E40: What I learned by spending a year focused on Surrender (aka The Birthday Episode)

Oct 22, 2020


What if you tossed the self-help books and focused on a single topic for an entire year?


That’s exactly what I did for this past year, and the impact on both my personal and professional lives has been phenomenal.

Several years ago, I was introduced to Elizabeth DiAlto and the Wild Soul Movement. I have found a lot of value in her work. So last year, on my 36th birthday, I made what would turn out to be a life-altering decision.

Last year, before any of us knew what 2020 had in store for us.

I decided to take the plunge and focus on just one thing for the entire year. There is a mantra I learned in the Wild Soul Movement, and I decided to take it to heart and see where it led me:


Less Control, More Magic.


And what a wild, magical ride it has been.

I have spent this chaotic, frustrating, and sometimes scary year focusing on surrendering and letting go.

  • I have let go of desires for myself,
  • I have let go of expectations for my children, and
  • I have let go of goals for my business.

In the process, I have learned so much about myself, about my loved ones, and about the direction we should take as a company.

I learned that true surrender allows us to look at our choices and what happens to us with a fresh perspective. A perspective filled with wisdom, discernment, compassion, and love.

I realize what you’re probably thinking:


Why are we talking about surrender in a business podcast?


Like I said, it’s been a magical ride. And much of that magic has been in my business.

I surrendered my ideas of what my business needed to do and be in order to grow. I followed my heart instead of my head, and surprise! We grew. We’ve grown enough to be able to hire several new people. And we’ve matured enough to better pinpoint our place in this industry.

2021 is going to bring some big changes to Genevieve Digital. Our focus is changing. My role is changing

And each change is being made to better help YOU change the world.


What can you expect from us this year as we continue to better serve you?


Join me in today’s episode to find out.


In episode 40 of Small Stage, Big Impact we discuss:


  • [5:28] Why we’re talking about surrender and release in a business podcast

  • [14:27] How Renia’s responsibilities are changing this coming year as a result of what she’s learned

  • [17:04] How Renia has released the idea that she must achieve “expert” status in order to grow the business

  • [18:50] How Renia has let go of creating a training company and found her true direction

  • [20:02] How Renia has found connection with other women without having met them in person

  • [21:47] How Renia has stopped comparing herself to her male colleagues and learned to #DoBetterDigital in the process

  • [25:20] What Renia wants to challenge and encourage you to do as we head into 2021

  • [26:28] What Renia’s new focus will be for this new year

Resources mentioned by Renia in the episode:




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Small Stage, Big Impact is hosted by Renia Carsillo (that's me!). I am hardcore passionate and committed to bringing the systems and strategies that give big brands an unfair advantage to local businesses. For that reason, I created the Local Rock Star Intensive, where I help local business owners use their small stage to have a BIG impact. Thank you for being here and reading this far!



Transcripts from the Birthday Episode:


To download a PDF of the transcripts click here.



If you are listening to this episode in real time, that means that it is Thursday, October 22nd, and it is my 37th birthday. And we've talked at almost every episode, I feel like this year about how 2020 has been a lot. And so I wanted to come in and talk to you about the intentions that I set last year on my birthday, before I knew all the things that were going to happen in 2020 and how they have impacted me over the course of this year and impacted me as a leader.


See what happened is that maybe five or so years ago, in 2016, I found Elizabeth Dialto who has since become a friend and someone I really rely on, but at the time all I knew her as was the embodiment teacher of the Wild Soul Movement Program. And I engaged with that program at a really difficult time in my life. And we have an interview with her a few seasons ago that you can go back and listen to the story about that. But a few years ago in 2018, no 2019, when she offered her Wild Soul Movement practice in a little bit different container as a year long program called power.


I participated in that program and really felt deeply how taking a lot of time with each of her core topics benefited and helped me. So I decided last year when I was turning 36 and was in the middle of the program approaching its end, that I could maybe even have a more deep, more deep doesn't sound right, but like a deeper and more connected experience, if I spent a whole year on one of each of the four sections of the program, and I don't know if I will do this for four whole years until I turned 40, like I had intended last year, but I do know that this year's work has been so impactful for me, that I decided to do it again and do the next section of the program next year.


So I'm at least gonna go half way. So what happened this year? And what did we focus on? Well, 2020 was not playing with me, in October of 2019, I committed to a whole year of surrender and release, particularly around doing work around surrendering my need to be in control, which as a recovery know it all type a personality, my need to be in control is huge. And it's meant a lot for our company this year for me to try to work through surrender, not just personally but in the business. There are a lot of personal things that I'm gonna share with you over the next few minutes in this episode.


But I wanna first talk about why we're talking about surrender and release and this type of embodied living inside of a business podcast. For me, I don't think that my business would have ever been able to get to the point where it was both meaningful work and economically fulfilling if it wasn't for the embodiment work I've learned over the last few years. I was so wrapped up in control trying to hold things so tightly because I was so afraid of being poor like I was when I was a kid kid, and I learned young that money didn't buy happiness, but I hadn't yet learned how to let go of the fear of not having money. So I've already shared with y'all back in season one, the story of how I was a VP of a top five financial institution before I was 22 years old. And I made a lot of money really young, but was tremendously unhappy.


So when I left that job to start my own company, I became probably the poorest I had ever been before, really struggled the first few years in my business. And so all of those feelings started to come up for me that were overlapping from when I was a kid and finding Elisabeth's work and finding embodied movement and surrender and release started to help me process through those things and started to help me not have to hold so tightly. And it helped me personally be able to enter into stronger relationships, be able to build friendships, be able to be a better parent. And in my business, it helped me be able to see that I didn't have to do everything that was presented to me, that I could charge not exactly what I worth, because I don't like that phrase.


And if I charged what I was worth, frankly I'd price myself out of the clients I most wanna work with, but to charge what was equitable for both me and the type of clients that I want to work with, and to charge what felt right for me. I couldn't do that before, because I was living so much in fear of being in a bad economic situation, being poor, not being worthy, things like that. And so surrender particularly one of Elisabeth's mantras, that's less control more magic and we'll link to her in the show notes so you can learn more about this practice, really resonated with me. And so over the past year, I've spent a lot of time with it.


And I'm recording this a little ways before my birthday. And as I'm coming up to this time and the end of this year of surrender, really seeing how asking for something like the universe is gonna give you what you ask for often, not in the ways that you necessarily expect, but it's going to give it to you in ways that you probably need. And this year has been a constant lesson in surrender, personally, professionally and even on a global scale with things like the global pandemic.


This year I have had to learn that my children, as they are coming into being teenagers, are not something that I can control. I've had to surrender the idea that I was even supposed to control their decisions so that they could start to more become their own adult people as they go through this transition from childhood into adulthood. And any of you that have had young kids or teenagers, you know how this feels. I've had to surrender the whole idea of what schooling should be for my children, as we navigate these new virtual waters, I have had to surrender that I could have a speaking career, at least in this moment. That was something that I very much wanted to work on this year. I felt very called when I was doing my planning last year to put a lot of intentionality towards speaking at events, and then the universe basically said, ah ah, I got my first two really big speaker slots came in in March, literally in the middle of the shutdowns starting when I had no idea whether it would happen. Both of them did not happen in person, they both happen digitally.


And one of the two events was really painfully underwhelming for me, and a big disappointment. And I had to learn how to surrender that goal, that I'd set for myself, where I normally would be driving myself so hard and I would be feeling so unworthy, and I would be feeling like everything was conspiring against me, because I said I was gonna do this thing this year and the world literally made it impossible. And instead I just let it go.


When it became clear that there was no way we were getting back to anything in person that I would feel safe or morally right in doing, in the way of large scale events or even small ones this year, I just let it go. I used my surrender practices to breathe out the disappointment and breathe in a different way of being this year. And what happened is that I realized that maybe this all happened for the good for me, because maybe I don't actually want a lot of speaking because I really enjoyed not traveling a whole lot this year.


I don't mean traveling for fun, I like to do that, but not having to be on a plane for a business meeting or to give a workshop or to speak somewhere. It's felt very freeing in a lot of ways. And I've also realized that big, huge large scale events are not necessarily the best use of my time, even though it feels really good to be able to say things like as seen at inbound or South by Southwest or whatever on your resume, and if you're a speaker that's getting paid to do that and it lights you up, I think that's great.


I think it's amazing. I've just realized that for me, I actually like smaller, more intimate experiences better. I like being in groups where I can interact with the audience. I like being at conferences or workshops or events that are smaller in scale where I don't feel super overwhelmed. And I like working with people who are a little bit farther along in their career than you usually get in your workshops or at your speeches at these large scale events in my industry.


For example I think inbound is a phenomenal event, but for me I realized this year in the digital version of inbound as I was interacting with people that it really wasn't a group of my peers and that I would have been better off with some of the smaller scale events being held by my close friends and colleagues and peers, than trying to go after this big event. And I learned how to surrender work in our company to other people this year, we've hired several, I'm thinking like six yeah, like six different people this year in varying capacities, we've hired for podcast production, we've hired for copywriting, we've hired for graphic design, we've hired VAs, we've hired content formatters. We've hired on staff and contractors, we've hired a business mechanic who is amazing. We've hired a project manager and we are about at the end of this year to hire one or possibly two more people.


And over the course of the year, as I have thought and thought and thought about surrender, y'all I realized just a couple of weeks ago, that we needed to hire a digital strategist because as much as I love being in that role, the only thing that our company does that no one can do but me, is hold the container for our values, talk to you like, I'm talking to you right now, and vision what the company could contribute to the world in the future. And that means that as much as I love doing keyword strategies and link analysis and working on some copy and helping people through persona development and things like that, a digital strategist within our company that shares our values, that's trained in our methodology, can do those things just as well, if not better than I can, so that I can lead us.


And that in our business could be the ultimate surrender for me. It's been something I've been so afraid to let go of, and we are setting things up right now so we can begin the process of doing that in December. So this idea of surrender isn't just for our personal lives. It isn't just a spiritual practice, although I believe spiritual practices have a place in our businesses. It is a way of looking at the choices that need to be made, a way of looking at the events that happened to us, that has really shifted my ability to lead with not only integrity and I hope wisdom, but with a lot of love and compassion, both for other people and for myself.


I've had to let go of so many things this year, including one that I'm still very much in progress with, my need for everything to be perfect. I've let go of doing lots of tasks to employees and contractors, I've let go of speaking. I've let go of almost all social media for the business. I do a little bit of posting on LinkedIn still, little bit of when I feel like it on Instagram, but I don't use social media as a business growth strategy anymore. And you can go back to some prior episodes if you want to understand why.


And I have let go of the idea that I need to be seen as the expert and the teacher to some kind of big audience in order for our business to grow, because our business has grown by leaps and bounds this year without me doing that. So there may be a place in the future for me to get that expert status in a larger way, but I'm not chasing it anymore the way I was for so many years. If it comes to me and it's meant for me, okay. But if I'm meant to continue behind the scenes, as long as I'm making a real difference in the women's lives and companies that are having that influence on others, I'm okay with it. And it's been huge for me to get there because I have had to release this idea that I wasn't far enough along.


I'm pretty sure that you can relate. I mean, how many times have you had that like imposter syndrome of like, oh I should be farther along. I'll look at my peers and look at what they're doing. And I've even been able to release for the most part this year, my ideas about how the business grows. I thought that we were going to become largely a training company.


I thought that local rockstar would become our flagship product, and we would become one of those online training companies that put hundreds or even thousands of people through a digital course. And what I learned over the course of this year as I worked with my local rockstars in a year long program that just wrapped up last month, is that it isn't the right fit for me. I love to teach people and there are lots of on demand trainings coming to you in 2021, we already have the local rock star intensive, the first three pieces of it in a DIY format for local listings and persona development and website auditing where you can buy those trainings and walk yourself through them.


But it's not the core of the business. The core of the business is holding a container for these incredible women changing the world, and holding a container for their digital systems so that they can have sustainability in their economic situation, in their lead generation so that they can continue to do what it is they do in the world at a bigger and bigger level. And that means intimate, one-on-one sometimes difficult work. And it's not a training company. And so I've had a big shift around that this year, especially as the business has really grown.


I've also released the idea that I could or should change the place that I live in order for my business to grow. Amazingly in release in this idea, I learned how much connection I could have with other women without actually being with them in person. And I'm not gonna say it's the same because it's not, it's not at all the same. And I can't wait to be with other women in public, in a group setting again in some kind of big meaningful way, but I've had some really great connections this year with new clients and new colleagues and new employees and new relationships and friends, all on zoom calls and in chat boxes, and text messages and FaceTimes.


And as much as I'm going and tired of the screen, like I know you probably are too. It feels really good to know that I can have those things without having to live somewhere else. Because the reality of my situation is that I'm choosing to live in this area for at least several more years because it's what's right for my children, and that's okay. And it doesn't mean that I have to slow down the trajectory of my work and everyone being quarantined has been a great example of how it's so much more possible than ever before for us to work that way, and I feel really grateful about that.


And I've also been able to release comparing myself to my male colleagues in that same vein, because this was the thing that I did a lot, particularly one agency owner, where we started right around the same time. He's like 15 years older than me, but we started around the same time in the same area. And he now runs a probably 25 person agency in a really fancy office in downtown Tampa. And I used to feel really guilty about that my business was not as successful as his, and I used to compare myself to my male colleagues in a variety of other ways.


And what I have learned this year as I have surrendered and released that comparison and that need to be like them, is that I could run an impactful and successful digital agency without their playbook. That actually the traditional male dominated bro marketing agency model doesn't work for me and it doesn't work for my clients. And what I needed to do was stop trying to replicate that and create something new, to afford a path for your digital strategy that for a lot of people didn't exist before.


Something that feels better and doesn't rely on manipulation and doesn't necessarily have to have every perfect metric in the world or be a hundred percent data-driven every second and it feels really good. Like it feels really exciting to not just look at data, but to also allow intuition to breathe into the work that we do, to also allow ritual and the beautiful cycles that are the moon or the cycles of female ovulation to impact the way we set up our strategies and the way that we do our work.


It's been a revelation this year and it's been a joy to build my work this way, but I couldn't do any of it until I stopped comparing myself to the "more successful" male colleagues who were doing it the same old way by surrendering and releasing so many of these expectations that I had on myself and on our work, I've discovered that I'm able to move people that the work that I do with people not only moves their business, but also helps them to shift perspective as individuals, just not in the way I thought it was going to look.


I've learned that working with women really is the core of what we do, and that those women need to share our values and be trying to make the world a better place through their work, not just make money. I've had that confirmed for me over and over this year, and it's been really exciting. I've had confirmed for me over and over again this year that when we let go magical things can happen. So I wanna say a big thank you to Elizabeth for first teaching me that lesson.


And I also really want to encourage you if you are listening to this especially in real time in October of 2020, and just feeling worn out from all the things that we are trying to hold. We're a couple of weeks before an election that I think a lot of us are really afraid of. We're halfway through the first semester of virtual learning for many of us. We're trying to keep our jobs and our businesses and our relationships and our lives afloat in a very difficult time. And so I want you to explore the possibility that maybe surrendering all of our best laid plans and releasing our need to do things in a particular way or at a particular time could just be the best medicine for this moment.


Taking the space to surrender and release those things that don't serve us, opens us up for compassion and for forgiveness. And for me, as I turned 37 to move into a year focused on trust and learning how to receive. I am a little bit scared of this topic in a way that I was not scared of surrender and release because trust and receptivity have historically been the most difficult things for me to work with. I have a really hard time trusting other people, I have a really hard time letting other people do things for me, but I'm getting better and better at it every year.


And I'm really excited to see what magic happens when I work on it for a whole year. So if you have a birthday coming up or maybe not, maybe just the next time your birthday comes around, or if you just feel like you need a reset, what would it look like for you if you spent a whole year working on just one thing, if you spent a whole year breathing into just one thing to challenge yourself or change yourself, no more self help books or business development books or any of that, you don't need them, just is one topic.


What would it shift? It's been miraculous for me, It's been a beautiful year despite everything going on around us. And I feel so much gratitude and so much love for each and every one of you who has made our work not just impactful and beautiful and loving, but has made our work really make a difference in the communities that we serve, and help people in this moment in a way that I never could have imagined, because I never could have imagined a moment like this.


So thank you all for giving me like the best birthday present that you possibly could, which is your attention and connection. And I just hope that the rest of 2020 leaves you feeling as much joy as I am feeling right now because of each and every one of you. Alright, I'm heading off to party for my birthday y'all. Have a great week.