Your Brilliant Career Podcast
The go-to resource for getting the most out of your career
This podcast provides an injection of energy and practical insights to women who are committed to their career. I share tactics, tools and stories that inspire capable women to think bigger and unapologetically achieve the success they deserve.
One of my early realisations was that there are many unwritten rules about career success that no one tells you. Smart women are tired of generic career tips. They want accessible, relevant and practical tips. Each episode includes content that inspires women to step up in their career and experience the energy and reward of being more.
Your Brilliant Career is a podcast that aims to help more women rise and reach new heights in their career.
My guest on this podcast is the amazing Chelsea Pottenger. Chelsea is the founder and director of EQ Minds, which she runs with her husband, Jay. She is one of Australia’s most popular corporate wellness presenters, helping more than 90,000 professionals every year to take charge of their mental health.
Chelsea is an accredited mindfulness and meditation coach. She is an absolute legend and I say that because she walks the talk. She is passionate about every part of mental well-being and she herself is a vision of health and happiness. Chelsea has so many compelling and helpful tips and insights. So, it’s a good thing that she has just written a book called The Mindful High Performer, and I must say it is a ‘must read’. It is available on Audible and is possibly my favourite self-development book of all time.
If you’re keen on making the most out of your career and life, then this an episode you don’t want to miss.
Links we talked about on the podcast include:
RISE Accelerate program: https://www.yourbrilliantcareer.com.au/rise-accelerate
EQ Minds: https://www.eqminds.com/
Free guide - How to make your value more visible at work: https://www.yourbrilliantcareer.com.au/make-your-value-visible
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Today's guest is the amazing Chelsea Pottenger. Chelsea is the founder and director of EQ Minds, which she runs with her husband, Jay. She is one of Australia’s most popular corporate wellness presenters. I know many of our listeners will be familiar with Chelsea, mostly because she trains more than 90,000 professionals every year; helping them to take charge of their mental health. And I thought I was busy…
Chelsea is an accredited mindfulness and meditation coach. She is an absolute legend and I say that because she walks the talk. She is passionate about every part of mental well-being and she herself is a vision of health and happiness. Chelsea has so many compelling and helpful tips and insights. So, it’s a good thing that she has just written a book called The Mindful High Performer, and I must say it is a ‘must read’. It is available on Audible. It is possibly my favourite self-development book of all time and let me tell you, I have read a few books in my day.
So, if you’re keen on making the most out of your career and life, then this an episode you don’t want to miss. Let’s dive in!
Gillian Fox: Well, it is so wonderful to have you here today, Chelsea. Welcome to the podcast.
Chelsea Pottenger: Thank you so much for having me. I am delighted to be here with you today.
Gillian Fox: Well congratulations on your book, The Mindful High Performer. And Chelsea, what I love about this book, and there is so much I love about this book, and we'll dive into a lot of those things shortly, is that you are this wellbeing expert, you're a mum, you're a business owner, but you've had this incredible, unique and personal journey. And I was wondering if you would be kind enough to share with us a little bit about your career backstory, that started at J&J as this high performer, salesperson of the year, to finding yourself in a psych ward.
Chelsea Pottenger: Yeah. Look, it's definitely been a journey, to be honest. Pre going down this pathway of The Mindful High Performer and back, to understand the framework of how my character came to life, was growing up in a small town, in Albury. We grew up in a bit of a low socioeconomic suburb, and so I always had a fight for things. I was very gritty, and I was really committed to my sporting career back then. And so, I got recruited out of Albury to Oklahoma to go play division one basketball. And so, that was huge, back pre-2000, this young Albury country kid going to Oklahoma, USA. And that was an incredible experience. And so, that discipline and grit, and that drive has been a big part of my life.
And when it didn't work out for basketball, because I fractured my sacrum and I had to retire and work out other ways, that maybe the universe has given me something else to realign me to my true calling. I came back to Australia, went to university at Wollongong. And then my sister's like, "You know what, Chels? You'd be so good at medical device sales; I think you should start there with your career". And I thought, "Okay".
So, I worked for a company called Johnson & Johnson. I'm sure your audience probably have heard of them before.
Chelsea Pottenger: I was there at Johnson & Johnson for a decade, worked really hard, did the rise and grind, the 12-hour days, the Hendricks Gin at night, the triple-shot flat whites in the morning, the triathlon training. It was a period of my life where it was like work hard, socialise hard, work out hard, and everything was that fast pace. I didn't know anything else. I'd run to yoga to decompress.
Gillian Fox: Do Bikram, it's hot and harder.
Chelsea Pottenger: Hundred percent, just cortisol pounding through my system. And I think that was a huge thing in terms of why it took us so long to fall pregnant with Clara. It wasn't until I left that role and was a general manager with a different business where the workload wasn't as intense as that sales role, that I actually fell pregnant. And so, we were so elated when we fell pregnant with Clara, and so we really wanted her, it took us six years to fall pregnant with her, and so she was such a gift.
And then, after giving birth to her, nine weeks later, something really ironic happened. Particularly for someone whose character trait like mine is defaulted to optimism and gratitude. That's kind of how I operated in life. I was always very optimistic, always very grateful, I was very hardworking and driven, and I was a real career-drivenist, actually.
And then, nine weeks post-birth, I actually ended up in this psych ward, fighting for my life. I was so unwell, I had terrible suicidal ideation. I was suffering severe postnatal depression, which I wasn't aware of what it was at the time. And the safest place I could be was in that hospital bed. And in life, when you're faced with adversity like that, I always feel like you get these two choices, you get this fork in the road. And so, I'm laying there in this hospital bed, and these are my choices. Either one, I can return back to that lifestyle, pre-mental illness, that fast pace of living in Rose Bay in Sydney, and keep up that pace. Or do I learn and grow from this gift that the universe has given me? And my psychiatrist, who's just the most amazing doctor. I still send her a thank you card every year on the day that I was admitted to say thank you for saving my life, and I update her with what we're doing in our life.
And so, it was my amazing psychiatrist at the end of that five-week stay, that she said, "You know, Chelsea, you've got this weird fascination with your brain, you're this really lovely patient, and you've walked through the shoes of a very clinically unwell patient. I think you'd be a lovely psychologist. Why don't you retrain? Why don't you leave this pace here in Sydney, you move to a small country town, my anxious patients do a lot better out of the big cities, and you go back and reinvent yourself". And I thought, "Okay, that sounds good". And thanks to the support of my beautiful husband and my family, we moved from Sydney, we moved to a small town on the south coast of New South Wales. You can hear the birds chirping right now outside.
And so, we moved there seven years ago. I went back to university to study psychology because I never wanted anyone else to end up where I did, which was in a hospital bed. Across Australia or the globe, I didn't want anyone to ever end up in a psych ward. And so, then, the mission was born. 2016, we founded EQ Minds. I founded that company then because of that drive, that internal flame was born. And then, to date, Gill, we've trained about a million people across the globe, empowering them to take care of their mental health and their well-being. And it's been a joy. Looking back now on that trauma, I look back at that really with a sense of gratefulness. Because without that, I would never be the person that I am here today.
Gillian Fox: What really strikes me about your journey, and just listening to you say all of that, is your deep sense of purpose. And with purpose, so much can be achieved. And your business has gone from strength to strength, and we need you, Chelsea, we need these messages. Because there are so many, and our listeners are right in this perfect category, so many talented high performers that naturally want to give so much, and honour their own high standards. And that's all possible, but there's a lot of self-leadership, isn't there? And self-care that sits in the middle to do that successfully.
Chelsea Pottenger: A hundred percent. And I think that's the three reasons why I see founders, or entrepreneurs, or CEOs, or leaders, or mothers or fathers that are full-time parents, which is even a harder job, to be honest, the reason why I see them burn out is for three reasons. It's this lack of focus on themselves, they really forget to take care of their mental health and their physical health. It's a lack of boundaries, is number two. And then, the third thing is that they do tip into that beast mode where they try and tick off absolutely everything on their list.
Gillian Fox: I know, that's so true. I was reflecting, when you were chatting earlier, about my days working in magazines, which is where I started my career, and very ambitious like you, and career orientated, and working the long hours. I can remember this one day, I've never shared this story, coming home, it was a dreadful day. And at the time, we were between houses, and we were at this little rental. And walking up these little stairs into this funny little kitchen that we had, and pouring a glass of wine, getting the chips and crackers out, and crying in the kitchen.
It was like this release. But if anyone was to ask you, my life was great. I was training for a marathon, that I had this going on, I had that going on. But there I was, crying in the kitchen. And I don't think that experience is that unique, to be quite honest with you. I think a lot of high performing women, particularly in their thirties who are really got that appetite to succeed, put a lot of pressure on themselves. And in the book you talk about self-efficacy, which I found very interesting. And self-efficacy is such an important thing for all of us. But you talk about it as something that we need to constantly engage in building. So, it's not a set and forget. Tell us a little bit about that, Chelsea.
Chelsea Pottenger: I always feel with self-efficacy, it's an important part of this grit and resilience as we go through life. Because as you know, life is always going to throw us challenges. And in all different types of scenarios, it's an inevitable part of living this journey, is that we're going to have ups and downs. Also, if we're not having challenges, if we're not getting challenged in life, we're probably not getting out of our comfort lane as much. And I really feel, to grow, I think we need to be putting ourselves in these constantly difficult spots. Which means that we will be challenged. Whether it's learning how to surf, whether it's learning, I just took up horse riding this year with our daughter, to learn that. I'm always putting myself in these situations where I'm really crap at something, and learning.
Gillian Fox: How wonderful.
Chelsea Pottenger: It's fantastic because then I learn these new things, and it gives me the confidence that I will grow and improve. And when we're going through challenging periods of time, what we always need to remember is that when we're in that challenging spot, that is where the grit lies. That's where the resilience lies because we do always come out of it. And then we reflect back on those periods of time going, "Actually, I can do hard things. The fact that I got through that means that I can also get through this".
So, I think that it's really important that we need to experience things like that. It might not be the exact same situation all the time. However, it applies the same principles, doesn't it? That when we go through these challenges, that we do grow from that. And I know that as a parent. Clara, she's going to hit the pavement, she has to. I'm not mowing down her pathway, she needs to have those gritty times in her life where she falls over, she has setbacks, she has challenges. But what we are arming her with is tools and techniques for her to persist, and persevere, and grow, and sustain this growth mindset and this learner mindset.
Gillian Fox: Thinking about Clara, it is so exciting to think that her experience will be very different to a lot of women's experience of my generation, your generation. And my question is, are you optimistic for the future of wellbeing and the next generation?
Chelsea Pottenger: Incredibly so. I'm very optimistic with our future generation. We have a young girl also in our team called Taylor Jackson, and she's 24. And she came to us when she was flying back from Mexico from a conference, and she was saying to her mum, "I really need to outgrow my ego and go work with a company that's having incredible impact". And at 24 to say that, to be so dialed in, you know? When I was 24, I was just trying to work out which pub had happy hour on. And she's so much further along her health and her social conscious journey, and incredibly dialed in for our planet.
And I feel like the next generation, they get so much slack, but my goodness, I think they have incredible skills, and they are incredibly enlightened. And we just need to equip them with some other tools to help them succeed. For example, removing barriers around job opportunities, and taking risks on them. And strategies for them to build the grit and resilience and patience and things like that and helping them grow their social networks and their connection, not always relying on technology. So, I'm exceptionally optimistic. I look at my daughter and I see the sparkle in her eyes, and she's destined for big things. In terms of a really conscious dialed-in human being, she is so caring, she's so empathetic, she understands things that I could never grasp the concept of at age seven, and she's a good human. And it makes me really excited to see what’s in store.
Gillian Fox: Chelsea, you're in the workplace, as in the corporate environment, all the time, delivering your fabulous keynotes and workshops. What's the biggest challenge that is hindering performance for people in the workplace at this time?
Chelsea Pottenger: I would say that, I think it was Amy Cuddy who came up with this term, and it was around this post-pandemic flux syndrome. And so, what she was talking about is that through the pandemic, we've had so much stress. Our stress tolerance right now is quite low. It's like we've all burnt out on that stress tolerance level. And I feel like that people have got so many distractions coming in from every angle, and being able to prioritise what is really, really important for them has been really, really hard. And then, couple that with that pandemic flux syndrome that Amy Cuddy has coined that, that we're finding it really hard to manage the stress, and to manage the workload. And we reflect back to last Christmas, and everyone was just so desperate for a break, we're limpering over the finish line, and we get another lockdown, then the weather is horrendous. La Nina hasn't jogged on, it's still here wreaking havoc on the eastern seaboard of Australia. And so, I really feel like people are exceptionally tired, and they really need a really decent break to recharge themselves.
Gillian Fox: How do you maintain your resilience to be able to step into that space of being the high performer? What's your best strategy?
Chelsea Pottenger: I have a lot, but that's because I work in this space every day and I'm researching it every single day. But in saying that, I'm still a human being, and I can still burn out. So, it's really important knowing my personality and knowing that I have got this unwavering obsession about this company. And I'm always thinking about it. The impact that we want to have across the world is huge. And you'll find that with founders, they've got this unwavering obsession with what they're trying to achieve, and it doesn't feel like work. I think that's the difference. You get so much joy from that.
However, I have to be very mindful that I take these proper breaks. I'm very disciplined in taking very regular breaks. Even on Sundays, we go off the grid. Me and the family don't turn on technology, we wake up with the sun, or with Clara coming in, and we spend that day in nature, whether it's surfing, hiking, bike riding. We're in a small community, so we see friends for a barbecue or something like that. And so, that's a non-negotiable. Sunday, it's purely a mindful off the grid day.
Then every six weeks, we take a holiday. Now, I know that seems excessive probably to the audience, and they're like, "How can you do that financially?" And I always think, "How can I not?" This is a longevity company, and I find that when we take those consistent breaks... And we can do that, being the founder of the company, I can have those rules in my life, that I'm here to enjoy the experience of this journey and by taking those regular, consistent breaks every six weeks, and it might just be for four days, over a long weekend, or it could be for a whole week, we go somewhere and we don't turn tech on. We'll take the phones for the camera and for the videos, but that's it. We're not looking at socials, my team will schedule all the socials for us. We're not looking at LinkedIn, I'm not looking at work emails, and I'm not doing work stuff. I'm reading fiction books. I am in nature; I am getting massages. I'm really mindful with the people that I'm away with.
And I always say to people, "Unless you try it, you just don't know what it does". And so, what it does for me is that it allows me to switch off from the world, where the world can't find me, and then something really magical happens. I really switch back on here, on the inside and-
Gillian Fox: Ready to go.
Chelsea Pottenger: ...I'm ready to go. And I get all the innovation, creative ideas when I'm on those trips. Not with the intent going away, going, "I can't wait to get a creative idea when I'm away", but it naturally happens because my brain has got time to have space. And then when we get back, then I can go again in beast mode for six weeks. But in saying that, I also then will schedule in every day when I'm in at work, like today, I did Pilates reformer this morning, I'll meditate later today, every day in our calendar is scheduled in when we're taking our mental health and physical health breaks.
And so, that keeps us on point, and it keeps us razor-focused, and it keeps us with a good energy. So, when we are seeing our audiences, because we deliver up to 10 keynotes a week, which is a lot, I see thousands of people a week, but when I turn up, they're getting the best version of me. And it's because I've got those disciplines in my life. And I'm mindfully there. And they get the joyful version rather than the burnt-out, exhausted speaker.
Gillian Fox: It's slow down to speed up, isn't it? A lot of people like to think that they do it, but you're very disciplined, and I loved all your tips in the book around email. I only check the email two or three times a day. There's lots of ways to manage your email, don't copy every lunatic in on your response. Be thoughtful about your way you navigate it, and maybe unsubscribe to a few things. Create your own boundaries, be practical about it rather than just going on autopilot and full-flight for the whole journey. And they're such simple things, everything, from even saying no. But it is a gift to yourself if you can, and people will respect you more too. I've definitely learned that with age, people will definitely respect you more for making those thoughtful decisions.
Chelsea Pottenger: Absolutely. It's really important. I think it's one of those things that we need to be kinder to ourselves, and it's so true what you just said there, people respect that you have boundaries. And that we need to get very empowered and comfortable with saying no to things. Because that way, when you do turn up to a dinner, or you do turn up to something that you've declined previously, they know that they're getting the best version of you. And I think if you explain it to them in the right way, "This is what I've got on my plate today. I'm completely time-compressed, I don't have capacity," they understand that. I think it's when you just say, "Oh I can't do it, I'm busy", people find that very challenging to unpack because there's no transparency there, so they don't truly understand what busy means.
But I think it's crucial. And also, to be honest, as you get to our age, time is just dropping off a cliff. And I view that as time is the most precious resource that we have. And so, how do I slow the time down? How do I get more time back in my day?
Gillian Fox: What a beautiful thought. Chelsea, is there one tip that you could share, perhaps, for our beautiful listeners, who are our talented females, mostly working in corporate? What one thing would you suggest or advise to them to help them be their best?
Chelsea Pottenger: I would say that whole thing around just be kinder to yourself. Often with type A personalities, we're very critical on ourselves, and we can fall into perfectionism and things like that, and we just don't get things done, or we don't put it out into the market because we feel like it's not at a hundred percent. So, I really feel like that whole stopping so hard on yourself. We need to be kinder to ourselves. We need to build resilience, and how we do that is by investing in yourself, and that you can't look after other people if you're not investing in yourself.
I think it's really, really critical that, this vessel, this is it, this is the home. If you burn out the home, your mental health and physical health, where are we going to live? And this is the vessel taking us to the very last breath on this life journey. And you can be so successful and earn so much money if that's how you view success. That's not how I view success anymore. But maybe that's your success driver, is abundance and lots of wealth, which is great because it unlocks a lot of different things. But what happens if you do that, and you get to 70 and your body's not able? You're so burnt out; I don't want that for people. I want them salsa dancing off the planet at 95. That was a good ride.
And I think my psychiatrist, she was just such a wise counsel for me. And this really hit home for me. She said, "Chels, if you don't start taking care of yourself every single day, and you don't meditate, and you don't eat clean, and you don't honor your sleep, who does that impact if you have a mental health relapse?" And I'm like, "Well, it definitely impacts me", and she said, "Yes, it does. And who else?" And I said, "Well, it definitely impacts my daughter and husband, who I love more than myself". And she said, "Well, that's not fair to them, is it?" They don't deserve a burnt-out, stressed, anxious mum or wife at the end of the day. They don't deserve that." So, if you're finding it hard to get yourself across the line, think about the people that you love more than yourself in this life and you do it for them.
Chelsea Pottenger: That really helps me, to always go, "Okay, Clara doesn't deserve me to be stressed and anxious when I pick her up from school. She deserves a mindful, happy mama," because then she picks up on that energy.
Gillian Fox: Yeah, and same with being a leader at work. Your team wants an engaged, positive, can-do boss. It's so relevant. Chelsea, tell everyone where they can find you.
Chelsea Pottenger: Thank you. To find me, eqminds.com is our website, that's our company, on Instagram @eqminds. I've just set up a personal @chelseapottengerofficial on Instagram, we only set that up three or four months ago, so I think we've got maybe 7,000 followers or something. And to me, that doesn't matter. I feel like if my audience are really engaged, and we've built a beautiful community there, that's just awesome. So, we would love you to be part of that. We do a lot of mental health tips and tools up there.
Gillian Fox: It's great. I follow you, Chelsea, it's awesome. Your Instagram accounts are definitely worth following because they are inspirational. And they're very practical, relevant tips for all of us.
Chelsea Pottenger: Thank you. That's really, really kind.
Gillian Fox: I feel like you are such an incredible role model for all of us, Chelsea, I really do. And I feel we're very lucky to have you share your story and insights today as well. And I love the work that you're doing. I think you're making such a tremendous impact. We need you. We need the reminder to take care of ourselves, and I think that care can change from year to year, to decade to decade. It's a constant work in progress for all of us. So, thank you for helping us all prioritise ourselves and think about these things. And it's been such a pleasure talking to you.
Chelsea Pottenger: Likewise. And thanks for all the work that you do out there, and lifting women up onto your shoulders. And I think that's such a beautiful thing you're doing, because sometimes women chip each other down, and it needs to be the opposite. There's enough work, there's enough pie out there for everyone. It's so much more enjoyable to be around cheerleading women than being around ones that are toxic. So, I think choose your tribe wisely, you've got a beautiful tribe, and thanks for everything you're doing out there too.