Have you ever wanted to change careers? Ever thought about being your own boss? Wanted to influence others and impact the world? Now, that sounds like something only a single person, with no responsibilities or cares in the world could do, right? Well actually, you’d be totally wrong about that.
Today, you’re going to meet an expert in work life balance, success, and happiness. Her name is Carrie Wilkerson, and she’s known as the Barefoot Executive. She’s a best selling author, professional speaker, and a coach to thousands of executives, sales teams, and entrepreneurs. She’s also a big inspiration and mentor to me, along with a source of big sisterly tough love, and you’ve probably seen her on CNN, Fox Business News, or Forbes.
Now, here’s the most impressive feat of all. She’s achieved all of this while raising four children, and having a strong 25-year marriage to her best friend, Eddie AKA Mr. Barefoot.
Today, you’re going to learn Carrie’s secrets to success.
As well as how she started as a small town girl, turned high school teacher, turned business owner, and then went on to overcome every obstacle, including six figures of debt, and being 141 pounds overweight, by using her faith and perseverance to become a speaker on some of the biggest stages in America. Carrie loves showing people how to transform their lives, their bodies, relationships, and bank accounts, through core values and goal setting. A proud parent and CEO, Carrie believes you can create a life you love with the people that matter the most.
Carrie loves showing people how to transform their lives, their bodies, relationships, and bank accounts, through core values and goal setting. A proud parent and CEO, Carrie believes you can create a life you love with the people that matter the most.
Craig: Carrie, welcome to the show.
Carrie: Thanks for having me, Craig.
Craig: Let’s start with the start of your adult journey. In fact, we’ll go back before we even met. You were once a high school teacher, you had a little bit of trouble with some debt. You know, most people would have given up with some of those things in front of you. Why didn’t you, and what motivated you to keep on going?
Carrie: I was good at business but, I wasn’t great on the back end or in personal money management. So, what I learned is that, you have to be a student of things in order to master them. Some things are not innate. Some things were not taught in school, at any level of school. So, being in business and generating my own income helped me get out of debt but, the fact is, if you want to keep from making those same mistakes over and over again, you have to be a student on a certain level, to know why you’re making those mistakes.
We never declared bankruptcy, we never did any consolidation. We just really buckled down, quit spending, and paid it off. It took a while but, we did it. I guess I have a really high sense of personal responsibility and work ethic.
I got into that debt, and nobody made me get into that debt, and I figured it was my responsibility to get out.
Craig: That’s really fantastic. Having that key mindset, that personal responsibility is so important. That’s probably one of the big habits and mindsets that you needed to change. But as you know, habits are powerful in both a positive and negative way. What were the negative habits that you started off with that you had to overcome, and what were the positive habits that you had at that time, and then put in place just to start this journey of success?
Carrie: You know, I think that the very first is self-awareness maybe even personal responsibility. The people that blame other people or other circumstances for where they are, tend to not dig out of it. They tend to dwell in that victim state, and whether you have a lot of debt or issues because of medical bills or student loans, or whatever, at some point, you have to say, “Okay. It is what it is, I signed the paperwork on this, or I incurred this, or this just couldn’t be helped. Now, what can I do next?” “The number one factor for people getting into weight problems, relationship problems, business issues, and financial issues” … Now, that’s a broad sweeping statement but I think the number one factor is inattention
The number one factor for people getting into weight problems, relationship problems, business issues, and financial issues is inattention and apathy.
Craig: I think you’re right there, it really does come down that one factor. How would people see that one factor manifest in themselves?
Carrie: It’s just saying:
- “I’ll decide later.”
- “I’ll start tomorrow.”
- “Oh, this one bite won’t hurt.”
- “Oh, this one pair of shoes on my credit card won’t affect anything.”
It’s the little things that add up.
Failure to make a conscious decision or the consistent belief that the small decisions don’t matter adds up 150 pounds of extra weight, or a marriage in ruin, or huge amounts of debt. It’s just what happens. We have to be intentional, making conscious decisions, and taking control of where our mind is going.
Craig: Eventually, you became that small business owner, and you had a taste of success. What were you doing right in that first business? How were your visions and your personal beliefs driving you through this phase of your life?
Carrie: My business was in 1998 and it’s right after the adoption of my older two kids and there were not a ton of options at that time. I went into the direct sales network marketing model, and regardless of what people believe about that model, or what their own prejudices are, it’s what was available. I love the model. I got some of the best business training of my life there, the best mindset training of my life there, and I was great at it.
I think what added up to the success of those businesses, and my weight loss, and in rescuing a marriage in trouble was my willingness to show up more days than not.
The willingness to make those intentional decisions. The mindset that there’s no reason I cannot do this. I think sometimes we think, “Well why me? Why should it be me?” I really have adjusted my thinking too, “Why not me? Why can’t I? I dare you to stop me.”, you know I think that’s an Ayn Rand quote from one of her books.
Craig: What about when you were struggling when you were having those tough days? How do you show up on those tough days?
Carrie: People don’t believe this about me but, I struggled with self-worth my entire life, and well into my 30s. So I didn’t always have that mindset. Even though I was just a little sister surrounded by all these brothers. I can throw a spiral pass, I could tackle with the best of them. But then when it came to adult things, I dropped it somewhere.
It came to the point that
- I was 266 pounds
- I was drowning in debt
- One of my kids was diagnosed with special needs
- I had dealt with infertility for 11-12 years
And so many other things. My parents had just moved 3000 miles away, and it was hard to show up on a daily basis. I quit showing up really.
I was one of those people who would go drop off the kids in my pajamas and come home and go back to bed, and self-medicate with food or television until it was time to go back and pick them up and then put them to sleep. I couldn’t show up in a big way on a daily basis. I was suicidal and my journal from that period of my life is very dark. I had this one moment and it was the fact that I was suicidal, and trying to think of ways that it didn’t hurt to kill myself, and trying to think of ways that we’re sure fire because I sure didn’t want to be a burden to anybody.
I just kept having a conversation with the judge that legalized our adoption, running through my head. He said, “Do you promise to be their parents for the rest of their lives? Do you promise?”, and I stood there, and I promised that judge, that they would not lose another set of parents if it was in my control. It was that promise that every day, I had to remind myself of. Okay, if I’m staying, if I’m going to be here, then I need to show up differently.
Craig: That’s really interesting. You touched on two of the five pillars that I talk about in my book. Really you had that meaningful incentive, and as I always teach people the meaningful incentive is not money, cars, it’s always within your heart and your mind, and for you, it was that promise to judge, which was so powerful. And then you actually gave yourself your own positive social support. What age was that, that you were going through that stuff right there?
Carrie: It was the year I turn 30.
Craig: That’s really important. This day and age with exponentially more social media and digital influence now, compared to when you and I were 30 a lot of people are gonna struggle more with that self-worth and validation. So is there any advice that you would give to the young folks listening to this podcast?
Carrie: I’m so thankful we didn’t have social media then. You know, we didn’t even have massive text at that point. I think that would have just beat the crap out of me. People may not be trying to make you feel small on purpose but, you may think they have it all together. You may think they have a perfect relationship. When we were struggling in our marriage, I know that all the gushy love posts really grated on my nerves. I am a big proponent of unfollowing on Facebook. It doesn’t mean you’re not friends I’m not saying unfriend but unfollow.
Craig: I do that too.
Carrie: Only follow the things that either encourage you, or challenge you, or help you stay strong, or get off of it, and surround yourself with a book, or positive videos or something. You have to be self-aware enough to know when something is not feeding you. It’s like you say all the time about cleaning up your diet “If it’s not in the house, you won’t eat it.” But, if you bring chips in the house and you say, “Oh, that’s for the kid’s lunches.” You know what, if chips are a trigger for you, you’re gonna find those chips and you’re going to get into those chips.
It’s the same way with the social media. Take it off your phone if you need to. Social media can be good for you if you’re following positive things that aren’t defeating you if you’re following voices that are good in your head. But, if it defeats you, and it does.
You have to be a big girl or a big boy and know to stay away from it.
Craig: That’s Sage advice, and it is exactly what I do. How do you know how to balance that stern but loving parent approach to yourself Carrie, without being too hard on yourself, when you do any type of self-talk, whether it’s out loud or in your head?
Carrie: I think there are seasons you need to be a little rougher yourself, and correcting yourself is different than beating yourself up. I developed a new unhealthy obsession with blueberries, So I was standing there, and I just stopped mid mouthful and I went, “Carrie, you know you have a portion control issue. You know better than this. This needs to stop. You need to walk away.” So, I was Stern with myself. I called myself out on it and then I walked away.
So, we can’t beat ourselves up because then we feel small. Instead, we have to lovingly correct ourselves.
I know it sounds a little weird but, we have to correct ourselves, and give ourselves hope for what will change instead of, “No, no, bad dog you’re not supposed to chew that and I love you. Let’s go get your toy. This is what you chew instead.” There’s a huge difference in that.
I think it’s not a matter of beating ourselves up and making ourselves feel small, but showing ourselves how much bigger we can be, and pointing out some things that we’ve done in the past.
Here’s a good example.
I have a guy that does some food prep for me, again I’m listening to you, my coach, and you say, “It doesn’t make me a better mother to cook my own salmon.” So, he runs his grill for me and I go pick up three planks of salmon a week, and I bring it home, and e it for several meals. So, we went out last night. The girls and I went out specifically, to go pick up our salmon from our smoker.
On the way in the house, I was juggling dinner in my hands, plus all their electronic devices. The 10-year-old has a broken leg so, she’s juggling crutches and getting herself in, and I don’t know what the teenager was doing. But the salmon was on the seat next to the teenager. This morning when we get in the car, you know where this is going, we get in the car to go to drama camp, and she’s like, “Oh look. Here’s the salmon on the seat next to where I was sitting last night.”
So my normal instinct is to beat myself up about that. Like, “Ahh, you’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached. That’s so stupid. Look at all the money you wasted, etc., etc.” I said, “Wow. That’s not like me to leave something so important in the car. I guess the expense of that, will teach me not to do that again.”
Craig: Absolutely. So you were talking about the belief system, and the words that you are saying to yourself in your head is that if you tell yourself that Carrie you forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on, you go on and start acting like that. Like, “Oh, I can never be on time, or I can never be a salesperson.” And, if you tell yourself that, it’s never going to happen. Right?
Carrie: Right, it’s true. If you tell yourself I talk too much you become that person. They’re self-fulfilling prophecies, and those of you that are listening, that are skeptical, because you don’t believe in the mindset stuff, okay. But that this is never going to change for you. You have to believe differently and talk to yourself differently.
- My first employer who I adored, adored this man, he told me one time, “I don’t know why you even bother with your weight. You’re never going to be thin.”
- My big brother, “Carrie, you’d be cute if you took off 20 pounds.”
It played in my head forever, that I was always going to have that extra, that I was never going to be thin.
So, as a result, now I’m 45, I weight 122 pounds, I’m a size 2-4, and I still don’t recognize myself in pictures, or in windows when I pass, or in mirrors, because that’s a thin person, I’ll never be that girl. I mean I have to talk to myself all the time.
We have these tapes in our head and we have got to stop letting those tapes rule over us. We have to create a new story, whether we’re kind, or gentle, or built differently, or strong, or outspoken, or confident in certain situations, we have to predict it.
Neuroscientists have proven, that we cannot recognize in pictures and images, or in real life, things that we have not seen before. So we actually cannot see it until we believe that it exists.
Craig: I want you to explain what influence your faith had on this, I want to hear how your faith evolved with your business evolution, with your success evolution, and how it kept you going through certain tough points. I also want everybody listening to listen with an open mind because, whether or not you have the same beliefs, it’s important to understand how this ties into a mindset.
Carrie: I’m a preacher’s kid so, I never mind running my mouth about my faith but, that being said, I wouldn’t consider myself evangelistic. I’m not trying to convert everyone but, I’m also not going to apologize how important it is to me. I would say that that really dark period of my life, was actually in spite of my faith. I was doubting everything. One of my negative self-talks was, “I’ll never have that strong faith that my parents have.”, or, “I don’t know enough.”, or, “I don’t believe strong enough.” So that was also a weak point for me.
I think that the very core of my belief system comes very much in Genesis, and that is, if humans are created in the image of God, our creator then by my very nature, I am created for purpose, I am created to lead, I’m created to be spectacular and to do good things. And that’s early Genesis, that’s on the sixth day. If we’re created in the image of God, then, who am I to say, “I’m less than.”
Once I started changing my mindset, I felt a responsibility. And you cover this in your workshop too, I felt a responsibility to live into that calling, into that being. Not that I’m a God, please don’t misunderstand me but, but that I was created for a purpose.
So, my faith is a great support system, I clearly am a Bible believer, and I love people of my faith. I love my church body. I serve on my church body, and they’re an amazing group of like-minded people but, I would say, that I am not of the persuasion that you can just believe great things, and then they happen. I believe that a farmer can pray all day for his crop, but unless he plants and waters, and tends to that crop, his prayers will not be answered. It’s not a slot machine. It is not a miracle slot machine. We still have to do the work, and we’re blessed to do the work, we’re created to do the work, and we’re ordained to do the work.
That’s how my faith kind of grounded me. It’s not a crutch, it’s an encouragement. I wasn’t created to be a mess. I was created in the image of my creator to do other things.
Craig: Now, how important was it for you to have gone through those struggles so that you can know what it was like for pretty much everybody in the audience on a daily basis?
You know, I love to tell people, “Listen, I am such a hot mess, That if I can do this, you have no excuses.” I dealt with being fat multiple times, I’ve dealt with debt multiple times, relationship issues, infertility, adoption, and depression. I will never be Miss America but I am miscellaneous. I’ve had so many jobs and went to so many different colleges. I have six schools for my 4 and 1/2 year degree.
If you’ve always been fit, if you’ve always been healthy and happy, people have a harder time relating to that. But with me, I get it. I’ve been there. I can cry with my folks as much as I can laugh with them, and laugh at ourselves.
I think one thing that keeps people from doing better in their businesses and their lives is that they’ve got this mask on. They think everybody expects them to be perfect, and they think they need to get their crap together before they can be helpful to people. And, that’s just absolutely not in case.
People are happy to go on the journey with you, and it actually comforts them a little to know you’re a mess too.
Craig: Yeah absolutely. I think everybody is an iceberg. Most people only see the tip of the iceberg. So how do you manage all your family commitments, and how did you make time for what mattered in your business at the same time?
Carrie: So, that’s a big question. Mark and Emily are siblings from the foster care system, and they were lacking great prenatal care, which is pretty typical in a lot of those situations. Mark actually doesn’t just have learning disabilities, Mark has full-blown brain damage. Mark has fetal alcohol syndrome, which is caused by prenatal alcohol and/or substance abuse, which damages brain development early on. Emily however, same birth mom, same habits, same in utero experience. Emily graduated at 16-years-old and is now a 19-year-old college senior, studying music therapy in order to work for a special needs population, like her brother.
I became a mom to toddlers overnight. I never had just one. I did not have nine months of preparation. I never had one in a carrier, like where I thought, “Okay I can work while the baby is sleeping.” They came, they were mobile, there were lots of therapy appointments, it was juggling from the word go. That’s just kind of what we did. I learned to survive and multitask very early, and business at that point was when I was with the direct sales company, so it was a little bit different management.
It became a matter of, you always do what your priority is, and so people that say they don’t have time for X, Y, or Z, it’s because they’re taking time for their priorities. They’re just lying to themselves or they just are not super clear on what their priorities are. We do what our priorities dictate.
Craig: How do we give advice to those parents who need a better structure in their days? Where do we have them start?
Carrie: I think that our problem comes when we try to radically change everything at once. I think that many of us do better with a move the needle kind of approach. The small changes that add up, but that really don’t make us feel stabby or deprived. So, just like I said early on it was, “Okay, let me switch to water. Alright, let me cut artificial sweeteners and just do stevia. Okay, let me avoid packaged foods.”
I didn’t do all that at once. I did small changes little by little. Now, sometimes I think extremer approaches work well like when I was in so much debt that did call for some extreme approaches.
Craig: I always hear about these people that say, “Oh, I just started waking up at 5 a.m.” And I’d say, “What time where you waking up before”, and they say, “Oh, seven o’clock.” You know that is the crash mentality. How has your daily schedule and structure evolved over time?
Carrie: I like to schedule from the inside of the week out. I tend to do this because I really love having Monday as kind of a downtime administrative wade into the week kind of day, to deal with my team, and I love having Friday off.
I always spend Friday morning following-up with people. I order gifts, I write thank you notes, I send outgoing things or even make asks on Friday. I try to clean off the desk figuratively and physically because I know that I can clear out my systems follow up and then deal with it the next week, and I really like being off. My husband is also off every other Friday so we tend to use that day for stuff with the kids, or errands, or projects, that kind of thing.
I get up an hour and a half before the kids, period, end of story. That way I can have my coffee, and my quiet time, and my reading, and have the house to myself for a little while before everybody hits the ground.
Craig: And what happens when things go a little bit off the rails? How do you bounce back as quickly as possible, both mentally and actually in terms of practical tasks?
Yeah, you have to Taylor Swift that. You have to shake it off. You have to say, “You know what? Wow, that was super interesting. That happened, and that’s so unlike us.” Or, “Tomorrow is a new day.”
I learned a phrase from author Michael Hyatt’s wife Gail Hyatt. She says:
“When things go wrong, when your schedules topsy-turvy you say, ‘okay what else does this make possible? What else does this make possible?'”, and so we kind of adjusted.
You have to be your own chief of staff, right?
We’re not like the president or these top CEOs that have somebody walking around managing us, and redirecting us, and finding us the best way through traffic. We have to be self-aware enough to do that, and so you shake it off. It’s when we decide that the days don’t matter, it’s when we go off our diet on Monday. If we give our self too much flex in the rubber band, that is a problem.
We don’t have to wait for Monday or beginning of the month, or a new plan, or charting and all that. We can course correct, shake it off, forgive ourselves, which is part of that gentle self talk, and move forward.
Craig: How important is it to set those expectations and have that communication schedule with people so that we can work according to the schedule that works best for us?
That’s a great question. I haven’t always done this well. I am independent like you, am a little strong willed. I tend to plow forward with very little communication in the past.
I am doing better, and a lot of that is because of kid’s schedules, logistics, and I did some reverse engineering the past few years and realized that resentments, and struggles, they all tend to boil down to unmet expectations on both sides.
Unmet expectations can be resolved by having hard conversations in the beginning, where you’re setting expectations.
So, I think communication with your team, with your family, with your shareholders, whoever that looks like, that comes down to having some conversations about expectations.
You have a great exercise for this in the Perfect Day Workshop. Communicating and then the ask. Like, here’s what I need, here’s what I’m doing, and here’s how you can help. We have started doing that quarterly at the very least, as a family. Sometimes, more often than that.
Craig: That’s perfect. I do have one more question to you to finish off here. To those people that are starting from scratch, with just a dream as we all were at one time, what do you say to them?
I think that we have to look in the windshield instead of the rear view mirror. I think we have to stop looking at what we could have done or should have done, or ought to have done, or what other people have done. We have to say, “Today, and today forward is what I have.”
So, I think if you have a big dream, or even if you’re beating yourself up because you don’t have a big dream, maybe you think you have a small dream, I’m gonna tell you, that’s still pretty epic. I think that being the best you, you can be, is pretty epic.
Don’t compare to anyone else. Don’t compare to the old you, or the old business you had, or the old way your finances looked, or whatever that happens to be.
“Use the tools you have, use the information you’re learning, and every day, just do something to be better and better.” It will add up. I can promise you, it will add up.
Craig: Perfect. Carrie, thank so much for the inspiration that you’ve always given me, and now we’ve been able to share some of that inspiration, the education, the information, and the motivation for everyone listening.
Carrie: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Wow, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. We touched on some controversial topics. Send me your feedback and support at Earlytorise.com or on social media at Instagram, Twitter, or on Facebook. Please head over to iTunes and rate today’s show, and share it with your friends.
Don’t forget, that Carrie told us, the secret to success and living life on your terms is to make little habit changes every day. That’s how you take control of your mornings and own your day.