you and I are both in the business of really trying to help people in that moment of like, you kind of know this little anarchist is there, you’ve been listening, now you’re maybe ready to take action on it.

And what happens is this huge crisis of confidence, right? Because you’re clashing up against all of your limiting beliefs and everything that happened in your childhood and what your parents told you and the advice from the critics who are like, ‘Ooh, that sounds scary. Maybe you shouldn’t do that.’

And then you know, there is a level of risk anytime there’s any kind of change, but you know, assuming you get good advice or are you kind of have an idea of what your next step is, all you really need is to just be bold, right. To be able to actually take the step and to sustain through whatever that change is.

And what advice do you have through that fucking scary, scary, dark process where there are no guarantees of anything?

Ash:

Yeah. You know, our brains are really awful, so terrible in so many ways because they’re constantly just chattering, chattering, chattering away and chipping away at your confidence in many ways.

So I’ve been doing this for at least 10 years, right? 10 years of working for myself, at least 10 years running a really unconventional business that essentially it’s niche is helping women become more disobedient in their lives. It’s an attitude that I’m selling essentially. So in line with that, I think that something you have to get good at, is compartmentalizing your thoughts about what you’re doing and being able to actually just act, which is completely opposite of what most people would advise you to do.

Most people want you to think before you act.  I would actually advise the opposite in some cases, especially when you’re just starting because your brain, it comes in too much and too much overthinking will kill you.  So being able to say, okay, I’m not gonna think about this.

I know that I want to do this, so I’m just going to take the step I need to do to start. Whether it’s a good idea or not, I’m not going to judge. I’m just going to march and I’m going to try it. And it’s a really good way to kind of get yourself out of it because you are always going to find out, I swear to vodka, once you start taking those actions, it’s going to be all good for you.

It’s good from here on out, there’s a lot of fear mongering around, well what if I become homeless and what if I don’t have any more money and nobody ever buys anything or whatever.

It’s not gonna happen. It’s gonna be way better than you ever thought it was going to be.

And then your brain is all of a sudden going to catch up and go, oh wait, maybe I was wrong.

And then all of a sudden your brain’s going to start supporting you going in. Yeah, good job. You made how much doing that? Like oh my gosh. Amazing. So I think it’s a hard thing to do, but I think it’s worth considering.

How can I just put my thoughts on pause? Like snooze them for a while and don’t judge myself.

Nic:

Tall order. Tall order, isn’t it? And I think what’s really interesting, and I went through this because I had 10 plus years as an entrepreneur with a lot of great successes and then tried something new and invested a lot of money in it, hated it, realized it was totally the wrong fit for me. And then the shame.

So I feel like, that’s where it got me to where I am now. And a lot of the work that I do now is really making that separation between this is what I do and this is who I am because I had this whole career in one industry and then overnight I changed my mind basically.

Who was I without all of that. And, and one of the things I say all the time is that your business is not your baby. It’s an experiment.

Ash:

I love that!

Nic:

And I feel like it’s so hard to just hold our businesses loosely, isn’t it? We fucking cling to it and like suck the life out of it and it sucks the life out of us and it’s never going to love you back.

So I love your analogy of “put the thoughts on snooze” and just take actions to test it. It’s an experiment. Do some tests, step out there.  But I think we really struggle with that because we’re like, I have to have it all figured out. As soon as I say it, I have to do it forever, because now that’s who I am.

So if I say I’m going to sell this thing or be this thing, then I have to be doing that thing and 10 years from now because otherwise I’m a failure. Right.

So any advice for that? For like how to kind of hold it loosely when you’re feeling like, I’m going to tell someone I’m going to be a naturopath vet and I’m going to try that and actually a year in and I don’t like it. How do I not feel flaky, right?

Like more than I’m a quitter or all of these negative connotations we’ve put on changing our mind.

Ash:

Yes. These are all mental constructs, right? This flakiness I hear that all the time. I don’t want to be a flake, but if I don’t like it, I think even more than fear of failure, people are just scared that they’re making a bad decision for themselves, that they maybe won’t like it in the end.

And then what? And then what, and then what?

I think that when it comes to being labeled a flake or thinking of yourself as a flake, it’s useful to reframe that because I would argue that the people who are staying stagnant in one career for maybe a decade too long than they were already unhappy, are the people who have something to really worry about. It is not you.

You have the courage to go out and try something new.

And if it doesn’t work, you pivot.

So on the same line of being an experiment, I do like to think of myself as almost an ethnography for where you’re going out and you’re asking questions in the field of yourself and of other industries and of other things and hobbies, even whatever it is that you’re doing. You’re not necessarily committing to something for life. Like you don’t have to marry your hobby of knitting, but I think that this makes you a much more interesting, rich, complex human being who is actively going out there and trying to better herself in such a really fun, creative way.

I think this is a plus. I don’t know why it gets such a negative label. I think this is a fucking plus. Everybody else who’s just sitting there doing nothing, like those guys are really in trouble.

It’s a really good thing. I think that the dynamic, it feels like you’re being flaky, but what you are is being interesting and being someone who cares enough to give a shit to go figure it out and if it doesn’t work, it’s okay. This is only an experiment.

I think about everything like that. It’s not just what you’re doing next, but it’s also money. Running experiments with money is so fun. It’s a game. Think of it like that.

We are having this game of life and that’s what it is and you don’t get upset if you maybe mix a couple of ingredients. Maybe you’re like making bread in the kitchen and you mix wrong ingredients together, you’re not going to beat yourself up about that for 10 years, like maybe 10 minutes. But then you recognize that it’s just you put the wrong thing in the batter and you need to figure out what is the right thing. That’s just common sense. Right? But we don’t think of ourselves that way.

Nic:

We’re so serious about this and all these conversations that I’m sure we both have with entrepreneurs all the time about this intense, intense fear. And I think, like we were talking about earlier about this idea about how much we liked hanging out with our own ideas, right? Cause they’re like such good buddies.

And I know for me as someone who is a creative person who brings creative things to the world, when the ideas are in my head or I’m alone with them, they’re still perfect and they can’t be judged or criticized. And it’s so hard to then take them into a space where other people can have an opinion or whether they’re not as shiny as I thought they were. Or, they don’t make as much money as I had hoped or whatever. There’s all this space for disappointment. And I feel like one of the things that I’m saying all the time is that you’re only doing it right if you’re uncomfortable.

And I know you talk about that a lot and this idea of causing trouble and, and being someone who can cause trouble because you back yourself to be able to get yourself out of it.

So, I love your analogy about this idea that this is how life is lived and this is what being alive is all about. And it’s the same idea of not working towards comfort but working towards discomfort actually, because that’s where all the good shit is actually happening.

Do you have any ways that you’d step into that in your own life or in projects that scare you when you kind of want to be safe and comfortable and you have to push yourself even in things that are, you know, not business related.

Ash:

Yeah. You know, it’s hard. I think that there’s a certain part of my personality that is less comfortable with comfortable, if that makes sense. So when you start to feel a little too routine or a little too predictable for me, it bothers me. It makes me feel like I’m not growing as a person. So in contrast to that, when I’m trying something new, whatever it is, even if it’s a stupid idea, I have lots of those, stupid ideas, whatever. I just want to see how it goes.

I take a look at it as something that I’m doing that is always positive. I never see this as a negative, so therefore I don’t really think that other people see it as a negative. You know what I’m saying?

Nic:

It’s about reframing it.

Ash:

I don’t really imagine other people looking at me trying something new as negative. I think that if anything, that’ll looking at me trying something new and really wishing that they could too.

And so that’s probably why I’ve stepped into a little bit more of a coaching role with my writing over the years because I saw so many people longing to do things, longing but not being able to take the next step.

And I would really question whether or not the people you’re worried about, are really thinking ill of you or if they’re thinking that you’re fucking awesome. They really are rooting you on secretly inside.

Nic:

And if their opinion matters. Right? Because I think we spend so much time obsessing over being liked being accepted and liked. I think anyone looking at you from a distance, would be like Ash is so confident she’s got so much grit and moxy.

Were you just born that way?  Is that just a natural strength that you have? Have you had to curate and cultivate that? A little of both maybe?

Ash

I almost asked a similar question in the book that I am writing, which is ”what is the difference between someone who becomes a victim of the circumstances and someone who supersedes them.” I think there are parallels here because I don’t think it’s all natural.

I really don’t. I think that we are always faced with challenges and I think that how we respond to them is going to ultimately shape us. And so similarly here, when you’re trying to do something brave, how you respond to the challenge is going to make a world of a difference. So these other people, you might be worried about them. Yes. And there are some times when you legitimately need to be concerned about maybe your employer’s opinion. Maybe you can’t run around on the Internet, you know, dropping all the “F” bombs in. He said he wished he could be yet because it’s not professional, right.

Nic:

I hate that word so much that it like one of my biggest enemies. The word “professional”.

Ash:

Yeah. I think, I think that really trips a lot of people up. They’re worried that if they don’t like something or if they’ve taken it too far, they can’t retract that,  because now it’s out there too. Which I would say, the line that needs to be walked with professional versus being yourself is simply when you’re going to put yourself out there, be yourself. But when you do it, do it by putting out your best ideas and the ones you’re most proud of.

So however you say that or express that ideas is fine. I swear,  probably what did, I probably dropped like “F” bombs maybe eight times already in this interview. But when you are putting your best ideas out there and you’ve really thought through them carefully and you’re presenting them in a way that makes other people think, an “F” bomb is only going to enhance your message is not going to detract from it because what you’re saying is useful and intelligent and smart.

If on the other hand you’re just talking about that fucking neighbor downstairs, of course you know now you’ve entered into ignorant territory.

Nic

So gimmicky maybe.

Ash:

Yes. And so that depends on who you are, what kind of language you want to use. And maybe you aren’t in an industry where you would want to take that risk. But that’s not to say you can’t be yourself and you can’t have fun within an industry and with your own ideas and express them in a way that’s not like legal ease, like a legal document. That’s the word.

Nic:

So bad. Oh God. So bad. So that leads me to my next question, which I think is a really important thing to look at briefly is that it’s so easy for us to look at someone that we respected and admire and say,” oh, well Ash is such a great writer. I don’t write like Ash. So I will never be able to put my ideas out into the world in the same way.”

And maybe you’re not a copywriter and maybe that’s not your skill. It’s fine. Absolutely. That’s why we hire copywriters to help us. But in terms of like, let’s think of it, of kind of your own voice, let’s say. So how you show up maybe on your website and your Instagram and thinking specifically at the moment about entrepreneurs or people who are endeavoring to become them. How do you know whether what you’re doing is, as you say, sort of like intelligent and interesting or just rambly and ranty and like gimmicky. Because I swear a lot in my brand but I don’t do it as a gimmick. I do it when I’m quite passionate about something and it just comes out because that’s just who I am. I swear in real life, I swear on stage when I speak like it’s who I am, but I don’t do it as a gimmick. I know the difference.

Ash:

You know, originally my literary agency heads had made the suggestion to me that maybe we didn’t need to use ‘fuck’ in the title or in the book so much because I didn’t need to lean on that word. And my response was, I am that word. Like this is what we’re purchasing here. Like this is part of my brand. That’s a great question. And if it’s helpful to anyone, I have a rule of thumb that helps me to at least get some kind of gauge on whether or not I think an idea’s worth putting out there. Because of course it’s not like you just know, you don’t know if what you’re saying half the time makes any sense. You have to really sit with it and keep going through it. But my rule of thumb is to only speak about things that have happened in the past, that I have processed and then I have now been able to take a teachable out of that I can use to tell you about.

So it’s not useful for you. Because you never want something just to be about you. If you’re writing on the Internet, it really is about the person who’s reading. So what does this matter for them? And the only way you can get that perspective is by thinking through things that have already happened. I rarely ever talk about things that are happening now because I don’t have the necessary perspective. And that’s not really all that useful unless I am doing something maybe minor and I’m able to draw inspiration out of it.

Or maybe if I’m just doing something on social media for fun, but when it comes time to commit something to page, you have to have a little bit of distance and then you’re able to speak more intelligently about something, whether you use the “F” word or not and, and really make that content meaningful because I think there’s a lot of people out there who think they just have to write the content for the sake of writing content because everyone’s telling us we need to write content.

And content is great, but make it matter, make it matter for the person reading and make it matter for you. Make it something you’re proud to be representing, and then however you express yourself within it’s all good. It’s fine.

Nic:

Yeah. I love that. I think one of the things, I can’t remember where I heard this for the first time, but it would’ve been early on in my probably either graphic design or marketing days where someone was like, when you’re working on something that’s customer facing, the first question you have to ask is what’s in it for them. Right? So like we’re so quick to talk about ourselves, our feelings, our desires, whatever. And you know that video that you’re going to put on the homepage of your website, if it’s all about you talking about you, who the hell cares? Like what is in it for me to spend three minutes watching this video? I don’t care about you yet because I don’t know. I’ve got no skin in the game.

Right? So I love that message about kind of bringing it back to what’s in it for the person reading and, and, and also having that perspective.

Gosh, it’s so important. And especially if you’re trying to, as you say, like draw something useful and intelligent out of it. These are great, great pieces of advice.

I think with this idea of your voice, right? Cause cause now we’re kind of venturing into this idea of being authentic because obviously some people swear and some people don’t swear. So if you’re not someone who swears in real life, don’t swear in your blogs. The point is not to be or not be swearing. The point is to be you. So that when people meet you in person, the experience they have of you in person is exactly the same as it is of reading those 20 blogs that they’ve read and they feel like they know you.

So I think authenticity is something that I’m sure you talk about a lot. It’s something I think a lot of people would look up to you and respect you for it because they feel like you are very authentic. And my experience of you is exactly like it is on the page. So it’s a good endorsement of this authenticity.

Obviously a word that gets thrown around a lot, this word authentic. But I think the thing about this authenticity piece that I think I’ve run into over and over again, helping people build brands is finding it is one thing, that’s so hard, right? Like finding this authentic voice and then you come back into this idea of using it and putting it out there, is so scary because when it is you, when it’s not this professional, I want to be respected and known to be someone who’s good with grammar and never sells anything wrong and you know when you can shift out of that robotic professionalism into something that is you, it’s so terrifying because it’s so raw and vulnerable and that I see people like really resisting for a long time. Even when they figured out this kind of is my voice and this kind of is what I want to say in this, you know, I want to talk about anxiety or I want to talk about my miscarriage or I want to talk about dogs or whatever it is, but it still feels too scary.

How do you get past that resistance?

Ash:

I have a theory why this fucks all of us up. But I do have a theory about this and it might not be a popular theory, but I think it’s worth considering. So much of the conversation is always around this. Okay, so I want to talk about anxiety, great example. But I’m really scared about that. There’s this scary piece. People are scared about talking about anxiety and being themselves and whatever that means. How do I do the song?

But I think that’s really just the surface layer. I think that the deeper root issue of being scared to be seen and to stand up and have, I mean like be able to talk about anxiety, is not so much that you’re scared to write about it. I think that oftentimes we’ve been living these lives for so long where we’ve been told what to think about things, especially if you’ve been in a job for such a long time where you’ve been told from everybody higher up how to act and what to do.

And I think that most of us are lacking some important self reflection and also an opinion. I think the reason why we’re scared to put ourselves out there is because we haven’t thought about it long enough to come up with really interesting, valid, or at least useful opinions to contribute. I think that’s where the fear comes from because it’s not really like, am I writing this paragraph the right way? Does this sound like me?

I think it’s a fear of not having something good enough to say. So that it’s a whole other level and that’s really scary and hard, but I would encourage you to spend some time before you even think about writing anything down. Spend some serious time thinking about what you actually think. This is so much harder to do, but if you sit there and if you think about it for a second, you probably have never sat down.

Nic:

It sounds so simple, but I’m like, oh yeah,

Ash:

Like when did you giving yourself time to really just sit down for an hour or two and think about what you really think?

Nic:

And in a creative way, not in a reactive way. Not in, like someone’s written something shitty on Facebook, and I’m going to react because now I know what I think because I’m reacting to them, but this like, well actually in a vacuum, what do I think? That’s so interesting.

Ash:

What do you, what do you really think about things? We oftentimes are just parroting other ideas or you know, just for the sake of again, like putting content out there. Okay, well this is what people say, so I’m going to say this too. That is counterproductive to this mission.

Really sit down and think about what you think about your industry, about your topic, about whatever it is that you’re passionate about and then I would say write it down and not for public consumption. I mean write down in a notebook because the best way for me to have an argument with myself and maybe by argument, I really just mean dialogue to write something down on paper and then look at it and say, do I agree with what I just wrote? Which is crazy because normally you’d think if you wrote it and you think it, you don’t, sometimes you read things that you don’t actually agree with and you’re like, wait a minute, I need to really think about that a little bit more. This sounds really surface level, so…

Nic:

Do I want to commit to that? Is that genuinely a reflection of me and yeah.

Ash:

Yeah, and like, okay, maybe I agree with part of that idea, but what is really bothering me about the other part of it and why?  You just have to sit down and really think about it. This is the hardest part about creating content, right? I think that there’s a notion that content writers are kind of a dime a dozen thing these days.

Nic:

You’re taking your SEO keywords and then just filling in the blanks.

Ash:

Yeah. If a content writers doing this right, they’re having these conversations with themselves and with their clients if they have clients in that vein, but that’s the best way for me to understand what I think, is to write it down and have a dialogue with myself and maybe not really. I’m not like “no Ash, what do you really think”…

Nic:

Can you please and then share it with all of us?

Ash:

You know what I mean, I just, I’m looking sentence by sentence saying is that a legitimate representation of my brain? And that’s a great way to start really. I think that’s where your voice is formed in your opinions. And that’s why so many people struggle with voice because they don’t have the opinion piece yet. They just don’t. And that’s okay. You will. But you have to spend some time thinking about what your opinion actually is. Does that make sense?

Nic:

 

Yes. So much. And that leads into one of your favorite topics, is this idea of impostor syndrome. And so many of us just don’t feel, you know, I think of it as well on the side of this idea of like shrinking and not wanting to take up space that we’re afraid of being wrong. We’re afraid of being criticized and we’re afraid of having the wrong opinion and someone calling us out on it. And I think all of those things have really interesting threads that tie them together.

But this idea of, you know, one of the key ideas with let’s say creating content is this idea of being a thought leader. So rather than just spitting out words for the sake of a 1200 word blog article, right? Or for getting those SEO keywords in. It’s this idea about, and this is so critical for the branding stuff that I talked about and do as well, is this idea of did you say having a fucking opinion and then being able to stand behind that opinion because you’ve gone through the Ash model of looking at it and saying, is this actually what I think cause I’m going to have to defend this.

But that is what you know, anytime you’re writing content or putting stuff on your homepage or I talk a lot about having a brand statement, which has an “I believe” statement in it. Which is fundamentally about your main opinion that has anything to do with your business, right?

The key opinion that drives everything that you do which  answers that question, why should we give a shit? Right? Why, why? What’s in it for me.

Yeah. I think it’s that, that’s where the fundamental shift happens, isn’t it? Between writing for the sake of writing and being a thought leader. Someone who has opinions and beliefs and is out there in the world trying to do something about it versus someone who’s just talking. And that, that is why I think that word professional is so dangerous is because if you’re being professional, you’re just talking, right? You’re just trying to sound smart and you can use very simple language to sound very intelligent without sounding professional,

Ash:

Without having any meat behind it. I mean there’s no meat on those bones and

Nic:

And they are the same goddamn bones that everybody else is using.

Ash:

It’s kind of a really good analogy in a weird way. Like we do all have femur, but what’s the meat on your bones?

Nic:

Yeah, it’s a really good point. I love that. So that kind of leads into this idea of this imposter syndrome, which holds so many of us back and this idea of, you know, which is this key critical crux point, of bravery and confidence that we’re talking about, which I believe is a skill.  I don’t believe it’s something you’re born with. I believe it’s something that you practice and build just like any other muscle.

Yeah, I mean anyone can have it at any point or have more of it. You just have to practice it. But with all that fear and this imposter syndrome and this idea of if I have an opinion, if I come down on one side of something, there’s room for criticism and I think it’s important that we maybe have a little bit of a conversation about that, about critique and about being called out for having a different opinion, which doesn’t make you wrong.

It just means that someone else has a different opinion than you. So like I expect that you’re a person who’s navigated this a lot and you’re completely fine with having different opinions than people and you’re comfortable in that. But I think a lot of people feel like if anyone disagrees with them, they’ve done something wrong or it’s or there is some sort of fault or there’s fear of being wrong.

So how do you deal with that criticism when someone comes out and is like, ah, you’re fucking wrong actually. You are trying to be an expert in something and someone disagrees with you. How do you actually process that in when you get that email or when you get that Instagram message, how do you deal with that?

Ash:

I mean, I have a couple of different ideas. First the tried and true idea I always go back to with that is the color pink. I happen to hate the color pink. Doesn’t mean that pink is wrong. Doesn’t mean that pink should not exist. It doesn’t mean that pink has no business being in this world.

There are lots of people who love pink. I am not one of them. And I think pink needs that needs two sides of the coin in order to thrive.

If no one gives a shit about pink, either way, pink would not sell. The only reason pink sells is because there are girls out there who love pink, who love pink shoes and pink purses and pink lipstick and stuff. And that’s what they go for and they love it. And that’s why pink is popular and successful with them. There’s a difference between being popular and successful with the whole wide world and being popular and successful with people who actually matter.

So that’s comforting to know. Think about pink, you want to be pink and it’s fine if you come up with an opinion that other people don’t agree with. That said, that’s easier for me to just say. But to internalize that as a completely different thing.

A point that could be helpful is, I think there’s a difference between being a thought leader and being right. So the goal here with your content, with your business, with your voice, in whatever capacity you are using it, is to be a thought leader. Like that is your goal. That doesn’t mean your goal is to be right. It’s not. They’re not the same thing.

Nic:

Ash you’re blowing our mind. We always have to be right about everything all the time.

Ash:

I mean, right, but that’s not what people respect believe it or not.  People respect people who are willing to go out on a limb and really fight for something that they believe in. If they end up being wrong in the end it’s still okay because they respect themselves enough to give that idea some air time. But they are also humble enough to recognize when you know what, here are the tweaks that needed to be made and I’m going to make those tweaks and we’re going to keep working at this. People who are wrong are not bad. People who are wrong are the ones who have enough courage to go out and even try to be  that is awesome.

But think about being a thought leader. Like you want to be a leader. You don’t want to be a right person. Sometimes you’re going to be right. Sometimes you can be wrong. They’re just two very different things.

If you went into a fancy French restaurant and you’ve had everything on the menu except for the duck nards. It was like this nice, delicious entree, full duck nards and you’re like, I’m going to try those duck nards. MMM. And you get them in. Turns out you really don’t like the duck nards, so you don’t beat yourself up about being wrong about the duck nards, you go to a different restaurant, like you just, you move on, you try something else and you go on.

Even if you’re wrong about something, it’s useful information.

Nic:

That’s such a great sample as well because you could get so much pride from the fact that you’re willing to try even though you weren’t sure what the outcome would be.

Right. Cause there’s so much grace and beauty in that. Like I wrote this whole series of called the “I impossible” project about this idea of, I’m the person who doesn’t like trying things if I’m not going to be perfect at it right away, because I don’t like embarrassment or awkwardness or being wrong or any of those things I find really difficult. And I think when you can make that flip into actually the beauty of this is trying things you might totally suck at or trying duck nards, which you might totally hate and paying a lot for them. You know, and being like, I just paid 30 bucks for those duck nards. I don’t even know why.

But we do that crazy, illogical stuff, don’t we? Because we’ve got these constructs about what we’re supposed to do and about what and we have all this guilt and shame and fear and whatever else about what people think about us and what we think about ourselves. And I think that’s such a nice analogy of like, yeah, you can just go to a different restaurant or this idea that you can have an opinion and you can change it, right?

That’s such a nice way to think about being a thought leader versus being right. I think the word expert is really tricky for people because it’s like where there’s two things come together, right? Where we feel like to be an expert you have to be a thought leader and you have to be right and you have to be like irrefutably, right? Right. Like you have to be the most expert expert that has ever existed on the topic, in order to consider that you might have something of value to share and that’s really dangerous.

Ash:

Think about that friend that we’ve all had before who’s right all the time. We hate that person. No one loves that person. Because we are all human, right? I think respect is generated. It’s far more by people who are brave enough to be wrong and accept that that is wrong and then figure out, keep working to keep figuring it out. That’s what we want in our leaders. Someone willing to roll the dice and keep going and keep figuring it out on the fly, on behalf their goals, on behalf of us, whatever it is.

Nic:

There’s something being wrong in public though. That is so scary, right? So like we’re talking about being a thought leader and being willing to be wrong. Most of us who stay small or who don’t do the impossible thing or whatever, we’re okay with being wrong as long as nobody sees it right? We’re okay with trying ice skating as long as we’re the only one in the rink, you know?

But when you’re doing it in public, when you’re taking your advice or taking my advice about getting out there and sharing your thoughts, sharing your opinions and doing that in a public way, that is impossible for a lot of people. It’s not something you just wake up and go, today I’m going to go be naked in public and let everybody point at me like this is, this is going to be fun, you know? So I think that it’s such a beautiful skill to curate.

 

And I love what you said about reframing it. And I think that idea of “this is the goal”. The goal is to be wrong in public, right? And to do it a hundred times. Like I think Amy Porterfield recently had a podcast, so it’s something about my goal is to fail a hundred times this year or something like that, which I really respected. But to actually make that the goal, rather than worst case scenario is it interesting reframe

Ash:

Yeah. I do think that when you are doing something in public that’s scary, like for example, it can be as basic as going to the gym for the first time in 10 years. That’s kind of scary. It’s anxiety producing,  you’re thinking, I’m not going to know how to use machines. People are gonna think I’m dumb. People are gonna think like, yeah, good thing you got that fat arse to the gym. I mean like whatever thoughts are going through their head that you’re already thinking they’re thinking, yeah, you’re never going to get to the gym if you keep thinking those things. Which is why I go back to the idea of like just snooze those thoughts and just put on your clothes and walk over there and walk in and open your eyes and say that this guy “Hi I’d like a membership.”

You have to do that sometimes, but also recognizing this idea that, whenever I personally have to do something where I’m risking a large deal of embarrassment, I like to think that I will be respected more by the people in the room for showing up and trying that I would for never coming out in the first place. I think that’s really true and really important.

The second piece of that that I would say to anyone who’s worried about the expert title because that is where the problem comes in. You don’t want to look like an amateur and you can’t afford it because you’re supposed to be the person in charge. So what do you do then? And I think the answer is as simple as really just shifting your language and almost your posture towards the advice that you’re giving and what you’re advising.

Because most of this is going to be like an advisory thing, right? Most of us are doing businesses. If this is the case where you’re an expert, you’re giving someone advice. Instead of saying with all certainty, like we’re almost taught to do, here’s what you should do. I am the expert. Listen to me. Instead of taking that approach, why don’t you say, “So in my experience, here’s what’s worked for me and here’s what hasn’t moving forward. Why don’t we try this? Here’s what I think could be useful for you. Here’s what might be helpful.”

You’ve heard me use those words a couple of times in this interview. Like I’m not trying to be right. I’m trying to contribute. So think about that. When you are an expert, you also don’t have to be right, but you are contributing to someone’s growth in whatever way that is.

So by contributing, you’re taking your experiences and you are trying to apply them to somebody else’s situation and say, okay, here’s the disclaimer. You know, I haven’t tested this among 500,000 people to have the data points exactly. I can tell you, I’ve done this a lot. I’ve done it with the least 25 people. Here’s been their experiences and here are mine. Here’s why I think this could work for you. What do you think about this? Do you want to try this avenue? Or how about this other one? We have a couple of different options we can take. Happy to guide you. That is you are, you’re a guide. You’re not like, here’s what most do. It’s a different, it’s just a different approach. Well, I think especially with imposter syndrome,

Nic:

Yes, yes. I could talk to you about this for hours and hours and hours, but I feel like we probably have to like people go, so just as a kind of a parting thought. I think from a very practical standpoint of when you are putting yourself out there in public to have opinions, when you have opinions in general, especially as a woman, when you’re out there learning from Ash about how to be disobedient, you are going to get critics and you are going to get nasties.

You know, you’re going to get trolls on your Facebook. You might get emails you don’t like. Do you have any, just quick sort of advice about how to handle, I’m sure there’s some really nice Ash branded language about how to respond, when you need to respond to that in some way, as opposed to just running away and hiding and dying because it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened that someone said your worst fear out loud. Right. What is a good strategy to deal with that when it does actually happen?

Ash:

It will, it will happen all the time. Even to this day I still have people who are like “Oh wow you got a book deal. That’s weird because your ideas are just kind of common sense”. I had someone say that to me once. I was like, oh thank you. So my approach to this, to all the dreams zappers is actually counter-intuitive. We want to push them away and be like, oh you don’t want to hear that and I hate you for saying it, now I want to go and cry inside because maybe they’re right. That’s what you think. Yeah, that’s the problem.

Ash Ambirge Interview:

What I like to do for anyone, even if they are deliberately being malicious, I love to just simply ask them for their help. It just like flips the script. They don’t even know what to do with that because they’re trying to come probably like peg you down a little, a notch, you know?

And you’re like, you know what? You’re right. You make a valid point. What would you suggest that I do? Like let’s talk about this. I would love to hear your ideas, I need your help. You’re right.

Even if it’s your mom, you’re like, you know what mom, yes, you’re right. I would love your help. What do you think I should do? And you don’t have to take their advice, but sometimes it just helps to neutralize that conversation. It validates their fucked up world in some way and they stop it. You know? They stop it and then they’re like, oh wow, I now have to give this person advice. Because I could say to them like, listen, yes, I appreciate that, but this is the reality, this is what’s happening. So I really actually want your help. Can you be on team Ash to help me figure this out because it’s going to happen no matter what.

I need your genius. So help me with it. And then they’re like, oh I don’t really know. I didn’t really have an actual idea or maybe they have a useful idea. Either way you’re kind of winning there cause it just diffuses whole thing. Like yes, I’m just be humble enough to be like, oh my gosh, you know what Yes, you help me with that? “I would love to know more”.

Nic:

It’s so confronting, isn’t it? Love that.

Ash:

I mean it’s otherwise you’re like yeah like Fuck you buddy. What else can you say or do?

Nic:

Then it escalates doesn’t it? Cause that’s exactly what they want.

Ash:

Right. So it’s kind of nice as I’m re buttoning my shirt here, God I have, I can’t tell what is on this camera.

 

Nic:

Yeah, we’re all friends. It’s about being naked anyway. So like we’ll just take that literal. It’s fine.

Ash:

I should’ve had a cuter Bra.

Nic:

Well this conversation, we are going to continue because we are going to be seeing you London live. We are so excited to have you. This conference is going to be amazing and we’re going to carry on this conversation about bravery, about being able to have opinions in public and some really practical, actionable stuff about how to actually do that, right? Because it’s all well and good to say “Just do it”. But there are some things, some steps, some advice and tools that we can use to actually make that easier or less painful, more effective and, you’re going to be sharing all that goodness on October 15th 2019 in London.

Ash:

Like wherever you are in the world, you must fly in for this. And not because I’m speaking there were these ladies are so amazing. You put together in the most magnificent event ever and just go for it to be in that room. The room itself.

Nic

The room’s going to be crazy, right?

Ash:

Oh Gosh. I can’t wait so much. Like drive around in like the black cabs and we’ll sip our tea.

Nic:

Thank you so much. So in case someone has been living under a rock for the last 10 years and doesn’t know where to find you, where online, can people learn more from you? Get more of this goodness.

Ash:

She’s so flattering. The middle finger project. If you Google that it will come up. It will be there. The Middle Finger project, it actually that word, but you can type in the.com either way it gets you to me and I think that’s just the best way to go about it. I won’t confuse you with all the other URLs.

Nic:

Perfect. Tell us about this forthcoming book of yours.

Ash:

It’s also called the middle finger project. Wasn’t even my call is being published by Penguin Random House. We’ll just make dream publisher and they were like, you would have to pay us some money not to publish this under this title of the Middle Finger Project.

Nic:

So good. Love that. Which is how you know you have the right publisher, right?

Ash:

Yes. That was really, really encouraging. Cool. And then what was interesting is they get to pick the tagline. I don’t. So right now as I’m spitballing, I think the tagline is, trash your imposter syndrome and live the unfuckwithable life you deserve. That might not be exactly it, but it’s along those lines. They’re still finalizing those things. So it really does deal with a lot of imposter syndrome. It talks a little bit more about some of the toe crazy stuff that I went through on this journey to go from corporate America, to finding my own voice and starting this business. And now working with women all over the globe who are very scared to do stuff. But who I really want to do stuff, and the book is, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be probably very sweary but also hopefully very insightful. I’m trying very hard to make it so.

Nic:

Well we cannot wait for that. You’ve gotta go to the website, get on the newsletter, that kind of thing to get all the updates about the book and London and when you’ll be joining us there and the dates for that. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us and for being here and for helping us feel brave and confident and any final thoughts? Anything else?

Ash:

No. I mean besides the fact that you and I are BFF now you guys have to come to London. You’re going to see this hugging out action. Like we’re all getting a little disgusting big old family. You’re going to love it. We’re going to take so many photos. It’s going to be so annoying. I’m going to be great. I can’t wait. Everybody show up. That is my final thought. Come to London. Come do something fun, different. Spend the money in yourself. I love spending money on myself. That’s the best return on investment you can ever get,is in investing in ideas.

Nic:

And we’re going to be able to do it together, which is awesome cause that’s way easier than trying to do it on her own, isn’t it?

Ash:

Totally. It’d be wonderful to be in person with all of you. Thank you so much Nic. I’ll see you in London.

Nic:

Thanks Ash.

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