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Choosing Courage Over Fear Featuring Diana Acuna
Episode 6465th September 2022 • Smashing the Plateau • Smashing the Plateau
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Diana Acuna has spent the last 20 years in SaaS, helping companies evaluate and implement software solutions across a variety of industries.

Despite having success throughout her career, deep down she was afraid to be herself and afraid of what other people thought, so she became a perfectionist.

She had focused on the external factors that would progress her career rather than the internal struggles that were holding her back.

One day she decided to choose courage over fear and realized that expressing her feelings, opinions, and emotions wasn’t going to kill her.

In fact, the opposite was true. People engaged and responded positively.

In today's episode of Smashing the Plateau, you will learn how improving your emotional intelligence can drive lasting change in your career and your life.

Diana and I discuss:

  • Choosing courage over fear [03:26]
  • What happens when you share your struggles [07:57]
  • How you feel about sharing your vulnerabilities [09:55]
  • Techniques for sharing sensitive information [11:59]
  • Diana’s likes and competencies [16:46]
  • Integrating employment and entrepreneurship [18:52]

Today, Diana is a speaker and coaches professionals on how to improve their emotional intelligence so they can drive lasting change in their careers and lives.

Learn more about Diana at https://dianatalks.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianaacuna/.

Thank you to Our Sponsors:

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https://community.smashingtheplateau.com

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Transcripts

Diana Acuna:

My father took his life when I was five years old.

Diana Acuna:

And that's not generally something I go around telling a lot of people.

Diana Acuna:

I'm not embarrassed about it anymore.

Diana Acuna:

I was for a long time, but in, in a workplace it's generally not something

Diana Acuna:

that organically comes up in conversation.

Diana Acuna:

Yet over the last two years in Covid, a lot of people have been affected by

Diana Acuna:

mental health and things have happened.

Diana Acuna:

And I had a colleague who lost a family member to suicide, and it was

Diana Acuna:

at that point where I felt, appropriate to share with that person, I've

Diana Acuna:

gone through the same thing, too.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Welcome to Smashing the Plateau.

David Shriner-Cahn:

We help consultants, coaches, entrepreneurs, and small business

David Shriner-Cahn:

owners build their business after a long career, as an employed professional.

David Shriner-Cahn:

We believe you should be able to do what you love and get paid

David Shriner-Cahn:

what you're worth, consistently.

David Shriner-Cahn:

I'm your host David Shriner-Cahn.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Today on Smashing the Plateau, I'm speaking with the founder

David Shriner-Cahn:

of Diana Talks, Diana Acuna.

David Shriner-Cahn:

In today's episode, Diana explains how she learned to share information about

David Shriner-Cahn:

herself, opening connections with others.

David Shriner-Cahn:

By deepening relationships, Diana has created lasting change

David Shriner-Cahn:

in her career and her life.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Stay with us to hear all the details.

David Shriner-Cahn:

How do you feel about your business building progress?

David Shriner-Cahn:

Would you like to be part of a structured, supportive process to help you implement

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ideas that you know will help you move the needle toward your goals?

David Shriner-Cahn:

As a member of the Smashing the Plateau Community, you'll have access

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to a structured process for growth.

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You'll also be a member of a community that is built to be a safe, caring place

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where inclusive, direct, active, and empowering conversations are welcome.

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Inside the Smashing the Plateau Community, you'll find a range of

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tools and resources to support you as an entrepreneur, access to experts

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and answers to your burning questions.

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If you're committed to getting your consulting, coaching, or small business

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to grow on your own terms, so that you can deliver great results to your ideal

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it alone, apply to become a member of the Smashing the Plateau Community.

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Learn more smashingtheplateau.com.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Now let's welcome, Diana Acuna.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Diana has spent the last 20 years in SAAS, helping companies evaluate

David Shriner-Cahn:

and implement software solutions across a variety of industries.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Despite having success throughout her career, deep down, she was

David Shriner-Cahn:

afraid to be herself and afraid of what other people thought.

David Shriner-Cahn:

So she became a perfectionist.

David Shriner-Cahn:

She had focused on the external factors that would progress her

David Shriner-Cahn:

career rather than the internal struggles that were holding her back.

David Shriner-Cahn:

One day, Diana decided to choose courage over fear and realize that

David Shriner-Cahn:

expressing her feelings, opinions, and emotions, wasn't going to kill her.

David Shriner-Cahn:

In fact, the opposite was true.

David Shriner-Cahn:

People engage and responded positively.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Today, Diana is a speaker and coaches professionals on how to

David Shriner-Cahn:

improve their emotional intelligence so they can drive lasting change

David Shriner-Cahn:

in their careers and their lives.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Diana, welcome to the show.

Diana Acuna:

Thank you, David.

Diana Acuna:

So happy to be here.

David Shriner-Cahn:

It's great to have you, so tell me about that day when you

David Shriner-Cahn:

decided to choose courage over fear.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Sounds like it was a real trigger moment for you.

Diana Acuna:

It was early in my career, and I remember finding it was a colleague

Diana Acuna:

and, a colleague that had become a friend.

Diana Acuna:

So it was someone that I felt safe with, that I could, that

Diana Acuna:

I felt like I could trust.

Diana Acuna:

And I had previously avoided talking about emotions, I

Diana Acuna:

thought that they were useless.

Diana Acuna:

I could operate life without them.

Diana Acuna:

And I was nervous about sharing some of the things that had happened in

Diana Acuna:

my childhood and an adolescence for fear of being judged or frowned upon.

Diana Acuna:

And so in that moment, I shared my story with this gentleman about some

Diana Acuna:

of the things that I had experienced in my childhood and in my life.

Diana Acuna:

And that was a pivotal moment for me in my career, in the way that he

Diana Acuna:

reacted and how he responded to it.

Diana Acuna:

And I learned that he had actually gone through something similar.

Diana Acuna:

We ended up I think bonding and becoming even closer as a result of it.

Diana Acuna:

And that moment led me on this path to go to therapy, do self work and really just

Diana Acuna:

start this whole evolution and journey of focusing more on how I feel quite

Diana Acuna:

frankly, in emotions and how those things could really benefit me and being okay.

Diana Acuna:

Quite honestly, with talking about some of the things, that happened to us as

Diana Acuna:

people and not just as professionals.

David Shriner-Cahn:

And from that point on, what did you do

David Shriner-Cahn:

differently in your work environment?

Diana Acuna:

It was an evolution that took time, truthfully.

Diana Acuna:

I would say I kept, sort of testing the water to see, was

Diana Acuna:

it safe to continue to do this?

Diana Acuna:

Cuz I think it's a balance too of, I don't, know that you need to go around

Diana Acuna:

sharing your story to everybody.

Diana Acuna:

But I think being on honest, being authentic, owning who you are instead

Diana Acuna:

of trying to hide that and having courage to share opinions, even if

Diana Acuna:

they're maybe less than popular, usually tends to get positive results.

Diana Acuna:

And so I just continued to try that over and over again in ways that I think that I

Diana Acuna:

felt would be safe, and learned over time, there's a lot of power in doing that.

Diana Acuna:

And I think continued to get a lot of evidence.

Diana Acuna:

Like every time I did that, every time I took a risk, and I was courage

Diana Acuna:

and I said something that I thought maybe would be unpopular, or I said

Diana Acuna:

something or I did something maybe that I wouldn't have otherwise done.

Diana Acuna:

The responses that I were getting from people, surprised me in a good way.

David Shriner-Cahn:

You know, it's interesting, reflecting on how I've

David Shriner-Cahn:

behaved in similar situations and, and I couldn't agree with you more

David Shriner-Cahn:

so I know, for example, when I'm writing, emails to our list or sharing

David Shriner-Cahn:

some posts on social media, which are designed to help our audience of

David Shriner-Cahn:

consultants, coaches, and small business owners do better in their business

David Shriner-Cahn:

and improve their business success.

David Shriner-Cahn:

When I write something.

David Shriner-Cahn:

if there's a point that I want to make and I write something where I share

David Shriner-Cahn:

how I may have struggled with the same issue, I tend to get a better response

David Shriner-Cahn:

from people, either a better open rate or, or I'll get more responses from the

David Shriner-Cahn:

email or more responses to the post.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Yeah.

David Shriner-Cahn:

So I totally see it.

David Shriner-Cahn:

for example, I recently wrote a post about trying to, I think it was trying

David Shriner-Cahn:

to focus on, just getting a small amount or maybe even just one like major thing

David Shriner-Cahn:

done per day and trying to say no to all the distractions, which I find really

David Shriner-Cahn:

hard to do, because the distractions are usually people that want some kind of

David Shriner-Cahn:

help for some, with something and not all of those distractions are going to,

David Shriner-Cahn:

produced great result for my business.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Whereas if I know that there's one thing that I've really

David Shriner-Cahn:

gotta make an improvement on.

David Shriner-Cahn:

If I want to work on, a marketing piece that takes some concentration,

David Shriner-Cahn:

for example, And distractions of, all kinds of requests from different people

David Shriner-Cahn:

are going to deter my ability to focus on the, creating a marketing piece.

David Shriner-Cahn:

So I totally relate that sharing something personal about your own struggles can

David Shriner-Cahn:

really make a big difference in your, the response that you get from people

David Shriner-Cahn:

. Diana Acuna: Can I agree.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Yeah.

David Shriner-Cahn:

The other thing I was thinking about is, I spent a long time in my career

David Shriner-Cahn:

as an employee before I became an entrepreneur in 2006, and as an employee,

David Shriner-Cahn:

I always felt like I needed to be, I need it to be right most of the time.

David Shriner-Cahn:

And that sharing something where I was struggling, was going to impact

David Shriner-Cahn:

my career negatively or impact how my performance was perceived

David Shriner-Cahn:

by supervisors and colleagues.

David Shriner-Cahn:

And I wonder, what you've experienced around the same thing, particularly

David Shriner-Cahn:

since you're still, you are an employee now, as well as an entrepreneur.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Yeah.

Diana Acuna:

great question.

Diana Acuna:

I feel the same way, or at least I felt the same way for a long time that,

Diana Acuna:

showing weakness or showing areas where they were, things that I still needed

Diana Acuna:

to work on or were not my strengths.

Diana Acuna:

I saw that as a risk or threat.

Diana Acuna:

And what I've come to learn is no one is inherently good at everything.

Diana Acuna:

And.

Diana Acuna:

So it's okay to be human.

Diana Acuna:

and I think now, especially in this day and age, people respond so, so

Diana Acuna:

well, and so positively to authenticity and to knowing what your strengths

Diana Acuna:

are and what you're good at and being vulnerable and asking for help.

Diana Acuna:

And I learned that pretty quickly that yeah, sure there may be some

Diana Acuna:

people maybe who want to take advantage and exploit that if there's

Diana Acuna:

something that you're weak at.

Diana Acuna:

But by and large, most people don't.

Diana Acuna:

Most people are good and kind and generous and want to help you.

Diana Acuna:

And for me, I've always found it really beneficial to, to ask for help

Diana Acuna:

and to be vulnerable because that's the only way generally you're going

Diana Acuna:

to get help is if you ask for it.

Diana Acuna:

And I think it's also a really good way to establish trust and rapport with

Diana Acuna:

somebody in going through that kind of exercise and exchange with them.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Yeah.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Now at the same time, when you're about to share something where

David Shriner-Cahn:

it's a personal story or something where you perceive that you may be

David Shriner-Cahn:

struggling and you want some help.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Do you feel that there's a piece of what's going on where you may be, you

David Shriner-Cahn:

reluctant to share it, even though particularly given your experience

David Shriner-Cahn:

and what you've gone through and what you focus on in your, speaking

David Shriner-Cahn:

business, that being vulnerable in the long run is likely to be beneficial.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Yet in the short run before, you're about to say something where you're

David Shriner-Cahn:

sharing something how do you feel?

Diana Acuna:

My immediate reaction in terms of how I feel about

Diana Acuna:

it is probably really nervous.

Diana Acuna:

and I think maybe one other thing to point out to, David in terms of my professional

Diana Acuna:

business still being employed.

Diana Acuna:

And then my speaking business that I'm doing in parallel is I think

Diana Acuna:

part of it's using judgement.

Diana Acuna:

In terms of what to share with whom and who to ask for help for.

Diana Acuna:

So for example, I'm fortunate in the people that I work with and

Diana Acuna:

that I'm employed with, where I've known them for a while.

Diana Acuna:

We have trust and rapport.

Diana Acuna:

And I generally feel very comfortable about being Diana through and through with

Diana Acuna:

them, but that's not always been the case.

Diana Acuna:

So in certain scenarios, I have relied on people that I've formally worked

Diana Acuna:

with or people in my network to ask for help where I, there was a relationship

Diana Acuna:

or there was some trust and credibility built because I felt like that was

Diana Acuna:

safer quite frankly, to solicit help or to solicit some, information to

Diana Acuna:

help me do something in that capacity.

Diana Acuna:

Whereas maybe, I felt like I was still working on building

Diana Acuna:

trust and proving myself.

Diana Acuna:

Maybe if I, was relatively new at a company and I wanted to build

Diana Acuna:

my image and have some quick wins.

Diana Acuna:

Maybe I would get help from somebody else.

Diana Acuna:

So I think it depends.

Diana Acuna:

And I think that's where you have to use judgment in terms of

Diana Acuna:

what you want to share and how much help you want to ask for.

Diana Acuna:

And thinking about all the various resources that you have in terms

Diana Acuna:

of, where you can solicit that from.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Yeah.

David Shriner-Cahn:

So one technique that I'm hearing from you, if you're about to share something

David Shriner-Cahn:

where you're not quite sure how it will be perceived by the person that you're

David Shriner-Cahn:

about to share it with is to, test sharing that same information with somebody

David Shriner-Cahn:

where, you have a strong trusting bond.

Diana Acuna:

Exactly.

Diana Acuna:

And David, if I can just be, perfectly candid with you in the audience.

Diana Acuna:

Just to give a real life example.

Diana Acuna:

My father took his life when I was five years old and that's

Diana Acuna:

not generally something.

Diana Acuna:

I go around telling a lot of people I'm not embarrassed about it anymore.

Diana Acuna:

I was for a long time, but in, in a workplace that's generally not something

Diana Acuna:

that organically comes up in conversation yet over the last two years, in Covid, a

Diana Acuna:

lot of people have been affected by mental health and some things have happened.

Diana Acuna:

And I had a colleague who lost a family member to suicide, and it

Diana Acuna:

was at that point where I felt, appropriate to share with that person,

Diana Acuna:

I've gone through the same thing too.

Diana Acuna:

And so I think, like I said, going back to judgment, I would never, ever

Diana Acuna:

had, have had ever shared my story with anybody that I worked with at that point

Diana Acuna:

in time until that moment happened.

Diana Acuna:

And I made a judgment call to be, vulnerable with him and to

Diana Acuna:

let him know, like, I'm so sorry.

Diana Acuna:

And I don't know exactly what you're going through, but I've

Diana Acuna:

been through something similar.

Diana Acuna:

So I think you're right, David, it's a combination of testing and knowing trust.

Diana Acuna:

And then I think you can also find scenarios with people where you have

Diana Acuna:

things that you can relate to as well.

Diana Acuna:

And then you can use those things to continue to build trust

Diana Acuna:

and rapport with each other.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Yeah.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Are there strategies that you recommend to people to test out these various

David Shriner-Cahn:

scenarios where you're sharing bits of information about yourself with different

David Shriner-Cahn:

people, as you're trying to improve your own emotional intelligence and also

David Shriner-Cahn:

maybe be seen in a slightly different light over, longer period of time?

Diana Acuna:

Yeah, I think that's a great question.

Diana Acuna:

I think that there's two ways I would look at doing it.

Diana Acuna:

One is with people that you already know and trust.

Diana Acuna:

So your friends and family, because it's already safe and you have that existing

Diana Acuna:

connection and relationship and you can talk to them and let them know this

Diana Acuna:

is something that you're working on.

Diana Acuna:

And to the extent that you want to, practice it.

Diana Acuna:

Certainly you can, I've had many conversations with some of my

Diana Acuna:

close friends about exactly this.

Diana Acuna:

And then outside of, conversations with your friends or peers or family, there

Diana Acuna:

are also exercises that you can do as well to practice or learn about yourself

Diana Acuna:

in terms of becoming more self-aware and socially aware of other people as I think

Diana Acuna:

that's the other component to this as well, is you having a good understanding

Diana Acuna:

of who you are and how you communicate.

Diana Acuna:

But then also having starting to have a good understanding of how other people

Diana Acuna:

are and how they communicate is also a very helpful and an objective way.

Diana Acuna:

And when it comes to the communication of this,

David Shriner-Cahn:

Right, yeah.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Can you talk a little bit about some of those exercises?

Diana Acuna:

Yeah, sure.

Diana Acuna:

So a couple, and these are ones that you can do on your own they're

Diana Acuna:

ones that you can do as a team.

Diana Acuna:

They're ones that you could do, with a coach things I've done with people

Diana Acuna:

that I've mentored and even with people that are on my team are through Gallup.

Diana Acuna:

Does CliftonStrength Finders.

Diana Acuna:

Then you can do that as an individual employee or as a manager, which is

Diana Acuna:

a great way to take a survey and ask you some questions about things that

Diana Acuna:

you like and helps you understand what your top five strengths are.

Diana Acuna:

And I like their philosophy on strengths because it focuses on what you're

Diana Acuna:

inherently good at, because you can always be more of what you are, but it's really

Diana Acuna:

hard to be something that you're not.

Diana Acuna:

And then there's another.

Diana Acuna:

A similar type of survey, that's called the DiSC assessment, which I

Diana Acuna:

also like as well, similar to Clifton, but different in that it tells you

Diana Acuna:

what your communication style is.

Diana Acuna:

And then it also helps to inform you of what the communication styles of

Diana Acuna:

others are, which is really helpful.

Diana Acuna:

I think particularly if you're trying to learn how to read a room

Diana Acuna:

or how to resonate with other people and learn the different types of

Diana Acuna:

communication styles of other people.

Diana Acuna:

So those are two very tactical, practical, easy tools that one can do individually.

Diana Acuna:

Or as I said, in, in a team sort of setting,

David Shriner-Cahn:

That's actually really great information, Diana.

David Shriner-Cahn:

And in your own case, what do you find are the, you do well when it

David Shriner-Cahn:

comes to your own competencies and also what it is you love doing.

Diana Acuna:

Empathy.

Diana Acuna:

is, one of my top strengths comes naturally to me.

Diana Acuna:

I think that it has a big part to do with the, nature versus

Diana Acuna:

nurture how I was raised.

Diana Acuna:

And in interestingly enough, as does reading a room, being able

Diana Acuna:

to pay attention to, what people are feeling and, or their, facial

Diana Acuna:

expressions, body language.

Diana Acuna:

And I enjoy that.

Diana Acuna:

So I think that's part of the reason why I've been in sales.

Diana Acuna:

And I enjoy speaking is I like interacting with people.

Diana Acuna:

I have this weird duality, I think of being somewhat of an introvert, but also

Diana Acuna:

really enjoying people in a way where I like to see what makes them tick.

Diana Acuna:

And I think that probably ties back to my strengths and the things that I'm good at.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Sounds great.

David Shriner-Cahn:

And, who do you love serving?

Diana Acuna:

I love serving women in tech, in particular.

Diana Acuna:

I've been fortunate to work, obviously with all kinds of different

Diana Acuna:

professionals, but I have a special place for women probably that

Diana Acuna:

were just like me 20 years ago.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Can you talk a little bit about where you are in your

David Shriner-Cahn:

career and, a little bit about how the employment and entrepreneurship

Diana Acuna:

yeah.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Is working out, going on simultaneously?

Diana Acuna:

Yes.

Diana Acuna:

Great question.

Diana Acuna:

Probably am a little unique compared to maybe some of the other

Diana Acuna:

guests on Smashing the Plateau.

Diana Acuna:

I'm still currently employed full time working in software.

Diana Acuna:

Which I love.

Diana Acuna:

And I've also been in my, started my business a couple years ago.

Diana Acuna:

So I'm doing both, which is quite fun and interesting.

Diana Acuna:

And obviously the goal, at some point is to transition, into

Diana Acuna:

just having my own business.

Diana Acuna:

but for the time being, I'm doing both.

Diana Acuna:

Working in software, managing a team and then, nights and weekends

Diana Acuna:

running the speaking business.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Wow.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Do you have any advice for people that are in your situation being

David Shriner-Cahn:

employed full-time and also wanting to do something as an entrepreneur?

Diana Acuna:

I would say, go for it.

Diana Acuna:

I've found you can do it.

Diana Acuna:

I think it's just a matter of prioritizing what's important

Diana Acuna:

to you and making time to do it.

Diana Acuna:

And while I think at face value, it can seem daunting.

Diana Acuna:

It doesn't have to be, it's just a matter of doing a little something every day.

Diana Acuna:

And I got really good advice when I first decided to do this, which was to

Diana Acuna:

decide to just do something every day.

Diana Acuna:

And so when I first started, I made a commitment to myself to just do

Diana Acuna:

something for 30 minutes every day.

Diana Acuna:

And I, for the most part have done that.

Diana Acuna:

I've there have been some times where I've given myself a break and I've

Diana Acuna:

needed it and I've taken it, but I've never, ever really fully stopped

Diana Acuna:

or felt like I wanted to put it on the shelf or a walk away from it.

Diana Acuna:

And some days that 30 minutes is just staring at a screen or reading an article

Diana Acuna:

to try and research something or get inspired, but it's still doing something.

Diana Acuna:

And that, has led to, me being able to generate revenue already in just having

Diana Acuna:

started this, within less than two years.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Wow.

David Shriner-Cahn:

That's great.

David Shriner-Cahn:

congratulations on everything that you, that you have going on.

David Shriner-Cahn:

What's your grand vision for where you'd love this to go?

Diana Acuna:

I would love this to be a hybrid.

Diana Acuna:

I enjoy speaking as you know, David and I really enjoy coaching and mentoring.

Diana Acuna:

And so my vision for this is that it could be, sort of this trifecta

Diana Acuna:

of online content that's available for people for like self-serve and

Diana Acuna:

learning, also coaching and mentoring, if that's something that they're

Diana Acuna:

interested in more of a one-on-one fashion and then self-serving

Diana Acuna:

for me just because I enjoy it.

Diana Acuna:

It obviously would be the ability to speak as well.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Sounds great.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Diana, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to join us today on

David Shriner-Cahn:

Smashing the Plateau and share a little bit about your own story and where you are

David Shriner-Cahn:

in your career and your business as well.

David Shriner-Cahn:

If someone wants to go deeper with anything we've discussed, learn more

David Shriner-Cahn:

about you access any resources you may have, or get in touch with you, where

David Shriner-Cahn:

would be the best place for them to go?

Diana Acuna:

They can go to my website, dianatalks.com or

Diana Acuna:

they can find me on LinkedIn.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Sounds great.

David Shriner-Cahn:

And we will include those links in the show notes.

David Shriner-Cahn:

My guest today has been the founder of Diana Talks, Diana Acuna.

David Shriner-Cahn:

I want to thank you again, Diana for joining us.

Diana Acuna:

Thanks for having me, David.

David Shriner-Cahn:

When you visit the Smashing the Plateau website

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smashingtheplateau.com, you'll find a summary of each episode along with

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the links we mention on the show.

David Shriner-Cahn:

On today's episode with Diana Acuna, we learned how improving

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your emotional intelligence can help you work toward your goals.

David Shriner-Cahn:

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Circle is the platform we use in the Smashing the Plateau Community.

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David Shriner-Cahn:

That's smashingtheplateau.com/circle.

David Shriner-Cahn:

I'm David Shriner-Cahn.

David Shriner-Cahn:

Thank you for taking the time to listen to our show.

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