Why mental health for entrepreneurs matters with Dr. Sherry Walling from ZenFounder

When you think of top tips for entrepreneurs, they are usually focused on how to make more money, scale your business, and get new clients. Sure, that all sounds great, but it’s also overwhelming, stressful, and intimidating. 

You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your mental health to build a business. That’s why Dr. Sherry Walling started ZenFounder, where she works with leaders to navigate their business journeys in a healthy way.

Tune in (or read below) to hear how a leader’s mental health impacts the entire team, the value of constant and honest feedback, and what habits Sherry recommends to de-stress outside of work.

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In the episode “Why Mental Health for Entrepreneurs Matters,” we discuss

  • How Sherry is able to task-switch and manage to be a clinical psychologist, parent of two, author, podcaster, and circus aerialist 
  • How giving your brain context clues and uniforms can help you focus on your role
  • The story behind ZenFounder and how it provides mental health resources for entrepreneurs
  • The importance of constant feedback and how to deliver negative feedback to encourage, rather than discourage, employees
  • Why a high-performing team won’t always consist of the same people
  • Sherry’s top three tips to improve mental health at work and at home: movement, sleep, and getting rid of cognitive waste
  • What caused Sherry to write Touching Two Worlds, her new book about grief
  • Why Sherry believes all leaders would benefit from psychotherapy
  • How having a hobby helps to rewire your brain and avoid burnout
  • What’s next for Sherry: planning her circus show promoting the launch of her new book, Touching Two Worlds

Favorite quotes

Part of being in a high-performing team is recognizing that some people will outgrow the team and the team will outgrow other people. And part of being the leader of a high-performing team is really having a very astute and dynamic awareness of where people need to grow and what people need to grow out of the team.” - Dr. Sherry Walling

“The important thing about negative feedback is that it should be constructive, right? They should come with an example, ‘Here's how it could be done better. Here's what could be different.’ So the corrective is always obvious. So it's not just, ‘You didn't do this well,’ but it's, ‘Okay, here's the next level. Here’s how I’d love for you to level up.’” - Dr. Sherry Walling

Anyone who is in a leadership role benefits from some course of psychotherapy. Anytime that people are looking to you to help guide them, to help shape them, you enter this really interesting world where every part of you, your history, who you are, your personality, your preferences, gets amplified because it shapes not only your life, it shapes all these other people's lives.” - Dr. Sherry Walling

“Prevention is a word that we don't talk about a lot with mental health. We talk about it with cancer. We talk about it with the flu. We're all about prevention when it comes to physical health issues, but I think prevention is an equally important concept in mental health.” - Dr. Sherry Walling

“I've really come to think about burnout as a repetitive stress injury. It's using your brain in the same way over and over. And depending on what your day job looks like, for lots of us there's lots of repetition, even just in staring at a screen and speaking and thinking in certain ways.” - Dr. Sherry Walling

Dr. Sherry Walling from ZenFounder

Meet today’s guest, Sherry Walling

Dr. Sherry Walling is a clinical psychologist, speaker, podcaster, author, and mental health advocate. Her company, ZenFounder, helps entrepreneurs and leaders navigate transition, rapid growth, loss, conflict, or any manner of complex human experience.

She hosts the ZenFounder podcast, which has been called a “must listen” by both Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine and has been downloaded more than 1,000,000 times. She is also the host of Mind Curious, a podcast exploring innovations in mental health care via psychedelics.

Her best-selling book, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Shit Together, combines the insight and warmth of a therapist with the truth-telling mirth of someone who has been there. Her soon-to-be-released new book, Touching Two Worlds, explores new strategies for finding wholeness in the aftermath of loss.

Sherry and her husband, Rob, reside in Minneapolis where they spend their time driving their children to music lessons. She has also been known to occasionally perform as a circus aerialist.

Productivity resources to explore

“Why Mental Health for Entrepreneurs Matters” full transcript

This transcript has been slightly edited for clarity and readability.

Ben (00:00):

From YouCanBook.me, this is Get More Done, the blueprint for managers to lead happy and productive teams. My name is Ben Dlugiewicz, and my mission is to help you stomp out inefficiencies so you can focus on growing your business. And how do you build a high-performing team? On this episode, I'm joined by Dr. Sherry Walling. Sherry is a psychologist who started ZenFounder to help entrepreneurs and leaders navigate the changes every business goes through. She also has written two books, one that speaks to keeping things together as an entrepreneur, and her upcoming book, Touching Two Worlds, which goes in-depth on how to handle grief after a loss.

Ben (00:34):

During our conversation, Sherry shares how effective managers can provide feedback and what it takes to build a high-performing team. She also explains the importance of having a physical hobby to rewire your brain and the role that mental health plays in leadership. All of that, and then some, on Get More Done, starting now.

Ben (01:05):

All right, excellent. Welcome back to the Get More Done podcast, where we're talking about all things productivity and helping you and your team level up. On today's episode, I'm sitting down with Dr. Sherry Walling, clinical psychologist, author, aerialist, podcast host, and CEO of ZenFounder. Sherry, welcome to the podcast.

Sherry (01:22):

Thanks. It's really good to be with you.

Ben (01:24):

Yeah, I'm super excited to just learn everything that you've been working on with ZenFounder and all the books that you've been cranking out recently. But before we get into that, we typically start these conversations with an icebreaker question. So for you, what's your favorite thing to do right when you wake up?

Sherry (01:42):

I'm totally going to out myself. I do have a very bad habit, which is absolutely contrary to anything I would recommend for anyone. But usually, I roll over and look at my phone and sort of check to see what's going on. I get up pretty early, at like 5:30 or something, which is not a very interesting time to be on social media. So it's good motivation because I look for a few minutes and I'm like, "This is boring," and then I get up and go to the gym. But I definitely don't take my own advice in the sense of I start my day with my phone, which is not good for you, but that's what happens for me. It's good motivation to get up.

Ben (02:20):

Yeah. I mean, I'm pretty sure that's relatable because a lot of people do that too. They're like, "Let's see what's happening." But like you mentioned, nothing's happening, so you're like, "Okay, now I got to go."

Sherry (02:28):

Nothing's happening at 5:30 AM.

Ben (02:30):

Yeah. Now I got to get on with the day. And speaking of your days, I mean, as I mentioned, you're taking on so much. There's so much on your plate right now with running your company, being an author, all of that. So how do you fit it all in? What's your secret?

Sherry (02:45):

There isn't a secret, right? I think everyone who is highly productive and who is trying to do a lot in their lives makes a lot of small decisions all the time about what's most important. So I think really being clear in any given moment about what I'm giving my time and attention to and trying to be all in on that and focused on that is really helpful. But also, I do a lot of transitions. I move pretty smoothly between parenting, consulting with leaders, doing circus training, and showing up for my spouse. All of those things that happen in a day, trying to be present for each of them.

Ben (03:27):

Yeah, absolutely. When we talk about those transitions, are there any mind things that you do to be able to task switch that easily? Because I can imagine going from helping out your kids to being like, "Now I got to get ready to swing on a trapeze," there has to be some sort of mental thing that you're doing, no?

Sherry (03:47):

What is actually really helpful for me, this is perhaps a little bit shallow, but I think it's actually very helpful, but each of my roles has kind of a uniform, right? When I'm hanging out with my kids, I'm usually wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. It's like I'm making breakfast, we're doing things, it's playful. And even though I work from home, I get dressed for the day, right? I put on something somewhat professional. I will sometimes wear my glasses and brush my hair. When I'm doing aerial arts, there's a different set of clothing that I'm wearing for that. It's a really subtle little shift, but I think that those uniform changes help me to really feel into which role I'm playing at a certain time. Am I a professional? Am I being a silly parent? Am I being an athlete? They all have a different uniform, and that helps my mind.

Ben (04:39):

Yeah, that's a really rad connection because then you're like, "What kit am I wearing? What do I need to prepare for?" That's really cool. That physical trigger, essentially, that's really rad.

Sherry (04:50):

Our brains are really sensitive to what we call context cues. So what role we're in and the way that we build that story for our minds is important. So for people who are listening, maybe they don't have uniform changes in their work, but maybe you sit at a certain place when you're working. You've got your desk, your setup. I would not shift that very much, right? Don't work in your bed. Don't work in your kid's playroom. Be really clear about what context you're in, and that, I think, helps set the brain's mindset to focus on the things that you focus on in any given role.

Ben (05:28):

Right, of having those set areas and then keeping them separate. Because, I mean, that's the big thing we hear from work from home is like, "Have a separate space and know when to turn it off," because as you mentioned, it'll just bleed into other aspects and then there's not that clear break, right?

Sherry (05:42):

Right.

Ben (05:43):

So tell me a little bit more about your work with ZenFounder, because it's all about helping smart people do hard things. What does that mean?

Sherry (05:51):

What do I do? Well, I came up in the world professionally as a clinical psychologist. I have lots and lots of training as a therapist, mostly with people who have really high-intensity jobs, such as members of the military, physicians, and first responders. A few years ago, about five years ago, I shifted to really focus on the mental health of entrepreneurs because I saw that a lot of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and executives were really struggling with the kinds of mental health concerns I was seeing in my other clients, but no one was really speaking to that.

Sherry (06:24):

So at ZenFounder, we try to offer a full range of services that help high performers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, executives, et cetera, really think about their own mental wellbeing. For me, that looks like a lot of one-on-one consulting. I also work with co-founder pairs that are having a challenge or executive teams that are working on their internal dynamics and how to be in good relationships with each other. And then it also means that my team and I offer a lot of educational material for free. We do a lot of speaking. We have a podcast. We write books. Our mission, really, is just to help entrepreneurs have conversations about mental health. Let's not make that scary or complicated but have it be common and important.

Ben (07:13):

Yeah, because it does come with a bit of a stigma around just exposing that because some people see it as a weakness of talking about it or asking for assistance or just understanding what's happening. So it's really awesome that that is your mission and you're leaning into that. Speaking specifically about high-performing teams, there's a lot to unpack there because, as you mentioned, you have the executive side of things, you have the internal cultural side of things. But for one, how does somebody create a high-performing team?

Sherry (07:42):

I mean that, yeah, that's sort of a million-dollar question and a complicated question. There are some basic foundations that I think are really important for leaders as they're thinking about how to set up a really high-performing team. I think one is to be really clear about what kind of team this is. So sometimes I hear leaders talk about their team as a family, and that raises red flags for me because a team is not a family, right? You can get kicked out of the team. I guess you could get kicked out of families too, but it's pretty hard to do with most families. You have to do something really terrible.

Sherry Walling Quote 1

Sherry (08:16):

So understanding what it takes to be a really great member of the team and talking about that very openly and widely, but also not creating this false sense of security that everybody belongs on the team all the time. Because I think part of being in a high-performing team is recognizing that some people will outgrow the team and the team will outgrow other people. And part of being the leader of a high-performing team is really having a very astute and dynamic awareness of where people need to grow and what people maybe need to grow out of the team in some cases.

Ben (08:56):

Yeah. With those red flags, I mean, what are some things that managers can look out for folks that aren't performing at that level? Is there some sort of rule rubric or some sort of metric that they need to have in mind? I guess it changes from team to team of the different outputs, but are there any things that managers can do to help spot those folks that maybe shouldn't be on the team anymore?

Sherry (09:20):

I think one thing that leaders can do that maybe we don't all do very well is actually just to give constant feedback. I think a lot of managers struggle with this. They feel uncomfortable. They feel like, "Oh, I'm discouraging my team if I give a lot of feedback." But it doesn't always have to be critical feedback, of course. But the constant feedback lets every member of the team know exactly how they're performing all the time. It shouldn't be a surprise. Nobody should be shocked that they get a negative review. Frankly, I don't really like review cycles the way that we do them, like, I don't know, quarterly or twice a year. That's not how humans learn. Humans learn from constant small adjustments, not these big check-ins with lots of space between. So I think constant feedback is really helpful for high-performing teams, and leaders can help shape people's behavior and their growth by letting them always know where they are, what's going well, what's not going well.

Ben (10:20):

Yeah, and speaking of what's not going well, what are some tips for managers to navigate those? Because I've heard of the compliment sandwich of the thing you're doing good, the thing you need to work on, and then finish something good. But is there any more context to that of how I can or how a manager can deliver maybe some constructive feedback?

Sherry (10:39):

I think it is important to recognize that for some workers, it sort of depends. People are going to overhear the negative, and they're going to glance over the positive. So being careful with negative feedback is wise because there is a risk of really discouraging folks, especially if you're dealing with the kind of team member who is really sensitive to negative feedback or really takes it to heart. The important thing about negative feedback is that it should be constructive, right? They should come with an example of something like, "Here's how it could be done better. Here's what could be different." So the corrective is always obvious. So it's not just, "You didn't do this well," but it's, "Okay, here's the start, but here's the next level. Here's how I'd love for you to level up." Of course, you well know and I'm sure your listeners know this framing of growth mindset, but it's always this sense of, "Here's where the finish line is, and here's how you move toward it."

 

Sherry Walling Quote 2

 

Ben (11:41):

And I think making that finish line as transparent as possible because then you know what's expected of people or they know what's expected of them. And not moving the goal post as well, right? But I mean, obviously, you have growth and you have more objectives or more goals that you're trying to do, but always getting that feedback for that growth is imperative, for sure.

Sherry (12:00):

I think managers should watch out anytime that they have a thought in their head of, "This person should know this." That generally is not a helpful thought in any relationship, not a relationship with your romantic partner, and probably not a relationship with people at work. Maybe in your mind, they should know it, but they seem to not know it for some reason. And so holding people accountable for something that you have not clearly said is usually not fair. So that clear articulation, verbal, writing, making sure it's abundantly clear, sometimes painfully clear, is part of really good communication from a leader.

Ben (12:42):

I think coupled with that of just, like you mentioned, knowing your teammates, of how they would react and how to approach them, because everybody's going to be a bit different and listening to them and learning from them as well because, I mean, it is a two-way street, I imagine.

Sherry (12:56):

Yeah.

Ben (12:56):

So you've written a book recently...or not recently, a while back. With your husband, Rob: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Keeping Your Shit Together. Great title with that. With that book specifically, how does that help business owners or make their lives easier?

Sherry (13:12):

So, I have to confess my, at that point, I think 11-year-old son came up with that title. And so, I had that awkward moment of like, "Great title. Where'd you hear that language? You're not supposed to say that. But also, great title." So thanks, kids.

Sherry (13:32):

My husband, Rob, is a serial entrepreneur. He has started and sold a few companies and now runs TinySeed which is an accelerator for startups. So he's lived in the startup world for a very long time. The two of us came together to really try to write down from our perspective, me as a psychologist, him as a serial founder, all of the key things that we think about when it comes to entrepreneur wellbeing. We could say leadership, leader wellbeing, leader functioning. So we talk in the book about imposter syndrome, about how your early life experiences shape how you show up at work. We talk about burnout and how to prevent it. We talk about how to proactively take a retreat. We just wanted to write everything down easily packageable for people who are thinking about, "Wow, this is really hard. This role that I'm in is hard. This business that I'm starting is hard. How do I take care of myself in the midst of the difficulty of doing this thing that's really important?"

Ben (14:37):

So essentially a blueprint of how to get yourself through all this stuff as a business owner or a leader essentially?

Sherry (14:44):

Yeah.

Ben (14:45):

Awesome. Now, I'm curious, how much does your husband's thirst for entrepreneurship impact your mission? As you're seeing him working through all the stuff and maybe working through the businesses and all the people he's around, did that impact your mission toward ZenFounder?

Sherry (15:03):

Oh, totally, yeah. I mean, again, I really trained as a trauma psychologist, and so I had all of this background and experience in really, really stressed out people who'd had really terrible things happen to them usually in the context of their work, sometimes in their personal lives. I was used to working with folks who were really amped up, for lack of a better term, but sort of marinating in stress. And then I would come home at the end of the day to my husband, and we had entrepreneurs in our living room all the time and they were having many of the same conversations. They were having many of the same struggles in their private relationships, right? Lots of them were getting divorced. Lots of them were struggling to be present and attentive in their family life because they were so absorbed with the challenges at work.

Sherry (15:56):

It just sounded very, very familiar. But of course, without my personal partnership with Rob, I don't know that I would've had the exposure to that community. I wouldn't have known that was an issue. I wouldn't have known that was a concern. And if I wasn't a psychologist, I don't know that I would've had ideas about what to do about that. So it's been a really surprising journey. It's not how I started out my career, but I've been really grateful for the community that I get to serve. I can't think of a group of people I'd rather spend time with, to be honest.

Ben (16:29):

Yeah, because I think you got it right on the head of them being amped up and ready to go and eager, because entrepreneurs, they're just gung ho moving forward. You mentioned that kind of marinating in stress, so what are some of your top things to break free from stress?

Sherry (16:47):

Yeah, I mean, number one, because stress is a physiological reaction, our way through stress almost always involves our body in some component. So entrepreneurs who are struggling to make time for any kind of movement, that's probably the first intervention I talk about. You don't have to be hardcore in CrossFit, but probably walking a couple of miles a couple of times a week is at least a really important entry point. That just helps move stress through our bodies and helps our bodies reestablish homeostasis after that stress has been dissolved. So movement. I mean, there's no better mental health intervention anywhere in the world than sleep. Sleep is where our brain rebuilds itself, and often it's one of the first things that entrepreneurs let go of because they're busy and their lives are full and their minds are full. And so, sleep is easy to lose. But again, there's really no way to really effectively manage stress without having a cognitive process that is allowing your brain to rest.

Sherry (17:55):

So those are some of the top tips, but then, of course, we get into all the mindset stuff, right? What are the thoughts that are circulating in your mind? Why is it difficult to let those thoughts go? Are you trying to overcontrol things that you can't possibly control? Are you rethinking things that can't be changed? We sort of look for what I might call cognitive waste, ways that we're expending intellectual energy but without any power or without any possible way of making a difference. And so, basically, those kinds of thoughts, they're not helpful but they cost us a lot.

Ben (18:34):

Yeah, needless worry and anxiety on something that you can't change or impact. And that's really interesting, the physiological thing of stress, of needing an outlet, of getting your body physically moving and escaping that way. Because I hear time and time again that exercise is vital and not only just to personal health but also to mental health as well, of just having that outlet.

Sherry (18:56):

I mean, there's a really, really well-established, robust body of research on this. I mean, exercise, again three times a week, 20 to 25 minutes, elevated heart rate, gentle sweat, it doesn't have to be hardcore, but that level of exercise is as effective as alleviating mild depression as an SSRI or basically the commonly prescribed medication for depression that we would give somebody. So exercise is super, super powerful and has a lot of benefits.

Ben (19:31):

And too, it'll aid in the sleeping as well because you'll just be exhausted and want to crash so-

Sherry (19:35):

Absolutely.

Ben (19:36):

... it's self-fulfilling.

Sherry (19:39):

Again, it can also be a place of community and fun. That's another thing that's really helpful for entrepreneurs or just leader psychology in general, in the sense that you have a community of people who like you but don't really care what your job is. They're neither enamored with you nor they don't... They like you because you show up on the volleyball court and you bring the beer afterward. Or they like you because you're supportive and helpful when you're taking the kids to the skating rink. So those kinds of human interactions, I think, are really important for entrepreneurs and leaders. I use them interchangeably, I know your podcast isn't specifically focused on entrepreneurs.

Sherry (20:19):

But we can be in our own world so much that we forget that there are all kinds of ways to live and all kinds of ways to be happy. The mechanic down the street might be having a really wonderful life and make a great friend for us. And so, these neutral activities, and again, exercise is one, being in a soccer league, being in a bowling team, whatever it looks like, those are wonderful ways to spend quality time doing something that brings joy with folks who we don't report to and don't report to us.

Ben (20:55):

Yeah, changing that power dynamic of making it on neutral territory, as you mentioned, and just accepting you for who you are and not what you do, for sure. It's really awesome. So let's talk a little bit about your new book coming out in July, Touching Two Worlds. This is a very heavy topic because it highlights the loss of your father and your brother six months apart and how that reshaped your understanding of grief. I mean, what do you recommend to those navigating grief, and what do you hope your readers take away from this new book?

Sherry (21:28):

Yeah. It's been an interesting journey for me as someone who's a psychologist for high performers. In the context of that work, I'm often called in when bad things happen, when there's a sudden death or a sudden loss. In some situations there's a sudden loss of a co-founder and the business is trying to recalibrate. That's my work, I show up for that. I didn't really expect that those kinds of things would happen to me, right? I mean, we don't choose those things ever, of course, but they did. And so, a couple of years ago, I lost my father to esophageal cancer. We had about a year with him between diagnosis and his death. And then shortly after that, I lost my brother to suicide, which is obviously a kind of death that is not often talked about and there's a lot to unpack with that.

Sherry (22:26):

Because it's been my work, my whole career to talk with people about hard things, I just started writing. I didn't intend to write a book, but I was just writing because that was how I was coping with what was happening to me. But I wrote so much that a book came to be. I think the mission of this book is to really help people understand how to navigate living in two realities at once. That's the title of Touching Two Worlds, that when you are in the middle of a crisis or when you are experiencing significant loss, when somebody you love is struggling with cancer, which happens to all of us at some point or another, there's this sort of underworld that you live in of pain and fear and sadness. I think the thing that I want to help people understand is that you can go back and forth between that world and also the world of joy and of productivity and of being alive and being present.

Sherry (23:30):

What I've often seen in leaders and entrepreneurs is the suppression of that vulnerable, sad world of loss. We acknowledge, "Oh yeah, that happened. My mom died, I went to the funeral, and then I'm back at work on Tuesday." I think that dynamic is not helpful, but it's the way that I think we've learned to grieve as really high-performing people. So I would just like to help people be able to move back and forth a little bit more fluidly between the painful, hard parts of life and the amazing, really proactive, functional parts of life. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Ben (24:13):

Yeah, and you don't really need to compartmentalize it and bottle it up. It's having the fluidity, as you mentioned, to go back and forth. I think it is a fine line, too, to not see the extreme on either side because you can be in grief for extended periods of time and then that's stopping your life from progressing. But at the same time, not dealing with it, bottling it up, is just going to open yourself up for more pain later on potentially.

Sherry (24:38):

Absolutely. I think this is a season in our society when a lot of people are experiencing grief, right? The pandemic certainly created lots of experiences of grief for people, whether that was actual loss of life or just loss of plans, loss of security, loss of a sense of safety, loss of a sense of connection. A lot of people experienced a lot of isolation. And so, there's a sadness and an emotional reaction that comes with that that I want to help people label as grief. Because when we recognize we've lost something and now we're having some feelings about it, we can give ourselves permission to do what we need to do to hold that space, to memorialize that in some way, to honor the fact that we have been through something really difficult. But when we don't name it grief, we feel it but it's free-floating within us and we don't give it any space. I think the book is timely in the sense that there's a lot of grief around us in the world right now.

Ben (25:50):

Yeah, and there's not a shortage of things happening that are causing anxiety and just pain and suffering as well. I mean, speaking of mental health and managers and leaders, is it important for folks to be working with a professional to unpack all of that, to really label things and work on it? Or can they handle things on their own?

Sherry Walling Quote 3

Sherry (26:12):

Well, that's a nuanced question. I will say that personally, I think anyone who is in a leadership role benefits from some course of psychotherapy. The reason that I say that is because anytime that people are looking to you to help guide them, to help shape them, you enter this really interesting world where every part of you, your history, who you are, your personality, your preferences, gets amplified because it shapes not only your life, it shapes all these other people's lives. And so, I think it's really important for leaders to be very self-reflective and to have a pretty deep level of self-awareness.

Sherry (26:58):

I'm sure there are lots of paths toward that end, right? There are books to be read. There's lots of wonderful podcasting content to consume. I will say that there's a real benefit to sitting with an expert. It doesn't mean that you have to be in therapy your whole life just because you want to be a leader or a high performer, but I think it's a useful tool to have in your toolbox, at least for a season to have someone who's well trained be in the role of helping you learn how to look inside and better understand yourself in the way that you show up.

Ben (27:34):

Yeah, having that strong foundation so then you can be there for your team and help them grow, absolutely. Because I think a lot of leaders maybe don't focus on that and then they start getting cracks and then things start to crumble because they're trying to handle everything without making sure that they're taken care of first and foremost.

Sherry (27:51):

I think prevention is a word that we don't talk about a lot with mental health. We talk about it with cancer. We talk about it with the flu. We're all about prevention when it comes to physical health issues, but I think prevention is an equally important concept in mental health. And rather than wait for that problem, rather than wait to feel burnt out, rather than wait to have your team implode, I would really suggest that people take their mental health needs seriously before it's a crisis. It's so much easier to prevent than it is to clean up a huge mess.

Sherry Walling Quote 4

Ben (28:30):

Exactly. Before the check engine light comes on, get your mind into the mechanic, I guess, for sure.

Sherry (28:35):

Yes.

Ben (28:36):

So out of all of the consulting work that you do, what is your favorite?

Sherry (28:42):

I really love doing the deep dive with someone. I have the pleasure to have worked with a handful of entrepreneurs for a number of years. So these are usually CEOs in startups. One of them is getting ready to go public, and one of them just hired employee 150 and I think they had 20 people when I started with them. So it's such an honored position to be in, to be the sounding board, sometimes the keeper of secrets, sometimes a place for people to vent. It's interesting, too, in my business, people often will say, "Well, you're trading hours for dollars. Why don't you scale up and do a coaching program or have a course or blah, blah, blah." All of those things are, of course, really valuable business strategies, but I just really love going deep with people who are really trying to grow and show up in their businesses and in their lives in the best possible way. And I can't think of a better way to use my time.

Ben (29:52):

Yeah, and forming those partnerships so you can be along for the whole ride of taking somebody from hirer one to an IPO. I mean, that's an incredible journey, and without an expert to help you navigate that mentally, a lot of people might not make it, right?

Sherry (30:07):

Yeah. It's really amazing to kind of get a front-row seat for that.

Ben (30:11):

Yeah, for sure. We touched on this a little bit earlier about needing to find communities outside of work and hobbies outside of work. That's something that you are quite passionate about. Can we talk a little bit more about why that's so important, and is this why you sought acrobatics or being a trapeze artist?

Sherry (30:31):

Yeah, so the why behind it, it's brain science. It's fun and you can play and hang out with other people, which is great, but my really hardcore recommendation to have a hobby is brain science. It's about neurological diversification. I've really come to think about burnout as a repetitive stress injury. It's using your brain in the same way over and over. And depending on what your day job looks like, for lots of us there's lots of repetition, even just in staring at a screen and speaking and thinking in certain ways.

Sherry Walling Quote 5

Sherry (31:09):

But when you are dancing, you're using your brain in a really different way. When you are woodworking, you're thinking of different thoughts. We can see in a brain scan different parts of your brain are activated when you're doing different activities. So what that does for neurological health is it sort of strengthens all of the brain muscles. If you think about the physical body and all you do are chest presses at the gym over and over, that's just the one thing you do, you're going to have a really ripped chest but you're going to look weird and your body is going to be off-balance. So having a hobby and having a diversity of things that you really give your brain energy to can help offset the overutilization that most of us do when we are really intense about the job that we love.

Sherry (32:02):

My hobby is circus arts or aerial arts. And so, I train in the flying trapeze and in the aerial fabrics. It's an incredibly helpful discipline because it's really, really focusing, right? When I'm about to take off on the trapeze, that is the only thing in my mind. And if I'm distracted, I shouldn't be up there, right? It's really high and it's really dangerous, and I can't afford to be distracted. So my brain gets to totally focus on something that doesn't have anything to do with startups or entrepreneurs or leaders or business dynamics or psychology or my kids or my dog or my husband or my blah, blah, blah. It's just me and the trapeze and my team and my breath. In a way, the whole world goes really quiet. And I think that neurologically is really important, so finding something for folks that silences all of the thoughts and all of the noises that a lot of us carry in our minds.

Ben (33:09):

Yeah, I can imagine that's a very meditative state because you're just like "I just have to land this grab or release at this time," and everything else just fades into the background. Now, does it always have to manifest in a physical hobby or can it be something mental as well like doing puzzles and things like that?

Sherry (33:26):

I like a physical hobby because of the earlier part of our conversation where we talked about the importance of movement. And because entrepreneurs and leaders are so busy, I often try to check a couple of boxes with one activity, right? So if you could find an activity that's physical, that's mentally absorbing and gets you around other people, that tends to be the best bang for your buck. But no, it doesn't have to be physical. I think even something like woodworking or baking. I mean, people get really into the details of these different activities. Gardening is wonderful. Just things that, again, use your brain in a very different way. So for the vast majority of us, it shouldn't involve any kind of screen just because that's our day-to-day life. If we talk a lot for a living, maybe it should be writing. Just something that's a variation that moves towards other skills than what we normally use in our job.

Ben (34:23):

Yeah, totally. So if you're listening to this, drop the screen, get out in the sun, get your body moving, and get around some people, for sure. Awesome. So what's next for you? What's on the horizon?

Sherry (34:33):

Well, who knows? I am actually very excited because I am producing my first circus show. I've never been in theater, I've never put on an event before, but we are launching Touching Two Worlds, the book, with an original circus show of the same name. We're doing that in May for Mental Health Awareness Month. I train with a coach, her name is Lynn, she's an aerialist. She has also had the experience of losing her brother to suicide. So the two of us are doing a show that is also a fundraiser for the National Alliance for Mental Illness, NAMI. It's almost sold out. We're going to have 200 people in a really beautiful space with 10 different circus artists, and I'll be reading from my new book as a narration through the show. So my whole life right now is about that, is what I'm thinking about. I'm really focused on that, and it's bringing me a lot of joy and it's a big risk, right? It's putting a lot of myself into one activity, so crossing my fingers that it all goes well.

Ben (35:45):

Yeah, that sounds like a really awesome avenue to make that into a physical form because that interpretation of just the anguish and everything, just the movement, all that good stuff tying into just the conversation about mental health and grief and all that. It's really rad. Your book is on presale now, is that right?

Sherry (36:03):

It is. It is available in all the places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble. Yes. So you can go to touchingtwoworlds.com if people are curious a little bit more about the story, and the website has a little bit about the show, including an aerial video that I recorded for the show. I think it's a good place to learn all about that work.

Ben (36:26):

Awesome. Yeah, we'll be sure to put that up on the blog that we release and put it in the show notes as well. Are there any other places that folks can go to learn more about all the other stuff you're working on?

Sherry (36:35):

Yeah. My business website is zenfounder.com, which is where my podcast of the same name is, Zen, Z-E-N Founder. So folks can check that out. Obviously, it's freely available, hopefully helpful. And then I also have a site called sherrywalling.com, which is all of the things that I'm involved in within one place.

Ben (36:55):

And if you can fit it all in there, right, that's awesome. Sherry, it's been awesome to talk with you. Thank you so much for coming on Get More Done. Good luck with your book and your aerial show coming up, and yeah, keep rocking.

Sherry (37:10):

Thanks so much, Ben. It's been a great conversation.

Ben (37:13):

Awesome. Have a good rest of your day. Thank you for listening. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please do not turn a temporary problem into a permanent one. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for 24-hour free confidential support. Or for more resources, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org to read about stories of hope and recovery.

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