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How to Get What You Want with Christina Wallace

George Grombacher May 4, 2023

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How to Get What You Want with Christina Wallace

LifeBlood: We talked about how to get what you want, how to not be defined by the work we do, the importance and value of striving towards more balance in life, the right questions to ask yourself to get closer to the life you want, and how to make it all work, with Christina Wallace, entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and Harvard Senior Lectureer.    

Listen to learn why it’s never too late to start doing what you truly want to be doing!

You can learn more about Christina at PortfolioLife.com, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Christina Wallace

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
left with this is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Christina Wallace. Christina, are you ready to do this?

Christina Wallace 0:08
I’m ready, got my coffee. I’m psyched.

george grombacher 0:11
Let’s go. Christina is an entrepreneur, a writer, a speaker and podcaster she is a Harvard senior lecturer. Her newest book is the portfolio life, how to future proof your career, avoid burnout and build a life bigger than your business card. Christina excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal life’s more about your work, why you do what you do?

Christina Wallace 0:32
Sure. So I live in Cambridge, and my husband and my two anybody, little children, one and three years old, they are a handful. And part of why I wrote this book was the big shift that I made in my own life. When I had my first child three years ago, I’ve been an entrepreneur for over a decade, I’d been traveling 100,000 miles a year selling doing deals making things happen. And I was like, I love this life. I do. And that’s not the type of parent that I want to be for this phase of my kids existence. And so I needed to make a change. And part of that was possible because of all of the other irons in the fire all the other pieces of the work that I’ve been keeping in play over the years, I had been an entrepreneur in residence at Harvard, I’d come up and guest lectured many times, I’d been investing on my own. And so it was, it wasn’t some huge pivot, it was just rebalancing my portfolio to address a different chapter of my life. And I had so many people reach out, wanting to know a little bit more about like, How can I do that or coming across some of the things that I’ve written for Forbes or put out in the world and other places saying this really resonates? Can you tell me more? And so I realized there was an opportunity to share this model in a little bit more detail with a lot of activities and templates to make it super hands on.

george grombacher 2:03
I love it. Great. So the two kids minor, six and three. So

Christina Wallace 2:09
I’m told it gets a little easier that age. Sure. Totally does stick, it’s breaking my heart orange.

george grombacher 2:17
things, things certainly change. All right, well, this is awesome. So congratulations that you recognized that, you know, I’m interested in doing something different. But then you actually took action and did it. So now three years after taking that action, feel the same about it better, worse,

Christina Wallace 2:37
it was absolutely the right call, I cannot emphasize how much children get sick, the germ factory of group daycare is unreal. And I every time I get called out of my day to go pick them up and take them to like, I feel like we’re at the doctor on a weekly basis. I know every single of the front desk associates. Every time we do this, I am so grateful that I designed this chapter of my life where I have complete control over my calendar. I don’t manage anyone, no one manages me, I teach. Those are the only hours that I am required to be anywhere. And every other part of my day is up to me. And so if I have to juggle things around so that I catch up over the weekend, and take a day with the sick kiddo on a Tuesday, I can do that. And I think I would have been fired by now from any other job, given what the last year has been for us. So really glad I made this choice.

george grombacher 3:36
There are obviously tactical decisions that must be made and emotional feelings that are involved. Yeah, think about break those out.

Christina Wallace 3:49
Yeah, I mean, a big part of I think the power of a portfolio life is that it helps you define your identity beyond your current job title. And this is really powerful for two reasons. One is that if and when there’s some major disruption in the world, which seems to be happening a lot recently, and you lose your job, you get laid off, you get fired, or your entire industry collapses. I don’t know because AI comes for you. You don’t lose who you are, because you lose that job. This is so powerful if you’re thinking about resilience and stability in the face of a very uncertain future. But it’s also really powerful when you have to make these transitions. If I identified only as an entrepreneur, I think it would have been really hard to take a step back from building and go become a professor of entrepreneurship. Now I’m teaching rather than doing and if that had been how I showed up in the world. That probably would have been a really tough transition. instead. I did I find myself years ago when it just sort of stuck as a human Venn diagram, who has built a career at the intersection of business technology and the arts. And anything I do that mixes up those three things that’s consistent with who I am. So I can make these zigs and zags. I’m not losing any part of me. I’m just rebalancing.

george grombacher 5:25
I love it. I’ve always been a person who’s sort of rejected category people do I did I disliked the question immensely. And so now I’ll just tell him that I’m a dad, or whatever I was just recently doing is is what I am. And so I think it’s really wise to endanger it’s dangerous to put our identity in the job, or the thing that we do and wise to be thinking about, Well, who am I really? And so when I, how did you come to that?

Christina Wallace 5:59
I mean, that particular phrase I came up with, after a couple glasses of wine, I will be honest, I was building my first company, I was at a bunch of investor pitch, you know, meetups, and all these investors kept being like, so tell me about yourself, which is my most hated phrase, I think. And you have like 30 seconds to catch their attention before they talk to someone else. And I was really struggling because at that point, I had been a double major in math and theater, I triple minored, I had worked in opera, I’ve been a management consultant, I got this MBA from like, you start reciting your resume, and they’re kind of like, Oh, my God, this chick is a diligent like, she is a flake and can’t make up her mind. But that, that wasn’t at all who I was. I was. So this, this was intentional and strategic. And I could make the through line if God gave me half an hour, but I have 30 seconds. And so I was struggling. And I was like, Well, I can’t tell them everything. But if I only tell them one thing, oh, I, you know, I just got my MBA from Harvard. They’re kind of like, oh, yeah, one of those entrepreneurs. So it’s like, that doesn’t tell them who I am and why I’m going to win, either. And so I got tipsy. And as a math nerd, I was like, You know what set theory everyone loves a good Venn diagram, and it just kind of came out. And in the moment, the investor I was talking to goes, hmm, interdisciplinary. Interesting. Okay, tell me more. And I was like, that’s all that’s all you ever want, right? The Tell Me More gives you permission to have a conversation. And I was like, Ah, this works. I’m keeping it and, you know, 12 years later, it’s still in my bio. So

george grombacher 7:41
I love it. I think that that’s super cool. And this person still, they just still couldn’t help but try to categorize you by saying, Oh, you now make sense to me.

Christina Wallace 7:53
Exactly. Exactly. We love categorizing people, because it helps us just, you’re like, oh, okay, I know exactly. I grok, who you are in 12 seconds, and now I can move on.

george grombacher 8:06
So I think that there’s a fun conversation to be had about just that whole phenomenon. But probably more fruitful for our time today is, is for people who feel like, well, what, what is the best use of our time tech to help people who feel like their portfolios are totally out of balance.

Christina Wallace 8:26
I would say it’s probably for people who are feeling maybe a little stuck. They’ve gone down one path for a while. Maybe they are, they’re looking ahead in the future. And they’re like, hey, this industry is not growing. This company is not growing. Slash, I don’t know if I keep want to keep doing this. Like maybe it was a great chapter of my life. But I feel like I could do a lot of other things, except how do I convince other people that I can do a lot of things? That’s that’s where I love to take this conversation, because part of the work that I outlined in the book is really around excavating all of the things that you are what’s in your Venn diagram. Because so many of us I look at my kids, I look at all of these, you know, a 10 year olds that have 72 interests, and they don’t think it’s contradictory, to be creative, to be in love with video games, to love science to write for the school newspaper. They are all the things and we were all that kid once. So what are the pieces of you the talents or the interests or the curiosity that you might have carved off and put away in the effort of being a grown up being professional, that actually bringing back into your life might help you make that pivot or see the world in a different way or offer a different skill and like a diagonal way of thinking? That actually is going To be what future proofs your career, because so much of of what the world is going to need from humans, as we give more and more of this rote work off to computers, is going to be that creativity and connection of ideas across seemingly disconnected worlds.

george grombacher 10:22
That makes a ton of sense to me. And certainly, we can all hopefully remember back to when we were kids, and we’d love to do a million things. And then that was beaten out of us by by having to niche down or have that kind of an identity. What what, what to your fellow business school? Super smart academic folks think about this?

Christina Wallace 10:44
I mean, I think everyone loves the idea of it. And I think a lot of people are really scared to try it. Certainly, you know, it’s not, it’s not hard to think like, oh, okay, you can have a hobby hobbies are acceptable, you know, you go fly fishing, you I don’t know, take dance classes, like hobbies are an okay thing, because that doesn’t seem I don’t know. Like, it’s, it’s a threat to anything. But the second you start talking about, like, oh, well, is there, maybe a skill that you might monetize on the side, maybe you take up consulting, or you build a small business, or you think about building this other skill set that could really help you make a transition. I’ll give you an example. There’s a case study in the book, which is actually one of my dear friends from high school, she was a Broadway actress. And she was fantastic. I mean, made a career on Broadway, singing, dancing, acting, the whole nine yards. But she got into her mid 30s, late 30s. And was like, I don’t know if I want this for the next chapter of my life, like I’m performing eight shows a week, I never see, my friends, I can’t go to weddings I want. I want kids, this life is not really conducive to young children. And like, I think I did what I came here to do. And so she started on the side, just learning to code. She thought it was interesting. She took a class, she took another class. And it was, it was a hobby, until the pandemic hit. And then Broadway shut down for two years. And while all of her colleagues were out of work, she was like, Well, I guess now’s the time. And she went on and interviewed for tech jobs. And she got a job as an engineer at a tech startup and made this really dramatic pivot. But what was interesting in that pivot, she really was scared to tell about this whole first life she had had, they were gonna like, which would they take me seriously, I’m already a woman in computer science, which is got all of the stigma like, and they’re gonna think that I’m not serious about this. But she ended up finding a founder and a company that was really excited by her communication skills, not something all engineers have her ability to tell a great story and to connect with customers. And they put her at the intersection of working with the engineering team and working with the sales and customer service team. And so identifying that like, there’s a translatable skill, you would not expect being you know, Elphaba, the green witch and wicked on Broadway has anything to do with working at a tech company. But you find the translatable skills, you tell that story, you can’t expect everyone else to make the dots connect if you don’t, but you find those connections you offer them, and it actually makes that transition really easy. Now, a year later, omicron hits Broadway has reopened, but Omicron hits and suddenly actors are like dropping like flies, everyone is getting sick, and they’re trying to keep the shows up because they’re desperate for money. And Karla gets a call from the producers of wicked at this point. They’ve gone through the main cast, the understudies the swings, the like people who were in the show three years ago. And now they’re literally calling up Carla Stickler engineer in Chicago, to fly to New York City, and join the cast of wicked and sing the hardest role on Broadway flying 40 feet in the air, belting her lungs out off of one rehearsal. And she’s like, You know what, I’m still that person. Absolutely. gets on a plane goes and does the performance comes back to her engineering job and she realizes she doesn’t have to hide either side of herself. She can be serious as an engineer and still be seen as a performer. And I think that is what I’m hoping people can really latch on to this is not about rebranding or, or you know, making these pivots and suddenly going down another niche that you know, you can get people to take you seriously about it’s, it’s recognizing that you can be this whole multifaceted person, as can everyone that works with and for you. So this book is is just as much for managers, and CEOs to understand that their team is going to be happier and more productive. There’s research on this, I quoted in the book, if they have this full interdisciplinary, multifaceted life, and they’re not just what they do every day at your job.

george grombacher 15:21
I think that that’s awesome. So, for talking about actual investment portfolio, it’s foolish to look at just one thing in a vacuum, it’s to look at, to look at everything. And certainly, as human beings, it’s more fruitful to look at our whole selves. That’s kind of a dumb term. But you know, but it’s true.

Christina Wallace 15:43
When I learned about investment portfolios in business school, I grew up working class, no one in my family had an investment portfolio, we had savings accounts and credit cards. And when I got to business school, and really studied investment and portfolio theory, I was like, wait, hold up. This makes a lot of sense. And why are we diversifying our investments, but we’re going all in all eggs in one basket, on our career, and not just one one, you know, job, one industry, one skill, one network, we go all in and we ride that path for 10 2040 years, assuming the world in 40 years still looks like the world today, I think we can recognize that assumption does not hold. And so we need to take that same diversification mindset and apply it to our careers, the primary source of our income, the same way we apply it to our investments.

george grombacher 16:44
So tonight, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and then start this work. What, what is kind of a starting point for for digging in and finding the places that might be hiding?

Christina Wallace 16:58
Yeah. So to start for the Venn diagram piece, what what other things do you bring to the table, there’s a couple of questions that I like to go and to take to the people who know me best. Certainly, you could start this from a point of self reflection, many people do. But there’s also value in talking to other folks and seeing how they see you. Because you might have some superpowers that come really naturally to you. And you don’t even realize how valuable they are, how rare they are, and other people and other people see you as that. So I did this after my first startup failed. And I was lost. I was like, I don’t know who I am anymore. So I just went and talked to everyone I knew. And I was like, tell me who I am. And I ask them these three questions. I asked them, when have you seen me happiest? What do you come to me for? Like, what is that moment that you’re like, hey, I should say what Christina thinks about this? And where do I stand out against my peers. And you start there, you’re going to see not just industries or skill sets. Although that might come out as well, you’re going to also start to see traits, you’re going to see how you show up in the world. And that’s really valuable in your Venn diagram to it doesn’t have to be oh, you know, business technology, the arts, one of the things in my Venn diagram is storytelling. And that can show up in communications role at a company, I can run comps and PR, it can show up as a founder, you’re constantly telling stories, to get money to get people to join your team to tell the press, you’re gonna change the world. It can show up as an author, as a public speaker, as a consult, right? There’s so many ways that that skill can show up in the world. But until other people pointed that out to me, I just thought everybody had that skill. I was like, oh, oh, this is something I could really use. So you start there, you get a sense of what’s in your Venn diagram. What corners of the internet? Do you get super curious about what things that you go down a rabbit hole, keep you up an hour past your bedtime? Because you’re like, Oh, that’s so interesting. Tell me more. So you so you get a sense of what you have to offer. And it might even be something you can’t do yet, but you’ve always wanted to do. You’re like, you know what, that sounds fun. It’s not too late. If you’re not dead, it’s not too late. So think about then how could I bring this into my portfolio? And that’s the next step. Really. It’s what do you need? How much money how security, health insurance, flexibility, whatever you need for this chapter of your life. And then what do you want? What do you wish for your life? What are those big, hairy audacious goals that you almost won’t even write down because they’re kind of so insane, but you’re like You know what, whatever. Sure, I would love to do that before I die, you get a sense of what you need what you want. And then taking a look at what you have to offer your Venn diagram, you start to piece together a portfolio. And there’s so many different ways that you can do that. I give a bunch of examples in the book around different business models. But you might think of it as like, maybe you have a day job and a moonlighting gig, whether it’s monetized, whether it’s a hobby, I don’t know, but it’s something you’re really serious about on the side. Or maybe your portfolio is more of a zigzag portfolio, we are all in on something, and you think about that moonlighting thing, and you end up using that as a full zigzag to be like, Okay, now I’m all in on the moonlighting gig, that side business, I de risked it, and prove that there was interest there, I’m gonna quit my job and go all in on that business now, right. And then the third option is really this multi hyphenate world where you might really exist in multiple worlds at the same time that you’re roughly equal in your investment. And crucially, you show up that way. So I give an example of a woman who was a playwright and an engineer, and she did both. She worked for a tech company, and she produced plays all over the world. And then one day, she started realizing where those two intersected sort of strange plays and stories about technology, but also ways that storytelling was important in technology. And she ended up being recruited for the TED Fellows cohort to really think about Art in the Age of AI. And so she was at the forefront of this whole new, this whole new industry, because she existed in these multiple worlds at once. And so this is a model where you might, you might have these different balls in the air that make no sense on the surface. And that’s okay. They don’t have to to anyone but you, but you keep doing and at some point, you might actually see some diagonal connections that put you in a position of innovation.

george grombacher 22:11
I love it. I appreciate that. It is. It is clear, and concise. And I love I love the value of a good question. And there’s a lot of them there. Well, Christina, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage? And where can they get their copy of the portfolio life how to future proof your career, avoid burnout and build a life bigger than your business card.

Christina Wallace 22:35
You can find out more at Portfolio life.com. There are links there to all of your favorite retailers. But honestly go to your local bookstore, call up your library if they don’t have a copy, tell them to get one. And you can follow me on LinkedIn. It’s deeply unsexy. But it turns out that’s where all the fun is these days.

george grombacher 22:52
I knew. If you enjoyed this as much as I did show, Christina, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, pick up your copy of the portfolio life wherever you buy your books, but go to portfolio life.com and that will direct you to the right places. And go to the sexiest platform in the world which is LinkedIn and find Christina Wallace there. Thanks good, Christina.

Christina Wallace 23:17
Thanks for having me, George.

george grombacher 23:18
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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